Wild With You(7)

By: Layla Hagen

"Since middle school. They're my best friends."

"It's very sweet of you to pay for their wedding menus."

"I have another surprise up my sleeve, but I'm keeping mum on that."

"Tell me," she beckoned, but I shook my head. "You're doing this on purpose."

"Of course I am. Payback for doubting my cooking skills."

She broke out into a full-on belly laughter that filled the whole kitchen. I couldn't look away from those full lips, those long legs.

Once the food was cooked, we took everything outside on the deck. It was immense. She was right; the ceremony could easily take place here. I had a rattan couch on one side, and a table for six next to it. We ate at the table.

"You should go on those cooking competitions. You'd win everything. Did you take cooking classes or something?"

"All Nana's doing. My grandmother. She's better than any chef."

"Well, this is amazing. Even better than my sister's recipe, but"—she made a gesture to zip her lips—"I'll be in trouble if she gets wind I said that."

"Your secret is safe with me. I didn't know Jace had another sister." I was friendly with all the guys on the team, but we kept a professional distance.

"We're six siblings. Three brothers, three sisters. How about you?"

"I have two half siblings, but I’m not in contact with them. Though I've known Amber and Matt for so long that I think of them as family."

I didn’t want to get into more detail. My mother had left when I was two years old, because of my father's cheating. Philandering seemed to run in the blood of Frazier men. My father and grandfather hadn’t had any respect for their wives and families. I’d wanted the opposite. But my divorce proved that marriage wasn’t easy, even when you give it your best shot. I focused the conversation on Lori. "Which one's the sister with the amazing kitchen skills?"

"That would be Valentina."

"What does she do for work?"

"She owns a perfume and cosmetics company."

"And the others?"

"Landon recently sold his software company in San Jose and moved here. He's in the process of opening an investment fund. Will is a detective, and Hailey’s a business consultant. She travels a lot, and is in the city mostly on weekends."

"And by that sad note in your voice, I'm guessing you wish she'd be around more?"

"Yep." She didn't elaborate, because she focused on her pasta and didn't stop until she'd cleaned her plate. I had a feeling that under Lori's pencil skirts and tucked in blouse was a wild nature waiting to be unleashed. I loved the gusto with which she ate, the passion in her laughter. After our plates were empty, we moved to the rattan couch.

"And? Is the lady impressed?"

"Oh, yeah. Top marks, Chef Frazier. If you ever quit the club, you'd make a killing with an Italian restaurant. The club's been in your family for three generations, right?"

"Yes. My grandfather inherited a fortune and then invested it all in his two great passions: booze and soccer. The booze company went belly up within five years, but the soccer club survived for generations."

It had always felt like my second home. Lately, it felt like my only home. The arena and the offices were next to each other. As a kid, I'd experienced the fondest memories at the club, be it on the neatly trimmed grass, kicking balls with the greatest soccer names of the day, or on the floor of my grandfather's office, listening to him running the place. Soccer had been about the only thing we bonded over.

"That's a legacy to be proud of." She checked her phone and sighed. "I should head out soon."

I disagreed. I couldn't remember the last time I'd had so much fun, and I wasn't ready for our evening to end.

Chapter Four


"Why don't you call and ask them if they’ll be here on time? No point going out before they arrive," Graham suggested.

"Good thinking."

I dialed their number, and they informed me they'd arrive in fifteen minutes, so I could enjoy all this a while longer. I had a major crush on his deck. The dark blue pillows on the rattan couch were so comfy I didn't want to leave. The glass panels at the edge of the deck offered a clear view of the ocean.

"So, how many fires do you predict I'll have to put out on the wedding day?" he asked once I hung up.

"I'll put out any fires, don't worry. That's why I'm here. You just focus on your best man duties." I sank lower on the couch, breathing in the salty air, enjoying the breeze and the sound of the ocean. Graham was watching me. My entire body clenched—again. My God, was he sexy. Pure male, pure testosterone. Every time he looked at me with those blue eyes, he made me aware of parts of my body I'd forgotten existed... or functioned. I wanted to bring up the speech, but I still hadn't worked on a polite way of explaining to him that bad jokes weren't appropriate. Usually, I wasn't one to mince words, but he was my brother's boss. I couldn't forget that.