But I can’t shake the feeling that from this moment forward, my existence is never going back to normal.

“Well.” I back away from the giant, magnetic force field of Elijah Montgomery Du Pont. “If you do the dishes, it might put me in a good enough mood to drive you to your storage locker in the morning. Unless you want me to loan you a dress. It would definitely distract everyone from your fall from grace.”

His mouth curves. “True, but I doubt it would fit.”

An image of Elijah pressing up between my legs and growling those same words into my neck gets me moving. I’m so much bigger than you, Addison. I doubt it’s going to fit, but stay still so I can try like hell. Lord, who knew I was a masochist? Before he can catch my definite flush, I pivot and head for my bedroom. “Your ride leaves at eight o’clock sharp, freeloader,” I call over my shoulder.

The water in the sink turns on. “I’ll be ready.”

“Night, Captain.”

“Night, Goose.”

I groan at the nickname, but when I close my bedroom door, I lean back against it and smile.

CHAPTER FOUR

Elijah

Captain Du Pont: Suffering? Or suffering no fools?

—Southern Insider News

I take a moment to brace myself before leaving the driver’s side of my truck. My smile is brittle as bark, but it stays in place as reporters swarm. Captain Du Pont, how are you feeling this morning? Any idea why Miss Clemons didn’t show for the wedding? Who is the woman you left the church with yesterday? Were you seeing the driver before the wedding? Is that why Miss Clemons chose not to marry you?

Holding up my briefcase in front of me like a mock shield, I push ahead through the humid morning air. “Am I damaged goods now? Don’t I get a good morning?”

A chorus of laughs rings out among the reporters. “Good morning, Captain Du Pont,” one familiar female reporter chimes. “The public is just concerned. Could you give us some idea of what happened? Do you think this will have a negative impact on the campaign?”

“No, I don’t expect it will.” A microphone blocks my view of City Hall ahead and I bypass the aggressive journalist, trying my best not to step on anyone. “I might have been dumped, but I haven’t lost my desire to improve Charleston for the better.”

“You think you can do better than your father?”

“Yes, but don’t tell him I said that.”

More laughter. I’m almost to the door and I know from experience at least one of the cameras is pointing directly at my ass. Goddammit. My backside has become something of a fascination with the Charleston press ever since a female journalist—and I use the term “journalist” loosely—pointed out on live television that I’m carrying some extra “junk in the trunk.” Now my butt is a local celebrity with its own Twitter account.

@DuPontBadonk. Whatever that means.

I’d never scrutinized my posterior before, but hell if I haven’t been checking it more often in the mirror lately. It’s not large, per se. It doesn’t move or shake. The damn thing is hard as a rock, if I do say so myself. But it’s…thick, I’d suppose one would say. And the squats I squeeze in at the gym four times a week only seem to make it worse.

Why am I thinking about my ass? My thoughts should be on the questions they continue to fire at me, but I find my mind drifting back to Addison’s apartment. To the reprieve those four walls represented. Those over-the-top, Christmas-covered walls. My mouth lifts into a smile—genuine this time—thinking about the tree I discovered this morning. From far away, the ornaments looked innocent enough. Up close, though, they have little phrases painted on the blown glass spheres. I came to Charleston and got a pair.

Basically, lots of balls jokes. Turns out Addison’s grandmother had a risqué sense of humor. My smile fades when I remember Addison talking about her grandmother last night. How she briefly dropped that mask of I don’t give two shits. Also known as, the same look she had on her face when she dropped me off at my car this morning after taking me to the storage locker to get a box of clothes.

“See you when I see you, Captain.”

I climb out of the Honda, leaving my forearms propped on the hood as I lean in to speak with Addison. “When do you reckon that will be?”

She gives me a sweet smile. “Probably on the news this morning.”

“You’ll be watching, will you?”

“Might take a glance.”

An all-around sassy delivery, but I swear I catch the tremble of her chin. “Thanks for everything, Goose.”

She stares straight ahead through the windshield. “Listen, I…I hope this doesn’t cause you any trouble.”

There it is. Not so sassy after all. “Even if it does cause me trouble, I’d still have taken that ride from you.”

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