"Don't you think Noah is so hot?"
William's ears pricked up and he sighed when he realised what he was overhearing. Today all employees were at the pâtisserie to prepare for opening. It was the first time they had all met each other and by the first hour William had heard enough talk about how hot Noah was.
He cleared his throat and spoke in his best icy tone.
"If you have time to talk about how hot Noah is, you've got enough spare time on your hands to date check all the perishable ingredients in the kitchen chiller. Another word and you've found your new duties."
The employee in question rapidly shut up and William went back to checking expenditures in peace only to be interrupted again by the subject of the conversation.
"So, you think I'm hot?" Noah asked with a wide grin.
"Depends on the cake," William replied half-heartedly.
After a week with Noah he had become accustomed to all the slimy behaviour and lines that he now knew were definitely flirting. It had started out simply with heart shaped cakes and the occasional line, now Noah seemed to spend all his spare energy producing pick-up lines. He still blushed though despite the corniness of the pick-up lines.
"I'm on break," Noah said and then pulled out a cake stand from behind his back. "I've decided to grace you with my presence."
William ignored that and focused on the cake. Noah's creations had all been delectable so far. It was almost enough to forgot how good looking he was. This cake was a plain Victoria sponge, but he was content with that. Noah made everything well. The two layers of cake were impeccably even and the cream was accurately piped into swirls. William nodded and pulled out the chair next to him.
"You can sit down."
"What an honour," Noah replied and cut him a slice. "Why don't you work in the manager's office? It has to be less chaotic up there."
"I can keep an eye on everyone here. If I go out of sight, they might slack off."
By slack off he meant gossip. The gossip could be about him and he always felt insecure when he knew people were going to talk about him. If he stayed in their sight, there would be less chances for them to gossip. Noah interrupted his line of thought by pushing a plate towards him. William accepted it and dug into the cake with the provided fork. It tasted surprisingly simple after tasting all of the other sweet treats made by Noah. He quickly became aware that Noah was closely watching him.
Noah asked an odd question.
"Does it taste familiar at all?"
"I've tasted numerous Victoria sponges over the years," William replied.
It would be an understatement to say he was confused. Noah didn't normally ask questions like that.
"Describe the taste to me," Noah instructed. "Don't hold back."
William did as ordered. Perhaps Noah would enlighten him after he finished his critique.
"The vanilla flavouring is very potent and it's a lot sweeter than a normal Victoria sponge. There's also too much jam. In fact, it tastes more like a child made it than someone skilled like you."
Noah fluffed William's hair and smiled dazzlingly at him. "That's the answer I was looking for."
Now William was even more confused. Had he overworked Noah into a state where he asked strange questions? The oddness was enough to make him forget that Noah had just touched his hair.
"Yes. Does it taste familiar?"
It was that question again. William tried his best to think, but it was such a commonplace cake to make. Then he frowned. He had an idea why the question had been asked.
"Is this something related to when we met before?"
"That's right," Noah smiled. "I'll leave you to dwell on it."
Noah turned away and left William alone to wonder why he had hired someone so weird. Were the wonderful desserts worth it?
What had happened when they met for the first time?
Was it really this important?
"Hey," one of the new employees approached him rudely. "Is Noah single?"
William looked at her. She had red curly hair and very red lips. He had absolutely no idea what her name was as he'd left the HR department to employ the regular employees. This one was very confident and didn't seem to care that he was the CEO.
"Ask him yourself," he replied tartly and returned to his work.
Another issue on his mind was the efficiency of other employees in Noah's presence. They never seemed to do any work and stood around talking about Noah. He reminded himself that he only had a few days left supervising them and it would be the manager's problem after that.
"Noah doesn't like females," a gruff voice spoke up.
William looked round to see that the manager had finally managed to discover the slacking off employees. Dave was often absent due to regular cigarette breaks. Judging from the very strong smell of smoke he had just come back from one. William also wanted to have a word with him about those.
"Well, how do you know?" the red-haired employee retorted. "You're just guessing."
"Chloe, he told me himself. Shouldn't you be more focused on your job that whether or not Noah will date you?" Dave asked.
William found that exchange intriguing. Firstly, Noah was definitely gay and secondly, Dave had the right priorities. Perhaps he was the best person for the job. He tried to stop his mind from focusing on the first part.
Chloe stormed off in a huff and Dave waved cheerfully after her. He then spotted William and ambled over.
"If you don't want to hear the chicks going on about Noah, you can just work in my office," he said.
That was beginning to sound very tempting. Then again, Dave had made it clear that none of the females were going to get anything by flirting with Noah. He could even see all the employees dispersing. Dave was doing a good job.
"I will if it gets worse. How is the training going?"
The few days before opening were supposed to be used for training employees on the products and procedures, however William was sure that half of the time had been training and the other half had been spent gossiping.
"They've all got basic health and safety and food safety down," Dave informed him. "Some of them are really good on product knowledge, others need a lot more practise."
"We open in three days," William warned him. "This will count in your review. Make sure they're trained."
The thought of having incompetent staff for the opening pained him. William had been anticipating the pâtisserie's opening since he hired the location and now it didn't feel like it was doing to be as idyllic as it had been in his mind. He packed up his laptop and paperwork. He had a headache and he was long overdue for a break. Maybe he had taken on too many responsibilities.
William peered into the kitchen to look for Noah and locked gazes with him immediately as he was standing by the door. Noah smiled at him and went back to placing chocolate cookies on the cooling rack. Was Noah the cause of all his stress? He should have just hired someone less attractive. It would have been better for his heart and efficiency of the other employees.
"Did you come for more food?" Noah asked with a warm smile. "I just made these."
He had one in William's mouth before he could reply. William didn't mind because they were perfectly flavoured and baked. Maybe Noah was the right person after all.
"What's wrong with you? You don't normally seek me out," Noah said.
It was true. Noah always turned up by him, it was never the other way around.
"I'm finding things irritating. Dave isn't around enough, you're distracting all the females and they keep talking about you. I want this place to be open so I can stop worrying, but then I'll have more things to worry about when it's open."
It was a relief to finally get it all out. Noah was silent for a moment and William began to worry that he'd said too much.
"Your cousin did say you work too much. Stay here for a while, it will just be the two of us."
Noah pulled out a stool and indicated he should sit down. William sat down doubtfully and watched Noah start making a cake. It was interesting to see how efficient he was.
"What are you making now?"
The amount of sweet treats Noah had made in a short time was impressive. William was beginning to reconsider if other kitchen staff were needed. Noah could probably manage all the output on his own.
William's mouth began to water. Fondant fancies were something he had always been fond of. The combination of cake, buttercream and fondant icing was always good. Admittedly he had tried some the previous week during the interviews and they had been a little off putting. Noah hadn't produced anything terrible yet so his faith in fondant fancies could be redeemed.
By now Noah had mostly finished making the cake batter. He gave it a final stir and started pouring it into a cake tin.
"Do you want to eat the rest of the mix?" Noah offered.
"I'll take it," he said and picked up the bowl and a spoon.
"The cake is going to take 40 minutes to bake," Noah said and set the timer. "Do you want to go out and get something to drink?"
William was going to protest that they could easily get a drink from Quinn's Cakes to give the employees a test but realised that he really was getting fatigued of Quinn's Cakes, so he agreed.
"Let me get my coat after I finish," he said and shovelled down the rest of the cake mix.
"Do you like coffee?" Noah asked as they walked down the street.
"Only the really sweet ones," William said and shivered.
The temperature had really dropped in the past week and he was finding his woolly gloves insufficient and resorted to having his hands in his pockets. At least he had remembered to bring gloves this time.
"Coffeeshops are interesting places," Noah continued on. "We could have met in one after you spilled coffee on me and developed a relationship."
William shot him a confused look. Noah was definitely an odd character. Sometimes he sounded like he read the same romantic slush that Katherine liked reading. He was only aware of it because of the time he caught her reading them on his office sofa when she thought he was out for the day.
William had confiscated them and taken a brief look through the descriptions. He was sure there had been one with a plot revolving around Starbucks.
"What on earth have you read to sound as lame as you do?" William demanded.
Instead of looking offended Noah looked over the moon that he had asked.
"I've read a lot of romance in the past week so I can court you."
William felt a traitorous blush appear and felt disgusted with himself. Why did his body give him away? He wanted to hide the fact he was gay, not tell everyone.
"Will you allow me to court you?" Noah asked.
William narrowed his eyes. The lameness of that line allowed him to recover a little and his mind was catching up.
"Is it so the female employees stop bothering you? Chloe is very… keen on you."
Noah leaned down to whisper in his ear.
"I'm keen on you."
William pushed him away. His ear was ticklish so he hadn't appreciated Noah's lips touching his ear. He pushed his mind to come up with a witty response before his face became redder than a strawberry.
"I'm keen on your cakes," was the line he settled for.
"I'll have to work harder until you like me more than my baking," Noah replied easily. "Shall we go to Starbucks? There's one nearby."
It was too easy to point out that there was always a Starbucks nearby no matter where you were in London, but William wanted to make something else known.
"We're not going to a coffeeshop just so you can get me to spill coffee on you and tell me that I owe you with my body."
Noah burst out laughing.
"I think someone else reads too much romance," he paused for a moment. "Let's find an independent one and not spill coffee on each other."
After ten minutes they found one that was to both their specifications. The only problem was the long queue. William was worried about Noah's cake burning. He wouldn't be able to have fondant fancies if they got back too late.
He tapped Noah's shoulder. "What about the cake?"
Noah turned around and pulled his cheek. "How cute, you're concerned about the future of your fondant fancies."
William hid his face so Noah wouldn't see how red his face was.
"Aren't you worried?" he asked.
Noah smiled. "The oven has a timer. We can take all the time we like."
William felt a little embarrassed. He should have thought about that sooner. Noah wasn't stupid enough to stray too far if he had a cake in the oven. His mind just didn't work when Noah was flirting.
"Are you sure you're going to be able to leave Quinn's Cakes alone once it's open?" Noah questioned. "You're very concerned about it."
Noah was right. He couldn't leave it alone. He had too much invested in it, emotionally and monetarily.
"I'll visit occasionally," he admitted.
"Twice a week," Noah said immediately. "Promise?"
William looked up again to see Noah holding out his shortest finger. Noah was serious about the promise. William hesitated before winding his own finger around it. Instead of feeling uncomfortable, it felt warm and a little familiar.
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