Completed: a Devoured novella
“Relax,” Lucas orders three nights later, reaching across the center console of his car to stroke his hand up my inner thigh. The contact is just enough to make my throat go dry, but it doesn’t stop the dread coursing through me. “It’s just dinner, Red. Calm down.”
Since he had to return to Atlanta almost immediately after he drove to town to see me earlier in the week, he had been fortunate enough to avoid the massive wrecking ball that is my mother. I was hopeful that she’d simply go away, but so far, she’s smashed all my hopes and wishful thinking under the stiletto boots she’d sweet-talked Gram into buying her at Nordstrom. When I’d told my grandma that Lucas was coming back in town tonight to spend the weekend with me, she’d immediately suggested an intimate dinner to celebrate our engagement.
And, aggravatingly, Mom had invited herself.
“I am relaxed,” I finally say, but my entire body is tense as Lucas pulls his Audi up to the valet. He glances over at me, his hazel eyes crinkling at the corners. “It’s not funny.”
“You’re sexy when you’re all worked up.” Moving his hand from between my legs, he skims the pad of his thumb across the center of my lips. A sigh escapes my mouth. “You’re too fucking beautiful tonight to let that woman get to you.”
“I could pull a Seth.” I fuss with the Band-Aid on my index finger—thanks to my sudden case of scatterbrain, I had a nasty run-in with a clothes hanger when I did wardrobe for a music video yesterday. “I could pull a Seth and just leave and refuse to acknowledge her.” But even as I speak the last couple words, I’m opening the car door and climbing out of the sleek black vehicle.
Looking delicious in jeans and a Henley and what his sister would affectionately call a “man bun,” Lucas walks around to meet me. He passes his keys to the valet—which earns a look of adoration that I know means he’ll get hit up for an autograph when we leave the restaurant—and then he grips my hip and pulls me close. He doesn’t seem to care that we’re standing on the sidewalk in downtown Nashville in full view of whoever might walk by.
But then, neither do I. Not anymore.
“You must think I’m insane,” I whisper, and he releases a deep exasperated noise.
“You won’t do what your brother did because your grandmother wants you here.” He dips his head, lowers his mouth to my ear. “And, don’t hold this against me, but the only thing I’m thinking about is the way you’ll look later with your hands—”
“Got it,” I cut him off and lean back. “Is it your goal to make me walk around permanently red?”
It feels like my heart skips a beat when his cocky grin grows impossibly wider. He moves his fingers from my hip, resting his hand on the small of my back as he leads me into the restaurant. “Always.”
While dinner was Gram’s idea, Lucas had taken it upon himself to have Kylie book our reservations—remotely, of course, since she’s somewhere with Wyatt this weekend. It was kind of ironic that he wants to meet my mother for the first time in the restaurant where he completely shoved himself back into my life, but I don’t mention it as a ponytailed hostess ushers us back to our table.
My grandmother and mother are already here—both of them dolled up for the occasion—and for a second, I feel way underdressed in my oversized white sweater and skinny jeans. As we get closer to the table, though, and I feel Lucas’ hand move in a reassuring circle over my skin, I focus on the more important issues at hand. Like getting through dinner without wanting to strangle my mom.
Or the fact that I’m almost certain the slinky sapphire blue number hanging off her skinny frame came from my closet.
As Gram gets up and gives Lucas a hug, I barely register what they’re saying to each other because I’m glaring so hard at my mother. “Nice dress.”
She shows off her straight smile and shrugs her shoulders. “Didn’t think you’d mind.”
You must be freakin’ high, I’m dying to say, but because Gram is standing a few feet away from me, and I can feel her blue eyes burning into the side of my face, I offer my mom a large smile that sets fire to my face. “I do,” I say sweetly. Relaxing my expression, I turn to my grandmother and lean down to wrap my arms around her. “You look beautiful tonight.”
She smooshes her lips to my cheek and whispers, “Thank you for doing this, sweetheart.” When I pull away from her, my heart lurches at the tears—happiness, maybe—glistening at the corners of her eyes.
“Lucas says he won’t be leaving until right before Thanksgiving,” she says as she slides into the booth, and I automatically nod. I sit across from her and my mother. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all have Thanksgiving together?” Smiling, she wiggles her eyebrows. “Since we’re going to be family, I’m anxious to meet Lucas and Kylie’s people.”
“They probably have plans in Atlanta,” I blurt out. Because the last thing I want is Lucas’ youth pastor parents to meet my mom. Ugh. Just thinking about that sends a burst of shame through me; not because of my mother, but because of myself, especially when I glance from Lucas’ frown to the look of hurt wrinkling Gram’s face. “We’ll have other Thanksgivings,” I say softly and then swallow hard when I feel Lucas’ hand on my knee under the table.
“It’s okay,” he murmurs in my ear before telling my grandmother, “I’ll talk to my mother. She fu—” He catches himself before he curses in front of Gram, his dark features splitting into a grin. “Both my parents love Si.”
Pleased, Gram launches into a conversation about Kylie and the wine she’d gifted us several months ago. My mother stays uncharacteristically quite while this happens, but after our waitress introduces herself, turns on the fondue burner, and takes our drink order—I go for alcohol because I know with Mom sitting so close to me I’m going to need it—all hell breaks loose.
Resting her elbows on the table, she leans forward until her boobs practically pop out of the dress she swiped from my closet and stares Lucas down. He has the good sense to look bored. “What are your plans for my daughter?” Mom demands, wrinkling her small nose like she smells something awful.
“Marriage. A couple kids. Lots of music.” He cocks a thick brow. When my mom twists her lips to the side, he shakes his head. “I’m not sure what you’re asking, Rebecca. If it’s whether or not I love her, the answer is yes. More than anyone that’s ever walked into my life.”
Gram beams, but Lucas’ answer clearly doesn’t satisfy Mom.
“Well, that’s why I’m asking,” she sighs, tapping her fingernails on the table a few inches from the empty fondue pot. “Because I’d hate for whatever happened to your first wife to happen to Sienna once you eventually get tired of my girl. And we both know it’s gonna happen with what you do for a living and your … history with women. ”