Billionaires and Beach Bums(2)

By: Mia Caldwell

“Thought you could hide from me, did you? You don’t know who you’re dealing with!” I gave it a good shake as I pulled it out from the depths, just to show it who’s boss.

“Well, I certainly hired the right woman for the job!”

I whirled to find the source of the masculine voice, knocking one of the wine goblets I’d moved aside onto the mediterranean tile floor. Fine crystal and stone do not play well together.

“Oh no!” I dropped to the floor to start gathering the big pieces. Breaking customers’ stuff happens, but it’s always mortifying. Even shattered, I could tell this was expensive glass. Probably Baccarat, with my luck. Each glass a day’s pay.

The man that had startled me dropped down to help, saying, “Don’t sweat it, Mother never drinks Sauternes.”

I looked up into smiling hazel eyes. “I’m sorry?”

He smiled, dimples faint on either cheek, teeth perfect and white. “Sauternes. It was a Sauternes glass that fell.”

I realized I was staring at him and broke my gaze away. But holy cow, he was easy to stare at. “Wow,” I said, picking up the last of the big pieces, “that’s a new one for me. I thought I’d learned them all. But still, I’ll pay for the breakage, of course. Just deduct it from my invoice.” I shrugged as I stood back up and tossed the shards into the trash bin. “A cost of doing business, I’m afraid.”

He leaned past me to toss his pieces in and I realized how tall he was. I’d seen he was tall, but now that he was so near, I thought he must be six-six or so, fit but not bulky, like an athlete. I don’t often feel petite, but I was just a little bitty thing next to him. And a mess. His suit was perfectly tailored to fit him. I noticed that the buttons on the jacket cuffs actually unbuttoned–custom.

“Nonsense. It’s just a glass. I’m Walker, by the way,” he said, extending his hand. “We spoke on the phone.”

“Ah! Mr. Alexander, hello. I’m Andrea Wilson, of course, not just someone who threatens blenders and breaks glasses.”

He chuckled, which made me feel a little better, on firmer footing. “Nice to meet you. Please call me Walker.”

He was still standing really close to me. He smelled good, like freshly cut grass. I was pretty sure he hadn’t been mowing.

“All the articles I read about you mentioned how young you are, but none said that your photo wouldn’t do justice to your beauty in person,” he said.

I felt my face get hot. I’m not good with personal compliments or awkward social interactions and this was both. Well, I’m good at awkward social interactions, in that I cause them a lot, but even with all that experience I don’t always handle myself well.

“Maybe because I’m a chef and not a beauty contestant?” I asked. See?

He took a step back, but kept smiling that dazzling smile. “Well, there’d be no contest if you showed up.”

Okay, this was just weird, right? No one talks like that. I put a hand on my hip. “Are you into that pickup artist stuff? Are you trying out lines on me?” I hoped I was keeping my tone light. I needed this job, but I did not need this hassle, not even from this fine looking man. And then what he’d said earlier filtered into my brain and I added, “And you were reading articles about me?”

“That’s how I found you, Andrea, I saw you in the Post Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 feature. Then when I researched you a bit, I found mentions here and there.” He was still grinning at me, his eyes were still twinkling, and my knees were still strangely weak. “I couldn’t just let you into my mother’s home and let you cook for her without finding out more about you, could I? I mean, ‘bonded and insured’? Who isn’t, these days? I couldn’t leave my poor, defenseless mother in the hands of a serial killer.”

We both laughed. I’d met his mother. She was about as defenseless as a honey badger.

Reluctantly, I mentally shook myself free of his gaze and I half-turned back to the sink. “I really do need to wipe up this glass and get back to work, now that I’ve found the rest of the blender.”

“Is there anything else you need? I just have time to check on Mother and then I have to get to a meeting. I’ll be back for a bit tonight, so I can get anything that’s missing. I know this kitchen is bare, Mother hasn’t made anything more complicated than a martini since the 1980s.”

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