“Wow. Kara, that was fabulous.” Frank pushed back from the table, one hand resting on his stomach. “I don’t think I’m going to need to eat again for at least a week.”
“Thanks. I’m glad you liked it.” Kara stood and started gathering plates and silverware, stacking them up in front of her. “Joe said it was one of your favorites.” She threw a knowing look at Frank. “I’d offer to send you home with some of the leftovers, but...”
Frank chuckled. “No need to explain. I lived with him longer than you have so far.” He looked over at his brother, waiting for the expected outburst. None came. He eyed his brother curiously, but Joe simply sat in his chair, doodling on the table with his index finger.
“Let me help you with that,” Anna said, pushing back her chair and starting to rise.
Kara put a hand out to stop her. “No need,” she said, her brown eyes dancing, “I’m not dealing with them.” She sat back down in her chair, and leaned her head against Joe’s shoulder, a wide grin on her face. “Am I, dear?”
Joe grunted, looked down at her, and sighed. “Good thing I love you,” he said, his voice flat. He turned an accusatory glare at his brother. “Do you have any idea how many pots and pans were needed to make this?” He waved a hand at the table.
Frank laughed. “Probably the same number I used the last time I made it.” He raised an eyebrow. “Why so grumpy? It’s not like we sat here and ate it in front of you.”
“Thanksgiving,” Joe huffed, but there was a glint in his eyes that let Frank know some of the attitude was posturing. Some. “I probably should have behaved better, but I really didn’t think I’d be washing this many dishes. I mean, look at my hands,” he held them up for inspection. “My knuckles are all dry and crackly.”
“Hand lotion,” Kara said, “and a growing appreciation of the fact that I usually do the cleaning up after dinner. Both things build character.”
Joe turned to look at her, a puzzled expression on his face. “How does hand lotion build character?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. It just does.”
He rolled his eyes, picked up the stack of dishes, and crossed to the sink, squeezing a liberal amount of soap into the water now flowing from the faucet.
Anna followed him with her eyes, one hand twisting a curl through her fingers. “Joe, if you hate washing dishes so much, why didn’t you find an apartment with a dishwasher? That’s got to pretty easy these days.”
A faint flush spread over Joe’s cheeks, and he mumbled something at the growing pile of suds in the sink.
Frank walked slowly over to the counter and leaned against it, taking the weight off his mostly-healed leg. “Didn’t catch that, little brother. What did you say?”
Joe let out a breath and turned the water off. Once hand still on the faucet, he said, “I didn’t think of it.” At their astonished faces, he shrugged. “What can I say? I ate out a lot.” He considered for a moment, a crease forming on his brow. “And usually ate the leftovers right out of the containers.”
Kara shuddered, and Joe turned a pleading look at his brother.
“Come on, ’bro, I’ve been doing dishes all afternoon. Take pity on me. I wash, you dry? It’ll be just like when we were kids.”
“When we were kids, I had to rewash everything you didn’t clean properly.” Frank gave him a long look. “Fine.” He held up a hand to cut off Joe’s shout of triumph. “Only because I want to keep Kara from having to re-do them later.” He walked over to the other side of the sink, and grabbed the towel hanging over the dish rack.
They worked in silence for a few seconds, then Kara spoke up from the table. “I don’t know about you,” she said, giving Anna a sidelong glance, “but I could get used to this. It’s a really nice view.” She paused. “Maybe we could start a business. Hot guys doing housework. I bet we’d make millions.”
Anna laughed, twisting her long, dark hair into a knot. “We’d have to get them in muscle tees and running shorts with aprons around their waists.”
Kara smiled back at her. “Now there’s a great mental image.”
Joe frowned and poked his brother with his elbow. “I think we’re being objectified,” he said.
Frank glanced back at the animated conversation going on at the table, then picked up a pile of forks. “If you mean ‘we’ as in men, then yes. If you mean ‘we’ as in the two of us...” He trailed off, shaking his head.
“... pushing a vacuum cleaner,” Anna was saying. “If we have that as the splash picture on the website, I’m sure that will attract attention.”
“Definitely,” Kara agreed, then frowned slightly. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Joe vacuum. I seem to be the one who does that chore.”
“I clean the bathroom,” Joe said over his shoulder. “Doesn’t that count for something?”
“No,” Kara said, her eyes unfocused, “you’re the one who messes it up.”
“I vacuum,” Frank said, opening a drawer and putting away the silverware.
“I know,” Anna said, an arch look on face. “That’s what gave me the idea.”
“He does a good job, too.” Kara paused. “Man, I haven’t thought about that in a long time. I mean, the last time I saw Frank doing housework was...” She went still, her eyes first growing unfocused, then focusing sharply on Frank. “... Moscow.”
Frank’s head swerved, his eyes locking on to hers. A sudden tension filled the room. “That was a long time ago.”
Anna’s voice broke into the silence. “What was in Moscow?”
“You two went to Russia, and neither of you ever thought to mention it to me?” Annoyance filled Joe’s voice. “When was this?”
Slowly, Frank’s gaze shifted from Kara to Joe. “Not Russia. Moscow, Idaho.” He turned to look at Anna, his face a careful blank. “Our first case together. Mine and Kara’s.”
“Oh, that. Here. Take this.” Joe pushed a dripping plate at his brother. “I never got the whole story behind that. What happened?”
Kara pulled her eyes from Frank’s to look at Joe. “Officially? We shut down a fake document operation.”
“And unofficially?” Anna leaned forward in her chair, her long hair brushing the top of the table.
Frank finished wiping the plate and put it down on the counter, folding the dishtowel on top of it. “Unofficially?” He cleared his throat. “Well, unofficially, we shut down a homegrown terrorist cell.”