“Are you busy, Pop?” Ryan asked at the top of the basement stairs.
Bo Jeffers was reading a book on how to survive the zombie apocalypse when he heard his son’s knock. “Not at all, son,” he said gruffly, and turned a page. An older White gentleman with salt and pepper hair, a commanding stature, and a single pierced left ear that held a small stud, Bo Jeffers was practically royalty in Buckhead. Coming from generations of wealth and philanthropy, he constantly gave back to his community when he retired from his practice several years prior. When he wasn’t hosting a fundraiser, he was on the golf course or supervising fresh and wet behind the ears resident doctors.
Of course, his true passion—saving the world—was the only thing he had a solid interest in, other than his family. So far, he had figured out what to do in the event of vampires taking over, sharks flying through the sky, and now he was preparing for zombies. He figured he could never have enough ammo and he needed to stock up. “Come on down.”
Ryan closed the door behind him and headed to meet his father. After the very brief and awkward introduction to Nikki, he left Alyssa alone with his mother in the kitchen. He knew there was no way Nikki was going to follow her in there and dare mess up the overpriced designer garb she had on.
“So,” Bo put down his book and walked over to the wet bar where he took out two Guinness bottles. Out of his sons, Ryan was the only one who preferred beer and hard liquor and drank like a champ, a trait Bo was proud of. His other sons felt they were too sophisticated for the sort and Bo often questioned if they were really his kids. “What’s going on?”
“Why do you hate me?” Ryan asked.
Bo chuckled. “What makes you think I hate you, Ry?”
“Each time I show up somewhere, Nikki just happens to be there. You know how I feel about her. You also know I have a girlfriend, who, by the way, is upstairs in the kitchen with Mom.”
“I don’t invite her, Ry. I thought you knew your old man better than that,” Bo sipped his beer, “she invites herself. She asks what I’m doing for the week and she shows up later, hoping to see you. You know that’s why she’s coming over here. What am I going to tell her? Stay home and don’t show up? I’ll never hear the end of it from her father.”
“She’s a nightmare,” Ryan huffed, “no matter what I do, I can’t get rid of her. Now I’m in debt to her.”
“Oh?” Bo’s voice tinged with interest. “How much do you need?”
“No, not that kind of debt, though I wish. Nah, she introduced me to her cousin, Scott, who’s in advertising. He’s going to help expand Caffeinated if there’s an interest. He’ll be flying out in a couple days.”
“Good for you, kiddo. Good for you,” Bo smiled proudly, “I have to say, though I’ve said it a thousand times, I’m glad you didn’t go into the medical and legal professions like your brothers. Sure, they have the money and wealth but you have something they don’t – freedom. You don’t answer to anyone and you work for yourself, the way everyone should do it.”
“Eh, you weren’t that proud of me before,” Ryan remembered many conversations with his father, who encouraged him to do something with his MBA other than “wasting it on cocoa beans.”
“No, and I can admit my fault. I was wrong to question your judgment when you knew what you wanted all along. There are too many lawyers and doctors here in Buckhead already and I should know because I still deal with those fools on a regular basis each time I go out to the golf course and hit a few rounds.” Bo shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Damned fool, Matt Moore… been playing the same horrible game with the same horrible clubs, and wonders why he’s always ten strokes behind everyone else. I’m glad he operates better than he plays, or he would’ve had many malpractice lawsuits on his hands.”
Ryan chuckled. His father always knew how to lighten the mood, no matter how frustrated he was. “So, you’re okay with Alyssa? Assuming Mom told you the details.”
“She told me the details, showed me her blog, and even ordered a few of her products from Betsy.”
“Yeah, that site that she orders stuff all the time for the house. Betsy.”
“No, dad… that’s etsy.”
“Whatever,” Bo shrugged, “I like her. She has her own money and career going on. I can’t say the same for Desperate upstairs.” He referred to Nikki. He then turned to his son. “Listen, kiddo. If you’re happy, I’m happy. You’re smart enough to know there’ll be some challenges, and not everyone will be welcoming you two with open arms, no matter how much they, like, say they voted for Obama twice. But if you’re good with her, so am I.”
“Thanks, Pop.” Ryan smiled. “I’m glad to hear that.”
“Good,” Bo set down his beer, “now can you do me a favor?”
“Yeah, sure. What is it?”
Bo took out his notepad and opened it up. Ryan’s eyes widened when he saw an extravagant illustration of how to attack a zombie. “Now, I hear if you shoot them in the head, they’ll die instantly. But let’s say I run out of bullets, I’m thinking we can launch an attack here in the sternum…”
“So, I see you’ve met Darling Nikki,” Elizabeth removed the bread from the oven and set it on the counter.
Alyssa forced a smile. Oh, she met the bubbly Southern debutante all right. It didn’t take long to figure out she was the one Ryan was dancing with all night at the fundraiser and Alyssa’s presence did put a damper on any plans Nikki had for her and Ryan in the empty fantasyland known as her brain.
What was worse was Alyssa felt she was being sized up by Nikki. She could tell the woman was fascinated with her hair and if she didn’t think she was going to break one of her Lee Press-On nails, she would’ve run a hand through it.
No, Nikki stared at Alyssa, wondering what the hell she had that made Ryan want her. Alyssa smiled and silently chuckled to herself. She bet the poor girl was coming up with every excuse in the book to justify her relationship with Ryan and wondering which one made the most sense.
“She’s interesting,” Alyssa finally answered as she set the table, “she’s an interesting girl.”
“You don’t have to be nice, Alyssa.” Elizabeth smiled, “I’ve known Nikki and her family for years. I know how she is.”
“And how is she?”
Elizabeth chuckled, seemingly biting her tongue on what she truly wanted to say. “A lady shouldn’t have curse words on her tongue. It wouldn’t look good and I’m still trying to get into heaven.”
“Oh, word?” Alyssa was surprised with Elizabeth’s reveal. “I thought she would be someone you would prefer.”
“I prefer someone who is sane,” Elizabeth responded as she put out several vegan dishes in Alyssa’s honor. “And that’s all I’m going to say about her.”
“Duly noted.” Alyssa nodded.
“Well, well, well… I was wondering where you were,” Nikki announced in the dining room, as if she was making a grand entrance. “I see you have supper already set up, Elizabeth! You should’ve called me over! I would’ve gladly helped!”
“Oh, it’s no thing. I had plenty of help from Alyssa,” Elizabeth winked at her, “we’re just about done here.”
“Oh.” Nikki cleared her throat. Getting rid of Alyssa was going to be more of a challenge than she thought, now that Elizabeth liked her. “Well, that is lovely.” She looked around the table and noticed several interesting dishes. “What are these?”
“Alyssa is vegan so I made those dishes for her so she wouldn’t feel left out.” Elizabeth walked over to the dishes and pointed them out. “Quinoa hummus wraps, potato and green bean salad with parsley pesto, and chickpea salad stuffed tomatoes. I made plenty in case anyone else wanted to try.”
“How… lovely.” Nikki’s smile grew bigger, in what Alyssa guessed was to keep the contempt to a minimum.
“Yes, I think so. Well, I’m going to call everyone in for dinner now,” Elizabeth left the dining room.
Alyssa stared out one of the windows that led to one of the largest backyards she’d ever seen in her life. Growing up, the backyard to her parents’ home was big enough to fit a pool, a patio area and barbeque. It seemed the Jeffers’ backyard was at least a couple of acres. Good Lord, I could get lost in that thing.
“So, Alyssa,” Nikki called out, interrupting Alyssa’s fantasy of seeing her and Ryan’s children play with their grandfather, “how long have you been dating Ryan?”
Alyssa got a good look of Nikki. Tall with short, auburn hair, she wore a crisp white dress that showed enough décolletage to be enticing but was covered enough to not be very revealing. She had sharp green eyes that seemed to cut Alyssa and all she did was smile at the woman.
It was about to be one long-ass dinner. “We’ve been dating for a while now,” Alyssa answered, intentionally vague.
Nikki once again grinned and puckered her lips so tight, Alyssa though she was sucking on a lemon. “I see. Ryan is special, isn’t he?”
“He’s very special, yes.” Alyssa answered. Where in the hell is he?
Nikki casually walked around the dining room table, caressing her fingers against the backs of the chairs. “So how did you two meet? At some civil rights fundraiser? Some charity he held in Atlanta?”
Alyssa picked up on the racial undertones and bit her tongue. She had a feeling Nikki’s questions were just the tip of the iceberg of what else was going to occur that night. “We met at a bar,” Alyssa replied.
“A bar?” Nikki was surprised. “That’s interesting. I never thought Ryan would be the type to hang out in bars, but he was always a bit wilder than his brothers.”
“I guess you can say that,” Alyssa shrugged, “since he owns it.”
Nikki’s mouth was quiet but her eyes reflected the newfound interest she took in Ryan’s financial affairs. “He does?”
“Who does?” Ryan entered the dining room and made a bee-line straight to Alyssa. He planted a sensual kiss on her lips and whispered in her ear. “How mad are you at me right now?”
“Not quite Chris Brown,” Alyssa whispered.
“Ooh…” Ryan caressed Alyssa’s back. “…have I ever told you how sexy you look when you’re all pissed off at me?”
She closed her eyes and relished her man’s warm embrace. He seemingly knew what to do to relieve her of any stress. “Stop it.”
“Making my panties wet.”
“Nah, I doubt that’ll ever happen.”