LIKE LOVERS DO Excerpt…
The captivating scent of simmering tomato sauce claimed her attention and alerted her to the fact that Ben was cooking. In response, her stomach growled, demanding that she pick up her pace. The man was a god in the kitchen, possessing the ability to do something Nic had never believed in before meeting him: making healthy food taste good.
Lights from hanging pendants reflected off the dark cabinets and the white marble, greeting her as she walked into the room. Ben stood with his back to her, his tall frame covered in a maroon T-shirt and dark gray sweatpants, tossing vegetables from a cutting board into a stainless steel frying pan.
“How much longer?” she asked.
“Hello to you, too,” he said, stirring the contents with a wooden spoon.
She spied the brown parcel sitting on the countertop. “Is that it?”
“Your package? Yeah.”
Excitement was a temporary dam for her ravenous exhaustion as she tore open the box and squealed in delight at its contents.
Ben finally glanced at her over his shoulder, a dark brow arched. “What is it this time?”
“Goat milk soap, whipped body cream, and a curl pudding for my hair,” she responded absently, checking to confirm everything she’d ordered was in the package.
“Good grief!” He snorted and turned back to the food he was preparing.
“I didn’t ask for your commentary, Charlie Brown,” she said, picking up each item and inhaling its wonderful scent.
Caila was into designer purses; Ava was all about shoes; Lacey was their resident fashionista. For Nic, it was hair and skincare products. Face cleansers, moisturizers, lotions, hair products—she loved them all. And the more luxurious, decadent, and lusciously scented the better. Sometimes, when she needed a break from studying and researching, she’d surf her favorite beauty brands online and imagine what she’d purchase when she got her first real check working as a team physician.
La Mer Moisturizing Cream, anyone?
“Let me guess: they’re from some organic boutique shop you saw online where each delicate, vegan bar cost about twenty dollars?”
“Wrong,” she said snidely—but only because she’d gotten the lot on sale. She always waited for the sales.
“Ahhh.” His head bobbed. “You got them on sale.”
If she didn’t value these soaps so much, she’d throw one at him.
“I have dry, sensitive skin”—which was true, but it was also what allowed her to justify spending money now—“and with the constant hand washing and antibacterial sanitizer, I have to take precautions to keep these babies”—she wiggled her fingers—“healthy. They’re my money makers. I keep them moisturized and pampered. Now, as a white man who’d never thought about lotion until I moved in—”
“I still don’t,” he interrupted.
“—I understand moisturized skin may not be important to you.”
“Ha. Ha.” He smirked, lobbing something in her direction.
She watched as the broccoli floret bounced on the counter before falling to the floor. She pointed to it. “That’s from your half of dinner.”
“Riddle me this, Queen of Self-care, why don’t your insides rate the same consideration as your outsides?”
“You obsess over the glop your put on your skin and your hair, but the food you eat? Jesus. If I didn’t feed you, your entire diet would consist of sugary carbs, protein bars, and ramen noodles.”
She frowned, taken aback. She didn’t know he had an issue with cooking for her. “You offered. I never asked you to, so if it’s a bother—”
“Nic, I’m not complaining. Just making an observation. And it’s not a bother. If I’m cooking, I’ll make enough for you. Don’t I always?”
He did. Which was one of the many reasons why, though the rent was a tad more than she could afford, and her budget was tight, she gladly paid what she did to live there. It had been a wonderful three years, especially since leaving the situation she’d been in for the first two years of her residency. The third time she’d come home from an overnight shift to find some random half-naked dude eating her leftover pizza on the couch was the third time too many.
“Those would be my plans, too, if I had the rich and sexy Benjamin Van Mont waiting for me.”
The sleeves of Ben’s T-shirt hugged his biceps while the muscles in his back and shoulders bunched as he stirred the pan’s contents. Nic swallowed. The scenery was definitely better now than it had been at her old place, too, though this was the first time that particular thought had crossed her mind.
And she didn’t like it.
“Uh . . . how was your day?” she asked, attempting to get things back on track.
“Busy.” He turned off the stove and covered the pan with a lid. “I met with a potential new client. Someone who recently came into a large amount of money and wants help managing it.”
Unlike the others in his family, Ben hadn’t gone the medical route. He had his own business; was an in-demand financial advisor who operated a successful boutique investment advisory firm. She respected his initiative. His family had enough money that he could’ve spent his life living off his trust fund. Instead, he’d worked hard to build something for himself.
Ben pulled down a stemless wineglass, filled it with her favorite sweet red blend, and placed it in front of her.
“Thanks.” She took a sip and moaned low in her throat. So good. “Sounds kind of boring.”
Ben’s gaze heated and flicked to her mouth before quickly rebounding away. Her lips tingled, as if aware of the drive-by visual caress.
That moment of intensity had briefly altered his face. Or maybe her perception of it. But in that instant, she could see what Amalia had meant.