Brent and Avery joined a handful of women for Currie’s cooking class. Emeralda had brought fresh cod for their first lesson, and Currie showed her guests how to sauté the fillets and finish the fish in the oven before they turned their hands to a white wine sauce for its topping.
“I’m not a big fish eater, but this tempts me,” Leann Nelson said. As usual, where Leann went, Teri followed.
“I make two dishes each evening,” Currie said. “We’ll offer mushroom lasagna for our second entrée.”
“Isn’t lasagna hard to make?” Teri asked.
“Not once you master a béchamel sauce.” Currie turned to her pot rack to grab a huge sauce pan and nearly ran into Avery. He came to stand so close to her that her elbow jabbed his shoulder when she lowered the pot. “Sorry.”
He rubbed the spot and nodded, but didn’t back away.
“You’d better give me some space,” Currie warned. “I move around a lot when I cook.”
He took a few steps back, but never took his eyes off her. Finally, just to get rid of him, Currie gave him a half dozen acorn squash to cut in half and clean. By the time he put pats of butter in each half with a dash of salt and brown sugar, Currie and the others had assembled the lasagna and were ready to slide everything in the ovens.
“That’s it for today,” she said. “You’ve made the main dishes for supper--cod, baked squash, and lasagna. See you at dinner.”
“I could stay and help,” Avery offered when the others left.
“That’s what I’m for,” Thora said. “You don’t want to take my job, do you?”
“No, but I’d be happy to give you a break.”
“We’re here to give YOU a break,” Thora teased. “Now get out of here and go entertain yourself somewhere!” She shooed him out of the kitchen and rolled her eyes at Currie. “He’s smitten.”
“He’s lonely. The poor guy lost his job. . .”
“What did he do?” Thora interrupted.
“Vice president over production for some company. It merged with a bigger company, and Avery was out on the street. He couldn’t find another job that paid the same amount of money, and his wife left him. His kids are grown. No problem there, they get along, but they live in different cities. He came here to rethink things, maybe start over.”
“Fresh starts aren’t so bad.” Thora rubbed her belly and a dreamy look came over her face.
“After he lost his job, he started doing research and writing technical articles to make ends meet,” Currie said. “He’s good at it. That’s why I gave him the job of listing all of the species on the island for his project.”
“I’ve seen him in the library a lot, talking to Brie.”
“Once he corners a person, it’s hard to get away. I’ve watched the guests try to avoid him.”
“Brie seems to enjoy him. They were digging around for some odd books that no one’s looked at for ages. She knows where every book is on every subject. I don’t know how she remembers them all.”
If anyone could, it would be Brie. Currie sometimes thought that her sister’s brain was a giant, efficient filing cabinet.
“Your mother’s around a lot of mortals, isn’t she?” Currie asked Thora, changing the subject.
“Yeah, she lives in a clear stream in a beautiful wilderness. Lots of mortals visit to hunt and fish and camp.”
“Is she ever afraid of them?”
Thora stopped cutting apples for the Waldorf salad. “Every time I see her, Mom tells me that mortals are unpredictable. Even the ones who appreciate nature don’t always respect it. She considers them the most dangerous species on earth.”
“Ward Darrow gave me a long lecture today on how dangerous it is for five women to invite a dozen people on the island when we don’t really know any of them.”
Thora turned the heat down under Currie’s sautéed spinach. “You’re not concentrating. Not like you. But he’s right. It is dangerous.”
“He said that we need a man on the island.”
“Did he now? Is he volunteering?”
“No, it wasn’t like that. His dad’s a cop, and he thinks we’re being too careless. I told him that Dad was always here before, but we haven’t had time to find someone else since he died only three weeks ago.”
“Did you tell him that the five of us are safe? We can always meld into our trees or water. It’s the other humans that would be in trouble.”
“That’s a little tricky to explain.”
Thora glanced out the back window at the dark-haired man stacking stones in neat piles. “I love it when he sweats. His shirt sticks to his muscles.” She sighed. “I wonder if he’ll be able to see Emeralda in her tree.”
Currie felt ashamed when she found herself hoping that he wouldn’t. And she was grateful that she was starting a ceramics class that evening after supper. Anything to keep her mind off him.