Caryn Hex

Presentation Is Everything By: Caryn Hex

She always arrived early to the dinner party so that she could watch him cook. She sat on a dining chair, chin in hands, while he worked the pastry dough. His muscles slid under his shirt as he leaned into each motion. His fingers spread and kneaded, firm and repetitive, again, again, and her breath caught in her throat.

He looked up from the dough, eyes bright, and she could only nod. He finished the pastry and turned to the steak, rubbing it with spices in smooth, rolling motions. The smell was sensational, but that’s not why her mouth watered.

He slid the steak into the oven and the blast of hot air played across her skin. She realized she was biting her lip; she stopped, and recrossed her legs.

He turned to the sauce, running a finger in a delicate circle across the surface. He tasted it with a flicker of tongue; she barely contained a gasp. His eyes met hers, looking a question. She nodded, then nodded again, as he lifted the wooden spoon to her lips, letting her taste the sauce. She kept her eyes on him the whole time.

Later, they arrived. She barely looked at them as he laid each plate before them. Did she imagine that he lingered behind her as he set the plate before her? His warmth radiated at her back; his scent mixing with the delicately laid plate.

“It looks delicious.” Her mouth was dry, her breath tight in her chest.

He smiled to one side. “Presentation is everything,” he replied.

Across the table, one dinner guest leaned to the other. “Is it just me,” whispered the guest, “or are these dinners getting awkward?”