Damien slouched against the elevator. Damn, but he was tired. The hotel was officially open for business and the problems had been instant and numerous. Problems with the maid union. Problems with the cooking staff. Problems with security. Problems with plumbing. One guest went into Anaphylactic shock from the carpet deodorizer they used. Jesus. And he’d come home to Andie and a crowd of strangers every single night.
Monday night Barker met him at the door, informing him that the greening of the apartment was happening.
“The ladies are decorating, Sir.” Barker clarified.
“Miss Chase, her mother, grandmother, and several others. They’re in the dining room.”
Yes, he could hear the giggles and snorts. “I thought the tree was done.”
“Yes sir, but Miss Chase insists that the rest of the Penthouse needs “greening.”
“They use fresh evergreens Sir.”
Tuesday night he’d walked in to the smell of vanilla and sugar. And three all too familiar faces.
“Hey Cuz, you gotta try these.” Dee waved a tiny white ball at him,before popping it in her mouth.
“Miss Chase is baking cookies, Sir.” Barker informed him, “Your cousins are observing in an attempt to learn.”
The crowd dispersed enough for him to make out the top of a copper head. There were oohs and ahhhs and one pained squeal. One head, taller than the rest popped back. Layla – sucking on her fingers.
“So those are the…”
“Mexican wedding cookies, yes sir.”
Wednesday he’d come home and heard a familiar heavily laden French accent.
“Is that Chef?”
“Yes sir.” Barker affirmed, taking his coat.
Yes, sir. For several of the local retirement homes. Miss Chase is baking Apple, Southern Pecan, and, Exquisite.”
“A custard-based pie, similar to a chess, an old family recipe. Chef is considering incorporating them into the dessert menu for the Holidays.”
And then Thursday happened.
“What the hell are they doing here?”
“Miss Chase is giving lessons sir.” Barker said with a carefully neutral face.
“Yes sir. Max has nieces and nephews. He was interested in learning how to make a teddy bear sweet bread.
“Bear. Yes, sir. It’s a tradition in some areas of Europe. He mentioned this to Misters Wyatt and Thorne and they expressed interest as well.”
“I’ll just bet they did.”
He’d tossed the two asses out on their asses, but Max was genuine in his desire to learn and his kitten was so bright eyed and happy he couldn’t ask her to stop mid-bear. So he sat at the island and watched.
He had to admit, teddy bear was pretty damn tasty. But dammit it was Friday night and he was spending it with his girl. He had Barker prepare dinner, turned his phone off and made sure the fire was blazing and the champagne was chilled. Everything was set he was waiting by the elevator when his kitten stepped off holding, “Is that a…
Max stepped off behind her.
“And that’s the…
“The Kiss by Rodan. Yep.” She said over her shoulder, “Yep.”
Jose came in.
“And are they?”
“SHOES. Aren’t they fabulous?” Jose raved, “Chanel, Prada, and Louboutin.”
“It’s all made of…”
“Chocolate.” His kitten said, placing her burden carefully on the coffee table, “We lost our main refrigeration unit and our humidity controlled case in one fell electric-should-have-been-replaced-two-years-ago overload sweep.”
“I see.” What the hell?
His kitten started for the kitchen, “I have thirty-six chocolate desserts being judged tomorrow by Chef Bernard. It’s my advanced chocolate class’s final exam. I have to store them properly or as properly as possible.
“I see.” Well, fuck a duck sideways.
“And we need a place for the judging tomorrow.”
“I see.” What the fucking fuck was he supposed to do now?
“I don’t suppose we could have the judging here?”
“I’m calling Tommy,” Jose set his sculpture beside Andie’s and whipped his phone out, “He has at least a dozen pedestals. We could use them for the sculptures.”
“I guess we should move them in.” Andie called from the kitchen, I’ll have to do some rearranging in the refrigerator, and then I’ll need to call all the students.….”
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
“Excuse me, Sir? If I might suggest?”
“Yes!” His near shout bounced off the walls. Andie jumped. Jose dropped his phone. Max guffawed behind his hand. Barker just waited. Damien paused, collected himself and continued in a perfectly calm voice, “I mean, yes, Barker. Please.”
“Perhaps EverMay would be the better choice.” Barker said, “The refrigerator has plenty of room and Jane finished with Christmas yesterday. It’s freshly decorated. It would be a lovely back-drop for your student’s creations.”
“Oh yes, yes, that refrigerator is HUGE.” Andie’s face lit up.
“Simon and Max can make the delivery.” Barker said.
Max was still guffawing, but Jose had retrieved his phone and was surveying room, the dining table, the fire burning, the candles lit, the champagne on ice. His head rolled, his hand flailed, his mouth formed a huge silent OH! Of understanding.
If that boy ever went to Vegas he’d lose his house. Thankfully his kitten was too harried to notice.
“I should go with them.” She consulted a list in her hands, “I know which ones should get refrigeration…”
Oh, no. She’d be staying right the hell here.
“Oh no missy. Uh-uh No way.” Jose marched up to Andie, “You have been going like a maniac all week.”
Andie barely took her eyes off her list, “Jose, I have work…”
Joe snatched the list from her hand and talked right over her. “You know what happens when you get run down.”
Damien suspected this was behavior only a long-time friend could get away with. A lover, not so much.
“But…” Andie tried again.
Jose said, “Christmas. 2014.” And Andie’s “But” died on her tongue.
“What happened?” He had to know so he could keep it from happening again.
“Our little Miss Make-The-Merry worked herself right into walking pneumonia.”
Right. Not happening again.
Andie’s eyes rolled, “Jose…”
Jose wasn’t having it. He threw one hand on his hip, and raised a scolding index finger, “Oh no. Uh-uh. You scared a week off my life.” Dropping his scolding finger, he announced to the room, “She passed out stirring the Wassail.”
“It was only for a second.” His kitten said that like it was no big deal.
He would later convince her of the error in that logic.
But Jose was on a roll so he let him keep rolling. “It was two minutes and fifty-three seconds, Missy. It terrified three gray hairs onto my head.”
“But I’m feel fine.” Andie protested.
At that point, Damien would have countered, but Jose cut Andie off with a spectacular pop and smack to his right butt cheek. “Fine, Shmine, my bare behind!” Thankfully it was fully-clothed.
“You are staying here. You will have a nice dinner with your Hunk-a-boo, and relax. Barker and I will take Max and Simon and escort the chocolate to EverMay. Won’t we Barker?”
“Yes, Sir.” Barker gave his standard perfunctory nod, but Damien caught the flicker of a lip twitch.
He credited the butt smacking and subsequent bare behind comment.
Hot shower. MMMMMMmmmmm. Feels sooooooo Gooooooood.
Andie stood under the multiple sprays basking in heat. This shower might beat out EverMay. It was huge a full fiftten feet long and nearly as wide the jets shot from everywhere. There was no shower door just a long glass wall frosted an opaque white that separated it from the rest of the room. You could enter the shower from either end. It was ridiculously decadent. But she decided she could live with the guilt.
“Enjoying the shower, Kitten?”
“Oh!” she jumped around to see Damien leaning against the glass panel separating the shower from the rest of the bath. “Oh shit, you scared the bejeesus out of me.”
Hot eyes slid over her in a leisurely caress, “Hungry?”
“Good. I’m making dinner.”
“I am.” He said, planting a brief kiss to her mouth.
Andie grabbed one of the sweat suits Jose had picked up for a “song” on Black Friday. A deep plum, it was warm and comfy and fitted. Very fitted. How it could be so comfortable and so tight? That was a mystery for minds greater than hers. She tugged and pulled, but quality product that it was it bounced right back. Giving up. She ran a brush through her hair and popped it up into a scrunchie. Jose would be mortified, but he wasn’t here so she slid her feet into her favorite flip-flops as well and headed for the stairs. She was halfway down when her stomach rumbled, reminding her that all she’d eaten was a crumpet and a stale half sandwich she’d found in her mini-fridge at work. The savory smell was making her mouth water and wait just a chickin-pickin minute..… she knew that delicious smell. Her Grandmother’s chicken and dumplings. Her favorite of favorites.
She bolted down the stairs rounded the giant tree and made it to the kitchen expecting to see her Grandmother, but the person stirring the pot was not petite with a blond bob and ballet flats. He was tall with damp inky-black hair and bare feet?
Damien, fresh from the shower and multi-tasking stirring the pot and talking on his phone. Moguls with empires spent a lot of time on their phones.
She used the distraction to her advantage and drank him in. Barefoot Demi in jeans and white shirt stirring pot in kitchen. Hot. Like super-hot smoldering.
The damp hair curling at his nape a white button down hanging loose over well-worn jeans and bare feet, the sleeves roll up revealing muscular forearms. Wow. that was a good look on him. He looked up, his eyes warmed, one corner of his mouth tripping up in a devastating half smile, “Hold on, Simon.”
Strolling over, he put the phone to his chest, “Hey kitten,” He leaned down and brushed her mouth with his, “I’ll be off in a minute,” Whispering the words against her mouth, adding a quick nip to her bottom lip before pulling back. And with a greeting that lasted maybe two seconds he turned her knees to jelly.
She was too easy.
Andie walked her watery knees to the island already set for two and plunked down on one of the stools, unable to tear her eyes from Damien as he moved around the kitchen. Facing away from her, she could see the muscles flowing under his shirt, and when he bent over to pull something from a drawer…her eyes got stuck on his butt….well …that was just….
“Oh…” It escaped before she could stop it.
Damien popped up, spinning around. His smirk saying he knew exactly what she’d been doing, “Hold on, again.” He sauntered over and leaned down, one large male hand settled on her hip. She inhaled his warm very male scent. Her eyes fell on the vee of hard male flesh at his open collar, her mouth watered.
Damien’s yummy factor kicked chicken and dumpling’s ass.
“No ogling while I’m slaving in the kitchen for you,” His breath tickled her ear, “You’ll distract me into burning the dumplings.” His tongue came out traced the whorl of her ear. She bit down on her lip to stifle the gasp that came out anyway. Her breasts felt heavy, the nipples chaffing against the lace of her bra. She swayed forward, he stepped back. Then reached out, freeing her lip from her teeth, smirk still in place, and winked.
Oh, now that was just below the belt sexy…..
She sat and stared at him all starry-eyed, while everything below her belt got all tingly and damp. “Damien turned away, resuming his conversation. She tried to get her runaway libido under control, but her starry eyes weren’t cooperating, following him around the kitchen.
He walked to the fridge and pulled out a large bowl, setting it in front of her. Forcing her eyes down, she latched onto the distraction and rigidly made note of every item in the bowl, which was shy she noticed it was all green – lettuces, chunks of melon, grapes, kiwi, avocado. Even the dressing Adonis set down beside the bowl was pale green… and delicious, she found when she cleaned the spout of the bottle with her fingertip and brought it to her mouth, citrus bursting on her tongue. Sue was gifted. Picking up the large salad tongs, she proceeded to toss it and place generous portions on their plates. Proving to herself she could be perfectly normal with Adonis in the room. She just had to concentrate… and focus…and not look at him when he bent over… or when he smiled… or when he winked at her…. she sighed a dreamy sigh down at the green salad.
Well…. fudge. She was a ninny. A starry-eyed, girlie-girl ninny. She gave up and went back to star-gazing. Adonis was at the stove ladling the chicken and dumplings into bowls, his sleeves rolled up to the elbows. He had the sexiest forearms she’d ever seen. She embraced her inner-ninny and sighed again.
Adonis disconnected, sliding the phone in his pocket, and loaded up two bowls with perfect what chicken and dumplings. Wait. Hold up. Perfect. “Why do I think Barker was involved with this?”
“Ah. Well, technically, that may be true.”
“He may have cooked the chicken and made the dumplings, but I heated them up.
“You culinary genius, you.”
“I am, aren’t I?”
He took a bottle of wine from the bucket and proceeded to insert the corkscrew, There should be salad and dressing in the fridge.”
Andie went and opened the industrial sized beast. The large plastic covered salad bowl was right in front of her. She shut the door.
“Hmmm…” He lowered the arms, and pulled the cork free.
“That’s my Grandmother’s green salad.”
“Is it?” He filled one glass.
“It’s my favorite.”
Moving to the second glass. “Really?”
She opened the door again, “And her citrus dressing”
“You don’t say?”
“You got her citrus dressing recipe?”
“Kitten,” Damien set the bottle down, And placed the heaping and steaming bowls on the island set for two. “I can’t answer that under penalty of death.” He pulled the bottle of dressing from her hands, drizzling a little on one of the small salad plates, chose a fat grape from the bowl, rolled it in the dressing and pushed it to her lips, “But I will say that my charm is legendary. Open up.”
She opened for him, he pushed the plump grape between her lips, flavors burst on her tongue – sweet, tart and cool. “Good?” Damien’ hooded gaze was locked onto her mouth.
Closing the distance between them, his mouth closed over her top lip, sipping the citrus with a low hum of pleasure. Releasing her with a hot murmur of “More,” he took her bottom lip in a short but very thorough tasting. Pulling away with a flick of his tongue. His mouth hovered over her, “Mmm, right you are.”
She was a shivery mess when he pulled back with a knowing smirk. She was tartingsto think he just liked keeping her wet and wanting.
She took a sip of her water, the refreshing bite of lime doing little to cool her raging hormones. She went for a chunk of honeydew focusing on the fresh sweet flavor, it took two more sips of Perrier before she trusted her voice, “How?” Okay so it was only one word. She took another sip of water.
“Carolyn and I had some time to talk on the plane.”
“The plane?” Holy crap! “You flew down to Richmond and collected her personally?”
“Kitten, I’m going to tell you something of which you may not be aware.”
“Carolyn Chase is stubborn.”
Perrier went up her nose. Damien patted her back. She got her breathing under control.
“Stubborn?” She gasped pulling in air, “You don’t say.”
“Mm. yes. We discussed many things. Your favorite foods and the corresponding recipes, being one.”
Okay Grandma didn’t just give up recipes. It was a southern thing and…“Oh my God, you’re blackmailing my Grandma.”
“Kitten. I’m hurt.”
“What I’m doing would be more like extortion, I believe.”
And she knew. “Holy shit! You threatened her with Mom.”
“Now, Kitten that’s not nice. Your mother is a lovely woman.”
“You did!” Andie bounced on her seat, “You did!”
“I merely suggested that since the dig goes into hiatus in January and February that it would be nice to have your parents adjunct here as opposed to Cambridge. Arranging a Grant would be nothing, a simple thing, what to bring your family together and all that.”
Ho-oh-lee Mollee. “You’re an evil genius.”
“Genius I’ll give you, but, evil? I did manage to get one more.” Damien reached for the silver tray and dome that usually contained cupcakes, lifting the top away and there, in all its sugary buttery glory was THE cake. The cake her Grandmother made every year for her birthday. Her most favorite of favorite cakes in all its sugary buttery glory.
“Oh my God, Oh my god OH MY GOD! It’s my caramel cake”
“Is it? Surely …oomph!”
Andie jumped him. Hopped right up off her stool, threw her arms around his neck, and jumped. His hands went under her butt as her legs wrapped around his waist and he spun, popping her on the counter, somehow keeping them both from tumbling to the floor. Meanwhile his kitten, her legs locked tight around him, proceeded to cover his face with kisses – big, noisy, lip-smacking kisses.
Damien just stood there and held on. Never in his life had anyone attacked him with loud, sloppy, smooching kisses.
Damn if he hadn’t been missing out.
As the shock receded, he picked up breathless words between lip smacks. He heard “I can’t believe,” “green salad” “sweet just so sweet” “plane… wrist” “I’m going to cry” “stinky” “patchouli”, “chocolate” Then she said something about caramel, her tongue, and his beautiful naked body.
That vivid image was playing in his head and pulsing through his dick when he caught “most favorite-ist man in the universe…”
He stopped her on that one, “Most favorite-ist? Is that Pastry lingo?”
“Don’t interrupt.” She bit his ear, then soothed it with and especially loud, smacking smooch, “I’m gushing.”
“My apologies kitten, gush away.”
“Mmmmmmm,” The first bite, had her eyes closing, “That’s soooo good.”
“I’m glad. It’s nice to know my culinary skills are appreciated. We do aim to please.”
Her eyes flew open at the laughing words to see Adonis grinning at her.
Grinning was a very good look on Adonis.
“I’m sorry,” she raised a brow at him, “Did you say your culinary skills?”
“Kitten, you saw it with your own eyes.” He pointed to the pot on the stove, “I stirred the pot with consummate skill.”
“Yes, I’m sure that’s the reason it’s so delicious, and Barker’s actual preparation had nothing to do with it.
“I am in no way disparaging Barker’s contribution.” Damien expounded, his perfectly sculpted lips twitching, “I believe I said ‘We aim to please.’” He waved his fork at her, “You can’t use the microwave to heat chicken you know. It dries out.”
“Yes, and according to Jose´’ it would have completely ruined the dumplings.” He speared a plump dumpling with his fork and carried it to her mouth, “Open up,”
She took the dumpling in her mouth, closing her lips around the fork. He pulled it out slowly, “And that” He added, his voice dropping, his eyes locked onto her lips, “Would have been a tragedy.”
She swallowed, “A tragedy?” She squeaked. Damien’s suddenly hot eyes watching her mouth making speech difficult.
“Yes, you’re enjoying them so much,”
Her cheeks heated, “Well, it’s good, and I haven’t eaten much today.”
Damien might have been immersed in ice water the heat in his expression died so fast, dead serious and implacable taking its place, “You need to eat, kitten.”
“Well Thank-you, yes, I know. I was until you got all…you know…” She waved her own fork, searching for the right words finally settling for accurate, “Food-sexy on me.”
“Food-Sexy?” And the grin was back, “Eat kitten.” He sat back with his glass of wine, and winked, “I’ll be good.”
Chicken and Dumplings with green salad was now in her top ten favorite meals ever. Then Damien set the slice of cake in front of her. Four layers of golden buttery cake with caramel frosting kicked it right up into the top five. She was licking the last bit of caramel from her fork, when Adonis brought her an envelope.
“Your mail. Jose brought it from the apartment. It looked important.”
“Oh Oh GOD, It’s the Master Chef program.”
“I’m an executive chef. There is very limited space for Master Chef training. I applied. And oh God, I can’t look.”
“Would you like me?”
“Yes.” She said.
He picked up the envelope.
“No” She snatched it back.
He quirked a brow at her.
“Yes.” She nodded. I mean yes.” She held the envelope out.
He went to take it. No.”
“Kitten, we can save it until tomorrow.”
She wouldn’t sleep a wink. Oh, hell with it. She ripped the envelope, opened the letter, and peeked at it with one eye.
Congratulations. You have been accepted.
“HA!” She shot out of the chair. “I’M IN, BABY!!” She waved the letter over her head, and commenced her version of a happy dance, pretty much just a backwards hop and half-a-sloppy-hustle, but she was happy so… screw it.
She sloppy-hustled her two left feet all over that kitchen. “They want me. They love me. They want me. They love me. Who loves me? They love me! Oh yeah! That’s right.” And before she could think better of it, “Go Andie, Go Andie, it’s your birthday…..”
His dick hurt.
He sat on his stool and watched his kitten dance around like a lunatic. A sweet, sexy lunatic shaking her sweet, sexy ass all over the kitchen. He’d ask her about it what exactly a master chef was, he wasn’t up on Chef rankings, but it became less important with every throb of his aching cock.
By the time she got through her series of “Go Andie’s” And went back to “Who loves me? They love me.” He was in agony. And when she went into a weird mix of “Whose awesome…I’m awesome….Love me…Yeah, baby… that’s right…Uh-huh…Go Andie..” He was up off the stool. She just danced around him and Holy Fuck, started doing the bump. Waving that letter over her head and popping her perfect ass against him in a circle – his hip, his ass, his other hip.
She was about to bump his dick when he scooped her into his arms. It was self-defense. He was so hard if she so much as brushed his dick, it would break off.
“What…where… what…” She blinked up at him, flailing arms linking around his neck.
“I’m going to peel you out of those skin-tight clothes. That’s what. In the bedroom. That’s where. Then fuck you into oblivion. That’s what. Any more questions?”
“Uh…no..” Her eyes darted away her face flaming like fire.
Striding down the hall it occurred to him this business of picking Andie up and carrying her off to fuck her was becoming a habit. He’d become one of those men who was led around by his dick. A dick that his kitten had on a short leash. And damn if he wasn’t enjoying the hell out of it.
“Oblivion, wow…that’s um …well.. That’s going to be…um” Stammering, her face flushed red, her fingers fiddling with his collar.
“Oh, kitten,” Refusing to let the sappy grin show on his face, he entered the dimly lit bedroom, “Are you questioning my skills?”
Wide blue eyes shot back to him, “NO! Uh… no… not at all. Nope, not questioning.” She shook her head, “Not me. No, no I belie..eeeeeee”
Squealing when he tossed her on the bed, she bounced one time, her hair falling out of its clip as she scrambled to her knees.
“Oh, I think you are. I’ll give you some advice for the future, sweet girl. Never question a man’s manhood. It makes us insecure.” He saw those big blue eyes go for the ceiling, “An eye-roll? Ah Kitten, you are doubting me.” Knowing what was coming next, he reached down and put a finger to her lips, “Ah-ah-ah, I wouldn’t recommend you push it with the raspberry right now. I’m already feeling like I need to prove my manly worth.”
He grabbed her behind her knees lifted, and pulled her legs out straight. She flounced back on the bed, blowing her hair out of her face. With one tug at her waist he had her pants and panties off, taking the flip-flops with them.
“Hey!” She wriggled around trying to scoot away from him.
“Hey? Not an appropriate response, kitten.”
He grabbed her waist and tugged her back towards him, unzipping her top, and unhooking the convenient front clasp on her bra, peeling both items from her flailing arms in one quick precise movement, “Yes, sir. Please sir. Thank-you sir. All acceptable responses….” “If you’re too far gone to form words, I’ll accept moans, whimpers, gasps and sighs…”
“But ‘hey’? No definitely not.”
Scrambling to sit up, she crossed her arms over her chest, her lip popping out in the sexiest pout, “Bossy.”
“Bossy?” He repeated, unbuttoning his shirt. Working to keep the grin off his face
“Bossy.” She nodded once, sticking her chin out, trying for haughty, but sitting naked on the bed her hair tumbled down her back, breathless, her eyes glued to his chest and working their way down, haughty wasn’t happening.
He pulled his shirt off, tossed it aside, feeling the heat of her stare on his back, and went to the window, grabbing one of the silk braided cords holding back the heavy velvet. “Is that a complaint kitten?”
She opened her mouth, he was sure to say something defiant, but snapped it shut again when her eyes landed on that tie. Returning to stand in front of her, he draped the tie around the head board with deliberate care. Then set about removing his jeans and boxers, her big eyes following his every move, her teeth coming out to bite that plump bottom lip.
“Because, I think you like it.” He extended one index finger and trailed it up her silky thigh to her hip, skittering back and forth over the silk of her skin, easing inward. He saw her legs part the tiniest bit, heard the catch of breath in her throat. “In fact,” He placed his other hand on the bed beside her, “I’ll bet half of my hard-earned millions you’re very wet right now.”
“Only…um .. half?” The words rasped out in breathless whisper, her head falling back.
He leaned down till his face hovered over hers. Her tongue darted out to wet her lips he touched it with his own, “Half a billion’s nothing to sneeze at, kitten.” Kissing her damp mouth with every word, he slid that one finger through soft folds to the heat beyond, not stopping until he was buried deep, “Well, how about that.” He swallowed her little moan, “Wet.”
He pulled the finger from her in a slow glide and swept her unresisting body into his arms. Turning her he lay her out on the bed.
“Now, if you don’t like what I’m doing,” He took her wrists and lifted, wrapping them in the cord, and securing them to the wrought iron rail lining the wood, “You need to do something about all this sweetness flowing out of you like a river.” He stroked that wet finger over her bottom lip, and joined her on the bed opening her legs to kneel between them, “And these pretty breasts that are so swollen,” He cupped the mounds in both hands and circling her nipples with his thumbs, “And these pink nipples,” He shifted his hands till his palms barely touched the hard points. Her back arched pushing them into his hand, “Hard and tight, stabbing my palms. They’re giving me the wrong impression…”
He leaned down till his mouth once more hovered over the place where sexy little whimpers escaped, “And those hungry, sweet, little sighs? Very misleading….”
“So the question is, kitten,” he lowered his throbbing aching, stone hard cock, sliding it along the place wet for him, “Do you like it?”
Did he expect her to answer? She opened her mouth, but he slid over the bundle of nerves screaming for him, and a groan came out instead of YES YES YES!
“Hmmm,” Adonis’ mouth played over her lips, nipping and tasting, “I’m going to accept that.”
His mouth came down on hers at the same moment he filled her, sensual drugging kisses and deep slow glides. It was a lethal to her senses. Her body fused to his, as if he were inside her everywhere, his hands sliding under her back lifting her impossibly closer, till every part of her felt him hot and hard and powerfully male. The languid strokes stealing her mind, her breath, her will, and replacing it with pleasure, so rich and so painfully erotic.
His mouth lifted, “So sweet, Ana, so hot…” His nose brushed her own, tender and playful, and achingly sweet. Her eyes stung with tears, her tied hands flexing, forming fists.
“It’s good isn’t it baby?” A caress against her mouth Before she could answer, he sealed his lips to hers again, his tongue mimicking the easy rhythm of his body, and it was so good. Intimate in a way it had never been before. The sting fully formed to tears sliding from under her closed lids. This slow complete possession touching her in a place that would never be free of him.
She came with a shattered cry into his mouth, her face wet with her tears, her body gripping him in the only way she could, tasting his groan, as still with that slow heady rhythm, he buried himself deep and came inside her.
Evermay’s entrance were laden in evergreen and gold. Andie stopped at the bottom steps and just gazed.
“Yes, Jane does an excellent job.”
“Are we going in?”
“Gimme a minute.”
A low chuckle and arms enfolding her, “Take as many as you need.”
Garland, fat with pine and cedar roped over and around the door, topiaries sat on either side lanterns with fat candles wreathed in holly and cedar lined the steps and A lovely wreath of magnolia leaves graced the door. It was warm, and welcoming, timeless and elegant. These were the sights and scents of home. Andie leaned back into the warmth of Adonis’ arms, breathed in the fresh pine and cedar and basked.
They stood that way until the door opened, “Sir?”
We’ll be in, in a moment, Barker. Andie is admiring the door.”
“Very good sir.”
“Oh no I’m ready to go in.” Andie said. Feelin g a little silly, “I want to see the rest.”
“Whatever you want, kitten.”
“Welcome Miss Chase. Mr. Drake, sir.” Barker.
“HOLY SHIT!” She slapped a hand over her mouth. Cursing in front of Barker just seemed wrong. “Sorry, I mean This is gorgeous.”
Barker smiled, “Ah, yes Miss Jane decorated for the holidays.” Barker went on to explain how he and Jose had set everything up. Andie didn’t understand a word of it.
She was too Gob-Smacked.
Or maybe Demi’d the hell over.
Seriously Mt. Olympus was mind shatteringly beautiful.
Transformed to an enchanted forest. The bite of fresh pine from the half dozen Christmas trees tickled Andie’s nose. Dusted with snow and shimmering with gold, they were an enchanting stage for her students chocolate sculptures. Hiding among the trees was a delicate, winged fairy, a tower of cavorting teddy bears, a chubby Santa, a happy elf, a fearsome dragon, and several yule logs.
“Barker this is…Oh my God the students are going to flip out. Thank-you.”
Andie shifted her shoulder mechanically allowing Damien to help her out of her coat. And there she stood, in checkered pants and chef coat. All sweedish chef chic.
“I’m feeling a little underdressed.”
“You’re perfect.” Damien kissed her temple.
“I’ve been out dressed by a foyer. Heck, the door out dressed me.”
“Kitten, you’re in your uniform. You said this was casual. I’m wearing jeans.”
Right. Jeans, and a navy sweater that had to be cashmere, and a black leather jacket that was soft as butter. That had to be couple thousand dollars of casual right there, and BDSM aside, the man looked sinfully good in leather “You look great. I look like a Munchichi.”
“A much-ee-what?” Damien asked, divesting himself himself of his leather jacket.
Andie took a moment to mourn the loss before clarifying, “Chi chi? You know, Happy Happy Munchichis”
He got that beautifully baffled look.
And then all she could think was so pretty. “Eh, nevermind.”
“Miss, we’ve laid things out according to your notes and our discussions. I can take you through, and if you’d like to make changes I can do so.”
Right. Time to get her mind off of sexy Demi’s and on Students and Chocolate. Andie fished her small legal notepad out of her pocket and dag-nabbit she forgot a pen, “Barker, do you have a pen…” A pen appeared before. Heavy silver.
“Use mine.” Damien
“Oh, uh… I don’t know…” She had a tendency to steal pens. She also had a tencency to lose them, “Is that some Gucci Gucci designer thing?”
“I have no idea. But it writes.”
“Yeah, okay.” She took it from his hand.
The weight of hands on her shoulders and a sexy chuckle in her ear, “I’ll leave you in Barker’s capable hands, kitten.” Lips skated across that oh-so-sensitive place behind her ear, so fast and fleeting she might have imagined it, but for the shiver that rolled from her ear down her spine to very specific girlie regions, “I’ll be in my office if you need me.”
“Shall I give you a tour, Miss?”
“Oh that won’t be necessary. I’ll take my time and walk through, but if I could get a coffee, I would be forever grateful.”
“Of course, Miss.” Barker did his little butler nod/bow and left her alone with her awe. Moving to the rooms beyond, she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror over the hearth. Yep, she still looked like a Mun-chichi.
It took her about two seconds to abandon the checklist she’d jotted down. She shoved the small legal pad in one of the coat’s boxy pockets. No way could she improve on this. Barker and Jose had worked her students projects into the décor of the room magnificently. In the living space more pedestaled sculptures dotted the room and lined the walls. Little Chocolate Truffle Christmas trees sat among the fresh pine and cedar garland decorating the mantel over the hearth. And in the dining room, cakes spread on the table gleaming under the magic chandelier. Everything was properly labeled with pristine white place-cards embossed in glossy black. And in every room there were tables dressed in white and gold linens and laden with chocolate dipped fruits and small pastries available for nibbling. Essential when you had a room full of “do not touch” chocolate.
“Andie, honey there you are.” Jose bounded up on her.
“Jose this is stunning. You and Barker. I can’t even… Thank you so much.”
“Pish posh,” He flipped a hand, “It was nothing. The place was already fabulous. Jane is a decorating beast.”
“I’ve got to dash.” Jose kiss-kissed her cheeks, “The Christmas Queen pageant is tonight and I’m a judge. We’ve got to run by the penthouse. Layla is loaning Bree the chanel peep toes for her final walk to surrender her crown.…” Jose paused, head swinging to check over his shoulder, whatever he was hoping to see wasn’t there/ His hand on hip he stomped one foot, “Dammit! Where is that girl? She was right behind…. “
“Layla’s HERE?” No, no. No good could come from that.
“I know. Believe me. Barker happened to mention it to her on the phone when walking her through coffee making. She showed up fifteen minutes later. She must have broken the sound barrier to get here. I’ve since educated Barker about the dangers of Layla and chocolate she’s not allowed to eat. I’ve been watching her, but she’s a sneaky little…” Jose’s head jerked to a stop, his eyes narrowing to slits, “Layla Delsi Markham! Don’t you dare!”
Andie followed his gaze to see Layla standing by the killer-hearth, and dangerously close to the truffle trees. Her friend had a deer in headlights stare to go with her puffed-out, chipmunk cheeks.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Layla’s cheeks shifted, her jaw moved, she made a sound. Andie was guessing it was supposed to be “What?” but coherent speech was difficult when your mouth was choc-full of chocolate.
“You know everything on the floor is off limits.” Jose stormed over.
Andie was storming right behind him. “Daggonit, That’s part of the competition.” She inserted herself between Layla and the hearth and spun the tree of truffles, finding a big bare spot. She counted empty toothpicks, “SIX? You took six truffles?”
Layla tried again. “Plenty” chew-chew, “The back” chew, gulp, “No one.” Chew-chew, gulp, chew, and “notice.” Chew-chew. Gulp-chew. Swallow.
For fuck’s sake. “Layla, they are being judged on appearance. Chef Bernard will study it from all angles.”
Chew. Chew. Swallow. “Orree.”
“Yes, yes you are.” Jose said, grabbing Layla and dragging her out of the living room. Andie followed them all the way. She didn’t trust Layla not to snap off a fairy wing.
“I’ve died and gone to heaven.”
“Holy Crap! It’s Chocolate!”
“Cuz, you have to marry this girl.”
“What are you three doing here?” His cousins were showing up everywhere. He’d seen more of them in the last two weeks than he had in the previous six months.
Jane stood motionless in the foyer she’d decorated, “Barker called. Silent Auction. Chocolate.”
And he understood. For three nights in December EverMay opened to the public. For those who could afford the thousand-dollar tickets, tours were offered, wine was sipped, and a silent auction was held. Barker’s instincts were excellent. If his cousins’ reactions were anything to go by, the sculptures would pull in a bundle for her charities.
“You did a magnificent job decorating, Jane.”
“Huh?” Jane blinked at him.
“The décor, Jane.” He clarified, “It must have taken days.”
“Oh, that. A week.” Jane said and wandered off in a daze.
“Holy shit!” Dee was spinning in slow circles, taking in the array of chocolate sculptures, “You gotta marry this girl.”
“You said that already.”
“You still single?”
“You know I am.”
“What the hell are you waiting on?”
“Dee, we’ve yet to go on a proper date.” Not that he cared, but it seemed important to the woman he was attempting to woo.
That got Dee’s eyes off the chocolate. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Damien. Dating sucks.”
“Okay, listen up,” His cousin squared off, facing him with the weary expression of someone about to convey wisdom to a second someone who didn’t get said wisdom, “Dating is nothing but a process of elimination. You go out with Peter, Paul, or Mary, Jimmy, John, or, Stacy and hope like hell one of them will be worth a second date. Dude, you hit the jackpot.” Dee slapped the back of his head. “Reel. Her. In.” Slap. Slap. Slap. “I mean chocolate…” Slap. Slap. “ROOMS. FULL.”
He went to grab her hand and protect his admittedly hard head from what was going to be a multi head-slapping finale, but then Dee caught sight of something beyond his shoulder, her eyes went wide, her hand freezing halfway to his cranium. With shout of “Holy shit! The Sorting Hat!” She took off like a bullet, bobbing and weaving around the crowd of students and guests.
Min was still there though. she couldn’t reach his head so she settled for poking in the chest, “Remember,” Poke. Poke. “Hell hath no fury like a prego without buttercream. Don’t. Screw. Up.” Poke. Poke. Poke. And she followed her sister, albeit without the speed or dexterity.
“Sir,” Barker appeared at his side, “It seems your cousins have arrived.”
“You don’t say.”
“I apologize. I didn’t realize they would actually visit. I merely suggested Jane talk to Miss Chase, that perhaps some of the students would donate…”
“It’s fine. I imagine rooms full of chocolate proved too much of a lure.”
“Ladies do love their chocolate.”
“Thank you for your help on this Barker.”
“It is my pleasure, sir. Miss Chase is a delightful girl. I’m glad to help her in any way I can.”
“Damien’s rich and he’s good looking, and uh smart.”
“Like super-smart. Graduated with honors and all that..”
Andie smiled and nodded as Rocker Girl and Little Mama lauded their cousin with effusive praise between mouthfuls.
They’d tracked her down as she was loading extra trays of pastries in the kitchen. Max had called with a head count of the students and guests. Turned out to be roughly a third more people than she had planned. Including a couple of students from the Georgetown press. Word had gotten around on social media of the change in venue. EverMay was quite a draw.
Dee was chomping on chocolate dipped candied ginger and truffles and Min had heaved herself onto a stool at the island and was scooping chocolate buttercream out the bowl with a soup spoon. They had the bowl on hand in case of emergency repair. Little Mama had dragged it out of the fridge with a muttered, “I got your emergency.”
Andie didn’t argue.
“And he has a place in the Keys.” Little mama said and shoved a loaded spoon into her mouth.
“Yeah, yeah,” Dee agreed heartily, “Oh man, is it nice, and uh he’s got a plane. So, you know, you can fly there.”
Oh yeah, his plane is NICE.” Min added, shoving the spoon into the bowl pulling out a giant glob of icing, “Hey, is that chocolate sauce?”
“This? Yes, I use it to decorate…”
Min snatched it from the table and proceeded to squeeze a glob of it on her spoonful of buttercream, saying “And he really likes you.” before shoving the whole thing in her mouth.
Dee took over as she was between truffles, “He like, likes you, likes you.”
This pronouncement was followed by silence, pause in chocolate consumption, and two identical, big-eyed hopeful gazes.
“Uh, I like him too.”
They must have been hoping for like like, because they redoubled their efforts
Tossing out everything from Damien’s good looks to his taste in music to his popcorn making ability.
Andie had to stop them on that one, “Popcorn.”
“Seriously. He LOVES kettle corn. So he learned how to make it. He makes the best.”
“Oh.” The Demi loved kettle corn. Andie’s heart went pitter-patter.
“Not as much as he likes your cupcakes.” Dee was quick to say.
“Oh yeah,” Min agreed, “He went crazy when we snagged a couple. Like nutso.” Dee cut Min off with a smack on the arm and a WTF glare, Min scowled, but couldn’t talk as she’d just shoved icing in her mouth. Dee turned back to her, “She means nutso in a good way.”
“Oh.” Little Mama’s scowl cleared and she jumped on the good band wagon with a couple of enthusiastic “yeahs” and a “Totally.” Before adding, “And he’s a good person. He supports charities and you know…uh…” Min paused, thinking.
“The arts.” Dee jumped in, “He supports then arts.”
“And he uh…does stuff….” Min added.
Dee slid her another WTF.
“He rescues puppies.” Little Mama blurted out.
Dee’s WTF stayed firmly in place.
“Do I also pull kittens from trees?”
It came from the right. Andie turned to see Damien lounging in the arched doorway leading to the dining room, brow raised in Demi-God effrontery, “Feed the hungry, clothe the poor, turn water to wine, possibly?’
“Oh, hey cuz.” Dee went for the casual hand wave.
Little Mama mumbled something intelligible. Hard to talk with a spoon of buttercream jammed in your mouth.
“Disperse.” The Demi decreed.
Min got out a “’Kay,” wriggled off the stool, grabbed her buttercream, soup spoon and squeezy chocolate, bowl, and made a waddling run for the solarium.
“Already gone.” Dee took the truffles and scooted after her.
Damien tracked them until they were out of sight, shaking his head, “Those two… what did they tell you?”
His eyes slid back to her, a smile playing around his mouth, “Well, I am pretty great.”
His head tilted, “I graduated in the top five percent of my class.” Damien’s eyes slid down. “You have a smear of chocolate on your cheek.”
Just one? That wasn’t so bad. Andie rubbed at it, “You have a house in the Keys.”
“It’s nice.” He straightened, “We’ll have to go sometime. Other cheek.”
She rubbed the other one. “You support the arts.”
“Hm… that is sort of true. There’s a group that works with children. I helped build them a play house.” His eyes heated, “You missed it.”
She rubbed again. “You rescue cute little puppies.” That came out all breathy.
He moved, crossing to her in slow, lazy strides, a confident kind of predator, “I support the local humane society. Still there.” He stopped a breath away, planting his hands on the island beside her caging her in heated male hunger.
“Um…and you like, like me.” Breathy. Very breathy.
“Ah well, yes, that I do.” His head lowered and the heat of his mouth found her jaw, he sucked. she gasped and he whispered, “I like like you in all kinds of ways.”
“All kinds?” Breathy and moany. She was too easy.
“Mmm-hmm, so many.” His voice promised those ways would be many varied and sinfully wicked, “I can demonstrate.”
A throat clearing behind them. Andie’s eyes flew open.
Damien pulled back, “Yes, Barker.” He prompted his eyes on her face.
“The students and their guest are pulling into the gate, sir. Should take them to the solarium?”
“Yes, thank you Barker.”
“Very good sir.”
“Uh…I kind of have to uh…go.”
“Yes, you do. We can explore the ways I like like you later.”
“Oh my God! This is…wow. Miss Chase. Oh my god.” Justine spun incircles, taking in the splendor of EverMay, her head tipped so far back, her paper chef hat fell to the floor. Carmichael, who’d been tagging along after her like a dutiful puppy, picked it up and set it back on her head.
Justine blushed and mumbled a “Thanks.”
Carmichael muttered a “‘Welcome.”
Andie hid her smile. She’d called that one. Those two would be a couple before the new year. Max and Simon had met her students along with their families and guests at the institute and led them to EverMay. With the short notice, it was the only way to insure everyone knew of the change in venue.
They flooded into Ever May now, all checkered pants, white coats, and awed faces.
“Girl, I mean damn, this looks fantastic.” Shelly said, she wasn’t in the chocolate class but got a kick out of seeing all that talent.
“Doesn’t it? Jose and Barker…”
“Holy Shit!” Shelly jumped, grabbed Andie’s arm her hand waving at dining room. Andie followed her gaze. The sunlight was sending tiny rainbows all over the walls. See there, Shelly thought it was magic. It wasn’t just her.
“The Sorting Hat.”
Shelly was gone. Bobbing and weaving around students, guests, chocolate, and whatever else stood between her and the hat of Harry Potter fame.
Okay, so it was just her.
“Ah, Thees Ess beee-oootiful!” Chef Bernard’s exclamations drew her to the foyer. He was marveling over the fairy.
“Chef, thank you so much for doing this.” He’d had to fill in at the last minute for another chef who’d gotten a job offer in Europe that was too good to turn down.
“Mees Chase, eet ees nothing nothing.” He took her hands and kissed-kissed her cheeks, “I am happy, so happy to help. Let zee judging begin, eh?”
Chef proved jovial and charming. He had wonderful things to say about every sculpture and pastry, truffle and cake, and made criticism into helpful hints. He chuckled over the sorting hat. exclaimed over the shoes, marveled over The Kiss, but it was Justine’s dragon that took the grand prize. Chef said it was “Terrify-eeng and magnifique!.”
Justine cried big sloppy tears.
Chef then made a small speech about his own humble beginnings.
It was a rousing, roaring success.