Blue Autumn in the Bayou (Gumbo Love) (9 page)

His words, his declaration, made her second gues
s letting Travis into her inner circle. She would have to be level with him and try not to conceal things from him. If there was any truth to a beginning for them, she would have to reveal things to him that she hadn’t told anyone else. She patted her face dry, set the towel on the empty towel rack, and headed back up the hallway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 11

 

 

Autumn once again passed the opened French doors of the sunken den and there he was, waiting on her. She slowed and met his gaze head on. He nodded, and she moved past the door and went back to her chore in the kitchen. When she was done, she rejoined the others in the den. She took an open seat at the bar. Travis moved behind it.

“What can I offer you
, pretty lady?”

Something about his offer made her believe he offered something more than a drink. She hesitated before answering him. “Club soda with a twist of lime
,” she spoke softly.

“Is that all?”
He asked, one brow lifted.

“For now
,” she answered his cryptic question.

He smiled.
The lopsided smile revealed straight white teeth. His eyes simmered with desire. “One club soda with a twist of lime, coming up.” He scooped ice into a glass without looking. He kept his gaze glued to her. He looked down long enough to slice a wedge of lime. He then squeezed it and dropped it in the glass before pushing it toward her. “Here you go.”

“Thanks.”

Neither of them saw Michael walk up to the bar. “Are you serving, big brother, or are you making goo-goo eyes at the pretty girls?”

“This is self-service
, man, but since I’m here, what can I get you?”

“Now I’m sure that’s no
t how you ask Ms. Pretty Thing here when you fixed her a drink. Can I get a little common courtesy or am I going to have to talk to the host of this house?”

Michael shook his head when
Travis moved around the bar and reached for Autumn’s hand, pulling her from the bar stool and replied, “You can get your own damn drink. Tell the host of this here house I said so.” His gaze followed them to the other side of the room.

“Dang, I can’t get no respect around here.”
He moved to the spot Travis had vacated.

“What’s wrong
, sugah? Can mommy get something for her baby?” He felt Denise behind him.

He turned and draped his arms around
her. “See, this is what I’m talking about. This here is what I want.” He kissed her fully.

No sooner than he could enjoy the kiss from Denise, he made another quick turn when Trae announced,
“Okay, everybody get the hell out. I got to make up some time with my baby. It was great seeing all of you, but now you’ve got to get up outta here!”

Michael stared with his mouth gaped.
“What kind of host puts people out? I know your momma taught you better, boy. Just wait until I tell her,” he complained.

He growled at his brother when Trae pushed him and Denise from the bar area. Just as he took the glass from his hand the insult continued,
“Tell what you want. Now, bounce!” He and Denise unwilling followed the others out to the foyer.

* * * *

Before Trae could make his way to where they sat, Autumns heart raced because she knew that before long, her shared time with Travis was going to end. She looked into his dark eyes when he asked her, “Do you have plans for this evening?”

“Actually
, I do. I needed to leave soon.” Her heart accelerated even more, and she closed her eyes when Travis touched her arm.

“Okay, maybe we can talk tomorrow. Would that be
alright?”

“Yes.” She didn’t hesitate. A wonderful thrill ran through her knowing she
’d taken a leap she ordinarily thought twice about.

“Do you still have my number?”

“Yes.”

“Call me, when you a get a chance tonight and we’ll make plans then. Besides, we still have to talk about this wedding next Saturday.” He winked at her.

Autumn sighed. “Yeah, I know. It’s just around the corner.” She wanted to linger in his presence, wanted to reach out and touch the shadow now visible on his jaw and chin. She resisted.

* * * *

Travis picked up the phone on the first ring and without looking at the caller ID display. “Hello.” “If you didn’t sound so sexy, I would be mad at you, Travis Kane Brooks,” Savannah sang into the phone.

“Savannah, how are you, sweet thing?”

“I should ask you, Travis. You left me hanging. The only reason I didn’t come searching for you was because I knew you were distraught over losing your favorite uncle. But not to even call your candy girl, well that’s just not nice.”

“I know, Savannah. I’m sorry. You kn
ew my family was here, and of course we’re trying to tie up some loose ends.” Travis didn’t have to explain himself to Savannah, but she was his friend as well as a lover. When he needed someone other than his brothers to talk to, she was his sounding board.

“Well, when are you planning to make it up to me, big boy? I miss your loving.”

“I’m getting ready for my youngest brother’s wedding next week, so how about I give you a call after that?”

“How about I come down for the wedding? I promise to behave.”

“No, Savannah. That’s not a good idea.”

Travis could hear the heavy sigh and the agitation in her voice. “So when I can meet these people of yours, Travis
? I thought we were friends. You know I would never do anything to embarrass you.”

Up until this point
, Savannah never whined or hassled him about his family or his obligation. The sudden interest in his family and attending events with him caught him a little by surprise. He wondered if she sensed his strong attraction to someone else. Even though they weren’t exclusive, she never reacted to his relationship with other women. He certainly didn’t care who she dealt with outside of their relationship. He didn’t think of her as exclusively his.

“That’s the last thing I think of you Savannah. It’s not a good idea. Perhaps another time, okay
?”

“If you say so, Travis.” Her tight reply caused a long pause between them. He waited, thinking she would eventually tell him what was on her mind.

When she didn’t say anything, he asked, “Is there something else sweetie? Because I’m expecting another call.” Travis tried not to be short with her.

“No.”

“Okay, I’ll call you…” Travis looked at the phone because the line went dead. Savannah hung up on him. He dropped his hand to his side, phone still press between his fingers. He never expected her to react that way because she knew he didn’t play games. In a week or so she, after she’d calmed down, he planned deal with her then.

Travis went back to reviewing the report in his lap. About thirty minutes later, the phone rang again. This time he did look at the caller
ID. He frowned. The area code was a Texas number. He clicked the ‘talk’ button. “Hello.”

“Hi, did I catch you at a bad time
?” Autumn responded to Travis’s tight greeting.

“No, please, forgive me. It’s just that I didn’t recognize the
number and sort of expected a New York exchange instead of Texas,” he explained.


It’s the number that I got with the originally cell phone when I joined the dance company. I didn’t have one when I first moved to New York. So they gave me one, and it’s the same number I’ve had the entire time. Is it too late to talk?”

“Not at all. I’ve been expecting your call.”

“You have, have you?”

“Of course. So what time would you like to meet tomorrow?” 

“After two. You like art, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course I do. Where?”

“Meet me at the Museum of Arts at two.”

“I’ll be there at two. Have a good rest.”

“You too. See you tomorrow.”

“Good night.”

“Good night.”

* * * *

Travis drove through Mid-City and pulled into the circle of the New Orleans Museum of Arts, east of the Botanical Gardens. He parked and moved through the doors and scanned the open foyer for the familiar face. She stood at one of the information frames on the wall. He was learning that she was timely, something he admired. He walked over to where she stood. “Autumn.”

Her energy was potent and unmistakably mutual. The vibes whenever he approached her caused him to throw all caution to the wind. Yes,
Autumn filled his body with physical yearning, but a touch of her called to him in ways he’d yet been able to explain. Just like this very moment, she turned to him and spoke. “Hi, how are you today?” Her voice was a little shaky.

Travis leaned down and hugged her. “Better, now.” He revealed his obvious feelings to her.

She smiled, crinkles forming at the corner of her luscious mouth. “It’s good to see you too.”

“It’s been a while since I’ve been here. Let’s go see what we
can discover.”

“Lead the way.” She held out her hand.

Travis took it and pulled her along as he moved from one exhibit to next.

“Have you ever been a best man before?”
she asked.

“No. How about you
? I mean, have you ever been a maid of honor or bridesmaid?”

“No, never. Most of our friends are still single. Reggie will be the first to marry.” They stopped in front of a portrait of Louis C. Roudanez, the founder of the Tribune, the first black newspaper in America to be published daily.

Travis looked at the inscription on the portrait in front of them. “There’s a first for everything.”

He turned his gaze to
Autumn when she looked up at the picture and then at him.

“A first time being attendants in a wedding
, or something else?”

“Both. Definitely something else. Like, two people meeting and instantly knowing that there’s something more meaningful than a physical attraction.”

“How about we stick to being attendants right now?” She moved to the next portrait and dragged him along since he had a tight grip on her hand.

Travis willingly followed her to the next portrait. “Okay. We can do that for now.” He squeezed her hand.

By the time they made it halfway around the museum, he decided to save the other half for another time. The museum started to get crowded and he wanted more private time with her.

“Maybe we can do the Botanical Gardens next time as well.”
He saw her eyes light up.

“So
, you mean there’ll be a next time?” He pulled her towards the exit.

“Sure. I’m enjoying your company, Mr. Brooks.”

“Well, that’s another first.” He smiled.

* * * *

Autumn shook her head in response to Travis’s last comment. She was having a good time with him. He was a great conversationalist and was also well versed in everything from science, to politics, and history. He knew a lot about the arts. Music was his first love. He played piano, bass, and saxophone. She already knew about the guitar. So when the conversation turned to her favorite kinds of music, it wasn’t strange that he knew a lot about classical music.

Autumn managed to keep the conversation on him and the Brooks family, and not revealing very much about her background. She did share with him things about her life in New York, and her road trips around the world.
She stumbled a little though when he asked her, “Have you ever been to Asia?”

“Yes, how about you?”

“Not yet. Maybe you can be my tour guide.” She took a long breath when he touched her hair, moving stray strands from her face. He looked as though he wanted to kiss her lips. And when he leaned down as if he would, but instead of meeting her lips, kissed the top of her head, disappointment ease through her.

“How about something to eat?”
He quickly changed the subject.

“As long
as it’s some place to get a salad, I’m in. I’ve been pigging out like crazy since I got home.” There. She said it. Home. She was home and for a change, it felt good to be home. Being with Travis definitely had something to do with that outlook, but at that point she didn’t care why. She was happy she was there.

“You look great.
Besides you can’t come home and not eat home food. It’s our way of life.”

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