At Jordan’s house, they talk about the encounter with the Fēngs. He tells her that Jian was interested in her, in a more than friendly way. After dinner, they sit down to study Jordan’s math and she tells him that her brothers are coming for Thanksgiving.
“It will be good to see everyone. I like your family. They’re really wonderful people.”
“Thank you. We like to think so. Of course, Jenna will prepare turkey for those of us who like to partake. Mom allows meat at three meals: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Otherwise, strictly vegetarian.”
“Yeah, I know. But she’s still a hell of a cook.” He held Jordan’s chair for her before sitting down. She used to protest that, but the rug made the heavy chairs hard to scoot in. “So, do you think you’ll stick with that when we’re married? Are we going to be a vegetarian household?”
“Do you want to be?”
“Not at all. Just, I concede to the woman who can cook.”
“You think I’m fixing all the meals?” She bridled, half rising from her chair.
Brian held out his hands as if she had a gun on him. “We’ve eaten my cooking. Passably edible. We’ve also sampled yours, far better. I’ll help you in any way you want, but if we rely on my powers of preparation, we’ll eat a lot of mac and cheese or hot dogs.”
“Well, when you put it that way. A healthy blend. I like variety.”
“So do I.”
Heath came in a few minutes later, smiling. He kissed his wife and daughter and picked up Elise. She grabbed his lips, pulling at his mouth. He laughed awkwardly as Jackie loosened the baby’s fingers.
“Kid’s got a hell of a grip,” Heath said, giving Elise a kiss and snuggle. “Don’t you, little miss?” He tossed the toddler in the air, catching her deftly.
Jackie gasped, scolding.
“I did this with every one of our kids. They all survived.”
“But she’s not ours!”
“Does she look hurt?” Heath said, holding the baby under his arm like a sack of potatoes.
Elise giggled, pulling at her toes so she curled around his arm. Jackie rolled her eyes and left him to play with the baby.
“Math tonight?” Heath asked from the hallway.
“Yep. I can tell that it’s going to kick my butt this year,” Jordan said. “Only a week in and I’m already lost.”
“Brian will help you, honey. You know that.”
“I should be able to do this on my own!”
“You can,” Brian assured her. “You just need the right mind set. Decide you’ll kick math’s ass, not the other way around.”
“Sss, sss, sss,” Elise said. “Aah-sss.”
“Oh, shit,” he muttered.
“Sh, sh, sh!” Elise added.
“Great. She’ll be the only toddler who can swear.” He put his hands over his mouth and concentrated on math for several minutes.
“Mom tells me you met some new friends,” Heath said, leaning against the dining room doorway.
“Not exactly friends,” Brian replied, scowling. “Well, Lien’s not so bad, but her brother’s a jerk. He told me I’m the alpha male and acted like I was trying to insult him.”
“Ooh,” Heath said, sitting across from them. “Did you strut around like a peacock?”
Brian sputtered. “I never strut. I walk.”
“There’s some strutting,” Jordan said, completely straight faced. “You get that broad shouldered, big guy walk. All legs and swinging arms.” She got up, doing an exaggerated imitation of a tall man walking.
“I don’t!” It took a moment to realize they were teasing him. “Oh, funny. I have long legs. Am I supposed to take little baby steps?” He made walking motions with his fingers.
“You do have an air of command around you, Brian,” Heath said in all seriousness. “You’ve been through a lot. That’s bound to show. Some men, they don’t take that well. They want to be number one.”
“Let him be. I don’t care. I don’t have time for his petty posturing.”
“Alpha isn’t something you give away, it’s earned or taken,” Heath explained. “Did you challenge him?”
“Not at first, but when he eyed Jordan like his next good meal, I did. Don’t look at my woman like that, I’ll take you apart!”
“Your woman?” Jordan bridled. “I’m your possession now?”
“Oh, jeez! Not you too!” He slammed the book closed, standing abruptly. Grabbing his keys and phone, he stalked out of the house as his parents were pulling up. He didn’t even stop to say hello, merely jumped off the porch, got in his car and left.
© 2018 Dellani Oakes