House Rules(7)

By: Rebecca Brooke

My head whipped around. “Did you have plans tonight?”

He watched me for a moment. “Besides playing poker for a few more hours, no. Why?”

I gestured to the building in front of us. “If you don’t have a reservation, how in the hell do you expect to get a table? This place books out months in advance.” Not that I’d ever considered going. I couldn’t afford to order a soda in a place like this.

He winked at me and stepped out of the car, quickly rounding the front to open my door. “It helps when your brother owns the place.”

I stepped out of the car and followed Miller inside.

“Mr. Hawes.” A pretty blonde stepped out from behind the podium, her face wreathed in a smile. “It’s so good to see you again.”

For a brief moment, I felt a spurt of jealousy. She was thin, with long legs and cleavage that most women would kill for. And there she was, flirting with my date. On the word date my brain snapped back to reality. Miller Hawes was not mine, and he was definitely not my date. He was stuck with me for the night because Ray was a dipshit.

“Kate. How are you?”

Her smile widened. It was hard to miss the way her eyes wandered down his body. “I’m good. Would you like your regular table?”

He reached back and took my hand, pulling me up to stand next to him. “Do you have anything a little more private?”

For the first time since we’d walked through the door, her gaze landed on me. Given her perusal of Miller so far I expected to see annoyance or jealousy, but neither of the two emotions were there in her eyes. Instead I saw pity.

Why would she pity me? There was no way she could know about what had happened at the bar. There had to be another reason. Curiosity won out over annoyance, but I just wasn’t rude enough to ask about it. Not that she would tell me, anyway.

“Of course. Let me see what I can find.” She glanced over her board and finally picked up two menus. “I have the perfect spot.”

She led us to a table in the corner: quiet, semi-private, and hidden by a half wall. Once we were seated, she handed us the menus and gave me one more brief glance before walking back to her post, but not before making sure to slide her hand all the way down Miller’s bicep. What the hell was wrong with some people? This woman had no idea that we weren’t dating. I was about to say something, but then I reminded myself that I wasn’t his date, either, and I had no right to confront her.

Frustrated by my idiocy and feeling stupid over almost embarrassing myself, I focused on the menu in front of me; at least, until a man stepped up to the table. He had honey blond hair, and behind his glasses were the most brilliant green eyes I’d ever seen.

“Miller, I didn’t expect to see you tonight,” the man said, smirking down at us.

“Slow night. I figured we’d get something to eat.”

The man glanced in my direction and held out his hand. “Hi, I’m Ashton. Miller’s brother. And you are?”

I smiled and took his hand. It was hard not to—the man’s personality was infectious. I did notice that Miller never mentioned why we were together. “I’m Tess.”

“Tess?” Miller asked. “I thought your name was Theresa?”

“My friends call me Tess.”

Ashton let out a small chuckle before composing himself. “It’s nice to meet you, Tess. I apologize for my brother. His manners aren’t always the best.”

Miller’s eyes narrowed, but they were still focused on me. “Nice, asshole.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too.”

For a moment, Ashton’s eyes focused solely on me. Then he glanced once at his brother and back at me again. It was like he was trying to figure out a puzzle of some kind. After a moment, he cleared his throat.

“Miller, could I have a word?”

Miller nodded and stood, following his brother over to the bar.

So there I was, stuck in a restaurant I could barely afford an appetizer in, much less a whole meal, by myself, with a man who’d won me in a poker game.

Instead of focusing on the mess I was in, I decided to watch the brothers. So different, yet so alike. Both tall with lean muscular frames, that’s where the similarities ended. Ashton was as light as Miller was dark. Even their eyes contrasted: Miller’s chocolate brown to Ashton’s green. I wondered if their personalities were just as different.

The longer I watched, the more heated the discussion became. Hands were flying, mouths turned down at the corners. Time seemed to pass rather slowly while they argued. It felt like all eyes were on me; like I didn’t belong.

And they were right. I didn’t.

None of that helped me feel any more comfortable than I had since we’d left the bar. Tearing my eyes away, I picked at the corner of the menu, my eyes not focusing on the words that swam in front of them.

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