ONLY PROCEED IF YOU ARE UP TO DATE ON RNOLA 1-3
French Quarter, New Orleans
Just then, Brennan entered the kitchen wearing a brooding expression and no jacket. He’d shed everything on his top half but his dress shirt, and he’d rolled up the sleeves to his elbows. With his tousled dark hair, five o’clock shadow, and deconstructed tuxedo, he looked like he belonged on the cover of GQ.
Was that a money thing? Sometimes it seemed like people with money had everything, including perfect DNA that gave them ridiculously good looks.
He strode in at an angle that kept me out of his line of sight and stopped right behind Liza, reaching around her with both arms to cover Savannah’s ears like oversized earmuffs. “Hey, L.”
Liza didn’t even look up from the bowl of grapes despite Brennan basically caging her and Savannah with his arms like he was the man in their lives instead of Connor. “Hi, B. What’s wrong?”
“I kinda want to divorce myself from my parents and this entire fucking world.”
Liza tsked and still didn’t look up. “Oh, B. Stop that.”
He removed his hands from Savannah’s ears and moved to the counter to lean against it, facing Liza with his back to me. “I know my mama is a good-hearted woman, but she is either dense as a brick wall, or I honestly think she let a bunch of that happen on purpose to break Skye in and make sure she can handle all the other bullsh—” He stopped himself long enough to do earmuffs for Savannah again, which meant caging both of them again, and this time he stood so close to Liza that his chest was pressed to her back.
This suddenly felt like a private moment that I didn’t need to be a part of, and I averted my eyes.
Maybe I should go back into the room of chaos.
“The other bullshit,” Brennan finished in a whisper-hiss. “Why else would she insist upon that long-as-hell receiving line, and then the—”
“Good lord, listen to yourself.” Liza scoffed, hitching her shoulder to bump his hands away from Savannah’s ears as she turned toward him. “She insisted upon all of that because it’s just what you—you as the only son of your parents—have to do sometimes. In fact, this organization is going to force Skye specifically to do that kind of stuff all the time.” Liza looked at him with her dark, elegant eyebrows lifted soberly. “You need to give her more credit.”
“Well, yeah, but mostly your wife.” Her eyebrows dropped back into place before one arched skyward. “She just needs to recharge, and she’ll be fine. She handled that like a champ, and you should be proud of her.”
Brennan gestured at himself with both hands emphatically. “I am proud of her. I also don’t want her having to suffer for the sake of stuffy old traditions.”
“Okay, you know what? Let it go already. The wedding’s over, and we can all relax now.” Liza paused as a tickled grin spread across her face, and she practically dove into a hug with him, Savannah squished in between them. “And you’re married.” She gave a girlish squeal and wrapped her free arm around his waist while he wrapped his arms around them both. “I’m so happy right now that I can’t even deal with it.”
“Me too, honey.” Brennan pressed a kiss on the top of her head, then one on Savannah’s head. “You’re right. That’s all that really…” Mid-sentence, his eyes drifted to where I was standing off to the side of the kitchen, and his harried expression zeroed-in on my face like a laser. “Chloe Laurent.”
“Yes,” I replied, mirroring his focused, assertive tone. “I’m Chloe, and I work with Scott. He mentioned that he was going to…” Brennan’s hold on my eyes was kind of intense. “Um, mention me.”
“He did.” Liza pulled away from the hug, turning back to the bowl of grapes, and Brennan stepped toward me with his open hand extended, palm up like the proper society gentleman he obviously was. I shook with him. “I’m so sorry for however chaotic that wedding was for you, and I’m so sorry I didn’t have a chance to talk to you before now.”
“B., seriously,” Liza remarked, attention on the large bowl while she repeatedly bit grapes in half and dropped the pieces into the smaller bowl. “You’re the only person who thought there was anything wrong with that wedding, and it’s over now.”
Brennan paused while still slowly shaking my hand and slid his eyes to look at Liza. She looked back at him after a moment with a grape poised between her teeth and then gave the tiniest roll of her eyes.
“Here, take her for me for a second.” Liza crossed the kitchen and passed Savannah off to him. Savannah immediately squealed and threw her little arms around his neck, and he slipped his hand away from mine to hold Savannah against his side. She returned to the bowl of grapes and continued to halve them, now at twice the speed she was one-handed. “What specifically is upsetting you right now?”
Brennan’s shoulders sagged a little. “Honey, I am not upset. I hope nobody thinks I am upset. I love today. Despite all that, today was the happiest day of my life.”
Liza smiled. “It should be. Because now it’s over, and you can forget all the annoying stuff and focus on the sweetness of it all.”
“It is,” he said, absently swaying with Savannah while she curled her head to rest against his clavicle and patted his chest with her little hand, looking like she was about to drift off to sleep. Even though it was someone else’s child and someone else’s husband, the sight of how much the two obviously loved each other made my heart fill with a warm, happy, but totally melancholy ache. “And at least now, no matter what happens to me, she’ll have everything she ever—”
“Wow, okay, please stop immediately,” Liza clipped, lifting both hands. “I personally do not need that.” She picked up the bowl and carried it toward where Brennan was standing with me and handed it to him. “Tell me what the specific problem is right now so I can go fix it.”
The muscle in his jaw pulsed just as his eyes flashed with the faintest exasperation. “I don’t need you to fix anything, L. I’ve got it—”
“No, you don’t, and I will take care of it so you both can finally chill,” Liza cut him off dismissively, reaching to stroke Savannah’s hand that was resting on Brennan’s shirt. “It’s okay to sleep, baby girl. It’s been a long day.”
She moved her hand to pat Brennan’s as she started to step away, but he clasped it and held her in place as a long, exasperated breath drained from him. “L…darlin’.”
Liza raised her brows expectantly. “Yes?”
“Thank you,” he said with emphasis. “For everything you did today. For everything you did to prepare for today. For everything you are for her and me. I do not take any of this lightly or for granted.”
That made Liza a little misty-eyed. “I know you don’t. You also don’t need to get your panties all in a twist because I’m still going to do all of that even though the knot is tied.” She pointed at him as she started to stride out of the kitchen. “This is what you get with me, and you already know that, so don’t start getting testy about it just because you’re the husband now.”
“Hey.” He pointed at her. “You know nothing about my panties.”
I pressed my lips together, stifling the urge to snicker.
Liza just shook her head as her eyes did a quick up-and-down sweep over his form. “Nope, and I never will.”
With that, Liza strode out of the kitchen, and I tried not to make a face. These two seemed to have a very interesting relationship, but it wasn’t my place to judge whatever was going on between them.