Home > Lukas (Ashes & Embers #3)(12)

Lukas (Ashes & Embers #3)(12)
Author: Carian Cole

I gently take his sunglasses off his face so I can see his eyes, and just as I expected, they are dancing with sincerity and sensuality. “Lukas, you’re incredibly sweet.”

He grins, and my insides melt like butter in a hot pan. “I know that, doll.”

Resistance is so damn hard around him. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” I tell him again, trying to convince both of us. Even I’m getting tired of hearing myself say it.

He takes a few steps away in frustration and then comes back to stand in front of me. “I think it’s a great idea, Ivy, but I’m not gonna beg. That’s just fuckin’ pitiful. But will you do just one little thing for me?”

“That depends . . .”

“Think it over and give me an answer when I see you at our next appointment. All right? I’m just asking you to have dinner with me. Nothing else. I’d love to kiss you again, but I’ll take dinner for now.”

He must think I’m a freak. Who acts like this when a guy asks them out for dinner? Me, of course. That’s who. Because I’m completely socially inept. “Okay,” I agree. “I’ll think about it.”

“Finally, some progress.” He smiles from ear to ear then backs up and does his little wave thing. “Later, gator.”

I know I’ve got a silly grin on my face as I watch him walk away.


AFTER I LEAVE IVY’S HOUSE, I drive to Gram’s house for a visit. Since I usually work on Saturday, I don’t get to visit her on the weekends when the rest of my family does, but I cleared my day today so I could fix Ivy’s roof and have a little downtime for myself. Thankfully, all my clients were really cool about rescheduling.

Gram’s house is like the hub of the family; everyone comes and goes constantly. Her house has six bedrooms, so some of us sleep there at random times to keep her company or just to hang out.

My brother Vandal’s sports car, and a tricked-out pickup truck that I think is my cousin Talon’s new toy, is in the driveway when I get there.

As soon as I walk through the back door, I’m met with the smell of baking, because Gram pretty much cooks non-stop. Cookies, pies, stew, shepherd’s pie, lasagna, meat loaf—you name it. She’s either cooked it, is cooking it, or is planning on cooking it.

“Uncle Lukas!” Vandal’s five year old daughter flies across the room and throws herself into my arms. Holding her high, I spin around with her in my arms as she giggles.

“How’s my girl?” I hold her against my chest and plant a big kiss on her cheek.

“Good! We’re making brownies!”

I carry her toward the kitchen, where Gram and Vandal are standing over the center island.

“Brownies?” I repeat. “My favorite.”

Vandal nudges me with his elbow. “Yeah, not those kinds of brownies, man,” he jokes.

I kiss Gram on the cheek as she’s stirring batter in a big bowl, and she smiles up at me. “Honey, what a nice surprise. Why aren’t you working?”

I lower Katie down to her feet and watch her run to the kitchen table to play with her toys. “I had something to do this morning, so I rescheduled everyone to take the day off.” I grab a cookie from a big plate on the counter and turn to my brother. “You’re working next week, right? If you’re going to be out a lot with the band, we’re going to have to hire another artist.”

He nods and runs his hand through his long black hair. “Yeah, I’ll be there. Lemme think about hiring someone else. I’d rather not. I wanted it to be just me and you, and not deal with the bullshit of employees.”

“Language, Vandal,” Gram whispers, nodding over at Katie.

“Me too,” I agree. “But it’s getting really busy. I can’t do everything myself. I think we need a receptionist at least. I can’t keep stopping to answer the phone. It makes the customers nervous.”

“Fuck that, we don’t need someone to answer the phone. Let it go to voicemail and call them back.”

Gram smacks Vandal up the side of his head with the spatula. “Go put a quarter in the jar!”

Vandal rubs the side of his head, where he has a smudge of brownie batter now. “What the fuck, Gram?”

“Stop swearing in front of the baby! Now go put a quarter in the jar.”

Cracking up, I watch him dig around in his pockets. “I don’t have a quarter,” he says. “I only have a twenty.”

She shrugs. “I don’t care. Put it in the jar.” Gram is like a dwarf—maybe five feet tall, gray hair, little rimmed glasses, and usually dressed up wearing tons of jewelry. Her personality is a scream, and she keeps all of us guys in line, usually having us in hysterics. We all love her and would kill for her.

The swear jar is completely stuffed with bills and just a few quarters. “Gram, what are you going to do with all that money you’ve extracted from all of us?” I ask her. I’ve lost about a hundred bucks in that jar myself.

She puts the baking pan into the oven and sets the timer. “Never mind that. You boys swear way too much in front of Katie. Do you want her to start swearing and sounding like a truck driver?”

“Yes,” Vandal replies, grinning at Gram. He loves to get her riled up.

“Don’t make me smack you again,” she retorts.

I watch Katie color a picture of a rainbow and a unicorn for a few moments, and she suddenly smiles up at me, her two front teeth missing. I ruffle her hair and lean down to kiss the top of her head. “This one is for you, Uncle Lukas,” she tells me in her sweet voice. “When I’m done, you can take it home and put it on your wall, or maybe tattoo it on someone.”

“I would love to do that, Princess Katie.”

Vandal crosses the room and sits in the chair at the table next to Katie. “Hey, I heard you dumped Rio,” he says, grabbing some crayons.

Frowning at him, I lean against the wall and shake my head. “Yeah, I did. Is there anyone you haven’t screwed?”

He tilts his head like he’s thinking about it. “Not many, bro. You may have to move to the west coast.”

“Very funny.”

He chooses a purple crayon and starts to color one of Katie’s pictures. “So why’d you dump her? She’s fun.”

I grind my teeth to keep from swearing. I don’t want to lose twenty bucks. “I don’t want your leftovers. That’s why.”

“You’re not gonna find a virgin, pal. Suck it up.”

“I’m not saying a virgin. Just someone you haven’t been with.”

“Why? I can give you honest reviews. Like a critique service.”

“I’m going to fucking punch you in the face in about two seconds,” I tell him, even though I’m laughing. He’s such an asshole sometimes.

Gram pipes up from across the room. “Lukas . . . you know the rules.”

Oh, fuck me. I pull out my wallet. “You’re killing us, Gram,” I tease, shoving a five dollar bill into the jar.

“Someday, you will both thank me.”

“Someday, we’ll both be here for a loan,” Vandal shoots back.

I saunter over to Gram, who’s rinsing the dishes in the sink. “Hey, Gram, I was hoping we could talk for a few minutes.”

“Of course we can.” She grabs a towel and dries off her hands. “Let’s go in the other room.”

I follow my grandmother to the den, which I know is her favorite room because it’s filled with all of my late grandfather’s most coveted things. I wish I could have met him before he passed away, and thank him for changing my life. But sadly, without his death, my father would not have had come clean about having two sons, and I wouldn’t be here now.

Gram sits on the leather couch and pats the spot next to her. “Come sit by me, Lukas. You have a glint in your eye. Have you met someone?”

I love my grandmother for so many reasons. She’s not just the sweetest and most caring person I’ve ever met; she is amazingly in touch with every single person in her family. She truly knows each of us and what makes us tick. Being the matriarch of a family of mostly male musicians and artists cannot be easy, but she keeps us in line and makes all of us feel loved and accepted, even when we have fucked up.

I flop onto the worn leather couch and stretch my legs out in front of me. “I did meet someone, Gram. I need some advice.”

She clasps her hands on her lap. “I knew it! Okay, let’s see if I can help. Tell me all about her.”

I sigh, feeling lost about how to explain my feelings. How do I explain that heart-stopping jolt I feel every time I see her or touch Ivy?

“She’s a client.”

Gram raises her eyebrows at me. “I know, I know,” I say, holding my hands up. “I broke my own rule, but there’s just something about her. Every time I touch her, my stomach does back flips. I can barely tattoo her without my hands shaking. I’ve never felt like that before.”

“Ahhh . . . chemistry is so wonderful. I remember that feeling.”

“Yeah. That. She’s really cute, too, and kinda shy. She has a good job, and she’s totally normal. She doesn’t party. She doesn’t have fake tits . . . she listens to me when I talk, like she really cares about what I’m saying, ya know?”

A warm smile touches her lips. “She sounds like a lovely girl for you, sweetheart. I like her already.”

“Yeah, but here’s the problem—she won’t go out with me.”

“Oh,” Gram says, frowning. “Well, why not? Why wouldn’t she want to date you?”

“She’s thirty-six. Her husband just left her a few months ago, after being married for eighteen fucking years. He had an affair with a younger girl. She’s got two kids, a teenage daughter and a son a little older than Katie. Her head still seems a little messed up over it. She keeps saying she’s not ready, and that I’m too young for her.”

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