Enjoy the love! :)
Johanna fussed with her hair in the bathroom mirror. After returning from the hospital, she’d agreed to the boys’ requests that she stay away from the kitchen, dining, and living room areas. She’d worked a little in her office, showered, and now had on a black tank dress that cut to a V at her breasts. A bit of makeup graced her face and a necklace with a silver heart on the end Kam had given her one Christmas was around her neck. She hoped she had the right look going for whatever Kam, Holden, and apparently even Ted were scheming to do tonight.
She’d beaten herself up mentally about cutting into the vision Holden had at the hospital, but he’d looked pale and hazy. Her first thought had been that Dr. Sakala had delivered some horrifying news. She should have known he was remembering something by the faraway expression on his face.
She inspected herself in the mirror again and said to Miles sitting by her feet, “I’ll make it up to him later tonight.” She adjusted her breasts in the dress to make more of her cleavage show. “Hope you can handle Fancy Johanna, Holden Lancaster.”
After smearing on more lipstick, she snuck into her bedroom with Miles scratching along behind her. She peered at the alarm clock by her bed. 6:58 p.m. Two minutes until Holden said she was allowed to make her appearance in the kitchen. Fifty-seven seconds to think about how wonderful it was to have Holden around. Forty-nine seconds to wonder if she’d gone overboard with the lavender body spray. Thirty-eight seconds to think about how happy Kam was about spending time with Holden. Thirty-two seconds to be impressed by the progress of Ted’s cabin. Twenty-six seconds to worry about Alex getting beat up in prison. Twenty-one seconds to consider putting on shoes, then deciding against it. Fourteen seconds to open her bedroom door a crack and inhale the garlic-scented air coming from the forbidden rooms. Nine seconds to brush dog hair off her dress, six seconds to give herself one more look in the bathroom mirror, three seconds to edge down the hallway and…
“Johanna,” Holden said, nearly bumping into her. “You’re right on schedule, my lady, and you look…holy shit, you look amazing.” He stared at her for a moment before shaking his head. Ah, the power of the little black dress.
He bowed before her and held out his elbow. He wore black jeans and a white T-shirt with a black, construction paper bow tie around his neck.
“Nice outfit on you too.” Johanna hooked her arm through his, and he escorted her into the dining room.
He adjusted the paper tie. “Thank you. We went top-of-the-line on everything this evening.” His grin sent ripples of arousal through Johanna.
He pulled out a chair and motioned for her to sit. Miles made a big circle around the table, but scooted into the kitchen when Kam came into the dining room also wearing black pants, a white T-shirt, and a paper bow tie. Johanna laughed and held out her hand to her son.
“Come over here.” She wiggled her fingers. “You look so handsome.” She raised her gaze to Holden. “Both of you do.”
Ted came hobbling in on his crutches wearing the same uniform, though his tie was a little crinkled and crooked.
“Wow,” Johanna said. “Ted too. This is quite an accomplishment.” Ted rarely deviated from his stained, heavy-duty work pants and threadbare T-shirts.
“It’s for a good cause,” Ted said as he settled in the chair at the head of the table.
Kam pulled out the closest chair so Ted could elevate his leg. “How’s that feel, Pep?”
“It feels like a pretty nurse gave me exactly the right pills.” He ruffled Kam’s hair and turned toward Johanna. “I may have convinced said pretty nurse to make a home visit to this invalid tomorrow. That okay?”
“Yeah,” Johanna said. “If I can take in pilots that fall from the sky, you can certainly have nurses stopping by.”
“No nurses,” Ted said. “Just one nurse.”
“A very special nurse,” Kam teased.
“Quit it, kid. I’ve got pictures of you learning how to use the crapper I can show Crystal, or Catherine, or…what’s her name?”
“I’m not telling you.” Kam stuck out his tongue at Ted, then looked at Holden. “Can we start now?”
“Yeah, Holden, can we start now?” Johanna mimicked Kam’s pleading tone and clapped her hands together. “What smells so good?”
“Me,” all three of the males answered together.
“You’re all so modest.” Johanna laughed.
“Kam, come help me.” Holden directed the boy back into the kitchen leaving Johanna and Ted in the dining room.
“What’s going on here?” Johanna asked.
“A little appreciation, that’s all.” Ted waved the bottle of wine he’d uncorked and Johanna handed him her glass. As he filled it, he said, “You take care of everybody, Johanna. Tonight is to show you how much we love you.” He tapped his glass to hers and they both took a sip.
Love. Johanna let this word cycle around her head. She knew Kam loved her. He said it all the time and well, they had ten years together under their collective belts. Ted loved her like a daughter as she loved him like a father. Her own father had died before she’d gotten married and truthfully, she’d never been that close to him. Not as close as she was to Ted.
But Holden? Does he love me too? Do I love him? She could see how easy it would be to fall completely in love with Holden, but was that wise? She kept telling herself that his past wouldn’t change things, but her more logical side knew that wasn’t necessarily true. He could remember something that would make it impossible for them to be together. That thought made her stomach protest.
“Hey.” Ted’s voice made her look at him. “Don’t think too hard, sweetheart. Enjoy the night. Holden and Kam worked hard.”
“Under your expert guidance, no doubt.”
Ted held out his hands. “Of course.”
With Miles on his heels, Kam came back into the dining room toting a bowl of salad, Holden right behind him with dressings and a basket of bread. When everyone had a full plate and a chunk of bread, Holden stood at his seat and cleared his throat.
“This evening is in tribute to the wonderful…”
“the amazing…” Kam added.
“the superfantasticspectacular…” Ted chimed in.
“woof…” Miles inserted.
“Johanna Ware,” Holden finished. “I know I haven’t been here as long as these other two guys, but you make me feel as if I have.”
Yeah, definitely easy to fall in love with him.
He motioned to Kam who reached under the table and presented Johanna with a neatly folded T-shirt. When she shook it out, the words, “World’s Best Everything” graced the front of it.
“We were going to make you a trophy,” Kam started, “but then no one else will know how awesome you are. This you can wear in public.” His little face beamed at her, and Johanna squeezed him around the waist.
“Thanks. All of you.” Her throat was tight as she fought not to cry like a blubbering idiot.
Holden held up his wine glass. Ted held up his, and Kam held up his glass of milk.
“To Mom!” Kam roared.
They clinked glasses and dove into a meal Johanna would never forget. Stuffed mushrooms. Eggplant parmigiana with pasta. Fruit plate. Chocolate velvet pie for dessert. Each course brought her new levels of bliss. No one had ever cooked for her like this. Not her mother when she was a child. Not Alex. Not even restaurants she’d gone too, even the fancier ones when on a business meeting.
And it was more than the food being tasty. The guys had somehow managed to bake their gratitude into every bite.
“You’re all magnificent,” she announced when only crumbs remained on their dessert plates. She got up and kissed Ted on the cheek and Kam on the forehead. When she got to Holden’s seat, Ted nudged Kam.
“Come on, kid. Let’s get started on cleaning that kitchen. She ain’t going to think we’re that magnificent if she sees the mess in there.”
When they were gone, Holden pushed his chair back from the table and patted his lap. Johanna lowered and slid her arms around his shoulders.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
He reached up and kissed her lips. A few slow tastes, but that was enough to get her hungry for more.
“This was a lovely night, Holden. Lovely.” She cupped his face in her hands and got lost in the blue of his eyes.
“Was?” He arched an eyebrow. “Who said it was over?”