Duke's Redemption

Page 58

Huggers always catch me off guard. I’m typically a fairly pleasant person, but the thought of wrapping my arms around someone I don’t know whatsoever just freaks me out. But for Duke’s sake, I just try to go with the flow. I let out a small groan because she’s squeezing the life out of me.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she exclaims, letting me go. “I’m just so excited that you guys are here! Well, let’s not stand in the doorway. Come on in.”
As we walk through the small hallway into the house, I take note of the photos on the wall. There are pictures of Duke and two other little boys who I’m assuming are his brothers. Duke stands out because he’s the only one with dark hair. I can’t help but notice that there are almost no photos of Duke when he was really young. In all of the professional ones, he looks a bit older, and his brothers are the small ones. There are remarkably more pictures of his brothers than there are of him—which I think is insane because clearly, Duke is the cutest.
I stop at one and whisper to Duke, “You had freckles?”
He leans in close. “I still do. They’re just covered up by the beard now.”
When we get to the kitchen, an older man with silver hair stands at the sink washing dishes.
“Who was it, Hun?” He asks Tammy.
“Rob, you’re never going to believe this. Look who’s here!” When the man turns around, she says, “This is my son, Duke.”
The man looks surprised, but not nearly as surprised as Tammy was. He reaches over to the counter and grabs a dish towel to dry his hands on.
Walking over to us, he holds out his hand for Duke to shake. “Heard a lot about you, Duke. Your momma is sure proud of you.”
Tammy practically beams. Despite all of the shit that has gone down between her and Duke over the years, I can see that she really does love him.
“Your brothers are coming over in a little while.” Tammy tells him.
“I don’t know how long we’ll stay,” Duke replies. “I promised Avery we would do some stuff today.”
Tammy’s face falls a little, but she tries to hide it. At this point, I’m sure she is happy with whatever she can get.
“Come on. Let’s go sit down and catch up.”
She leads us into the living room where Duke and I take a seat on one couch, and Tammy and Rob have a seat in the two recliner chairs.
Tammy starts off the conversation with, “So, how did you two lovebirds meet?”
Duke clears his throat before answering. “I’m doing some work on Avery’s house.”
“Oh,” his mom says.
This whole thing is so terribly awkward, and I have no idea why I speak my next words. “Yeah, when he says it like that, it sounds like some bad porno.”
The moment the words leave my mouth, I instantly regret them. If I wasn’t the queen of putting my foot in my mouth before, I sure as shit am wearing the crown now.
Everyone gives me mortified looks until Tammy busts out laughing. With that, everyone else starts to laugh too. It seems like my mouth with no filter has inadvertently broken the ice of this extremely awkward situation.
Wiping tears out of her eyes, Tammy says, “I like her, Duke. You need to keep this one around.”
Over the next couple of hours, we all make some pleasant small talk. Tammy attempts to get to know me a little better, and I’m careful to not let slip too much information that’s too personal. And Duke asks some questions about Rob. It seems that his mom’s fiance owned a pretty successful car rental company before selling it and retiring. He seems nice enough, but it will be interesting to see how Duke really feels about him.
At one point, Tammy says, “Oh, I forgot I made some fresh lemonade this morning.”
Duke cuts her off, “Fresh?”
“Mm-hmm,” she nods.
“By fresh, you mean…?”
“I mean lemons, water, and sugar.”
When Duke still looks confused, she adds, “No, I don’t make the powdered stuff anymore. Your momma has gone domestic.”