On the drive, I ask, “So, how did you become so good at all the handyman stuff? Did the Navy teach you all that?”
He chuckles and rubs his hands over his jaw. “No, the Navy taught me a lot of things. Doing odd and end construction wasn’t one of them. I learned a lot when I was young. It was just my mom and us three boys. Since I was the oldest, I was the closest thing to a man of the house. I learned a lot just by trial and error.”
I listen intently since it’s not often that Duke opens up. It’s nice hearing him talk about his family since I typically seem to be the one talking.
Deciding to push my luck, I say, “Tell me about your brothers.”
He thinks for a moment, and I wonder if he’s about to shut down. But finally, he says, “Devon is the middle child. He’s a good guy but stuck up his girlfriend’s ass—which wouldn’t be an issue except she treats him like shit. And Tanner is the baby. He’s one of those guys everybody loves. Pretty much the exact opposite of me.”
“You’re not well-liked? Mr. Abernathy seemed to sing your praises.”
“Let’s just say I got into a lot of trouble when I was younger, and Clyde helped me get out of it. He’s a good guy.”
I get the sense that there’s one hell of a story there, but he doesn’t seem to want to elaborate.
So, I decide to let it go and turn the conversation. “How about your mom? What’s she like?”
His body language completely changes, tensing at the mere mention of his mother.
How can I tell? Because I used to have the same reaction when people would bring up my mom.
I want to try to offer some words of comradery or something, but Duke says, “Okay, here we are. We’ve got a steakhouse, Mexican, Italian. What are you in the mood for?”
“Oh, uhm,” I stammer. “What’s your favorite?”
“Probably the steakhouse, but I’m really not picky.”
“Steakhouse sounds good to me.”
The remainder of the drive is short, but a little awkward. I feel like maybe I put a damper on the evening. We were having so much fun, and I feel like it’s ruined.
When we park, I decide to diffuse the tension. Before we get out of the truck, I lean toward him. Grabbing him by the collar, I pull him to me until our lips touch. He instantly relaxes against me. It only takes a moment for the kiss to turn passionate. That tongue of his is enough to drive a woman wild.
Before we end up banging right here in the truck, I pull back. “Are you ready to head inside?”
His eyes dart down to the bulge in his pants. “Well, now we have to wait a minute.”
A small smile of satisfaction forms on my lips. The fact that I can have that kind of reaction on a man like Duke makes me giddy.
A few minutes later, we are seated at a corner table of the restaurant. It’s not like one of those fancy-pants steakhouses like all the elite go to back in Boston.
No, this is a tried-and-true steakhouse, complete with the loud country music and peanut shells on the floor.
As I look around at the animal heads hanging on the walls, Duke says, “Told you I wasn’t a fancy guy.”
There’s that wink again.
“I like that about you,” I say. “It’s nice to not be with someone who doesn’t have a stick up his ass.”
He sets his menu down. “Okay, Avery, I have to ask—what kind of guys have you dated?”
“That’s a loaded question with an extremely long answer.”
“I’ve got time.”