Every Little Thing

Page 15


Not for the first time Vaughn marveled at Bailey’s ability to wear her emotions on her sleeve for all to see. He admired and feared it.
He was also amazed by how calm she was about her breakup with Tom. There was no way she could really be that calm. Perhaps she was in denial. The hysterics would come later.
He winced thinking of what he’d gone through with Camille.
“It’s still fresh. That relief will change to loss,” he found himself saying. “You need to give yourself time to process it.”
“Sure thing, Tremaine.” She cheekily saluted him. “Of course you know how I’m feeling better than I do. You always know better than I do, right?”
His father stared at him in amusement.
He ignored them both. “Two grande cappuccinos to go, please, Emery.”
Bailey sighed. “You’re playing nice today, Tremaine. It’s unsettling me.”
Exasperated by her and knowing exactly how he wanted to take that exasperation out on her, Vaughn couldn’t look at her for fear his father would see the lust pouring off of him. “I always play nice.” He focused on the bestseller stand behind them, pretending to peruse it. “You just take everything I say the wrong way.”
“Oh? And how should I take you calling me mediocre?”
Guilt tightened his throat at the tiny speck of hurt he heard buried beneath her dry question. The weight of his father’s disapproval fell on him—he didn’t even have to look at him to know William didn’t like what he was hearing.
What was it about a parent’s ability to make you feel like a child again even at thirty-six years old?
He forced himself to look Bailey in the eye. “I will remind you it was in retaliation to you calling me ‘nothing.’”
Seemingly remorseful she gave him a taut nod. “You’re right. And that was wrong of me.”
“As was what I said. I shouldn’t have. It was wrong and untrue.”
Bailey was taken aback. “Apparently, Liam, you have the ability to make your son behave like a gentleman. That says good things about you.”
Vaughn knew his dad well enough to read his expression. William was unsure and confused by the dynamic between Vaughn and Bailey. “I was under the impression my son always acts like the gentleman I raised him to be.”
Vaughn shrugged, pretending to care much less than he did. “Sometimes I forget my manners. Especially when provoked.”
“And he’s back!” Bailey smirked at him, looking almost relieved. “I’ve had enough shocks for one week, Tremaine. Don’t suddenly be nice to me. You almost gave me heart failure.”
While his father laughed and talked with Bailey, Vaughn paid for the coffees and somehow managed to drag a reluctant William out of there. As soon as the door closed behind them, his dad said, “I like her a lot.”
“Miss Saunders? Yes, she’s sweet. And she makes a great coffee.” He sipped at his cappuccino.
“You know fine well I’m talking about Bailey.”
“Miss Hartwell? Really?”
“She’s got fire. Your mother had fire like that.”
Uncomfortable with the idea of his father approving of Bailey, Vaughn sought a subject change. “I was thinking of taking you to Antonio’s for lunch. We could eat at the hotel but I thought you might like something a little more down to earth. Iris and Ira own the place and the food is wonderful. The pizza is good. You like pizza.”
He was almost rambling.
“You like her,” William said.
Vaughn didn’t reply. He’d never been able to lie to his father. Instead they walked in silence until they came to the bandstand. His father stopped. The council had placed a plaque up on the boardwalk there years ago, telling the tale of Eliza Hartwell and Jonas Kellerman. It suggested that there was magic on Hart’s Boardwalk, and that if you walked the boards with your true love beside you, you would stay in love together forever.
It was schmaltzy sentimental nonsense meant to charm the tourists.
“Interesting,” his father murmured.
Of course William Tremaine, the world’s biggest romantic, would find it interesting.
“It’s ludicrous.”
He raised an eyebrow at his son. “I don’t know how you got so cynical.”
“I don’t know how you didn’t.”
“Perhaps because I was lucky enough to know your mother longer than you did.”
That shut him up.
He stared out at the water. “I don’t remember you being this sentimental.”
“I think it’s my age,” William remarked as he stepped up beside him. “And the fact that you’re getting older. I worry you’ll end up alone. I don’t like the idea of you being alone. And . . . there’s a selfish part of me that would like a grandchild one day.”
For the second time in the space of thirty minutes Vaughn felt guilt seize him. “I would do anything for you . . . but a grandchild isn’t likely, Dad.”
They were silent again for a while, and Vaughn was just beginning to hope the conversation was over when William said, “I didn’t raise you to insult women. Did you really call Bailey ‘mediocre’? Insulting and untrue.”
“Regrettably I did. In my defense she insulted me first.”
“That’s not a defense.”
“She’s got spunk, she’s clearly intelligent and driven to be running that inn by herself, and strong to have retained her sense of humor the day after finding her boyfriend screwing a younger woman . . . and she’s very attractive. Lovely eyes. And that smile . . . that’s a great smile. Gets you right in the gut.”