Worth the Wait (St. James #1)(17)

by Jamie Beck

Now Vivi wanted a home of her own to fill with love and laughter. Too bad she always derailed that goal by comparing all men to David, nitpicking for flaws to justify pushing them away. Perhaps meeting Laney, a woman who literally moved around the world with David, was the kick in the pants she needed to finally let go.

“Let’s eat here.” Cat swerved into the Belgian block driveway area of Beachhead Tavern. A wraparound covered porch spanned the front of the two-story clapboard building.

Opting to eat outside, they picked a two-top table along the far railing of the porch. A gentle breeze provided some relief from the hot afternoon. Vivi sipped her iced tea. Perky chatter and the tinkling sound of silverware brightened her mood. She listened inattentively to Cat’s recitation of celebrity gossip, and soaked up the alfresco dining experience.

An animated group of five men seated at a large table beside them caught her attention. Colorful, overlapping ink designs of swords, vines, and unfamiliar symbols covered the biceps and forearms of two. A third wore a short ponytail and reeked of patchouli. The other two men were clean-cut. Vivi’s eyes lingered on the smile of the striking, dark-haired man dressed in khaki shorts and a collarless black shirt.

Cat followed Vivi’s gaze, then a knowing smile crept across her face as she lifted a single, perfect brow.

“Tall, dark, and handsome. You do have a type, my friend.” Cat chuckled. “Oh, excepting Alex and Hank, of course.”

“Well, it is a vacation.” Vivi blushed. “I deserve a little beach romance.”

Cat’s veiled expression interested Vivi. “I guess poor Hank will be left behind for Mr. TDH?”

“Well, maybe poor Hank will need some cheering up.” Vivi rested her chin in her hands. “Although, I sense some kind of tension between you two. Care to share why?”

Cat sharply withdrew, turned her face, and waved off the question. The waitress foiled Vivi’s prying by delivering lunch, and Vivi never allowed much to stand between her and her food.

She eyed her giant lobster roll, then scowled at Cat’s boring, undressed salad. Ick. Compulsive dieting had to be one of the biggest downsides to modeling, in Vivi’s opinion, anyway. Lifting her gigantic sandwich off her plate, she forced the crusty end into her mouth. An appreciative moan rumbled in her throat while she chewed. “Better than sex, I swear!” She smacked her lips together after swiping off a stray clump of mayonnaise.

Cat snickered. Good, thought Vivi. She could always make Cat laugh.

Mr. TDH bumped into Vivi’s chair when he stood to take a photograph of his friends. Her eyes were drawn to him as he adjusted the lens of his camera—an amazing Nikon D3X.

Oh my. She lusted after his professional-grade equipment. Impulsively, she jumped up.

“Excuse me. Hi.” Her gaze fixated on his Nikon. “Would you like me to take the picture so you can join your friends?”

He turned to her, smiling like a fox.

“Grazie mille. That would be very nice.”

His Italian accent sent a shiver through her body, but she willed her clammy hands to grip his six-thousand-dollar camera. Handling the apparatus gingerly, she couldn’t imagine ever affording something so extravagant.

The improbable gang of friends huddled together while she fired off several shots.

“This is a great camera. The resolution must be phenomenal.” When she returned it to him, his fingers grazed the length of hers. Tingles shot up her arm. “I’m Vivi, by the way.”

He raised her hand to his lips. “Vivi?” His eyes twinkled when he repeated her name aloud. Despite the flush of warmth traveling to her toes, she managed to speak.

“Short for Vivienne.”

“Ah.” He nodded. “I’m Franco Moretti.” When he released her hand, the impression of his fingers remained on her own. “Do you know cameras?”

“Yes. I’m sort of an amateur photographer. And you?”

“I freelance for various travel magazines.”

“Oh, wow.” Franco’s appeal grew tenfold. Vivi envied his dream job. What could be better than being paid to travel the world shooting pictures of its most beautiful and interesting locations?

Cat cleared her throat.

“Oh, this is my friend Cat.” Vivi stepped aside, assuming Franco and his friends would prefer to focus their attention on her gorgeous friend. “Cat, meet Franco.”

Cat issued a two-finger salute from her seat. Franco nodded before placing his hand on the small of Vivi’s back and snapping his fingers to gain his friends’ attention. His touch sent another jolt of awareness along her spine. She couldn’t believe he hadn’t shifted his interest to Cat.

“Vivi, Cat, these are my friends Billy, Joe, Mike, and Ross.”

Vivi observed the other men eagerly greet Cat before eventually retaking their seats and resuming their own conversation. The ragtag group intrigued Vivi.

“What brings you all to Block Island?” she asked Franco. “Are you working?”

“No, not working. We’re all here celebrating a mutual friend’s thirty-fifth birthday.”

“Oh.” Vivi considered whether she could overlook the nine-year age difference in favor of his sexy accent and handsome face. “A guys’ weekend?”

“A big party.”

“Sounds fun.”

“A reunion of sorts. We all went to college together.” He glanced at his friends. “In fact, some of these guys played in a rock band back then and are planning to perform to really stir up old memories.”

“Very cool!” Vivi glanced at them and tried to picture them fifteen years younger, rocking it out on stage.

“Yes, although they’re not as excited now that Sarah, the singer, had a last-minute family emergency. These guys aren’t singers so much as musicians.”

“Vivi can sing!” Cat interjected.

“Oh, no.” Vivi’s cheeks ignited. “I’m not a rock singer.”

“She’s being modest. She takes voice lessons and sings at a local bar in Astoria on the weekends.” Cat’s victorious smile shocked Vivi.

That remark caught the band’s attention and thrust Vivi into the spotlight.

“Really?” Franco asked. “Il destino!”

His deep brown eyes coaxed Vivi to admit the truth. Darn her soft heart.

Joe skeptically asked, “What kind of stuff do you sing?”