Billionaires and Beach Bums(5)

By: Mia Caldwell



"If the help flirts back, wouldn’t you just worry that they have to? Because you sign the checks?" I realized I was standing with my hip cocked and my head tilted so I could look up at him from under my lashes. Shameless.

“Hm. I think it might be worth the uncertainty. I can live with that.”

He had somehow come closer without my seeing him move. He was looking down at me now, close enough that I could easily have run my hand up that tailored cotton shirt to feel the muscles underneath it. Close enough that I could feel the heat from his body.

The oven timer went off, breaking the spell. I cleared my throat, hoping it would clear my head. “Roasted tomatoes,” I said, turning. Walker retreated to the other side of the breakfast bar and sat on a stool.

“Mind if I watch you work your magic?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, suddenly a frenzy of activity. What kind of magic was he working? It was like if he was within five feet of me, I couldn’t remember who I was. I needed a restraining order.

I fixed the plates for Mrs. Alexander and took them upstairs.

“Did I hear Walker come in?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am, he’s downstairs. I promised I’d feed him, too.”

She fixed me with one of her looks again and then seemed to soften a bit. “Good, he could use it, he works too hard.” She looked at the plate. “Any avocado in here?”

“No, ma’am. You’ve got shredded pork on a bed of spaghetti squash with caramelized onions, kale, and roasted potatoes. Side of sauteed apples, new in the market this week.” I smiled, “September is the best month for fresh food!”

She gave me a look that made it clear she did not give a fig about what was fresh when. “Go on back and see to my son,” she said, but she was tucking into her food before I even left the room.

When I came back into the kitchen, Walker had poured some of the rich golden wine into a pair of narrow goblets.

“Ordinarily, it’s more of a dessert wine or paired with appetizers, but since you insist on having only one glass, we can have it with dinner.” He handed me a glass and lifted his. “To new friendships!” His eyes were locked on mine in a way that really infused “friend” with heavier meaning. I dropped my lashes and sipped from the glass.

“Wow, it’s sweet. But nice, I like it. I do think I want it with food, though, it feels like it will go straight to my head if I don’t.”

“I think that that would be okay,” Walker said, giving me this smoldering look. These Alexanders know how to use their eyes.

I pretended not to have heard him and plated some food for us. I’d like to say it was to avoid flirting, but I know that feeding a man can be as effective as unbuttoning the top buttons of your blouse.

“This is amazing. And it’s all local?” Walker asked between bites.

“Mostly. This time of year is great, it’s so easy to eat good food.”

He put down his fork at last and chewed thoughtfully for a moment. “What makes you passionate about your food?” He made it sound so sexy, like I was making bikinis out of whipped cream or something. The truth wasn’t all that sexy, though.

“My mom. She wanted to go to culinary school, but got pregnant with me before she could go. Then she had to work instead. But she always made sure we had good food, as fresh as she could get it on our budget. We were broke, but we ate well. I’d see other people around us with health problems partly caused by their diets. It takes a lot more work to eat healthy on a budget and most people don’t even know how. So I want to make enough money that I can open my own cooking school for poor folk. Go back to Anacostia and help people break out of their ramen noodles and snack cake diets.”

Walker flinched visibly. “Ouch.”

“What?”

He cocked his head to one side, “Don’t you know who I am?”

“Um, I thought so? But clearly ‘Walker Alexander’ should mean more to me.”

He laughed. “I guess you didn’t read that 30 Under 30 Article.”

Oops. I grinned sheepishly. “Just the part about me.”

“Fair enough. I was technically 30 by the time it came out, but they put me in there, too. CEO of Rossi Brands, Inc, Heir to the Tiny Tina Snack Cake fortune? If you’d have come to the gala, you’d have met me.”

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