Lush (A Delicious Novel) - By Lauren Dane

1

Damien clapped his buddy Adrian on the back. “Thanks for the invite.”

Adrian Brown tipped his chin. “Glad you were in town to come. Least I could do after you’ve been in the studio with me so much.”

Adrian had needed a drummer. Damien was a drummer. End of story. Plus it had been awesome to work with someone he respected as much as he did Adrian and his sister Erin.

He’d been in a band with his brothers since they were nineteen, twenty and twenty-two. They’d made a lot of music together, they knew each other well, worked magic most of the time. But it did something good for his soul to work with other people.

He’d met Adrian several years ago and they’d clicked. Hell, they even shared a manager and a record label.

Plus, he liked Bainbridge with its small-town appeal, though it was just across the water from Seattle.

Tonight was Adrian’s engagement party. He was set to marry the lovely Gillian in one month, something else Damien would be back for.

“Come on through. I’m looking for Gillian and I’ll bet you she’s in the kitchen trying to dislodge Jules or Mary.”

The gorgeous old farmhouse the party was being held at was the backdrop to the yard, which was dotted with tables and conversation areas. There were little tented areas in case of rain, which thankfully had missed them that day. Pretty lights in the trees and candles flickering all over the place.

It was pretty. Simple. Full of friends and laughter. It reminded him an awful lot of the ranch his family lived on.

“I go to parties like this one very rarely. I wish it was more often.”

Adrian gave him a lopsided grin as they moved through the front room toward the kitchen. Damien heard feminine voices and laughter and quickened his step.

“The road has its charms. Nice hotels—well, a lot nicer than in the old days anyway. Travel to lots of places. Swanky parties. But this life?” Adrian waved as they came around the corner into a kitchen filled with activity. “With my friends and my family. No paparazzi. No drama. Just great food and drink. That keeps me grounded and sane. Makes me happy.”

Damien tended to agree. Though he did like fast cars, parties and fast women, he appreciated the slower pace on the ranch his entire family lived on. There would be no games here tonight. No label people to impress or to try to impress you. It was real people, and god knew he needed that.

A pretty blonde scooted out the back door and he was disappointed, as he loved a pretty blonde. But then he saw her. Dark hair held back from her face though acres of curls strained at their confinement.

She was bent over a counter, slicing a tomato. Her hands glistened against the red flesh. He’d seen women cut up tomatoes hundreds of times over his life and had never actually gotten wood. Until that moment.

And when she looked up, it was on a full-throated laugh as Gillian put her head on Curly’s shoulder, also laughing. Gillian was friendly and sweet, but this woman was clearly comfortable with her friend, totally open.

“English, there you are.” Adrian stepped to his fiancée to give her a kiss.

Gillian smiled up at him. “I was trying to shoo Mary out of here. I already got Jules gone. Thank goodness for Cal, who was more than willing to help with that. But Mary is being difficult.”

Mary. Ah, a name then.

Mary gave Gillian a somber look. “I have problems with authority.”

Damien laughed.

Curly glanced up to catch his eye. “Hey there. Damien Hurley is standing in Gideon’s kitchen.”

And then . . . he blushed. Damien couldn’t recall the last time he’d blushed, but it had been a while.

“Mary Whaley, this is Damien Hurley. Damien, this is Mary; she’s responsible for the food you will gorge yourself on. Trust me on this. Once you start, you can’t stop. She’s also our very dear friend.”

Gillian wrapped an arm around Mary’s shoulder, beaming. Clearly so very proud. Damien couldn’t help but respond in kind.

“I’d shake your hand, but mine are covered in tomato.” She held them up. “Hang on, let me wash up.”

He watched as she moved to the sink. As she washed her hands with precision she spoke over her shoulder to one of the servers. She dried off and then removed the apron.

Wow.

Underneath the apron she wore a dress that hugged her curves. And she had them.

“I’m so glad you went with that color.”