Home > Worth the Trouble (St. James #2)(13)

Worth the Trouble (St. James #2)(13)
Jamie Beck

Jackson had already claimed a table, so she joined him. She noticed David and Vivi were standing at another table, speaking with some of his colleagues. The slick black hair of one guy triggered an unpleasant memory of drinking shots. She swallowed the resulting wave of nausea and sipped some water to break up the acid in her stomach.

“Where’s Dad?” she asked Jackson.

“He and Janet took an early ferry.” He scratched his neck. Cat noticed his puffy eyelids and the deep creases in his face. “Apparently they had someplace to be this afternoon.”

“What time are we leaving?”

“I left my car on the mainland, so we can take any ferry. I’d like to leave in an hour or so.” Jackson emptied a packet of sugar into his coffee. “I’ll drive you to Stamford so you can catch an express train to Grand Central.”

“Sounds great, thanks.” The festivities had drained her. She needed to return to her private haven and plan her next move. Plus, her elderly neighbor, Esther Morganstein, relied on Cat to grocery shop for her every Sunday afternoon. They’d formed a tradition of having tea when she delivered the food. Esther eagerly anticipated their weekly visit because her own family now lived in Texas, and Cat enjoyed the plucky old woman’s company.

“You look a little rough.” Jackson leaned over and tipped up her chin to study her eyes. “Bloodshot! Did you get to your room okay last night? You never said goodnight.”

“I’m fine.” She waved her hand dismissively, biting back a retort about looking in the mirror. “If you’re so concerned, maybe you should pay a little more attention to your baby sister before the fact, not after.”

“Well, I got distracted.” He winked devilishly. “Actually, I feel a little shitty myself. Hank and I were smoking stogies out here when Amy and her friend Denise joined us for a few late-night drinks. After that, my memory’s a bit fuzzy.”

“Nothing more to tell?” So Hank had doubled back to hook up with Amy. She nibbled at her lip, dying for more details.

“Nah. I left them all when I finished my cigar.” Jackson gulped down some coffee then smiled slyly as he looked toward the hotel doorway. “But maybe Hank has something to confess.”

Cat followed his gaze to see Hank and Amy coming outside together. Was it a coincidence, or had they arrived together? She couldn’t be sure, but it looked like Hank momentarily blanched upon seeing her. Another wave of nausea gurgled.

“Over here!” Jackson waved his cohort over to their table.

Cat steeled herself, unsure of how to react. The knot in her stomach wasn’t helping, nor was the fact that Hank pulled out another frickin’ chair for Amy. Great.

“Good morning.” Hank nodded at Cat before sitting beside Amy. He met her gaze, which she prayed meant he hadn’t read her journal. Surely he’d be too uncomfortable to look her in the eye if he had.

“For some more than others,” Cat muttered. Wistfully she once again wondered if, in another place and time, she could have had a relationship with Hank.

When Amy leaned nearer to him, pride urged Cat to retreat and regroup. Jealousy was never attractive, and she’d be damned if she let anyone see it affect her, especially when she didn’t understand where it was coming from. “I’m going to make myself a plate. Can I bring anything back for the table?”

Thankfully, everyone declined. She stood and sashayed toward the buffet table inside, thankful years of walking runways ensured her departure would look graceful and sexy even when her legs felt a bit wobbly. Amy might have been able to boast an amazing set of “girlfriends,” but Cat had great-looking, mile-high legs, and she wasn’t shy about using whatever assets she had at her disposal.

The aroma of bacon and sausage made her gag. No big loss considering bacon hadn’t been part of her diet for a decade. Given how many liquid calories she’d consumed last night, she should refrain.

She surveyed the fruits and yogurt, but then Dr. Wexler’s weight-gain prescription tempted her to consider the basket full of warm muffins. Oh, screw it. She needed something heavy to absorb the remnants of alcohol in her system. Without allowing time for hesitation, she snatched a chocolate chip muffin from the basket and took a bite.

“Once again you’re the most glamorous woman in the room,” chirped a familiar voice.

Startled, Cat turned to find Vivi standing at her shoulder.

“Please speak softly.” Cat rubbed her temple, grimacing. “I’m nursing a big headache.”

“I thought you seemed a little drunk last night. Trying to deflect attention from your hangover with this attention-grabbing outfit?” Vivi tilted her head sideways. Suddenly she glanced toward the porch and back at Cat, her expression knowing. “Or is it something more interesting? Is Hank the reason for this sexy getup?”

Cat couldn’t hide her surprise. She cast a quick glance toward the veranda.

“Spill, Cat. Did something more happen between you two last night?” Vivi bit her lip and, with a hopeful glint in her eyes, squeezed Cat’s arm. “Hank probably feels comfortable with Amy, but she’s not right for him. Want me to run interference?” Vivi’s eyes radiated girlish conspiracy.

“I know you believe in love and destiny, V, but don’t go looking for it for me.” When Vivi failed to appear dissuaded, Cat added, “And don’t expect me to find it with Hank. You make me regret ever telling you about that old kiss.”

Vivi shrugged off the comment and threw her arm around Cat’s waist. “It’s okay. I know you don’t mean to be surly to me the morning after my wedding. Now that we’re actually family, I’ll cut you extra slack.” Vivi dropped the subject of Hank and eyed Cat’s plate. “You really don’t know a thing about how to make the most of a buffet, Cat. Pathetic, that’s what your plate is. Pathetic.” She smiled and elbowed Cat aside. “I’ll show you how it’s done.”

Cat barked a genuine laugh, which felt great. “I’ll see you back at the table.”

When Cat returned to her seat, Amy’s radar practically reached across the table and touched her.

“So, Cat, Vivi says you two have been friends since eighth grade. This marriage is really a family affair, isn’t it?” Amy sipped her tea. “And your father’s speech and gift were so touching. I can’t wait to tell all of our friends back at work. Everyone’s thrilled for her, although we worry she’ll be looking for a job on the Upper East Side soon.”

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