Saturday, September 20, 2008

Daringly Delicious by Leigh Ellwood


Baking sheets and metals bowls clattered a disjointed tune as Tish slammed her baking supplies around the kitchen. Could she have been any more like a giggling virgin schoolgirl in front of Vinnie? What must he think of her mooning expression and less-than-seductive nature?

She set a Calphalon pot to boil and retrieved an indented block of bittersweet chocolate from her pantry. Breaking tiny triangles into a glass of bowl, she dared a peek out of the window over the sink. Vinnie already had the back of the car jacked and the lug nuts removed from the faulty tire with that X-shaped wrench—hell if Tish knew what the thing was actually called. Auto repair was not her forte.

But oh, outside of baking, she would definitely choose man-watching as her favorite activity, and she did enjoy spying on this sexy one-man pit crew. Even with the distance, she could detect Vinnie’s back muscles rippling underneath the white of his t-shirt, and his tanned biceps flexed and relaxed with little effort as he worked the tire off its axle.

Crud. At this rate he’d be finished, leaving her with little time to work up the nerve to fake a voluptuous persona and invite him in for a cool glass of lemonade to quench his thirst.

“If I had lemonade,” she then muttered, realizing her refrigerator contained only diet colas for consumption. Vinnie didn’t seem the type for that.

She stripped away a large patch of cling wrap from its roll and tightened it around the glass bowl before setting the whole thing on the bubbling pot. Next she poured a measured amount of whipping cream in a smaller pot to boil on the adjacent flat burner. Once it reached a bubbling point, she would whisk in white chocolate to create what would become the truffle center. The melted dark chocolate, shiny and sweet in its consistency, would serve as a delicious outer shell.

A knock at the door interrupted her concentration and sent Tish’s heart pounding. She checked the window—the car remained, limp tire in place, with its caretaker out of sight. That could only mean…

Shit! Quickly washing her hands, she fisted a damp towel and rushed to the door. No time to worry about hair or makeup or clothes. Like Vinnie cared, anyway. This was likely a courtesy ring to let her know he’d be leaving her now. Never to return.

“Hello—” She paused at the doorjamb, expecting to see Vinnie jangling Lupe’s keys before her in a casual farewell. Instead her senses knocked backward and she grasped the door for support at the sight of the gorgeous mechanic—shirtless and smiling, his dark eyes glistening with hunger. Thick nipples stood to attention against a smooth chest planed with hard muscle, ridged and curved in all the right places.

“Hey,” he said. “What smells so good in there?”

* * * *

He had a pack of industrial strength hand wipes in his back pocket, kept for just such events. They could have sufficed to clean him up, and get the car back to the limo garage without messing up Lupe’s car too much. He didn’t need to ask Tish for permission to wash before leaving, but damned if he’d let another day pass without expressing his interest in her in some way. Begging the use of her bathroom seemed a legitimate icebreaker—he’d scrub his hands raw with whatever designer soap she probably used until he worked up the courage to ask her out.

But the sweet aroma of chocolate wafting out from within her home struck his senses and brought back memories of her delicious handiwork. He couldn’t help but ask.

“Huh?” Tish seemed glazed, distracted. Maybe this was a good sign—removing his shirt, while not necessary for the job, had been an impromptu move for attention. “Y-yes,” she said quickly. “I’m making a batch of truffles for Dareville Primary. Fundraiser. Uh, did you want something?” No mistaking the hope in that tone. Vinnie smiled.

“I kinda wanted to wash up,” he began, relieved when no further explanation seemed required. Tish ushered him into the foyer and pointed out the half-bath to the side.

“Everything you need is in there,” she called, backing into the kitchen on what Vinnie noticed were shaking legs.

Nice. She felt something, too. Perhaps this would go easier than expected if she met him halfway.

Rinsed and dried, he thought to remove the white t-shirt from his other back pocket and redress, then decided against it. That might signal his readiness to leave, and he wouldn’t do that without securing at least a date for coffee. Besides, her reaction on seeing him half-naked was too obvious to miss. Best to use all his strengths in catching the tempting Tish.

“You there?” he asked cautiously into the deserted foyer, then followed the rich scent of chocolate into the kitchen, where Tish held vigil over a fancy stove. She looked up at him without a break in her stirring and smiled.

“All set?” she asked. She seemed more relaxed than earlier. Clearly in her milieu she had control.

Vinnie leaned against the doorway, folding his arms. “Yep. Car’s fixed, but I’m in no hurry to get back. How are the truffles coming along?”

“Filling’s almost done.” Tish turned back to the stove and removed a small pot to a metal trivet on the counter. “I’m thinking now I might split this batch and make some of them my signature key lime flavor.”

“Nice. How do you do that?”

Tish winked. “Nice try. A good cook doesn’t reveal her secret recipes.”

“Aw,” Vinnie teased. “Can’t at least spill one or two of those eleven herbs and spices?”

“Not a granule. Sorry.”

“Fair enough.” He eyed the wooden butcher’s block in the middle of the kitchen, wondering at how much weight it could hold.

And inspiration struck. “Could I have a taste?”