Reunited with the Lassiter Bride(8)

By: Barbara Dunlop



“Who’s that?” Tiffany whispered from behind her.

“Deke?” Angelica asked the question out loud, quickening her steps. She had only met Evan’s college friend Deke a few times, but she’d always liked him. He was slightly shorter than Evan and had dark hair. He was very handsome, and one of the smartest people Angelica had ever met.

He came to his feet, giving her a broad smile. “Angelica.” He pulled her into a brief hug that felt entirely natural.

“What are you doing in L.A.?” she asked.

He shrugged. “I got a little restless.” His gaze went past her to abruptly stop on Tiffany.

Angelica quickly introduced them. “This is Tiffany. She’s Kayla’s other bridesmaid.”

Deke held out his hand to greet Tiffany, and Angelica quickly stepped out of the way. She realized too late that the action put her in position to sit next to Evan on the bench seat of the booth. Doing anything to switch back would look ridiculously awkward. Besides, Deke was already motioning Tiffany in next to him.

Resigned, Angelica sat down.

“I see you brought reinforcements,” Evan noted in an undertone.

“As did you.” She settled her purse on the bench seat as a barrier between them.

“Deke’s staying with me for a few days.”

“In Pasadena?”

“I sold the house in Pasadena.”

The words took her by surprise, and she automatically glanced at him. “You did? When? Why?”

“Last week.”

“But, you loved that house.”

“At the moment, I need the money more than I need a big house.”

“But you have—”

“I am not using his money, Angie.”

“You’d take a loss on principle?”

“I didn’t take a loss. But, yes, I’d take a loss on principle.”

“What’s that supposed to mean,” she hissed under her breath as Tiffany and Deke got settled.

Evan handed her a printout on Emerald Wave stationery. “It means, unlike certain other people, I stick to my principles even when it’s inconvenient.”

“I stuck to my principles.” Which were, at least in part, to ensure the health and security of Lassiter Media.

“Principles like respecting your father?” he drawled.

“Evan,” Tiffany put in smoothly from across the table. “You should shut up now.”

Deke gave a muted chuckle.

A waiter appeared at the table. “Good evening.”

Angelica gratefully switched her attention to the man.

“Our most popular themes are Mediterranean, southwest and continental.” The man handed around some sheets of paper. “I’ll give you a few minutes to discuss it, and then I’d be happy to talk about wine pairings for your choices.”

Angelica shot Tiffany a confused glance. They had to agree on a theme? What kind of a restaurant was this? Why couldn’t they just order from the menu?

“Thank you,” said Evan. “We’ll let you know what we decide.”

“Have you been here before?” Angelica asked him as the waiter stepped away.

“Never.” He arranged three sheets of paper in front of him. “But our options were limited at this late date.”

“It’s a Wednesday.” How busy could Malibu restaurants be? It was only five-thirty in the evening.

He gave her a confused look. “I mean our catering options for the wedding.”

She blinked. Then she glanced down at the papers in front of them. They listed price points per guest and per platter.

“These are catering menus,” she observed.

“Can’t get one past you.”

“I thought we were here for dinner. I thought you were bringing the Emerald Wave information for us to discuss.”

“I am. I did. But we’re also sampling the caterer’s menu.”

Tiffany jumped in. “That sounds like fun.”

“I’m game,” said Deke. “Not to brag, but I excel at eating.”

Tiffany smiled as she gave Deke a sidelong glance.

“You could have told me,” Angelica, embarrassed by her own confusion, said to Evan.

“I thought I did tell you when we talked on the phone. Maybe you just didn’t listen. Mediterranean, southwest or continental.”

Angelica didn’t exactly believe him, but she let it go, scanning the catering menus.

“Continental has my vote,” said Tiffany.

“I’d be happier if we knew what Kayla wanted.”

“I finally got a voice mail from Matt in response to my text,” said Evan. “He says thanks. He trusts our judgment. And they’ll appreciate anything we can do before they get back. The connection was pretty bad, because I think he said something about the moat being flooded.”

“The moat?”

“The only logical explanation I could come up with is that the retreat is at a castle somewhere. I know there’s a pretty big storm off the North Sea. The upshot is they won’t be able to get home for a few more days. We’re on our own.”

“I agree with Tiffany,” said Deke.

Evan glanced up. “Of course you agree with Tiffany. You’re flirting with Tiffany.” He looked pointedly at her. “Watch out for this guy.”

She grinned.

“Southwest is a bit overdone lately,” Angelica noted. And the décor at Conrad’s mansion definitely lent itself to something a little highbrow.

“Matt’s not a huge fan of Mediterranean,” Evan put in. “Does that settle it?”

“Sure,” said Angelica. “Let’s go with continental.”

“So, old world wines?”

“Bite your tongue,” said Angelica. “California wines, for sure.”

Evan smiled without looking at her. He knew full well the Lassiter family had many close friends in the wine business in Napa Valley.

“Are you trying to pick a fight with her?” Deke asked him.

Evan seemed to be doing his best to look offended. “I can’t make a joke?”

Tiffany put up her hand to signal the waiter. “This seems like a great time to get the wine tasting underway.”

“I like the way you think,” Deke muttered.

After some consultation with the waiter, they chose several wines to taste along with a selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts from the continental menu.

Despite the rather humble surroundings of the restaurant, the food turned out to be delicious.

Angelica bit into a warm brie and smoked trout appetizer, enfolded in phyllo pastry and garnished with a light herb paste.

“Oh,” she groaned, setting the remainder of the morsel down on her plate to savor the mouthful. “This is the best one yet.”

“Try the shrimp,” said Tiffany. “Oh, man. I’m getting stuffed, but I just can’t stop.”

“I need some real food,” said Evan.

“Get them to bring you the duck or the lamb,” Angelica suggested. “But I think I’m going to have to trust you on how those taste. I couldn’t possibly eat anymore.”

“You’d actually trust me on something?” asked Evan, a lilt to his tone.

She turned to rebuke him for the sarcasm, but then she caught the sparkle in his eyes. She realized she had to stop being so touchy. He’d always had a dry sense of humor. She used to enjoy it.

“So long as you don’t try to steal what’s rightfully mine,” she countered.

In answer, he snagged the remaining bite of brie and smoked trout from her plate, popping it in his mouth.

“Hey!” she protested.

“Guess you shouldn’t have trusted me after all. Wow, this is good. Definitely add that to the list.”

“You stole my trout.”

“You left it unguarded.”

“You said I could trust you.” She knew she should be annoyed, but she was only barely able to keep from laughing.

“I believe you were the one who offered to trust me.”

“Clearly, I was wrong about that.”

“Clearly.”

She sniffed. “Well, you owe me some trout.”

“I’ll trade you for some duckling.”

“Are you ordering the duckling?” asked Deke. “Then I’ll try the veal.”

Angelica glanced at the menu. “You mean the duck flambé? With orange brandy?”

“That’s the one,” said Evan.

“You got yourself a trade.” She was about to shake on it, then quickly realized it was a mistake, and redirected her hand to her wineglass, lifting it and taking a sip of the rich merlot.

Evan smirked. He reached below the table between them, squeezing her other hand. She nearly inhaled her wine.

He leaned close, muttering in an undertone as Deke commented to Tiffany about the stuffed mushrooms. “It’s okay to touch me, Angie.”

At that moment, Evan’s fingertips brushed the hem of her skirt, contacting her bare thigh. They both instantly stilled. Arousal radiated along her leg, electrifying her skin, contracting her muscles.

“Orgasmic,” Tiffany declared.

Angelica whimpered under her breath.

Evan’s warm hand curled open, his palm spreading across her thigh, sliding ever so slightly beneath her skirt.

“Please,” she managed to whisper.

“Something wrong?” Tiffany asked her, looking concerned.

“Nothing,” she managed, distracting herself with another swallow of the wine. She shifted, but Evan’s hand moved with her.

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