Who do you think you’re kidding? Jan Davis mumbled as she threw her car into gear and headed for GA400. You can’t possibly be considering this? He’s practically a boy, for crying out loud.
“He’s not that young,” she protested audibly, as if someone were actually sitting in the front seat. “A lot of women are involved with younger men these days. If he’s interested in me, why shouldn’t I?”
Because you’ll look foolish, that’s why. Act your age and don’t embarrass yourself, the voice warned.
She slammed another fifty cents into the greedy gaping mouth of the tollbooth, annoyed at having to feed the DOT’s legalized slot machine.
“Mmm, it was a nice thought anyway,” Jan answered her invisible accuser.
The rest of the way home down I-75, she reflected on the events of the evening. From the moment she’d tied on her apron, Mac Sinclair’s piercing dark eyes followed her. At first she thought he simply wanted to see how she prepared the food, but when she caught his gaze trained on her legs and not her hands, she knew he wasn’t merely admiring her culinary skill. The thought that this young man, blessed with classic good looks and a Hershey’s Kiss chocolate complexion, found her attractive made her nervous and clumsy. He sat and studied her while she tried to keep her hands from shaking as she chopped onions and peppers for the sauce. Uneasy under his scrutiny, she decided to fill the silence with small talk.
“How long have you been living here, Mac?”
“A little over six months.” He stroked his smooth, clean-shaven face.
“So, what do you think of Atlanta?”
“Love it. I’d come here on business several times, so when my company offered me a promotion working in their Buckhead office, I left L.A. and made Atlanta my home.” He took the last sip of his Red Bull energy drink and flashed a devastating grin.
My God, he’s fine! And he smells so good. Concentrate on what you’re doing, Jan. Don’t chop off any fingers. Calm down and try to keep from sounding like an idiot.
Jan moved to the stove, sautéed the vegetables and continued the conversation. “What kind of work did you say you do?”
“Sports management. I work with professional athletes negotiating their contracts and endorsement deals, setting up media interviews, arranging for etiquette training, bailing them out of jail. That kind of thing.”
“Sounds interesting,” she said, admiring his smile. With such a lean, muscular body, he could easily be mistaken for an athlete himself.
“It’s a nice way to make a living. Plus some great perks come with the job – season tickets, private party invitations, you know.”
“No. I don’t. I wish I did.”
“So, how did you get to be a personal chef, Ms. Davis?”
“Please, call me Jan,” she said without looking up from stirring the food. “I’ve always loved to cook as a hobby. One day I read about a woman who’d left her accounting job to become a personal chef. It struck me as something I’d love doing, so I got my certification and started taking clients on the side. Once I saved up enough money to advertise, I placed a few ads in local papers, and things just took off. It got to the point where I couldn’t work days and also handle my clients. Eventually, I resigned from my job and started cooking full time.”
“Pretty ambitious. How does your husband feel about it?”
He would’ve hated the idea. He wanted a housewife, always ready and willing to feed his boring clients. It never crossed his mind to take them out sometimes. No, it had to be a gigantic home-cooked meal so they could see he married the black Rachel Ray. “I’m not married. I got divorced a year ago.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, sounding quite sincere.
“I’m not.” Jan gazed at him, bit her lip and turned away. Maybe that was too forward.
“Okay.” He rested his chin on his hand, a bemused smile on his full sensual mouth. His lips begged to be kissed. A primitive warning sounded in her brain. To get her mind off his mouth, she asked, “Do you have someone to serve tomorrow night?”
“No. I figured I’d make it buffet style and let everyone serve themselves. It’s not a formal dinner, just a couple of my clients, a few potential ones and their dates. I guess we could go out, but I want the night to be unhurried and relaxed.” He paused for a second and smiled again as he popped open another Red Bull. “I appreciate you doing this. You come highly recommended. Ron Scott mentioned you one day at lunch, and suggested I call you.”
“He’s my best friend’s husband, so it wasn’t exactly a professional reference.”
“Well, he told me you could throw down in the kitchen. That was enough to convince me.”
“Thanks. I appreciate your confidence.”
His gaze followed her every move as she maneuvered around his spacious, modern kitchen.
“Would you like to join us tomorrow night?”
Shocked by his offer, she stammered, “I – oh – I couldn’t.”
“Why not? Then I could introduce you as my personal chef. It would be good for your business. Most of these guys are loaded.”
“That’s nice of you, Mac, but I think it’s better if I just leave you some of my cards.”
“Okay, but meeting people in person always makes a better impression. I think you’d enjoy yourself. Besides, I like your company.”
She wiped her sweaty palms on the sides of her skirt. His invitation sounded more personal than business. Romantic attention was as foreign to her as ancient Carthaginian cuisine. This handsome man was the complete opposite of Robert’s paunchy middle-aged colleagues. Mac appeared to be at least ten years her junior, and he lived in a gorgeous body.
With the meat, pasta and vegetable dishes done, she started on dessert. They made small talk about everything from religion to Atlanta traffic. Mac didn’t extend the invitation again until she had cleaned up and repacked her utensils.
“I wish you’d think twice about joining us. I’ll be the only one without a date, and I’m the host. We should be getting started around eight o’clock.” He wrote a check, placed it in her hand and held it a bit longer than necessary. Strangely she had no desire to pull away. This is definitely more personal than business. “Thank you, Mac, but I make it a policy to keep my business and personal lives separate.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” He licked his bottom lip and never took his gaze from her eyes.
“Let me know how everything went. I’d better get going now.”
“All right. I understand. It was a pleasure, Jan Davis. Hope I’ll see you again soon.” He watched her walk all the way down the hallway to the elevator.
Once he closed the door to his apartment, she dragged in a long breath. I need to talk to somebody about this.