“He owned a café in the town I grew up in, but he died a few months after my tenth birthday.” Her eyes darkened, but she quickly blinked her sadness away. “That’s enough about me. It’s time to get baking.” She rummaged beneath the prep bench then threw an apron my way. “Since you’re in such a helpful mood, you can help me some more. You’re no longer Evan James gaming billionaire. You’re Evan James, sous chef.”
No one had been in the kitchen with me before. I was a loner and preferred to do everything by myself. Accepting help meant being in debt to someone and then having to pay that debt off by doing things like agreeing to go to a ball.
When I’d mixed the batter for Evan’s favorite chocolate chip muffins, I showed him how high to fill the cases, and like a little kid, he wanted to eat the leftovers.
He swiped his tongue all over the spoon, and I bit my lip to stop from moaning. If I kissed him now, he would taste like rich, dark chocolate. One nibble of his lips wouldn’t be nearly enough.
“These muffins are as delicious raw as they are baked.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the goofy expression on his face. He continued to lick and suck the spoon, which continued to drive my hormones insane. He scraped up another spoonful, but before sucking the spoon into his mouth, he said, “My mom always bought muffins and cupcakes from the store, but there’s nothing like made from scratch. She only ever baked boxed cakes for our birthdays.”
“Boohoo,” I said, pretending to rub my fists beneath my eyes. “If you’re trying to make me feel sorry for you, I won’t. That Duncan Hines makes a mean devil’s food cake. Don’t get me started on Betty Crocker’s genius.”
After licking the spoon clean, he leaned his hip against the prep bench, picked up the mixing bowl, and swiped a fingertip around the side. “Tell me why you like baking as much as you do?”
“It gives me time to think. I may seem like an extrovert when I’m at the park working, but I’m one of those introverted extroverts. I’m happiest when I’m lost in my thoughts.”
He brought the batter-covered fingertip to his lips and sucked the chocolatey goodness off. A thin film of sweat coated my forehead. The man was doing his best to give me a heart attack.
“Does that mean I’m an extroverted extrovert? Being lost in my thoughts sounds like the most painful thing in the world.”
Not able to stand watching him lick and suck the muffin mixture anymore, I took the bowl from his hand and set it in the sink. “You should try it sometime. It’s pretty therapeutic. Coming here at the end of the day allows me to decompress. I put on my music, prep, and bake.”
“What do you do for fun?”
I gestured around the kitchen. “This. Are you saying you’re not having fun?”
Evan moved his head around a little. “It’s been fun. But what do you do to let that multi-colored hair of yours down?”
“I, well, I watch TV and catch up on sleep.” I didn’t add that I sometimes talked to my neighbor’s cat like it was a baby.
“Willow, don’t take this the wrong way, but you need to get a life.”
I huffed. “I have a life. Just because I don’t go to Vegas on a whim or gulp down champagne from magnum bottles doesn’t mean I don’t have a life. I have a nice life. A nice quiet life.”
The sound of his laughter peeled around the kitchen, making me tingle all over. I could fight my attraction to him all I wanted, but it was a battle I would lose. Everything about him was infectious and exciting. Evan James could easily become my addiction.
“Do you think that’s what I do? That I go to Vegas on a whim and have showgirls hanging off my arm? That I drink champagne by the pool and fly off to paradise islands whenever I feel like it?”
“You’re a billionaire. Isn’t that what billionaires do?”
“Not this one. I spend my free time with my family. Where one James brother goes, they all go. Usually with our sister, mom, and nephew in tow. We do have a private island, but none of us have ever brought a woman there.” He looked thoughtful. “Apart from Claire.”
Jealousy stabbed my heart. He’d brought someone to his family’s private island. My jealousy was irrational because, of course, he’d dated before. Not that we were dating, but still.
“Did you and Claire date for long?” Not wanting to meet his eyes, I busied myself by cleaning up.
“Claire was Cade’s wife. She died in a car accident before Max was born.”
For a brief second, the world stopped spinning, and I pressed a hand against my chest. I was an idiot for reading into things. A bad habit of mine. “Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s incredibly tragic and sad. How old is Max?”