Nile was coming to Rosemary today with his family. They were staying in one of the condos on the club property. He had insisted on paying but Woods had gotten him to accept the free condo. I wasn’t sure what he’d said but he had talked him into it.
I was excited about introducing Woods to him. I wanted to know what Woods thought about him. Deep down, I also wanted to show Woods that the blood in my veins came from normal people. I often forgot that myself.
“You look beautiful. Stop fidgeting. Nothing you do can make you any more beautiful than you are,” Woods said as he reached over and took both my hands in his to keep me from pulling down the mirror and checking my face one more time.
“I know I’m being silly. I’m sorry. I just . . . I’ve not met Nile’s family yet. His daughters . . . they’re my sisters.”
“And they’re about to find out that they have the most beautiful, talented, sweet, brilliant older sister in the world. So stop it. Take a deep breath and know that you’re amazing and they’re lucky to get to sit in the same room with you.”
Woods could say some of the sweetest things in the world.
“I really want to kiss you right now but it will mess us up.”
He laughed and pulled the car into the valet parking line at the club. We were meeting Nile and his family there for dinner. “I’ll get messed up any time you want to put those plump lips of yours on me.”
“Save it for later, sexy,” I said just as my door was opened by Bradley. I was glad to see he was still working out. I had hired him a month ago.
“Good evening, Miss Sloane. You’re looking lovely,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
“She’s always lovely; hands off,” Woods told him, taking my hand and tucking it in his arm.
“You scared that poor valet to death,” I said, scolding him.
I didn’t argue. I followed him inside the club, trying not to smile like an idiot.
“Mr. Kerrington, right this way, sir. Your party has already arrived,” Jimmy announced when we stepped into the dining room.
Jimmy shot me a wink before leading us over to the formal dining area reserved for special guests and parties. Woods had requested it so that we’d have privacy.
Nile stood up when we walked in. Woods squeezed my hand to reassure me.
“Hello, Nile,” I said in greeting, then turned to Woods. “Woods, this is Nile Andrews. Nile, this is Woods Kerrington.”
Woods and Nile shook hands and I heard Nile thanking him for the accommodations, which I had no doubt were extremely impressive, knowing Woods. I looked over at the three girls sitting at the table, studying me. Each one had a different expression. They ranged from nervous to curious.
“Della, I’d like you to meet, Jillian, my wife.”
Jillian was tall and slender with long, dark red hair. Her skin was a creamy ivory color and her eyes were hazel. “It’s so nice to meet you, Della. Nile has told me all about your visit. I’m anxious to talk to you myself, as are the girls.” She had kind eyes. The high cheekbones and excellent bone structure made me think of an uppity elitist woman but Jillian was very nice and down-to-earth. She was what I would have expected Nile to be married to. I couldn’t picture him with Glenda. They were nothing alike.
“I’m glad y’all could come visit,” I said, glancing down at the girls again. All three of them had their mother’s hair color and eyes.
“Della, this is Jasmine, Jocelyn, and July. Girls, this is your sister Della,” Nile said, standing to my left. I hadn’t expected him to call me their sister. That was surprising. I also wasn’t sure how I felt about that yet.
“It’s nice to meet the three of you,” I said.
“I love your dress. Is it a Marc Jacobs? I swear, I saw one in the new Marc Jacobs line just like it.”
“You have Daddy’s eyes. I’ve always wanted Daddy’s eyes.”
“Do you live on this beach?”
All three of them began talking at once. I was a little overwhelmed but I liked that they wanted to talk to me. I started with Jasmine. “I have no idea who Marc Jacobs is. I bought this dress on a shopping spree with my best friend at a thrift store in Atlanta.” I could see the fascination in her face at the idea that I’d shopped in a thrift store.
“I do have your dad’s eyes. It was a pleasant surprise but yours are equally beautiful. You have your mother’s fantastic hair.” Jocelyn blushed prettily and I wondered if she was the shy one.
“And yes, I do live on this beach. It’s a wonderful place to live,” I told July.
“Do you always shop in thrift stores? I’ve always wondered what they were like inside.”
“I can play the piano. Do you play the piano?”
“Do you know how to surf? I’ve always wanted to surf.”
Again all three of them asked me a question at once.
“Girls, let Della sit down and breathe. You will have plenty of time to drill her with questions, but don’t scare her away just yet,” Jillian said before I could start answering their questions again.
Woods pulled out my chair and I took a seat. He then took the one next to me. I was seated across from Jillian and he had taken the seat across from Nile. July sat to my right. Jimmy came up and put my napkin in my lap.
“Sweet tea, Miss Sloane,” he said as he set the glass down in front of me. I could see the impressed gleam in Nile’s eyes as he watched Jimmy deliver our drinks and appetizers without our having ordered.
“Thank you, Jimmy,” I said, smiling up at him.
He shot me a quick grin before leaving the room.
“He is swoony. I saw him when we came in and he winked at me,” Jasmine said from across the table.
I bit back a smile. Jimmy was beautiful and he knew how to make women of all ages drool over him. And while they were checking him out, he was checking out their men. I’d caught him appreciating Woods’s backside on more than one occasion.
“Jasmine, please,” Nile said, frowning down at her.
“Sorry,” she mumbled.
“July just kicked me. I was just asking her to pass the bread and she kicked me,” Jocelyn said as she crossed her arms over her chest.
“All right, girls. That’s enough,” Jillian said, then looked over at me apologetically. “They were in the car all day and now they’re overly excited about being here and meeting you.”
“I’m fascinated. I’ve never been around little girls like this. Or sisters. It’s very entertaining.”
Jillian’s laugh reminded me of tinkling bells. “You may not feel that way anymore before the meal is over.”
Woods’s hand slid over my leg and rested on my upper thigh. I had faced Nile the first time alone but it was nice to have Woods beside me now.
“I invited Nile to play a round tomorrow morning with me, if that’s okay with you,” Woods said, leaning closer to me as he spoke.
I liked the idea of his getting to know Nile. “Of course. That’s fine,” I assured him, and smiled over at Nile.
“Are you married?” one of the girls asked. I glanced back at them and saw Jocelyn elbow July.
“She’s not wearing a ring. Don’t ask that,” Jocelyn hissed.
“No, we’re not. But it’s okay for her to ask,” I replied, unable to keep from smiling at them. Their constant fighting made me wish I’d had a sister.
“Why not? You live with him, don’t you?” July asked.
“July.” Jillian was the one to scold her this time.
“It’s okay, really. I want them to ask me questions,” I assured her. Then I looked back at July. “I do live with him. He’s my boyfriend.”
“Mommy and Daddy lived together for two years before they got married,” Jasmine announced from across the table.
I saw red splotches appear on Jillian’s face but she just laughed and shook her head. “You need to stop listening to adult conversations. I swear, you know more than you’re supposed to,” Jillian said as she tried to cover her amusement.
“Does that mean you will be getting married, too?” July asked.
They really weren’t going to let the marriage thing go.
“Maybe I will get married one day. I don’t know that right now.”
“Let’s ask Della questions that don’t pertain to her personal relationships. Okay, girls?” Nile said with a stern voice. I watched as all three nodded with a look of defeat.
“I have a boyfriend. Can we talk about him?” July asked.
“I would love to hear about him,” I assured her. She beamed.
I heard Jasmine sigh from across the table. “Great, here we go,” she muttered.