Authors: Cristina Grenier
Tags: #bwwm interracial romance
If she could even find the kitchen, that was.
It took a couple of wrong turns that led her down hallways with shiny floors and pictures on the walls before she walked into a bright, sunlit kitchen.
It was a large room with a door off to one side that probably led to the dining room, an island in the middle, and windows overlooking the grounds. The windows and the white walls made it look open and airy, and Andrea liked it instantly. Appliances gleamed against the walls, the largest of which was a refrigerator that looked like it would hold a lot of things, so she started there, tugging open one of the doors and sticking her head inside.
“Can I help you find something?” an amused voice asked, and Andrea jerked back and let the refrigerator door bang closed, trying not to look guilty.
She’d been expecting to see a cook or one of the maids standing there, but nope. She found herself looking up into the eyes of the owner of the house himself.
“Oh. Uh. No? No. I’m fine. I was just, uh…” Andrea wanted to hit herself in the face for stammering like an idiot in front of this man and then run away.
Pictures online really didn’t do Dorian Kingston justice. He was taller than she’d been expecting, and his cheekbones were so much nicer in person than they looked online. His eyes were a light shade of blue, and dark hair curled over his collar and fell into his eyes, making him look playful and less severe than he’d looked in the pictures she’d seen.
He held up a hand and smiled at her, flashing a dimple in one cheek. “Relax. You’re allowed to be in here. You have to feed yourself, yes?”
God, that accent. Andrea swallowed dryly. “Uh, yeah. Yes. Right.”
The smile widened, and the dimple deepened along with it. “You must be Ben’s sister, Andrea. It’s very nice to meet you.”
“Oh, yeah. That’s me,” Andrea said with a small smile. “It’s nice to meet you, too, Mr. Kingston.”
He laughed and shook his head, holding out a hand for her to shake. “Please, just call me Dorian. I feel old when people call me ‘Mr. Kingston’ and I already have a house full of people who refuse to stop calling me that. Since you don’t work for me, we can be on more familiar terms, yes?”
Andrea could think of several ways she’d like to be on familiar terms with this man. It had been a while since she’d had time to date or even flirt with someone she found attractive. Taking care of her mother had been a full time job, but now that she wasn’t in that situation anymore…
Well. It was something to think about. Of course, starting with someone who was so far out of her league was absurd.
Dorian was dressed in jeans that probably cost more than her entire wardrobe and a sweater that had to have been made from handspun something or another, and he looked edible. Meanwhile, she was standing there in her old clothes and socks that had a hole in the toe. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that there was nothing she could give a man like this, even though she could think of a few things she’d
to give him.
But he probably had women throwing themselves at him all the time. There was no way he didn’t when he had money and looked like that.
“Dorian, then,” Andrea replied, nodding. “Your house is beautiful.”
“Thank you. I didn’t really pick it out, but it’s home. I hope you’ve found everything to your liking? Please don’t hesitate to let me know if there’s anything you need.”
“Will do,” she said. “I was just hunting for something to eat. Unpacking works up an appetite.”
“We have a cook,” Dorian offered.
Andrea shook her head. “I didn’t want to bother anyone. I can cook for myself pretty easily.”
Those lovely blue eyes held hers for a moment, and then Dorian was smiling again. “Why don’t you let me cook something?” he said. “I was going to make a late lunch for myself anyway, and I’ll confess that I like to show off.”
“You can cook?”
He laughed again, and it was a rich warm sound. “I can. It would be my pleasure.”
Andrea held in her groan at the way his voice sounded. God, she was in trouble.
Chapter 5: Sparks
The kitchen was Dorian’s element. Anita had taught him enough that he was comfortable doing pretty much anything when it came to mixing and stirring and chopping to make something delicious.
He pulled a few items out of the refrigerator, with it in his head that he would make a paella. It would be filling and delicious, and there’d be leftovers if Andrea wanted them.
He almost definitely wasn’t showing off. Probably.
It was just one of those things. Dorian always wanted to be seen as being more than just his money, and he sort of wanted to prove to Andrea that he could be useful in the kitchen. Especially considering the fact that she was standing there, watching him with big eyes as he moved around the kitchen and pulled out pots and pans.
For some reason, he very much wanted Ben’s sister to like him.
And he wasn’t going to examine that too closely because he was almost sure that he didn’t want to know what the deal with that was.
“Thanks,” Andrea said after a moment’s silence. “For hiring my brother, I mean. He’s been waiting for a break like this for a really long time, and I know he’s glad to get it.”
Dorian looked up at her while he poured water into a pot to boil for rice. “It was my pleasure, really. He came highly recommended, and Carlos, you met Carlos, yes?” At her nod, he continued. “Carlos thought it would be a good fit. So far, I have to agree. Your brother knows his stuff, and I already feel safer.”
She smiled a little at that, looking down at the polished surface of the island she was leaning against. “He has that affect, yeah. But the good thing is, you’ll never need to worry about him. Once he decides he’s loyal to you, you’re stuck with him for life. He’s like a puppy that way.”
That made Dorian smile as well. “An apt descriptor. I think we’ll work well together. He’s already more personable than anyone in my last guard, and I much prefer that.”
“You want to be friends with your bodyguards?” Andrea asked, arching an eyebrow.
Dorian shrugged. “If possible. Having someone I’m friendly with at my back is much better than some stranger, don’t you think?”
“Hm. I guess I hadn’t thought of it that way. I guess if they’re your friend, they’re more likely to want to take a bullet for you.”
“You’re very frank, aren’t you?” Dorian asked, making a face. “If at all possible, I’d prefer that no one have to take any bullets. For me or otherwise. The downside to having a security team is knowing that any one of them could get hurt for me at any time.”
She looked back down at the counter, nodding quickly. “You’re right. I didn’t mean to make it sound so...callous, I guess. It’s just kind of how I am.”
He considered her for a moment and then waved her words away. “No harm done. With any luck, my new team will be mostly a formality and there won’t be any need for anyone to get hurt.”
“Here’s hoping,” Andrea said, giving him a warm smile once again. He found that he liked watching her face from the corner of his eye and seeing how she reacted.
Back in England, there had been plenty of women who threw themselves at him. He was rich and powerful, and everyone there knew who his father was and wanted a piece of his family in some way. Women had spent plenty of time sucking up to him in the hopes of becoming the future Mrs. Kingston, even though Dorian had shown no signs of wanting to get married at all.
Women here were different. Here they threw themselves at him for his accent and looks as much as for his money, if not more. Most of them had never heard of his family, and his money was just a perk to go along with the rest of him as far as they were concerned.
It was one of the big reasons that he hadn’t been on any serious dates or in any serious relationships, especially since the death of his father and his subsequent move to America.
He told himself that he was just keeping himself safe. He was protecting his interests more than anything else, even though it was sometimes lonely, and he wished that there was someone he could share things with.
Although, until he managed to get rid of the people who wanted him dead and wanted his money, he wasn’t going to be able to ensure that anyone who dated him would be safe. No matter what anyone thought of Dorian, and he was sure that the media had some thoughts on the matter, he wasn’t going to let anyone else get tangled up in this mess. It was bad enough that he’d inherited it from his father.
“You’re thinking very hard over there,” Andrea said, and she was suddenly very close, having rounded the island and ended up right beside him at the stove. “And your rice is scorching.”
Dorian swore vehemently and grabbed an oven mitt so that he could take the pot off the heat. It wasn’t burnt through, and with the addition of a little water and a little white wine, it was fine again.
“I’m terribly sorry,” he said, giving her a crooked smile. “Sometimes I get lost in my thoughts, and then this happens.”
She waved that away. “It’s no problem, believe me. I just got done living with a woman who couldn’t focus for more than a few minutes before she was almost burning the house down. This is nothing.”
“An elderly relative?” Dorian asked.
Andrea snorted. “My mother.”
He wasn’t sure what to say to that. He didn’t feel like he knew her well enough to comment on her mother’s state or make a joke about it, or even comfort her, so instead he handed her a package of shrimp. “Would you mind terribly taking the tails off of these. I know it’s proper to leave them on for color in the dish, but I am not a fan of having to take them off before I eat.”
Andrea laughed at that, and her eyes lit up. “I have that same feeling all the time. It’s like whenever I get Pad Thai from a really good place, and I have to spend half the time taking off the tails before I can eat the whole thing because no one wants to crunch down on shrimp tails while they’re eating.”
Dorian smiled at her, watching as slender, nimble fingers took the tails off the jumbo shrimp in her hands. “It ruins the experience, somewhat.”
She nodded excitedly. “Exactly! And I’m always trying to explain this to Ben, but he tells me to just deal with it or order something else because that’s how Ben is, but it’s the principle of the thing, you know?”
“I do know, yes. Well, I promise that anything you eat here will be properly de-tailed or shelled or whatever else it needs to be to make sure that it’s ready for consumption.”
“My hero,” Andrea teased, fluttering her eyelashes at him.
“I do try,” Dorian said, giving her a warm look. It had been less than an hour, and he was already fond of her. She was the kind of woman who didn’t seem to have a problem with being silly in front of him, and he liked that quite a bit. It was almost as if she didn’t care that he was rich and powerful and had men who wanted him dead. She was seeing him for who he was in that moment, and more surprising than that was Dorian’s willingness to show her that side of him.
He’d always thought of himself as a more private person than that, but it was definitely true that living that way hadn’t done him any favors. His closest friends were his driver and his cook, and other than that, he didn’t really have anyone else he could share things with. Dorian supposed that assuming he could trust Andrea because he trusted her brother was foolish, but there it was.
The fact that she was a lovely woman didn’t really help matters either.
One day and he was already in over his head. His father would have been scandalized. Which, now that he thought about it, might have been a very large part of the reason it felt so comfortable.
It was something to think about, at any rate.
“You’re doing the thinking too hard thing again,” Andrea said, sounding amused as she perused the spices that he had left out for seasoning the dish. “Hungarian paprika? Really?”
Dorian snorted and took it from her. “What’s the matter with Hungarian paprika?”
“What’s wrong with good old American paprika?” she asked, making such a put out face that Dorian couldn’t help but laugh.
“Well, for one thing, paprika is the national spice of Hungary,” he pointed out. “So I think that says something about its quality.”
Andrea laughed at that, shaking her head. “Excuse me, then.”
The rest of the meal preparation was spent in a similar fashion, the two of them trading jokes and quips, and Dorian had to admit that he was enjoying her company. She was easy to talk to and fun to be around, and they managed to eat their late lunch without incident, and Dorian relented when Andrea demanded to be allowed to clean up from the meal, even though Dorian insisted that there were people who got paid to do that sort of thing.
She’d just replied by rolling her eyes and making a comment about silver spoons, so he’d made the wise decision to just leave well enough alone.
She looked at home over the sink anyway, and he didn’t mean that in a derogatory way at all, just that there was an ease about her that captivated him for a moment before he went on his way to see her brother.
Ben was sitting in one of the control rooms of the house with Carlos, a spreadsheet pulled up on the large monitor in front of them. Dorian recognized it as the list of potential other candidates for his security team, and he greeted both of them before taking a seat.