Home > Bayou With Benefits (Badges of the Bayou #2)

Bayou With Benefits (Badges of the Bayou #2)
Author: Erin Nicholas




“If you don’t want our sisters to think they’re right about everything, you have to quit looking at me like that.”

Michael LeClaire had three choices here.

He could pretend he had no idea what Amelia Landry was talking about, turn, smile nonchalantly, and try to have a normal, casual conversation with her.

That was going to be nearly impossible, of course. This was Ami. There was no being casual around her. He hadn’t been able to pull nonchalant off since he’d first seen her walk down the dock in a lime green bikini the summer she’d turned twenty. But then, eleven months ago, everything had changed and now…yeah, casual was completely off the table.

He’d known she’d be here. Of course. It was her sister’s wedding. She was a bridesmaid. He’d been preparing to see her. Still, it had been three months and the last time…leaving her at that airport had been so much harder than he’d expected. He didn’t think there’d be anything casual about the things he’d end up saying to her tonight if they talked alone.

His second option was setting something on fire so that he would have to don his fire gear and do something with his evening other than watch Ami in her off-the-shoulder peach-colored bridesmaid dress, laughing and dancing and looking fucking stunning while he struggled to remember why they were only friends. As he did every single time she stood too close to him.

The reasons were good. He knew that. The primary one being that she lived in fucking New York City and he lived in Autre, Louisiana, and that would just never work out. He had a kid. He was the fire chief here. His entire family was here. He couldn’t move to New York—nor did he want to—and he couldn’t travel there on a regular basis.

Ami was a model. She’d just landed a huge contract. The contract she’d been hoping and working for. She’d moved from Shreveport to New York only three months ago. She wasn’t coming back to Louisiana and also couldn’t be traveling back here on a regular basis.

Fuck New York City.

Yeah, setting something on fire kind of seemed like a great idea.

And then there was his third option: turning, throwing her over his shoulder, taking her straight back to his house, and not letting her out of his bed for a week, whether they could be together long-term or not.

Which would only make all of this—the wanting her, the thinking about her, the missing her—so much worse.

He wasn’t going to be able to do any of those three things.

He was screwed.

So, he sucked in a deep lungful of oxygen and turned, deciding to go with his fourth option—just praying to not fuck everything up. “Am I that obvious?”

Ami smiled up at him. “I just really think it’s unfair that they’re assuming things that I didn’t actually get to experience.”

He shook his head. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what? Talk about how Charlie and Naomi are assuming their matchmaking worked and we spent the entire weekend you were in New York in bed together?”

“Ami,” he said, his voice low with warning.

“Hey, you’re the one looking at me like you’ve seen me naked and want to again,” she said. “Don’t blame me.”

He tossed back the rest of his drink, wished it was alcohol and not just soda, reminded himself that staying completely sober while Ami was in town for the first time since New York was a really, really good idea, and said, “That’s not how I’m looking at you.”

She put a hand on her hip. “Then how would you describe the way you’ve been watching me from across the room but totally ignoring me whenever we’re close enough to talk?”

“Like I’ve been jerking off practically every night for the past three months because I didn’t get you naked, and like since you got back to town I’ve been constantly about ten seconds away from picking you up, taking you home, and tying you to my bed for the next week or two.”

Okay, so even without alcohol he was going to be dangerously inappropriate. And honest. Just as he’d feared.

Her eyes went wide.

Then she grinned. “Yes. You’re right. That’s a much better, more specific, description.”

“It’s not funny.”

“No. But I’m glad I’m not the only one.”

He narrowed his eyes. “The only one?”

“I couldn’t pick you up and carry you out of here, but the masturbating while thinking about you all the time? Yeah. And tying you to my bed? Yes, please.”

His entire body went hot and hard. “Do not ever say the word masturbating to me again,” he told her through gritted teeth.

“I know. It makes everything so much harder, doesn’t it?” Her gaze dropped to the front of his pants.

His eyes widened and he actually choked on a laugh. “That isn’t even slightly subtle. Or funny.”

She grinned.

He sighed. “This is why I’ve been trying to keep my distance. It’s too har…difficult… being close to you and not being able to do anything about it.”

She looked like a goddess tonight.

And he’d missed her so fucking much he barely remembered anything from her sister’s wedding ceremony other than going to retrieve the goat that had been head-butting the door trying to get in.

Finally, she nodded. “I know. I get it. I expected it. But we can’t act weird. They’re going to notice that too.”

She was right. They were friends. He’d gone to New York to take her to her fancy party—which everyone knew about—just three months ago because they were friends. If they didn’t talk at all that would be as noticeable as him throwing her over his shoulder.

“You’re right. I just wasn’t expecting it to be this…difficult.”

She grinned but didn’t comment on anything “hard”. “We have to practice.”


“Being friends. Being around each other here in Autre. It’s going to keep happening and I don’t want to never talk to you again.”

He didn’t want that either. “You think it will get easier?”

She nodded. “This is just the first time I’ve been back since we were alone in New York, when we could have made this into something else but decided not to. For very good reasons. But you told me everything was going to be okay.” She gave him a little smile.

Yeah, he’d said that. He said that all the time. He always meant it when he said it. He always worked his ass off to make it true.

But it still felt like things between them had turned into something else anyway. And he knew she thought so too.

He took a deep breath. “Right. The first time is probably going to be the most awkward.”

“It will get easier the more we do it,” she agreed. “But avoiding each other and not talking and trying to act normal won’t help.”

“Okay, so we’ll talk.”

“And dance,” she said.

“I don’t know if I can dance with you.” Well, he could, of course. But not without wanting so much more.

“You have to. You’re the only single male my age who I haven't danced with tonight. I've even danced with your son six times. And people are starting to notice."

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