Hey Everyone! This is a new short story I wrote. It is complete however I will be posting a chapter every week and not the whole story in its entirety. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find another one of my stories, Ark Noah, in the sci-fi fantasy section.
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The following works are copyrighted by the author. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the author. All characters are entirely fictional and any resemblance to living persons is coincidental. This story will contain scenes of explicit or erotic sex between men. If this is illegal in your country or state, or offends you, please leave now.
There's a Prince in the Kitchen
OVER the next week I split my time between the restaurant and choosing the recipes I wanted to feature in the book. It was a difficult task; I had accumulated many over the years, all of them good. The ones offered at Lucio's were geared toward family comfort and wholesome eating. But I slowly worked through them, picking out the ones I thought would work best for what Julian wanted.
Thoughts of Julian were also constant; to the point where I would find myself staring at the wall, or out the window. It became irritating and distracting. The Sunday lunch he had invited me to was something I realized I looked forward to. I wanted to see Anya too. Yet I was also afraid of what he wanted from me; and what I wanted from him.
I kept on thinking about my past, wondering if it was a good idea to be with him. Would he expect...that... from the get go? I knew I wasn't ready for that. Whenever someone touched me I would freeze up and my mind would flash back to that time. The nightmares continued unabated. Exhaustion became my best friend. Sleeping pills helped only to make me feel groggy and slow the next morning.
Sarah remarked on it one day and I almost blew her head off.
"You look like shit."
"Save it," I responded, already prickly.
"Lu, you need to see someone; a doctor or something."
"Sarah I'm fine. I can handle it."
"No, you can't Lucio," she insisted. She only used my full name when she was serious.
Grunting in frustration, I whirled around and glared at her. "Will you get off my back! I don't need people hounding me about things I've been controlling for years."
Sarah gawked at me, clearly disbelieving the words spilling carelessly from my mouth. "Okay, Lucio. Whatever you say." She marched off through to the dining area.
Regret rolled through me immediately afterward. Sarah was right. I wasn't handling it at all. In the past I would have never snapped at anyone like that. But I still refused to go to a shrink. These were feelings I needed to work through by myself. I never relied on anyone.
LATER, I found Sarah at the break area for the servers, nursing a cup of coffee. Approaching furtively, I set a plate down in front of her. She jumped, a small squeak escaping her lips.
"Jesus Christ Lucio!"
Sniggering softly, I turned the plate around so she could get a better look at the dish before her.
"You were right, Sarah. I'm not handling it. I'm sorry for snapping at you."
Tears filled her eyes as she looked at me. "There's nothing to forgive, Lucio. You're still hurting on the inside, despite the many years that have passed since then."
"I-I don't...." articulation seemed impossible with the lump in my throat.
Mortified, I turned away, not wanting Sarah to see my glistening eyes. How did she know what I was feeling when I hadn't a clue? Was it true? Did I still carry the shame and fear of what happened to me? Was it the reason behind my continued nightmares?
Clearing her throat, Sarah hum and ah-ed over the dessert. "What have you brought for me today, Chef De Luca?"
Doing likewise, I turned and moved closer. "This, my dear Miss Cohen, is called a Cheeky Tiramisu."
Sarah laughed. "Okay, I have got to know the inspiration behind this one."
"Hmm, this one is inspired by true friends; the cheeky kind. A friend who gives it to you straight and still remains sweet and unique, and fruity and cheesy ,and a good looking biscuit to boot!"
Sarah guffawed. "This is the best! A dessert created for me. I wonder what I'll get for my birthday."
"A slap and a kiss."
SUNDAY finally arrived and found me waiting anxiously in front of my closed restaurant. Julian would be picking me up again and then we'd drive over to his place. Anya would get home an hour after we arrived.
The day was warm and sunny; church goers on their way home from an early morning Mass. It was widely accepted in Rosenwood that most people dined at home with their families and therefore everything was closed except the local 24/7. Rosenwood was a fairly laid back town with a low population. Most people knew everyone else and the sense of community was firm. That did not mean that the town was perfect. We had our fair share of crime and corruption. However Rosenwood had a fine police department, with Sheriff Yannick Deenan leading the squad. As a result, Rosenwood was relatively safe.
Julian's car pulled up a few minutes later, top down. His golden hair glowed in the warm sunlight and his eyes were shielded behind a pair of aviators. He looked dashing in a pair of blue jeans and a gray and black cardigan,
"Hi!" he smiled at me in that way that made my heart speed up.
"Hi." I replied, getting into the car.
"How've you been?" Julian asked, shifting into gear and pulling away from the curb.
"Good," I lied. He didn't need to know about the turmoil I'm going through.
He nodded. We drove into the upper class part of town, where millionaires and the like came to settle down, away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and the other big cities. We stopped in front of a surprisingly small house, compared with the other huge two and three story houses on the street.
It was still a beautiful home, with a carefully manicured front lawn that proved to be useful both as art and in cuisine. Almost every plant could be used in a recipe or as some holistic remedy. The house itself was done up in pleasing shades of browns and pearly whites.
Julian pulled into the driveway and shut off the car. We got out and he led me to the front door.
"Your house is wonderful, especially the garden," I observed, ogling some of the herbs with desire.
Julian laughed as he watched me. "You tend to pick up a few things publishing the kind of works I do. I'm no slouch in the kitchen either."
"I can imagine," I murmured.
Entering the house I was again surprised by the comfort and homely atmosphere of the interior. This was no posh home. A father and daughter clearly lived here. There were photographs everywhere, mostly of Anya, a few of both she and Julian, and some of people I didn't recognize. Probably Julian's family.
"Make yourself at home, Lucio, I'll just go and get a few things ready before I start lunch," Julian announced and proceeded down a short hallway before turning left.
The living room was warm and inviting, dominated by a huge, comfortable looking sofa set in front of a small fireplace. I didn't sit, but instead wondered down the hallway and into the kitchen, where I discovered Julian hurriedly rummaging through cupboards.
My lips quirked upward in amusement. "No slouch in the kitchen, huh?"
Julian started and a small pot clattered to the floor. He grinned as he bent to pick it up. "Caught!" he declared. "Sorry. I do know how to cook, only, it's a struggle to figure out what to cook for a first class chef."
"I'm a simple guy at heart," I stated, walking around the island table and taking the pot from him.
Our fingers brushed against each other and a pulse rushed through me. A small gasp escaped my lips.
Julian's eyes widened as he looked down into mine. There was desire there, reflected in those chocolate pools of his. I saw it and shuddered, not from fear, but from a responding thirst. Slowly, Julian leaned closer, pupils dilating, his breathing rapid, like mine; and he closed his eyes before touching his lips to my already parted ones.
A kiss. How inadequate. This was more than a kiss. I think my whole life vanished from me in that moment, and there was only Julian, and that small connection we shared.
It scared me.
I pulled away abruptly, shocked that I could react that way. Julian averted his gaze, letting go of the pot.
"I... I think," Julian was speechless, an expression on his face that was somehow highly pleasing to me. Julian could be flustered too.
"I think you should let me cook," I suggested softly.
"Uh, yeah," he conceded. "I'll go and set the table meanwhile."
"Yeah, you do that."
Julian left quietly and I began searching his kitchen for the makings of a delicious Sunday lunch.
A DISTINCTLY female giggle came from the hallway. Anya had arrived.
I was three quarters of the way through with the food. Julian had wondered in and out of the kitchen, topping up the glass of red wine he had brought me. The kitchen was an orderly mess, which I would clean when I was done.
Anya giggled again, peeking from next to the doorway, her goldilocks completely visible. "Papa!" She stage whispered. "There's a prince in the kitchen."
I had to stop myself from laughing out loud.
Julian's grinning face appeared above Anya's head. "So there is, Anya. What do you propose we do?"
"Find a princess for him to marry!" she answered, a gamine expression on her face.
"But the only princess I know around here is still too young!" Julian exclaimed.
"What? Who Papa?" Anya was bouncing on her feet in anticipation,
"Her name is Princess Anya Romero." Julian stroked her head lovingly, while Anya beamed up at him.
"Silly Papa." She paused, her eyes crossing in thought. "I know!" she declared. "He can marry a king!"
Julian swallowed visibly as he looked at Anya. The youth of today sure were incorrigible.
"And where would you find this king?"
"He's standing right next to me," she announced magnanimously.
I felt my face go red and watched as the same happened to Julian. He cleared his throat and told Anya to go play while I finished the food.
"It smells great in here," he added, taking a seat on the other side of the table.
"Hmm, a De Luca original. Be grateful."
He was looking at me again, eyes dark and intense, head resting on his raised hand. Shivers vibrated down my back and I had to concentrate to keep from fumbling my hands.
"So, the photographer will begin tomorrow, right?" I asked, trying to change the atmosphere in the room.
"Yes. My P.A. will also be bringing the contract for you. You should have your lawyer look at it and get it back to me by the end of the week."
"Okay. I've got all my recipes picked out and I've added my personal notes and thoughts on each one too."
"Good," he remarked. "Sometime during the week we should get together and discuss layout and design."
I tossed the salad I had been preparing, adding a little more of the improv vinaigrette. It was the last thing to be completed, and I ordered Julian to carry the bowls to the dining room.
"Yes, Chef!" he responded, but before he did anything, he walked around the table and stopped in front of me.
Taking me into his arms, which made me jump, he nudged my head up with his fingertips, and kissed me... deeply.
Oh! That's all I thought as his tongue brushed sensually against my bottom lip. I responded by parting them, and allowing entry. The sensations flowing through me were unlike anything I had ever felt before.
Julian stopped and let go before I could do anything. "Stay the night?" It was a question, yet sounded more like a command, one I couldn't seem to oppose.
Nodding faintly, I leaned against the counter behind me, watching as Julian picked up the bowls and headed to the dining room.
Following a minute later with the last dishes, I saw Anya and Julian sitting at the table, whispering quickly to each other.
"Don't you know it's bad manners to gossip in company?" I said lightly, placing the dishes on the table. It was set simply: white plates, plain silver cutlery and crystal glasses.
"We're not gossiping," Anya insisted.
"Oh?" I smiled at her.
"Yeah. Papa and I were planning," she said conspiratorially.
I glanced at Julian, but he held himself innocently, twisting his wine glass.
"What were you planning?"
"It's a secret!" Anya sang.
I guess I should have expected that. Julian smiled to himself. I chose to ignore the situation, hoping it wouldn't come back to bite me in the ass.
Sitting down to eat with Anya and Julian was an experience I would always remember and cherish. The conversation was light and fun, Anya leading most of it. She was a bright girl, and had her father wrapped around her little finger. Julian didn't seem to mind. Apart from the incident that brought us together in the beginning, I realized that Julian was a great father: attentive, loving yet firm when Anya grew rowdy. It was endearing to watch them, and I wondered how it turned out like this for Julian. If he was gay, how did he come to have a daughter?
LATER, after the dishes were washed and leftovers packed away for sandwiches for dinner, after Anya had gone for a nap, Julian and I sat on the sofa before the fireplace. It was lit and the room felt warm and toasty. I sat in the crook of Julian's arm and he held me loosely, stroking the back of my head. The sensation was foreign, and wonderful. Just to sit like this with someone you like; I'd never experienced that before.
Julian had said he slowly wanted to get to know me. This wasn't slow. But I found I didn't mind, I needed this. The closeness. The intimacy and comfort. If I let Julian in, would I finally be able to let go of the past?
"The food was amazing," Julian praised.
"Thank you, though you had a well stocked kitchen, so it was easy."
"Didn't look easy. Anya loved it too."
"She did," I agreed, smiling. Anya had cleaned her plate.
"I'm glad she's part of my life, even though she was never supposed to be," Julian said gently.
"What do you mean?" I wanted to know.
"Her mother, Amanda, was my best friend. We loved each other, but weren't in love. We both understood that, and our friendship was unbreakable because of it.
"One day she came to me and asked if I would be the father of her child. She desperately wanted to be a mother, and I knew she was capable of being a great one too."
"What happened?" Julian wanted to talk, and I let him.
"Of course I agreed. I would have done anything for her. She assured me there was no need for me to be involved in the baby's upbringing, but I told her I didn't mind. Amanda was adamant though.
"Anyway, we did in vitro and she became pregnant. I was ecstatic for her. Life went on while Amanda carried to term. She gave birth while I was out of country. I regret not being there for her, but she understood and wasn't angry. Life went on. Three months later Amanda left Anya on my doorstep, and disappeared."
Oh... that must have been overwhelming for Julian. His best friend leaving her, their, child with him and just...winking out of existence.
"Needless to say," Julian continued, "I was confused, hurt and angry. How could she do that to me, to her child? I didn't know her like that."
I took Julian's hand and squeezed. Smiling faintly, Julian returned the gesture.
"Eventually I tracked Amanda down. She was in a hospital... dying."
"Oh Julian!" I snuggled closer to him. His eyes were glistening from unshed tears.
"She'd contracted a rare lung disease. The doctors discovered it too late to treat it. Not knowing what to do, she panicked and left Anya with me. She begged for forgiveness, and asked if I would take care of Anya. Of course I forgave her. Of course I would raise Anya. I would do anything for Amanda."
We sat like that for a while afterward, holding each other. Julian's story had me thinking about my own pain. Everyone had their own kind of pain to deal with.
Thanks for reading!