The thought made her feel powerful after feeling so controlled by Holt and Jake, and she sang along to her tunes as she cooked. While the brownies baked, she whipped back upstairs and unpacked her things in the spare room. She estimated she had fifteen minutes of cleaning time left when she was done. After that she’d need to put all her attention on preparing the evening meal for her guests.
She only cared about Lisa. Holt could go to hell.
Approaching Jake’s room with trepidation, she wondered how Holt would even know if she’d cleaned it. She decided she’d straighten up the big things first, and get to the bathroom if there was time. Holt might stick his nose into the room, but she doubted he’d inspect his son’s private bathroom.
Of course, this was Holt she was talking about.
Hannah sighed and decided to tackle this last room as if she was running sprints. She made the bed, threw dirty clothes into the laundry basket, picked up papers and miscellaneous items from the floor, lining them up on his desk and dresser in ways she hoped made sense. She ran the vacuum around as quickly as she could and shut the closet door, before racing into the bathroom and scrubbing and tidying as fast as she could in the few minutes she had left.
Good enough, she decided when the buzzer went off downstairs. Racing back down again, she saved the brownies from overcooking, scuttled around to put all the cleaning supplies away, and popped the biscuits in the oven. She set the brand new tablecloth she’d purchased over Jake’s dining room table and carefully set four places. She placed a bottle of wine on the counter top, removed the cover over the roasting chicken to brown the top, and spooned out the broth to start the gravy. A look around told her everything was in place.
A look down at herself told her she looked like hell.
Hannah panicked, then rolled her eyes at herself for caring as she raced for her room and tore off her clothes, reaching for the first thing that came to hand in her closet—a clingy dress of cobalt blue that made her eyes pop and her hair glow. It was far too dressy for the occasion, but there wasn’t time to try again. She shimmied into it, did up the zipper, yanked her pony-tail holder out of her hair and fluffed it up, checking her reflection in the mirror.
She was flushed with the heat of the kitchen and all her exertions and her hair was wild, but the effect wasn’t awful. In fact… she pursed her lips. She didn’t look half bad. Maybe a day out of the clinic now and then wasn’t the worst thing in the world, although she’d prefer to do something a little more exciting than clean house.
What would Jake think when he saw her?
She didn’t care what he thought, she reminded herself. Jake was out of bounds from here on in. She was in control. She would determine her own future.
A knock sounded at the door and she hurried to the stairs, realizing it must be Holt and Lisa. Where was Jake? He should have been home by now, especially since it was his father who had forced this little dinner on her.
When she reached the door, however, Ned pushed through it. “Jake said dinner’s here tonight. Smells good. Got any beer?” He walked straight to the kitchen, pulled open the refrigerator door and grabbed one of the bottles she’d bought just in case Holt disliked wine.
“Um… help yourself.” Hannah’s mind raced. Jake had invited Ned to dinner, too? Why hadn’t he told her?
Maybe Holt never told Jake he and Lisa were coming to dinner, after all. Which meant Jake’s cryptic text referred to Ned… and someone else. Who could that be?
“I told Luke I was eating here. He said he’d come, too.”
Hannah bit her lip. She’d better set three more places then—for Ned, Luke and the mystery guest. She hoped she’d made enough food for seven. Should she throw some more potatoes in? Setting out three more plates, she jumped when the door banged open again and Jake rushed in.
“Sorry, I’m late,” he said as he rushed past. “I got held up with chores. You got my message about Ned and Mia, didn’t you? I’ll throw a couple of pizzas in the oven in a minute.”
“Mia?” She set the last plate down on the table with a thump. Why would Jake invite Mia?
“Yeah. I told you there’d be two more for dinner. Hey, Ned. Got yourself something to drink?”
“Yep.” Ned raised his beer to Jake and flopped down on the couch.
Hannah followed Jake into the kitchen. “But your parents are coming, and so is Luke,” she said. “And I only cooked for four people.” Her voice rose as she calculated how little she had to serve. If she had a microwave she could cook some more potatoes fast, but Jake had no microwave.
“Maybe you better cook that pizza,” Ned called out, chuckling at their discomfort.
“No,” Hannah said. “Your dad said your mother wanted a formal dinner.”
“Wait, what?” Jake stopped midway across the room and looked around him. He took in the tablecloth and candles on the table, seemed to realize how clean everything was. “Wow! It looks fantastic.” He sniffed the air. “Smells great, too.” A smile broke across his face as he closed the gap between them, pulled her close and gave her a kiss. “You’re amazing. When I left the message I didn’t think you’d do anything like this. I thought we’d toss something frozen in the oven and have a few beers.”
“I… it wasn’t…”
Jake pulled away and checked the oven. He laughed, a low, masculine sound that stirred Hannah’s senses even in the midst of chaos. “You’re right; that bird’s a little light for this clan. We Mathesons like our grub.” He straightened up. “We’ll need more chairs, too. Ned—go get the ones from your place.” He opened the freezer and pulled out a couple of pizzas. “Tell you what—Ned’s right; we’ll pop these in the oven now and when they’re ready we’ll cut them up in little squares and call them appetizers. What do you think?”
Despite her annoyance, she was impressed with his creativity and take charge attitude. She doubted she would have thought of that. “It might work.”
“I’m on it.” Jake whistled as he opened the boxes and placed the pizzas on cookie sheets, then disappeared upstairs to change. Hannah worked on her gravy and got her biscuits out of the oven, replacing them with the trays of pizza. She placed the salad on the table and brought out the salad dressings as well, and by the time Holt and Lisa arrived, she felt like she had the meal under control again.