This was a piece I donated to the Fandom against Homeless.
A one-shot – Chef Edward meets his match with a guest who prefers fast food over his cuisine. Can he teach her differently? What can she teach him?
I have nothing against McDonald's. I like their cheeseburgers.
Preread by Liz and betaed by Midnight Cougar.
"Bella, is that all you're going to eat?" Alice scolded. "You hardly touched your meal."
I looked down at my plate and shrugged sheepishly. "It's not really my kind of food, Alice. It's kind of…stuffy."
I heard a muffled gasp behind me and saw our waiter hovering behind us. "Is the meal not to your satisfaction, Madame?"
I shook my head and forced a smile to my face. "Oh no, it was…um…passable, I mean, tasty. I'm just…full… yes, that's it, I'm full."
His expression told me he knew I was lying through my teeth. "I shall arrange for it to be packaged up for you."
"Oh no, I don't want it. I won't eat it."
His hand froze, leaving the plate hanging in midair. "Are you sure I can't offer you something else?"
"No, thank you."
He turned to Alice, who smiled and informed him the dinner had been spectacular and that, yes; we wanted two of the special Amaretto Crème Brule's and coffee. His answering smile was warm and then he left the table looking happier than he had been dealing with me.
Alice shook her head. "I can't believe Jasper got called out of town and I had to bring you here, of all places, on my anniversary."
I frowned at her. "I still don't understand why you just didn't cancel?"
"Bella, Bella, Bella. Don't you read the paper? Keep up with the local news?"
I chuckled. "Rather busy here, Alice. Between school, midterms and two jobs, I barely have time to sleep, never mind read the paper. What does that have to do with this place anyway?"
She sighed. "This place, as you so charmingly call it, is booked solid for the next six months. Jasper had to call in a personal favor to get us in here. Creations is the hottest restaurant in town, and so unique. The head chef and owner is brilliant. Jasper went to school with him, years ago and they are still friends. He arranged this for us."
I looked around. It was lovely, I had to admit, as far as fancy restaurants go; warm and inviting without being pretentious. And the menu had been different. There was only four set items to choose from and the rest changed daily. Whatever was local and fresh is what was featured. Admittedly, this was the kind of place I usually avoided like the plague. My idea of dinner out usually consisted of something that came in a box or plastic container that I could eat while running from one of my jobs to school or the library. It was rare when I actually sat down for a meal. I took in all the people enjoying their dinners and the warm ambience. I looked across at Alice, noticing how comfortable she was in this gracious setting and once again I looked down at my simple blue dress and sighed. I didn't belong in a place like this. And the food was simply lost on me.
I started at the sudden appearance of a tall, dark haired man in an immaculate white chef's coat standing beside our table.
"Edward!" Alice smiled and held out her hand. I watched as his long fingers encompassed her tiny ones and he bent down and brushed a light kiss cheek on her cheek. "Alice," he murmured. "Lovely to see you again. Happy Anniversary." He glanced my way frowning. "Where is Jasper?"
Alice spoke up. "This is my dear friend, Bella. Jasper was called away this afternoon on an emergency and she agreed to have dinner with me tonight in his place. I didn't want to give up the chance to come here."
He held out his hand. "Bella." Wordlessly, I placed my hand in his, feeling the warmth of his fingers as they squeezed mine. He seemed to freeze for a moment before squeezing my fingers again and withdrawing his hand.
He turned to Alice. "Perhaps it was a good night for him not to dine here. I understand your meal was not satisfactory?"
She shook her head quickly. "No, Edward, it was divine."
His brow furrowed. "Your plate came back virtually untouched."
I spoke up. "Um, that was mine."
His eyes snapped back to me, his vivid blue gaze holding my own. "You didn't enjoy your dinner, Bella?"
"No, it was…fine. Really."
His eyebrow arched at me, his voice low. I felt myself shrink into my seat under his direct gaze. "Fine? I believe Carlisle said you described it as passable. I cannot accept that something that came from my kitchen was simply passable. Allow me to make something else for you."
I could feel Alice's glare across the table. "I used the wrong word. Really, it was great. Really...really …great."
His expression turned to utter disbelief and he leaned down closer to me. "So great you didn't even wish to take it home with you?"
I swallowed loudly, my throat suddenly dry. "I don't have a fridge to keep it fresh," I whispered, sheepishly.
He stood up, his eyes locked on me. "Let me prepare you something else. I insist." He drew in a deep breath. "Please, allow me to do that."
I shook my head. "I had a late lunch. Really, I'm fine."
He turned to Alice. "She never eats very much," she assured him quietly. "She meant no disrespect. The meals were amazing. Truly."
He stood silently for a minute, his hands clenched, his brow furrowed and then nodded. "As you wish. Enjoy your dessert, ladies. I hope it proves to be more than passable." Abruptly, he turned and quickly walked away towards the kitchen. I watched as he stopped and said something to our waiter, before disappearing through the kitchen door.
I turned to Alice. "Wow. He is intense. He and Jasper are friends?" I found that hard to believe. Jasper was the most laid-back person I had ever met.
She nodded. "They went to high school and University together. When Edward left to go to culinary school they still stayed in touch. Jasper was thrilled when he decided to move back and open this restaurant."
We were quiet as Carlisle placed our dessert and coffee in front of us. When he left, I leaned forward. "I didn't mean to insult him or his food, Alice. Really, I didn't."
She smiled. "I know that. Edward is very intense. He has very high standards and is incredibly picky about his restaurant. Which is why it has been such a success I think." She chuckled. "I doubt many plates get sent back uneaten." She mock glared at me. "Did you eat at McDonald's again today?"
I nodded. "I had just ordered when you called."
She gaped at me. "And you still ate it? Knowing we were coming here?"
I shrugged. "I know what I'm getting at McDonald's Alice. I wasn't sure about this place."
She chuckled as she stirred the cream into her coffee. "Good thing Edward didn't know that little fact. The fact that you would eat at Rotten Ronnie's and barely touch his cuisine might send him over the edge. I pity the chefs in the kitchen if that happened."
I made a horrified face at her and then grinned. "Our little secret then."
She nodded. "Eat your dessert please, Bella. I don't think I could take another visit from the kitchen."
I nodded. The way Edward Cullen looked at me? I didn't want another visit either.
I watched Alice drive away and sighed, grateful dinner was over. No bill had been offered at the end and Carlisle refused any sort of tip, saying the meal in its entirety had been looked after by Chef Cullen, with his compliments. I shook my head as I made my way to my car where I had parked at the edge of the lot. No doubt he was just anxious to get the troublemaker out of his restaurant. I hoped I hadn't caused a problem for Jasper with his friend.
"So you find my cuisine stuffy, do you, Bella?"
I gasped and wheeled around to find Edward Cullen leaning against the hood of a car, his chef jacket hanging loosely from his shoulders, smoking a cigar and looking rather angry. I swallowed the sudden lump in my throat. Alice and I had one of the last reservations of the night and we had lingered over dessert, so the lot was now fairly empty and I was alone with Edward.
"Do you wait for all your customers in the parking lot?" I managed to gasp out.
He shook his head. "Only the dissatisfied ones. So, you, Bella, would be the first."
"I apologize, Mr. Cullen. Obviously I have insulted you and that was not my intention."
"At my restaurant, I am addressed as Chef Cullen."
I bit my lip. He was angry. He was a friend of Jasper's, who was very dear to me, so I needed to fix this.
I drew in a deep breath and used the politest tone I could muster. "Chef Cullen, I apologize." I smiled apologetically. "I'm a simple girl. Your food is wonderful, I'm sure, but it's just lost on someone like me."
He pushed off the car and stepped towards me. "Someone like you? I don't understand."
I shrugged and waved my hand towards the restaurant. "I never went out to dinner as a child or a teenager even. Meals in my house came from a can or a box." I chuckled. "I never learned to cook, so they still do. Food is just a necessity for me." I looked at him, the strangest feeling welling up inside me. I wanted him to know I wasn't insulting him. I didn't want him upset. "I know for someone like you, food is your life. No doubt you live it twenty-four hours a day." I shrugged again. "If it wasn't for the fact I had to eat to keep going, I wouldn't bother. It's just fuel for me."
His eyes widened. "You don't like to eat?"
I thought about it. "It's not that I don't like to eat, I just don't really get any enjoyment out of it. I don't think I have very good taste buds. Everything basically tastes the same to me."
For a minute he was quiet. When he spoke his voice was low and without the trace of anger it had held previously.
"That is a shame. You are missing so much."
I shook my head. "I think that, like someone born without one of their senses, they never know to miss it. It's just the way of it for me."
He stepped closer. "Food is a vital part of life, Bella, yes. But it is meant to be savored. Enjoyed. I love spending time, selecting the right ingredients, blending them together so they are perfect. Mixing, measuring, tasting as I create a dish is critical. The experience is incredible. I spend hours perfecting a recipe, making it flawless. One ingredient can change the taste, the composition of an entire dish." He paused his passionate speech and sighed quietly. "Watching people eat a meal I have cooked and seeing their reaction is…almost orgasmic at times."
I blinked at him.
"I wish I could feel that way about it, but I don't. I can't understand your passion," I whispered. "I'm not sure I feel that way about anything in life, to be perfectly honest."
He studied me quietly. "What did you have for lunch today?" he demanded suddenly.
My eyes widened. I shook my head, remembering Alice's words.
"What? Tell me."
I straightened my shoulders. I didn't have to defend myself to this man. "A cheeseburger."
"From a box or a package?"
"And that filled you up so much you couldn't eat the entree I made for you?"
I shook my head. "I…I didn't know you had made it yourself."
He nodded. "I made your dinner, Bella. I thought it was for Jasper and Alice so I made sure I looked after that ticket. I wanted it to be perfect for them. It was perfect. But you barely touched it…because your cheeseburger had filled you up and left you so satisfied you couldn't eat my cuisine."
I felt my face flush. "I had fries, too…" I mumbled. "And I like the food at McDonald's," I defended myself.
The look on his face was pure horror. "Bella, that is not food. That is over-processed, unknown ingredients, kept warm on the heating rack for a couple hours, garbage! You shouldn't be eating that!"
I snorted. Didn't he watch TV? All their commercials gave you the information. "It's 100% beef, Edward. And I order it with extra pickles so they make it fresh," I huffed at him.
His head fell forward and I was sure I heard a whimper escape his throat. "Oh, my God," he muttered.
He stepped closer and thrust his hand out. "Bella, I need you to come with me."
I stared at his hand. "What?"
His hand moved impatiently. "I need you to come with me. Now." His face softened as he saw my confusion. "Please."
Tentatively, I placed my hand in his, finding an odd sense of comfort as his fingers closed around mine, his large palm encompassing mine easily. Wordlessly, he tugged me beside him and I followed him into the back door of the restaurant. The kitchen was being cleaned and Edward continued to lead me through the building and into a private office.
Gently, he removed the jacket from my shoulders and indicated a chair for me to sit in. He excused himself and told me to make myself comfortable before exiting the room. As I waited, I wandered and looked around, noticing the many diplomas and awards he had scattered on shelves and hanging on the wall. There were various pictures of him in the kitchen, standing outside Creations, smiling, looking totally different than the serious man I had seen this evening. He looked so…open and warm; his smile caused my heart to clench a little. Sitting down, I shook my head. What was I doing here? What did he want with me? I stood to leave as he walked back in, carrying a tray.
"Look, Edward, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to insult you…" my words trailed off as he sat the tray down and covered my mouth with one finger.
"You didn't insult me. But I can't let you go on like this anymore."
"I'm going to teach you to love food."
I stared at him. "What?"
He grinned and for the first time since meeting him I saw the man in the photos. I also realized he had removed his chef's jacket and was wearing a simple grey t-shirt that clung to his sculpted chest and arms. He held up his hands in supplication.
"Okay, maybe saying I will teach you to love food is a rather large goal. But I can teach you to enjoy it, savor it." He paused and shuddered. "To stay away from McDonald's."
I laughed. "I can afford McDonalds, Edward. I don't think I can afford to eat here every day." I shook my head. "I don't think I can afford to eat here once a year. This is really a wasted effort on your part."
His face changed and became serious. Gently, he pushed on my shoulders so I sat back down in the chair and he sat across from me. He smiled as he leaned forward and brushed the hair away from my cheek. "If I have my way, you'll be able to eat here or anywhere I am and not have to worry about the cost, Bella. Trust me."
I stared at him as he busied himself with the tray.
What did he mean by that? And why did I want so badly to please him? To be with him in this room?
Suddenly, I was even more nervous than before.
He turned to me smiling. "Now, we begin."
The nervous look on her face was priceless. "Relax, Bella, this isn't going to hurt."
She eyed the contents of the tray in front of me suspiciously. "What is all that?"
I grinned at her. "Just some tidbits. I want to see if I can find out your reactions to different flavors and textures."
She made a face.
"I don't like…textures."
She didn't like textures, yet she ate the crap they called food at McDonald's. All that consisted of was texture held together with fat and salt. I chuckled, already enjoying this. "I'll remember that."
Leaning forward, I picked up a small piece of Havarti cheese and lifted it to her lips. "Open up," I instructed gently. For a second, I thought she would refuse but then she shut her eyes and allowed me to feed her the small morsel. "Chew it slowly, Bella. Tell me what you taste. What it feels like on your tongue." I sat back watching her, already moving ahead in my mind to what I would feed her next.
"Well?" I prompted after she had chewed and swallowed.
She opened her eyes and looked at me sheepishly. "It was cheese?"
"Yes. How did it taste?"
I shook my head, reminding myself to be patient. If she had replied it was buttery, soft and creamy in her mouth, we wouldn't be sitting here.
I nodded. At least she got that right. I offered her a piece of apple to clear her palate and watched as she nibbled on it. "Aren't you having any?" she asked.
Smiling, I obliged and picked up a piece of the juicy apple, enjoyed its crisp texture. That seemed to make her more comfortable and I saw her relax a little.
Next, I fed her a small piece of Swiss cheese, secretly enjoying the fact I had neglected to bring anything to feed her with other than my fingers. Which I noticed she hadn't objected to.
She chewed, and a slight frown appeared on her face.
"That was cheese again, right?"
"It was harder than the other one."
"It was dry?"
I fought back a groan. "You didn't find it slightly nutty or sharp on your tongue? Whereas the first bite was smooth and rich?"
She looked at me like I had two heads. "Neither one tasted like the cheese I get on my burger."
I couldn't help the groan that escaped my mouth.
She began to stand up. "This is a waste of your time, Edward."
My hand shot out, grasping hers, and I stopped her from leaving her chair. "No. It's not. We're just getting started. Trust me, Bella."
She looked at me quizzically. "Why is this so important to you?"
For a minute I was silent. I had no idea what to tell her, except from the second I had seen her sitting there, looking so lovely, yet so uncomfortable and almost vulnerable in my dining room, I had felt drawn to her. She looked so lost and I didn't like that. When I had left the kitchen to find out why Alice had not enjoyed her dinner, I was so focused on the full plate that came back; I hadn't even noticed it wasn't Jasper sitting across from Alice, but rather this appealing woman, until she had spoken.
Earlier, I had arranged for my maître d', Carlisle, to be the one looking after the table and that I was given their order to prepare myself. Jasper had told me he wanted the evening to be very special and I was pleased to be able to help my friend, even planning a different dish for them. The fact the dish was deemed passable and came back barely touched had shocked me and I had immediately gone to find out why. Faced with Bella's wide-eyed reaction instead of Jasper's calm gaze I had been momentarily stunned. That he was called away was unfortunate, although, right now I couldn't find it in myself to really care, since I was sitting across from Bella, alone in my office. I shook my head as I realized she was now gazing at me warily, wondering why I wasn't answering her question.
Looking at her I knew the answer; somehow I knew she was going to be important to me and I wanted to share this part of my life with her. That I had a strange desire to feed her and look after her. Except, if I told her that, I had a feeling she would be out of the chair and gone before I could even blink, so I simply shrugged. "I enjoy a challenge, Bella."
She shook her head sadly. "Some challenges are insurmountable, Edward."
I realized I was still holding her hand and I squeezed it softly before letting it go. Leaning forward, I picked up a small piece of melon. I wanted to see how she reacted to something slightly sweeter. "Not this. Open up."
"It looks good, Edward. But, if you gave me a garlic stick to dip in the sauce I would probably like it more."
I shook my head and groaned. "It's fresh marinara, Bella." Quickly, I rolled some fresh penne in the sauce and lifted the fork to her mouth. "Taste."
She chewed slowly and her expressive face brightened. "Hey, I like that!"
I smiled at my small victory. It hadn't taken me long to figure out Bella's palate was so used to bland, over-processed, over-salted food that her taste buds simply didn't know how to handle other flavors. For the past two weeks, every chance I was able to tempt her away from her busy schedule, I had her in my office, or perched up on the counter beside me in the kitchen, getting her to taste things I would make for her. I kept the herbs and spices subtle, using layers of ingredients I would combine to see how she would react to them. So far, I knew, without a doubt, she enjoyed pasta, chicken and vegetables, as long as they were simply prepared. Anything too over-spiced or rich sent her taste buds into overdrive. I also discovered she disliked pork intensely, but she had a sweet tooth.
I speared more penne and fed it to her. I loved watching her eat when she actually was enjoying it. The look on her face was one of surprise and delight. It thrilled me to be the one to put that look on her face. I found myself looking forward to these little experiments more every day, thinking of things to tempt her with. Not only did I enjoy discovering what she liked and disliked, I enjoyed discovering things about her. She was highly intelligent and witty and our conversations left me smiling and wanting more. More conversations, more time with her, more of her. For the first time in many years, my concentration was not solely on the restaurant or my career. I found myself distracted with the thoughts of a lovely dark-haired girl several times a day.
I lifted another forkful but she shook her head. "Your turn."
I grinned as I added more penne and took a much larger bite. She refused to be the only one to eat whatever I had made, saying it made her too self-conscious. The first time she had insisted, I informed her I only had the one fork and she had snorted, took the fork from my hand, speared a piece of the chicken and grinned at me. "Open up." When I looked at her she rolled her eyes. "I think we're past not being able to share a fork, Edward. We share. Everything. It's the rule." And from then on we did.
After a positive reaction from a small piece of grilled chicken, I was disappointed to see her frown as she chewed on an herb roasted potato. "Too much?"
She shook her head. "No, it needs something."
I sat back, shocked. She wanted more flavor? Curious, I picked up a piece and tasted it. The flavor of rosemary, pepper and thyme blended with the olive oil were subtle but pleasing. Not too much, not too little, just right.
"What does it need, Bella?" I asked encouragingly.
She paused as if thinking and then smiled innocently. "Ketchup."
I gaped at her. No.
Then she winked. And began laughing.
Unable to stop myself, I joined in. She had a way of making me laugh when I least expected.
"Gotcha," she giggled.
I nodded. "You did, you little tease. You didn't like it?"
She shrugged. "I liked the pasta better."
I smiled. "You showed a preference for something. That's progress." I drew in a deep breath. "What are your plans tomorrow afternoon?"
She smiled. "I have a day off - a whole day!" And she threw her arms in the air in celebration. I grinned and inside I was throwing my own arms skyward, quietly joining in her celebration. I loved seeing her smile. Tomorrow was Sunday and the restaurant was closed, which meant we were both free all day.
"Okay. Are you up for a challenge?"
She bit her lip. She hadn't like the last challenge I'd given her. "Okay?"
Leaning forward, I pulled on the soft flesh, my fingers lingering a moment longer than needed. "Relax, Bella. It's an easy one."
I shook my head. "I can't believe I am saying this, but I want you to go to McDonald's."
Her eyes widened. "What? But you made me go all week without going there. You made me promise!"
I had. And every day I had been waiting when she got to her car in the morning, with a small cooler containing lunch and a snack for her. She only had a small room and bath in the house that she rented and they were not pleased at her having an early morning visitor, so I waited patiently each day for her to come out to me. It had quickly become my favorite part of the day. That and her sweet kiss on my cheek, thanking me every morning.
I nodded. "I know. I want you to bring your three favorite, um…items, since I just can't call them food selections, with you."
"You want me to bring them - here. To your restaurant."
I nodded painfully. I never thought I would see the day I would voluntarily let those items cross my threshold. "I assume they are the cheeseburger, the fish sandwich…"
"For Fridays," she interrupted.
"Yes, of course," I snorted, "Because you are such a good Catholic girl."
"Hey, my friend is and I eat the fish thing to support her. And they put the cheese on it too, Edward. It adds something to the overall dish," she teased.
I shook my head. "Yes, Bella. Because melted fake plastic on top of an unknown fish by-product makes it extra delicious."
She nodded happily. "It does."
I shook my head and glared at her. "And the third thing?" I couldn't even bring myself to say it.
She sighed longingly. "The McNuggets. With sweet and sour sauce."
I grimaced. "Right. Can't forget the sauce."
She looked at me. "It makes it better, Edward."
I barked out a laugh. "Nothing makes any of that better, Bella, except a garbage bin."
"Why am I bringing it, then?"
"To show you something."
A sly look crossed her face. "Do I get to eat it?"
I nodded. "Unfortunately, yes. At least a taste."
She grinned. "Okay. Eleven? It's all fresh then."
I shuddered as I pressed some money into her hand, daring her with my eyes to argue with me. "Yes, let's get it while it's fresh. Eleven is good."
She frowned, but tucked the money into her coat pocket before standing to leave. I always hated this part of our time together, not wanting her to walk away from me, but I escorted her down to the restaurant, depositing the tray in the kitchen. When we got to her car she turned and looked up at me. Her face in the shadowy moonlight was alight with mischief. "What are you up to?" I asked quietly, unable to stop my fingers from drifting down her soft cheek. Slowly, our touches had increased over the past two weeks. The brush of a finger, the gentle graze of her lips on my cheek when she said goodnight, the warmth of her pressed against me as I hugged her. She leaned up closer and my heart began to beat faster. The longing I had to sweep her into my arms and kiss her senseless tore through me. I felt her lips at my ear and I shuddered. "Looking forward to tomorrow, Edward. Especially the rule." Then she stepped back, grinning.
I looked at her stupidly. "The rule?"
She nodded. "We share. Everything."
I stared at her, confused. Leaning up, she brushed her lips across my cheek, before climbing in the car. I watched her reverse before she rolled down the window. "You are gonna love the nuggets!" she laughed and drove off leaving me gaping after her.
I forgot about the fucking rule.
We share. Everything.
I stood back, satisfied with what I had prepared, hoping my plan would work. A gentle rap on the back door had a smile lighting up my face and I hurried over to let Bella in. She entered with her own smile and her usual quiet hello, and unable to help myself, I leaned down and kissed her forehead as I returned her greeting. I grimaced when I saw the bag and large cup in her hand.
"Added a coke, did you?"
She smirked at me. "I got the combo with one of them. You get fries that way, you know."
I shook my head. "Yippee. How…delicious."
She chuckled as she set the bag down. "Okay, what are we doing?"
Smiling, I reached down and lifted her up onto the counter, loving the small squeak she made as I did so.
"I am about to prove my theory." I smiled and tapped the end of her nose. "Or at least I hope to."
She watched as I unpacked the bag she had brought, shuddering as I smelt the grease and salt wafting up from the contents. I watched in amusement as her hand snuck over and stole a French fry and popped it in her mouth. She closed her eyes as she chewed. "Mmm…crispy and salty."
I shook my head as I moved the container out of reach. "Enough, minx."
She giggled and winked at me and I couldn't resist returning her smile with one of my own and adding another gentle kiss, to her cheek this time. "Aren't you going to have one?" she teased.
I shook my head. "No, we're not sharing yet, thank God. You ready?"
She straightened her shoulders and nodded.
Grimacing, I picked up the cheeseburger and unwrapped it. "Have a bite."
Grinning, she took the burger and took a bite. I watched as she chewed and swallowed. A strange look crossed her face, but otherwise she didn't react.
Silently, she offered it to me and I held her gaze as I took my own bite, instantly scowling at the burst of salt in my mouth. Leaning over, I picked up the bottle of water and drank deeply.
"Do you want me to describe it?" she asked quietly.
"No. Not yet." I lifted the cover on the plate beside me and lifted the small burger off the plate. "I want you to taste this, and then tell me the difference between the two."
Bella took the burger from my hand and took a small bite. She chewed silently before swallowing and sat, not saying a word for a minute.
"Can I have another bite?"
Disappointed, I picked up the McDonald's burger and offered it to her. She shook her head. "No, I mean of this one."
I smiled widely at her. "Yes."
After a minute, she shook her head and held up my sandwich. "I like this one. It had…flavor? I could taste more than one thing, but I liked it."
I nodded encouragingly. "And the other?"
She shook her head sadly. "It tasted like salt. Just salt."
Without thinking, I grasped her face and kissed her lips. "Clever girl." I praised her.
Her eyes widened at my impulsive gesture, but she smiled, her cheeks turning a lovely shade of pink.
The same thing happened when she took a bite of the fish sandwich. She thoughtfully chewed both and informed me the one from McDonald's was just…blah.
I couldn't have been happier with that description. I even grinned as she insisted on 'cleansing her palate' with a sip of coke.
Finally I offered her a nugget. I opened the beloved sauce and held it out to her. She looked at both and smiled at me. "Could I taste yours first?"
Pleased, I lifted the lid on my offering. I had prepared small chucks of chicken, dredged them in flour and herbs and baking them in a garlic, ginger, soy sauce based version of a sweet and sour sauce. Something flavorful that gave her some of the salt she loved, but that she wouldn't find overwhelming. Anxiously, I watched as she speared a piece and tasted it. Slowly, a delighted smile came over her features and she gazed at me. "Edward, this is the most delicious thing I've ever tasted!"
My answering smile was brilliant. I picked up one of her nuggets and offered it to her, but she shook her head. "I can't eat that once I've had this. Knock yourself out. They're all yours."
I threw my head back, laughing. Leaning forward, I kissed her warmly again. "Congratulations, Ms. Swan. You have just graduated from no taste buds into the flavor academy."
She shook her head. "How did you do this?"
I shrugged. "You just needed to give yourself a break from the overload of crap you kept eating, Bella. All I did was help you discover what real food tasted like. That there was something out there other than processed garbage. If you keep trying new things, your taste buds will develop. I promise."
Her smile faded a little. "So, I'm done?"
I shook my head. "No, I have a reward for you." I pulled a small pot off the stove and lifted the lid, pulling a small bowl out and sitting it on the counter. Her eyes widened as she took in the contents. "Is that chocolate?
Grinning, I reached over and picked up a piece of angel food cake and dipped it in the warm liquid. Slowly, I raised it to her lips. "Open up," I whispered.
I placed the morsel in her warm mouth and stifled a groan as her lips closed around my fingers. I felt her tongue softly flick against the tips as she removed all traces of the chocolate from my skin. Her eyes closed and a soft moan escaped her lips after I withdrew my fingers, the skin tingling where her tongue had touched them.
I stood in front of her, immobilized, watching her. Her tongue peeked out, licking her lips.
"I was wrong, Edward." Her voice was husky.
"Your chicken isn't the best thing I've ever tasted."
I blinked. "You like the chocolate?"
"Not just the chocolate.
"The angel food cake?"
She shook her head as color flooded her cheeks again. She leaned closer.
"You, Edward. I like how you taste. It's…heavenly."
There was no thought. Just reaction. One second I was standing in front of her, the next I had her crushed up against me, my lips on hers, my tongue deep in her warm, delectable mouth. My hands pressed her against me tightly, as I explored her sweetness. I vaguely registered the flavor of the chocolate, but I found her own essence far more appealing. I couldn't get close enough to her as our tongues met and danced together, stroking, caressing, never ceasing their movements. I felt her arms wind around my neck and I groaned as her hands found their way into my hair, softly pulling and teasing me. Regretfully, I pulled away, my breathing coming out in short gasps as I rested my forehead against hers.
"I've wanted to do that for so long," I confessed quietly.
"I've wanted you to." She gently touched my face.
I pulled her closer.
"Are you done with me?" her voice asked quietly.
I pulled back in shock. "No!" I cupped her face in my hands. "I have enjoyed every second of our experiments, Bella. But, I ceased to care if you ever got past your love for…that." I indicated the bag sitting beside us. "All I wanted was more time with you." My voice lowered. "To get to know you. To be able to do this…" My mouth closed on hers once again and for several moments the world outside the softness of her lips ceased to exist.
She pulled back and looked at me, her chest moving rapidly, her lips swollen. "I'm never going to be like you, Edward. I don't think I'll ever love food the way you do."
I shook my head. "I don't need you to be. I am thrilled you understand it a little more now, though. And, that maybe I can help you keep moving forward." I drew in a deep breath. "And that maybe you'd still see me…for me. I want to get to know all about you Bella, and for you to know me. But I want to still cook for you…and take care of you that way? If you'd let me?"
Her eyes widened. "I'd like that." She smiled shyly. "I don't think I can go back to eating that." She pointed at the McDonald's leftovers.
Grinning, I swept the contents from the bag into the garbage bin that was sitting beside us. "Then my work is done."
She smiled sweetly. "I love watching you cook, you know. And I love how passionate you are about it."
Beaming, I leaned forward. "I'd be happy to show you something else I'm passionate about," I murmured against her lips.
I wasn't expecting the sharp tug as she wrapped her arms back around me and I stumbled forward, bracing my hands on the countertop, only to knock one into the bowl of melted chocolate. I gasped and stood back, watching the chocolate drip from my fingers. I heard a small whimper and my eyes flew to Bella who was watching me with hooded eyes, her teeth pressing down into her bottom lip. Holding her gaze, slowly I raised my hand to my mouth and licked the chocolate off one finger. Another whimper escaped her lips. "I suppose I should go and wash this off," I grinned playfully.
Bella's head shook furiously. "No."
"No?" I whispered, my voice raspy. "What should I do then, Bella? How will I ever get it cleaned off?"
Her hand moved and wrapped around my wrist, bringing the chocolate covered skin close to her face. She grinned up at me and I watched as her tongue came out and licked its way across my palm, swirling and teasing as she gathered up the sweet goodness. I hissed as she moved onto the fingers, my other hand closing over the top of her leg as she worked her tongue on my skin.
"Bella," I warned softly.
She drew back. "Rich, dark and molten, Edward. Not like any chocolate I've tasted before."
I groaned, even as I smiled at her description. I saw her hand move and then her finger lifted, dripping with the dark, sweet liquid. Slowly, she rubbed it on her lips as she leaned forward, her voice low and pleading. "The rule, Edward. Remember the rule. We share... everything. You have to taste this," she paused. "It's amazing. The chef who made it is amazing."
I leaned forward and tenderly stroked her lips with my tongue, enjoying the bittersweet of the chocolate mixed with the velvet of her lips. Her soft moan spurred me on and I covered her mouth with mine, kissing her deeply.
She was right.
It was amazing.
Her, her mouth, her rule, her adorable ways.
They were all amazing.
And now…they were part of my life.
The perfect missing ingredient.
Loved writing these two! Bella's love and Chefward's aversion to McDonalds made me chuckle.
Thanks for reading! Happy Holidays to all!