Jordan invited the new students to go for ice cream, but it went badly. Jian is decidedly interested in Jordan, and Brian wasn’t happy about that. When Jian grabs his sister’s hand in a painful grip, Jordan steps in, doing the same thing to him. Later, she and Brian are talking about the incident.
“Because she’s scared of something. And because he’s a jerk. I’m not sure he’s the one she’s afraid of—entirely. There’s a shadow around her. Didn’t you see it?”
Brian shook his head. “I was too busy being battered by Jian’s bad vibes. We had a moment when he told me about his father’s pottery business, then he focused on you and asked if you had a sister who liked Asians.”
“Is that what you got so angry about?”
“You didn’t see the look on his face. Like he wanted to eat you, in a totally non-cannibalistic way.”
“Oh, my God. Ew! Seriously!”
“He practically licked his lips. I wanted to clock him. But he’s been an ass since I met him. Second I walked in the room, he took offense and nothing I said made any difference. He’s all about challenging.”
“You’re a very confident man, Brian,” Jackie said from the doorway. “You have an aura about you of strength and power. If he’s at all sensitive, he’d feel that. To some men, that’s a challenge of itself. It wouldn’t matter what you did or said, it would be seen as a threat.”
“Well, I’m sure he’s just wild about me,” Jordan said. “Since I nearly broke his hand.”
Brian pressed his lips tightly together, meeting Jackie’s knowing glance. “Actually.” He cleared his throat sharply. “I think it turned him on.”
“Oh, yuck! Guys are so weird! Would that excite you?”
Ears burning, he turned his head aside. Jackie smirked.
“Honey, how do you suppose he knew?”
“Oh, my god, Brian. Seriously?” She punched him in the chest.
“Strong women are my weakness,” he admitted. “I always had the hots for Wonder Woman.”
“You’re freaking weird. I want you to know that.” She smacked him again.
He shrugged, smiling. “I’m a guy. Sue me.”
“Honey, stop hitting the boy.”
Jordan paused, her hand halfway to Brian. Blushing furiously, she hopped up and ran to the small bathroom under the stairs. Strange sounds came from inside. Brian couldn’t tell for sure, but he thought she was giggling.
“Yeah, laugh at my pain,” he mumbled, adjusting his jeans.
“This is awkward for her, too,” Jackie said quietly. “In many ways, she’s still a little girl. She isn’t used to a man’s interest.”
Brian nodded, swallowing hard. “Excuse me.” He walked out to the front porch and sat on the swing.
Jackie let him go, watching to be sure he was safe. She knew he could defend himself, but she still worried. Part of that was normal motherly concern, the rest was very real fear for his safety. Something in the atmosphere had become super charged in the last few hours. From what she could tell, it coincided with Brian meeting Jian and Lien. She hoped she was wrong, that it was some coincidence, but she’d given up believing in those decades ago.
Dinner was delicious, but conversation was somewhat subdued. Brian, as always, helped clean up afterward, thanking Jackie politely for the meal. Heath still wasn’t home, but they’d been told he was working with Neil.
“Your folks should be back soon. Do you want to take Elise home?”
“I don’t have a carseat at the moment. She did a nuclear poop in it and I had to wash it out. Forgot to put it back in.”
“Okay. Do you want to stick around until they get here?”
“Yeah. I don’t feel like going home to an empty house tonight.”
“I could use more math help,” Jordan hinted.
“Babe, you need more than just math help, but I’m not here to criticize.”
Jordan raised her fist to punch him, but rethought that action. Instead, she scurried ahead and got out the paper and math book.
Her father had converted the formal dining room to a study space and office, with Brian’s help. It was a blend of antique furniture and high tech equipment that was very comforting and welcoming. With the exception of the crystal room, this was Brian’s favorite spot in the Barrett house. The walls were a creamy yellow above and dark wood wainscoting below. The floor was red oak, covered with a Persian style carpet that picked up the warm browns and yellows of the room, adding brilliant red, blue and green to the mix. The walls were covered with family portraits going back to when Jordan was a little girl. Her brothers were in their teens and she was in elementary school. Brian loved to see all their faces smiling at him.
“Scott and Ryan are coming for Thanksgiving,” Jordan said, standing at his elbow. “Ben can’t make it this year. He’s going to be in Japan on unavoidable business, but his wife and their kids are coming.”
© 2018 Dellani Oakes
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