For Your Dining PleasurebyTrueNorth1969©
*** This has been something I've been working on for a while. I enjoy drawing only for fun. I did the drawings alternately as I wrote the story and I found one activity inspired the other. As always, views are great, votes are interesting, but comments, criticisms and suggestions are golden.***
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The obnoxious electronic ring of the phone went on for about 10 seconds before it dragged Teaghan away from her deep slumber. As it rang for another 10 seconds, she groaned and squeezed her eyes shut, wishing it would stop or, better yet, the battery would just die in the stupid thing. But of course, she knew it wouldn't stop. She thumped her head back against her pillow and cursed under breath. Grudgingly, she rolled over onto her side, her long brunette hair falling across her face, and slapped her hand around on the nightstand, fumbling for her cell phone in the dark.
"What the hell do you want, now?!" was what she wanted to say as she raised the receiver to her ear. Instead, she cleared her throat, took a deep breath and said, "Yes? Is there something that you want?"
"Oh, I think you know what I want," a low, slithery voice spoke on the other end.
Teaghan rolled onto her back, her head sinking back into the soft down pillow. "Isn't it a little late for this?" she said wearily. It was more of a plea than an actual question.
"It's never too late for this and you know it," the breathy voice replied, "I really want this now. You have to do this for me now."
She rolled her eyes. She sighed, "Andres, I'm in no mood to play games with you. Can't you just leave me alone tonight? Please? I'm exhausted."
"I want it hot and I want it sticky and I want it fresh," the voice of Andre went on ignoring her. "And you know you're the only one who knows how to do it right. The only one who can give it to me. The only one who can...satisfy me."
Teaghan paused and rubbed her forehead. She slapped her hand down beside her on the bed sheets and said tersely, "Alright. Enough. I'm getting up."
"So you're going to do it?" Andres said. She could feel his stupid grin through the phone.
"Yes," she sighed. Of course she was going to do it. The dumb jerk knew she had no choice.
She sat up in bed. Yawning she asked, "You want it the usual way?"
"You know it!" he piped in. "But make it a sour dough bun instead of onion. And I want some of your sweet potato strings too."
She opened her mouth to say something but was cut off by the click of his phone. Holding up the cell phone, the words "Call Dismissed" glowing back at her, she stuck her tongue out at it. Flipping it on the bed, she threw her covers off, stood up and stumbled in the darkness across the floor of the guest house. She pulled her halter-top down past her belly. Her body was hating her for this right now.
As she picked up her track pants from a chair by the window she muttered, "Why can't you get your own goddamn pulled pork sandwich?"
Teaghan had the 2nd best job she could ever have. The first would be for her to own and run the kitchen of a bistro restaurant. Until she could afford to do so though, working as a personal chef to an elderly couple on their private vineyard estate in California and making a crapload of money for it would just have to do for now.
She had been working for the Nikolaous for the last 5 months. They were a funny, boisterous couple. Maybe it was because they hadn't felt the weight of financial struggle for the better part of their lives now. Maybe it was that bold and passionate Greek blood that flowed through them. Whatever it was, they were still very spry and alert for a couple who were both pushing 70.
It was her job as a chef and nutritionist to make sure that they stayed that way as long as possible. Fortunately for them, Teaghan was an excellent cook if she did say so herself. She had years of training packed into her ripe old body of 27 years. She was still riding along the plateau of enthusiasm for her art and would continue to do so for a good long time.
The Nikolaous' loved her exuberance for cooking and her spirited nature in general. And they were the perfect clients, undemanding and extremely appreciative of her culinary skills. They often enthused that she was like the daughter they never had, albeit with several notably defined East Asian features and a light hint of a British accent.
So when the Nikolaous asked her to be their 24 hours on call cook for the summer, she was already close to agreeing. A proposed increase in salary had her mouth open to say "yes". But even before she could, once they offered her residence in their guest house at the back of the rolling, large, and manicured garden rent free, she immediately went to her apartment to pack her bags later that night.
How difficult could a 24 hour on call chef's job be with this couple, she thought, except maybe a request for some toast and tea at 10 o'clock at night?
"Our grandson, Andres, will be staying with us for a month. He'll be flying in from New York the day after tomorrow," Mr.Nikolaou informed Teaghan soon after she moved in.
She nodded thoughtfully and said, "That'll be fine, Mr.Nikolaou. Do you know if he'll be requiring ay specific dietary needs? Is he a young person?
The elderly man smiled and waved his hand, "Oh no, no! He's just finished his 3rd year at Stanford. Andres will love your food, Ms.Chef! He won't be a problem at all! But perhaps you could make an extra special meal for supper on his first night here?"
Teaghan smiled and nodded again, "My pleasure."
Two nights later, she did the full court press. Not only did she provide as a main course a succulent braised herbed-lamb with brandy flambéed apricots and mint dressing mesculin salad , but she agreed to "present" the courses for the evening in her full chef's regalia: hat, formal tunic, white shoes, the whole bit.
Standing uneasily as she tried to adjust her stiff uniform with little shifts of her body, she watched as Mr. & Mrs. Nikolaou savoured the meal.
"The things you do with lamb," Mrs.Nikolaou spoke after swallowing, "You must have Greek blood in you, my dear!"
Teaghan managed a polite smile. Clearing her throat softly, she asked, "Um, how late did you say Andres might be arriving?" Her eyes were focused on the empty place setting.
Mr.Nikolaou chewed for a bit then said, "Oh, well, his plane arrived hours ago. He said he wanted to stop in with some friends first. But don't worry. He'll be here. Mmm, you have really outdone yourself, Ms.Chef!"
Again she smiled, hiding the slight anxiety in her eyes.
Later that night -much later- Teaghan awoke in bed to the sound of her cell phone ringing. She opened one eye, taking a second to focus on the clock. 3:19 a.m. It didn't stop ringing. With a groggy groan, she picked it up and answered.
"Yes?" she croaked.
"Hey, are you the cook?" a snappy voice replied on the other end.
"Huh? Who is this?"
"Andres. I heard you made some really sweet lamb," he said, his voice way too smooth and easy for her taste right then. "Can you slice it up and throw it on a pizza? With olives?"
"Huh? Pizza?" she replied, struggling to clear her 'sleep-throat'.
"Great. I'm in third bedroom at the right of the stairs. Opposite wing of my grandparents. Right at the end," he didn't stop talking, "Say -what- maybe 25 or 30 minutes is good for you?"
"25 minutes? Wha-?"
"25 minutes, then. Thanks, sweets." Click.
"Huh?" Teaghan's head was stuck in a dreamy loop. "Hello?"
She figured she still must have been dreaming when she found herself at 3:30 a.m. in her robe and a pair of track-pants, shuffling across the expanse of the back garden and into the house. Wearing her glasses, she tied her hair into a neat bun as she walked, something she always did before she cooked. Somehow she found the kitchen and it was only her deftly honed skills as a chef that she was able to pull something together.
She plodded up the stairs holding a tray full of pita-pizza with lamb and olives. Walking through the dark hallways she came to the last door on the east wing of the house and tapped it twice her knuckles.
The door opened, bright light and heavy dance music spilling over her. She winced and squinted. "Andres?" she asked.
In front of her, filling the doorway, was a tall young man wearing a black golf shirt and grey dress slacks. His smile was wide, his blue eyes, rimmed with thick eyebrows, were bright, and his dark blonde, curly hair had just the right amount of wave in it. He was way too fresh at this point of the night. He held up his finger to her and finished the conversation he was having on his cell phone.
"Yeah. Right. Gotta go," he said with a wink, "Delivery girl is here with the pizza. Yeah, bye!"
Teaghan, in her current state, was duly unimpressed.
Pocketing his cell phone, he leaned up against the side of the doorway and raised his eyebrows. He sighed, "It took longer than 30 minutes. Does that mean it's free?"
The woman simmered for a long moment, a trace of steam actually appearing on her glasses, then shoved the tray firmly into his chest. "Your pizza," she grumbled.
Barely managing to keep the tray from spilling onto him, Andres smiled crookedly and chuckled, "Hey! Hey! Just kidding, chef. Why so much mean on such a pretty face?"
"Why so...?" the words got stuck in her mouth. She propped up her glasses with her finger then put her hands on her hips. "It's 4 a.m., Andres. I am dead to the world at 4 a.m. as the world is dead to me. The next time you want a pizza at 4 a.m. call Dominoes!"
The man tilted his head, "Do you have a bit of a British accent?"
Teaghan's mouth dropped, a bad habit she couldn't break. She was dreaming. She was sure of it. Her mouth still open, she turned with a roll of her eyes. She began to stomp away when he called to her, "It's Meaghan, right? Or Regan? Or-"
She spun around. "It's Teaghan! Tea-ghan," she said.
"More like 'Tigger' if you ask me," he mocked.
"Good night, Andres," she droned, "Or should I say good morning?"
" G'night," he said as he turned away from the door, "Tigger."
A couple of hours later, after she really had to get up, Teaghan was slumped on the vanity in her bathroom, wearily looking into the mirror through the hair that had fallen across her face. She was still wondering if it had been a dream.
Yet there he was, Andres, sliding into the sun room where Mr.& Mrs.Nikolaou were being served breakfast that had been prepared by her. He looked the same way he did 4 hours earlier, relaxed and fresh. Even in the brighter sunlight and with her eyes more alert and focused, his handsome features did nothing for her.
"This is Teaghan Luang, dear. Our chef," his grandmother said.
"A pleasure to meet you," he said with a polite smile. He offered no hint of their introductions over a late night food delivery.
Teaghan simply nodded then looked out the window.
"Prepare to have your taste buds to be delighted by her skills, Andres," Mr.Nikolaou said.
Andres chewed on a piece of crusty bread and flashed a wry smile. He said, "I'm sure they will be, Poppa."
Teaghan blinked as she turned her head and shot him a very cold stare.
Over the next 10 days, the young man tested the depth of her admittedly shallow patience. First of all, as it turned out, he had very different tastes in food than his grandparent. Andres liked red meat, lots of it, and all those other wonderful culinary treats people would find in a shopping mall food court. Teaghan now had to prepare two different menus for each meal, one for Andres and one for his grandparents. And damned if her sensibilities as a chef would allow her to serve simple burgers and fries. It had to be Kobe beef and oyster mushroom patties on a fresh-baked corn bread bun and spicy tempura sweet potato strings on the side.
Then Andres would never eat at the same time as his grandparents. In fact he never had any meal at the same time from day-to-day. Probably because he was out with his friends all day. The most annoying aspect of this problem being his after midnight -way after midnight- 'snacks'. The only saving grace of having to bring him something to eat after 2 a.m. each morning was that he never fulfilled her dread of knocking on his door and possibly walking in on him in bed with a woman. He was always by himself at that point in the night. Each time he would invite her to join him in his bedroom, each time she'd decline as politely as she could.
She tried her best not to snap at him, though it never really bothered him when she did. She reminded herself that her payment was enough, barely, to put up with the wise-ass. Mostly, she was trying to avoid him calling her that "Tigger" nickname he was quickly growing fond of.
10 days had passed like that. Surely a professional like herself could put up with him for another 20 or so days. Maybe not.
Teaghan forked the tender strings of pork dripping in her fresh-made zesty barbecue sauce onto the oversized sourdough bun. The sweet potato strings sat in a bowl lined with parchment paper dusted with a chilli powder blend.
As she put down the bowl with the pork she brought her thumb up to her lips to lick some of the sauce that had dripped onto it.
"Whoops," she said with a slight, wicked smile as she instead wiped her thumb off with a towel.
3 minutes later she was at his door, handing him the platter.
"Thanks, chef," he said with a smile. He motioned with his head back towards his room, "You want to come in for a bit?"
"Not unless you have a bowlful of pomegranates," she replied.
"10 minutes," he cajoled, "I'll be good."
Teaghan shook her head, "It's just a bit late, Andres. I'd like to get back to bed."
"Come on, Teaghan. Just to talk. I've hardly gotten to know you since I've been here," he said.
He wanted to get to know her at 3 a.m. in the morning? Whose fault was it that he was hardly ever around the house during the normal hours of the day? "If you'd like to talk," she replied, "Breakfast is at 8, lunch at 12:30, and dinner at 6."
Then she pivoted and walked away.
"Sorry to get you up, Tigger," he said from behind.
"Enjoy your barbecue sauce, jerk," she said softly, grinning to herself. Andres may have woken her up at 2:00 in the morning, but he was the one who was going to stay up all night.
**************** There were several fringe benefits of working for the Nikolaous. First Teaghan's guest 'cottage' was beautiful. It was a wide-open one room concept, with a full size kitchen, skylight windows, a luxurious bed and bathroom, and a drop down living area with a fire place and big screen television. As you exited and walked towards the house, you passed along the cottage's wood deck and then wound your way across the perfectly groomed garden and lawn. And even before you got to the house, you'd come up to the huge marble garden patio at the back of the house. Along with various statues and a 10 foot wide fountain, Teaghan's favourite addition would be the pool.
Whenever she had free time, Teaghan would go for a swim or lay on one of the lounge chairs and read or listen to music. She usually stayed under a patio umbrella to cover her light skin. Today, she decided to give her body a little bit of sun and it felt great. With her sunglasses on, she lay on her back in her blue two piece swimsuit, and just listened to the soft breeze push the water along the pool. It was like a private spa.
Well, usually it was private.
Over the rim of the book, she noticed Andres walking down the steps from the house towards the pool. She hadn't seen him at breakfast or at lunch. She grinned. Well, his absence wasn't surprising if he actually ate that sandwich last night.
He was wearing his swim trunks and a cabana shirt, a towel wrapped around the back of his neck. His dark blonde hair glistened with highlights under the sun. He strolled casually around the pool to the side where Teaghan was lounging, his ever present coy grin on his face. Undercover of her dark glasses, she rolled her eyes and sighed.
And it had been such a beautiful afternoon so far.
Bracing herself for some verbal sparring, her body tensed slightly in the lounger. Unexpectedly though, Andres, still walking slowly towards her, took off his shirt and tossed it aside on a lounge chair a few feet away along with his towel in one smooth motion. Without stopping or saying anything, he took a few steps towards the pool just in front of her and then dived in.
Teaghan flinched expecting a backsplash, but his body arched perfectly and simply slipped into the water like a javelin. Lowering her book further, she watched him swim back and forth across the length of the pool gliding like a dolphin. She wished she could swim that gracefully.
After a few minutes, Andres pulled himself up from the pool at the same spot where he had dived in. His wet hair had gone dark. The woman in the lounger lifted the book slightly but she still continued to watch him, hoping her sunglasses hid her inspection of him. She told herself she was just keeping a wary eye on him, making sure he didn't do something stupid like splash water on her. As he picked up his towel and padded himself down, though, she couldn't help but note that he had, as she expected, a really nice physique. Andres had a swimmer's body with lithe, long muscles, lean without much bulk and the accentuated V-shape upper torso. This fine shape was wrapped in a rich olive, tanned skin.
On his back, just below his neck, was a large tattoo: a muscular figure riding a chariot across the bright sun. She knew her Greek mythology. It was Apollo. Of course it would be.
She kept the book up, hiding the view just below his waistline.
Andres sat down on the edge of the chair beside her, facing towards her. Teaghan refocused on the words in her book.
"Thanks for the sandwich last night," he finally broke their silence.
"Glad you enjoyed it," she replied staring at the pages of the book.
"It really hit the spot," he continued.
Deep down in her gut, she chuckled. She couldn't help herself and said, "Actually, I'm a bit surprised to see you come for a swim today. Sometimes those sandwiches can turn on you, you know?"
Andres smiled and looked down at his hands, "Well that's certainly true. But you can't beat a good flushing out of the system to get you re-energized!"
God, was there anything that could kill this guy's chirpy mood?
Teaghan pursed her lip and continued to read her book.
"Do you have any sun block on your shoulders or back?" he suddenly asked.
She put her book on her lap and replied, "What?"
He nodded towards her. "Well, your shoulders are starting to get a little red. You've got pretty fair skin. Should protect it."
Turning her head to the side and pulling her eyes downward, she could barely see the red glow on the back of her shoulder.
"Here," he picked up the sun block lotion from the side table, "Turn around."
She eyed him over the rim of her glasses. "Yeah, like I'm going to turn my back on you," she said.
"I'm not going to whack you over the head...though I probably should. Come on, sit up."
Still tentative, she set aside her book and pulled herself from the lounger. Andres gave her the "twirling finger" signal and finally she turned around in her seat. She may want to flip over at some point anyway, she thought.
Squeezing the lotions into his palms he looked at her back and said, "Um, your hair?"
Teaghan reached behind her head, twisted up her long locks, and held them over her neck.