I move to the side of the counter on the opposite side of the stove from where he is working to watch him crack several eggs into a bowl. My gaze is drawn to his hands, and I cannot help but think of how expertly he’d touched my body, how expertly he handles a paint brush. How expertly he’d known how to keep me on the edge and then take me over.
He glances at me, and I feel as if he’s reading my thoughts. Part of me burns to boldly embrace what he’s making me feel, but the old me — the real me? - rushes to cover up what I am thinking for no apparent reason. “I know how to shop in the frozen food section of my grocery store and that’s about it. My mom was…we…didn’t cook.”
He whisks eggs in a bowl and adds milk, salt, and pepper. “Was your mom too busy to cook or she didn’t like to cook?”
How did I let this conversation start? “My father didn’t like her cooking so she didn’t cook.”
He rests a hand on the counter. “He cooked?”
“Ah no. My father doesn’t do domestic tasks.”
He fires up the burner and pours a little oil in the pan. “So who cooked? You or a sibling?”
“I’m an only child and I don’t cook.” He glances at me, a curious expression on his face, and I know why. I’m making a simple question complicated because I always make things regarding my father complicated. “We had a private chef.” The surprised look on his face makes me regret I’ve gone there and I motion to the coffee pot sitting in front of me. “I’m falling down on my job.”
He hesitates a moment, and I think he wants to push me for more information, but thankfully he seems to change his mind. He dumps the toppings on the eggs into the pan and agrees, “That was the deal. I cook. You brew.”
“Aye, Captain,” I say with a mock salute, and I reach for the canister, noting the glowing green time at the base of the fancy silver and black pot. It reads the early hour of seven-thirty. Much too early for the knots in my stomach the family drama confessions I don’t intend to make to form.
I set the lid aside and draw in the scent of the coffee and think of Ava for a moment. She’d smelled like coffee when I’d hugged her at the gallery. Or, I was drunk and my nose was in overload like my big mouth that blurted out ‘cock-fight’. “It smells like…Cup O’ Cafe.”
“Not even close,” Chris says, joining me, his shoulder brushing mine, and I am blown away by the blast of awareness it creates, and thankful for how quickly it untwines the knot in my stomach. Our skin isn’t touching, and still he does this to me.
He inhales the beans and then holds the canister to my nose for me to do the same. “That’s the scent of a French blend by Malongo in Paris. I bring it with me when I come to the States. I love the stuff.”
“I can’t wait to try it,” I say and mean it. He loves the coffee, the pizza, and Tom Hanks. I love that he is passionate about so many things. About me? At least for now? I’ll take it, I decide. His passion is contagious.
“Four scoops for a pot,” he informs me.
I nod and get to work, two frying pans sizzling beside me. I’m pouring the water into the pot when I am struck by how utterly unexpected and comfortable this domestic experience with Chris is. His earlier confessions about never bringing a woman home lends to an assumption, he too, is on unfamiliar territory. He never brings a woman home? Surely he means rarely. Doesn’t he?
I glance at the perfectly formed omelets not yet filled and folded. “Looking pretty darn master chef to me.”
He glances at me; his eyes alight with good humor. “Now you’re giving me performance pressure.”
I snort. “You and performance pressure don’t compute.”
His lips quirk but there’s no denial to follow. He’s confident. Whatever is beneath his skin, whatever the damage, it’s not made him insecure.
He holds up some veggies before dumping them into the omelet. “Onions and peppers?”
“Why not? I’m already without a toothbrush. I’m lethal.”
He laughs, a deep rumble of manly hotness that does funny things to my chest. I am hungry for him, not the omelet. “Call the front desk if you want,” he suggests. “They pretty much operate like a hotel. You want it. They get it.”
“Oh.” I am surprised but pleased. “How do I call them?”
He motions to his left. . “The phone on the wall behind the fridge goes direct to the front desk.”
Elated with idea of a toothbrush, I move to the phone and lean on another small counter, intending to pick up the receiver, but I hesitate. “Who should I tell them I am?”
Abandoning the food, Chris steps in front of me and his big, wonderful body is framing mine, his h*ps intimately pressed to my hips. I am instantly aroused but then I’m fairly certain I’ll stay that way with this man.
“Who do you want to tell them you are?” There is no mistaken the challenge beneath his words.
Oh hell, he’s having another mood swing, and we’re walking on the dark side again. I’m going to get whiplash at this rate.
My fingers curl on the hard, warm wall of his chest. He’s testing me and I’m not playing his game. One thing I’ve learned since leaving behind my father, and yes — Michael – is that I am me. I can be no one else, nor do I plan to try for Chris, no matter how hot the man is.
“I don’t want to tell them anything,” I say. “It’s none of their business.”