Do you ever wonder what characters would cook if they got into the kitchen? I sometimes do, because often I find I’ve written an entire book, or read an entire book, and the characters have been too busy doing…um…other stuff to actually make an entire meal. Strange, really, in the case of my own writing since I’m a devote foodie! With that in mind, Foodie Friday was born.
Sometimes it’ll just be a recipe I particularly like, or maybe some strange food fact I’ve come across. On occasion you’ll find a short story involving a character from my or other author’s books getting crazy in the kitchen. Foodie Friday is about the love of food, in all its forms, so come back often for a little taste!
This week I got to thinking about how food has been used in some of my books, what it says about the character’s thought patterns. Below is a scene from my Samhain Publishing release, Breaking Free, showing how my heroine Claire attempts to use food to set the hero Xavier at ease, but things don’t work out quite the way she expected. It’s a little longer than my usual posts, but I hope you enjoy it.
The doors at the end of the corridor stood open, light pouring out to pool on the passage floor. It surprised him for some reason, but no more than the transformed room itself.
The bed had been hung with deep blue velvet curtains which, closed, seemed to shut it off from the rest of the room. The wall next to it had also been draped in the rich fabric and he now wondered if it was there perhaps to conceal a window. Plush jewelled-toned rugs had been scattered about the room and flowers bloomed from vases set amongst candelabra, which cast a warm, golden light. Some of the furniture had been uncovered, a chest of drawers, end tables, two large overstuffed chairs. But there were also some strangely shaped objects pushed back against the wall, still covered and remaining hidden from view.
A fire blazed cheerfully in the fireplace and a large rug lay before the hearth, a comfortable distance from the flames. Set out on it was a feast. Xavier stepped further into the room, his hand going out to run lightly across the top of a cabinet, taking in the comfortable warmth of the atmosphere she had created. He turned to find her watching him and smiled his delight.
“This is wonderful.”
He sensed relief behind her answering smile and was amazed to realize his response meant so much to her. Preceding him to the picnic she lowered herself gracefully to the rug but he felt her watching him as he wandered slowly about the room. Running the velvet of the bed hangings through his fingers, touching the silky petal of a blood-red rose, he explored the space, orienting himself, absorbing the sensual atmosphere. Even stronger grew his feeling a metamorphosis was about to occur, and yet there was no fear, only curiosity and eagerness. Finally, he joined her on the rug and she gestured to the food.
“Please, help yourself.”
He turned his attention to it and found an interesting and tempting array of dishes, both savoury and sweet. Small puffs of filled pastry, thin slivers of ham and chicken on rounds of bread, a dish with pink prawns and another with oysters on the half shell, strawberries and grapes and rosy apples, sweetmeats and chocolates and tiny cakes all sat side-by-side. He was not sure where to begin, until his eyes fell on the silver bucket and the bottle within. Removing it, he poured glasses of the amber wine for them both.
As he handed her one of the crystal vessels she asked, “What did you do today?”
“Thought about you.”
She laughed and took a sip of wine, her eyes twinkling over the rim of the glass. “Surely not all day?”
Reaching for a grape and popping it into her mouth, she raised her eyebrows at him.
“Yes, all day—although I was able to get one or two other thoughts into my head in between.”
He ate one of the pastries as she shook her head at him. “Come now, Xavier, tell me what you did today. Start at the beginning.”
Taking a prawn, she gently nibbled at it, listening to his answer.
“I awoke thinking of you. Went for a ride in the park, hoping to see you walking there, and thought about you some more. Having spent the rest of the morning thinking about you, I repaired to my club for luncheon, where I thought about you some more.”
She was laughing, the sound making him grin in return.
“I understand, then, you spared me a passing thought throughout the day?”
“Oh, one or two, swiftly dismissed from my mind.”
Claire pouted, just a little, but her eyes sparkled mischievously. Did she think he was flattering her?
“I thought about you in my study, where by rights I should have been thinking about my business affairs but, realizing the futility of my efforts to concentrate, I went and spent the afternoon in the nursery, having tea and playing with my son.”
He reached for a grape, hesitated and then chose a plump strawberry from the platter instead. The deep red fruit would be beautiful against her peachy lips.
“Do you often spend the afternoon in the nursery?”
Her voice was soft and low, but when he looked at her, her eyes told him nothing, although a small smile still played about her lips. Using a paring knife to hull the berry, working precisely and gently, he kept the fruit firm and un-bruised, losing only one drop of juice, which oozed out along the blade of the knife.
“I have not, in the past. But today I decided I will be doing so more often in the future.”
The quiet intensity behind the single word made him almost afraid to look at her, although he could not fathom the reason for his reluctance. He raised his eyes long enough to offer her the berry, watched her lips open and receive the fruit, his groin tightening as it disappeared. Then he reached for an apple and began to pare it. When he glanced up at her again, she was watching his hands.
Claire awaited his reply to her query and watched, entranced, as Xavier’s long, nimble fingers turned the fruit, removing the skin in one long string with a series of smooth strokes.
“I would like to believe myself a ready pupil, and found myself thinking about the necessity of knowing oneself so as to be able to bring the greatest pleasure to others. It came to me it does not only have to refer to sensual pleasures but could also encompass simple ones too. My son, Quinton, means the world to me, and I would derive as much enjoyment from having him in my life as I possibly can.”
“Have you not done so before today?”
His fingers jerked slightly, severing the peel prematurely. Without hesitation, he picked up where he had left off.
“No, not really. I had as a model my own father who never came near the nursery unless forced or we needed to be punished. I made a habit of seeing Quinton for a little each afternoon, but never just to spend time and play with him.”
He sliced the end from the apple and then gently cut it in two and began to remove the core. Claire was glad his focus remained on the chore so he missed the way she blinked to push back tears.
“What did you play with him today?”
His smile was self-deprecating, eyes still intent on the fruit in his hand.
“He is only a baby, little more than a year old, and I must confess at first I was not sure what to do with him. But I quickly found he dictated the activities. Quinton seems to like to hear my voice, enjoys clapping his hands, riding horsy on my boot.” His smile widened, eyes far away, although he did not abandon the task at hand. “I believe he will be a fine horseman one day, his carriage was superb.”
She laughed breathlessly, the sound catching his attention and causing him to glance up. Suddenly there was a new air in the room, a darker, warmer breath moving along and into her skin, deepening her longing. He shifted, as though he felt it too.
Her prompting brought him back to the present, but he continued to gaze at her for a moment more before continuing.
“I read to him when he became fussy and he dozed off in my lap. That is all.”
He held a piece of the apple out to her and Claire reached out her hand, placing it beneath his rather than taking the fruit. Slowly caressing, brushing his knuckles, she hooked her little finger on his, drawing his hand closer and closer to her lips.
“Eve offered Adam the fruit of the tree of knowledge, reputed to be an apple. How interesting you offer me the same, Xavier.”
He stared at their hands, and then raised his eyes, focusing on her lips. She allowed them to part slightly, as though ready to take the morsel. However, as the piece of apple came to her mouth, she licked it, using just the tip of her tongue. Opening her mouth a fraction more, she slowly ran her mouth along the fruit to his fingers. The first touch on his hand made him shiver. When she closed her lips over the side of his index finger, sliding down to the base and then insinuating her tongue between it and the middle one, he drew in a shuddering breath.
Claire watched him through her lashes, seeing the way his eyes darkened, listening to the roughness of his breathing. She had learned almost too much about him tonight for her peace of mind. How very much she wanted him now, at this very moment, while the tenderness of his voice as he spoke of his son still echoed in her ears. It was only too appropriate he offered her an apple, for the teacher had, to this point, learned as much as the student. But she would, should, must bring the balance of power back to centre.
“I have something to show you, Xavier, and I think you will like it.”