The Aristocrat by Penelope Ward



Before I could walk to their front door, Sig came out to greet me. I faced him as I stood in front of my car.

He gave me a once-over. “I didn’t realize we’d invited Mary Poppins to tea.”

Great.

Is it that bad? I looked down at myself. It is that bad. Long, black skirt with a white shirt and blazer. The only thing missing was the umbrella. Damn you, Bailey.

Glancing at his shirtless chest, I understood now that this was most definitely a casual “tea.” Leo, who happened to have a T-shirt on, finally appeared, running toward us as if to stop his cousin from doing further damage.

“There you are,” Leo said.

“I’ve never been invited to tea before,” I told him. “I assumed it was more formal. But clearly I was wrong.”

Leo smiled. “I think it’s adorable that you dressed up. And for the record, you look lovely.”

“And you’re a liar.” I laughed, wiping some lint off my skirt. “But thank you anyway.”

Sig looked over at my tiny, mint green Fiat 500. “Would you like to bring your toy car inside as well?”

“Leave my car alone. It’s easy to park and good on gas.”

“Sigmund can relate to being small and gassy,” Leo joked. He placed his hand lightly at the small of my back, sending a chill down my spine. “Welcome to our humble abode. Let’s go inside.”

“Hardly humble.” I chuckled, looking up at the massive property.

They led me through a large foyer to a spacious kitchen with cream-colored cabinets and sparkling granite countertops.

“What can I get you to drink?” Leo asked.

“I thought tea was the default beverage today.”

“I bet you like it with just a spoonful of sugar, yeah?” Sig chided.

I rolled my eyes. “Spoonful of Sugar”—the famous song from Mary Poppins. This guy was a pill.

I don’t think Leo got the joke. He just squinted at his cousin. “Well, when I invited you for tea, I was using the term loosely,” he said. “I do have other options. But I can make tea, if that’s what you want.”

“In that case, I’d love some tequila. Have any?” I teased.

“Tea-quila. Coming right up, gorgeous.”

“I was kidding, but I certainly won’t turn it down.”

“Tea-quila is much better than tea anyway.” He winked.

Sig had left the kitchen, and Leo ventured into an adjacent room that must have been where the liquor was stored. For the brief time I was left alone, I gazed out through the French doors at the bay.

His voice startled me. “It’s a beautiful day.” Leo stood holding what I recognized as a bottle of Casamigos Reposado tequila and two shot glasses.

“It’s gorgeous out, yes.”

He gestured with his head. “Let’s enjoy these drinks outside, shall we? I’m eager to learn more about you.”

“About me? I thought I was supposed to be teaching you about Narragansett.”

“Oh. Well, I suppose we can talk about that, too.” He smiled.

Leo led me out to the large deck and placed the alcohol and glasses on a table. I sat in one of the chairs, and he sat across from me.

He opened the bottle and poured the tequila nearly up to the rim of my shot glass before serving himself.

He reached his glass toward mine. “Cheers.”

We both threw back at the same time. The tequila burned my throat as it went down.

So much for tea. Bottoms up! Almost instantly, I felt the buzz, my cheeks tingling. Looking across the sparkling bay, I said, “It’s weird to see my house from this angle. Mrs. Angelini’s property looks even more beautiful from here. In fact, I think this view—the back of her house—is the best part.”

“I think the best part of the house might be sitting across from me, actually.”

His words left me feeling flushed. “What are you basing that on?” I asked. “You don’t even know me.”

“I was trying to be complimentary, but you’re right. I don’t know much about you aside from the fact that you’re not very easily charmed.”

Sig appeared and patted his cousin on the shoulder. “My boy here is not used to that. Normally he has women falling at his feet.”

I addressed Leo. “So…you said you’re traveling for six months. Did you get time off from your job or…”

Sig snickered.