Home > Loose Ends, Volume One (Loose Ends #1)(10)

Loose Ends, Volume One (Loose Ends #1)(10)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“That’s preposterous,” Pearl snapped. “Not to mention selfish.”

“I said with any authenticity, Pearl,” Henry stated soothingly. “Of course I would want her to move on. I would want her to find happiness again. Of course. Logically. Because I love her and I would not want her ever to be unhappy. But would it make me happy in the slightest to think of her with another man? Not a chance. A nightmare, I’ll remind you, I’m living right now in another way, but I’m still living it. Make that man a friend? I’d be infuriated and feel betrayed just by the thought.”

“That’s preposterous and selfish too,” Pearl retorted.

“Nevertheless,” Henry said, catching the eyes of the waiter and lifting his chin before he tipped his head to his empty glass then flicked his hand to indicate he wanted the table to have another round, “it’s true.” He returned his attention to Pearl. “And I’m here because you like me. You like annoying me. You like beguiling me. You enjoy making me laugh and entertaining me. But you didn’t call two hours ago to invite me to dinner for any of that. Nor did you do it to set me up with Luciana. You did it so I could state the facts for my gender.”

“I also like looking at you,” Pearl huffed, and Henry grinned.

So did Luci.

She also took another sip of her drink.

It was very Henry to be certain they all had their drinks refreshed, he was a gentleman like that in all ways. And later, even if he’d been invited, he would argue with Luci and Pearl (and then when Luci bowed out due to politeness, just with Pearl) about who would pay the check.

But Luci was also glad he did it because she had a feeling she was going to need another drink before this was all over.

“Well then, onward,” Pearl declared as Luci put her glass back to the table. “If this man is fool enough not to accept your affection, Luci, then find another.”

“I don’t want another.”

She had not intended to say that.

However, she did, and she felt both their focus after she did.

“So, you’re emotionally involved with him?” Henry asked quietly.

She looked to him. “I’ve known him years. We were all very close. Of course, when I had Travis, he never occurred to me in that way. Until he did. We kissed and . . . other things . . .”

Henry gave her a small smile to encourage her to carry on after she’d trailed off.

“So I know he cares for me and is at least attracted to me.”

“Of course he’s attracted to you,” Pearl said.

“I’m not every man’s type,” Luci told her.

“Yes, those who swing toward their own,” Pearl somewhat agreed. “You’re not their type. Other than that . . .” It was she who trailed off then, lifting her brows.

“You’d be very annoying if you weren’t so lovable,” Luci returned.

“I’ve been hearing that since I was two,” Pearl remarked before she drank more Bellini.

Luci shook her head at her and took her own sip.

“Getting back to what Pearl said earlier,” Henry called her attention back to him, “I encourage you to forget this man and move on.”

“And I encourage you to find this schmuck and make clear to him how absurd he’s being and then move on,” Pearl offered her opinion.

“He’s a friend,” Luci reminded her.

“Then he shouldn’t have kissed you,” Pearl returned.

This was true.

Why did he do that?

If it was such a big mistake when it happened, why wasn’t he gentle and sweet and pull away and share they couldn’t take their relationship to that place? She would have been mortified, but she also would have found her way beyond that and they would be again what they always were.

Why did he show her the entry back into heaven?

And then walk away?

And furthermore, what had been behind that look? That look of promise and longing in his eyes.

“You’re right,” she said softly. “I don’t . . . I don’t understand that part.”

Pearl gave Explain! eyes to Henry.

“I really wish I’d said no to this dinner,” Henry muttered, shifting so the waiter could serve their drinks.

“Well you didn’t, and you’re here, so hit us,” Pearl ordered.

Henry looked right at Luci. “It’s Travis, sweetheart. This man, I don’t know him, but you’re you, all of you, the beauty within and without, it could be he’s harbored an attraction to you for years, and due to the code knew he could do nothing about it. Therefore, he slotted you in as friend and that was what it was. Travis gone, things shifted, and he lost sight of what you shared, and perhaps had a momentary lapse of control and kissed you, only to regret it, not,” he stressed, “because of you, but because of Travis.”

“I think at this juncture I should make it clear that I kissed him,” Luci shared.

Henry took a drink and murmured, “That explains it.”

“It surely does,” Pearl agreed.

“It does?” Luci asked.

Henry leaned slightly her way. “Darling, if you kissed me, you’re my friend, a colleague, I like you, I respect you, I would not want to lose any of a relationship that means something to me, but I would kiss you back even knowing doing it could put at risk what we have.” He straightened in his seat, his mouth quirking. “Pure male instinct.”

“For certain,” Pearl again agreed.

Luci pressed against her seat so her food could be set in front of her, doing it asking, “Now what do I do?”

“Have you spoken to him since?” Pearl asked.

“Yes, he said we can’t go there and that it was a mistake and we need to get beyond it and back to the way we were,” she answered the white truffle risotto in front of her.

“Fine, he feels that way, go back to what you had with him and move on,” Pearl advised.

“I can’t,” Luci replied.

“Why?” Pearl inquired.

Luci looked into Pearl’s eyes. “Because I think . . . no, it’s got nothing to do with thinking, I know I’ve fallen in love with him.”

“Fuck,” Henry muttered.

“I’m not a big fan of foul language, but what he said,” Pearl added.

“I can’t seem to think about anything but him. That kiss. What happened after. When he told me it was a mistake.” Her gaze swung to Pearl. “What he’d think of those shoes I tried on today and how I know he’d tease me about them. But what I don’t know is if he’d like them secretly and how he would show me that.” She turned her focus to Henry. “If he’s the kind of man who would pull my chair out for me if we went to a restaurant together.” She shook her head. “He’s always on my mind. When I go to sleep. When I wake. He’s just always . . . there.”

“And it’s not just an obsession, hon?” Pearl asked gently. “You know, fixating on him after Travis?”

Luci shook her head again. “I wish it was. I could see it with someone else. Not Hap. Not someone who’s a member of the family. It’s just him. He’s handsome and funny and I love the way he teases me, and how I started to catch him looking at me and what I saw on his face when I did. He was there when Travis died. Not as much as Sam . . . you both know Sam, yes?”

When she got two nods, she went on.

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