When I See Your Face, Part 16
She caught herself humming a tune while foraging for an additional plate in the cupboards. Her head was so full, she felt like bursting. But in a positive way that she had never known, full of purpose and hope.
They had spent the time with so many things she had never considered before starting her business yet could now see made perfect sense. First, they had researched whether it was profitable to live on cake making and decoration. Next, they had checked out existing businesses like that on the Internet, taking inspiration from the services offered, the reactions earned and the prices cited. Then he had told her to pick a niche for her business, not to see things too broadly and end up with a load of work without enough clients. He had asked her whether she couldn’t specialize on some kind of cake or service. She hadn’t found a solution to that. Instead, she had come up with an idea of her own: She could structure her creations by different themes such as vegan cakes, cakes with unusual ingredients and cakes with lavish decoration. He had agreed with that and suggested to include seasonal offers too, like cake designs for Halloween or untraditional Christmas cakes.
With his help, she had outlined a budget for starting, collected contacts and thought of people to enlist for help in the village, downloaded forms for registering the business and compiled a Word document with a to-do list and helpful tips. They had done some brainstorming on a name and tentatively settled for Cathy’s Creative Cakes, thinking the logo should involve 3 C’s with a connection to cakes.
Turning around with three plates in her hand and a water bottle under one arm, she observed him and Mrs. Grindle in conversation while arranging lunch, and the sight actually brought tears to her eyes. For a moment, she allowed herself to bask in the glory of having two new friends who showed her so much kindness. Michael turned to her and his eyes grew all intense and dark again when he scanned her from head to toe before giving her his killer smile—and she knew that the term friends wasn’t all that correct.
Her heart skipping a beat, she joined them for lunch, feeling two feet taller and at the same time more unsure about her future than ever before.
* * *
It was evening. Mrs. Grindle had left after lunch, not before Michael had filled her in on their plan—he had actually called it “our plan” and not “Cathy’s plan”, which had caused her stomach to do a somersault—and the old lady had beamed with happiness and offered to test all of her creations and pressed her to use the downstairs kitchen because it was so much bigger and had a proper oven and all the dishes and items one needed for baking. They had plunged into more business planning.
Once again, it struck her how much in tune they were once they set out to work alongside each other, not only those two days when they were working for Mr. Thackeray, but also now when they outlined her future. It had been him the first half of the day who had known his way and given advice. In the afternoon, he had handed the reins to her and told her to familiarize herself more with the already existing cake businesses, to find out what she liked and didn’t like about them, what she wanted to copy, what she could make better.
He had leaned back with one arm folded across the back of the couch and watched and listened while she worked her way through page after page and commented and collected information in another Word document. Sometimes, her head would brush his arm, sometimes their knees would touch, and once he had actually reached out and tucked a strand of hair back behind her ear when she was in the middle of gesticulating wildly to prove some point or other. Their eyes had locked and she had felt the heat rise in her face and deep inside her belly, stopped in mid-word by the flutter of his finger against the side of her face. After a second, he had dropped his hand and urged her on, and she had forgotten the moment until now, when he stood at the door to leave and she wondered how to say goodbye.
“I guess you will be awfully busy the next few days?”
She nodded, butterflies dancing inside her at the physical closeness to him that was intensified by the emotional closeness that had formed during the day.
“You have my mobile number. Give me a ring if there’s anything you need.”
“Seriously, keep me updated.”
Inside her, someone did a happy dance that he cared, wanted her to stay in touch, inform him about her way toward Cathy’s Creative Cakes.
“Oh, and don’t forget to invest my starting capital in the joint venture when you buy ingredients for the first time,” he joked, motioning toward the forgotten envelope with money that had fallen to the floor during the day.
“Joint venture, my foot! Off you go before I make you take it back as payment for the business counselling you gave me today!”
Surprised that she could also joke, she caught herself shoving at him playfully, her hands striking against his firm, slightly muscular chest.
It brought them closer than close.
Her breath caught when his eyes grew dark with desire.
“You naughty little witch! You will keep that money, or else…”
His voice was a deep growl, so masculine and sensual despite the hint of humor. His scent hit her, a slight note of earth and grass and unobtrusive cologne that had enticed her since morning while having him sit next to her. It was so totally unlike Mark’s clean after-shave smell or alcohol stench and fit so totally to Michael’s character.
Before she knew it, he leaned down and brushed his lips against her cheek, coming precariously close to one corner of her mouth.
Abruptly, he stepped back.
“See you,” he said, that husky roughness to his voice again that tugged at her core.
“See you,” she whispered breathlessly after he had already turned and walked down the stairs.
See him. Yes, she wanted to see him again. But should she?
(To be continued tomorrow.)
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