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“Because I do,” Kelsey said.

“Let’s go, children,” his father said.

They left and drove to the church. He sat there through Hailey’s wedding looking around at all his other cousins that were hooking up with people. He’d recently found out that Roark was seeing someone. It’s like they were falling left and right around him.

Marriages. Pregnancies. Engagements. Babies. The Bond family was moving on and he and Kelsey seemed to be the pigs stuck in the mud.

That was wrong. He was dating someone, but no one knew.

When they got to the reception later on and were waiting for their food to come out, Kelsey asked him, “How is Hadley doing? Aside from the marketing. How are the two of you?”

He should have figured his sister would do this and he decided there was no reason to not fill them in, but he was going to make sure no one else knew. He didn’t want it making the rounds at this wedding. Roark could have that honor.

“We’ve had a few dates,” he said.

“Dates?” his mother asked. “Really?”

“It’s new and we are both busy. I work a lot, as you all know, and then on top of that Hadley works and she is getting her cake business going.”

“Which I think is wonderful,” Kelsey said. “How is that going?”

He looked at his sister’s smirk. She was good at that. Throwing him under the bus and then getting behind the wheel, pumping the brakes and putting the signal on to turn the corner to something else.

“It seems to be good. She has a wedding coming up and then a few children’s birthday parties. She has a flyer on the board at Southside and some business cards there. She said the cards have to be replaced a few times a week.”

“Wonderful,” his father said. “This island can always benefit from competition.”

Duke snorted. “Yes and no. This is more like options. We know there aren’t a lot of choices around for cakes. One bakery and then what is in the grocery store. Otherwise you are going off island and a lot of people don’t want to do that.”

“I think it’s a great thing you are doing,” his mother said. “Letting her put her cards at the pub and then telling customers about her desserts too. You’ve always been one to encourage others and find ways to bring the best out of them.”

“He’s Jell-O like that,” Kelsey said. “All squishy and jiggly with people even when he’s big and tough on the outside.”

He wanted to snarl at his sister’s laughter. He’d been told he was a hard boss more than once in his life. He didn’t think he was hard as much as he demanded perfection.

Most that worked for him stayed. They wanted to learn and they liked the money. If you want the best you’ve got to hire the best.

He was getting there with Southside and had a lot more changes he’d like to make in his mind but was holding back. No reason to do that until he actually owned the place.

He could bump up the timeline and buy now, but why? He wanted the full summer and into the early fall to see if this was just a trend because he was the new person running it, or he could maintain it in the long run.

Did he think it’d stay this busy all year round? Absolutely not. Most places didn’t.

Duke’s was always busy but not as much as during the late spring and summer. As long as Southside was making money and holding its own, he’d be fine. He could continue to build it, he was sure.

But he’d never been one to jump fast and wasn’t going to now.

Just like his relationship with Hadley.

They’d spent a few hours together on Sunday last weekend, ended up in his bed and then they’d both gone to work.

She’d texted him later that night that she’d talked to her parents. That it was hard for her to do it, but she felt she needed to be honest with them. Her father was annoyed that he’d confronted Duke, but as he’d told Hadley, she couldn’t control that.

What he didn’t like was the fact that they let her say what she wanted but cut her off and changed the topic after. It was almost like they were babying her or still watching out for her. He wasn’t sure which one it was, but he’d be annoyed if his parents did that to him.

The last thing he was going to do was say that though. He wouldn’t get involved. No reason to. She knew how to handle her parents, or so he assumed. It wasn’t his place to say otherwise or get involved.

“Don’t be an ass,” he said to Kelsey.

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