I laugh and tuck her hand in mine, linking our fingers. “That it is. It’s still early, so this is pretty tame.”
The streets have been blocked off for foot traffic only.
“There are a lot of sex shops on this street.” Her frank observation startles a laugh from me, and I glance down to find her smiling up at me.
“It’s Bourbon,” I reply with a shrug. “The club that Declan is playing at is actually pretty classy. I think you’ll like it.”
“I think I like it all,” she replies softly. “It’s hard to believe this is the same city from one block over.”
I nod and lead her through an iron gate into a wide courtyard with lights twinkling in the trees overhead. I introduce myself to the hostess, and she immediately guides us to the front of the crowd to two seats right in front of the stage, where Declan is playing a jazz song on the piano.
Dec’s voice is deep and croony, reminiscent of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. He has a decent voice, but it’s what he can do with a musical instrument—any instrument—that makes him stand out.
He’s a freaking genius.
“Did it bother you that he chose music over the family company?” Kate asks from beside me, swaying back and forth to the song.
“No. That would be stupid. Listen to him.”
She nods and then smiles up at me, a full-on smile that lights up her face, and I find that I have to swallow hard and fist my hands to keep from reaching out and cupping that amazing face in the palm of my hand and leaning in for a kiss.
No more kissing.
I make myself look back up at Dec, who’s watching us. He shakes his head and finishes his song to delighted applause.
“Ah, that’s awfully kind of you,” he drawls, and winks at a woman in the front row who winks back. And they call me the man-whore. “I have some special guests here tonight, ladies and gentlemen.”
He stands from the piano and reaches for a guitar, then pulls two chairs to the edge of the stage and grabs an extra mic as well.
Kate is already shaking her head no.
“My brother, Eli, is here tonight.” He smiles down at me, and I just grin and raise a brow. “And a very old friend from college is here too. In fact, Kate and I used to sing together all the time, and I’m going to talk her into coming up here and joining me right now.”
The room erupts into applause, but Kate is vehemently shaking her head and saying “No. Heck no.”
Her aversion to cursing turns me on. I wonder what it would take to get her to talk dirty.
I’m going to hell.
“Come on, Kate. New Orleans wants to hear you sing.”
I nudge her with my elbow and grin at the look of terror on her face. Finally, she swallows hard and stands, climbs the steps to the stage, sits next to Declan, and raises the mic to her mouth.
“Was this necessary?”
“Well, it’s not as fun if you sing from down there,” Declan replies and kisses her cheek. “Isn’t she pretty?”
Why does everyone call her pretty? Can’t they see that she’s unbelievable?
I applaud with the rest of the crowd, and then Declan begins to strum the guitar. “Remember this one?” he asks her.
“I remember belting this one out after having a few too many drinks in Memphis at that dive bar you played in during college.”
“That’s the one,” he confirms with a grin. And suddenly, Kate begins to sing Crazy by Patsy Cline, as if she was made to. It’s effortless for her. Declan joins her on the chorus, adding harmony, and when the song is over, they’re given a standing ovation. Kate stands and bows, kisses Declan’s cheek, and returns to her seat at my side.
“Wow.” It’s all I can manage.
“He’ll pay for that later.” She takes a deep breath and clenches her shaking hands together.
“You have a beautiful voice.”
She jerks one shoulder in a shrug and then settles back to listen to the rest of Declan’s set. She gradually relaxes, moving in her seat, singing along with the songs she knows. And when it’s all over, she stands and whoops and hollers, making Declan laugh from the stage.
“Thanks for coming, superstar,” Declan says, as he pulls Kate in for a hug. “And you too,” he says to me. “It’s been a minute since you came to a show.”
“Too long. I enjoyed it.”
This seems to surprise him, and I feel like an ass. It has been too long.
“I’d walk you home, but—” Declan looks over at the girl in the front row he winked at earlier and shoots her a smile.
“I see things haven’t changed,” Kate mutters and shakes her head. “I’m fine. Eli walked me over.”
“Do you mind walking her home?”
“If it’s out of your way—” Kate begins, but I shake my head.
“Of course. Have a good night.”
“He’s so formal,” Declan says with a grin.
“Not always,” Kate replies, and then kisses Declan’s cheek again, and before he can ask what she means by that, she says, “call me soon. We’ll have lunch or something.”
And with that, we leave, winding our way through the crowd.
“Would you like a drink for the walk home? There’s no open container law here.”
“Sure. I’d love some white wine, please.”
I order two glasses, and we set off toward home, walking slower so she can absorb everything happening around us.
“We can walk up a block and get out of the crazy.”
“No, I don’t mind.” Her eyes are pinned on a couple practically having sex against the wall of a building as we pass.
I take her hand in mine and keep her close, glowering at the drunker than fuck men that leer at her as we pass.
I’d rather not have her in the middle of this, and steer her down a block to walk up Royal, which is much more tame.
“I really didn’t mind,” she insists and sips her wine.
“I did.” I glance down at her and lead her around the gaping hole in the sidewalk. “Promise me you won’t go back there alone.”
“Oh, I’m fine.”
“Promise me, Kate.”
“It’s no big deal.”
I sigh and stop us, right there on the sidewalk, steps from her front door, and turn her to face me. “Please, as a favor to me, don’t go back to Bourbon Street at night alone. People get shot, raped, beat up down there all the time, cher. If you want to go, take someone with you.”