But in spite of the chaos, Lalique wanted to keep her promise to Ray Nolan. Since she'd found him so easy to like and when she'd heard what Perry had to say about him she felt confident in having him to the house.
She'd originally planned to invite him for dinner but Arlene asked for a daytime cookout, saying it would be more relaxed.
"I was wondering," she hedged, "Couldn't we invite his friend over, too? I mean, Perry."
"Well, he lives alone he might enjoy a home cooked meal."
Lalique looked at her skeptically,
"Since supposedly he could compete on Iron Chef America, why would you think that?"
"Please, Lalique? Ray would have another guy to talk to and I think he'd feel more comfortable."
"Oh, okay," she gave in with a sigh and then griped, "I hope 'Emeril' won't consider himself above chicken and corn on the cob."
The meal actually went well. The conversation was light and amusing and the grilled chicken and fixings were succulent and delicious. Lalique was gratified to see Perry wolfing down his fair share. She didn't realize it but she was spending more time observing him than Ray. But then, she no longer had many questions about Ray. He appeared to be just what he said he was.
After clearing the food away Lalique headed upstairs to check on Alain and Desiree. Arlene and the men were still talking but she knew that Arlene would take the dishes in for her shortly. Both of the twins were waking from their naps. They would need to potty and be changed out of their pajamas and then they'd be ready to play. She was dressing Alain while Desiree fussed and decided this would go faster with Arlene to help. She carried the half-dressed boy with her as she opened the window that looked out on the backyard.
"Arlene! I need your help, can you come up here a minute?"
There was no answer so she carried him back to the changing table; he still needed his shoes and meanwhile Desiree had progressed from fussing to whining. Then Lalique thought she heard Arlene on the stairs.
"Oh, thank goodness," she said over her shoulder, "Desiree is ready to shriek like a Banshee and I'm still buckling Alain's sandals."
She turned to find Perry standing in the doorway.
"I'm sorry if I'm intruding but I heard you calling Arlene and I couldn't find her or Ray. They seem to have vanished but I have a feeling they went looking for privacy and are out of earshot. Don't know if they're in a closet or the garage. Best not to think of it. Can I help? I'm actually pretty good with kids."
"Oh. Well, no I just--" she stopped, still holding Alain, who now sported sandals and was squirming like crazy to get down.
Desiree chose that moment to go from whining to outraged screeching. She wanted out...now.
"What is it time for? Food?" Perry asked, taking Alain from her. Her children were not the shy kind and went easily to anyone at the house, but even so he seemed to have a deft touch with Alain. Like it wasn't his first time or something.
"No, it's not time for his meal yet; I'm afraid what he wants right now is attention," she plucked Desiree out of her crib and she stopped screaming like magic as soon as her mother had her in arms.
"Attention? I can do that," Perry assured her as he set Alain down and dropped down Indian style across from him.
Immediately the little boy held up his hands to Perry,
"Gotcha, slick," he nodded at the child then asked Lalique, "I'm sorry, what did you say his name was?"
"Alain. And her name is Desiree."
It took her only moments to get Desiree into her sun suit. Meanwhile Perry was delighting Alain with exaggerated Peek-a-boo movements and expressions.
Desiree responded with gleeful shrieks and laughter as Lalique tossed her in the air. But she had her eye on Perry and Adrien. The minute Lalique set her down she toddled her way over to Perry and made her request.
"You, too? Okay, I guess we can take turns," Perry smiled and chucked her under the chin which caused her to giggle. Lalique guided Alain over to his current favorite toy, the xylophone.
"He's musical, too, huh?"
"Yes, they both are. Really, I'm serious. I can tell already. I'll probably start giving them dance lessons myself soon since there's a studio downstairs. They're young, so it would only be a few little moves just for fun. I don't want to pressure them."
"Never to early to learn an appreciation for music," Perry asserted, "You'll be doing them a great favor, really."
"I hope so."
"Well, shall we let them join the party?" he suggested.
They carried the twins down to the living room where, surprise, Arlene and Ray were sitting on the love seat. Since that was right next to the stained glass door leading to the pool Lalique had the feeling they'd been sitting out there on one of the couches when Perry couldn't find them. The little sneaks.
"You said you have two more?" Perry asked putting Desiree down so she could head over to the play station where Alain was already busy with blocks.
"Two more? Oh, you mean kids. Yes, I have two little babies, Brett and Noelle."
"So when do I get to make their acquaintance?"
She thought briefly that it was kind of amazing that after messing with toddlers for some thirty minutes this single man was willing to fool with infants as well.
"Um, they're asleep," Lalique almost stuttered, "I don't like to upset their schedule."
That would be all she'd need; Perry cruising through her bedroom to go see the babies sleeping. She didn't want to picture Perry in her bedroom, and she didn't want him to picture her...no sir.
"Oh, well, I'm sure you have photos, I'd really like to see them sometime."
Sometime? What time? This was supposed to be a one-day only thing.
She went over to get the scrapbook she was starting for Brett and Noelle and brought it back to him where he sat on the sofa.
"Hey, they're pretty cute," he nodded, taking care with the book, "Black, black eyebrows like yours, brown eyes on this one, but blue eyes on the other."
"Yep," she shrugged and looked away, "Well, Desiree had brown eyes like mine, but Alain has light green eyes. Just the way it goes. After all they're fraternal twins, not identical. I think the babies will have black hair like me and like Alain and Desiree." And like John.
"They're still really little or are these old photos? They must only be a couple of months old in this shot."
"They are little. That's why they call them babies."
Really she did not want to discuss Brett and Noelle with him further. She practically snatched the scrapbook out of his hands and placed it into its proper location in the bookcase.
"Do you play much?" Perry asked indicating the video game player.
"Not lately, but I used to; do you want to play a game then?" she said, relieved to change the subject.
"Sure. I should warn you I play kind of cutthroat, though."
"Oh, I won't mind, but I'm bound to be rusty. Not much time for games since I had Alain and Desiree."
But Lalique couldn't catch a break when it came to SSX3 this time. She was usually a better player than this. She lost every game. And never before had it made her so angry. She didn't say much, but she was in a snit and it was showing in her every gesture.
"You aren't a very good sport, are you?" he remarked mildly.
"I am so a good sport! I lose all the time to people and I'm always polite."
That sounded incredibly stupid but it was too late and Perry was chuckling,
"I'll bet. But if you lose all that often I can see how it might get on your nerves after a while."
"You are the only thing getting on my nerves, and I'll bet I could start a club with the people who feel the same way," Lalique said indignantly, "The Perry Is a Righteous Pain Club or maybe Conceited Fools Anonymous."
"Yeah, I have been accused of being irritating," he conceded with evident humor,
"But that's just in the beginning of a relationship. Later, they find me much more likeable."
"Mr. Everhart," she said with admirable frostiness, "I must point out that this is not a relationship and never will be. You are simply a guest at my house for the day."
"Well, if so it's been a great day in my book, I have to admit that," he smiled a smile that was not tempered by sarcasm or cynicism and it almost took Lalique's breath away. How could he be so aggravating and then be so nice? And how could he fail to recognize her scorn and rejection? His gracious reply had knocked the wind right out of her sails.
Um? Well? Brilliant, Lalique.
"Maybe you'd like to go out on the front porch? It's cooling off a bit and the view is quite nice," she asked more to change the subject than anything, "I just have to run and check on the babies a moment."
She hurried upstairs without waiting for an answer but did look over her shoulder at Arlene and Ray who were cuddling on the love seat still. Alain and Desiree were playing right in sight. Things were ship shape there. All she had to do was calm down and stop being such a fool. Immediately.
Next update: Lalique Flynn Ch. 8 Protesting Too Much Part 2