“How do I know this isn’t laced with something,” I asked, working my way up from the couch as she went into my kitchen. “You could be trying to kill me.”
“If I wanted to kill you, I would not waste good food to do it. Not when I know so many better ways.”
“Is that supposed to be comforting?”
“I wasn’t really going for comfort. I was just speaking the truth.” She moved to the sink to wash her hands, stopping when she noticed the burned-out pan in the sink. “You tried to cook something?”
She laughed. “Mmmhmm. Have a seat.”
I took a seat at the counter as she took down plates and glasses, and got forks for both of us. Even though it took her a bit of searching, she didn’t ask questions, so I didn’t feel compelled to point anything out.
Besides, I liked the view.
“How do I even know you can cook?” I asked, as she began making plates.
Kyle looked up, wearing a smirk. “You don’t… but I can. And I can prove it,” she added, sliding the plate across the counter to me. She extended a fork, and I took it, ready – and willing – to latch onto any reason roast her into oblivion.
There were none.
There was only tender, flavorful chicken, buttery mushrooms and savory sauce. Crispy edged brussels sprouts. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly textured mashed potatoes.
Goddamn, I thought, closing my eyes as I chewed another forkful.
“So…?” Kyle asked, watching me. She still hadn’t taken her own first bite.
I shrugged, easily pulling another piece of chicken away with my fork. “It’s aiight.”
Immediately, she laughed, then lifted her fork to her plate. “If I speak Ben as well as I think I do, that must mean it’s amazing. Am I right?”
“I’m eating it. Can’t you just be happy with that?”
“Because just the privilege of feeding you should make my time at the stove worth it?”
“So you really aren’t as dimwitted as I thought you were, huh?”
I grinned as she flipped me off, her mouth too full of food for a verbal response. When she did speak, it wasn’t to whine about what I’d said to her.
“You know, I had a bottle of wine I should’ve brought. Really would’ve set these flavors off,” she mused, looking thoughtfully at her plate. “And I know you don’t have any.”
“You’re right, I don’t – I do have local bourbon though.”
She raised an eyebrow. “And… ingredients for an old-fashioned?”
“Hell no. You drink my liquor, you’ve gotta drink it straight up.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?”
I shrugged, chewing another mouthful of chicken before I answered. “You claimed to know me, so…”
“I didn’t claim to know you, I said I spoke your language.”
“Is it though?” she teased, with a smirk. “Where is this bourbon?”
I pointed it out, and then watched her as she retrieved it, wondering how the hell – why the hell – I was so comfortable with this woman in my home. Sure, the fact that she was beautiful had plenty to do with it – it was hard not to look at her when she turned back to the counter with the bourbon and two glasses in her mind. Those big, pretty brown eyes lifted to meet mine before she smirked and cracked the bottle open, pouring a shot for both of us.
She slid mine across the counter and then raised hers. “To these bomb ass brussels sprouts,” she said, and…. Hell, I could drink to that, so I did, draining the shot.
“What’s the real reason you came up here with dinner?” I asked, apparently catching her off guard, from the way she sputtered and coughed.
“What are you doing here? I don’t believe for a second you decided to just fix me dinner out of the kindness of your heart.”
Her gaze dropped for several moments, and then she sighed. “Fine. I… haven’t mastered cooking for myself just yet. I’m used to cooking for a family, so when I get to the kitchen, that’s just what hands do. I cooked too much. Didn’t want it to go to waste.”
“What about your little boyfriend?” I asked, digging into the topic since it seemed to make her uncomfortable. “Morgan. I’m sure he would’ve loved to find you at his door.”
She laughed. “Yeah, so am I. Morgan is sweet. Really sweet.”
“So why are you here?” I raised my hands. “You definitely seem like the type to marry the nice, sweet guy, have his babies, live in a cute house, all that. None of that shit is here, not in this house.”
“Then you’ve answered your own question, haven’t you?” Kyle said, in a strained tone that set off the tiniest bit of regret that I’d come down this road. “You’re… not wrong about the “type” I am. Or… have been. The wonderful guy, the baby, the house… I’ve lived that, and now… I don’t anymore. I had the great love of my life, and lost it, and Morgan reminds me of him. So.”
She picked up the bottle of bourbon, pouring herself another – generous – glass. In one gulp, she drank it down, with only a slight natural grimace in response to the heat the liquor generated in her chest.
“Should I assume that I don’t remind you of the “great love of your life?”
Kyle scoffed, shaking her head. “No. Not at all.”
“Because he – and Morgan – and wonderful, and I’m…?”
“A terrible person,” she filled in for me, in a choked voice, but wearing a smile.
I raised my empty glass in her direction, motioning for her to pour. “I guess I’ll drink to that.”