Frayed Page 33

’’There\s always so much traffic coming into LA at rush hour,’’ she defends herself.

I giggle a little. She\s not a fan of LA and she convinced my cousin to move to Laguna. He doesn\ seem to mind the commute, though. I can see Jagger\s arm moving and I know he\s caressing his fingers up and down her leg. She\s wearing a cute suit. I saw it when she stood up. Short red skirt, black-and-red-checked jacket, and a black silk top with a slight V neck. Her jewelry, though, is absolutely fabulous. Small red sparkling hearts circle her neck with crystal leaves peeking out here and there. She has the most exquisite antique pieces hand-me-downs from her grandmother.

’’I love your necklace.’’

’’Thank you. Jagger bought it for me for my birthday.’’

’’It\s beautiful.’’ I offer my cousin a look of admiration. ’’I thought it was a piece from your grandmother\s collection.’’

’’I know, right?’’ she says, gushing over him. ’’It couldn\ be more perfect.’’ Her hand fingers the crystals as they sparkle.

’’Not only does my cousin have swagger, but he has awesome taste.’’ I smile at them.

He shrugs off the compliment.

’’Swagger?’’ Ben chokes, pretending to pound his chest with his fist.

’’Watch it, man.’’ Jagger points to him with a grin that tells me they\ e joking with each other.

I was a little nervous when Ben suggested we all go out to dinner because I wasn\ sure how the dynamic would be between the two men. But I guess since they had already forged a relationship in New York City through circumstances I\d rather not think about, they get along.

The waitress approaches and greets our table. ’’What can I get you both to drink?’’

I start to answer, but Ben orders for the both of us. ’’Two sparkling waters with lemon please.’’

My heart starts to steadily pound. He remembers what I drink and he now adds lemon to his own drink. I try to rein in my smile, but it\s too late.

’’You look really happy today, Bell,’’ Jagger muses, his eyes drifting between Ben and me. He\s obviously trying to gauge the situation.

’’Oh, I got a new client that I\m excited to work with,’’ I lie. Well, it\s not really a lie I am excited about working with the governor\s son, but that\s not why I was smiling.

’’Who?’’ Aerie asks, genuinely curious.

’’Romeo Fairchild.’’

’’Oh, that should be exciting. He\s notorious for being a ladies\ man. I can\ believe he\s settling down.’’

’’He\s getting married late next month. The day after Thanksgiving.’’

’’Shotgun wedding?’’ She quirks an eyebrow.

I shrug. I can feel Ben\s stare burning me. I lift my eyes to meet his and I\m not sure what I see brewing in them.

’’Have you met him yet?’’ he asks.

’’No, we have our first meeting later this week. I guess his fiancée is so nervous she\s left the whole thing up to him.’’

’’Oh, sounds like you\ e in for a treat,’’ Aerie says.

’’How\s that?’’ Jagger asks, his own eyebrow rising now.

’’Well, he\s stunning and if the fiancée doesn\ want anything to do with the wedding planning, I\d say something isn\ right.’’

Ben\s whole body goes rigid. ’’I went to high school with him. But how do you know him?’’ he asks Aerie.

’’His parents had a house on the bluff near my uncle\s. Rome and I used to build sand castles together.’’

’’Rome?’’ Jagger clears his throat.

’’Well, yes, that\s what we called him. I haven\ seen him for years, though. Just his picture in the paper.’’ She squirms a little under the scrutiny of both men at the table.

’’I\d like to hear a little more about how stunning he is,’’ Jagger says, his lips turning up in a teasing fashion.

Aerie\s cheeks blaze. And Ben is unusually quiet.

’’Well, not as stunning as you, of course.’’ Her eyes lift to Jagger\s.

He leans over and whispers something in her ear and all I can hear is the word sand.

She whispers something back that I\m pretty sure is ’’I can\ do that.’’

His mouth quirks up in a we\ll see kind of way.

Ben clears his throat and opens his menu.

So while Aerie and Jagger share an intimate moment, I look down at my own menu. The inscription on the front reads A culinary journey that will lead you through the Spice Trail . . . Indochina . . . Franco-Afrique . . . The Levant . . . Southeast Asia . . . La Méditerranée.

I lean toward Ben. ’’What does this mean?’’

He leans closer to me. ’’I think it means the food is really spicy.’’ He laughs. His warm breath feels amazing on my neck and he doesn\ move back. Instead he stays close enough to me that our thighs touch.

’’Oh.’’ It\s all I can say because once again his physical contact has rendered me speechless. My stomach is fluttering, my pulse is racing, and my body is doing other things that aren\ appropriate at the table.

’’So, what\s good?’’ Ben directs his question to Jagger, who reluctantly pulls himself away from his private conversation with Aerie.

’’The chicken and lamb are my favorites. Or the camel, rabbit, and mutton are also really good. The lemon pickling is really good.’’

I gulp, not liking the sound of any of that.

Ben\s eyes drift toward me, and his shoulder bumps mine. ’’You like lemon.’’

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