Suzie gave Ben a quick kiss on the forehead as she handed him a nylon, thermal lunch box.
“Mom,” Ben wriggled his shoulders uncomfortably. “Don’t do that.” He looked past her shoulder.
Following his gaze, Suzie glanced down the hall running the length of the house right down the middle from the front door to the utility room. Drew stood at the opposite end, over by entry to the kitchen.
“Ah,” Suzie said knowingly. So Ben didn’t want Drew to see him as nothing but a little kid. She could understand that. Instead of saying “I love you” out loud the way she always had before they took in boarders, she mouthed it. “Have a good day.”
Ben grinned his gratitude, then charged out the front door. A yellow school bus rolled past, making him sprint off to the bus stop.
After closing the door Suzie turned around. Drew leaned against the wall where he had been standing before, his arms folded.
“Do you need something?” She headed toward him, but instead of stopping in the hall, she turned the corner and headed into the kitchen. She did not want to stand in the hall to chat where she would have to look up at his handsome face and pretend her attraction to him didn’t bother her.
Coming into the warm and inviting kitchen after having traveled through the shadowy central hall made her feel good. The cupboards and stove called to her. More than any other part of the house, this was home.
He followed close behind. “I’d like to talk.” His voice was rich and deep. She liked it, but it made her uncomfortable.
“All right.” Rather than look him in the eye, she pulled out a porcelain mixing bowl, the kind with the thick blue line an inch or so below the rim. Next she grabbed the canister in which she kept her quick mix. She measured out enough for a batch of pancakes.
“What are you doing?”
“You don’t have to do that. Remember what we agreed on during supper last night? You only have to cook dinner four times a week. You don’t have to make us breakfast at all.”
“I know. And thanks for last night.” Suzie gave him a smile, then stepped around him to get milk and eggs from the refrigerator. He was such a considerate man. She really appreciated his support last night. But he wasn’t going to keep her from cooking when she felt like it. At the moment she very much felt like it.
He took the eggs and milk from her hands and set them on the counter. “Then why are you doing it?”
Suzie shrugged. “I feel like it.”
He caught her in a stiff-armed grasp before she could get around him. His hands were large, covering her shoulders more effectively than the shoulder pads in the 80’s retro power jacket hanging in the back of her closet. Warm and firm, his hands held her with gentle strength. She sternly told herself not to think of him in sexual terms, though she couldn’t keep from thinking what it would be like to be held close.
“Really? You aren’t doing it because Miranda wants you to do it?”
Suzie snorted a burst of laughter. “No. Miranda is my best friend, but I don’t cook just because she expects it. Now, if you don’t mind.” She regretfully peeled one of his hands off her shoulder, then let go and stepped back.
“All right. But if you ever need someone to back you up, I’ll be there for you.” He held her gaze, his expression earnest and sincere.
Suzie smiled, then grinned . The man was serious. He wanted to be her friend. “Thanks. I’ll remember that.” Before she did something stupid she measured out the milk and cracked two eggs. “Do you have time for breakfast? There’ll be plenty.”
“Sure.” He settled in one of the chairs around the kitchen table. “I won’t be going anywhere until this afternoon. Do you make pancakes every day?”
“No. Sometimes I make cereal.” She flashed him another grin, glancing up only long enough to see that he caught the joke.
He flashed a smile back, getting the message and returning it with interest. “Lucky Charms? I’m partial to Wheeties myself.”
Vin walked in, and automatically went to the cupboard, and pulled out a stack of plates. “Ben’s at school, right?” He had four of them in his hand.
“Yep. Thanks Vin.”
“Taking a lot for granted, aren’t you, Vin?” Drew took the plates from Vin and disbursed them around the kitchen table while Vin dipped into the silverware drawer.
“I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist. Suzie likes to cook.”
“Sometimes,” Suzie said. “When I feel like it. Right now I feel like it.”
Really, she didn’t mind Vin’s assumption. She knew he would have simply grabbed something out of the refrigerator if he hadn’t found her cooking when he came into the kitchen. Drew was the one who made her nervous, though she had a feeling he would simply serve himself the same as Vin.
Drew arched an eyebrow from the other side of the table, but said nothing.In the mood for something a little extra, Suzie washed up some strawberries and set out some yogurt to top her pancakes as well as setting out maple syrup for anyone who wanted it.
Miranda waltzed into the kitchen next. She looked at Drew and smiled, then looked at Vin and lost her smile, then caught sight of the platter filled with pancakes and grinned.
“I knew you’d be too nervous not to cook,” she said as she pulled out a chair.
Suzie darted a glance at Drew, and regretted it immediately. Understanding dawned on his handsome face, then grew into a wide, knowing smile. If he’d been Vin he probably would have winked. Instead, he helped himself to some pancakes, smile firmly entrenched.
This is Suzie’s House 11: Good Morning