“Well, hello there, Miss Miller,” I heard, in an accent so familiar it sent goose bumps up and down my arms.
“Max!” I said, and dear God the men in this family were gorgeous. It was obvious Max and Niall were brothers, even if Max’s hair was a bit lighter and he had more green than brown in his eyes. They had the same straight nose, the same sharp jaw, and the same dimpled grin; Max’s just made far more appearances. And wow, were they both tall.
I hoped he’d assume the blush that warmed my cheeks was because he’d just caught me taking a photo of myself on the streets of New York, and not because I’d just realized how insanely gifted his family’s gene pool was. Then I noticed Will—sweet Jesus, Will looked like sin in a suit—standing just behind him on the phone where he offered me a small wave.
“Something last minute came up. I’m meeting him at the office later.”
Max winked and tugged a leather glove on over his left hand. A thick wedding band gleamed in the morning light. “Don’t suppose I could talk you into joining us for coffee, then?” he asked.
Will finished his call and stepped up beside him, smiling and nodding in agreement. I had no idea how the women in their lives got anything done.
I’d already had a cup but how could I pass this up? “Sure. Let’s do it.”
“As I’ll ever be,” he said, offering his arm to me.
I took it in sort of a daze, even more so when Max took my other arm. What in the world had I just agreed to?
At a small café just up the block, I followed them both to a table near the back of the room, crowded with tourists and businesspeople grabbing breakfast before work. Our drinks were brought out almost immediately, and I couldn’t help wonder what Niall would think of my having coffee with his brother.
“I saw a picture of Annabel,” I said. “She’s absolutely stunning. Congratulations.”
Max, who had been unwinding a scarf from his neck, beamed at me. “Niall showed you my little miss?”
I nodded. “She looks so much like you.”
Will frowned as he tore open a sugar packet. “No way, not this guy,” he said. “Sara’s a knockout and that little girl is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. She’s going to have her uncle Will standing at the door with a shotgun, ready to blow the balls off any boy who even looks at her wrong.”
“Ta, William. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Her mother, Sara, is stunning. If my little Beloved is even half as vivacious and charming . . . I am well and royally fucked.”
“Oh, you are,” Will said, holding up his drink.
“Do you have any children?” I asked Will.
“Uh, no,” Will said, his smile softening. “None for us, yet.”
“Not for a lack of practice though, mate,” Max said.
“This is true,” Will said, looking appropriately thrilled.
Pouring cream into his coffee, Max turned his smile on me. From what I could tell, Max was always smiling—especially when he was teasing someone—and he had a rare kind of charm that made me want to spill all of my secrets, talk about everything . . . because something told me he was dying to hear.
“Great,” I said, stirring my drink. I kept my eyes on my cup, watching foam disappear into caramel-colored liquid, hoping I could pull off casual and completely unaffected. I had nothing to say. Nope, no dirt to spill here. “He’s great—I mean, it’s great—he’s treating me great.”
“Stop that,” Will said, pointing his coffee stirrer at Max. “Don’t think I don’t see that face. You’re worse than my mother; leave the poor girl alone.”
Max’s eyebrows lifted with exaggerated innocence. “Your mother’s a lovely woman. I find that comparison rather complimentary.”
“Ignore him,” Will said to me. “He’s a busybody who loves nothing more than knowing what’s going on with every person he meets so he can give them shit about it. Don’t tell him a thing. Make him suffer.”
Max reached out to stop a waitress who was passing our table. “Sorry, love. Think you could bring this one ’round a bowl of bran?” he said, motioning to Will. “He’s a wee bit irritable this morning and a bit of fiber might help to sort him out.”
The waitress looked between them and nodded awkwardly, before walking away. For his part, Will just chuckled into his cup.
I was beginning to see that this was just their thing, and exactly what Niall had meant when he’d said his brother was a character. I could stay here all day and watch it.
“Would you like me to leave you two alone?” I asked finally. “I could let you have my hotel room for the day?”
They both turned to me; Max was already laughing.
“This one’s got your number,” he said to Will. “Quite like to keep her ’round.”
“You sure your guy’s ready for her?” Will said, lifting his chin to me. “She’s got some fire and Niall—”
“Aw, he’s all right, in’t he?” Max cut in, sounding sweetly protective. “Just needs to clean his system of the other one. Bloody nag, she was. Niall likes adventure as much as the next bloke.”