Huge thanks to Tamsen Parker and Rebecca Grace Allen for organizing the Valentine’s Rewind Blog Hop!
I’ve written a follow up story to Amuse Bouche which was first published by Ellora’s Cave in March 2011, and was republished last October as part of Sweet Heat: Collected Stories, Volume 1 (on sale at all retailers for $1.99 until the 15th!). I hope you enjoy this peek into Tommy and Liana’s life together!
Tommy slowly lifted the icing tip away from the small iced cake, letting a stream of chocolate fall in a straight line down the side. A second later, he looped two more ribbons across the top and set the bag down. A glance at the clock told him he had twenty minutes before Liana was due home. He placed the plate of petit fours in the fridge to help the decorations set and wiped down the counters.
All he had to do was keep her out of the fridge for the night. A monumental task, but he was up for it. He grabbed his phone off the charging stand and sent her a quick text for the first stage of his plan.
He could picture her grumbling as she read it, but he knew she’d do as he asked. As he headed out of the kitchen, he tossed the rag into the sink. He ran down his mental to do list and prayed the night would run like a well-oiled machine and not like a night in the kitchen when full plates fell on the floor, roasts burned instead of seared, and the Times restaurant reviewer was in the front getting coughed on by the waiter who should have damn well known to call in sick.
Stopping in the middle of the loft, he realized his mind was running off track which didn’t help with his blood pressure. He closed his eyes and drew in a few deep, measured breaths as the therapist Liana had forced him to go to had taught.
Focused on the tasks before him once more, he took a quick shower, dressed in the clothes he’d laid out earlier, and straightened up his bedroom. He’d thought about being schmoopy and carpeting the bed with wine red rose petals, but since she was banned from the kitchen, the first place Liana would go was there to drop her stuff. Instead, he strategically set out candles in the living area. Not enough to raise her suspicions, but he removed a couple just to make sure.
Right on cue, he heard a key in the front door. “Hey, babe. Everything okay?”
He grinned at her as she pulled her hat away from her hair, running her fingers through the wild curls. Walking over, he pulled her chilled hands into his and kissed her. “Everything’s good. Tonight’s for relaxing.”
She smiled against his lips. “It’s Valentine’s Day and we both had promo events today. I was hoping we could get some cooking in tonight.”
“Maybe later. I’ve ordered dinner and it should be here in half an hour. Why don’t you drop your stuff in the bedroom and I’ll throw on a movie.”
She opened her bag. “I stopped for one. Here.”
When he saw which one, he smacked a kiss against her lips. “Have I told you that you’re the best?”
“Not in the last twelve hours. Back in a moment.”
He popped the spy movie he’d missed when it had been in the theaters into his player and turned on the TV. When Liana came back out, the previews were playing. They settled onto the couch, his arm around her back and her head resting in the hollow of his shoulder. The opening credits had just finished when the buzzer for the front door went off. He paused the movie and went to answer.
“What dishes do you want to use?”
“Stay there. I’m serving you tonight.” He would never tire of the exasperated looks she shot him when he tried to do things for her. “Valentine’s Day. You know, the day where I’m supposed to wait on you hand and foot?”
“Like you don’t try to do that every other day of the year as well.”
“How about actually indulging me on this day, then?”
“Fine. Hurry up so we can get back to the movie.”
He tipped the delivery woman and brought the dishes into the kitchen, and plated them. The executive chef at the restaurant he’d ordered from was a buddy of his, so there were a few extra touches included.
Back in the living room, Liana was lighting a couple of candles that she’d moved to the coffee table in front of the couch. “I figured we might as well have some mood lighting.”
He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “You read my mind.”
Setting the plates down, he unfurled the included napkins with great fanfare and laid one down on her lap. She laughed. “Are you practicing for being a waiter again?”
“Only for you.” He sat back down next to her and held the remote up at the TV. “Ready for dinner and a movie?”
She picked up her plate, saluting him with her fork. “I am.”
He restarted the movie and began tucking into his own dinner. After they’d finished their meals, they curled into each other again for the remainder of the show. When the end credits finished rolling, he slipped his arm out from behind her. She stretched her arms over her head. “Another movie?”
“Dessert first. Back in a moment.”
In the kitchen, he pulled the champagne out. Wrapping a towel around the cork head, he thought he managed to silence the tell-tale pop. He poured it into the waiting flutes, and then removed from the fridge the plate he placed in there earlier. He tidied the presentation, and then grabbed the box he hidden in the silverware drawer, putting it into his back pocket. The champagne and plate of petit fours went onto a serving platter and he carried it all into the living room.
Liana sat up in her seat. “Tommy, what did you do?”
He set the platter in front of her. The petit fours were arranged in the shape of a heart, and she reached out a finger, stopping only a millimeter from the bottom point. He got down on one knee and pulled the box from his back pocket, opening it in front of him. “Liana, you bring a sweetness to my life I’d never thought to experience. Will you marry me?”
Tears formed in her eyes and she held her fingers up to her mouth. His heart stuttered as the silence lengthened. Sweat beaded at the base of his back and his knee began to creak. Fear began overwhelming his brain, and he started to push up, until she reached out and grabbed his arm. “Yes, Tommy. I’ll marry you.”
All of the air in his lungs rushed out and he damn near passed out. She wrapped her arms around his neck and whispered the words again in his ear. “I’ll marry you.”
Thanks for revisiting the world of Tommy and Liana with me! As soon as I get home from the day job, I’ll check in and respond to any comments. The next stop on the hop is Jeanette Grey. Be sure to comment on each story to be eligible for the massive giveaway at the end. Thanks for joining us for #ValentinesRewind! ♥