Beneath These Lies (Beneath #5)(16)


by Meghan March

And when did I start seeing men as men again and not potential monsters?

I’d been hyperaware of Rix as well, and couldn’t help comparing the men in my mind. Rix’s skin was a few shades darker and also marked with ink, his eyes silver and intense, and then there was the fact that he’d given me his word that he’d get Trinity home safe.

Yanking myself away from the thoughts of Rix, I refocused on Hennessy across the table. He did make for a heck of a distraction. And I still have no idea what his first name is.

Grabbing my napkin and shaking it out, I waited for a break in our conversation about what type of oysters we planned to order.

“I feel stupid asking this question after so long, but what exactly is your first name? I can’t believe I don’t know it. I’m assuming it’s not Detective.”

Hennessy laughed, the sound deep and rich and . . . sexy, if I was being honest. When he finished, he smiled at me and answered, “Rhett. My mother has always been a junkie for the classics.”

Rhett Hennessy. Yep, it was a good name.

“Do you have siblings?”

Rhett nodded and the ease in his features vanished. “Two brothers, one older and one younger. I had another brother, the oldest of all of us, but he was killed in the line of duty last year. He was on the force too.”

“I’m so sorry. That’s terrible,” I said instantly, wishing I hadn’t unknowingly brought up such a painful subject.

“It happens. We’ve got a lot of cops in the family, and we all knew the risks when we signed on for the job. My dad’s retired from the NOPD. My mom had to deal with worrying about her husband on a daily basis for close to thirty years, and now she’s still worrying about her sons.”

I didn’t know if I should offer more condolences or let him steer the conversation away from their tragedy, but I opted to go with the flow.

“Wow. Family tradition, huh?”

“You could say that. I just never wanted to be anything else. I always knew I’d wear a badge.”

I picked up my water and sipped. “Both of your other brothers are cops too?”

He shook his head. “Just the older one, but he’s living the cushy life on the force in Colorado at Vail. My younger brother decided to make his own way. He was military, and now no one has a clue what he does. He’s down in Central America somewhere, and he checks in every couple of months to let us know he’s alive.”

“Wow. That’s gotta be . . . hard. Not knowing where he is and if he’s okay.”

Rhett shrugged and reached for his own drink. Whiskey, neat. “It is what it is. After he served in Afghanistan, he didn’t have any desire to come back to the States and re-assimilate into civilian life. He’s never gotten along with our dad, so the force wasn’t for him. I don’t ask questions when it comes to him because there are some things I don’t need to know.”

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be so far away from family, though. My parents are less than a mile away, and while I acknowledge that sometimes it isn’t far enough, I do love having them close. I’m an only child, so I can’t imagine leaving New Orleans.”

Rhett’s smile eased again. “I’ve got no plans to leave this town either. It’s home.”

“So you like what you do?” I was always fascinated by the answer to that question.

He gave a short nod and turned the question around on me. “Do you? Running a gallery must be . . . interesting.”

I laughed. There were plenty of people who weren’t into art. I got it. I mean, I wasn’t into a lot of things.

“It is, actually. Luckily there are plenty of people here who love the new artists I’m always trying to find, and I’ve developed a reputation for the gallery as one that is constantly evolving and shifting with the cutting edge of the art world.”

“I can’t say I know a thing about that, but your eyes light up when you talk about it. Looks good on you.”

“Are you flirting with me, Rhett Hennessy?” My tone was also alarmingly flirtatious, and I wasn’t sure what in the world I was doing.

Rhett’s gaze turned serious. “I’ve wanted to flirt with you for years, Valentina, but you weren’t ready. I think you’re ready now.”

Even I could feel my eyes widen at his words. How did I miss that? And what did I think about it?

“Years?”

His smile was wry. “Told you, you weren’t ready. But I’m calling tonight our test-run date. Which means I’m buying you dinner and seeing you home.”

His assertiveness, a quality I’d never really noticed before, surprised me. “You are?”

“Yeah. There’s one thing I learned from losing my brother—life is too short not to take chances. I’ve waited long enough to take this one, and I’m not waiting any longer.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that. I wasn’t prepared for this and was clueless about how to react. “Um. Okay?”

“Don’t worry, we’ll take it slow. Starting with dinner again later this week. I’ll pick you up at your door, bring you flowers, and impress you with my ability to carry on a conversation and drive a stick. Maybe stage a flat tire so you can watch me change it with my shirt off and realize I might be useful in more ways than one to have around.”

I couldn’t help but laugh with a hint of embarrassment at his words and the attractive grin stretching across his face. This guy—Rhett Hennessy—was completely new to me. He was charming. And all man.

The rest of dinner passed in a blur of laughter, good conversation, and delicious food. When we left the restaurant, Rhett walked me back down the street to where I’d parked near the gallery, and followed me home in his car. He slammed his door as I climbed out of the Tesla.

“You’re really taking this whole test-run date thing seriously, aren’t you?” I said as I met him in front of my garage and the door slid closed.

Rhett reached for my hand and closed his around it before leading me up the walk to my front door. Normally I would have entered through the portico, but I wasn’t going to contradict his gentlemanly gesture. I’d had few enough of those in my life to be completely charmed by the effort.

We paused at the front door, my keys in my hand, and I had that moment of wondering how seriously he was taking this test run. Was he going to try to kiss me? Did I want him to?