Amazed By Her Curves by Liz Fox

Chapter 1

Brodie

“Brodie!” Grandma Ruthie exclaims as she flings the side door open. “You’re finally here!”

“Hey, Grandma,” I say as I step into the warm house and set my bag down with a thump on the stone floor. She flings her arms around me and I hug her back, breathing in the familiar scent of her expensive hand cream and hints of her flowery perfume. “I missed you.”

She steps back and brushes a few snowflakes off my coat. “Well, I would think so. I barely ever see you.”

“I know, and I’m sorry about that,” I say as I unzip my heavy coat and hang it on a brass stand near the door while Grandma Ruthie chatters. “It’s been hard to get away from work.”

“I wish you’d made it here a bit earlier because my good friend Esther—you remember hearing about Esther, don’t you, from the antique shop—was here for some coffee and to take a look at that cabinet of vintage Belleek pottery, and we were just on our way to see it when she noticed that—” She pauses, snapping her fingers and pointing down at my feet before I step off the doormat and onto the immaculately clean stone floor of the mudroom. “Wipe your shoes, Brodie.”

Obediently, I scrape the soles of my beat-up waterproof boots on the mat. “What time do the guests start arriving tonight?” I ask. I pry off a boot and set it on a nearby shoe rack. As much as I’m glad to hear that Grandma Ruthie has an active social life, I’m tired of hearing about Esther every time we talk, and I definitely don’t care what two biddies think about a cabinet full of old pottery.

“Seven,” Grandma Ruthie says, then launches into a detailed accounting of the decorations, something about Esther, the catering, the cases of chilled champagne, something else about Esther, and what my brother Callum has been up to, all while herding me none-too-gently into the informal sitting room.

I sink into an overstuffed couch and relax, exhausted after my four-hour drive on mountain roads through the blowing snow. I could go for a nap right now, I think as I give in to the urge to let my drooping eyelids close and relax my head back onto the soft cushion. It’s nice and warm in here, with the soothing crackle of the fire—

“Brodie!” Grandma Ruthie snaps. “You just got here, visit with me for a bit. Will you do it?”

I smother a yawn. “I’m awake, Grandma. Will I do what?”

“Stay a few more days, dear,” she says. “I know you were just planning to stay for the holiday party and then leave again in the morning, but I was hoping you would cut down the family Christmas tree—you know, the one for in here—and we could decorate it together and enjoy a longer visit.”

“I don’t know if—“ I start.

“I know you’re very busy, but I’m your grandma and I’m pulling rank.” She smiles deviously. “I’m an old lady. Who knows how much longer I have to enjoy my grandsons, who haven’t even given me great-grandchildren yet?”

I roll my eyes. When I called her two weeks ago, Grandma Ruthie claimed that she had no plans to die, ever, because she had too much to do. But I can’t say no—I’ve missed her, and I don’t get to see her enough anyway. “Okay. I’ll stay and help with Christmas. For a few days.”

“Excellent,” she says. She leans over and starts pouring tea from a silver tea service on the coffee table. “Do you still take sugar in your tea?”

“Grandma, I haven’t had tea since—“

She drops a lump of sugar into the amber-brown liquid. “Just one, then,” she says. She hands me the steaming cup and saucer.

I take a sip and find that it’s perfect. Strong Earl Grey tea, citrusy and smooth, the sugar tempering it just slightly. Grandma Ruthie, as she so often does, knows what I like when I’m not even sure myself.

“It’s good,” I say. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had a cup of tea.”

She peers at me thoughtfully over her cup, the steam wafting up in a curly cloud before it disappears.

“You’re a good boy,” she says. “Sometimes you need a push in the right direction.”

The hot, strong tea wakes me up and before long, Grandma Ruthie puts me to work arranging gift baskets for the staff, bringing in loads of wood to stock up all the fireplaces, and, to my horror, dangling off a balcony to replace dead bulbs in strands of Christmas lights. When I protest, she dismisses me with a wave of her hand.

“Snow is soft,” she says. “And it’s not that high up. You’ll be fine, and the poor staff is overworked enough as it is.”

By the time evening rolls around, it’s clear that being here is worth it. Grandma Ruthie’s huge house sparkles, full of light and beautiful decorations, redolent with the scent of fresh pine. My brothers and I, freshly scrubbed and in our tuxes, stand in the formal living room, sipping scotch and giving each other shit as guests start to filter in. Jamie is oddly absent, but he must be around here somewhere. Still, none of us brothers have gotten together for the holidays in a long time, and it feels good.

“—and then I snapped his golf club over my knee and told him to get the fuck off my lawn,” Callum says. We all laugh uproariously, but I stop when something snags my attention.

Someone, actually. Talking to Grandma Ruthie, who smiles and laughs and seems to be having the time of her life.

But it’s not their conversation that interests me. It’s her.

Grandma Ruthie is short, but she’s shorter—maybe just over five feet, with chin-length dark curls, swept back on the sides with sparkly pins. The bare skin on her arms is smooth and pale, and her full-skirted dark green dress accentuates the generous curves of her waist and breasts. And her face—it’s beautiful, with plush lips painted bright red, pale blue eyes, and expressive brows, the same deep shade as her hair.

She looks like Snow White, I think as my brain short-circuits with lust. I have got to know who she is.

Grandma Ruthie says something to her and she throws her head back and laughs uproariously. The bright sound rockets straight through me and down to my rapidly hardening cock.

“Where’d you go, Brodie?” Reid snaps his fingers in front of my face.

“Sorry.” I swallow my scotch and gesture toward Grandma and her companion. “Who’s that over there with Grandma Ruthie?”

“Oh, that’s Esther,” replies Reid. “She’s been in and out all week. She and Grandma are like this.” He holds up his intertwined index and middle fingers.

“That’s Esther?” I can’t believe it. Grandma mentions her about once every other sentence, but I pictured another wealthy woman her age, wearing the same cashmere sweater sets, with beauty parlor-styled hair and smelling like the same expensive Parisian perfume. Instead, my grandmother is best friends with a stunningly beautiful woman who looks younger than me, whose sensual red lips leave lipstick stains on the rim of her wine glass. I’d like to see those lips stain something else, I think.

Still, something seems off here. “What on earth do they have in common?”

Callum shrugs. “Antiques, I guess. Esther runs an antique shop on the square and she’s really interested in some of the stuff here. She’s appraising a bunch of stuff and helping Grandma Ruthie inventory it.”

I’m instantly suspicious. “Seriously? A woman in her late twenties is helping our eighty-something-year-old grandmother go through the massively valuable contents of her mansion for—what, for fun? What’s in it for her?”

Callum rolls his eyes. “Grandma Ruthie adores her and they have a great time together. They guzzle tea and fuss over old stuff. Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m serious,” I say. “What if she’s trying to get her mitts on Great Grandpa’s gold coins, or Grandma Ruthie’s jewelry? She probably knows what all that stuff is worth. And it’s worth a lot.”

“I don’t think so,” Reid says. “And anyway, Grandma Ruthie’s like a bullshit-sniffing bloodhound. She would know. She always knows when someone’s trying to pull one over on her. We couldn’t even sneak out of this place at night without her finding out.”

“That’s all fine, but I’m going to get a read on Esther anyway.” I toss back the rest of my scotch and place it on a nearby table.

“Oh, right, and you look at everyone that way when you’re just trying to get a read on them,” Reid says as Callum guffaws. I shoot him the finger and walk away.

Esther might be insanely beautiful and my grandmother’s best friend, but there’s something weird about this. And I intend to figure it out.