House Rules(8)

By: Rebecca Brooke

Finally, Miller returned to the table, his jaw clenched. I was afraid of the answer, but I couldn’t stop myself from asking. “Is everything okay?”

“It’s fine.”

Miller leaned back in his chair, his attention on the menu—entirely too much attention for someone who had eaten here plenty of times before.

The longer I sat there, the silence engulfing us until the air became thick and difficult to draw in, the more infuriated I became at his behavior. Eventually, my temper let loose.

“Why drag me out if you’re just going to be a dick?”

His head snapped up and after only a millisecond, his eyes narrowed. “Because I won.”

I slammed my hand down on the table. Not one of my finer moments. I should have been giving Miller the impression that he had no affect on me. “You’re an asshole. Let’s eat and get the night over with.”

Miller opened his mouth, when a waiter appeared with a tray of drinks. We hadn’t even ordered anything yet.

Saved by the bell.

“Mr. Hawes, compliments of your brother. He says you might need it.”

Miller smirked and even not knowing him, I could tell he was trying to hold back a laugh. Whatever had happened between the two of them earlier had obviously blown over. “Thank you, Dustin.”

Miller raised his glass in the direction of the bar. I glanced over my shoulder to see Ashton return the gesture, before they both took a sip of their drinks. What it must be like to be in a family where people forgave stupid arguments instead of continuing to yell louder. Maybe if things ran that way in my life I wouldn’t have wound up in this mess.

Miller downed half of the amber liquid and perused the room. The silence continued as he contemplated the menu, swirling the rest of his drink around in the glass. After few moments, he set it down and looked at me.

“I don’t mean to be a dick. It’s been a long few weeks. I know you don’t want to be here, but if you can push that aside, I know we can have a fun evening together.”

? I kept my focus on him. I wanted to know if he was serious, or if his words were just a ploy to get into my pants. There was nothing in his features to indicate he was lying, but from what I’d seen of Miller Hawes so far, he knew how to bluff when needed. Every instinct I had screamed at me not to trust him. Then again, it was only dinner, right? This softer side of Miller intrigued me. I might be a lamb being led to slaughter, but I couldn’t stop myself from following his lead.

Something told me there was more to Miller. Maybe what happened with Ray was just business—not that I knew anything about that. As a poor college student, my life revolved around school work and finding a way to pay my tuition. The one thing I couldn’t get out of my head was the way he’d interacted with his brother. Those weren’t the actions of a heartless man. There was a puzzle wrapped around this man, and my desire to find out more took hold of me.

“Okay.” I lifted the glass of wine that had been set in front of me to my lips.

Miller sat back in his seat, appearing to relax for the first time all night. The sweet flavor of the wine slid across my tongue.

“This is delicious.”

Miller smirked. “My brother knows his wine.”

With my eyes on him, I took another sip, enjoying the fruity taste. Many wines were so bitter that I couldn’t drink more than a sip. This one went down so easily, I knew I’d need another glass of it before the night was over.

“Right now, he should be getting ready to make our dinner.”

“You said he was the owner. He’s the chef, too?”

“Not usually, but he owes me, and he’s the best chef here.” He winked.

If this lighthearted, playful man had been the one I’d met earlier, my reaction to going with him would have been much different. This was a man I could see myself meeting in a bar and dreaming about for nights on end. But his mercurial nature, the ease with which he switched between good-natured and intense, was enough for me to keep my guard up.

I finished my first glass of wine and almost instantly it was replaced with another. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I needed to stop at two. Any more and I’d end up doing something I’d regret.

“Since I know you’re not a gambler like Wasden, what is it you do with your time?”

I felt my cheeks flame, the reminder of all I hadn’t known about Ray rushing to the surface. My eyes found the table. “To be honest, I didn’t even know he gambled as badly as he obviously does. I thought he was in a weekly poker game with his friends. When he asked me to come with him tonight, I had no idea we were going to a club with a secret back room.”

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