“So it’s a dark chocolate fudge cake with milk chocolate ganache.”
“It looks amazing Dee, are you sure?” Mitch’s mouth was watering looking at the cake in question.
“Of course.” She stood up with a triumphant cry with what looked like a sheet of cardboard. “I knew I had some of these left.”
As she started to fold it into a box there was a knock on the door so he left her to the construction job to go answer.
“Hey! What are you doing here?”
“Dee’s selling me a cake,” he said and stepped back as Jay walked through the door and headed straight for the kitchen.
“Giving!” Dee called out, “Giving you a cake.”
“Why don’t I get cake?”
Mitch closed the door and followed Jay then propped his shoulder against the door frame to watch as Jay tried to cajole Dee.
“Baby I deserve cake,” he whined as he pulled at his tie. “I had meetings today, look at this suit I had to wear.”
Dee closed the cake box and turned to look Jay over, a smirk on her lips but she shook her head. “Yeah that’s quite an ordeal you’ve had sweetie.” He opened his mouth to protest again but Dee covered it with her hand. “I cooked two, you wont miss out,” she said with a put upon sigh.
His voice was muffled as he asked, “Why?”
She shrugged as she went to the oven and pulled out a second perfectly cooked cake. “I was in the mood to bake, was going to take them into work. Then Mitch called.”
Jay went to the refrigerator and peered in then turned with a beer in hand and sent Mitch an enquiring look.
“Nah, I’m good. Just here for the cake,” he added as Jay closed the door then leaned against the counter near the cake box.
“Did you forget a birthday or something?” Jay asked as he opened the lid and groaned. “Can’t believe you’re giving this away,” he muttered.
“Me neither,” Mitch agreed. “She refused to let me pay for it too.”
“It’s nothing.” She gently hip checked Jay and closed the lid. “Mitch is trying to impress a woman.”
“And he needs cake to do it? Man, do we need to have a talk? Need a few pointers?”
“From the man hanging out with his bestie?” Mitch pointed a finger between the two of them. “Yeah, no thanks.”
“Ah hello? Sexy as fuck woman with chocolate cake. I don’t see a problem with this scenario.”
“Just one…” Mitch narrowed his eyes at his friends and wondered if they’d finally acted on their mutual attraction. “Unless you’ve started fucking your friends Jay, in which case it’s been nice knowing you.”
Dee laughed and Jay choked on the swallow of beer he’d just taken. “I ah,” the other man stammered and coughed.
“Here, take your cake and go trouble maker,” Dee said and picked up the box.
Mitch took it and gave Dee a one armed hug as he pressed a smacking kiss to her lips. “I owe you.” He started walking backwards towards the door and Dee followed. “And so you know, I can kick his ass if you need me to,” he said quietly as he reached for the door handle.
“I’ll keep it in mind,” Dee replied solemnly then rolled her eyes and poked out her tongue making Mitch laugh. “Good luck tonight, not that I think you’ll need it.”
“Same to you. See you soon.”
Mitch set the empty bowl on the low coffee table and sat back with a replete sigh.
“No need asking if you liked it,” Max said sounding pleased with herself.
“Can I come for dinner every night?” he asked tilting his head to the side to look at the woman sitting cross legged on the couch beside him.
“You just ate tomorrow night’s dinner,” she said as she set her own bowl down.
“Really?” Mitch asked nonplussed.
“Yeah.” She couldn’t quite hide her grin as she reached for the white bakery box that he hadn’t allowed her to open when he had arrived. “So your dessert had better be worth it.”
Max had dinner ready when he knocked on the door and had explained that she had to be at work in two hours plus she was starving. She’d given Mitch the minute tour as that was all that was needed for her apartment. “Bedroom there,” she said and pointed at a closed door. “Bathroom there. We eat there.”
‘There’ was on a comfy couch in front of a coffee table and the smallest television Mitch had seen in years. There was no dining table, no space for one in the combined kitchen/living area. There were stools at the kitchen bench that divided the two areas but there was a laptop and some paperwork taking up that space. While they ate Max had asked how his day had been and he’d shared stories of the boot camp and the disasters that had filled his day.
Mitch placed his hand on top of the box and stopped Max opening it. “Actually it’s getting late and if you have stuff to do before work… maybe I should just go,” he teased.
Max sighed loudly and unfolded herself from the couch to stand and pick up the empty bowls. “Am I keeping you from something else? A date?”
Mitch picked up the box and followed as she placed the dishes in the sink and stacked up her paperwork to make space.
“Strange. I thought this was a date?” He tapped the box. “I did bring dessert.”
Max shrugged and crossed her arms over her chest. “Well I’ve yet to see if it’s date worthy or just friends having dinner worthy.”
“Oh it’s worthy,” he assured and wondered for a moment about the fact that Dee had made this cake for Jay. “But, it can be just friends. We were going to talk about that?”
“We were. We are,” Max assured then turned away to get plates out of the cupboard. “I can smell the chocolate you know? It’s cruel to tease.”
“Oh my god,” she breathed as she turned back then let out a low moan.
“Talk about a tease,” Mitch muttered and let the lid drop down again.
“Oh no, open it!” Max demanded, her eyes locked on the white box.
“Bossy much,” he muttered as he opened the box then pulled it apart so it sat flat again.
Max sighed and reached out then dropped her hand. “It’s so pretty, it will be a shame to cut it.”
“You want me to take it away?”
“Don’t you dare!” she looked up with a glare then rolled her eyes at his grin. “You…” she shook her head. “I’m pretty sure I warned you about my stabby tendencies when it comes to cake.”
“You did,” he agreed. “Let’s keep the stabbing for the cake.”
“Do you want tea or coffee. Or beer, wine? I’m not drinking because of work, but you can if you want.”
“I would love a coffee.”
Max nodded and turned to her pod machine. “Milk? Sugar?” He shook his head and she made his and hers with a splash of milk only. “Now… let’s see you baby,” she crooned to the cake as he sipped his coffee.
He watched while she cut slabs of cake and looked away when she sucked a smear of icing from her finger with a hum of pleasure.
“You’re killing me here Max,” he muttered and took his cake and coffee back to the couch.
They ate the cake in silence, Max back in her cross legged position in the corner of the couch while Mitch lounged in the opposite corner.
“Alright, this is date worthy cake,” Max said as she swiped a last crumb with her finger.
“Yeah no,” Mitch shook his head. “This is beyond date worthy. I think I peaked too soon.”
“Well, probably for the best. I’m not a good date anyway.”
“Mmm, let’s see. You were on time, your food was delicious, your coffee great. Completely terrible. I really dodged a bullet didn’t I?”
“You did.” Max’s voice lacked Mitch’s humour and he shifted to better face her. “Really, if this was a good date, we’d be getting ready to watch a movie, or going out for a drink. Normal stuff.”
“Ahh.” Mitch nodded and smiled as Max scowled at him.
“Ahh? What does that mean?”
“You’re a business owner, you have different priorities. And your business isn’t a standard day to day business, you’re night to night.”
“Yeah I… how do you get it so easily?”
“Zander goes to my gym. My gym,” he stressed and realisation dawned on her face. “Well mine and a couple of partners. So I get it. Obviously not the hours but…”
“Yeah well the hours are the real killer. I mean who wants a girlfriend who can’t go out on weekends. And as for the friends with benefits… those calls don’t work too well at five in the morning.”
“And the, how did you put it? The relationship benefits without the relationship?”
Max laughed and looked down at her coffee. “Regular sex, someone to share a meal with, watch a movie.”
“What’s the but?”
“Not a but so much as I don’t want the relationship drama. The disappointment when I miss a lunch date because I was late finishing so slept late. The annoyance when I can’t go out on weekends. The jealousy because I’m at a club so I must be drinking and having fun without them.”
“The voice of experience?” At her nod he continued. “I get jealousy because of course everyone at the gym is hot. I get anger because I often work seven days a week, and my healthy habits make people feel guilty.”
Max looked at his dessert plate. “Really?”
“Well, perceived habits then. Though I don’t eat like that every day,” he added.
“So what do you do about it Mitch?”
“Nothing. Work is my priority. I find time to have fun when I need it. I’m upfront about what I’m offering.”
“Which is?” Max interrupted.
“No commitment, no obligation.” He paused and leaned forward to place his empty cup on the table.
“What’s the but?” she echoed his earlier question.
“But? It’s not enough anymore. I don’t want anonymous sex and one night stands. I want, well pretty much what you said Max. The benefits without the drama. Someone who’ll understand when I have to work fourteen hours straight so can’t take them to dinner. Or that I have an early training session so can’t go out drinking and dancing all night.”
“I would get that,” Max said with a nod and a sigh. “Why can’t you work nights? We’d be perfect for each other.”
Mitch laughed and shot back, “Why can’t you…” His laughter faded with his words and he held up his hand. “Wait. This is prefect.”
“This.” He stood up and collected the empty plates and coffee cups. “We just had dinner, some nice conversation.”
“We did,” Max agreed hesitantly and followed Mitch to the kitchen and watched as he rinsed the dishes and stacked the dishwasher.
“And now? You’re off to work. I’ll go home and get an early night because I have an early client. What happens when you get home?”
“I eat, watch a movie to relax then go to bed.”
“Exactly. You’re going down when I’m getting up.”
Mitch wiped his hands then walked around the counter to Max’s side as she turned to face him. “So picture this. Your movie is done, you’re ready for bed. The bed you climb into has me in it, waking up to start my day.”
“Oh.” Max nodded and licked her lips nervously.
“Want to know what I’d really like to do in the morning Max?”
“Sure,” she whispered as his eyes dropped to her mouth.
“You Max.” He leaned down and brushed a kiss against her cheek. “All of the benefits, none of the drama. Think about it and we’ll talk tomorrow.”