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Looking for Home – 25

Posted: 18 Oct 2010 02:43 PM PDT

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Chapter Eight

"So, what did you think?"

As soon as the question left her mouth, M shot up from the table.  Pretending to be busy with something on the counter, she kept her back to him.

Why does his answer matter so much?

The way she was acting you'd think his response would reflect on more than her skills as a chef.  That he'd also be handing down a character assessment on the personage of Moonshadow Mist McCallister.

As far as her abilities as a cook went, she knew she could rest on her laurels. As for character?  She knew who and what she was, and took pride in herself.  Unfortunately, that was cold comfort.

She refused to lie about her past—her beginnings.  There was no shame in being poor.  And she may be her parent's daughter, and her sister's sibling, but she counted being her own woman as more important.  Someone who worked hard.  Someone honest.  Someone with goals and ambition.

As a child she'd craved the acceptance of those better off than her.  When she'd got a little older, she'd stopped caring about what others thought and took comfort from the fact that she could think well of herself.

Not long ago she'd found herself caring again.  Caring what someone else and his "very important" family thought of her.  She'd tried to conform.  Tried to turn herself into something she wasn't, just to please someone else.

And look where that got her.  Accused of theft, with no one to stand in her corner and attest to her honesty.  Her character. Not even the man who claimed to love her.  All that mattered to them, to him, was where she came from.  They'd all stuck to some kind of antiquated "breeding shows" attitude.

And here she was, walking into the very same trap.  Wishing a man that was so far out of her league he may as well be on another planet, thought well of her.

Nice to know you're too stupid to learn from past mistakes.

But this is different!

Yeah?  How?

Poking around on the counter, she tried to come up with a reasonable answer.

She had tried to change herself into something she wasn't to please Stephen.   Clothes, hair, makeup, the whole nine yards.  But that had been at his urging.  He'd been uncomfortable with her unconventional style.  It would make him more comfortable if she tried to fit in with his world.

All of which should have been a huge neon sign saying, "Run!  Run like the wind!"

So, how was what she was doing now any different?  Hadn't she already been trying to dress better?  To fix up her hair, and wear more makeup than usual?

Yeah, she had.  But it was about her, not Jonathan.  For all she knew he liked her bohemian look.  No, for some reason she had a desire to look her best for him.  Not because he pressured her, but because she wanted to see that fire in his eyes.

Which she'd seen while she was fat faced and snivelling, so there was something to think about!

Maybe her logic was convoluted and backward, but it made sense to her.  This was different.

"Are you really expecting me to speak to your back, or are you ever going to turn around?"

She turned toward him and ground her teeth at the knowing look on his face.

After crossing her arms over her chest and then leaning back against the counter, she said, "Happy now?"

Jonathan grinned, apparently finding her cranky tone amusing.  "Hey, I was already happy.  You know what they say about a man's stomach…"

He snapped his mouth shut.  He erased the grin, his face suddenly blank.

M smirked.  She so wanted to finish the adage, but bit her lip instead.  Which worked for about a second.

"Yes?  You were saying?"

Ooh, Mr Beast of Prey looks like he wants to snarl.

"I was saying thank you.  For an excellent meal.  You're a hit with both of us, right Allioop?"

"Uh huh.  Can you make dinner aw the time?"

Smiling, M replied.  "No, sweetie.  I think that would make Estelle sad.  She's proud of the job she does for you and Jonny…ah, Jonathan."

This time the smirk crossed his face, but he didn't say anything about her slip up.  "Those chicken dinosaurs were a hit."

Uh huh.  And they certainly hadn't been part of the menu she had in mind while trolling the isles of the grocery store.  No, she could picture the meal in her mind.  Since summer in the city meant you cooked outside as much as possible, she'd decided on lamb chops grilled on the BBQ, bathed in an orange and rosemary rub.  Grilled veggies.  Well, she'd still done the grilled veggies, but had ended up buying chicken instead of lamb.  The rosemary became cilantro, and the chops became kabobs.  Except for Alicia's chicken, which she'd seasoned, breaded, and shaped into dinosaurs, thanks to a cookie cutter.

"Yes, well, that took some negotiating.  She wanted some frozen ones from the grocery store.  She…uh…got a little…um…insistent about it, so I told her I would make her some."

"Never shopped with a five-year-old before, eh?"

M shuddered.  "No."

He leaned back in his chair and folded his hands across his stomach.  "Well, you scored high on all tests."

What?  All tests?  Hadn't this been about her cooking only?

"All tests? What are you saying?"

"I think you may have a tendency to over analyze things.  You have a very expressive face, and I can tell when you're torturing yourself.  Grocery shopping with Alicia—with any child, I imagine—is trial by fire.  If you can handle that with grace, you can handle anything."  He held up a finger.  "So, test one you passed with flying colours.  And for future reference, try not to worry too much about how you're dealing with her.  I had a learning curve too.  You're doing fine.  Isn't she, Alicia?"

Alicia grinned up at her.  "Yeah.  Can I have some ice cream?"

M sat back down beside her and smoothed a hand down Alicia's beautiful little face.  "No, sweetie.  I think you've had enough sugar today."

Alicia stuck her lip out.  "But…"

Tapping Alicia's nose with a finger, M said, "Do not argue with me.  You didn't win the last time.  You won't win this time.  You've got to learn I'm no push over."

Jonathan cleared his throat.  "I rest my case."

Installment 26 Coming Soon!

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Thanks to Nan Donahue for sharing one of her manuscripts.

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