In the kitchen she set the bag on the counter and took the other from him.
He shrugged off his computer satchel and set it down near the door. “I thought Chinese would probably be the easiest. I hope that’s okay?”
“Great. We love Chinese but we don’t have it very often.” She pulled a cabinet door open and took out plates. “If you would look in that cabinet,” she pointed next to him, “and get some drinking glasses out I’d appreciate it.”
“So how do you feel the grant’s coming along?” Cynthia put the plates on the table.
Sean took the glasses to the refrigerator and started filling them with ice. “Much better than it was a week ago.”
“As soon as we’re finished with dinner, I’ll help you sort through some of the missing parts. We’ll have a look and see if we can get it finished up.”
“I’d rather do something else,” he wiggled his eyebrows, “but it’s due next week. Being sidetracked by a beautiful woman hadn’t been in my plans.”
Cynthia giggled. She liked him thinking her beautiful. “Don’t worry. A few more nights’ work and we’ll have you in good shape.”
“You already have me out of shape most of the time,” his warm breath brushed her ear as he passed her on the way to the table.
A fire pooled in her center. “There you go with those innuendos again. Focus or we won’t get anything done.”
Sean took a chair. “I have some ideas that we can try.”
“What ideas are y’all talking about?” Rick asked as he lumbered into the kitchen. “Hi Sean.”
Cynthia’s face heated and she looked away. “We are just talking about some work Sean needs to do.” She glanced back at Sean. He was grinning. Darn him, he was enjoying this. “Supper,” she called.
“Hello Rick,” Sean said.
Mark filed into the kitchen seconds later.
“Hey, doc,” he said.
The boys took their seats at the table.
“Wow. Chinese takeout. I love it,” Rick said as he pulled his chair up.
Sean joined them at the table. “I’m glad to know you like it. This is from my favorite Chinese Restaurant.”
Cynthia brought over a pitcher of iced tea and placed it on the table before she took her chair. They passed the boxes of food around the table, each filling their plate.
“So Cyn, what happen last night? I never heard you come in,” Mark grinned at her.
Panic fill Cynthia. Mark had noticed. Could they see her guilt?
Rick looked from her to Mark. “I didn’t know you weren’t here. You never spend a night away.”
Now she was not only put on the spot but she sounded pathetic in front of Sean.
He spoke before she had a chance. “We were watching a movie and I was called to an emergency at the hospital. Your sister was on the couch asleep when I got home almost at daylight. I needed some rest so I brought her home this morning.”
Sean hadn’t lied. He just hadn’t told the whole story. At least he’d saved her further explanation. It was nice having someone around who had her back.
“So’re you Cynthia’s new boyfriend?” Rick asked. “This is the second time you’ve been to dinner in two weeks.”
“Your sister is a beautiful and amazing woman. I’d be honored to be her boyfriend,” Sean announced while looking at her. His shining eyes made her heart flip.
If she hadn’t already been crazy about Sean she would be now. Smiling serenely, she looked at her brothers. Both boys’ mouths were slack, then they swallowed.
“Well, that sounds good to me.” Rick forked up a pile of rice.
“Whatever,” Mark said with a lift of his shoulder. “It’s about time. No one’s been around since that dofus Gary left.”
“I can assure you I’m no dofus.” Sean looked at them until they nodded.
Cynthia needed a moment. She hopped up and pretend to look for something in a kitchen drawer. She returned with a large spoon she placed in the box of rice.
“So’re you the reason she spent so much time in the bathroom a while ago?” Rick asked.
Sean glanced at her and grinned.
Now he knows she was primping for him. It might be true but she hadn’t wanted it announced. “That’s enough about me. Y’all can talk about someone else now.” She kept her head down and concentrated on her food.
Sean looked around the table. He was enjoying the high color in Cynthia’s cheeks and the indirect concern of her brothers to know where he fit into the picture. “I appreciate y’all letting me horn in on your family dinner night. So what’s it all about?”
“It so we can stay connected.” Mark and Rick said in unison as if they had heard it over and over.
“It’s something mom did and Cynthia insists that we continue to do it too,” Mark said with a hint of disgust.
“Yeah. Cynthia wants to make sure we don’t drift apart,” Rick finished.
“It can be easy to do.” Sean knew too well how that happened. But it wasn’t about drifting off with he and his family. He just didn’t have anything in common with them. Even so, he was a man who was standing on his own two feet. How his family lived didn’t affect him any longer. Wasn’t a reflection on how he thought.
Each person at the table concentrated on their food for a few minutes before Cynthia asked, “So Mark, how’s the job going?”
“I like it okay,” he grunted between mouthfuls of food. “But I don’t know if I want to do it all my life.”
“What’re you doing?” Sean asked.
“I’m working at a local auto station doing oil changes,” Mark said.
Sean picked up an egg roll. “I’m not much of a mechanic. You can learn a lot of useful information on the job. Maybe one day open your own garage.”
“Yeah, that’s an idea.” Mark didn’t sound all that enthusiastic.
“But you know, if you had a business degree and decided you wanted to start your own automotive store you’d have a better chance of succeeding,” Sean said.
Mark gave Sean a pointed looked. “That means more school and I’m not really into school.”
Sean nodded. “I understand I didn’t always like school either. It wasn’t until I went to med school that I really started enjoying it. Sometimes we just have to endure to get where we want to be.”
Cynthia took his hand under the table and gave it a quick squeeze. He felt more a part of her family than he ever had his own. She appreciated his efforts to encourage her brother to return to school. But did he want that kind of responsibility?
“I had an another recruiter come look at me for a basketball scholarship today,” Rick said bashfully.
“You did?” Cynthia leaned forward in excitement.
“Yeah,” Rick said. “Coach says I’m going to have to make a decision soon.”
“We’re going to need to discuss your offers and decide what’s your best fit,” Cynthia offered a box of food to Sean.
“And what do you want to do?” Sean asked.
“I kind of want to stay close,” Rick said.
A smile lit Cynthia’s face. “I like that idea.”
“Ah,” Mark said. “You’d like it if we lived under this roof with you for the rest of your life.”
“Would that be so bad?” Cynthia asked in a teasing tone.
Surely she didn’t think that? Sean watched their interaction.
Hers was a family with several dynamics going on. Each of them seemed unsure and still trying to find their way. Even Cynthia had her desire to return to nursing school yet she was holding back. He’d lived a large part of his life with people like that. Sean wasn’t sure he wanted any part of that again. He’d set his goals and was working toward them without deviating. His promise to himself was never to have anything to do with being haphazard again. Cynthia’s family seemed very much that way. But could he give up Cynthia because of it? No grown man should be so foolish over one small woman. But he was.
“If I did that then I’d have to hear about my clothes being on the floor in my room all the time and my underwear laying on the bathroom floor. Or not closing the refrigerator door good enough,” Rick complained.
“I’m not that bad!” Cynthia exclaimed.
Mark popped up with, “Oh yeah you are. You pitch a fit if I don’t park on the right
side of the driveway so you don’t have to get me up to move my car in the morning.”
“And in our own place we could wrestle in the living room anytime we wanted.” Rick put his palm up and Mark slapped his against it.
Sean laughed. “I couldn’t wrestle in the living room growing up either. Never did like that rule.”
Cynthia looked at him in disbelief. “Thanks for helping out there, Sean.”
He lifted a shoulder and grinned. “Well, I didn’t.”
“We could have our own bathrooms. Mark and I hated sharing a bathroom with Cynthia when she was in high school. We used to dance around out in the hall needing to pee and she still wouldn’t let us in,” Rick said as if he still didn’t understand her need to primp.
“Okay,” Cynthia scooted back her chair. “I think that’s enough family sharing for one night.”
“I was sort of enjoying this discussion.” Sean said with a hint of laugher in his voice.
“Please don’t encourage them.” She looked at her brothers, smiling with obvious affection.
“Guys, please scrape your plates and put them in the dishwasher. Sean and I have some work to do in here.”
Sean was glad to see the boys doing as she asked. With her brothers gone he helped finish cleaning up.
“Do your brothers ever really help you with meals or the house?” Sean asked as he took boxes to the trash.