Blue Autumn in the Bayou (Gumbo Love) (14 page)

“You silly
, man. I’ll see you soon, okay?”

“I can hardly wait.”

Autumn ended the call and resumed her chore of rolling out the biscuit dough. A few minutes later
, Erica joined her. “Good morning, baby girl,” she said. Autumn’s smile broadened. Erica deserved some happiness. “Look at you. You’re glowing.”

“I could say the same for you.”

“Oh, yeah. That. I don’t know. I’m certainly smitten, that’s for sure.”

“But
…”

“But, he still doesn’t know much about me. We’ve been talking. We’ve been talking around all of my drama.”

“Tell him. I know he’ll understand. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You deserve this Autumn. Take a chance.”

“That’s what everyone keeps telling me. I guess I just need to tell myself.”

“You still haven’t told that man about you.” Mona came waltzing in the kitchen. “I’m not smelling eggs, bacon, or nothing else.”

“Get your butt in here and start some, and quit complaining
,” Autumn ordered.

* * * *

By the time the limo pulled up to the church Autumn was a nervous wreck.

Their photographer snapped endless pictures of them. Reggie stood in the right wing of the church with all the women in the wedding, including her mother, grandmother, and Trae’s mother
, Diane.

When everyone except Autumn, Reggie, and
Reggie’s dad were the only ones left in the room, Autumn took a sighing breath. “Well, here we go, my dear friend. I love you, girl.”

Reggie nodded. “And I
love you!”

“See you at the altar. You’re a beautiful bride and I’m proud to be your friend.”

Autumn’s breath caught in her chest when Travis neared. She looked up at him as he captured her hand. There was a turning point for them both as he moved alongside her. He smiled before moving his attention to their destination. As they strolled up the aisle, lights flashed from cameras in all directions. He squeezed her hand, and once again, she looked up at his handsome face. When they reached the top of the third step, she turned in one direction and he the other. Still, his gaze remained on her until the bride’s music chimed in. It was one of Clem’s songs.

After the ceremony and w
hile everyone was busy greeting the bride and groom, Travis pulled Autumn into his embrace. Travis put his lips close to her ear so no one heard what he said but her. “Hi, Beautiful. I’m crazy about you.”

“You say that to all the pretty girls
,” she retorted. A smile eased across her face.

“Do all the pretty girls get this?” He captured her lips. He was ready for everyone to know that he’d staked his claim. When he lifted his head he caught sight of his mother and father watching them.

“I would hope not,” Autumn said.


Rest assured, they don’t; and there’s more where that came from.”

“Really? You just might have to show me.” She lifted her hand to erase the lipstick from his lips. He in turn kissed her
fingers.

“With pleasure
, of course.” He stepped back. “Just so you know, we’re still on duty. So you better get to work, lady.”

Autumn raised an eyebrow as she watched Travis back away and head to his position next to the groom. She followed suit and stood next to Reggie, taking the bouquet from her hand so that she could greet her guest with both hands free.

* * * *

From the crowd
, Savannah watched Travis with his arms wrapped around one of the women in the bridal party. A saucy grin tilted upward. She definitely wasn’t family. That is, unless the Brooks had more in their closet than what met the eye. “No worries,” she mumbled. Instead of surprising him, it looked like she got a surprise. Travis wasn’t one to keep women. She knew this. So when he saw her at the reception, they’ll be good to go. She’d signed the guest book as friend of the groom. Well, she’ll just have to keep with that story. She removed the single car key from her small bag and head out of the church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER
16

 

 

When the bridal party was announced
, everyone stood and applauded them. The first thing the couple did when they entered the reception hall was the first dance, and then they cut the cake for professional pictures. Everyone watched the video of the couple’s moments while their guests ate their meal. Right when dessert was being served, Autumn went to the mic to announce Reggie’s big surprise. “Family and friends, if I can have your attention for a moment; Reggie and Trae have planned this very special day to share with all of us. Reggie has one celebration surprise for which she would like to pay special tribute to her friend, Valerie, and Trae’s Uncle Clem.”

A
crew of young ladies took to the dance floor, and music began to play. The song was “Heart of Mine,” by Will Downing. For five minutes and four seconds the young women besieged them. The lyrics soothed every ear listening to the song. “
You hold a special place in this heart of mine, heart of mine. Ooh you hold a special place, a special place. You hold a special place, I call love divine
.”

The young women leaped, twirled, and extended taffy-like limbs into half circles and long angles. Before rising-on-point
, they used their bodies to form powerful jumps, and moments later, used their elegant limbs to slow or stretch into forms, only physically attainable by a trained dancer. Some of the little girls held up posters of Val and Clem, as a part of their routine. They spun and bowed, every eight or so counts.

Family and friends’ eyes all filled with t
ears as they watched. Even though Reggie choreographed the routine, it brought her to tears as well. By the time the song finished there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. The young ladies took a final bow and everyone gave them a standing ovation.

Travis moved to the
mic. “I suppose this is as good of a time as any.” The guests gave him their undivided attention. “If I may call up Reggie’s beautiful maid of honor; Autumn; will you join me at the mic?” He held out his hand, and she took it. “You go first.” He stepped aside.

Autumn moved close to the mi
c. “I would like to propose a toast to this amazing couple, who found this crazy love, love so crazy that not even tragedy could keep them apart. Love like theirs isn’t easy to find. I just pray that when it’s my turn, my love comes close to what they’ve found in each other. I salute you, wish you the best life ever, and pray you have plenty of babies. Love you both!”

“Here, here
!” Everyone raised their glasses and joined the salute.

Travis stood at the
mic next. “Now everyone knows that Traekin here is the baby boy, and that he has trumped me and Mike, by jumping ahead of the line.” Everyone busted into laughter. “And for a while, I wasn’t okay with that. But I’ve gotta say, man, marriage looks good on you. You know we love that little girl who is now your wife. She’s been like family from the beginning. She took her taunting from us like a true Brooks.” Everyone laughed again.

“And for that
, I’m thankful—that you brought home someone that fits perfectly into our family. Family is what it’s all about, man. I see my mother and father, and the rest of my aunts and uncles who are happy in their marriages. That’s what I wish for you and Reggie. So bring it home, Trae. We love you both.” He raised his glass.

Again everyone chimed in. “Here, here!”

Travis leaned down and kissed Autumn. “Thanks.”

She looked up at him. “What for?”

“For changing me.” The music began from the bandstand but neither seemed aware. They lost themselves in an interlude that made them wish that they’d been somewhere alone.

“Come dance with me, Travis.” Trish pulled on her brother’s hand. “Do you mind, Autumn?”

“No, not at all. He’s all yours.” She smiled up at him.

He regarded her before he allowed Trish to drag him to the dance floor. Autumn stopped near Trae and Reggie
, and gave them both hugs. “They’re playing your song. You two better get out there.” And they did.

Savannah
stood and took everything in stride. She calculated the exact time to make her great reveal. That time had come. She moved towards the dance floor. When the song changed, she walked up to Travis and the young woman who looked just like him. “Excuse me, sweetie, do you mind if I cut in?”

Travis frowned. “Savannah, what are you doing here
?”

“You look surprised to see me, darling. I told you I was coming to help you celebrate your brother’s wedding.” She walked up to him and threw her arms around him. She
pursed her lips and attempted to kiss him on the mouth, but Travis pulled away. He unwrapped her hands from around his neck.

“What the hell are you doing, Savannah? I told you not to come here. This isn’t like you.” Travis caught people watching them from his peripheral view. They garnered plenty of attention on the dance floor. She was still pressed up against him. Anger spike
d through Travis’s entire body and he scowled as he pulled her by her arm off the dance floor. Her high-spiked heels stomped, as she willingly allowed him to drag her away. His dark eyes saw two things, the questioning expression on Autumn’s face, when he turned to see her watching them, and the exit sign twenty feet away. He marched toward it without a second thought.

Travis didn’t stop until he was completely outside of the country club
, and in the circular drive away from prying ears. “Again, what the hell are you doing here?” He turned cold angry eyes at Savannah.

Savannah
stood her ground and looked Travis right in the face. She wasn’t afraid of the anger she saw in his eyes or his stance. She had nothing to lose. She glared back at him. “I’ve already answered your question, Travis.” She seemed to have a measured amount of control over the situation.

“And I told you not to come here. You weren’t invited.” His glare bore straight through her.

“You’ve ignored me for the last three weeks, Travis. What did you expect me to do? I wanted to see you. I came all the way from Savannah to be with you, and you totally ditched me. What’s with that?”

Travis turned away from her and drew his hands down his face. If he had to bet money on anything, it would have been that Savannah
, of all people, wouldn’t have been tripping like this. He didn’t know what had gotten into her, or why she suddenly changed her position. He turned back to her. “Listen, Savannah. We had an agreement. No strings, no ties, no commitments. That has always been my position. You know this. You also know that I don’t tolerate crazy shit like this.” He glared at her.

When she didn’t respond. He shook his head. “This is over, Savannah. Please don’t call me or come near me again. Understood?”

“Travis.”

“What don’t you understand, Savannah
? Please tell me.” He watched the tears gather in the corner of her eyes. He looked away and shook his head. “Where’s this coming from?”

“I care about you
.”

“What about the other two men you see when you come here
?” He watched the surprised look on her face. “Yes, I know, but I don’t care. I never cared, Savannah. We had a good time, that’s all.” He turned and walked away.

Autumn’s eyes drew immediately to Travis w
hen he reentered the banquet room. He walked directly to the head table, and stood right in front of her. She could tell his mood had changed. A shadow of indifference danced in his eyes. He took a long breath before he leaned forward and whispered to her. “Can we take a walk?”

She studied him for a minute
, stood, and followed him out of the ballroom. “We’re on duty.” She looked up at his taut face.

“I know. We won’t be long, I promise.” He took her hand
, and walked to the back of the country club. He pushed opened a door at the rear of the building that led to a trellis walkway, lit by soft white lights. When they reached the edge of the walkway, they stopped. Autumn didn’t say anything. She waited.

“Savannah Price is the woman who you saw me with on the dance floor earlier.” Autumn didn’t utter a word. She just stood there. “I promised that I would be straight up with you, to tell you the truth. And I have to tell you that she is someone I’ve dealt with in the past. We are through, Autumn. I want to clear the air about that so there’s
no misunderstanding about where my head is.”

Autumn moved closer to him. She would never admit to him
that she felt betrayed. “I’m headed back to New York tomorrow, Travis. You had a life here before I got here. And when I leave, I assume that your life here will resume.”

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