Secret Tastes (Secret Dreams Contemporary Romance 4) Chapter Two
“Maybe. Just to be safe, let's stay as far away from their bedroom as possible,” Adam joked. “Why don't you change to dry clothes and I'll make us coffee.”
Sam was about to show Adam where the coffee machine was when she realised that he must be more familiar with Trey's apartment than she was. She went to have a quick shower, and ten minutes later she re-joined him.
“I'll think I'll have nightmares from those evil glares your ex was throwing at me,” she said dryly as she sat on a bar stool next to him, a steaming mug in front of her.
Adam laughed. “Don't worry. Sandy doesn't have any voodoo doll—at least, not that I know of.”
Sam chuckled. “She's really keen on you, Adam. I've never seen sharper claws in a woman before. But then, I must admit, the men I've dated in the past didn't have admirers as intense as Sandy.”
“Intense is exactly the word to describe her,” Adam said with an eye-roll. “She just refuses to accept the fact that we're over. Thanks again for playing along. I'm hoping that if Sandy thinks I have a new girlfriend, she'll finally move on.”
“No problem. You'll be doing the same for me anyway. Besides, even though I'm ashamed to admit it, there's a childish part of me that wants to see her put in her place. For some reason, your ex just rubs me off the wrong way.” She relayed to Adam Sandy's antics during the cooking class that annoyed the hell out of her, and Sandy's reaction to her offer for help on cooking basics.
Adam was laughing heartily when Kris and Trey appeared, both in robes, looking surprised.
“Hey guys,” Adam said. “Did we wake you up?”
“Sam didn't,” Trey quipped.
“Sorry. Was I too loud?”
“We weren't asleep yet,” Kris said. “We thought we heard a man's voice and we wondered if Sam took a date home with her.”
“It's just me,” Adam replied. “Sandy pleaded with me to pick her up from that big cooking event and I saw Sam waiting for a taxi, drenched to the bone.”
“Sammy!” Kris gasped. “You should have called me! It never occurred to me you'd have a hard time catching a cab, but I should have known.”
“Don't worry about it,” Sam said dismissively. “I didn't want to bother you guys. Anyway, I was lucky Adam saw me standing there. I wouldn't have noticed him in the car if he just drove past.”
“I can't believe you're still doing things for Sandy, bro,” Trey said disapprovingly.
“Don't worry,” Adam said. “Sam's helped me make everything crystal clear to Sandy.”
“How?” Kris asked curiously.
“We pretended we're dating.”
“Oh, how interesting,” Kris said with a pleased smile.
Sam narrowed her eyes at her cousin. There was something about Kris's reaction that told her she was thrilled at this turn of events. She wouldn't be surprised if Kris thought it would be a good idea for her and Adam to get together.
Kris had been encouraging her to be more adventurous with her choice of men. Admittedly, her past boyfriends had been… well… boring.
She had always been the cautious, conservative type. Sometimes it frustrated her that she held back too much on life. She had the habit of analysing everything to death before she took action. That trait had served her in certain circumstances, but at other times it had been a massive hindrance.
If she looked at Kris and her best friends Jasmine and Ari, their lives were richer and more fulfilling. The three had taken big, scary steps to go after what they loved. Whereas she was the one still stuck in a job that sucked the life out of her—something she couldn't find the heart to admit to her parents. What was more, as Kris had pointed out to her before, she was also the one who had not had a boyfriend who knew his way around a woman's body.
She was starting to think her cousin had a point. What was wrong with finding a man who could truly satisfy her in bed? She'd love to know what the fuss was about. She was too embarrassed to say it out loud, but she was jealous that her cousin and friends had captured the hearts of seriously hot men who, by all accounts, were experts at pleasuring women.
“So when do you plan to tell Uncle and Auntie about your plans, Sam?” Kris asked, snapping her out of her musing.
“We only just came up with this scheme yesterday. I haven't had a chance to think it through yet.”
“Just don't overthink it,” Kris warned.
She smiled and nodded. Here she was again, wanting to over-evaluate things. “I'll say something to Mum and Dad when I get back home.”
“You heard her, guys,” Kris said to Adam and Trey. “She promised.”
The men nodded. “We'll hold you to that, Sam,” Trey said.
“Adam,” Kris continued, “since you're Sam's FBF, would you be available to travel to Melbourne if need be?”
“What's FBF?” Adam asked.
“Fake Boyfriend,” Kris said with a sly grin. “But in front of her parents, it would mean Fantastic Boyfriend. Or Fabulous Boyfriend. Or…”
“Fantabulous Boyfriend,” Sam supplied.
Adam chortled. “With that kind of label, how could I not want to show off?”
“Is it really okay with you, Adam?” Sam asked. “Pretending in front of my parents whom I don’t want to hurt isn't the same as pretending in front of your ex you want to get rid of.”
“Of course it's okay,” Adam replied. “I can understand why you want to soften the blow for your folks, Sam. When I said to my parents I was setting up a software development business with Trey and Dylan, they tried their hardest to discourage me. They needed me to have a regular job and help with the bills, you see. We weren't well-off back then.”
“I remember that,” Trey said. “A few times, Adam almost pulled out because we were only making enough to feed ourselves with bread and cans of tuna. Most of what we made we had to plough back into the business.”
“Yeah,” Adam confirmed. “My mum, especially, didn't handle the financial stress well and suffered a few panic attacks. Those were the hardest times. It made me feel so guilty about continuing on with the guys. What kept me going was the strength of our vision and our belief that we would eventually come out on top. Fortunately, after two years of hard slog, our company made a decent enough profit the year after.”
“Wow,” Sam murmured. “How does your mum feel about your business now?”
Adam chuckled. “She's fine now. She still tells me every so often she's glad I stuck to my guns. But those first two years watching my parents' distress and feeling guilty that I was being selfish were hard. So, if you want to lie to your parents to make the transition easier for them, I can't blame you.”
Sam's eyes watered. She had been feeling guilty at the thought of lying to her mum and dad just so she could do what she loved instead of what she was expected to. Without a shadow of doubt, they would be utterly disappointed—her dad, especially. He had started the accounting practice three months before she was born. He had worked very hard to build it to where it was now. His dream was to keep it in the family and see her take over in a few years.
But the more she thought about it, the more she knew she had to resign. She wouldn't be doing the company a favour by being its head when her heart was not in it.
“Thank you, Adam,” she said quietly, walking over to him and giving him a hug of gratitude for his little pep talk.
“No worries,” he responded, enveloping her in his strong arms.
Hmm. He smelled good. She let go of him before she burrowed her face in that muscular chest of his.
Sam had been gauging her parents' mood all through dinner. Her dad seemed preoccupied with something—probably with the current goings-on at work. It wasn't unusual. Her dad found it hard to switch off.
“Um, Mum, Dad, there's something I've been wanting to discuss with you,” she started nervously.
“Oh, really? We do, too, honey. Why don't you start?” her mother Helen said.
Sam looked at her mum quizzically, then decided to just say what she had to say before she changed her mind. “I'm thinking of moving to Sydney,” she said.
Both her parents looked at her in shock, their jaws slackening.
“You want to open up a branch there?” her dad Ted asked tentatively.
Uncomfortable silence followed her declaration.
“You want to join Kris, don't you?” Helen said, her eyes starting to mist.
“That's not the main reason, Mum,” she mumbled. Damn it. She had hoped her mother wouldn't cry. She might chicken out of the whole thing if she did.
“Samantha, do you want to leave the practice?” her dad asked quietly, concern etched on his face.
Sam felt a pinch in her heart. Oh, Dad. I love you. But I have to live my life.
But just like before, she couldn't find the voice to say it out loud. She wouldn't be able to stand seeing the disappointment on her parents' faces if she did.
“I met a man,” she blurted out. Ah, hell. She had hoped she wouldn't have to lie, but she felt she had no choice. She wanted her parents to at least be okay with her decision, not be hurt by it.
“You did?” Helen exclaimed in wonder, her expression turning to delight. “That's great, Sam! Who is he?”
Sam took a deep breath. “His name's Adam Craig. He's Kris's fiancé's best friend and business partner.”
“This sounds serious, Samantha,” Ted said, his brows creasing. “You want to move to Sydney for this man? Can he take care of you? Why do you have to make the sacrifice? Why can't he be the one to move here?”
“Adam and his friends run a multi-million dollar business. Their company is many times larger than our firm. It makes more sense for me to move to Sydney,” she reasoned. “Besides, I want to start a food business there—catering,” she said bravely, finally able to tell her parents what she really wanted to do. And she must leave Melbourne to make that possible. She needed to be away from her parents' emotional pull.
“You want to make your hobby your career?”
“Yes, Dad. You know I love cooking.”
“That's such hard work, Samantha. Why would you want to change careers now, when you're doing so well in the accounting industry? You know you'll be head of our firm in a few years,” Ted said.
“I really want to give it a try, Dad,” she said in a strong voice.
Silence reigned for interminable seconds.
“If that's what you really want to do, of course we won't stand in your way,” Ted said finally, his eyes moistening.
Ah, shit. This was what she was afraid of. She'd hate it if her mum cried. But if her dad—a strong man who hardly showed weakness—shed tears, that would be more than she could handle.
“What does your boyfriend think about all this?” her dad asked.
“Adam thinks it's a great idea for me to look into the catering business.”
“No. I mean about you moving to Sydney.”
“Oh. He thinks that's a great idea, too.”
“So this is really serious?” Helen asked. “It sounds very sudden. You haven't even mentioned this Adam to us before.”
“I met him months ago when Kris and I visited Jasmine when she first moved to Sydney.”
“But you haven't spent much time with each other.”
“You know how it is, Mum,” she said knowingly.
Helen smiled. “Yes I do, don't I? I did leave my parents in Cairns to be with your dad within a month of us meeting.”
Ted nodded, a smile playing on his face. “Well, if love is your reason for leaving us and the practice, then I'm happy.”
Yup. Much as she felt like scum lying to her parents, she knew the topic of a potential life partner for her would ease their pain and worry about her news.
“My relationship with Adam is still new, so don't expect a wedding any time soon. Marriage is still off the radar for us,” she warned.
“Of course, darling,” Helen said. “You have to make sure he's the one before you fully commit to spending the rest of your lives together.”
“And I'm not exactly leaving you guys. Sydney is only an hour and thirty-five minute flight away. I'll visit often, and of course, I expect you to visit me.”
“Oh, we will, Samantha,” Ted said, taking her hand. “But don't take too long in making the decision to marry, okay? I want to walk you—my only child—down the aisle before I leave this earth. Grandkids before I pass will be good, too.”
“Oh, Dad,” Sam scoffed. “You're only sixty-two and I'm only twenty-seven. There's plenty of time for that.”
“You never know, honey,” Ted said softly. “My doctor told me yesterday I should get tested.”
Sam stilled. “For what?” she whispered, cold fear clutching her heart at her father's tone.
“Prostate cancer. But don't worry, it's only for precaution.”
“Dad…” She choked in shock.
“Don't worry, Sammy. I'm sure it's nothing. The doctor said it's just to rule out that possibility.”
“Look, I don't have to move to Sydney,” she babbled hastily. “I don't have to leave. I'm happy to stay here. Yes, I'm not going anywhere.” Oh, if only her dad had told her his news before she broke hers.
“Don't be silly,” Ted chided. “I know you wouldn't even have broached the subject if this wasn't important to you. Besides, hearing you've finally found someone you love enough to not only give up your career but to also move interstate really warms my heart. At least I know you have somebody you could potentially spend your life with. So don't change your plans, Samantha. Your mum and I have been waiting for you to fall in love, haven't we, dear?”
“Yes,” Helen said. “Your dad and I have been discussing your future lately. We know you're financially set. It's having a loving and supportive partner that we most want for you. It will ease our minds.”
“But what about the practice? If Dad needs rest, or surgery, or something…”
“No buts, Samantha,” Ted interrupted. “I don't want to hear you changing your mind because of me. As for the practice, we'll advertise for a replacement for you straight away. Now that I know you don't want to stay, I don't want you there. I want you to be happy. Life is gruelling enough, and it's too short. Going through it with the person you love is very important. That's why your mother and I are happy to hear you've found someone special.”
Sam's eyes watered. This was totally unexpected. She suspected the possibility of a terminal disease had influenced her parents' perspective.
“But we need to meet your boyfriend,” Ted declared. “I want to make sure his intentions are in the right place when it comes to you.”
“I'm already excited,” Helen said.
“Me, too,” Ted agreed with a bright smile on his face.
Sam gulped, too overwhelmed to speak. There was no backing out from the plan now. If her dad did have cancer…
She shook her head, not wanting to think about that possibility.
“Please don't worry,” Ted said softly. “When do you plan to move?”
She shrugged. “There's nothing concrete at this point.”
“You know, Ted, it's been a while since you've taken a break from work,” Helen said. “Maybe we should go on a holiday to Sydney. We could visit the girls and meet Sam's boyfriend at the same time.”
“Great idea,” Ted said. “How about you organise it, Samantha? Just make it sooner rather than later. I need a relaxing holiday.”
Sam suppressed a sigh. She crossed her fingers under the table and prayed that she and Adam would be able to keep up their pretense around her parents. They'd need to be a very convincing couple in front of them.
It was a damn shame that it was all a sham, though. Heck, she hadn't admitted it to anyone, but she'd had a crush on Adam ever since that day they first met at Kane and Jasmine's and they all had a dip in the pool. She couldn't help but admire Adam's physique. As she got to know him better, her admiration for him went beyond looks.
But Adam was with Miss Glam-Who-Couldn't-Cook then so she buried her feelings. She wondered if he was on the lookout for a new girlfriend now that he and Sandy were no longer together?
She had never been very good at showing men that she was interested in them. She preferred it if they did the instigating. Could she be brave enough to let Adam know she had a crush on him?
Just the thought made her sweaty and nervy, so she pushed it aside.
End of Chapter Two
I'll send you a post with Secret Tastes' links to the various stores by the 20th. Just a few more days to go…