After a busy weekend, I’m just barely ahead of my NaNoWriMo word count goals. I wrote in the car on the way to Papa’s on Saturday, but Princess decided she was going to do NaNo too and stole my little netbook on the return trip home. (Plus I was too tired to complain anyway.) Sunday was church and laundry and a very poor Chiefs game. I managed about 1K each day but that’s it.
Today, I returned to the Evil Day Job after a week of vacation. To keep up on my goals, I made myself get up Dark & Early this morning. I prepped the coffee pot last night and made it to bed between 10-10:30. I really need to be in bed BY 10 PM, but last night was an improvement. I made it this morning and netted about 1K.
I plan to do some more timed writing stints tonight, but first I have to get dinner on the table and help the monsters with homework.
NaNoWriMo count (as of this morning): 12,444 words
Snippet: Continuing the scene from last time…in which Clare totally tricks the hero into getting what she wants. This is truly rough, first draft quality (snort) stuff. I’ve even got a few [notes] to fix later. But I thought oh well, I’ll just leave it this way for now. This scene is fun despite the question marks I need to go back and fill, and since it’s long, I won’t be doing another longer snippet from now on. Just a line here and there. So enjoy!
Smoothing the suspicion from his face, he tapped the manila folder on the table beside him. “If your food passes my inspection, I’ve taken the liberty of drawing up a contract for you, Ms. Remy. I think you’ll find it most satisfactory, while allowing me to protect my interests. Shall we…?”
She picked up her spoon and dipped into her steaming bowl of soup. “I never negotiate on an empty stomach, Mr. Michelopoulos.” Holding the spoon in front of her mouth, she gave him a challenging glance. “Unless you’re afraid I’d try to poison you or something…”
“Fine.” Warily, he studied the bowl for a moment. He didn’t really care for watery squash and it was a rather revolting orange color. It smelled nice, though, and his mouth watered despite the feared texture. He picked up a spoon and shoveled some of the soup into his mouth, intending to get it down as quickly as possible.
Velvety warm bliss exploded on his tongue.
He’d eaten in the finest restaurants all across the world, and he’d never tasted anything this good. Smooth and creamy, sweet and savory, so many flavors filled his mouth that he couldn’t keep up with the sensations. Soup slid down his throat like a warm, fine wine that spread glowing heat all the way down into his stomach.
Food just didn’t taste like this. Not like sex and happiness and love all in a tidy little package that made his stomach gurgle with pleasure.
Impossible. Nothing tastes this good.
He took another bite, telling himself that this spoonful wouldn’t be so good. His taste buds would be used to the complex flavors, and he’d be able to find some element that wasn’t right. A jarring hint of pepper, or a bit of squishy squash that hadn’t been perfectly blended. Something. Anything.
But it was magical. Bite after bite melted on his tongue, satisfying his senses yet still managing to stir his hunger for more. The spoon clanged on the bottom of the bowl,
and it took him a few moments to realize he’d emptied the entire bowl.
It was all he could do not to pick up the bowl and lick it clean, or growl at Dmitri when he arrived to whisk the dish away.
Then he caught the scent of roasted lamb and Yiorgos forgot all about the soup. He made himself wait, enjoying the aroma for as long as possible. The potatoes on top were crusty golden and he could almost taste the cream and butter. Which vegetables had she mixed into the meat inside? Peas, carrots, it didn’t matter. He would love them all. Hell, if it smelled this good, she could put broccoli in it and he’d still gobble it down.
“Why don’t I take a look at the contract now, Mr. Michelopoulos.”
Raising his head, he blinked at her, surprised. That she was still here? That didn’t make sense. His stomach fluttered briefly, almost anxiety or a remembered plan of action, but the inviting scent of food wrestled his attention for dominance. Graciously, he slid the folder across to her, trying not to act like a raving lunatic clutching his bowl and howling at anyone who threatened to interrupt his feast.
When his fork broke the perfect crust of potatoes and the rich scent of lamb fully hit his nostrils, he couldn’t help but let out a low groan of appreciation. Flushing, he chanced a quick glance at Clare to see if she’d noticed, but she was too busy scanning the documents.
He barely suppressed a smirk. His attorneys had been most diligent in drafting his little agreement. She’d be so busy trying to understand the legal jargon that he’d probably be able to eat her shepherd’s pie too before she noticed.
This time, he slowly placed the first bite on his tongue, braced for the explosion of taste. He was determined to savor that first wondrous bite as long as possible, because he knew it was going to be incredible. The meat fell apart in his mouth, tender and juicy without being too greasy. She’d managed to give it a fire-pit roasted flavor in that simple little kitchen, in a matter of hours. This tender and succulent, the meat tasted like it’d cooked all day.
Seasoned perfectly. The vegetables were diced uniformly. Gorgeous. Not too big or too small, each cube added color as well as flavor. Tender green peas so bright they couldn’t possibly have baked along with the meat. Onions, garlic, rosemary, a hint of wine. Magnificent. And oh, the potatoes! Such a basic, ordinary staple for any meat lover, these potatoes managed to convey richness without heaviness. Light and fluffy yet perfectly creamy, they softened the hearty broth.
His foodie heart wanted to sob when he realized he’d eaten the last bite. He cast a hopeful glance at her plate, but hers, too was empty, although she continued to read the contract. Her mouth moved slightly, endearing in an odd way. Her nose was too small for her face, he decided. And her mouth was too large. She smiled unevenly, curling the right side more than the left.
He feared she’d been repeating herself for quite some time. He tried to feel horrified, but his stomach was too sated with complete bliss to allow him a moment of embarrassment or remorse. “It’s wonderful. I’ve never
tasted anything better in my entire life.”
He couldn’t even find the will to curse himself for revealing his hand so easily to her. He ought to have drawn out her unease, allowing her to believe he was displeased with her results. He couldn’t have her thinking he was too eager to bring her into Remy’s.
“Wait until you taste my chocolate cake.” She smiled wider, evening out that lopsided grin into something even more wickedly endearing. “I’ve been reading over your offer, and I’m quite delighted with it.”
He laughed, and the sound shocked them both. Eyes wide, she searched his face and he felt the passing of her gaze like a scalding heat. Damn, it’d been years since he’d actually laughed. No, chuckled. Laughter didn’t convey the amount of merriment he’d heard in his own response.
What the hell’s wrong with me? Has she drugged me?
Not in a million years would he behave so stupidly at a business meeting, and this was certainly a meeting of the highest priority. His entire life depended on its success. He must have Clare Remy at his side. She would break the curse.
She must. She’s my only hope.
Despite that thought, he couldn’t feel alarm. Not with the sinful promise of dessert that might be even better than the first two courses.
“However, there are a few items I’d like to discuss further with you.”
She beamed at him. “I’m so glad you’re not going to be difficult to handle.”
He frowned. Difficult? Toddlers were difficult. Calculus was difficult. Yiorgos Michelopoulos was formidable. A force to be reckoned with. Not tolerated.
She waved her hand and Dmitri appeared, once more whisking away the dirty dishes.
Oh, bliss, Yiorgos could already smell the earthy scent of chocolate, promising sin and dark luxury, a hint of berry. Maybe raspberry? Just a thin layer, he thought. Too much chocolate, surely. She wouldn’t be able to give it any depth.
“I must warn you before I allow you to taste my dessert, Mr. Michelopoulos.”
Very solemnly, she leaned forward, assessing his face. Did she think she could gain his secrets so easily? He had to admit that with that temptation making him drool like the zombie hidden by the ring on his finger, she might. The scent of chocolate held his attention like a dog obsessed with its ball. At this point, she could balance the damned plate on his nose and he’d sit here obediently, waiting for the first bite.
Irritated, he reached for his own plate. She closed her hand over his. Surprisingly strong despite her smaller size, she held him firmly, keeping him from sliding the dessert plate closer. “I’m serious, Mr. Michelopoulos. I wouldn’t have you accuse me of trickery later. This cake is dangerously good. I call it ‘Death by Chocolate’ for a reason.”
Until Dmitri let out a snort, Yiorgos hadn’t even realized he was still standing at their table. “Fine,” he said sharply, keeping the man under close watch to ensure he didn’t try to remove the dessert plates too quickly. The man was a damned whirlwind when it came to cleaning tables. “Dmitri is my witness. I heard your warning and
I’m not afraid of your cake, Ms. Remy.”
“And you’ll allow me to write in a few changes to the contract you so generously offer?”
She smiled apologetically. “I told you that I wasn’t completely pleased with a few of the stipulations. On page three, you state that I should be compensated at the rate of one hundred thousand a year.”
“Fine, fine.” He waved a hand at the paper. “Double it. Next?”
She blinked, opening and closing her mouth as though he’d managed to shock the sense right out of her. “That wasn’t what I meant, sir. I thought it way too high. My father never took home such a [high] salary.”
“You cook like a maestro. You’re worth it. Next?”
“One page four…” She flipped through the contract. “You failed to detail which of us would be responsible for maintaining the restaurant’s larder during this period of
“Of course I will.” He gave a hard push against her grip, keeping her attention on his right hand, while he reached over with his left to snag the plate. The Remy ring glinted in the candlelight, casting a blood-red glow on her face. For a moment, he swore her lips tightened and her eyes flashed with raw emotion. Hatred, retribution, condemnation. He couldn’t be sure, although it was harsh enough that some of the bliss created by her food faded.
Until he took the first bite of that dangerous cake. Damn it, he’d forgotten to go slowly, to savor that first bite. Already the chocolate melted on his tongue, a molten heat spreading down his throat. She had to have drugged it somehow. The chocolate slipped deeper into his body, cascading alarms throughout his nervous system. His brain went on high alert. Overloaded.
Too many layers. Too many fabulous sensations for his tongue to keep up.
Actually that was the problem…or the beauty…in her dessert. She’d managed to create thin layers of chocolate cake, varying by texture and type of chocolate,
so that one bite carried dozens of flavors at the same time. Milk and dark, fruit and cinnamon, sweet cream and sharp bite mixed with just enough raspberry to give it that extra kick from “too sweet” to “perfect.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but it took him several tries to get the circuit from his brain to his mouth to work. “What else?”
She listed off some other nonsense about dress code in his restaurant, the number of employees she’d supervise, and most of all—at least as far as she would ever comprehend until it was too late—the crux of the contract. She would help Remy’s win that coveted gold star this year…or suffer Michelopoulos’s wrath. Which meant she’d lose everything.
Something that might have been guilt bubbled up in his stomach like corrosive acid, but quickly disintegrated beneath the next bite of chocolate cake.
AsI’ve lost everything that truly matters to me thanks to her father.
“May I? Mr. Michelopoulos, didn’t you hear me? I really need to know if that’s acceptable to you. If not, I’m really afraid that we can’t do business together. I’ll have to leave no matter how much I want to stay and help you.”
He pulled the plate closer and used the fork to gently lift out the top layer so he could sample it alone. “Yes, yes, whatever.”
Dmitri gasped like a girl. “Yiorgos!”
Unbelievable. The top layer of thick buttercream frosting was good enough he’d like to paint her entire body with it so he could lick it off. And he hated frosting. “Have you forgotten who gave you this job, Mr. [name, what’s his last name?]?”
His old friend stiffened like he’d punched him. In a way, he had. “Of course not, Mr. Michelopoulos. May I be of any further service, sir?”
“Not unless you’re going to bring me another piece of cake.”
Clare gently shook her head. “I’m afraid not, Mr. Michelopoulos. It’s too dangerous. Why, think of your blood sugar! The calories! You’d hate me tomorrow, and if we settle this contract, then we’ll be stuck with each other until Remy’s is awarded the star next month.”
“I don’t give a damn about the calories.” He carefully lifted out a bite of the next layer. Sugary, almost crispy. How’d she do that without making it soggy as it baked? If she’d baked each layer individually, it’d be impossible to fit them all together seamlessly. It looked like one sinfully delicious cake, not twenty individual thin cakes. “You
must work here, Ms. Remy. I need you. So signed the damned contract and eat your cake, or I’m going to.”
She smiled warmly and squeezed his right hand. Had she been touching him this whole time? He couldn’t remember. She scribbled a few lines on the contract and then pushed it over to him. With a flourish, he signed below her name and shoved the papers aside. Some of them fluttered to the floor but he didn’t care.
Not with Death by Chocolate Cake calling his name.