Lucas rolled over onto his back and stared at his bedroom ceiling. He couldn’t go to sleep. He kept thinking about Randie. She’d worn a snug shirt with a scooped neckline, and he’d wanted to dive into her cleavage. Her tight jeans showed off her firm, rounded fanny. He could hardly keep focused on cooking.
Hercules scooted closer to press himself against Lucas’s leg. The chihuahua liked body contact. Lucas gazed at the empty pillow on the other side of the bed. He could picture Randie’s long copper hair spilling over it. Damn, he had it bad. He’d almost convinced her to stay a while longer until her best friend had texted her.
He finally drifted to sleep around one, and then his alarm woke him at seven. He’d covered the ham and put it in the oven when he went to bed, like Randie had told him, and the aroma that filled the house made his mouth water. He and Hercules padded to the kitchen and he poured himself a mug of coffee. Then he dressed and loaded his pickup.
Randie pulled into his drive just before he left. He helped her carry her things into the kitchen. “I heated the ovens for you.”
She smiled her thanks. She looked especially pretty today with black eyeliner and bright lipstick. She wore a long dress that hugged her curves. He’d love to hug her curves, but reminded himself to have good manners. She was in full scale cooking mode, he could tell, so he wished her a happy Thanksgiving, and got out of her way.
Hercules sat in the passenger seat, squirming with excitement, as he drove to Dulcey’s, The chihuahua knew good food was in his future. When Lucas pulled into Dulcey’s drive, his brothers were already there.
Toby strolled to the truck and grinned. “Glad some of us could sleep in. Dylan and I took our kitchen responsibilities seriously and got here early.”
“Be honest, the kids woke you up, didn’t they?” Lucas asked.
Toby laughed. “They couldn’t wait to get here and play with their toys.”
Lucas quirked a brow at Dylan. “And you?”
“I didn’t have anything better to do, so headed over.”
Toby grabbed the ham to carry in, and Dylan took the green bean casserole and seven-layer salad. When Lucas picked up the pumpkin roll, both brothers stopped to stare.
“You didn’t make that,” Toby said. “Your gourmet specialty is chili.”
“Randie came over last night to help me, but I made it.”
Toby’s smile grew wider. “You mean you and the teacher actually got some cooking done?”
“Lots of it since you interrupted us. She got right back to serious mode.”
Toby’s smile faded. “Sorry about that. Bad timing.”
Lucas shrugged. “I’m not sure she was really ready anyway. She might have regretted it.”
“Or not.” Toby gave him a hard look. “Don’t give up on her. Hang in there.”
Lucas intended to, but he wasn’t going to share everything with his brothers. They carted their burdens into the house, then Dylan went back for the pie. Lucas got busy prepping the turkey.
Dylan frowned as he shoved quartered onions and lemons into its cavity. “What did that bird ever do to you?”
Lucas chuckled. “Randie said this adds flavor and keeps it moist.” Then he tucked softened butter under its skin, drizzled olive oil over it, and seasoned it. Once the turkey went in the oven, the brothers got busy on more sides.
“Dulcey always makes baked sweet potatoes.” Dylan didn’t like anything fancy done to them, just butter and cinnamon sugar. That’s it.
“Don’t forget spoon bread,” Toby said. “My favorite.”
Lucas had step-by-step directions for that, and they all worked together. It only needed to bake for an hour, so they set it aside. The last thing to fix were the boxes of Stove Top dressing, but they didn’t need to worry about those until the last few minutes.
Lucas rubbed his chin, staring at the ham. “Dulcey only has one oven. I didn’t think about that. I need to pour a glaze over this and put it back in the oven to set.”
“The turkey gets done at one, right?” Toby asked. “Take it out and slide in the ham. That’ll give it a half hour.”
“Do you think that’s enough?”
“We’ll find out,” Toby said.
That’s the best they could do. Lucas looked around the house and frowned. “Where are the kids? They usually come up to say hi to me.”
Dylan glanced at the steps that led to the basement. “Learn your place in the world, brother. You can’t compete with their toys.”
Okay, he got that. The three of them headed into Dulcey’s living room and circled the TV. They looked through the newspaper, sorting through tons of Black Friday ads, while they watched the Macy’s Parade. Somewhere along the line, they must have fallen asleep, because all three of them jerked awake when the stove’s buzzer went off.
It didn’t take long to finish up the meal, and then they called Jordy and Beth up to eat with them. Lucas hated to admit it, but the meal was so much more pleasant without Mom and Dad bickering at each other. He didn’t miss either one of them. He did miss Dulcey, though. He hoped she was eating something decent while she sat with Earl.
“Do you think Mom’s getting married right now?” Toby went to refill his plate. Lucas didn’t know where his brother put the food, because he could hardly make it through the first helpings of everything.
Dylan glanced at the clock. “Florida’s on the same time zone as us. I’m betting she’s a married lady now, not that she let us know anything about the ceremony or times.”
“Did you want to know?” Toby asked.
“It would have been nice if she told us something,” Dylan insisted. “She obviously didn’t care if we shared in her joy.”
“When has she ever cared about that?” Toby asked.
Lucas carried his plate to the sink to rinse. “I just hope she’s happy. She’s our mom. I hope this guy’s the right call for her.”
Toby forked more turkey. “Besides, when she’s not happy, she calls us to complain. If this guy doesn’t work, we’re going to hear about it.”
Dylan nodded, finishing the last bite on his plate. “I vote we never let Mom cook again. This was delicious. The three of us should come over and help Dulcey and tell Mom to relax.”
“If she comes for holidays anymore,” Lucas said. “She might trade allegiances and hang out with the new hubby and his family.”
“Dad might ditch us, too,” Toby said. “Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”
“You don’t want Grandpa to come?” Jordy asked, all big ears and big eyes.
Toby stumbled over words to cover himself. “Sure we do, but . . . um, well Grandpa and Grandma already argue a lot. It might make him uncomfortable . . . “ He hesitated for inspiration. “He might have trouble meeting Grandma’s new husband.”
Jordy looked satisfied with that answer. “Can we have dessert now?”
A good distraction. Lucas got up to collect dirty plates, and then he dished up dessert.
Beth ate small slices of both and smiled her pleasure. “You should make these every year, Uncle Lucas.”
After the meal, the kids disappeared into the basement again, and the brothers wandered to the TV to watch football. It didn’t seem possible, but in a few hours, they got hungry again and made themselves turkey or ham sandwiches.
When the football game ended, they started to clean the kitchen. Most of the side dishes were gone, but there was a lot of leftover turkey and ham. They divided it up between them and left another bag of each in the freezer for Dulcey.
“That way, when she comes home, she can thaw them for something quick to eat.” Dylan put Saran Wrap over the cranberry sauce to put in Dulcey’s fridge. “This goes great on turkey sandwiches.”
They sent a small plastic container of spoon bread home with Toby. Dylan took the leftover green bean casserole and seven-layer salad. He loved veggies more than Lucas or Toby. The desserts were gone. When Lucss left the house, he only took the bags of meat, Hercules—who could hardly walk he’d begged for so many scrsps—and Jordy and Beth. He always had them on Fridays, so he might as well take them now.
Dylan frowned. “Who takes them on Saturday? That was Mom’s day.”
“Why don’t I keep them the next three days?” Lucas said. “I thought we might come back here on Saturday and make a pot of chili to freeze, too. Maybe something else. That way, Dulcey will come to some meals.”
Toby stared at him. “Are you turning into Mr. Mom?”
Lucas gave him a look. “I’m thinking Dulcey’s been through the mill, and it would be nice to give her a slow start when she gets to come home.”
Toby grimaced. “Okay, I get it. I’m in for a day of cooking. Who’s buying the groceries?”
“I will,” Lucas volunteered.
Dylan glanced at Jordy and Beth, who were waiting to see if the plan would work or not. He said, “Sure, why not? The kids can play while we fix some things ahead for Sis.”
Jordy and Beth joined hands and skipped in a circle. Lucas realized how good the kids had been when their lives were disrupted. What they really wanted was to be home.
Everyone started for their vehicles. “See you on Saturday,” Lucas called. And as his brothers climbed in their vans and drove away, he realized how wonderful they were, too.
It wasn’t until his drive home that his mind went to Randie and her family. He hoped they’d enjoyed Thanksgiving at his house. He wondered how long they stayed together. Probably not long enough to watch the game. When he and Hercules walked into the kitchen, it was spotless. He’d never have known anyone had been here. But he found a note on the dining room table. YOUR HOUSE IS PERFECT FOR ENTERTAINING. WE HAD A FABULOUS TIME. GRAM LOVED IT HERE. THANKS FOR SHARING!
He looked under the sink, and she’d even taken out the trash. There was no sign of her being here besides the note. And he realized he was disappointed. He could picture her here, sharing this house and his kitchen. And his heart.