Second, he was bulging with, as far as Tony was concerned, a thuggish amount of muscle and had a tattoo of some Adinkra design on his neck. His neck. Tony’s tattoos, of tigers’ eyes and dragons, on the other hand, were much more tasteful and were limited to his arms and torso. Where tattoos belonged.
Third, Joshua had an attitude that could best be described as…guarded. Moody. Surly. Suspicious. He was loving enough with Arianna, true, but with everyone else he was reserved to the point of being sullen.
Suffering from bouts of moodiness himself, Tony didn’t have the patience for those traits in anyone else. So, yeah, he didn’t like the cat.
Still, Joshua was a real estate tycoon who’d made something of his life since he’d been sprung from the big house, and Tony could respect that. In fact, that gave Joshua something in common with Tony, who’d also suffered a setback or two in his recent history and was trying to rebuild his life.
Most important, Joshua was married to his sister, and since Arianna clearly adored him and the horse he rode in on, Tony was trying to find the good in his brother-in-law.
Right now, for instance, Joshua was weighed down with two large duffels, one slung over each shoulder, and was also carrying Apollonia, the baby.
Yeah. The family was big into Greek names, which came from having a matriarch who’d been a Greek professor.
Apollonia was just a tiny little thing, had a Mohawk strip of black curls down the middle of her lolling head. She was fast asleep for the moment, strapped into a sling across Joshua’s chest.
Seeing her, Tony felt the pull of something…primal.
She was a pretty baby, with sweet pink skin and a pouty rosebud mouth. Tony loved his little niece. He leaned down to smooth his hand over her downy soft spot and kiss her forehead.
“Hey, little girl,” he cooed.
Joshua stiffened. “Have you washed your hands, man? You need to wash your hands before you handle a baby.”
Straightening, Tony glared at his brother-in-law, who scowled back.
“So what’s wrong?” Arianna demanded.
“Nothing. Why do you keep asking?”
This was, of course, an unnecessary question. He’d been just a notch or two above catatonic for the last several days, ever since making love with Talia and then being flattened by her bombshell, and he knew he looked pretty bad. Additionally, he’d never been particularly good at hiding his feelings from his sister, so she was probably reading him like a child’s bedtime story right about now.
Hell, he had no idea why he was even going through the motions of denying there was a problem, except that he didn’t want to spill his guts in front of her husband, the tattooed wonder.
“Something’s wrong with you,” Arianna insisted. “Spill. Now.”
Joshua, who by now had almost tiptoed his way out of the room, patted the baby on the bottom with one hand and jerked a thumb in some vague direction over his shoulder with the other. “I’ll just—”
Arianna looked around at him and beckoned him back with a wave of her hand.
Judging by Joshua’s stricken expression, he would rather have been summoned for a laser eyeball peel.
“Why don’t you stick around, honey?” Arianna asked him. “You always have good advice. Maybe you can help Tony.”
“Oh, I don’t think—” Tony and Joshua began together.
Arianna naturally ignored both of them. “Sit down. Both of you.”
With that, she marched off to the sofa and sat. After a fair amount of awkward shuffling and darting looks at each other, Tony and Joshua followed Arianna and sat on either side of her. Joshua took a moment or two to arrange the sleeping baby across his lap, which gave Tony time to get his thoughts together. But soon they were both looking at him with expectant gazes—actually, Arianna’s gaze was expectant; Joshua’s was pained, if not outright gloomy.
“Well?” Arianna asked encouragingly. “This is about Talia, right?”
Joshua stirred. “Talia? Who’s Talia?”
“The artist Tony’s in love with,” Arianna said softly, out of the corner of her mouth.
A stab of alarm made Tony sit up straighter. “I never said—”
Arianna waved that hand again. “Whatever. What happened?”