Rae threw on her big fluffy robe and headed downstairs to see who was at her door. She could hear Kat, Ferrix, and Xavi laughing and smelled bacon fat sizzling in the kitchen. Rae and Nin had spent all morning in bed, and it was now the afternoon, but they were eating brunch. She peered through the peephole to find not one but two rather unwelcome guests on her front porch. With a sigh, Rae swung the door open to greet Ruth, the neighborhood busybody who was always complaining about HOA infractions, and Rick. She’d liked Rick well enough until Kat had told her about him blowing her off all the time.
“Hello, Rae.” Ruth smiled.
“What can I do for you?” Rae kept her voice pleasant.
Ruth’s smile faded like the last gasps of a dying star, leaving behind only the dull purple of a nearby nebula. “I was wondering if you would do me a small favor.”
Rae glared at her. “I don’t owe you any favors, Ruth.”
“Of course, you don’t. It’s just that your grass is looking a little splotchy.” She motioned toward Rae’s lawn, wrinkling her nose. “Those yellow spots are so unsightly.”
“Well, I can’t help it, not with the dogs that piss on it. So, maybe your complaint should be to the people who walk their dogs and let them take a leak in my yard.” Rae crossed her arms.
Ruth’s mouth dropped open, and Rae swore there was practically steam coming off her.
Rick stood there looking uncomfortable with the whole exchange until he finally cleared his throat. “Can I come in? Is Kat awake yet?”
“Yeah, she’s in the kitchen.” Rae cracked open the door far enough for Rick to move past her and then moved it back so Ruth wouldn’t get any bright ideas to push her way in or intrude any more than she already had. “You’d better go say hello.”
Ruth was a twig of a woman with a face that looked as if it had been stretched. Her eyes were narrow, and her nose was obnoxiously big. She moved her head a lot when she talked, and Rae was beginning to see why Kat made fun of her.
She bobbed her head again. “It’s just that people are starting to complain, and I can’t help noticing that your backyard is a disaster. All the plants around your pool are destroyed or flattened. What happened?”
Rae knew what happened to her backyard but wasn’t about to share that an alien spaceship, now hidden by high-tech cloaking, had annihilated her shrubbery. How had Ruth known about the plants in her backyard, though? Her intrusiveness knew no bounds.
Rae glared. “Who’s complaining?”
Ruth flicked one of her manicured nails. “Well, those in the neighborhood who try to keep things nice. It’s not fair to the other neighbors, and you know how we like to keep things fair.”
“Actually, I don’t. You’re the first person who has complained about my yard. Have a great day!” Rae shut the door, smiling when she heard Ruth gasp from the other side.
Rae could hear the laughter from the kitchen and couldn’t help smiling herself. She wasn’t sure what had come over her between setting boundaries with Basil and telling Ruth off. Rae was on a roll, and it was far too satisfying.
When she entered the kitchen, she smelled coffee, and everyone gathered around the island. Nin had come downstairs and told Kat how excellent the coffee was, but it was a little weak compared to the morning beverages he usually drank at home.
“Oh? Where are you guys from?” Rick’s gaze shot daggers at Ferrix because he was standing too close to Kat.
“They’re from Finland,” Rae moved around him to get to the coffee pot and poured herself a mug.
Nin smiled and took a sip of his drink, not correcting her. Good, he was learning how to blend in on Earth.
“I’d like to go there again someday. The women are beautiful,” Rick remarked.
Kat rolled her eyes.
Xavi tilted his head. “Where is Finland? We haven’t explored any other parts of your planet.”
Rick stared at Xavi. He’d practically blurted out that they were aliens, but Xavi smiled, oblivious to his confusion. It was funny to watch.
Rick raised an eyebrow. “You haven’t traveled anywhere other than the states? I’ve been to Finland once, and I went on an architecture tour.”
Nin nodded. “What did you think?”
“I found the whole experience rather boring. The only cool thing was the sauna, and I found that stimulating.” Rick grinned.
Rae was about to ask what he meant by stimulating when Kat cut in.
“And what did you find so stimulating about the sauna?” Kat’s voice was icy. “God, you’re such a player.”
Ferrix glanced at her. “What’s a player?”
“A player is someone who is very shallow and only has sex as a way to get girls. He’s also condescending and thinks he’s God’s gift to women.” Kat’s mouth formed a tight line.
Rick frowned. “Are you saying that I’m shallow?”
“Busted,” Rae muttered, cracking a grin.
Kat narrowed her eyes. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out, Rick.” She shook her head as if mystified by the fact that he didn’t get it. “What did you find so stimulating about the sauna?”
Kat was usually a very laid-back, friendly person. She was a riot at social gatherings, but today Kat looked like she was itching to smack Rick.
Rick didn’t pick up on the fact that Kat had probably meant it as a rhetorical question. “A sauna is a place where you’re naked, and there are all these women, some young and hot, or at least there were. It was the perfect place for a guy to get laid. That’s what I meant. I’m sure you guys know what I mean,” He glanced toward Xavi, probably hoping the men would back him up, but Xavi only shrugged as if to say don’t look at me. “You guys are from Finland.”
“What do you mean by perfect?” Kat wasn’t letting him off the hook now that he royally stepped in it.
“I was asking about Finland because I was trying to make conversation with your new friends.” Rick recovered himself, but he overemphasized the word ‘friends.’ “Kat, could you come outside with me?”
Kat nodded and followed him onto the patio. Ferrix fisted his hands on top of the kitchen island. It was apparent to Rae that he didn’t like the guy any more than she did.