This wasn’t what I had in mind.
I’d envisioned a cozy family Thanksgiving on Orcas Island. Something warm and golden, a little fuzzy around the edges. In my vision, my parents and I sat happily around the guesthouse dinner table, all of us wearing hand-knit sweaters, maybe. We’d be drinking spiced cider and laughing over a game of Scrabble while the delicious aroma of roasting turkey drifted in from the kitchen to tantalize us. After I pulled out a knuckle-biting victory, we’d gather around the laptop and Skype with my world-traveling brother.
“My mother was supposed to be here, but they missed the three-forty ferry,” I said to JoJo, who had arranged his splendid collection of limbs in the corner of the guesthouse kitchen in order to watch me cook. Or prepare to cook, actually—apparently I was supposed to brine this thing? How do you brine something that’s bigger than every pot you own? “I really have no idea what I’m doing.”
“Really.” His eyes danced, his expression amused and his tone sardonic. “I’d never have guessed.”
“I must be a natural.” I peered at the little plastic-y directions that had come with the turkey, dangerously close to calling the 800 number to beg someone on the other end of the line to helicopter in and do this for me.
“Ugh. So I am.” The directions were covered with turkey water or juice or whatever you called the disgusting liquid surrounding a raw turkey. So much botulism or ptomaine or trichinosis in that juice, and James was watching me, whiskers twitching, waiting to dart in and get at the drips. “Don’t even think about it, James.”
He swished his tail and kept watching.
“I have an idea,” drawled JoJo, blinking those luminous eyes. I was positive this man had ideas, he absolutely reeked of ideas, and the worst part was that he seemed to give me ideas. And I was not ready for any ideas at all, thank you very much.
JoJo had been tailing me around since he’d arrived the day before. Every time I looked up, there he was, looking rumpled and rich and irresistible. Tinkering with his flawless car when I went to get the mail. Drinking coffee on the back deck when I came over to triple-check that all was well for his parents’ arrival.
Even now, as he leaned against the wall by my kitchen window, he looked like he was posing for maximum advantage; his hair lifted by a breeze from the back door, his body positioned in such a way as to show off his broad shoulders, the sun dancing on highlights that were awfully perfect, if they were indeed natural.
It was enough to make me drop the roasting directions. James leapt upon them and carried them right out the back door.
I let out a stream of invective, and then I blushed. “I’m sorry. I was clueless before. Now I’m desperate. And Mom won’t be here till like dinnertime!”
“Cam, Cam, Cam.” JoJo gave his head of gold-kissed curls a little shake and started scrolling on his phone. “We have the Internet. Or rather, what passes for Internet on this barren rock of an island. Do you remember how much the turkey weighs?”
That stopped him. “Nineteen pounds? Why on Earth . . .”
I gaped back at him. “What? Is that a lot?”
“A lot?” He burst out laughing. “No, not if you’re planning on hosting the whole island.”
Well, now Mom’s chuckle on the phone the other day made more sense. “Um, leftovers are good?” If I was blushing before, I was aflame now. “Yeah. Leftover turkey. Sandwiches. You know?”
“Calm down, calm down. I was curious, that’s all. You don’t strike me as much of a carnivore, to be honest. You have a sort of . . .”—he appraised me from below his bountiful, tawny lashes—“vegetarian air about you.”
I stared at the pink mountain of turkey meat on the counter, shuddering at its bumpy skin and strange yellow patches. Hard to believe this was going to be delicious turkey sandwiches in a few days. “I am not a vegetarian. But if I said I was, would you cook this for me?”
We were both laughing when a shadow filled the doorframe. Lisa Cannon, looking so little like Lisa Cannon that I almost didn’t recognize her. She was trembling, pale, her hair all crazy rather than artfully tousled. Her eyes, blind with terror, darted to mine. “Cam? Oh Cam, I’m . . . my home, there’s . . . there’s been an intruder and . . .”
JoJo’s voice was deep with alarm. “An intruder, Lisa? At your house?”
Lisa stepped in and saw JoJo, then. Her expression of terror melted into actual tears. She ran to his arms. “JoJo! I’m so glad you’re here!”
He pulled her close; she trembled in his grasp, I could see it from across the room. Lisa Cannon trembled! I just stared at them both for a long moment, until he relaxed his grip and she drew back.
“I’ll go check it out,” he said, manfully.