Fandom: American Idol S8
Pairing: Kris Allen/Adam Lambert; Adam/OMC
Genre: Romance, AU
Word Count: 14,800
Summary: In the game of love, food has an unfair advantage.
In which Kris is a gourmet chef, and Adam is a Hollywood PA on a simple lunch run.
Back to Part I
Alisan threw Dani's surprise party at her favorite club in WeHo, and they all got completely smashed and danced for hours, hanging off each other when the dance floor started to thin out. Adam couldn't remember having that much fun in a long time and he made the mistake of saying that aloud. Which was when all his friends decided it was bitch-about-Joel time.
Joel is boring, Joel makes Adam boring, Joel hates them, Joel is a bitch, Adam is always miserable whenever they see him—
He ended up being the first to call it a night, sick of listening to the insults and whining.
They didn't understand; they didn't see the good times. They fought, but all couples fought. Joel was just a little more dramatic than most. It wasn't "unhealthy." It was fine.
Anyway, the hateful little part of his brain that tracked the date whispered, there were still four months left on the lease. Did Adam really want to come home to a messy breakup every night for the next four months?
June had been bitching for weeks about Jerry, trying to get Naomi to gossip about the PR agent like Felice used to, but the girl refused to say a bad word about anyone or anything. Adam had spotted a few cracks in her perky façade—the wrinkle between her eyebrows when she dodged questions about her personal life, the way her voice quavered slightly when June mentioned trying to get pregnant. Still, she never complained about the errands and she whistled as she washed the lunch dishes and thermal canisters Adam refused to clean.
Not even the L.A. traffic got her down, which blew Adam's mind. He didn't actually hate his own long drives, but only because he had time with Kris to make them worth it. Naomi had nothing but ambition and Margot's occasional smiles of approval. Adam got a ticking time bomb vibe off her some days, like when she really lost her shit, it was going to be epic. He kept the feeling to himself, though. June's meddling would only make it worse.
He should have called out, he scolded himself as he stomped into the shop on Monday. He should have had Naomi do the pickup today—anything rather than inflict his horrible mood on Kris.
He grunted to Lydia and ignored her smile and "Good morning." He shoved through the swinging doors and winced at the clang of an oven door slamming shut. Fuck, he was totally early—there was time to find a Starbucks and get a few more shots of caffeine in him….
He was just turning around to leave when Kris took his elbow in a tight grip and said, "Hey, taste this," and pressed something against his lips.
Adam opened his mouth, and Kris popped in a small, powdery truffle that immediately melted into sweet milk chocolate. "Oh," Adam sighed, and let Kris tug him over to his stool and sit him down.
Kris squeezed his shoulders, looking him up and down. "Yeah, definitely a chocolate day. What are your feelings on chocolate-covered espresso beans?"
"You," Adam said around the silky, hazelnut truffle, "are my hero."
Kris beamed at him and disappeared, returning with a small pile of espresso beans, which he insisted on feeding to Adam, one by one, while Gretchen scolded him for stealing her garnishes.
Adam stopped him at the third bean, catching his wrist and laughing, "Enough, I can feed myself."
Kris rocked back on his heels and said, smug, "So you can smile!"
"Shut up," Adam said, and swatted at his ass until Kris retreated to his own side of the counter. "And thanks."
"Don't mention it. And you don't have to mention what the problem is, either, if you don't want…."
He didn't want to mention it—the fight from Friday night that they still hadn't apologized for two days later and how much it was killing him to leave things so tense between them. But he knew he couldn't be the one to apologize this time. He just had to wait for Joel to realize the same.
After a long moment of silence, Kris sighed. "I'm making acorn squash stuffed with wild rice today. It's nothing fancy, but it looks like it is. My old instructor used to say we eat first with our eyes, then with our mouths, so if the food looks spectacular, we're already winning the diner over."
"What does that mean?" Adam asked.
"It means," Kris said, "that if you're feeling like crap, it might help if you made yourself look truly spectacular. Maybe fool yourself into feeling better."
Adam shot him a guarded look, because where did Kris get off giving Adam styling tips? Was he implying that Adam looked like shit today?
But then he remembered that yes, he did look like shit. His makeup, hair, clothes, everything was perfect…except for the bags under his eyes, the slump of his shoulders, his frown.
"That actually makes sense," Adam admitted.
Kris grinned and shuffled his feet a little. "Thank god. I kinda thought I sounded like an idiot."
It was painful, but Adam straightened up on his chair and tried to give a matching smile. He couldn't have done too badly, because Kris smiled even harder and nudged the beans closer to his side of the counter.
By the time Adam escaped the kitchen with their lunches, he was feeling a little better. And it didn't hurt when Kris pressed a small bag with more truffles into his hand and said, "Whatever you do, do not let Margot know about these. She'd kill me if she knew I sent chocolate into her home."
Adam was all too aware of her strict, no-chocolate diet. "Scout's honor," he said, even though he'd already told Kris the story of his expulsion from the Cub Scouts in 4th grade.
Kris rolled his eyes and shoved him out the door.
"…and they're all going to Memphis for the location shoot from the 6th to the 20th."
Kris diced a heap of prosciutto, marbled orange and red and white. "So that means I'm off the hook?"
"Yeah, unless you've been slowly poisoning her and she needs to keep eating your food or she'll die. We're both on vacation."
"Hmm. So what are you gonna do with your vacation? Anything exciting planned?"
Adam crumbled a piece of Pecorino Romano cheese off the block and chewed on it thoughtfully. "Definitely go to some clubs—prove to my friends I'm not completely boring. And Joel and I are gonna take a long weekend somewhere romantic. Maybe Catalina?"
"I'm glad to hear you two are doing better," Kris said.
Better, but not perfect, Adam didn't say. They both knew they needed to put in more effort to make it work, and a long weekend seemed like the best chance for them to focus on each other. If this couldn't fix things…. Adam refused to finish that thought.
"But you're missing out; Memphis is awesome."
Adam laughed, surprised. "Of course you would think so."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You're a Southerner. You have to defend your own."
That turned out to be the worst thing he could have said, because Kris launched into a lecture on his favorite parts of Memphis, and all the things Adam would be missing by staying in boring-old-Los Angeles. Adam couldn't stop laughing the entire time, and the asparagus almost boiled out of the pot in protest.
Naomi's spirit finally broke the following Wednesday.
Half of Margot's wardrobe for the Memphis shoot was already laid out on the bed in completed looks, ready to be photographed with strict notes on what activities would and would not be appropriate for each. Adam was deep in her closet picking out the second half when someone knocked on the door behind him.
"Um, Adam?" Naomi said, her smile at an alarming half-mast.
He stifled the impulse to hug her; this had been inevitable, he reminded himself. "Hi, what's up?"
"Um, I need to ask you a favor."
Adam hung the flannel vest back on the shelf—it was only to be worn ironically in ultra-swank boutiques on West Third—and gave her his full attention. "Sure, do you need a reference or something?"
"No, it's…bigger." She took a deep breath and blurted, "I need you to go to Memphis for me."
He blinked. "Go to Memphis."
"Because I can't. I can't go, but June says I don't have a choice. So I was thinking…if you go, then they wouldn't need me."
She had avoided mentioning the part where Adam would have to take on her responsibilities, from errand-running to tidying Margot's hotel room. Smart girl. Still, it wasn't even a possibility to consider. "Sorry, honey, I can't. I'm on vacation."
"I know," she insisted, "I know, it's a huge thing to ask, but I…." Her normally bright voice splintered into shrill pleading, "I can't be gone for two weeks. I just can't. You have to go for me, please!"
That wasn't just exhaustion or resentment. "Honey, what's the matter? Talk to me." He reached for her arm, but she took a hasty step back, almost tripping on the Lanvin leopard-print leather wedges. Those would be ideal if Margot got invited to a barrel-racing competition, he thought, and then refocused on Naomi's problem. "Is something wrong at home—"
"No," she said firmly, shutting down his offer of a confidant. "You just have to believe me. I need you to go for me. You have to. God, please, I am begging you."
She was on the verge of tears, but there was nothing Adam could do. He'd already booked the hotel in Catalina, and Joel had requested two days off work. This vacation had to work, or he'd be even worse off than she looked. "I'm really sorry, but I can't. I have plans. I'm sorry."
It looked for a moment like the dam would burst and the full waterworks would pour down her face right there in Margot's closet, but Naomi found some scrap of self-respect and managed to hold it in. She nodded shakily, not meeting his eyes, and backed out of the closet and out of sight before he could try to hug her again.
Adam bit his lip and tried not to feel guilty about looking out for him and Joel.
Catalina was off.
Fuck, the whole relationship was off. Adam slammed out of his—their—his apartment at midnight two days later, itching to punch someone. Joel's words rang in his ears as he jogged down the steps: "never gonna work," "not worth it anymore," "easier to just," "can we not," "you're always so…."
He pushed through the heavy doors out into the parking lot and bit back all the words he wanted to scream into the silence: About fairness, about blindsides and ambushes, about the betrayal of just giving up like that. He held those in, because they hadn't done any good the first time. And he had new words to worry about—words no one had spoken yet but were inevitable as soon as he called any of his friends.
I told you so.
Adam snarled, threw the car in reverse, and backed out of his parking space, headed anywhere that wasn't home.
Headlights flashed over him as a car pulled into the lot. He looked up, momentarily blinded, and hoped it wasn't the cops. Getting arrested for loitering would be the crowning glory on a night of epic shit.
A car door slammed, and Kris said, "Adam?"
The frantic tension he'd been carrying around all night eased a little. "Hey," he mumbled as Kris sat beside him on the curb.
"What are you doing here? Are you okay?"
"No," Adam said and leaned his chin down onto one raised knee. His back felt stiff from hunching for hours, the chill had settled into his ass and hands and nose, and he didn't want to think how pathetic he looked, sulking outside Kris's shop at 4:30 in the morning.
Adam felt fingers brush his sleeve before Kris asked, "Roommate trouble?"
"Boyfriend trouble," Adam grunted, and then corrected himself, "ex-boyfriend."
"Oh." A hand settled firmly on Adam's shoulder. "I'm sorry."
A dozen bitchy replies stacked up behind Adam's teeth, but he bit them back and said, "Whatever."
"Do you…." Kris paused, and Adam knew if he looked, he'd catch Kris biting his lower lip; Kris Allen was so easy to read. "Come inside, huh? I'll make you some coffee."
He didn't give Adam a choice, fisting a hand in his jacket and tugging him up off the curb. Not that Adam would have resisted; Kris was exactly who he'd wanted to see—the only friend who wouldn't rub his face in it, wouldn't tell him they'd seen this coming and warned him from the start. Kris wouldn't say any of that—hell, he couldn't.
While Kris unlocked the back door, Adam leaned against the bricks to watch the sparse traffic flying by on the highway. Kris hummed under his breath—the new Britney Spears song, Adam thought—as he opened the padlock and deadbolt and entered ahead of Adam.
Adam didn't need any more invitation, not with the familiar smells of the kitchen spilling out to greet him. There was the ever-present fresh bread, an unpleasant charred smell from the grease traps, and fresh fruit and herbs from Kris's work space. And there, just hinted at under all of it, was the tease of cinnamon, earthy and warm. The scents wrapped around him and led him in by the nose.
Kris flipped switches and turned dials on the ovens, still humming with a subtle dance-hitch to his steps. Adam watched, amused despite the roiling misery in his chest, until Kris finished his dance and turned to confront him with a spatula. "Bacon or sausage?" he demanded, the spatula jabbing into Adam's stomach and forcing him to take a few steps backs.
"I don't…" Adam said.
Kris shook his head. "What am I thinking? Both, obviously. Go sit down." He and his spatula marched off to do battle with the walk-in.
Adam retreated to his stool at Kris's counter, trying not to get his hopes up at the thought of breakfast. The last thing he'd eaten had been takeout lo mein for dinner, and the two last-call shots of tequila in Van Nuys still burned in his empty stomach.
Kris dropped a stack of pans and ingredients on the counter with a clatter. "Coffee's on the way, and I'm about to cook you the best breakfast you've ever had. You don't have to say anything, if you don't want to. But if you need the excuse at any point, just let me know." Kris picked up a knife and held it poised over a large white onion.
Adam recoiled at the memory of stinging eyes and melting mascara. "You're a dick," he snorted when Kris chuckled.
"I do my best," Kris said, and Adam noticed the unfamiliar sharpness in Kris's smile, in the way he rattled the pans, gripped the handles too tight.
It was reassuring, having someone automatically on his side. Adam acknowledged it with a solemn nod. "That's what I came for: your best."
"Not my worst?"
"If I wanted the worst, I'd have called Brad or Alisan or Dani. Or just gone home." He'd had plenty of time to think, sitting out there on that curb. The thought of going home to a locked bedroom door and a pillow and blanket waiting for him on the couch felt like a slap to the face.
Kris was watching him when he emerged from his thoughts. Adam made an effort to smile for him, but it didn't turn out well judging by Kris's scowl.
Adam shrugged and looked away, toward the jumble of ingredients. "You're not gonna use the onion, are you?"
Kris shook his head and rolled it aside. "No onion. It would murder the recipe. This is more delicate; I'm using shallots."
Adam wouldn't have expected something "delicate" to involve half a stick of butter and a huge wedge of cheese, but he swallowed his concerns about fat content and cholesterol and started talking as Kris melted the butter over two skillets. Kris shredded the imported cheese, flipped the cherrywood-smoked bacon, and fried the maple-infused sausages with a reassuring ease, as though there was no risk of burning or ruining the food over the high heat, as though today was a morning like any other. His familiar movements, his hums of acknowledgement and distracted smiles whenever Adam paused for breath, made it easy to open up, to trust Kris to listen with one ear while Adam bitched about how it had gone down.
The back door opened while Kris was folding the mushroom omelet over mounds of Gruyère cheese, and Adam saw Dave's double-take when he noticed Adam in the kitchen six hours early. Adam met Dave's eyes, but continued telling his story to Kris until Dave shrugged and picked up an apron from a hook by the door.
Adam looked at Kris again and realized Kris wasn't wearing his apron. He must have been completely thrown off his routine, to be cooking without it. There was a dark spatter of oil soaking into Kris's red t-shirt, low over his stomach, and Adam had a moment to think about the color-safe stain remover he kept in his car, and then another moment to think about helping Kris out of that shirt, before Kris slid a plate in front of him. Adam blinked and took in the omelet, bacon, sausage, and thick, buttered toast—and then the parsley garnish Kris added as Adam stared.
"How's that for a five-star breakfast?" Kris said, folding his arms across his chest, and Adam wasn't sure where to look: his mouth-watering plate or the mouth-watering view he had been missing under that apron.
Kris's toned pectoral muscles flexed, stretching the fabric, and Adam said, "Wow," to both. When Kris held out a knife and fork, Adam blurted, "You're not gonna feed me?"
Kris snorted, Adam blushed, and Dave started whistling loudly as he checked the ovens. "You're a big boy," Kris smirked. "I think you can feed yourself."
Adam stuffed his mouth with bacon before his foot got another chance.
And then he died a happy man. It was a private consultation with Sally Hershberger and a massage at Tranquil Springs served up together on a Diane von Fürstenberg brass charger. He inhaled the entire plate, oblivious to everything around him, savoring the feeling of being pampered. He didn't stop until he'd swiped his finger through the streaks of maple-infused grease to lick it off with guilty pleasure.
Gretchen murmured nearby, "Remember to crush half a cup," and Adam looked up to find her already in her apron and standing at Kris's elbow.
"I know what I'm doing, jeez. Next you'll be telling me to redo the crust," Kris huffed, his hands submerged in a bowl of blueberries, already coated in sugar.
Gretchen tickled his ribs while he couldn't defend himself, and Adam idly noted which spots made Kris squirm as she said, "That depends whether you're gonna prebake on automatic pilot again. You're not making a blueberry quiche, you know."
"Hey, you're the one who called out on a Friday. I think we all learned a valuable lesson that day."
"Yeah: you should keep clear of my pastry station."
Kris flicked his fingers over his shoulder, getting sticky sugar in her hair. She backed away, and Kris grinned down at the bowl he was still mixing.
"Um," Adam said.
"Hmm?" Kris asked, mischievous eyes meeting Adam's.
He cleared his throat. "Are you making a…."
"Of course. Pie is part of a complete breakfast. At least on Figueroa."
"I didn't know that," Adam said, trying not to grin his head off. Kris was making him blueberry pie. In the last two months, he'd never seen Kris make pie, and now he was making Adam's favorite. For Adam.
Kris scooped up a double-fistful of blueberries and squeezed, dark skin and juice flowing between his fingers to drip back into the bowl. "I always have pie with breakfast. Starting with something sweet is the key to having a good day."
Adam was about to say something utterly predictable about starting the day with a blowjob instead, but then the enormity of the breakup flooded back in. He stared down the barrel of the ways his life was about to change, the uncomfortable, awkward, even hostile days ahead of him. There didn't seem to be a solution, short of crashing on a friend's couch for the next four months.
Which wasn't happening in this lifetime.
"You okay?" Kris asked. "Do I need to get the onion?"
Adam shook his head and took a deep breath. "I'll be fine. Eventually." In four months, he didn't say. "And anyway, I'll have pie to comfort me."
Kris forced a smile and went back to stirring the blueberries.
By the time the pie was bubbling in the oven, Adam had wrapped denial around himself like the leopard-print Snuggie he would never admit to owning. Everything was fine; he was in Kris's kitchen, surrounded by friendly people and amazing smells, hours still before he had to leave for Malibu, and even longer before he had to deal with the home situation. And there was a pie on the way.
"I'm gonna go," he said, before he'd even finished the thought in his head. By god, he was brilliant.
Kris looked up, his lower lip stained purple from tasting the blueberries. "What? Now? It's not even seven."
"To Memphis," Adam said. "Naomi needs an out, and the last place I wanna be is here, so…win-win."
Kris hesitated. "Get out of town for a couple weeks, I get it. But you'll be giving up your vacation."
"Yeah, a vacation I'd spend trying to avoid my boyfr— Ex-boyfriend. No thanks. I'll skip it."
"Then this is good," Kris said slowly. "Yeah. Good."
"Yeah," Adam said, glad Kris agreed. It would mean a couple weeks of being Margot's and June's bitch again—and wow, he hadn't missed that—but it would earn him some good karma for Naomi. And it would be infinitely easier to avoid Joel and the couch-conversation with two thousand miles between them. "Yeah," he repeated. "I'd better call June."
Kris smiled and offered, "I'll box the pie for the road."
Adam ate two slices of pie before he left. ("Doesn't top my mom's," he'd told Kris, then immediately added, "but a close second!" when he saw Kris's disappointment.) He dropped off Margot's lunch two hours early and headed home to pack, relieved to have the apartment to himself for a few hours while Joel was at work…fuck, it sucked thinking that way after months together.
Packing was usually one of his favorite things—Joel called it his excuse to play dress-up. Maybe it was, and yeah, he always had more fun when he had an audience, but they were his clothes, and he loved them all, especially the ones he didn't get to wear too often.
He pulled out a pair of skinny jeans with glittered back pockets. Brad called them his 'rhinestone cowboy' pants, which meant he had to have them in Memphis. Getting them on was a lot harder than he remembered. There was tugging, and jumping, and lying on his back kicking at the air. And when they were finally up, and the button wrestled closed, Adam took a shallow breath, stood in front of the mirror, and stared at the slight muffin-top the jeans had the temerity to give him.
Adam did not have a muffin top.
Adam had a 32" waist and he did not buy clothes that were this tight.
He turned to check out his ass; it looked fabulous under the tight fabric and glitter. But had it gotten bigger? He popped the button and pulled out a pair of dark purple jeans. They'd fit perfectly two months ago. Now they fit even worse than the rhinestone cowboys.
Reality hit him like a frying pan filled with butter. How could he have missed this happening? He looked at his laundry hamper, layered in his loosest jeans, leggings, and jersey pants. Well. Fuck.
Guilt churned in his gut. He hadn't thought he could feel any worse than he had last night, but here he was, single, hiding from his live-in ex, and fat again. He'd let himself go, abandoned his diet and spent his mornings hanging out with a gourmet chef. He'd let Kris feed him whatever was at hand. He hadn't eaten a plain salad in weeks. And he'd subconsciously hidden it from himself, dressing for "comfortable commutes" and eschewing the structured side of his wardrobe.
The jeans and fitted t-shirts taunted him, fierce fashions he wouldn't be able to wear until he lost at least five pounds. He gulped—maybe ten.
Bright side, he had to look on the bright side: this was the perfect time to leave town. He needed to get away from Joel before his pride got hurt worse than his heart. And he desperately needed to get away from Kris's cooking.
Travel days sucked. Saturday was a blur of airport terminals, star-struck tourists, and June's midair psychosomatic caffeine withdrawal after a venti she swore tasted like decaf. Adam got leg cramps from sitting in coach and went hungry rather than risk E. coli from the sprouts on the in-flight vegetarian option.
Margot was a dream as long as there were fans or cameras around, but once they touched down in Memphis, the strain started to show. The first stage of the countdown to tabloid-worthy rage-out was the expanding breadth of her gestures, her hands fluttering erratically as they waited to deplane. The second was the exaggerated head toss when she laughed or smiled as they waited for her town car outside the airport.
Before she reached stage three, where her Canadian accent would slip past expensively-modified vowels, Adam handed her a Red Bull from the limousine minibar. Margot downed the can, burped unapologetically, and slid into a quiet sulk for the rest of the ride. By the time they entered the lobby of the Peabody Hotel, flash-bulbs snapping at their heels, she had dialed it back to stage one.
Sunday was a little better—he went with Margot to tour the ranch and saloon locations they would be filming at and then spent the afternoon mapping the shortest route from the hotel to the Starbucks, the saloon, another Starbucks, and the ranch (no Starbucks). He picked up a stack of postcards from the hotel gift shop and spent his last few hours on Sunday night fulfilling his obligation to his friends. And to Kris. He'd promised, after all.
The international paparazzi were all over Margot on Monday morning, and Adam tried not to get within 35mm range of her. His personal styling was picture perfect, as usual, but the crippling self-consciousness about his elastic waistband left him cringing back. That night, with Margot settled into the hotel for her beauty rest, Adam forced his way into his rhinestone cowboys and hit the downtown strip looking for the least-country gay bar Memphis had to offer.
There were a surprising number of cowboy hats in the bar he settled into, but an hour later, with a hot guy backed up against a wall, Adam decided the hat was a plus. When he got the angle just right, all he could see was the guy's lips, a little bit of stubble, and it was fantastic, grinding against the guy in his tight pants—now genuinely too tight. The way the guy was squeezing his ass said they were still working for him, though. So Adam drank his vodka tonics and made out with an anonymous cowboy and felt fucking fabulous again.
The guy was game to be pushed around, and Adam wanted to push, wanted to bite at his lips, squeeze his hips too hard, pin his wrists just to prove he could. He needed rebound sex, and the cowboy seemed up for anything Adam wanted to do to him. Another drink, and Adam got a hand fisted in short hair, tipping the Stetson down over the guy's face and growling the invitation back to his hotel.
But when the cowboy nodded, brim of his hat bumping Adam's cheek, Adam recognized his jaw line, the slope of his shoulders, the wiry build…. He'd gone looking for an escape and he'd subconsciously picked up the spitting image of his ex. Adam shoved away, storming out of the club with a wilting cock, throbbing anger, and the button of his jeans digging a permanent dent in his stomach.
A package arrived at the hotel two days later. Adam smiled when he saw Kris's name on the box, but that warmth promptly gave way to panic. He was on a crash diet, trying to get back to his old weight as fast as possible; he couldn't afford to be sabotaged already….
Curiosity warring with dread, he got out his sharpest belt buckle and sliced through the packing tape.
Four bags of pastries and chocolates in tight formation stared him down, daring him to resist.
"Oh my god, I hate you," Adam groaned, and hid in the bathroom.
He was sitting in a booth in a corner of the saloon, stabbing at a salad from the craft services table. It was a forlorn collection of dull greens with austere vinegar dressing, over-accessorized with cucumber slices and shredded carrot as if trying to distract from its cheap, prêt-à-manger disappointment.
Margot clomped over to the booth in her cowgirl boots and slid gracelessly into the other side, heaving a big sigh.
Adam perked up immediately. "It's going great," he said with a supportive smile.
She waved toward the bar, where she and Trevor Dunne had been sipping colored-water drinks and exchanging numbers all morning. "No, that's fine. But this…." She looked down at her own salad and wrinkled her nose. "God, I miss Kris's cooking."
"Yeah," Adam sighed without thinking.
He looked up, unaccountably guilty, and met laughing eyes. "I see he's seduced you, too." Adam hesitated, not sure if she would feel territorial over her personal chef. "Oh, don't be like that," she swatted at his wrist. "He's free to cook for whomever he likes."
Adam shrugged, unwilling to commit.
She picked up a piece of spinach on her fork and considered it like a vintage bracelet she wasn't quite sold on. "I can't believe you're gonna let that go," she said to the leaf.
"You've been trying to wheedle details out of me for months, and you let an opening like that sail by?" She popped the leaf in her mouth and scowled. "Pathetic."
Adam stiffened on the bench.
"I meant the salad," she teased. "What's the matter? You've been down all week."
Adam loved Margot, he really did, but he felt ashamed to tell a compulsive exerciser about his recent weight gain. And bitching about his home situation could accidentally result in an invitation to crash in her mansion; she'd done it before, for a costar from her last movie, and that had turned out awkward for everybody. "All right. What's the deal with you and Kris?" he asked, changing the subject.
"You are so not subtle," she tsked. "But fine. I've been dying to tell you for forever. You have to promise not to tell Kris I told you, though."
Adam blinked. "I thought he was keeping your secret."
She snorted. "Are you kidding? He's the one with the crazy allergy to fame."
"That…makes sense, maybe."
"Okay, brace yourself: we used to date."
That hadn't been his top theory, but it wasn't exactly shocking, either. Adam quirked an eyebrow until she rolled her eyes and continued.
"Fine, you're all jaded, I forgot. So we met at the Urban Outfitters in WeHo a few years ago—"
He winced at that reminder of her pre-Lambert-makeover 'fashion sense.'
"Shut up," she laughed, "that was before Girls' Night and Synergy and everything. And he was so cute; you know what I'm talking about. I mean, I never go for guys who are shorter than me, but he had this amazing, sexy vibe. So we went for a picnic. And he cooked." A haunted, hungry look appeared in her eyes. "The potato salad, Jesus. And the rhubarb pie."
It was hard to tell in the dim lighting of the booth, but Adam would have sworn she was blushing.
"It was love at first taste," she said, her fingers fluttering over her lips as though she could still taste it.
"Was there a second date?" Adam asked, intrigued.
"Oh yeah. And a fifth and sixth." Her smile slowly faded. "But we both knew something was missing; it wasn't gonna work long-term. It ended well, obviously. He's a total prince."
"Yeah," he agreed, trying to picture tiny Kris walking the red carpet next to Margot, who, of course, would be wearing the Roberto Cavalli heels that gave her an inch on Adam.
"And then the second I start getting interviews, Kris calls and says he doesn't want any press. It's like he's afraid of success or something."
That's where she was wrong, Adam thought. Kris wasn't afraid of success; he already had it.
"I told him he was crazy. That's no way to run a business."
"He dropped out of business school," Adam reminded her.
"Oh," she said, taken aback. "I didn't know that. But he's totally making bank now. You have no idea how much he's charging me for those lunches. Totally worth it, though. It's even worth all the working out I have to do." She sighed over her salad and then pushed the plate away. "What I wouldn't give for his potato salad right now."
Adam hesitated, told himself not to, and then thought screw it. He pulled an unopened bag of chocolates out of his tote—he'd totally planned to give it away to the other PAs…totally—opened it, and held it out to her.
Curious, she reached in and pulled out a truffle. Her first bite was followed by a squeal. "Holy shit, this is Kris's, isn't it! You have Kris-chocolate and you didn't tell me! Oh shit, I am so not supposed to have this. Frank's gonna kill me." She didn't put it down though, taking quick bites until it was gone and then licking her fingers, her smile carnal.
Adam didn't watch jealously. He didn't.
When the last of the truffle was gone, Margot looked up at him, eyes narrowed. "He sent you these?"
"Yeah," Adam said. There was no point lying about it now.
"Kris once told me this thing about how chefs put love in their food," she said.
He remembered: hot soup, Kris's flushed face and spice-stained fingers, fresh-baked bread and the too-warm kitchen. Adam felt a lump in his throat and tried to swallow it down.
"Food for thought?" she suggested, not subtle at all. And then she snatched another truffle, slid out of the booth, and twirled across the floorboards in her boots.
Adam pulled the bag closer to read the hand-written label: New recipe. What do you think? Fingers trembling, he reached into the crinkling plastic and pulled out a truffle, cocoa powder melting slippery-smooth on his skin as he made a last attempt to talk himself out of it.
What did he think he would taste? What was he looking for?
He pictured the kitchen again, letting himself remember the loud and hectic sounds, the intense pace, the unpredictable waves of smells, sour then sweet then spicy, the prickling of his skin from the heat of Kris's stove. Kris had made these truffles himself—he knew with absolute certainty that Kris hadn't sent him Gretchen's work; he cared too much. And imagining Kris making something special just for him, like breakfast, like the blueberry pie….
Adam licked his lips, almost teasing himself with anticipation now.
When he finally bit into the chocolate, he found what he'd been looking for: hazelnut (Kris catching his arm on a Monday morning, determined to cheer him up), cinnamon (Kris's fingers under his chin as he fed him his first taste of the curry), and everything Kris had been trying to say.
Lydia pushed open the swinging doors to the kitchen and yelled, "Pickup for Jenny Smith!"
Adam strolled in behind her, ready for the confusion and surprise on Kris's face…only to find Kris toweling off his hands and smirking at Adam, absolutely unsurprised.
"What took you so long?" Kris asked.
Adam frowned, "There's no order today. She isn't even home yet—"
"I know," Kris said, "but I had a suspicion you'd drop in. Thanks, Lydia, I'll take him from here." Kris winked at Lydia, who giggled before squeezing past Adam on her way to the front.
Adam looked around, flummoxed. How the hell could Kris have expected him? Adam had been in a taxi on his way home before he changed his mind and came to the shop. It wasn't like they'd talked while he was away…
Kris waved Adam over to his counter. "So how'd you like Memphis?"
…and okay, after getting that care package—which had been a declaration if Adam had ever heard one—he'd maybe expected a different reaction to his visit. Not that Kris was acting strangely—he was acting the same as always: with complete confidence. It was Adam who was different, nervous, like he felt uncomfortable in Kris's kitchen.
Kris beckoned him over again, wiping at the counter with a rag. Adam told himself to calm down and headed over. When he found his stool exactly where he'd left it two weeks ago, he finally felt himself relax. This he knew.
"So, Memphis?" Kris asked again.
"It was…kind of great," Adam admitted. "It definitely grew on me. I checked out some of the places you recommended, Sun Studios and the Rock N' Soul Museum."
"I saw," Kris said, pointing to the three postcards taped on the wall next to his counter.
Adam grinned and stopped worrying altogether. "I ate at Rendezvous, too."
"Definitely. I haven't tried yours, though." He waggled his eyebrows.
"I don't take requests, you know," Kris said, but Adam could tell there would be dry-rubbed ribs on the menu soon. "And how's home? Have you figured anything out, yet?"
Adam nodded. "It's all settled; Joel and I texted last week." If he hadn't been watching closely, he would've missed Kris's subtle fidget, tweaking the row of knives laid out shiny and dangerous like the stiletto heels in Margot's closet. "He's already moved out. And he left me some extra rent money, so I can take a few weeks to find a new roommate."
Kris huffed out a surprised breath. "That's awesome."
"Pretty much." It had either been a demonstration of Joel's growing maturity or an unwillingness to deal with anymore of Adam's drama. Either way, it would be a relief to go home to an empty apartment.
"But…maybe don't sleep with whoever the next guy is."
Adam laughed. "No, definitely not. From now on, I'm gonna date the guy before I move in with him."
Kris glanced up at the postcards again. "You didn't tell me what you thought of the truffles." He said it off-hand, like it was just a stray thought that didn't mean anything.
Adam knew exactly what it meant. "Well," Adam drawled, watching the man across from him, "it would've been hell trying to fit it on a postcard."
Kris looked at him sharply, but didn't say anything, leaving it to Adam to answer or not.
Adam answered. He stood up and came around the counter, backed Kris into the corner next to the stove. "I thought…" he murmured, leaned down, and kissed him.
Kris made a soft sound and pressed up into the kiss, his hands cupping Adam's neck, fingers sliding over his cheek. Kris tasted like sugar, his fingers smelled like cinnamon and browned butter, and his mouth was more addictive than hazelnut truffles. Adam tucked his fingers in his apron strings, drank Kris in until he was out of breath, and then kissed him again.
When he finally lifted his head, Kris's lips were Cherry Balm red, his eyes twinkling with a hint of smugness. Adam nuzzled his cheek and whispered, "I heard all about your wicked ways from Margot. You've been seducing me with your cooking for weeks."
Kris's hands slid down Adam's chest. "Mmm, speaking of. Are you hungry?"
Adam was, damn it. (After five minutes of deliberation, he had decided not to play roulette with the airline's breakfast burrito.) Already dreading Kris's answer, he asked, "What've you been cooking?"
Kris pushed him back a step, turned to a stack of cooling racks, and pulled down a tray of pastries. "Blueberry hand pies. They should still be warm." Adam groaned in hopeless surrender. The puff-pastries were golden pillows of butter and fruit, crowned with shiny, granulated sugar like a diamond necklace topping a Swarovski gown. "Just so you know," Kris said, setting the tray down on the counter, "I'm the jealous type; I won't give up until I've claimed first place in your top ten."
Adam had to taste those smirking lips again, and didn't stop until Kris was gasping against his mouth, fingers fisted in his shirt. "All right," Adam said at last, throwing his diet plans out the window until Christmas…possibly New Year's. "But you'll have to cut it out at some point. Or else when my waistline hits 34 inches, I'll have to leave you and take up with a nutritionist. You know how shallow L.A. is."
Kris squeezed Adam's hips and grinned, unrepentant. "More of you to love?"
Adam pouted. "Maybe I can find a personal trainer for a roommate."
Kris laughed and lured him in for another taste.