The Virgin Billionaire's Secret Baby
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by Ryan Field
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: This third novel in The Virgin Billionaire series finds happy-go-lucky Luis Fortune living with the love of his life, Jase Nicholas, in the same Upper West Side building where they first met. Though Jase has renovated the 95th Street apartment building and restored it into a grand single family home again, Luis finds himself longing for Alaska and the ties he's built with Jase's family, especially Isabelle, Jase's grandmother. But neither Jase nor Luis can leave New York full time. Even though Luis is still busy with his modeling career and contributing posts to Elena's Romantic Treasures and Tidbits, Luis misses Alaska so much he becomes involved with an organization, The Angel Association, which helps unwed mothers find alternatives to abandoning their newborn babies. He becomes so immersed he can't pass a dumpster or trash container without looking inside to see if there's an abandoned baby. To help take Luis' mind off missing Alaska, Jase plans a romantic weekend getaway in the country with old friends, Roland and Josh. Luis falls in love the little Pennsylvania town, but he's not fond of Roland and Josh's open relationship and their casual attitude toward sex with other men. So a few months later, Luis decides to surprise Jase for his birthday and buys an historic old home in the country that needs extensive renovations. But on the day Luis buys the dream house, he also learns a shocking secret about Jase's past. A secret so bizarre and unforeseen it will change their lives forever....
eBook Publisher: Ravenous Romance/Ravenous Romance, 2011
eBookwise Release Date: January 2011
9 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [233 KB]
Reading time: 160-224 min.
Everybody in the neighborhood of 95th Street and Riverside Drive knew Luis Fortune. It wasn't because he was a model who did TV commercials and print ads for well-known discount department stores. It wasn't because he'd accidentally been mixed up once with a shady real-estate agent and made headlines in all the tabloids. And it wasn't because his life partner was known all over the world as the Virgin Billionaire.
Luis did contribute regular guest posts to an internationally known blog that focused on gay culture, Elena's Romantic Treasures and Tidbits. But this wasn't the reason his neighbors knew him so well either.
The people in the Korean Grocery knew Luis as the cute, quiet guy who smiled and wore a black oversized baseball cap pulled down over his eyes when he stopped in for a bottle of juice and a bouquet of flowers every morning after his run in Riverside Park. When Luis said good morning and handed them money, they always handed him change and returned his smile. On the avenue, the fish monger and the butcher knew Luis's regular orders without having to ask. And they knew his little Chinese crested, Camp, well enough to pat the top of his shaggy beige head. The dry cleaner three doors down from the butcher joked around with Luis about the difficulties of getting older and being thankful to wake up in the morning. The young blond mailman stared down at Luis's crotch and flirted shamelessly while Luis blushed. And the fast-talking young guy at the Chinese takeout around the corner always recognized Luis's voice on the telephone.
After Luis's partner, Jase Nicholas, bought Mr. Gordon's Upper West Side building, Jase went into an aggressive renovation mode for the next six months that made Luis's eyes roll. Jase hired one of the best architects in Manhattan to turn the makeshift converted apartment building back into the elegant single-family home it had once been. Luis and Jase were out of Jase's apartment in Trump Tower and living full time on 95th Street faster than Luis could pack the pots and pans.
By the spring of their first year living on 95th Street as a couple, Luis finally felt as though he'd found the home and the family he'd always craved. That same year Luis and Jase traveled to Alaska to spend the Christmas holiday with Jase's mother, father, and ninety-year-old grandmother. While there, they'd celebrated their union as a couple with a small gathering of family and friends in what resembled a traditional wedding ceremony. The grandmother even presented them with a double ring wedding quilt that had been in the family for years. The only detail that made their ceremony different from a traditional wedding was Luis and Jase weren't legally allowed to marry in the U.S. because they were gay. But this didn't matter to Luis on an emotional level. As long as he was with the love of his life, Jase, he didn't need the government to validate his marriage, his love, or his relationship.
After that, they flew to Jase's family in Alaska for every major holiday. Though neither one of them was in a position to leave New York and move to Alaska permanently, they cherished those getaways and made offhanded, indefinite plans to liand ve there at least part time someday.
But Luis couldn't help sighing each time the plane left Alaska headed back to New York. He'd force a smile and Jase would pat him on the knee. Then Jase would send him an encouraging glance and talk about the plans he was going make to get together with their older gay friends, Ben and Percy, to keep Luis's spirits up. And Luis would lift his chin and say, "Sounds like fun." Though Luis would have preferred to move to Alaska and make it their home base, he was more than thankful for his wonderful life with Jase, his thriving career as a model, and his good friends in New York.
After spending an extra long Memorial Day weekend in Alaska, Jase surprised Luis in the car on the way home from the airport. He put his arm around Luis in the back seat and said, "We're going to the country this weekend."
Luis's eyebrows went up and he tilted his head sideways. "We are?" Luis had been putting up a good front since they'd left Alaska. He'd been smiling and speaking with a forced lilt so Jase wouldn't see how depressed he was. But deep down he couldn't stop thinking about Jase's ninety-year-old grandmother, Isabelle. She was going in for minor surgery that week and Luis would have liked to remain in Alaska until the surgery was over, but it wasn't possible. Luis had a photo shoot on Thursday and Jase had several important meetings to attend on Thursday and Friday. Jase had been developing a new invention: a mop designed specially for hardwood floors that had a lifetime guarantee.
"Yes," Jase said. "We're driving out to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and spending the weekend with an old friend of mine, Roland Marcus, and his partner, Josh Holden."
Luis's eyebrows quirked. "Those are the two guys you told me about who live down in the Village near Magnolia Bakery, aren't they?" Luis had heard Jase mention his friend Roland several times since they'd been together. From what Luis recalled, Roland was the owner of a large family skin-care business, and his partner, Josh, ran a little bookshop on Bleecker Street with his ex-wife, Hillary. They'd always sounded a little peculiar to Luis. But he smiled and pretended to be excited.
Jase nodded and pulled Luis closer to his side. "Yes, those are the guys. I think you'll like them." He caressed Luis's shoulder and kissed him on the cheek. "I love Ben and Percy, and I love spending a lot of time with them. They're great guys. But it might be nice to hang out with another gay couple who are closer to our own ages for a change." Ben and Percy were in their seventies. Jase was in his late thirties and Luis was still in his twenties.
Though Luis loved Ben and Percy like family, he couldn't disagree with Jase on this. So he smiled and said, "What's Bucks County like?" When Luis was in New York, he tended to remain in the city, mostly within his own neighborhood on the Upper West Side. He'd flown over Pennsylvania, but he'd never actually been there.
"I think you'll like it," Jase said. "It's only about an hour from the city. There's a nice little town called New Hope that has a large gay community and it's very artistic. There are art galleries, gay nightclubs, and it's filled with American history. For years, during the golden age of Broadway, all the best shows opened in New Hope at the Bucks County Playhouse."
"Sounds like fun," Luis said, reaching down to run his hand across Camp's back. They always traveled with Camp. Luis refused to board him or leave him with a pet sitter. Once in a while he'd leave him with Ben and Percy, but not often; they had a giant poodle that tended to sniff Camp in all the wrong places.
"It will be a nice, quiet, relaxing weekend in the country," Jase said. "Roland's been asking us out for a long time and I finally said yes."
Luis sighed and said, "I hope Isabelle is okay. I wish I could have been there to help your mother when Isabelle gets out of the hospital." Luis had grown very close to Jase's mother and father. But he'd become especially close to Isabelle. During this past trip, they'd played canasta until three in the morning each night.
"Stop worrying, baby," Jase said. "It's only minor outpatient surgery to repair a torn meniscus. If it were anything serious, I wouldn't have left Alaska. And we'll be back by Labor Day to make sure she's okay."
Luis settled into Jase's warm body and rested his palm between Jase's legs. He squeezed Jase's balls a couple of times and said, "I know it's not major. And I'm sure she'll be fine. But I wish I could have stayed to help out."
Jase spread his legs wider and placed his palm on the back of Luis's head. He stroked Luis's hair and said, "You know what I wish?"
"What?" Luis asked. He was staring ahead at the passing cars with a dazed expression, thinking about poor Isabelle being pushed around in a wheelchair for at least a week. She'd be cursing up a storm.
"That you'd give me head right now," Jase said, bucking his slim hips forward, applying pressure to the back of Luis's head.
Luis rolled his eyes and nodded at the back of the driver's head. "I don't think so." Besides, Camp was sitting on his lap. Though most people wouldn't have cared, Luis always thought it was creepy to have sex in front of his dog. It didn't feel right. But he didn't want to totally disappoint Jase, so he lifted Camp from his lap and placed him on the other end of the long backseat. Then he pulled down Jase's zipper, reached into Jase's pants, and said, "You'll have to settle for a discreet hand job instead." He knew Camp would remain sleeping and he knew the driver couldn't see what he was doing from that angle.
But Jase shook his head and whispered, "I'd rather get head." Then he pressed a button and a tinted window between the front and back seats went up. This wasn't Jase's car and it wasn't his regular driver. This was an airport limo and they'd probably never see this driver again.
"What about him?" Luis nodded to the little hairless dog, who was curled up against the back door, sound asleep and snoring with an even wheeze.
"You couldn't wake him with a pork chop right now," Jase said, pulling his erection out of his pants so it could rest across his upper thigh.
Luis looked down between Jase's legs and swallowed back. It never failed, and Jase seemed to know this all too well. The minute Luis saw Jase's dick his mouth started to water. Luis glanced at the tinted window, then at the sleeping dog. A second after that, he grabbed the bottom of Jase's shaft and said, "You have a very dirty mind."
Jase grabbed the back of Luis's head and laughed. Then he pushed Luis's head down between his legs and said, "And you love it."
* * * *
When they reached the indoor parking garage a block away from their house, Luis stopped to check the inside of a small dumpster near the entrance.
"What are you doing?" Jase asked. He was standing about twenty feet away, dangling the keys to his truck. It was Saturday morning and they were heading out to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to spend the weekend with Roland and Josh.
"Just checking the dumpster to be sure there are no babies," Luis said. He lifted the lid and peered inside at dark green plastic bags, empty wine bottles, and a few scrunched-up fast food bags. Camp was in his arms. He turned his shaggy head away from the dumpster and rested it on Luis's shoulder.
In the past three months, Luis had become obsessed with trash cans and dumpsters. He couldn't pass one without experiencing a pull in his stomach. One of the female models he worked with on a TV commercial had told him all about a charity to which she was extremely devoted. It wasn't a well-known charity, like breast cancer or AIDS, but it had affected Luis so strongly he'd lost sleep thinking about it. This charity, The Angel Association, focused on abandoned babies left in trash cans and dumpsters by unwed mothers who didn't think they had any choices or options. The Angel Association set up special places in major cities where women could anonymously leave newborn babies if they didn't think they were able to care for them. The goal was to put an end to abandoning newborn babies altogether by giving these confused women the choice of leaving them anonymously in a safe place.
When Luis lowered the dumpster lid and started walking toward Jase, Jase shook his head and asked, "Did you find any babies?" He seemed to take a mild delight in Luis's obsession.
"No, thankfully, I didn't find any," Luis said, reaching for Jase's car keys. There was no way he was going to let Jase drive all the way out to Pennsylvania in the big monster of a truck. They'd wind up clipping every side mirror and fire hydrant between the Henry Hudson Parkway and the Lincoln Tunnel.
"I'm sorry if I sounded glib," Jase said. "I know how strongly you feel about The Angel Association. I don't think you should be peeking into every trash can you pass by looking for an abandoned baby, is all. Someone might get the wrong idea."
Luis continued walking to the truck, nodding at a passerby. "You never know when a baby might turn up in a dumpster. From what I've been told, it happens all the time."
When they reached the truck at the back end of the garage and Luis bent over to put Camp in the back seat, Jase grabbed his ass and squeezed it. It was a warm June day and Luis was wearing tight low-rise jeans and a tight black T-shirt that exposed about three inches of his waist. When he bent over, the T-shirt rode up his back. "What would you do if you actually found a baby in a dumpster?" Jase asked, trying to slide his hand down the back of Luis's jeans.
Luis looked up and noticed the young guy who worked in the garage was lurking at the back end of the garage, watching Jase grope his ass. The guy was pretending to sweep the floor, but every so often he'd look up with blank, glazed eyes and run the tip of his tongue across his bottom lip. So Luis stepped back and said, "I honestly don't know what I'd do if I found a baby in a dumpster, and I seriously hope I never do. I can't imagine anyone doing such a thing."
Jase patted his ass again and said, "I can't either. But, evidently, people get confused and desperate enough to do all kinds of things." He put his arms around Luis and kissed him on the lips. "I love the way you get so passionate about these things. You're one of the most caring people I know."
They were standing between Jase's large black truck and another massive black SUV, so they weren't out in the open. It was the emptiest part of the garage, way in the back. But when Luis rested his arms and Jase's shoulders, he saw the parking garage attendant gaping at them and rubbing his crotch. "We have an audience," Luis said. "The guy with the dark hair and tattoos is ready to pull his dick out of his pants. Let's get moving. We told Roland and Josh we'd be there at eleven o'clock."
"I think we should give the guy with the tattoos a little tease," Jase said.
"I don't know about that," Luis said. This guy with tattoos was always looking at them when they came to get the truck. He stared at Luis's legs and smiled; he glared at Jase's crotch and bit his lip. Though he wasn't model material, he had those dark swarthy looks, heavy five o'clock shadow, and bold primal tattoos up and down his muscular arms that had a certain appeal Luis couldn't deny.
"He's harmless," Jase said. "And he thinks we're both hot. He's flirted with me many times and I've seen the way he looks at you. We'll give him a quick tease and then we'll leave."
Luis knew how much Jase loved harmless exhibitionism, so he smiled and said, "Okay, turn me around and start kissing me." Though none of this was their usual romantic talk before sex, Luis noticed his heart was beating faster than normal and his pants were getting tighter.
When Luis's back was facing the garage attendant, he put his arms around Jase's shoulders and started kissing him. He closed his eyes and inserted his tongue into Jase's mouth, moving his head with sleazy, exaggerated motions on purpose. Jase lowered his hands and unfastened Luis's belt buckle and the button on Luis's jeans. Then Jase pulled down Luis's zipper, lowered Luis's pants enough to expose his bare ass, and started groping Luis below the waist.
Luis spread his legs a little and arched his back, quietly enjoying the attention. "Is he watching?"
"He's practically drooling now," Jase said. "He's just standing, holding the broom, pretending not to watch."
"We're bad. We're going to hell for this," Luis said. But he also had a full erection.
"Now he's standing behind the cinderblock post jacking his dick. It's huge, too. Take off your shoes and your pants. He doesn't know I'm watching him."
Luis's head went back. "Are you serious?" They'd never gone this far before. They'd put on harmless shows in safe places like bars and nightclubs. Once, when they'd first met, they'd even stripped in a public bar downtown. But they'd never put on a show in an indoor parking garage in their own neighborhood.
Jase frowned. "This guy is really into watching us. I feel kind of bad leaving now. And he always takes such good care of the truck."
So Luis decided to be a good sport. He kicked off his shoes and pulled off his socks. He looked back and forth to make sure no one could see him, then dropped his pants and stepped out of them. When he was standing there naked from the waist down, on the damp concrete, he figured he might as well remove his black T-shirt, too. Half naked wasn't any safer than fully naked, so he might as well go all the way. And he had to admit this kinky little part of their sex life made things interesting all the time. He often wondered if other married couples did things like this. He'd been tempted to ask Ben and Percy if they'd had little kinks in their long relationship, but didn't want to embarrass them. Though he was curious, he couldn't actually picture them having sex anymore.
"Is he still watching?" Luis asked. His back was still facing the parking attendant and he couldn't see what was happening.
Jase spoke with a deep, husky tone. "His pants are down to his knees and he's still jacking. I think he knows we know he's watching. He just nodded at me and smiled." Jase reached down and grabbed a handful of Luis's ass and said, "I wanna fuck you."
"I don't know, Jase." It was one thing to put on a strip show and wiggle his ass a few times, but another to fuck in a public parking garage.
"No one can see us back here," Jase said. "Only the parking attendant. We'll make it fast. I'll get in and out. Like the time we did it at the park a few weeks ago." They'd always joked about this scene as their Copulation in the Park. Luis had once read a gay book review where the reviewer talked about two men copulating and it always tickled him to think some people still referred to fucking as copulating. To Luis this was like calling a refrigerator an ice box.
Before Luis could reply, Jase pinned the front of his body to the driver's side of the truck. Before Luis could spread his legs and lean forward, Jase had his dick out of his pants and he was slipping it into Luis's ass. They didn't need condoms because they'd both tested negative for HIV and they were monogamous, like any other straight married couple. And they rarely used lube anymore. Luis had learned how to relax and accommodate Jase without it. Though not always easy for Luis, Jase said he preferred "doing it" dry. He told Luis it created more friction and made his orgasm more intense.
Jase moved fast that morning, the way Luis liked men to move. Foreplay would have been out of context and would have ruined the moment. He held Luis's hips and focused on getting the job done. Other than the screeching of tires at the opposite end of the garage, the only sounds anyone could hear were Jase's heaving breaths and his balls slapping against Luis's ass. By the time Jase grunted and slammed into Luis's one last time, Luis's body was pressed against the back door of the pickup truck. His legs were spread as wide as they would go and he was standing on his tiptoes. While Jase was still deep inside, Luis stroked his own dick a few times, tossed his head back, and let out a soft, fuzzy moan. Although this entire act had only taken two or three minutes, Luis felt the magnitude of this particular climax pass through his entire body.
"Did he get off?" Luis asked. Jase was still inside his body, moving his hips slowly.
"Oh yeah," Jase said. "You should have seen his face while we were copulating." He laughed and pushed harder.
"What is he doing now?"
"He nodded at me and waved. Now he's pulling up his pants and packing his dick into his underwear. He's so huge he's having trouble pulling up his zipper."
"You'd better pull out so we can get on the road," Luis said. "I have to go back home for a minute and use the bathroom."
"You look fine," Jase said, as he pulled out of Luis. "We don't have to go home." He put his dick back into his pants and zipped them up.
It never failed to amaze Luis how Jase didn't understand these things. "I have to clean up," he said. "I can't sit in a car for any length of time without using the bathroom after I just copulated." He bent down and reached for his jeans and his socks. "It will only take a minute."
"Maybe they have a bathroom here in the garage you can use," Jase said, as if he'd discovered a cure for cancer. "This way we don't have to go all the way back to the house."
Luis buttoned his pants and pulled up his socks. Then he picked up his T-shirt and said, "If you think I'm using some grimy parking garage bathroom, you've got another thing coming, Jase. Now get into the truck and drive me back to the house. I'll drive after that."
* * * *
The road trip to Pennsylvania shouldn't have taken more than an hour and a half at the most. But while Jase was nodding off in the passenger seat, Luis exited Route 287 and made a wrong turn in Somerville, New Jersey. He thought he'd been following the navigation system, but he wound up on Route 206 South instead of Route 202 South. They were almost in Princeton when Jase's head went up and he looked around with a bemused expression.
"This doesn't look right," Jase said. "I've been to Bucks County before and I've never seen this road. This is a two-lane highway instead of a four-lane highway. And we're not passing the outlets in Flemington. We're passing small strip malls, elementary schools, and small private homes set close to the road."
Luis's eyebrows arched and he bit his bottom lip. "I've been following the navigation thingy all the way," he said. But he didn't mention this when he saw the road sign for Somerville his heart started beating faster and he lost his concentration for a few minutes. Hillsborough, New Jersey, not far from Somerville, from what Luis had heard, was the town where Doris Duke had lived. Her old estate, Duke Farms, was now open to the public. Luis had read about it in the New York Times and he'd always wanted to go to see her infamous gardens.
They passed a sign that read Lawrenceville and Jase rolled his eyes. "You'd better pull over. I think we're on the way to Princeton instead of Bucks County."
So Luis pulled into one of those convenient-store gas station affairs and Jase went inside to ask the clerk where they were. When Luis saw the frustrated expression on his face as Jase exited the store, he sent Camp a look in the backseat and said, "I think I screwed up."
Camp's ears lifted and he wagged his tail. Luis reached into the backseat and picked him up so he could take him outside for a quick walk. But when he opened the door and got out, Jase was standing there, rubbing his jaw and staring down at the pavement.
"Guess where we are?" Jase asked, with a sly grin.
Luis shrugged and said, "From the look on your face, I'll bet it's not Bucks County, Pennsylvania." How he hated reading maps and following those annoying navigation systems. They were always so factual and articulate. If the navigation had said, "Turn left at the pink house, then right at the blue house with the white shutters," Luis would have been fine. But when they started mentioning actual street names and mile markers, Luis lost them completely. He'd never been a scientific, factual type. He'd always been more visual and artistic.
"We're not far from Princeton," Jase said. Then he sent him a weary look and shook his head again. "I knew I shouldn't have fallen asleep. I should have been paying attention to what you were doing."
Luis crossed to a grassy section not far from the truck and placed Camp on the ground. He shrugged and said, "I thought we were headed in the right direction. I blame it all on that damn navigation thing. I've read horror stories you wouldn't believe about people getting lost thanks to these things." He figured if he blamed it on the navigation system, Jase wouldn't get mad. He knew how Jase liked punctuality and they were already an hour late.
Jase swung the door open and climbed into the driver's seat. He forced a smile and said, "I think I'll drive the rest of the way."
Luis felt a thud in his stomach. They were lost because he'd been thinking about Doris Duke's estate instead of where he was going. "Are you sure? Because I don't mind driving the rest of the way."
"I'm good," Jase said, adjusting his seat belt. "I think it's best if I drive."
Luis felt a sting in his stomach. He bent down to pick up Camp without saying a word. He rounded the back end of the truck, climbed into the front passenger seat, and placed Camp on the backseat. As Jase backed out of the parking lot, Luis clicked his seatbelt and laced his fingers together on his lap. They never bickered this way in the city and he couldn't help wondering if this weekend in the country hadn't been a mistake.
When they backtracked and reached the place where Luis should have turned onto Route 202, Jase sent Luis an unforgiving glance. Luis turned his head and watched the flat New Jersey scenery drift by. They drove through Flemington without speaking. Luis was tempted to ask Jase if they could stop at a few of the outlet stores. There were clothing outlets, china outlets, shoe outlets, and sporting goods outlets all within his reach. Whenever Luis passed this many outlet stores, his heart started racing so fast he almost felt giddy. A person could spend the entire day walking from shop to shop browsing. But Luis knew how much Jase hated to shop--even in Alaska, in his own hometown--and figured he'd better not press his luck.
When they reached a desolate section of Route 202, where the grass was brown and it didn't look as though they'd never see signs of life again, Luis looked down at the speedometer and noticed Jase was doing almost eighty miles per hour. In that large truck it didn't feel as if they were doing eighty, and Jase rarely ever paid attention to his speed anyway. So Luis pointed to the dash and said, "You're speeding. This is only a fifty-five-mile-per-hour limit. I saw the sign back there." Luis never exceeded the speed limit when he drove. He always figured he'd get to where he was going in the same amount of time whether he went eighty or fifty-five.
Jase sighed. "Thank you, officer," he said. "But this is one of those stretches where no one pays attention to the speed limit. They expect you to go as fast as you want to go." Then he swung into the left lane and passed a small sports car that had to be doing at least seventy-five.
Jase didn't use a turn signal to switch lanes. But Luis didn't mention this, heaven forbid. He sat back and said, "I would imagine if they post speed limit signs, they expect people to pay attention to them. I'm just saying, is all."
Jase patted Luis's knee and sent him a patronizing smile. "You sit back and look pretty. I know what I'm doing. I've been driving for a long time, thank you."
Though the condescending man-tone in Jase's voice caused Luis's right eyebrow to go up, he didn't say a word. He sat back, folded his arms across his chest, and tightened his lips. They'd been through all this before in Alaska. Jase had taken Luis for a long ride to visit a lake and Luis had mentioned there might be icy spots on the road. He'd politely said, "I think I'd slow down a little here, Jase, if I were driving. We could wind up in a ditch." And Jase had patted his knee and sent him the same patronizing smile. "I think I know what I'm doing. Sit back and look pretty." He'd used his manly, know-it-all tone, insinuating Luis wasn't as macho as he was. But when they wound up in a ditch five miles down the road, and Jase's father had to tow them out with his truck, Luis looked down at his shoes and whistled without saying a word.
So when a New Jersey state trooper pulled Jase over before they reached the bridge to Pennsylvania for doing eighty-five in a fifty-five zone that afternoon, Luis looked in the other direction and whistled at the window. He wasn't happy Jase would receive a speeding ticket, and he certainly didn't gloat about being right. But he did look Jase directly in the eye and smile when Jase asked him to reach into the glove compartment and get the registration and insurance card. Then he sat back and listened quietly as Jase explained in a humble, apologetic tone, that he'd been speeding and not paying attention because Luis had been talking too much to him.
Unfortunately, there were two ways to get to Roland's house once they crossed the bridge that divided New Jersey from Pennsylvania. Roland had given Jase directions to go straight and the navigation system kept saying they had to get off at the first exit and follow River Road North.
"I think I'd follow Roland's directions," Luis said. "After all, he lives here and he's familiar with the area. These navigation things always take people out of their way." He hadn't planned on commenting at all since Jase had been stopped by the state trooper, but he was tired of sitting in the truck and he wanted to get there before the sun went down.
But Jase smiled and said, "I think I'll follow the navigation. They know what they are talking about. People tend to give out bad directions." Then he swerved right and exited down a long winding ramp that led to a small two lane road.
At the stop sign, Jase hit the left turn signal and Luis sat up with wide eyes. "We have to stop somewhere," Luis said. "I just remembered I forgot to bring the hostess gift." He'd left it right on the table in the front all and passed it by. No wonder. He'd been thinking about Isabelle that morning. She'd done well in surgery and she was mending fine, but she wasn't thrilled about being confined to a wheelchair for two weeks. Luis's biggest concern, and he said this to Isabelle, was that she wouldn't follow the doctor's orders.
Jase sent him a confused glance and said, "We don't need a hostess gift. Roland is a very wealthy man. He doesn't expect a gift."
Luis tightened his lips and inhaled. "Well. There's no way I'm going to someone's house for the first time empty-handed. It's just not done. We're stopping somewhere."
"Where?" His arms went up in surrender.
"I don't know," Luis said, folding his arms across his chest. "Enter something into your beloved navigation thingy and see what happens, because I have never gone to someone's house empty-handed, and I'm not going to start now."
"I don't even know where the hell we are," Jase said, lifting both palms as if he were about to give a sermon. "I don't want to get lost again. Gimme a break, for God's sake."
Luis noticed a sign that read New Hope with an arrow pointing to the right. "Make a right turn here," he said. "I'm sure there has to be a town there. I'll find a florist shop or gift shop and buy something fast. Then we can go back the same way we came."
"Jase, I'm not going there without a gift. I absolutely refuse. I'd rather turn back right now."