Prompt: I would like a prompt from the last book…. Ethan and Calvin go to Calvin’s mom’s house for some old fashion southern food and Dex wiggles himself and Sloane into an invite…… I want to see that scene.
“I’m starving. Mom’s invited us over for dinner.”
Ethan’s eyes lit up, and his stomach rumbled. “Did she…?”
“Of course she did. She made chicken-and-dumpling casserole, cornbread, fried green tomatoes, and her famous pecan pie. Like she doesn’t know you,” Calvin said with a chuckle.
A mew escaped Ethan, and his mouth watered. Calvin’s mom made the best southern food ever. Usually he ate so much he wouldn’t be able to move for hours. She knew all his favorites and always cooked up Therian-sized portions, plus leftovers because she knew neither he nor her son liked to cook. Ethan could eat Darla’s cooking every day, though it was probably a good thing he didn’t, or he’d never fit into his uniform. He grabbed Calvin’s hand and pulled him along to hurry him up, making him laugh.
“I’m driving,” Ethan declared before hurrying out of the locker room with Calvin in tow.
“Yeah, all right. Just don’t get us pulled over. Again. I have a feeling the next cop might not see jambalaya as a good enough reason not to give you a speeding ticket.”
They were headed for the elevator when Dex and Sloane showed up. Both were out of breath and flushed. Dex’s uniform shirt was half hanging out, and Sloane’s collar was a mess.
“I don’t even want to know,” Calvin muttered.
“Hey, we’re getting some dinner,” Dex said as he tucked in his shirt. “You guys wanna come?”
Ethan shook his head and pointed to Calvin before patting his belly.
“Sorry, Mom’s homemade chicken-and-dumpling casserole wins out over air itself. Seriously. There’s no keeping Ethan from my mom’s cooking.”
Dex’s eyes sparkled. “That’s right. Your mom cooks real southern food. Old-school recipes made from scratch, passed down for generations. Fried green tomatoes?”
Calvin sighed and took his phone out of his pocket. He tapped the screen before placing it to his ear. “Hey, Mom. We got enough for two more? One’s a Therian, the other eats like one. Great. Thanks. Love you too. See you soon.” Calvin hung up and grinned as the elevator pinged. He motioned to the open doors. “After you.”
Dex and Ethan all but fell over each other trying to get in the elevator. Inside, Ethan gave Dex a shove. Calvin stepped in after Sloane.
“Yeah, a word of warning. Don’t get between Ethan and my mom’s dumplings.”
Ethan narrowed his eyes at Dex. I will bust your shit up.
Dex held his hands up. “I apologize for any disrespect caused while hungry. It’s not me. It’s my stomach.”
Ethan patted Dex’s shoulder, perhaps a little harder than necessary. Dex shook his head and chuckled. Good food and good company. Today was turning out to be a pretty good day after all.
When they reached Darla’s house, it went from a good day to a great day. Ethan could smell the food from the moment he stepped out of his SUV. His stomach rumbled, demanding it be filled with tasty dumplings immediately. He ran up the front steps of Darla’s house, grinning widely when she opened the door.
“Hello, angel.” Darla pulled Ethan in for a hug, and Ethan squeezed her in return, mindful of his strength. For him, Darla Summers was like a second mother. Despite working long hours to support herself and her son, she hadn’t thought twice about helping Ethan and his family. It had been hard for Ethan’s mom, taking care of a husband in constant excruciating pain, and a small son with crippling anxiety and selective mutism. Darla had stepped in like she’d always been there. Ethan had never known anyone as strong as his mom until he met Darla Summers. She was a slip of a woman compared to his bulky near-three-hundred-pound frame, yet she could make the toughest Therian quake in their boots with one raised eyebrow. She had the same sparkling blue eyes as Calvin, and the same golden blonde hair.
Ethan stepped inside so she could hug Calvin. She gave his head a kiss. “Hey, baby.”
“Hi, Mom.” Calvin gave her cheek a kiss before moving to one side. “You remember Sloane.”
“Sloane.” Darla smiled warmly, ignoring Sloane’s outstretched hand to pull him in for a hug. Ethan did his best not to laugh. Their Team Leader wasn’t accustomed to mom hugs. Sloane stiffened for a heartbeat before returning Darla’s hug with a smile.
“It’s been too long.” She gave him a pointed look, and Sloane cleared his throat.
“It has. I’m sorry.”
Ethan couldn’t help but snicker at Sloane’s abashed expression. Yep. Quake in their boots.
Next came Dex. Ethan braced himself. Knowing Darla, he wasn’t surprised by her expression when Calvin made the introductions.
“Mom, this is Dex.”
Darla gasped. “Oh heavens! There really is a Dex?”
Dex gave her that big cheeky boyish grin of his, and winked. “Yes, ma’am.” He opened his mouth to speak again when Darla threw her arms around him, and squeezed him so tight it made Dex laugh.
“Thank you, Dex.”
“You’re welcome.” Dex pulled back, his expression bemused. “Though I’m not sure what I did. I’m going to assume it was a good thing.”
Darla’s eyes grew glassy, and she took hold of Dex’s hand. “You saved my boys.”
It seemed to dawn on Dex then. He shrugged, looking embarrassed. “I was just doing my job.”
“No, darling. You were doing more than your job.” Darla shook her head, her intense blue eyes on Dex. “You risked your life to save them. I know all about how you pulled Cal to safety in Greenpoint, and when you dragged Ethan to safety after the explosion at the Therian Youth Center.” She looped her arm through his to escort him inside the house. “You’re a hero.”
Calvin closed the door behind them, shaking his head at his mom. “You really shouldn’t encourage him. His ego’s big enough.”
“Hush now,” Darla scolded lightly. “This boy saved your life. He deserves to have his ego fed.”
Dex nodded. “Listen to your mother. She’s obviously an incredibly perceptive lady.”
“I hope you realize there’s no getting rid of him now,” Calvin said with a sigh. “You compliment him, and then feed him? I’m pretty sure whoever came up with “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” was talking about him.”
“He’s right, Darla.” Dex put a hand to his chest over his heart. “Good food pretty much guarantees an unofficial adoption in my book. You feed me, you gotta keep me.”
Darla threw her head back and laughed. She gave Sloane a wink. “He’s adorable. I can see why you fell for him.”
Calvin stared at his mom. “I never told you they were together.”
Darla waved her hand at him in dismissal. “Oh, honey. Anyone with a half a mind can see these two are crazy about each other. Now help me get the table set.”
Ethan and Calvin exchanged glances. It was like when they were kids and they’d sneak under the covers with a flashlight to read comic books. Somehow she always knew they were awake despite them not making a sound or shining the flashlight near the door. Sometimes Ethan suspected she had Therian hearing.
Calvin headed for the kitchen, and Ethan eagerly followed until Calvin stopped and turned to arch an eyebrow at him. “And where do you think you’re going?”
Ethan pointed over Calvin’s head to the kitchen where all the tasty food was. He smiled innocently. I’m just going to help you.
“You’re going to help me, is that it?”
Ethan nodded, and grinned. Yep. I’m thoughtful that way.
“Of course you are. Ain’t you cute,” Calvin drawled, his accent always thicker when he was around his mom. “You seem to forget how long I’ve known you. If I let you in there half the food will be gone before it reaches the table. Sit your butt down.”
Ethan huffed. Fine.
“You need help?” Dex asked.
Ethan let out a snort and clapped him on the back. You are hilarious, my friend. He shook his head at Dex. If he’s not letting me back there, there’s no way you’re getting back there.
“Will anyone who doesn’t suck food in like they’re a black hole help me in the kitchen. The rest of you sit at the dinner table.”
Sloane chuckled as he followed Calvin into the kitchen, while Ethan and Dex walked over to the dinner table.
“I happen to have a normal, healthy appetite,” Dex called out as he pulled a chair out for himself near the end of the table. Ethan situated himself across from him. It was best he remained near the competition.
“There’s nothing normal about you,” Calvin replied.
“Cal!” Darla scolded. “Manners.”
“It’s okay,” Sloane assured her. “They’re always like this. Welcome to Destructive Delta.”
Darla came out from the kitchen with a huge red casserole dish that had Ethan whimpering. Not even his birthday excited him as much as Darla’s cooking.
“I don’t know how you do it, Sloane.” Darla carefully set the dish down on the potholder. “These boys must be a handful.”
“They’re something alright,” Sloane muttered, before giving Dex a wink.
Less talking, more food bringing. If Calvin was ignoring him, he’d have to bring out the big guns. Ethan jutted out his bottom lip at Darla.
“Oh, baby, I bet you're hungry.” She gave the top of his head a kiss and hurried Sloane and Calvin back toward the kitchen. “Hurry up, boys. Your men need to be fed.”
It took Ethan a moment to realize Darla had said “your men”, and not “your man” in regards to Dex and Sloane. Ethan looked up and Dex wriggled his eyebrows knowingly. Did Darla suspect something? Had Calvin said something to her about them? Calvin hadn’t responded. Maybe he hadn’t caught it? Dex leaned forward, and Ethan eyed him warily.
“Nice touch with the lip thing. I say we hit her with a double whammy. Betcha we get served first.”
Ethan’s eyes widened, and his jaw dropped. That’s… genius! Why hadn’t he thought of that? Ethan nodded in agreement. More food came until the whole table was filled with steaming dishes. Ethan glanced over at Dex who gave him a wink. The two of them pouted, and Dex even threw a little sigh out for good measure as he gazed longingly at the dumplings.
“Oh, you must be starving!” Darla took a plate and turned to Calvin. “I’ll serve Dex, you serve Ethan.”
Calvin looked from Ethan to Dex. When his mother turned away, he narrowed his eyes at Dex. Ethan grinned widely at Calvin as his best friend served him up a huge Therian-sized plate. As if sensing Dex could eat his weight in food, Darla served Dex up a Therian-sized plate. They held out long enough for Darla to say grace before they dug in. Ethan couldn’t remember Dex ever being quiet. Sloane stared at Dex before turning his attention to Darla who looked amused.
“I swear, I do feed him,” Sloane assured her.
Calvin swallowed his forkful of food before looking worriedly at Sloane. “You sure he’s okay? The last time he was this quiet, he was unconscious.”
Sloane leaned forward to look at Dex’s face. “He’s breathing. And chewing. So yeah, he’s alive.”
“Congratulations, Mom. You’ve achieved the unachievable. It’s been ten minutes and Dexter J. Daley hasn’t spoken one word.”
Ethan stuffed another piece of cornbread in his mouth.
Dex swallowed and smiled sweetly at Darla. “That’s a beautiful bouquet of flowers, Darla.”
Darla turned to look at the flowers and Dex flipped Calvin off.
“Why thank you, Dex. I love having fresh flowers in the house. Also, I saw that.” She turned back and took a dainty bite of dumpling before giving Dex a knowing look.
Dex almost choked on his cornbread. He took a big gulp of sweet tea before gaping at her. “How did you know?”
“Please, Dex,” she let out a soft laugh before motioning to Calvin and Ethan. “I know all about raising rambunctious boys. Would you like seconds?”
“Yes, please.” Dex beamed at her as she took his plate from him. Ethan couldn’t believe how much Dex ate. When dessert came, Dex ate nearly half a pecan pie. Luckily Darla had made three. By the time they were done, neither he nor Dex could move.
Dex sat back in his chair, and lolled his head to the side to look at Sloane, his hand rubbing his fully belly. “Sloane, I think I’m pregnant.”
With a chuckle, Sloane stood. “And on that note, I’m going to help wash up.”
Calvin laughed as he helped Sloane clear up the dishes. Ethan would have helped except that would require moving. Then he noticed the one slice of pie left. It sat on its white porcelain dish looking mighty lonesome. Problem was, Dex was eyeing it too. Ethan narrowed his eyes, and Dex did the same. They both sat up. Dex laced his fingers together and placed them on the table, his gaze never leaving Ethan.
“I’m the guest. I clearly should get the last slice.”
Ha! I don’t think so.
Ethan shook his head. There was no way Dex was getting between him and that heavenly slice of pecan perfection. Slowly, he put his hands on the table, his gaze on Dex. They both readied themselves when Calvin swiped up the plate. Dex’s gasp drowned out Ethan’s own. Calvin scooped up half the slice and stuffed it in his mouth, moaning loudly.
“So good,” he said through a mouthful of pie.
“You… how… why?” Dex whimpered. “My pie.”
Ethan scoffed. You mean my pie.
Calvin blinked at them innocently. “Oh, I’m sorry. Were you guys gonna eat this?” With a shrug, he finished the pie and walked off. Ethan watched him go before turning back to Dex, his bottom lip jutted out.
“Hey, he’s your partner.”
Ethan kicked Dex under the table.
“Ow!” Dex tried to retaliate but his legs weren’t as long as Ethan’s so he couldn’t reach. He pushed himself back, cackling at Dex’s frown. “Damn tiger Therians. Why do you have to be so tall?”
Ethan shrugged. Why do you Humans have to be so short?
A piece of pie materialized in front of him and another in front of Dex. They looked up at Darla who put her finger to her lips before heading back to the kitchen.
Definitely a great day.
THIRDS Thursdays is on hiatus for the month of July for the release of Smoke & Mirrors. We return August 4th!
THIRDS copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published with Dreamspinner Press.