When I See Your Face, Part 18
“You had better stop biting that lip, sugar. It’s a lip that should be kissed and not bitten.”
His voice had grown husky. The pet name that had slipped out so unexpectedly was a caress that was loaded with implications. For an instant, she remembered that evening when he had first kissed her, the white hot flash of desire that had shot through her, the almost painful longing. Her tooth dug deeper into her lip and the pain of it brought her back to reality.
“The cake,” she prompted, sounding much too nonchalant to be true.
He grinned ruefully, looking like a schoolboy caught at some mischief or other, then ate another forkful.
“Do you want my honest opinion?” he asked.
She was full of trepidation again. She nodded, on tenterhooks. Why, oh why did it matter so much to her whether he liked her first cake?
“That’s good, because I hate lying. I’m no good at telling lies.”
He sounded strangely intense, as though there were a point to be proven.
“If you want the truth, here it is: This cake tastes awesome! Seriously, I have never tasted something like this before, but it’s not too exotic to be absolutely tasty. What the hell did you put into it? Coconut? Some nuts? Tropical fruits? Wait, I know, there must be pineapple in there.”
She beamed at him. She knew she must be grinning like mad with her happiness and relief, but she couldn’t help it. He liked it! She actually felt like jumping up and down or high-fiving somebody. There was no mistaking that he liked it, seeing how he was already forking more of the cake into his mouth and had guessed most of its ingredients correctly.
Still smiling from ear to ear, she explained, “It’s a sort of exotic cake indeed. I put ground roasted cashew nuts, coconut flakes, finely grated carrots, a pinch of crystallized ginger and cinnamon into the cake. And yes, there are pieces of canned pineapple in the cake. The frosting and filling between the layers is cream cheese with cream of coconut and some more nuts. Are you sure it’s not overly outlandish and experimental?”
“Definitely not! I’d never have guessed this is a carrot cake!”
He shook his head, stared at the left-over slice of cake and continued to eat with gusto until his plate was empty.
Cathy was glowing with satisfaction. Oh yes, giving him her first cake to taste had been a good idea. If only he didn’t look so bloody handsome without a shirt on, eating cake. She’d never been so physically attracted to someone, not even to Mark whose perfect face and slim body was every woman’s dream, but who had lacked the emotion and substance behind the frame to have her long for him.
He had eaten his last morsel of cake. There was a tiny white smudge of frosting on the left corner of his mouth. Impulsively, she leaned forward and wiped it off with her index finger. For want of a tissue or serviette at hand, she brought the finger up to her mouth and licked the cream off. Only afterward did she realize what a provocative move that must have looked like. His gaze was as hot as fire, wandering from her finger to her lips and back to her finger. Did he think she had deliberately done this to flirt with him? She couldn’t blink, couldn’t say anything, felt like writhing under his gaze, waiting for his reaction.
A shrill shrieking sound had them both start and broke the magic of the moment.
“What…what the hell is that?” she asked, the sound feeling as though it wanted to match the alarm bells going off inside her head.
He looked dazed and glanced to where the sound came from, increasing in volume now.
“Dammit, the kettle,” he shouted and darted off the couch to run into the kitchen. Apparently, he had put an old-fashioned kettle of water on the stove for making coffee. The whistling stopped and moments later, he carried a tray with coffee, milk and sugar into the room.
Time passed in silence while they prepared their coffee, Cathy wondering at how some of the things he surrounded himself with were so out of fashion and ornate and somehow feminine and how others looked like modern, bare necessities.
When they were sipping their steaming coffee and Michael was working his way through another slice of the cake, she decided to give in to her curiosity.
“So, is this your house?”
“Not exactly. I mean, I did buy it, but it feels like I live here on rent. It used to belong to a formidable old lady of Aunt Grindle’s generation who was loved by everyone and loved everyone back. She died here shortly before I happened on this village and was looking for a place to stay. I couldn’t find anything better, so I settled in. This house is not my home, though. It’s bigger than needed and the furniture is too old and most of it I never use. Lots of her things I gave away or sold for a pittance, restocking with modern amenities I can’t live without. It doesn’t look like a bachelor’s place, does it?”
“No, it doesn’t. Why don’t you make it your home? I’m sure with a bit of time and money invested and some shopping in the next big town, this place would look totally different and suit you more.”
He shrugged and didn’t seem to want to answer at first, then did so anyway.
“I have never felt the need to make it more of a home. Not the whole house, anyway. There are two rooms where I spend most of my life if I’m not outside working or enjoying nature, and these two feel more like me. I can’t be bothered with the rest.”
He paused and shot her a meaningful glance.
“Maybe it lacks a certain female touch. I’ve always thought it takes two people to make a house a home.”
She let that sink in. Did he…No, he couldn’t be meaning that he’d like to live here with her, as a couple! He was just stating something obvious, something general. To cover up the sudden fear that awoke in her because he was boldly flirting—and for God’s sake, why couldn’t he don a T-shirt already?—she asked him the next best thing that came to her mind.
“So what about the two rooms you live in? I had expected tons of plants inside your home. Do those rooms at least have some green in them?”
He smiled, finishing his second slice of cake and getting up with that energetic grace of his that made him look taller and fitter.
“Come and see for yourself!”
He was actually holding out his hand to her. After a moment’s hesitation, she told the nagging voice inside her to shut up and not spoil the good mood. She put her hand in his and let him tow her out of the living-room and through a long corridor and up a staircase. Along the way, he jutted his chin to the left and right several times, calling out the names of the rooms they were passing. They didn’t register with her, and neither did their surroundings, because she was much too focused on how right her hand felt in his strong, rough-skinned, slender fingers that were a shade darker than hers and held her in a warm, firm grip that felt natural and comfortable.
Immediately after taking the stairs, he turned left and tugged her after him into a big room that took her breath away.
(To be continued tomorrow.)
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