When I See Your Face, Part 15
“You misunderstand me,” he replied calmly.
And like that, all her anger evaporated. Oh yes, misunderstandings. She had never been a person good at judging and reading other people, had she. Otherwise she should have seen through Mark, known his attention as a way to lure her, his promises as bait, his self-assuredness for a much too big ego. She plopped down on the couch and opened her mouth to protest feebly, but he cut her short.
“I know you helped me as a sort of pay-back and on the second day maybe as a favor, and that is exactly why I feel I should pay you. Because it was unfair of me to ask for your help in the first place. I knew and understood why you had acted toward me the way you did that first day. Still, I jumped at the possibility to use it as an excuse to have you near. To get to know you."
He ran a hand back through his hair.
"And you helped me so willingly and did it so well, though you had no previous experience. I think it’s only fair that you should be compensated for the two days you spent working with me instead of focusing on your new life or whatever other important matters."
Holding up his hands in defense before she could scold him again, he continued, "I know you didn’t do it for the money. I know you don’t need me and most probably not my money either. However, I need you to accept it. It’d make me feel better, less guilty that I used you.”
She had a real problem following his words. They sounded completely like he meant them, but they couldn’t be true. Could a man think like that? And how was she to react to that?
They looked at each other for a minute full of meaning, though what meaning she had no idea. Out of nowhere, she heard herself saying, “I enjoyed garden work with you. I didn’t have anything better to do.”
A smile broke out on his face, radiating warmth right into her heart as though he were the sun and she the earth revolving around him. What was it with these two men and their toothy, sparkly, slightly crooked, damn attractive smiles?
“So, I didn’t mortally offend you and ruin my last chance at getting to know you better?” he asked, a hint of flirtation in his voice.
“You did mortally offend me,” she answered, muttering darkly, but unable to keep a giggle from escaping her at the end.
“What shall I do with this?” she wanted to know, her chin pointing toward the envelope. No way was she going to take his money though she had already forgiven him for offering it.
“I don’t know.”
He thought for a moment, tilted his head slightly and gave her one of those intense gazes that said, I can see right through you.
“Are you planning anything special with the new half of your life?”
His question made her remember that he had spoken with such emotion about having started life anew himself once and how she should forget the past and plan her future. All of a sudden, there was an urge inside her to reveal her plans to him, to get advice, share her hopes. She was afraid she wouldn’t carry through with it otherwise. He had used her, or so he said, so why not use him now?
“Actually, I’m thinking of opening my own business. I want to bake extraordinary cakes, decorate them artistically and sell them locally, maybe regionally too.”
There, it was out. She was waiting with baited breath for him to laugh, to at least raise his eyebrows full of skepticism or scorn, to think himself too high to be leading such a discussion. Instead, he continued to look at her in this unnerving way that made her blush. Something that looked like admiration was on his handsome face. She wasn’t sure about that at all because she certainly hadn’t ever seen this look on Mark’s face.
“Do you like baking and decorating cakes?”
She nodded. “More than I can describe. It makes me…happy…makes me feel useful when I do anything cake-related.” Somehow, she didn’t feel shy confessing this, though she knew he couldn’t possibly understand what she meant.
It was his turn to nod.
“It’s exactly what I feel like when I deal with flowers or gardening,” he said quietly, seriously.
Cathy couldn’t believe it. He was taking her seriously. Maybe he did understand. Now that she thought about it, his attitude to gardening did mirror her attitude to baking.
“Are you good at baking and decorating cakes?”
She frowned. How should she answer this?
“I don’t know. I think so. Some of my friends who went to campus with me thought the same. When I made cakes for our events or on special occasions, everyone always appreciated them, took photos, asked me for the recipe, that sort of thing. Yes, I guess I am good, and I could be better if I had more hands-on training in it. Oh, and I had almost forgotten: I followed a small cake-decorating course once during my teens and passed the certificate as the best of the class.”
He listened attentively, his long, slender legs crossed, chin cupped in one hand, grey-blue eyes glued to her face as if she were the most fascinating person in the world to listen to. It made her want to explode with happiness and hide with mortification at the same time, her not being used to constituting someone else’s center of attention. When she had finished, he got up and sat down next to her, close but not too close for comfort.
“Then let’s get started on this business of yours. What you need first is an idea. Correction, not an idea but the idea, your idea. In the next step, we’re going to form a business plan for you.”
He sounded so absolutely in his element and so eager to help that she couldn’t help it, she stared at him with wide eyes. At the moment, being near this confident man looking like a movie hero and treating her with so much attention, it felt as though she would willingly hand over her whole life into his hands. Which was exactly what she was doing, wasn’t she?
Silently and full of hope, Cathy watched him reach over, pull her laptop closer and hack away at the keyboard. Somebody please pinch her. This couldn’t be real. This wasn’t happening. She actually pinched herself on her thigh and felt the pain of her nails against her flesh. So this was happening. Michael was about to help her with her future business. And she was about to fall in love with him.
(To be continued tomorrow.)
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