The sight of her face brought a stupid smile to his. But he didn’t give a damn. At least, not until his brother turned to look over his shoulder at whatever had made him so happy.
“Whoa-ho,” Tony said, when he looked back at Nick. “Izzie? It’s Izzie? Holy shit, Gloria’s gonna love this.”
“Gloria’s not going to know about this,” Nick muttered. Izzie was not twenty steps away and if she heard what they were talking about, she’d probably bolt. Then ignore him for the next week until he could work his way around her defenses again.
Damn, but the woman was prickly.
“Why not? Cripes, the family’s been wanting you two to hook up forever.”
“That’s the problem. Izzie isn’t the kind of woman who likes to do what’s expected of her.”
Maybe that’s one reason they got along so well. Because Nick felt exactly the same way about his family. He just hadn’t been able to make that clear to them yet.
“Okay, I won’t do anything to jinx it. But I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep it from Gloria.” Tony grinned, shaking his head back and forth. “The woman can get anything out of me with her sexy…”
“Don’t want to hear it,” Nick smoothly interjected. He continued to watch Izzie, realizing the exact moment when she spotted him. A quick grin flashed across her face. But when she saw who was with him, the grin disappeared.
“Hi, Tony. Nick,” she murmured, reaching them. She sounded so cool and calm. As if she hadn’t been in a huge tub of warm bubbles and cold champagne with him twelve hours ago, loving each other until the water got cold and the champagne got flat.
God, what a night. Another amazing one in Izzie’s arms.
He didn’t know what he’d ever do without them.
“How’s it going, little sister?” Tony asked, giving her a one-armed hug. “Sorry I couldn’t make it to lunch at the folks’ house Sunday. Work-it kills me.” He glanced at Nick and wagged his eyebrows. “If only I had a partner to take up the slack.”
Nick managed to suppress a sigh. Then he turned his attention to Izzie. “I was just on my way to the bakery. I’m jonesing for something sweet.”
She chuckled. “I was last night, too. I almost dashed out and got a Ho Ho to tide me over until you…” She quickly snapped her mouth shut, remembering Tony was there.
His oldest brother had never been the king of tact. In fact, his wife affectionately called him Lunkhead. Well, usually affectionately. Right now, however, Tony managed to pull it off. “Well, it was great seeing you, Iz, but I have to get back to work. Nick, you’re gonna swing by the bank after you go up to the bakery and grab us some of Izzie’s fabulous cannolis?”
They had plenty of cannolis left in the restaurant, but, he assumed, it was the best Tony could do on such short notice. “Sure, Tony. You bet.”
They both watched Tony go back into the restaurant, with breezy hellos and good wishes to every customer he passed on the way back to the kitchen. When they were alone on the sidewalk, Izzie continued to stare at the glass restaurant door. Finally, she murmured, “He knows, doesn’t he?”
Nick nodded. “Yeah.”
With a helpless shrug, he told her the truth. “He saw the look on my face when I saw you walking toward me just now.”
She finally tore her gaze off the door and directed it toward him. Staring into his eyes, she searched for the meaning of what he’d said.
He didn’t try to hide it. He was in love with Izzie and his eyes affirmed that, even if his mouth didn’t.
He just didn’t know if she’d want to see the truth there.
He understood why she wouldn’t. Putting the reality of their feelings out there meant they had to deal with them. It meant she could accuse him of breaking their “secret lovers” deal and freeze him out of her life again.
It could also mean she’d acknowledge that she was falling for him, too. And that maybe they could make something work between them. Something good. Right.
“I can’t handle this, Nick,” she whispered, appearing stricken. “He’ll tell Gloria.”
“And she’ll blab to the known universe and the neighborhood will have me married and fat before winter and my parents will be eyeing a perfect little row house for us right up from theirs, getting our future kids on the waiting lists to go to Sacred Heart and St. Raphael’s.”
She sounded pained, as if the very idea of living that life devastated her. He understood why. Because he didn’t want it, either. Any of it. Oh, he wanted Izzie, no doubt about it. But as for how they lived? Well, it wouldn’t be like anything anybody on Taylor Street would understand.