Christmas Dinner At Reynolds Hall
Matt glanced out at the oak lined drive with red—he knew they were red because Aubrey had told him so when they drove up the drive this morning—bows around each tree with a hitch in his breath. Reynolds Hall was always awe inspiring, but there was just something about the mansion decked out in Christmas decorations. On the upper galley of the porch, fresh looped Fir and Cedar garland swayed in the breeze. The scent proclaimed it Christmas like nothing else could, and the tiny lights clinked against the wrought iron rails. The big up lights on the ground still lit gigantic Doric columns all the way around the house making it seem like a monument rather than a home. It was so peaceful in the country. Too peaceful.
At home right about now, it would be noisy with the little ones begging to unwrap an early present. Matt inhaled a deep breath. It smelled like it was going to snow and— he sniffed again. He wasn’t alone.
“Homesick?” Keaton stepped out from the behind one of the columns and joined Matt’s stroll around the lower deck.
“Yeah. I miss my brothers.”
Keaton nodded. “Yeah. I imagine. I always missed this place when I spent holidays elsewhere.” A wistful smile tugged at his lips. “There’s nothing quite like it. No matter where I am, nothing feels like home more than Reynolds Hall.” Much quieter he added, “I love New Mexico, but this is home.” He huddled down further in his coat. “I can tell you the history if you like.”
Matt chuckled. “I could probably tell you by now.”
A pair of French doors opened just in front of them.
Keaton grinned. “Yeah, so can Chay.”
“So can Chay what?” Chay stepped out of the doors and closed them behind him. “Brrr, it’s cold out here.”
Wrapping his arms around his much taller mate, Keaton answered, “You can probably tell Matt the history of Reynolds Hall.”
“What you mean Aubrey and your dad haven’t already told him?” Chay hugged Keaton and dropped a kiss on his nose. “They’re as bad as you about this place.”
“They have. Actually, so has Joanna.” Matt stepped closer to the house. It was colder now that they’d quit moving. “What’re you doing out here without a coat?”
“Came to tell the two of you dinner’s ready.” Chay pulled away from Keaton and jogged back toward the doors. “Aubrey and I just set the table.”
“Where did Martha go?” Matt knew for a fact that the Reynolds’ housekeeper had made the dinner. She’d shooed Matt out of the kitchen earlier when he tried to steal a roll.
“She and Thompson went to their daughter’s house.” Chay opened the doors. “Come on, I’m freezing.”
Matt smiled at Chay’s retreating back. He missed his family, but it was nice seeing Keaton and Chay. Them being here brought a little piece of home to him.
By the time Matt and Keaton got their coats off and their hands washed everyone—which consisted of Aubrey, his parents and Chay—was already seated at the table.
Keaton took his seat next to his mate and Matt took his seat next to his.
Chay smiled. “Your dad sent a couple of presents for you with us.”
“Yeah?” Unable to help himself, Matt grinned. This was the first holiday he’d been away from his family. “I have some for you to take back too, if that’s okay.”
“Sure.” Keaton shrugged and reached for his tea glass.
“Ahem.” Smiling, Joanna waited until everyone was looking her direction. The woman was the very vision of southern charm. “I think we should say grace.”
The dining room grew so hushed not even a breath could be heard.
Howard stared at his wife slack jawed.
Chay’s eyebrows shot up.
Aubrey cocked his head studying her like she was some sort of enigma but Keaton was the one who finally broke the silence. “Are you freakin’ kidding me? We never pray.” Keaton picked up his fork and raised it toward the platter of ham in front of him. “Lets eat.”
Matt couldn’t decide how he should act. His own family wasn’t religious, but…
“Ow.” Keaton glared at Chay. “What the hell was that for?”
“For being rude. If it pleases your mother to pray then we pray. Put the fork down.” Chay nodded his head once and beamed down the table at Joanna.
Joanna smiled back. “Thank you, Chay.”
Fighting back a grin, Howard mumbled, “Suck up,” under his breath and pulled his hands—that had been reaching toward the mashed potato bowl—back into his lap. Matt half expected the Reynolds patriarch to stick his tongue out as his son-in-law.
Aubrey raised both his hands in surrender. “I’d like everyone to take note that it wasn’t me this year.”
“Quit kicking me.” Setting his fork down, Keaton pinched Chay.
“Ow.” Chay swatted at his mate but missed when Keaton leaned out of the way.
Howard chuckled and reached for the bowl of mashed potatoes again.
“Howard…” Joanna gave him the mom look.
Howard sobered. “Boys, knock it off.” He picked up the spoon and piled some potatoes onto his plate before returning the serving bowl to the table.
“You know, all right, I have to agree with Bit on this. We—” A roll sailed across the table, hitting Aubrey in the head. Aubrey caught it before it hit the table and glared at his brother.
“Don’t call me that. Only Chay is allowed to call me that.”
Matt glanced down at the end of the table to see how Joanna was taking all of this.
She caught Matt’s gaze and if it weren’t for the slight twitch of her lip Matt would have thought her annoyed.
Chay grabbed Keaton by the back of the neck and pushed his head forward. “Joanna, please continue.”
This time it was Aubrey who called Chay a “suck up.”
“Let go of my head.” Keaton laughed.
Covering his mate’s mouth, Chay bowed his own head. “Shut up, I’m starving. We pray. We eat. Behave.”
Matt’s stomach growled its agreement. But he couldn’t stop darting a glance around the table long enough to bow his own head.
Aubrey looked at the roll he just took a bite of and set it down before bowing his head. “Oops.” He didn’t sound at all repentant.
That was the last straw Matt burst into laughter. It was as entertaining as eating with his own family. There may only be two Reynolds siblings but they were both outspoken enough to equal nine.
Joanna tilted her head toward the ceiling, “God help me.”
“Amen. Now lets eat.” Keaton shook off Chay’s hold, picked up his fork and stabbed a slab of ham.
Who could be homesick with all this?