Will Larson watched the batter bubbles burst before he flipped the current batch of pancakes. When he heard the motorcycle roar up outside, he knew Shane had finally arrived for breakfast.
“Good morning,” Will said, smiling as his youngest son came through the door sniffing the air like a hungry dog.
“Banana walnut pancakes,” Shane said on sigh, walking into the kitchen of his brother Michael’s house. “Those are still my favorite.”
Will tossed a grin in his direction of his son, and then smiled when Shane walked over and dropped an affectionate kiss on his unshaven cheek. His youngest looked like his blond-haired Nordic-looking mother, but had definitely inherited his father’s size, exceeding Will’s height by several inches and the width of his shoulders even more. Will knew it would take the same quantity of pancakes he and Michael ate together just to fill the twenty-seven year old up, so he poured out batter to make another six.
“So how’s the graphic novel business? Has the Winged Protector solved any more crimes or saved any more damsels in distress lately?” Will asked companionably.
“Nah. His alter ego, Eric Benton, is mostly a monogamist. He’s still enjoying the last damsel. I did get offered a deal for action figures last week,” Shane said, going to the coffee pot and pouring himself a cup.
“Action figures? That’s cool. Was it a good deal?” Will asked, impressed that his son’s creative work was gaining popularity. He was doubly glad now he hadn’t let Ellen discourage the boy’s comic book drawing too much.
Shane shrugged. “It’s a toy company working with my publisher. My agent said they’re offering enough to buy a small house, plus a percentage of sales over time. I guess that’s pretty good.”
Will stopped and stared. “Pretty good? That’s great, Shane.” He went back to flipping pancakes, smiling and proud.
“When you get your house, maybe I can come live with you for a while. I think your brother Michael is tired of me already,” Will said, wanting to laugh at the pained expression on Shane’s face.
It would be hard for his youngest to bring home his one-nighters with his father in residence. Will was seriously tempted to do it for a while just to disrupt Shane’s habitual womanizing.
“Yeah, I am tired of you,” Michael confirmed, walking into the kitchen, stretching and scratching the six pack abdominal muscles he worked hard to maintain. It had been harder since his father had been in his house and doing most of the cooking.
Will laughed at his oldest son’s comment about being tired of him because it was half teasing and half truth. The month he’d been living with his oldest had been an interesting social adjustment for both to them, but Will had been relieved to have some company for a while, even if it was reluctant. The last year had been a lonely one for him.
When he looked at Michael now and smiled, Will had the same thought he always had that it was like looking in a mirror showing him a picture of his past. Michael had inherited Will’s muscular build, but not his height, which he complained about still at thirty-four. At five ten, Michael was average in stature, but his wide shoulders, broad chest, and muscled arms only emphasized the passionate nature promised by his dark brown eyes and equally dark hair that hung nearly to his waist. Will’s Celtic heritage had branded his eldest hard.
“Why are you tired of me?” Will asked, grinning.
“You’ve been moping around my house, not dating, and barely working on your art. I’m sick and tired of being greeted by a giant marble penis every time I go out to the courtyard to work. Carve a freaking leg or something, Dad. No matter how artistically impressive, a giant marble penis by itself is still creepy as hell,” Michael complained, making his father blush.
Michael laughed and patted his father on a shoulder, sniffing the pancakes with appreciation. He loved to tease him, but would never really criticize his father’s art. His mother had done enough of that when she and his Dad were married.
Shane was laughing so hard at his brother’s comment that coffee was threatening to come out his nose. “So how long has the marble penis been leading it’s solitary existence?”
Shane pulled a coffee cup out of a cabinet, and poured Michael a cup.
“Practically since Dad finally sold the house and moved in here,” Michael said.
Shane laughed as he handed his brother the coffee.
“Thanks,” Michael said, savoring that first bracing sip. “I think Dad’s depressed, Shane.”
Though Michael was joking with his brother, there was serious element in his tone as well. Despite his father’s amazing financial success as a sculptor, his mother hadn’t ever thought his father’s art was as important as his other work. As the oldest child, Michael clearly remembered all the fights his parents had had about the time he’d spent carving. Selling the house, which was also the place his father was used to working, had been as bad as the divorce itself.
“Stop talking about me in the third person. I am in the room, not deaf, and not depressed,” Will denied, sighing. “I just haven’t felt like carving. Throw a cover over it if it bothers you so much, Michael.”
“Maybe the state of the statue is trying to tell you something, Dad,” Shane suggested, his amused, but serious gaze on his father’s face. “Maybe the marble penis isn’t the only penis leading a solitary existence. The divorce was over a year ago. Mom and Luke married a few months after it was final. You’re not even dating yet.”
Will turned off the griddle and set the mountain of pancakes in the middle of the table he’d already set for three.
“Listen, Mr. all-but-dissertation in Psychology, when you actually finish that million dollar doctorate at Johns Hopkins, then you can analyze me and my man parts. Until then you’re just my smart ass son. Sit and eat—both of you laughing hyenas,” Will ordered, only partially minding their amusement at his expense.
“Dad, you know Michael and I love you. At least let me give you my best dating advice,” Shane said sliding his length into the nearest chair.
He heaped six pancakes on his plate and covered them with a lake of syrup before he paused and schooled his voice into the business-like tone he had learned from the man he addressed.
“Shave your head, get an earring, and ride your bike around town. Your body is great for a man over fifty. You could be picking up the kind of women I do. Look, I got a tongue stud. You need to get one of these. Women love this kind of stuff.” Shane stuck out his tongue to show his father who only rolled his eyes. He heard his brother Michael snickering around a mouthful of pancakes, but merely ignored his jealous sibling.
Will studied the tongue stud with a mixture of horror and shock. He looked at Michael who only laughed, shrugged, and went on eating.
Michael was crazy in love with a woman he couldn’t get along with for more than two minutes at a time, and even though the woman wasn’t in his life full-time, he wasn’t always out chasing away the good memories with nameless, faceless blonds like Shane favored doing. His oldest son only did that when the woman he loved got married. When she was divorced, Michael resumed chasing her.
While it seemed fruitless to Will to want a woman badly who obviously didn’t want you back, he still never worried about Michael much. At least Michael cared about a woman. He wasn’t sure Shane even had the capacity to genuinely love a female.
“Shane, you are missing the big picture, son. Do you even remember their names, what they did to you, what you did to them? Do you ever want to go back to any of them so bad you ache?” Will asked.
“No. But I’ve not been looking for that kind of experience,” Shane said, shrugging away his father’s disapproval.
Will pointed his fork at Shane. “Yes, you are. I raised you. You know I felt that way about your mother because I made sure you did. So I know you’re at least sub-consciously looking for that whether you realize it or not. There is nothing like finding that one incredible woman who changes everything.”
“What happens when that one incredible woman changes so much that she leaves you and marries a younger man?” Shane asked sharply, daring his father to answer his question less than honestly. He and Michael both knew that their father had taken the divorce very hard.
“Look—every relationship is a risk in some way. I had thirty-three years good years with your mother. We grew apart, and she fell in love with someone else. I don’t know why these things happen. They just do,” Will said, getting up and refilling his coffee. “I am sad about the divorce, but not really depressed. When the right time comes, I’ll find someone and start dating again. I have an open mind about it.”
“Good. When?” Shane asked, watching his father walk back to the table and sit down heavily with a resigned sigh. He wanted to laugh at his father’s irritation with him, but held it in.
“When I’m ready and I meet someone, I will start dating again. There’s nothing wrong in waiting for the right woman to show up. I don’t need to fill the interim with tall leggy blondes half my age,” Will said firmly.
“Fine,” Shane said, his tone dripping with fake resignation. “I’ll take care of chasing all the leggy blondes half your age, Dad. Geez, you’re hard to satisfy. No wonder Michael is tired of you.”
Shane looked at his brother, his gaze full of wickedness. “What kind of women does Dad pawn off on you?”
“None—and I’m totally pissed now,” Michael said, putting as much anger in his voice as he could over the urge to laugh. “Dad’s always liked you better, Shane. When you buy your house, he’s definitely moving in with you.”
“Oh, shut up and eat—both of you,” Will said, stabbing his pancakes viciously, tired of being harassed by his adult children. “I’m getting my own damn place as soon as I can.”
“When? Mom said you gave all the house sale money to her,” Shane said sadly, shaking his head side-to-side in pity. “I guess that means you’re broke. That marble penis better grow a body soon.”
At the vicious swearing following Shane’s comments, Michael shook his head at his father as well and made sympathetic noises with his tongue. “Did you ever even use the f-word when you a principal, Dad? I don’t even remember you swearing in front of us until Shane ran over your Harley with his car.”
“Thanks, Benedict Arnold. Did you have to remind him about me killing the bike?” Shane asked, pancakes all but falling out of mouth. Killing his father’s beloved Harley was the only thing Shane had ever done in his life so bad that his father had been truly disappointed in him.
“You’re the one making Dad mad this morning, not me,” Michael, said laughing at Shane’s pained expression.
Since it was his house, Michael reasoned, he could say anything he wanted to defend himself under his own roof. This included shifting his father’s irritation in his brother’s general direction and away from him. His obvious success made his smile even wider.
“I’m definitely getting my own place soon,” Will said to his pancakes, even as both his sons laughed harder. “And I’m not inviting you two over for breakfast.”
Shane pointed his fork at his brother. “If I never get banana pancakes again, you are a dead man.”
Michael grinned, and gave his brother the finger to let him know how afraid he was of him and his threats.
“I am serious,” Shane warned, stabbing the air between him and Michael with his fork like it was a weapon.
Will rolled his eyes to the ceiling and shook his head. Sometimes he wished they had both taken more after their less passionate mother.