“You’re our friend,” Natalie says with a smile and kisses her infant son’s cheek. “We want you to celebrate with us. You’ll be busy enough at the wedding.”
I nod and gaze around the room, taking in the way Matt’s hand rests on his girlfriend, Nic’s neck. It’s a gentle touch, yet almost…commanding. The beautiful woman is smiling at Stacy, Isaac’s wife, as Stacy and Brynna discuss which of Nic’s cupcakes they enjoy the most. Isaac, Caleb, and Matt are watching their girls with contented smiles.
It sounds like the tiramisu is winning the cupcake contest.
“I’ll take one of those lemon drops martinis, Linus,” I say to my young server, who is still blushing from Jules’ attention.
“Daddy!” Olivia calls from Gail’s arms across the room, holding her hands out and grinning at Luke. “Kiss you, Daddy!”
“I think that means she wants you,” Nat says, as Luke stands and crosses to his daughter, lifting her easily into his arms and burying his face in her neck, blowing raspberries.
Seriously, that might make my ovaries explode.
That might make any woman’s ovaries explode.
Luke Williams, former movie star, is maybe the hottest thing on this planet.
Not that I’ll ever admit that out loud.
“We need to discuss Stella’s first birthday party,” Jules says to me.
“She’s not even six months old,” Nate says, as he brushes his hand down his wife’s hair. “Let her be little, Julianne.”
“She’ll need a great party,” Jules insists, but leans into her man’s touch.
“She’ll have one,” I assure her. “But he’s right. Let her be little for a while.” I gaze at the pretty baby with the pink bow on her head, her little pink dress and big blue eyes staring back at me.
“Would you like to hold her?” Nate asks, as Luke returns with Livie.
“Oh, I don’t think—”
“Here.” Jules passes the baby to me, and suddenly I’m sitting here, at this party that I planned, that I’m supposed to be working at, with a gorgeous baby in my arms and my man setting a heaping plate of food before me.
“Who do you have here?” Dominic asks as he sits next to me. He kisses Stella on the cheek, then pays the same attention to me. “Hello, bella,” he croons to the baby, “il mio dolce bambino.”
“I love it when you call her your sweet baby,” Jules says with a smile. “It sounds pretty.”
“She’s pretty,” I murmur and instinctively cradle Stella against my chest, kiss her head and bury my nose in her wispy blonde curls, inhaling her baby smell. “Babies always smell so good.”
“Not always,” Jules says with a laugh.
“Well, I don’t have to change their diapers,” I reply with a smile.
“You look good with her,” Natalie says, and sips her drink.
“Let me take her, tesoro, so you can eat,” Dom says, and smoothly takes the baby from my arms.
“What did that mean?” Nat asks.
“What did what mean?” Dominic asks and smiles at Stella. “Goodness, you’re getting big, bella.”
“You called Alecia tesoro,” Jules says. “We’ve never heard that one. You always call us bella or cara.”
Dom rubs his nose against Stella’s and then laughs with the baby, barely paying attention to his sisters. “Tesoro means my treasure,” he says, and glances over at me with warm eyes. “I’m calling her my treasure.”
I feel my eyes go round as I swallow the bite of food I’d just taken and gape at him.
Well, if that doesn’t spark butterflies, I don’t know what does.
And then it occurs to me, he’s been calling me his treasure since the first time we made love.
“Charming Italian,” I whisper, earning a laugh from Jules.
“Oh, he’s definitely that,” she agrees.
“I think it’s very sweet,” Nat says with a smile. I can feel Dom watching me as I focus on my food. “Why does this make you shy?” she asks me.
I shrug a shoulder, frown and drink the rest of my martini, then gesture to Linus for another.
“We know you’re seeing each other,” Jules assures me happily, and I want the floor to open up and swallow me whole, but I smile brightly, not wanting anyone to think I’m uncomfortable. I had no idea we were making our relationship public. “And, can I just say, it’s about time.”
“Excuse me,” I murmur and stand.
“Are you okay?” Dominic asks.
“Of course.” I smile again and nod. “I just need to check on a few things.”
I make it out of the tent and around the store building, where the hills roll, full of grape vines as far as the eye can see and take a long, deep breath.
His family knows we’re seeing each other.
Isn’t it too soon for that?
“Here she is,” Natalie says as she and Jules come around the corner and stand on either side of me, flanking me, staring out at Dominic’s land.
“It’s gorgeous here,” I say.
“Do you often have the undeniable urge to leave a party and stare at the scenery?” Jules asks, as she drops her arm around my shoulders.
“Maybe,” I reply primly.
“We didn’t mean to scare you off,” Natalie says.
“I just needed some fresh air,” I lie.
“We scared you,” Jules says. “Is it because we know you’re doing the nasty with our brother?”
“Well, I’m scared now,” I reply and shake my head ruefully. “I had no idea that you guys chatted with your brothers about who they have sex with.”
“Ew.” Jules scrunches up her nose and shivers. “We don’t do that. But we can tell that you’re doing the sex stuff.”
“Sex stuff?” I snort. “Is that the scientific term for it?”
“He’s been interested in you for a long while,” Natalie says softly, watching the horizon, as she slips her hand in mine. “There were times I’d see him watching you with so much want in his eyes, it was almost painful.”
“So, he wanted in my pants.”
“You’re a smart girl,” Jules says. “You know that’s not all it is.”
I don’t say anything in return. What is there to say? It’s not just sex, for either of us.