Beat of the Heart


Page 21






"Fuck me, that was intense," AJ murmured.

I couldn't help laughing. "You have such a way with words."

He grinned. "I try. Now come on, let's show these stiffs how it's done."

Widening my eyes in horror, I shook my head furiously. "But I don't know what to do."

"Just follow my lead."

"Easier said than done," I shouted, over the music.

"Piece of cake." AJ then quick-stepped me over the floor while several times spinning me back and then out. When the music came to a close, he dipped me. My chest rose and fell in harsh pants as I tried catching my breath.

"Wanna go again?"

"Um, maybe?"

AJ laughed and drew me back up. Once again, the music was fast paced, and I fought to keep up with AJ's manic movements. When the song ended, I tugged his arm. "I need something to drink."

"Yes, I should be plying you with more wine, shouldn't I?"

I giggled. "I think you do just fine without it."

Just before we got back to our booth, my dad stepped into our path. "Emiliana, what a surprise." He grabbed me in his muscular arms and hugged me tight against his broad chest. For a man pushing sixty, he was in great shape. With his salt and pepper hair, bright smile, and rugged good looks, he was quite the prize around these parts. Of course, after one marriage before my mom and one brief one after, he was quite content as a confirmed bachelor.

"Hi Daddy." I leaned back to kiss his cheek.

His eyes, that were the same onyx color as mine, glittered with excitement. "You should have told me you were coming out tonight, and I would have had dinner with you and your…" He glanced between me and AJ before his mouth gaped open. "Drummer Boy? Don't tell me you're here with my little Mia?"

AJ grinned before he and my dad hugged and smacked backs. "Yes sir. Of course, I didn't know she was your daughter until after I'd made the reservation."

Daddy smiled. "I kept telling you I had a daughter you should meet."

"Oh please, tell me you didn't," I moaned.

AJ laughed. "Actually, he did."

"You didn't tell me that earlier."

"Well, you were freaked out enough about this being your family's place. I didn't think adding in that little tidbit would help."

Daddy cleared his throat. "You know what Mama Sofia would say about this?"

"What?" AJ asked.

"She would say it was truly meant to be because fate and destiny decided to intercede." Daddy took my hand to plant a kiss on it. "I think I would have to agree, mia cara."

"We'll have to see about that," I replied, nervously shifting on my feet. My head spun in a dizzying flurry at the mere fact that AJ and my dad not only knew each other, but apparently liked each other. A lot. It had taken Daddy weeks to come around about Dev. Now he seemed like he was practically ready to marry AJ and me off. Of course, his words about Mama Sofia and fate sent me tail-spinning even further.

Eyeing our table, Daddy said, "You weren't about to leave, were you?"

"Not until we finish our wine."

"I'll send over another bottle along with some dessert ."

"No, you don't need to do that."

Daddy smiled. "Of course, I do." He turned to AJ. "Have you ever sampled some of Mia's Mousse?"

I held my breath, hoping to God and all that was holy that AJ would refrain from making any smart ass innuendo remarks or getting that sexy little smirk on his face.

Thankfully, he behaved. "I've had some of the gelato and the tiramisu, but not any of the mousse." A look of revelation flickered on his face. "Wait, is that the one spelled like the animal, moose, on the menu?"

With a chuckle, Daddy replied, "My father named it for Mia. She loved being in the kitchen with my parents when they were cooking. One day when my mother mentioned using a new recipe for the chocolate mousse, Mia got all excited because she thought there was going to be a real moose in the kitchen. Pop and Ma loved it, so they introduced the new mousse as 'Mia's Moose', and it's been that way on the menu ever since."

Warmth flooded my cheeks. "Thanks for the embarrassing story, Daddy. Why don't you take AJ back to your office and show him some of my baby pictures next?"

AJ nudged me playfully. "I loved that story. And I bet you were a real cutie when you were little."

Daddy grinned. "She could certainly be a precocious little handful."

"I don't think that has changed," AJ teased.

Reaching over, Daddy cupped my cheek. "But most of all, she's been the greatest achievement and blessing of my life."

I swallowed the lump that formed in my throat at his words. Willingly myself not to cry, I wrapped my arms around him again. "Thank you. I love you so very, very much."

He kissed my cheek. "Go on and have a seat. I'll get Pauley to bring out the wine and dessert."

"Thanks, Duke," AJ replied, thrusting out his hand to shake Daddy's again.

"You take care of my little girl now," Daddy replied.

"Would you stop? I am twenty-eight, not twelve."

AJ winked at me. "It'll be my pleasure taking care of her."

I narrowed my eyes at his innuendo while Daddy reached over to give him another hug. "I'm happy to hear that." He then glanced over at me. "See you Sunday night?"

"Of course."

"Bye sweetie."

As I watched my dad's form retreat down the hallway to his office, AJ motioned for me to have a seat. Instead of sitting across from me, AJ slid in next to me in the booth. "Nothing like having you and my dad sharing the same air for a few minutes on a first date," I groaned, as I smoothed down my dress.

"Hey, you should be thrilled that he likes me so much."

"Yeah, I'm not so sure if that's a good thing or not."

We were interrupted by Pauley returning with the wine and mousse. As he set down the plates, he smirked at AJ and me. "Gay friend my ass."

I grimaced. "Sorry, but I was trying to keep you guys off my back."

"Then next time try not to make-out on the dance floor. We're running late on dinner plates because half of the kitchen and wait-staff were watching you two."







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