I glance at the clock hanging in the kitchen and sigh. It took three hours to get the house clean and smelling of anything but sweat. These frat brothers have probably cleaned nothing besides their room in a while.
Now, it’s time to make a dinner to feed eight, but then again, I think I should make enough for a herd. They are football players. My phone buzzes on the countertop.
I place the phone into my back pocket and look around the kitchen. I take out the ingredients and prepare to make the best meal these guys have ever tasted. I must make sure this meal comes out great.
This was the first meal I ever learned, thanks to my parents. Both are chefs and damn great ones at that. I see an iPhone dock in the corner on the counter, a little music while I cook, and it sounds like a great idea.
An hour later, I am prepping the table. I was thankful to see they had a dining table big enough to fit all eight of us.
The sound of Kelis’s “Milkshake” vibrates off the walls as I move from the kitchen to the dining room with the food.
The smell of the food hits my nostrils, and I am in food heaven. I dance a little carrying the tray of chicken to the table.
Walking back to the kitchen, I place the potatoes on another tray, swinging my hips from side to side.
“Something smells delicious.”
I jump, turning around to see the guys peeking in the doorway.
“Haven’t your mothers taught you not to sneak up on people? I could have hurt myself or even worse, dropped the food.” I glare at them.
“Sorry, dol—Charley, it’s been a while since we came home from the field and there is a cooked meal.” Everett walks into the dining room, I follow behind him, and the rest of them follow behind me.
“Oh, so you guys had a cook?” I ask.
“Nah, Chase was banging some girl last year, and she loved to cook.” He shrugs his shoulders and takes a seat.
I look behind me at Chase, and he seems like he wants to rip Everett’s head off. The guys gather around the table, and I look at them all like they are crazy. They have to be.
Growing up, my mother would always reprimand me for sitting at the dining table dirty. If I was outside playing, I would time myself to come into the house ten minutes before dinner.
Always at the table on time with fresh clothes, mud and dirt free. So, cleaning yourself off before dinner is something I can never stray from, and I always try to encourage others to do so.
Raven hates it too. She always tells me I remind her of my mother.
“Uh guys, don’t you think you should freshen up before sitting down to eat?”
Tristan looks at me, or it could be Vincent, well, one twin looks at me and stands up. “Sorry.”
It is Tristan—he was the polite one. I smile as he walks out of the room, followed by everyone but Chase. He sits at the head of the table watching me intensely. I see he will just make this difficult.
“Are you going to join them?”
“Then I guess you won’t be eating,” I say walking towards him, taking his plate and utensils from the table. He grabs my wrist and tiny little lightning bolts spread throughout my body.
I try to yank my arm away, but that makes him hold on a little tighter. “Let go.”
“Put my stuff back.”
Is he doing this? “Go get cleaned up, and I will.” I yank again and he lets me go. I stumble but quickly regain my balance. He stands up slowly, never taking his eyes off of me. “Th-thank you.”
He grunts and walks out of the room, leaving me to my thoughts. I am dead meat. I quickly place his plate back once I hear the footsteps, more like a stampede, headed my way.
I stand out of the way as the guys rush back into the dining room taking their seats.
“Damn, this looks good,” Austin says, and he has a lovely British accent. He rubs his hands, reaching for the chicken.
“No,” I shout. Everyone looks at me confused. “We have to wait for Chase to come down before we can eat.”
“Uhm…” Miguel’s eyes meet mine. “Chase isn’t coming down. He said he has a lot of studying to do.”
“Unbelievable,” I mutter. I take a quick pause, calculating my next move.
I don’t want to overstep my boundaries but come on, he is going to the extreme not to do as I say, just once. I storm out of the dining room, taking the steps two at a time.
I stand in front of his door, knocking. He swings the door open, folding his arms at his chest.
“Since I told you to clean yourself you decide not to come eat? I think that is a bit childish of you. Everyone else is waiting downstairs to eat and they can’t.”
I am sounding like my mother. I’m reprimanding him. Raven is so right.
“Why is that?” he asks leaning on the door frame. “I’m not stopping anyone from eating.”
“Uh, yeah you are. This is our first dinner as a house family.” I want you guys to like me. Why are you making it so hard? I want to scream at him. Can’t he just take my welcoming dinner and be nice?
He pushes himself off the doorframe and steps closer. Too close for comfort.
“Let’s get this one thing straight, Charlotte Withers, you are not family. You are someone who accidentally got placed here. It’s not your fault, but hey, there is nothing we can do about it now.
“I’ve been with these guys since day one, not you. You make one dinner and expect everyone to follow your rules. I told you once already I am the head of the household, and I don’t like to repeat myself.”
He clears his throat, leaning down to my ear. “Don’t push me; things could get really ugly around here if you do.”
He steps back into his room, slamming the door in my face. I jump back, tears forming in my eyes. I just want everyone to be happy.
I turn to head downstairs and I see the guys peeking around the corner before dashing downstairs. Great, they saw and heard everything.
“So, can we eat? We’ve been patiently sitting down here waiting.” Everett lies. Do they think I didn’t see or hear them?
“Sure, dig in,” I say, taking my seat at the other end of the table.
“Hey, I wouldn’t take whatever Chase says to heart. He has a lot going on and anything ticks him off.” Vincent reaches over patting my hand. I give him a weak smile, nodding my head.
“Seriously, Charley, don’t sweat it.” Darren looks at me smiling before shoving chicken into his mouth. “Oh God, this is so good. Tastes better than Brooke, and ~she tastes good.”
The table groans, telling him to shut up. Well, if Brooke tastes like chicken, I would tell her she must go to the hospital to make sure everything’s all right down there.
The dinner is going well, but I can’t help but stare at Chase’s empty chair and think that he was right.
These guys chatted like one big family, and here I was sitting quietly, watching them from the outside. They try to pull me into their conversations, but my head wasn’t in it.
Dinner is over, and I tell the guys I’ll clean up the mess. Not like I have a choice, because they are already climbing the stairs, closing their bedrooms.
After twenty minutes of cleaning, the kitchen and dining room are spotless. I lean against the kitchen island, staring down at my drink.
I hear footsteps and turn around. Chase walks into the kitchen. We stay silent and stare at each other.
“I made you a plate.” I look over at the aluminum-covered plate on the counter. “I figured after all that studying you might get hungry.”
He says nothing and heads for the refrigerator.
“Well, goodnight.” I exit the kitchen and lean against the wall.
I hear the aluminum foil and then a fork scraped against the plate. He is eating the food—the next sound breaks me. The garbage disposal comes on and the plate hits the sink.
He’s thrown the food away. I hang my head and walk up the stairs in defeat.
I hope the school finds an empty room, and fast.
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