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A week later, Ryan was pleased to be in a soft cast. Her ankle hurt far less and she was off her crutches, but she couldn't wait to be done with the whole damn thing. At least, she thought as she came in from work, she wasn't thinking about how it had happened every time she walked more than a block. Just a few more days,
she reminded herself as she stared at the contents of the fridge. She frowned; pickings were slim. She wondered if there was any mac'n'cheese. A knock on the door distracted her and she went over to answer it.
"Hey, Brody." She smiled. "Come on in."
"How are you? I almost didn't recognize you without the crutches."
"Oh, very funny." Ryan shook her head as he stepped in. "What brings you by?"
"Just thought I'd say hi. Got the night off."
"Nice. Good game last night."
Brody grinned. "You watched. You must like me."
"Don't get your hopes up, buddy. I caught the score and some highlights." And I will never live down checking the score on my computer at rehearsal,
she thought, then relented. "Nice goal."
"Hey, Obie could set up a tree stump, but I'll take it."
"And so modest." Ryan laughed.
"Part of my charm." Brody looked around. "So, what's on tap for you tonight?"
"Not sure. I was just trying to decide on dinner."
Brody gave her a skeptical look. "Do you have any food in here? I mean, something not processed into a box or can?"
"I have . . . ." She opened the refrigerator again and cocked her head. "Apples . . . and leftover Thai. I think. I was considering mac'n'cheese. I haven't checked the freezer, though. There might be more there."
Brody rolled his eyes. "Jesus. Come on, Ryan. Let's go."
"Go where?" She closed the fridge.
"Back to my place. I'll make something."
"Brody, I can fend for myself. I'm a big girl, you know."
He looked on the verge of saying something, but shook his head. Ryan wondered what he'd been about to say, but didn't ask.
"I couldn't sleep tonight knowing you were going to eat 'Thai, I think.' Come with me, I'll make you some real food."
Ryan gave in and grabbed her phone and keys. Brody waited while she locked the door, then led the way down the hall to the elevator.
"So, how goes it with the band?"
"Good, thanks." Ryan was pleased he asked. "We've got shows at a couple of colleges coming up, and then we're headlining at the 9:30 Club."
"Really? That's awesome. I was there for a show last year. Which colleges?" He held the elevator door for her. "Maybe I can come."
"We have one in D.C., at George Washington, and another at Maryland. But don't you have a road trip coming up?"
He studied her as the elevator went to his floor. "Is that a hint I should stay home?"
"No, no." She looked up as she stepped off the elevator. "I just thought you'd be busy. Come and bring friends, we need the exposure."
"I could do that." They walked to his place and he unlocked the door and gestured for her to go in.
Ryan walked in and took stock. There was dark leather furniture—a couch, a couple of chairs—and a large flat-screen TV. Not much in the way of knick-knacks, but there were a couple of pictures on the wall, and she saw some books and smaller pictures on a shelf. The layout was similar to her place, but his was much neater.
"Nice place," she said.
Brody grinned. "You say that like you expected it not to be."
She laughed and shook her head. "I don't have much to compare to. My brothers are in college and in my experience, guys aren't the neatest housekeepers. I refuse to go to our bassist's place anymore, because you need a hazmat suit to use the bathroom."
Brody laughed. "I grew up in a messy house and I guess it shouldn’t bother me, but it does. So I keep it neat." He went into the kitchen and Ryan followed.
She gave a low whistle as she looked around at the gadgets and appliances on the counter. "Wow. You really are serious about the cooking."
"You bet. But mostly it was good timing; they'd just re-done the kitchen in here when I was looking for a place. Couldn’t pass up a new kitchen. Have a seat." He gestured towards the kitchen table. "How's your ankle?"
"A lot better, thanks." She sat with a sigh of relief. "Can't wait until this cast is off, though. I don't like hobbling around, and it's just plain old annoying."
"I know the feeling. I sprained my ankle last year and was out for four weeks." He opened the fridge, muttered to himself, then made a decision. "You good with pasta?"
"Cool." Brody took some vegetables and chicken out of the fridge. "Pasta's handy stuff. You should keep some around. I don't know how you survive without actual food in your place."
"Oh, funny. Do I look like I'm wasting away?"
He turned, took his time looking her over, and grinned. "No, you look just fine to me."
"So, how big do you think the crowd will be at your shows?" Brody put some water on to boil, then started sorting through the vegetables.
"Not sure. We're trying to get the word out, and we've got some fans, and it'll be a Saturday, so that should help. We have web pages, and Lara updates them. And we're working on flyers."
"Here, eat this." He handed her a carrot.
She took it and laughed. "Brody, I actually do eat vegetables of my own free will."
"Humor me." He watched until she took a bite, then turned back to his preparations. "Let me know the dates and I'll see if anybody else on the team can come."
"That'd be great."
"Does your family come to your gigs?" When she didn't answer, he looked over and saw her frowning. He felt a little guilty. "Sorry. Sore spot?"
"A little." She shrugged. "My youngest brother, Evan, he comes sometimes. My parents don't come."
He glanced at her, then put some oil in a skillet. "Why not? You'd think they'd want to."
"You'd be wrong."
"Come on, it can't be that bad." He started slicing a zucchini.
"My family is obsessed with sports. Suffice to say that I haven't had a ton of support in my musical ambitions." Ryan studied the carrot before taking another bite and didn't look at him.
"Really? I mean, I know I only heard the one song, but it was great." He looked at her and then checked the water. "My parents would have been all over that. My mom plays the piano, and my dad plays the guitar."
"That's nice." Ryan was silent for a moment and then changed the subject. "So, what are you making over there?"
"Not sure yet. Some kind of pasta-veggie-chicken thing. With sauce. I'll call it chicken a là Lang
She smiled, and Brody was glad she seemed to have cheered up. He remembered the call where he'd overheard her talking to her mom, and wondered about it. His parents had always supported him; sometimes it was hard to realize not everyone's parents reacted the same way to their kids' choices.
They chatted about Ryan's day job while he cooked, and when he brought the food to the table, she asked him if he minded all the traveling he did with the team.
"Not most times. I mean, there are times when you're just beat and the last thing you want to do is drag your ass onto a bus or a plane, but then you get over it." He handed her a glass of water and sat down, motioning her to take some food. "And it's not as bad as the minors, let me tell you."
"We've done a little traveling, the band, I mean. We lined up some dates and did a self-designed tour a couple of times. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to do any kind of extended tour, sponsored by someone." Ryan took a bite of chicken and vegetables. "Hey, this is great. Really."
"Thanks." He grinned. "See, I told you it'd be better than whatever you had."
"I like reheated Thai," she shot back, but laughed herself. "I do appreciate it. When did you have time to learn to cook?"
"Funny what you pick up in the off season." He sipped some water and then ate a few bites himself. "I have four brothers and sisters, so sometimes it was cook for yourself or take your chances on what someone else made. Then one summer my mom was sick and it seemed like I was the only one available, so I started cooking."
"What was the first meal you made on your own?"
"Waffles?" She laughed. "Frozen waffles?"
He narrowed his eyes and pointed a fork at her. "I'll have you know those were made-from-scratch, cooked-on-an-iron waffles. We had eggs, flour and baking powder; it was waffles or pancakes. I'm a guy; I wanted to use the waffle iron."
"I'm jealous. We were always running around so much I didn't have a real waffle until I stayed at Lara's when I was about fourteen. Her mom made Belgian waffles, with fruit and whipped cream." She smiled at the memory. "Those were fantastic. I got her to teach me and tried to make them at home the next weekend, but it didn’t work out."
"What was all the running around for?" Brody almost wished he hadn't said anything, as he could see the shadow pass over her face, although it lifted quickly.
"Sports. What else? My brothers did a lot of baseball and football; we had to travel to games as they got older." Ryan drank some water. "And if it wasn't that, it was going to pro games. Anyway." She cleared her throat. "I guess you learned to get beyond breakfast."
"Nothing like a house full of hungry people to make you expand your cooking horizons."
"So what do I owe you for this?" She waved her fork over the plate. "Not like I can reciprocate in kind."
"Well." Brody scooped some more pasta onto his plate. "How about the all-access backstage pass?" He got up and took the plates to the counter, waving off her offer of help. "I mean, I need the whole experience." He stopped and widened his eyes. "Hey, do you have groupies? Because that could be all kinds of fun."
Ryan couldn't help but smile and shake her head. "Groupies wouldn't fit in the backstage area. Trust me, the band barely fits."
"And another bubble bursts." Brody told Ryan to go into the living room while he dealt with the dishes, and she did. She indulged herself and curled into the overstuffed sofa.
"I could probably fall asleep on this in no time flat," she said when he came out.
"Don’t do that. We're going to watch something."
"You bet. No big revenge stories, though. This is something different. The most basic competition—man versus man. Who's the fastest? Who's got the right strategy? Who will come out on top?"
"Um, Brody, I'm really not much on watching sports."
"Iron Chef is more than a sport."
"Iron Chef?" Ryan stared at him. "You want to watch a cooking show?"
He turned to her with mock indignation. "This is no mere 'cooking show.' Could you
plan a four-course meal cold, with no previous knowledge of the main ingredient? In an hour?" He raised an eyebrow as he waited for her answer.
"No, I could not." She shook her head. "You win. But I bet they
couldn't write a song."
"True, but that's not what it's about. So, what do I win? Oh, I know." He grinned. "That kiss."
Ryan laughed. "I don't think so."
"Oh, come on. You must know the song, right? Love the one you're with?"
"Nice try, Brody." She shook her head, still laughing.
"All right, I'll let it slide tonight. But some day, Ryan, you're going to let me kiss you."
"You're confident, aren't you?"
"More of a positive thinker."
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