Blue Autumn in the Bayou (Gumbo Love) (11 page)

Travis had just placed several wine glasses and a bottle of his best Merlot on a tray. He stopped midstream
and the dish of premade hors d’oeuvres hovered over the empty spot he’d left on the tray. Without completing his intended task, he swiftly retraced his steps back to where he’d left Autumn, and crossed the hall to where she sat behind his grand piano. Her warm fragrance, mingled with the amplified music, greeted him.

Travis slipped onto the bench next to her. She opened her eyes long enough to acknowledge him. Once she scooted over enough to accommodate them both, he took up the remaining notes on the piano. Together they spun a beautiful
melody; she led and he followed. Then, Travis led with a song by Will Downing, entitled “A Promise”. When he got to the first chorus he began to sing. “
That a promise is a promise. Did you mean it when you said, that forever was forever, can you take back a love that you already gave… away
.”  He watched her as his fingers moved smoothly along the keys. After a long a succession of chords, he stroked his last key, which was followed by total silence. His fingers remained on the keys, as did hers.

, she turned toward him. “You have a beautiful voice.”

Without prompting or permission
, he moved his head down to hers and captured her lips. He kissed her gently at first, but before long, found his way pass her sweet and tender lips. He hadn’t planned to kiss her. Something about the mood, the music, and her nearness drove him to that point. Autumn didn’t protest and he was relieved. She parted her lips and allowed him to explore the depths of her mouth. Her arms circled his neck and he wrapped an arm protectively around her to keep her close.

Travis lifted his head and looked into her upturned face.
When she finally raised her eyelids they savored the interlude a moment longer by just gazing at one another. He broke the spell first. “I’ll get the wine.”

Autumn nodded. She untangled her arms from around his neck. He looked back before he went to
retrieve the server. He placed the platter on the tray, and walked back to where he’d left Autumn.






































Autumn’s body soared. She physically fanned herself with her hands and blew out a low breath. “Whew!” She whispered.

Travis walked back in the room. “You’re okay?”

“No. I mean, yes.” She captured his smoldering gaze.

He placed the tray on the coffee table. He poured wine into the goblets
, handed one to Autumn, and raised the other one up in a toast. “To discovery, Autumn.”

Autumn paused. He continued with his cryptic messages. She was a little afraid to get clarification on any of them, particularly the one he just made. So instead of responding verbally, she raised her glass to his
, and took a small sip of the dry wine.

“You didn’t tell me you were musically talented.”

“You didn’t ask. And I wouldn’t exactly call what I did talented.” She pointed her glass toward the piano keys. “You on the other hand, have a great talent.”

“Thanks, I think I inherited it from Uncle Clem.” He
moved to one of the wingback chairs. He didn’t trust himself to sit next to her.

“Have you considered recording music?” She stood and moved to one of the huge windowpanes.

“No, not professionally, that is. Michael and I built a studio in my parents’ basement when we were in high school. Trish plays the bass, and get this, Denise is a drummer. We mess around in the basement a little, but nothing serious. Just before Clem passed, I started putting some stuff together.”

Autumn turned back and looked at him. “Maybe you should give it another
try.” She moved toward the chair across from him.

“Hmm. I’m not sure my head’s big enough to become an accomplished artist.”

“Do you think only people with big heads become successful artists? I could say the same for people in my profession. I think it’s about passion. Surely you have something you’re very passionate about. If it’s not music, then it must be something else.”

“My family
’s business is my passion. I idolize my father. He’s a great role model. I’ve watched him put his entire life into our business, and I find myself strongly attached to the same things.” He answered openly. “What about you? What’s your passion?”

“For now, it’s dancing
. It’s what I know best.”

“How did that come to be?” Both he and Autumn had begun to ask a lot of questions. It was their way of getting to know each other. So far
, it worked.

“I got into dancing because of Reggie. I don’t have a clue where I would be now had it not been for her.” She glanced away for a moment. “I come from a small place; there’s nothing there. Not really anything that would have helped me accomplish much. When Reggie’s father transferred to the
island it was heaven sent. She introduced me to dance. My mother allowed me to take lessons, but only if I helped pay for them. We didn’t have a lot. But she saw that I was interested in it. So I would go to dance class with Reggie, and when we weren’t in class, Reggie taught me what she’d learned before she moved to Grand Isle.”

“How long have you lived in New York?”

“Five years this month. When I first moved there, I was like a fish out of water.” She smiled remembering how frightened she was when she got on an airplane and then set foot in New York. “It took some getting used to, but I managed. And now I like it. It’s home for the time being.”

“For now. Sounds like you might have plans to move someplace else.”

“I’ve always wanted to live in Europe. I remember touring there. The people were friendly and didn’t care about my brown skin.”

* * * *

Her revelation didn’t sit well with Travis; his inquiry was for selfish motives. He wanted to know her intentions. New Orleans would always be home for him, if he had anything to say about his own future. It was where his family lived and their business thrived. The thought of possibly living someplace else never presented a challenge for him until that moment. “Have you considered moving to New Orleans?” His curiosity got the best of him.

“Actually, I haven’t. I always thought
that here, is just a little too close to home.”

“Don’t you like being close to home?”

“Honestly, in the last five years, no.”

“And now?”

“And now I might consider it. My grandmother is late in age. I would do it for her.”

Travis stared at her for a long moment. He couldn’t expect her to say that she would move back to be with him. They’d not yet reached that point. He hoped
, though, that the possibility wasn’t that far off. He stood and held out his hand to her. “Let’s feed you.” His closed his hand around hers, and led her to his formal dining room.

* * * *

Autumn followed Travis into an area where a beautifully set table held candles of all shapes and sizes. Her expression widened as she glanced around at the magnificently decorated room. “Don’t tell me you did all of this.”

“Okay, I won’t tell you. Please.” He pulled out a chair and
waited for her to take a seat.

slipped into the chair and watched Travis disappear into the kitchen. He pushed a teacart with covered dishes into the room. He uncovered a dish of mixed greens bathed in raspberry vinaigrette with broiled salmon resting on top and placed the plate onto a charger in front of her.

“This looks fabulous.”

“Let’s hope it’s as tasty as it looks.” He set a serving at his place setting, and then refilled their wine glasses before sitting across from her.

Autumn lifted a brow as she watched him take a seat. She wondered if
it were the complete meal. She’d seen Travis and both of his brothers eat. If this was all he planned to eat, he was doing it to impress her. And for that, she had to give him some props. He said grace for the table and picked up his fork. Autumn followed suit.

“Hmm, this is very good.” She ate a fork
ful of the salad.

They enjoyed their meal and talked about the plans for rehearsal dinner and the reception. “We’re doing a surprise bridal shower on Thursday
, so you can’t say anything to Trae. From what I understand, neither of you can keep a secret, but I’m trusting you on this because I need your help to make it happen.”

“I’m game.” He perked up.
“But know my feelings are crushed because of your accusations. I can keep a secret. I’ll prove it.” He placed his hand over his heart. Autumn shook her head after he made his comment.

The evening turned into a late night. They almost polished off the entire bottle of wine. Travis admitted he preferred beer, but didn’t let her drink the wine alone. He said he drank wine with a meal but once he was done with eating
, he preferred a cognac, if he couldn’t have a beer. Autumn drank two glasses of wine. “Are you going to be okay driving? I should have offered you something else.”

“I’m fine. The food helped.”

“You can always spend the night. I have more than enough rooms here.”

“No, really. I’ll be fine.”

“So my trying to get you drunk didn’t work?” He smiled across the table as he kidded her.

“I’m afraid your little ploy didn’t work, Mr. Brooks.”

“Dang. You have to give a guy credit for trying. Maybe next time.”

“No. Not next time either.” She shook her head.

He stood to clear the table. Autumn stood as well and began to help him. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Please, I would like to help. The food was delicious. That’s the least I could do.”

They cleared the table and moved around his kitchen as if they’d done it before, as if she belonged there. She helped him put away the dishes in the dishwasher, pulling out drawers and putting the flatware in them. She didn’t ask where things went; just sort of went with where she thought things might go and generally got it right.

When the chore was done, Autumn went for her purse. “It’s late. I better get out of your hair so you can get
ready for work tomorrow.”

“Please don’t leave on my part. You should stay as long as you want to.”

“That’s very generous. Like I said, you’re an excellent host.”

, if you keep throwing me compliments, my head will swell, and end up too big to carry on my shoulders.”

“Isn’t that the case already?” She smarted.

“Whoa! That was a good one. Just remember, I’ll get you back.”

“I’ll remember that.” She pulled her keys from her purse
, and Travis took them from her hand. He led her through the foyer and out of the front door. An exterior light clicked on as soon as their feet crossed the threshold. Travis released the lock to the driver-side door, and opened it for her. Before he allowed her to move in, he pulled her into his embrace. He wanted to do that the entire evening. After the first time he kissed her, he thought about kissing her again their entire time together.

He took his time lowering his head and covering her lips. He feasted on the top and then the bottom one before pushing his way through both. They both moan
ed when Travis deepened the kiss. He like how soft she felt when she pulled herself closer against the wall of his body to get better access. He allowed her to nibble on his lips until he took control once again. And without warning, he severed the kiss. “Good night, sweetheart. Please call me to let me know you made it back, okay?”

“Okay.” She looked hazily up at him.

“Are you sure I can’t convince you to stay?”

She shook her head no.

“How about I follow you to make sure you get to Reggie’s safely?” His protective nature pushed into overdrive.

“I’ll be alright. I promise
,” she reassured him.



“Please be careful.” He cupped her face in his hands.

“I will.”

He finally moved away to let her in the car
and closed the door after she fastened her seatbelt and turned on the ignition. Only then, did he step back. Autumn looked out of her window and smiled before she pushed the gear into drive, and pulled away. Travis had preset the sensor to open when she approached gate. He didn’t move until she was through the fence and her car out of sight.

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