For Love and Cheesecake

By: Misty Simon

Chapter One

Let me set the scene for you. It was Friday night over a year after I’d moved to the sleepy little town of Martha’s Point, Virginia. Well, sleepy since about six months ago when I’d been instrumental in solving the last murder mystery to hit our backwater town.

Fortunately, those days were behind me, and now I was sitting at a linen-covered table in my very favorite restaurant in the world, small town or not. Jerry Boucheron, chef extraordinaire, hadn’t made an appearance yet, but I knew it was only a matter of time before the second man who claimed a part of my heart would come trundling out in all his six-feet-plus glory with some fantastic menu choices and hints on the special desserts he always made for me.

Now, I admit this was special treatment, especially for someone who still wasn’t considered a local and probably wouldn’t be for the next sixty years. But that was me, Ivy Morris, a special kind of girl. He loved my enthusiasm for his food, and I loved his food almost to the point of distraction.

Another distraction and love was sitting across from me, lit by candlelight and the softly burning sconces on the wall. I really appreciated that Ben Fallon, my boyfriend, had arranged this whole outing. I was also highly impressed that he’d actually remembered our anniversary. And it wasn’t even the anniversary of our first date, but of the first time I’d tripped out of my chair and landed with my hand on his goodies. At the time, I hadn’t known his name (who was I kidding, I’d barely remembered my own name with the handful I’d gotten), but we’d been nearly inseparable since. For the last six months he’d been living at my house, taking up my space, and breathing my air. I guessed that took us one step beyond dating and straight into living together. Not exactly what I had expected, but there weren’t many complaints from my corner.

Ben still hadn’t managed to consistently find the dirty laundry basket, but since that was my chief complaint, I figured it wasn’t much.

He sat next to me in a sturdy, hand-carved chair, pulled up to a small table in the corner of the first floor of the converted old house. A string quartet played discreetly in the far corner, the strains of classical music floating through the air like a dream. The dim lighting highlighted Ben’s gold-tipped brown hair and softened the lines of his firm jaw. His grass-green eyes seemed to glow out of his tan face as he drank me in with the gaze that always gave me tingles straight from the tips of my highlights to my red-painted toenails. I couldn’t see my toenails, since I was wearing closed-toe shoes in deference to the early cold snap that had come through our small town yesterday, but Ben would see them later when he did all the naughty things he’d threatened earlier—or promised, depending on how you looked at it.

It was October, but to this native California girl, it felt like the dead of winter. I hadn’t yet gotten used to the colder weather on this side of the country, but at least I wasn’t still bundling up like I’d been abandoned in the Yukon.

Ben took my hand in his and kissed my palm. It nearly did me in the same way his whispers did. I shivered as he placed my still-burning palm on his rock-solid thigh.

“No hanky-panky,” I said, trying to keep a straight face. We always had hanky-panky and rarely thought about where we were—well, he never thought about it. I tried to, but often got sidetracked. But oh, how nice it was to still be able to mess around like this was all completely new.

To be honest, this was the longest relationship I’d ever had, and sometimes I still worried it would all fall out from under me, or be one long, complicated dream I could never hold onto.

But Ben’s leg was solid under my hand, and his gaze burned into mine. Yeah, this was real. And it was here to stay.

“So,” I said, taking my napkin with my free hand and spreading it on my lap. “To what do I owe this particular pleasure?”

Ben’s eyes crinkled with his wide smile. “I wanted to show you how much I love you.”

“Ha! And you’re hoping that if you load me up with enough cheesecake, I’ll be easy and let you into my pants tonight.”

He laughed, a sound that never failed to run up and down my spine. “Well, there is that. Though I think maybe I have a better chance now, since we’re sleeping together all the time.” He leaned back in his chair and pushed his feet forward, stretching out his legs and moving my hand higher up his thigh in the process.