Blue Autumn in the Bayou (Gumbo Love) (4 page)











That Brooks smile brightened his face when he saw her headed toward him. He carefully placed the hot vat back on the spit and in the same instance pulled the towel from his waist and brushed it across his forehead. He stood to his full height and Autumn sw
ore he looked like an eight-foot giant, more powerful than a dozen men put together. “Hi.” His gaze penetrated straight through her, like he’d caught her watching him. His hands dropped to his sides as he watched and waited for her arrival.

“Hi.” She recovered and continued toward him.
You got this, little girl,
she coached herself as she moved closer to the aromas that forced her out there in the first place. “Something smells delicious.” She wanted tell him he looked delicious, that if she didn’t watch herself she would become a slave to his touch, to the passion she saw just beneath those long dark lashes.

Heat resonated at the center of her body and forked in
all directions. She knew the kind of danger she was subjecting herself to, and instead of leaping, she forged on, commanding her heart to stay strong. She took a really long breath and held it as she moved closer, her body trembling.

Autumn stopped a short distance from Travis. She had to set the record straight between them
, otherwise, they wouldn’t get anything done. And just as she put up her guard and had formed the words in her mouth, Travis moved in. With his face only inches away, her armor slipped. The heat from his body radiated over to her. She gripped the frozen drink with shaky hands and dropped her gaze to shield the last of her restraint from his probing, but it was too late.

done. So you can eat when you’re ready.” he watched her approach. Travis noticed for the first time a change in her. What was it? He studied her closely. His curiosity got the best of him, so he lifted his hand and touched her face. He didn’t know why, but he did. Any other woman would have slapped his face, but she didn’t. “Look at me, Autumn.” The hoarse command was all but a whisper. They stood inches from one another, so he knew she heard him. 

Autumn wanted to oblige him but she couldn’t. Instead
, she took a couple of steps back. The drink in her hand almost slipped again. “No, Travis. I came to tell you something.” She suddenly found the strength she lost earlier. “I’m here to help Reggie. I’m not interested in you. I don’t want to get to know you. I don’t want you to get to know me. So please, just stay away. I want things to go well for Reggie and Trae.”

“Is that what you really came to tell me, Autumn?” He scrutinized her closely. Her body said something totally different. She still didn’t totally lift her eyes to him. What else was she
concealing because he could see she was hiding the attraction between them?

“The sauce is ready… oh, hello, Autumn.” Trae looked from her to his brother and instantly knew something had happened. He and Reggie talked about pairing the two together and after a long discussion, decided that surely the two could work together to get them through the wedding. Were they wrong? “What’s up?”

Travis answered, but he never took his gaze from Autumn. “Oh, little brother, we were just discussing how we were going to work together for the wedding. Weren’t we
, Autumn?”

Autumn pulled her gaze from Travis and looked over at Trae. “Yes. We were. It’s an exciting time and I promise you
it’ll be a day you’ll never forget. Could you excuse me? I’ll head back to the house.”

“Sure thing.” Trae looked from Travis to Autumn and then back to Travis. When she was out of hearing distance Trae laid into him. “Man, what was that about?”

“Look Trae, I don’t need censure from you, okay. We’re all adults. Everything is fine. Don’t worry about anything.”

Just before the ladies started digging into to the scrumptious food, Michael showed up with several of their
frat brothers. Shortly thereafter, Denise, Michael’s girlfriend, joined the group of bridesmaids. Michael spun music and everyone seemed to have a good time. They all laughed, ate, and danced. Travis did his best to stay clear of Autumn. The last thing he wanted to do was disrupt the couple’s enjoyment. He danced with Erica several times, and one dance number got a little racy. Afterward, he spun her around and planted a kiss on her forehead. “Thanks for showing me up little lady.”

“But you enjoyed it didn’t you?”
she teased.

“I did, indeed.”

Autumn fumed as she watched the seductive way Travis held Erica. In the middle of the song she went into the house, but returned just in time to see Travis kiss Erica. She froze. Her expression faltered for a brief moment but then she recovered just as quickly. She lifted her head and eased into the fluffy cushions she’d vacated earlier. She sighed heavily.  

When Travis looked up and saw Autumn coming from the house just as he planted a kiss on Erica
’s forehead, he instantly regretted the move. With one arm draped around Erica’s shoulders, he saw pain in Autumn’s gaze. Or maybe for his sake, he imagined it. She told him she didn’t want to know him. Yet the hurt in her expression said something different and it disturbed him. He frowned. Travis didn’t like games, the very reason he stayed cleared of commitments. He liked having a good time. Autumn made it clear that she wasn’t interested in that plan.

He watched
Autumn, sitting off, purposely alone. Taking a sighing breath, he walked over to where she sat. He couldn’t stand to see any guest of his not enjoy themselves. It just was not the trait of a good host. So much for staying clear of her, but he felt obligated to say something. After all, he was the host and wanted everyone to have a good time. “Everything okay?”

Autumn didn’t meet his gaze. “Yes, everything is cool.”

“I hope you’re having a good time.” He bent down next to her. He hoped that she would look at him, but she didn’t.

“Yes, thanks. This was really nice.” She fidgeted with her hands.

Travis reached out and touched her. His move did bring her gaze to meet his. The daylight had descended, but the lanterns provided ample light for the entire area. He looked at her for a brief moment before he spoke. He was sure she would pull away from him but she didn’t. “I don’t want us to be at odds, Autumn. So, I’d like to start over if you’ll allow me.”

The heat of the humid night couldn’t compete with the flame in his hands nor could it erase the seductive way he said her name. The blaze shot straight up her arm and into her face. She worked to ignore it. This was the second time he’d
said this to her; the first time was at the gas station. “We’re not at odds, Travis.” She stated, flatly. “How many times do we get to start over?” She held her breath, hoping he would move his hand before she succumbed to the heat pulsating through her veins.

slid his hand down her arm and lightly squeezed her fingers before he cupped them in both of his large hands. He brought them to his lips and left his kiss on her fingertips.

The move totally alarmed her. Still
, she resisted the urge to pull from his grasp. She refused to let him think he had the upper hand; that he affected her the way he did. She turned her head from him to see if others were watching their exchange.
Please release me
, she prayed silently.

’m glad were are not at odds, and I hope to get as many second chance as you’ll give me. You may not want to get to know me, but I am very interested in you, beautiful lady.”

“You certainly toss that word around casually
,” she snapped at him.

He tilted his head. “What word? Beautiful?
I can’t help it that you and your friends are beautiful.” He looked over his shoulder at her girlfriends who all were on the other side dancing. They were the only two not shaking their rumps.

ely you don’t expect me to fall for that line do you?”

A sensuous smile eased across his face. Travis stood with her hands still cupped in his. “Come on, let’s dance. Everyone else is on the dance floor.” He didn’t want to get into a debate with her. He would much rather expend the energy holding her
, and if he couldn’t do that, dancing with her would suffice.

opened her mouth to protest, but he was already pulling her from the chair. She allowed him to drag her towards the others, and she effortlessly fell into step with everyone else. She smiled which lit her entire face.

Travis’s heart leaped
because she was, indeed, breathtakingly gorgeous. If only he could get pass the wall she erected, he just might get to know her. With a determination already in place, he enjoyed what he could for the moment.

They all danced through several more songs before Reggie pulled at her friends. “Let’s go, ladies. We weren’t supposed to be here this long.” She’d already called Jena to have her meet them later than they’d planned.
And she didn’t budge when she heard the complaints from her friends.

“Ah, do you ladies have to leave?”
one of the guys asked.

“No!” Mona slurred.

“Yes, we do,” Reggie protested grabbing a wobbly Mona by the arm. “Thanks, Travis. Food was great.” She turned towards her future brother-in-law, and then leaned into Trae and wrapped her one free arm around his neck. The other one still held on to Mona. “I love you, baby. See you tomorrow.”

She responded appropriately when
Trae deepened the kiss. “I love you, sweetheart. Have fun.”

Both Travis and Autumn watched the exchange. Then they briefly looked at each other. Travis raised an eyebrow as he stared at her. Autumn turned away and didn’t look back or say
anything. She ascended the stairs and walked through the rear door of his mother’s house.

Travis watched her until she disappeared. His attention then went to Reggie, as she continued to drag Mona away. Denise fell into step behind them. “
Thanks ladies for coming.” He shook his head.

* * *

Travis strolled towards the moving vehicle j
ust as Reggie was backing out. “Regg!” He purposely walked to the passenger side. He knew Autumn would be seated up front with Reggie, and when she rolled down the window, he handed her the covered pan. He leaned into the car. Travis could barely make out her face, but he knew she was watching him as he was watching her. They had two weeks to figure out what was going on between them. “Here, you guys take this. I’m sure you’ll get hungry a little later.”

Travis placed a pan
and an envelope in Autumn’s lap. His hands grazed the insides of hers in the process, and he instantly felt the electrical charge; but he fought the urge to do anything about it. Instead he said, “See you guys later,” backed away from the car, and didn’t move again until it had turned outside the iron gates of the driveway. Even then, he could still feel the sparks racing through his veins.

* * *

Autumn glanced out of the window, but turned when Reggie announced,
“Jena should be at the house by the time we get there.” She watched as Reggie gripped the top of the steering wheel. Her friends continued their joyful chatter.

“We could have stayed where we were. I’m in a party mood now.” Erica

Mona poked
Erica as she wiggled in her seat. “Be still. After all that ass shaking, you should be good to go for a least a couple more weeks.”

“Ah, yeah, girl
, I thought you were going to rip off Travis’s clothes the way your little fast behind was grinding on him.” Reggie laughed.

“We were just having a good time, but I tell you that boy is
fine as hell,” Erica added.

Denise smiled and shook her head. “It’s in the Brooks genes. Honey, just don’t mess with the middle one. He’s mine and I’ll cut you if you even think about him, sho nuff!”

“Wow! She’s crazy! She’s going fit in just fine with our crazy behinds.” Autumn saw Mona slap Denise a high five.

She was the only one not laughing. A little unnerved, s
he couldn’t figure out why it bothered her to hear them talk about Travis that way. She continued to deny her obvious attraction to him; lied when she told Travis she didn’t want to get to know him, when in fact she was intrigued by him. And after watching him for the short time they were at his parents’ house today, she felt totally different about him. His behavior was rather appealing, treating everyone as if they were the most important person at that moment. She watched him move around the garden making sure everyone was taken care of. He couldn’t fake that even if he wanted to.

, for her own good and his, it was better to stay far away from him. Autumn rested her head on the headrest and closed her eyes, temporarily blocking out the jovial conversation among her friends. A crease split her forehead as she remembered the sleepless nights she hunkered into a ball crying, hoping she could forget, wishing she could have changed things altogether.

Reggie touched her arm. “Are you okay?”

Autumn startled. “Yeah. I guess I’m a little tired. I’m just resting my eyes.”

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