“No, I meant here, with you.” Curious, Payton peered over and saw a distinguished-looking couple in their early sixties heading in their direction.

J.D. made the introductions. “Payton, these are my parents, Preston and Evelyn Jameson.” He gestured to Payton and her mother. “Mom, Dad, this is Payton Kendall and her mother, Lex Kendall. Payton is a coworker of mine; she works in the same group as me.”

With a formal air, J.D.’s father stepped forward to shake Payton’s hand. He was tall, like his son, had salt-and-pepper hair, and looked very dignified in his gray tweed sport coat and wire-rimmed glasses.

“So you’re a lawyer as well, Ms. Kendall?” he inquired.

“Yes, Judge,” she said, shaking his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” As a member of the legal profession, it was indeed an honor for her to meet the Honorable Preston D. Jameson of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Jameson gave her a slight nod, as if to acknowledge her acknowledgment of his judicial status. He had a stern demeanor, Payton noticed, which struck her as being very unlike his son. There were lots of words she could use to describe J.D.—no comment on whether any of them would be particularly complimentary—but “stern” would not be among them.

Payton turned next to Evelyn Jameson, and the first thing she noticed was a pair of brilliant blue eyes. J.D.’s eyes.

The startling familiarity of those eyes was immediately overshadowed, however, by the second thing Payton noticed about J.D.’s mother: the beige suede car coat she was wearing that had—oh, lord—a sable fur collar.

Payton shook her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Jameson. Could you excuse me for one second?”

She spun around to her mother and whispered quietly. “If you let the coat slide, I’ll give up dairy for a week.”

Lex gave her a look that was 100 percent pure motherly reassurance. “Of course, Sis, if it’s that important to you. Make it a month.”

Quintessential Lex Kendall.

“Fine,” Payton hissed softly. “Just be polite.”

Lex snickered, stealing a glance at the Jamesons. “Don’t worry, I know how to deal with people like this. They look exactly like your father’s parents, the first time I met them.”

Payton blinked, shocked. Her father had money? This was the first she had heard of any such thing.

But she tabled that discussion and held her breath as she watched her mother introduce herself to J.D.’s parents. Lex was pleasant enough but—it never failed—still Lex.

“Nice coat,” she told J.D.’s mother. “I have two just like it at home.”

Evelyn smiled politely. “Oh, I don’t think so,” she replied, somehow managing to sound both condescending and genteel. “This is a Christian Lacroix, you know.”

Payton stifled a laugh. Ah, J.D. was right. Suddenly things had become much clearer. She heard a voice, low in her ear.

“You don’t have to say it out loud; I already know what you’re thinking.”

She looked over her shoulder to see J.D. standing next her. “You think you know me so well.”

“I do,” he said, still speaking so that their parents couldn’t hear.

“Then what am I thinking now?” Payton asked coyly. Wait—was she flirting? No. Yes. To be determined.

“You’re thinking that out of all the brunches in the city, you had to pick the same one as me,” J.D. said.

Payton couldn’t help but smile at that. She had a view of their parents, and she watched as her mother—undoubtedly on yet another diatribe—took off one of her animal-cruelty-free clogs and held it up to Evelyn Jameson. J.D.’s mother looked pained.

“Close. I was thinking that if I knew we were going to pick the same brunch, I would’ve had that third mimosa before our parents met.”

J.D. turned in the direction of their parents and eyed the scene with amusement. “There’s always the bar off the lobby.”

Payton laughed.

J.D. studied her for a moment. “Actually . . . I was thinking I might have to sneak off to the bar myself.”

Now it was Payton’s turn to study him. Was that an invitation? Hard to tell. “That does sound tempting,” she said, figuring that answer worked either way.

“Tempting,” J.D. repeated.

Then his gaze fell to her lips.

Payton suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder, interrupting them. She glanced over and saw her mother’s pointed look.

“We don’t want the food to get cold, Sis.” Lex gestured to the box of food for the unhoused people.

Payton nodded. “Yes.” She glanced up at J.D. “We should get going.”

J.D. nodded. “Of course. I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

Payton murmured a quick good-bye to J.D.’s parents, then left the restaurant with her mother. When they got outside, she handed the ticket to the valet.

She and her mother waited in front of the hotel, neither of them saying a word. Finally, Lex broke the ice.

“Do you want to tell me what that was all about?”

“He’s just a coworker, Mom.”

More silence.

“Why have you never mentioned that my father had money?” Payton asked.

Lex shrugged. “I don’t know. I didn’t think it was relevant, I guess.”

Payton didn’t buy her mother’s nonchalance. “Did that have anything to do with why you two never married?”


Tags: Julie James Romance
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