If Cade Archer could have predicted how he’d spend his thirtieth birthday, he’d have only been part right. Surrounded by the Brotherhood, the secret society he’d been in since college? Check. Playing a hand of poker in a smoky cellar beneath a club he owned? Check. The men chewing on cigars and discussing business strategies as usual?
Not so much.
“Check this shit out,” Reese Durham said, pushing a sonogram picture toward the center of the table. “He’s got a dick like a baby’s arm.”
Griffin Verdi picked up the photo and squinted at it. “You sure that’s not, in fact, the baby’s arm?”
“Nope.” Reese chewed on the end of his cigar¸ looking quite pleased with himself. “Reese Junior’s packing some major heat.”
Griffin rolled his eyes and tossed the picture back down. Undeterred, Reese snatched it up and offered it to Hunter. “So when are you and Gretchen thinking about children?”
“Maybe next year,” Hunter said, studying the photo. “After the wedding.”
“No children for us yet,” Logan said. “Brontë wants to finish her degree first. I’m certainly in no rush.”
“Amen,” Griffin said. After a moment, he added, “Though I wouldn’t mind if Maylee and I had a happy accident.”
At his side, Jonathan Lyons dropped a handful of chips onto the pile. “Violet and I are hoping for a happy accident. Maybe sooner than later.”
“Ha,” Reese said, and punched Jonathan in the arm affably. “Go for it. Raw-dog her, man. Our kids can nanny swap.”
“That is a horrid term,” Griffin said. “Raw . . . dog?”
“I know! Good grief, I know.”
Cade just shook his head and picked through his cards. Definitely not what he’d have expected for his thirtieth birthday. He’d pictured spending it with his friends, of course, but talking about babies and marriages? Not exactly. Hardened bachelor Reese had turned from ladies’ man to future daddy and expert on everything husband-related.
In fact, everyone in their small circle had more or less settled down in the last year.
Everyone except Cade.
It wasn’t that he didn’t date. Okay, maybe he didn’t. It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested in women. He was. Actually, there was one in particular he’d been messed up over for the last, oh, fifteen years or so. He was just waiting for the right one to come around to the idea of being with him.
He thought of Daphne, her wicked smile and devilish attitude, the way she’d draped her arms around him so sweetly . . . and then he thought of the time she’d OD’d in his arms, limp and cold, her lips tinged with blue.
Maybe marriage and a happy-ever-after just wasn’t in the cards for someone like him. He pushed a handful of chips into the center of the table. “Raising you, Jon.”
“Bastard,” Jon said with a grin, and the topic returned to cards once more.
Cade checked his phone discreetly as the others put in their bids. Daphne was supposed to text him when she was out of her practice session. The last time they’d talked—via hastily typed texts—she’d told him she had long dance-routine numbers she had to endure for her upcoming concert and this weekend were dress rehearsals. But she wanted to do something for his birthday, she’d said. She’d buzz him and let him know her schedule.
But that was days ago, and Daphne had never called.
And here he was, thirty and alone. That should have told him something right there. That when it was convenient for Daphne, she liked Cade around. And when it wasn’t . . . he wasn’t even on her radar.