They stared at each other for several moments, until her cheeks started to color and she ducked her head, smiling down at her lap. “Let’s do a few of the orders.”
“Sure.” He picked up the top sheet. “This one is from Tony, twenty-eight, construction worker. Wants the perfect cake pop for his girlfriend, Alice, twenty-five. She’s an emergency room nurse.”
“Ooh. Okay.” Reese settled into the couch cushion, rubbing her hands together. “ER nurse. To me, that’s someone who doesn’t get a lot of time for herself. When she does, she makes it count. So…something that will knock her out in one bite, like dark chocolate truffle.”
“Nice. Hard agree.” Trying and failing to temper the grin on his face, Leo made a notation on the sheet and set it aside. “Next up is Penny, requesting a Fix for her girlfriend, June, a fashion consultant who also has a successful vision board shop on Etsy. I don’t know what most of those words mean.”
“It’s a good thing I’m here,” she said, solemnly, placing a hand on his knee. A touch he felt straight up to his groin. “If she’s into fashion and visuals, she’s definitely going to post pictures on social media. Definitely something photogenic, maybe a lavender sponge? An edible flower and some shimmer?”
“Oh. Sure, I have tons of edible flowers lying around.”
Her giggle warmed him. “You can pipe it on. I’m not picky.”
He let his amusement show. “Are these for you or the customers?”
“I’m not going to lie, there is something really satisfying about blurting flavor combinations and knowing someone else is going to do all the work. This is the closest I’ll ever come to being the queen.” She put on a British accent. “You there. Lavender cake, at once. I shall be dazzled. Pip pip.”
Leo’s laugh sounded like an engine in disrepair, but it made her beam, so he guessed it couldn’t be as off-putting as it sounded to his own ears. “All right. One more.” He slipped a random order form from the middle of the stack. “Edna, seventy-one, wants a Fix for her…”
Reese leaned over, pressing their shoulders together. “What?”
“Her Chihuahua, Gregory.”
Slowly, they turned to look at each other. “What have we done?”
“Oh no, we did nothing,” Leo said. “This was your idea. Now I’m a canine pastry chef.”
She visibly suppressed a laugh. “I need more. What are Gregory’s interests?”
Even though Leo couldn’t remember the last time he’d had this much fun, he sighed, glancing back down at the form. “Influencing.” He frowned. “What the hell does that mean?”
Reese fell against the back of the couch laughing, the joyful sound fading after a moment. One of those easy silences fell and she didn’t rush to fill it, merely considering him beneath her lashes. “I was thinking about what you said on the phone. About not specializing in customer service.”
Briefly, his mind drifted back to the awkward moment in the Cookie Jar earlier that day. “Yeah?”
She hummed, turning to the side and tucking her hands beneath her cheek. “Do you think it’s because you’re overthinking your own side of the interaction?”
“Maybe.” Unnecessarily, he restacked the papers. “I have nothing to say that’s going to be interesting to them.”
A few seconds passed. “Why would you think that?”
“I don’t know.” He thought about his father giving a toast at the head of a banquet table, weaving a spell around everyone present. Having company at their house had been a common occurrence until Bernard started keeping more to himself, claiming Broadway had turned too gimmicky for his taste. “I guess I grew up leaving conversations to the expert. When I finally had something to say, it was about baking and that wasn’t interesting, either.”
“It’s interesting to me. To plenty of people.” She smiled against her hands. “Allow me to direct your attention to thirteen cable shows about cupcakes.”
Damn, he loved the way she didn’t make a huge deal out of his admission. Just quietly contradicting him in that humorously logical way she seemed to have. The way he felt about his personality couldn’t be changed. It just was. And then she comes along, says two sentences and makes him think. Makes him wonder at possibilities.
“Make it about them. Not you.” She crossed her lithe thighs, making his mouth water, but he held on to his focus. “You know. The way I made up that story for the couple in the office building? Give the customer one. It could get you out of your own head.”
“How is that going to help me converse with them?”
“You can ask them questions to help build your story. Do you live in the neighborhood? Are you coming from work? When you ask people questions about themselves, they’re going to ask you some in return. You’re more than worth their time.” Her gaze danced across his shoulders and only then did he remember he wasn’t wearing a shirt. “You’re genuine and interesting. I wouldn’t be here if you weren’t.”
He swallowed hard. “Yeah?”
“Yeah, Leo,” she murmured, sitting forward and stretching her arms up over her head. “Is it time for nap date now?”
Falling asleep when she was this turned on was going to prove a challenge.
That theory grew stronger when she followed Leo into his bedroom and found a hidden pocket of paradise. The space could only be described as masculine, yes, but it was the definition of comfort. His bed? Huge. Like she could get lost in its dark cream sheets and navy comforter. The blinds were drawn, with only hints of afternoon light peeking in around the edges. Unlike the kitchen, this room was located at the back of the building, so it was quiet. As if they’d left Manhattan and been transported to a cabin in Wyoming.
And the scent.
It got into her blood and made it rush faster, the mingling aromas of aftershave and chocolate. She wanted to roll around in the source of wherever it came from.
Leo moved past her to the bed and drew back the comforter, revealing more of the cream-colored sheets. And she congratulated herself on asking him to take off his shirt. Because wow. Wow. He was thick everywhere. His arms, his torso, his fingers, his thighs. Built to move mountains or haul lumber, but he’d been called to this giving profession. One that made other people happy almost by accident—and it fit him so beautifully, this pouty man bear.