The idea came to me on Monday, but it took me well past Friday to get this one on the page. So much for a timely #fridayflash, but at least I met the #flashsense challenge. Better late than never...right?
Claire watched Didius walk off the trail, admiring his muscular calves. His clinging tee accentuated the inverted "v" of his back. He had promised incredible views when he'd invited her to go hiking for their third date. He had delivered.
Her stomach rumbled. The only negative so far—and she felt petty—was that they hadn't eaten together. Not that she expected a free meal, but dating involved food. Meet over coffee. Let's have lunch. Dinner and a movie. If a relationship evolved into something more, it was time for a home-cooked meal. Once she cooked for a man, Claire considered them "together."
She wanted to invite Didius to dinner, but he didn't eat. Their first date they'd seen a movie. She'd felt awkward eating alone, even if it was only popcorn. Their second date he'd brought her to an art show opening. He'd stayed by her side, introduced her to friends, offered her champagne and canapés from the circulating trays; she'd felt desired. It wasn't until he'd left her at her front door that she realized he hadn't eaten anything.
He emerged from the woods holding the hem of his shirt, exposing his washboard stomach. Claire fervently wanted to feel his body against hers. Instead, she cleared her throat and asked, "What's in your shirt?"
"Wild blackberries," he said. "This should stop your rumbling stomach."
"You heard that?"
Didius grinned, revealing dimples and laugh lines around his eyes, accentuating his maleness rather than aging him. "I try to pay attention. Can't have you fainting from hunger. Then I'd have to carry you home." He winked at her. "Not that I'd mind."
"Oh, so there's a method to your madness." Claire returned his grin and took a handful of the blackberries. "Oh my god, these are amazing." She took another handful. "Aren't you having any?"
Didius popped a few berries in his mouth.
"Oh, thank goodness," Claire said. "I was beginning to worry about the not-eating thing."
Claire's cheeks flushed. "Well, you haven't eaten anything around me."
Didius stared at her, light blue eyes unblinking.
"I, er, I didn't mean to offend—"
He stepped closer to her, caressed her cheek, then gently lifted her chin. He kissed her, tenderly, his full lips tasting of berries.
"Apology accepted," he said.
Claire caught her breath, knowing she wanted him to kiss her again, over and over. "Would you like to come over for dinner?"
# # #
Didius had arrived early so that they could "cook together." Claire didn't know if he intended the double entendre, but was glad to see him. He opened the Malbec he'd brought, told her he fermented it himself. Before long, she found herself tipsy, a combination of his wine and his proximity. She sat on a stool across from him and let him take over.
"So, tell me about you," Claire said.
"What do you want to know?"
"Um...start with your parents."
"My father is a chef, and my mother's a psychic."
"A psychic! That's quite a combo."
He smiled, giving her the full dimple-and-crinkle action. "You could say that."
Didius closed his eyes and appeared to meditate for a moment, then poured stock into a pot and heated it on the stove. He picked up her butcher knife. His long fingers move deftly, pushing the chopped mushrooms aside as his knife-hand chopped.
"So," Claire said. "A chef dad and a psychic mom. What does that make you?"
"A taster," he said.
"Yes. I taste everything."
"So you figure out secret ingredients."
Claire swirled her glass. "If 'not quite' then what do you taste?" she asked.
"Everything a cook puts into a dish." He gave her an intense look. "I can't eat at restaurants because even if the chef creates a world-class dish, he doesn't prepare it. I taste the sous chef worrying about orders and cleaning the walk-in and resenting her salary; I taste the prep cook thinking his girlfriend is a whore and wondering if he should see a doctor about the itching; I taste the grill cook thinking he'll hurt Mario if the son-of-a-bitch shorts him on the blow again."
Didius sipped his wine. "That's what I taste."
"How do you taste all that?"
Didius shrugged. "Some of my dad's and some of my mom's genes, I suppose."
"I mean, what does all that taste like?"
"Oh." Claire understood the popcorn and canapés now, even if he seemed delusional. "How does someone cook for you?"
Didius offered her his hand. She took it and joined him at the stove. He placed her before him, then reached around her to turn up the heat. "Before you cook, clear your mind. Think only about the food."
She took a couple deep breaths. He smelled faintly of soap and shampoo, a clean, sexy smell. Claire reached for the olive oil; his hand covered hers as she coated the pan. He added the mushrooms, then gave her a wooden spoon. He slipped his arm around her waist.
"I'll burn this," she murmured.
"No, you won't." She could feel his heartbeat against her back. "Keep stirring," he whispered as he added the rice, his warm breath making the fine hairs rise on her neck. She felt her knees wanting to give. The food, think about the food.
Claire leaned into him. Didius added stock a ladleful at a time; she kept stirring. His fingertips lightly stroked her arm, he lifted her hair and kissed her shoulders. She found herself gasping, wishing she could stop stirring and really start cooking when he let go of her.
"It's ready." Didius filled a spoon with risotto, blew gently on it, then held it to her. "Taste."
She let him feed her. "Wow." It was the most amazing risotto she'd ever tried. She filled a spoon, blew on it gently, then fed him.
"How's it taste?" Claire asked.
Didius gave her a slow, teasing smile. "It tastes like you."