“Let me show you to your room,” Cat said as she stepped back into the kitchen after saying good-bye to Stacy.
Ethan stood and followed her up the stairs and down a short hallway.
“That’s my room,” Cat commented, pointing to a closed door on the right side of the hall. “This is your bathroom,” she added, stopping at the next room. “I stocked it with some supplies; toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, that kind of stuff. Let me know if there’s anything I missed.” Turning to the room across the hall, she said. “And this is your room.” She pushed open the door and stepped back.
Ethan moved past her and stopped a few feet inside the room. His back was to her, so Cat couldn’t see his expression. She hovered at the entrance unsure of what to do next.
The room contained a double bed, nightstand, chest of drawers, desk, and computer. She’d also hung a small flat screen TV on the wall opposite his bed.
After a long moment of silence, she said, “I’ll give you some time to look around. If there’s anything you need, let me know, and we can go pick it up. I’ll be downstairs in the office doing some work. Feel free to come down, whenever you get settled.”
Cat waited a moment for Ethan to respond. Last night, she’d spent several hours picking out the stuff for his room. She’d wanted it to be decorated before he arrived, so he wouldn’t feel like he was a guest. She’d even taken the time to hang a few posters the clerk at the store had assured her a teenage boy would find cool. Cat felt a pang of disappointment when he didn’t make any comment about the room. Giving up, she pulled the door closed and left.Don’t expect too much too soon, she reminded herself.
Several hours later, her stomach growled. Glancing at her watch, she was surprised to see that it was after noon. Ethan still had not made an appearance downstairs. Cat leaned back in the leather office chair and stared out into the empty living room. She’d left it up to him to come down when he was ready. She wasn’t sure if she should go get him for lunch or leave him alone. Sighing, she rose and went to the kitchen to make him a sandwich. Taking a guess, she went with bologna, cheese, and mayonnaise. She added a bag of Doritos and a Coke and carried the food up to his room.
The sound of the TV filtered under the door. She paused to take a deep breath, then knocked. “Ethan,” she called softly. “May I come in?”
“It’s your house,” came the muffled reply.
Cat pushed the door open and stepped into the room. Ethan was sprawled out on the bed, staring at the television. He didn’t bother to look her way.
“I brought lunch,” Cat said. “Bologna and cheese sandwich. I wasn’t sure what you liked. I hope it’s okay.”
Ethan glanced over. He rolled off the bed and walked to her. Taking the food from her hands, he mumbled, “Thanks.” Then he went back to the bed, his attention returning to the movie he was watching.
“Okay, well, I’ll be downstairs if you need anything else,” Cat said as she backed out of the room and closed the door.
I guess I don’t have to worry about him talking my ear off, she thought.
Later that evening, Cat sat bent over her desk working through some figures. She glanced up when she heard the muffled sound of footsteps approaching. She watched Ethan walk across the living room and stop in the doorway.
He leaned against the door jam and shoved his hands into his pockets. “I’m hungry.”
Cat looked at her watch. It was after 6:00p.m. “Is there anything in particular you’d like?” she asked.
“How about pizza?” she suggested.
“Okay.” Another one-word reply.
“What do you want on it?”
“I don’t know,” he answered.
“Well, what do you like? Hamburger? Pepperoni? Cheese?”
She patiently waited for him to answer. Finally, he shrugged and said, “Hamburger, I guess.”
She grinned. “Great, hamburger it is.”
Cat stood and walked toward him. As she drew close, he flinched slightly. She caught the look of wariness that flashed into his eyes. As someone who’d received unsolicited beatings herself, she recognized the automatic response. Her heart constricted with sympathy. Knowing the last thing he would want from her was pity, she didn’t acknowledge that she’d noticed his reaction.
“I’m just going to grab my cell phone,” she said softly.
He nodded and took a step back. Not wanting to make him feel any more uncomfortable, she made sure not to pass by him too closely.
As she placed the call to order the pizza, Ethan returned to his room. When she disconnected the call, Cat sank down onto the sofa. This is going to be tough, she thought. How am I going to build any kind of relationship with him, if he refuses to stay in the same room with me?
Several minutes later, she was jerked out of her thoughts when the doorbell rang. “Pizza’s here!” she called, reaching for her wallet. After paying the delivery man, she turned back into the house to see Ethan standing at the foot of the stairs.
“Let’s eat it in the kitchen,” Cat suggested. She was determined to have a conversation with the boy.
He reluctantly followed her to the kitchen and sank down into one of the chairs at the dining table. Cat placed the pizza box in the middle of the table and went to get them some plates. When she returned, she took the chair directly opposite Ethan.
Within seconds, he’d already eaten his first piece and started on the second.
“I guess you like it,” she commented dryly.
He glanced up. A blush crept into his cheeks. He dropped the piece he held in his hand. “It’s good. I’ve never had it before,” he mumbled.
“You’ve never had pizza?” she asked, dumbfounded.
He shook his head. “Dad didn’t like it, so we never had it.”
Cat was at a loss for words. She couldn’t believe Ethan was a teenager and had never tried pizza. No wonder he didn’t know what kind he wanted. She wondered what else he’d missed out on in his life. She suspected pizza was just the tip of the iceberg.
“Well, I’m glad you like it. We’ll have to try a different flavor next time, maybe something really crazy like Hawaiian.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Canadian bacon and pineapple. It’s delicious.”
They ate the rest of the meal in silence. When they finished, he excused himself and returned to his room. Cat was a little disappointed they didn’t talk more, but at least she’d learned something about him. It was a start.
From the author of “Dogs Aren’t Men” comes “To Love a Cat”, a contemporary romance novel.
Catherine “Cat” James’ life is simple and orderly, and she likes it that way. She loves her job as an accountant. Working with numbers is safe and routine, no surprises. Her childhood had been very abusive and unstable. She vowed not to live that way as an adult. She also made a promise to herself to become a foster parent. She wished someone had been there for her as a teenager, to let her know she wasn’t alone.
Cat agrees to foster Ethan Summers, a troubled teenage boy whose childhood closely resembles her own. Suddenly, her nice and orderly life is filled with chaos and uncertainty. Things really start to spin out of control when circumstances bring police detective Mitch Holt into the picture. He’s handsome, charming, and definitely not what Cat needs right now, or so she thinks.
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Genre – Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG
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