Once William had recovered from the initial shock, his mind started poking holes in Noah's story. He was still unwilling to believe that the perfect candidate from a moment ago could really be the child of his lifelong rivals. The surname had to be a coincidence.
"Are you actually their son? Or is your surname just the same?"
Admittedly Charles was not a common surname, but London was also a large place. It wouldn't be too unlikely that someone with that surname could be interested in confectionery and not the child of his biggest rivals.
"I am the child of the owners of Charles Confectionery," Noah confirmed and shut down all of William's mental reasoning.
Eliza jumped in with her own questions. It had been odd that she had stayed quiet for so long.
"If you are their son, why were you interviewing for the pastry chef position there? Why didn't you say anything about being related on the way here?"
Noah was unperturbed by her questions.
"They shouldn't treat me differently to anyone else interviewing. My parents said that if I passed the interview they would hire me. I wouldn't get any special treatment."
William was of the opinion that Noah's parents sounded as strict as his had been when they were alive. He had another reservation about hiring Noah. It was a rather important one. Whilst the fact that Noah was very attractive made him not want to hire him, there were more important things at stake.
"Are you sure you want to work for me and not your family company?"
Noah smiled widely. "I wasn't sure until I saw you."
William blinked. Was that flirting? He couldn't be sure, but Eliza's reaction which he could see behind Noah was a hint to the affirmative. Was Noah gay?
"I see. Will your relationship with your parents suffer?" he asked next after taking a second to recover from the flirting.
Noah shook his head. "No. We're not too close. They'll hire someone else without thinking."
Those answers satisfied his curiosity and William saw no reason to refuse Noah the job. He arranged to meet Noah again to sign the contract and explain his duties in detail. He saw Noah off in a taxi outside the building. Eliza was still in his office when he returned and she had made two steaming cups of tea. She handed one to him as he sat down.
"I'm sorry for not checking his name," she said with a piteous facial expression.
William could tell that she had been expecting him to be annoyed with her.
"Aside from his familial connections, he is what I was looking so I'm not that annoyed," he emphasised. "We just need to be more careful next time."
Eliza looked relieved and started to sip her tea with vigour.
"There's always the chance that he could be a spy for his parents. I've heard the Charles family are eccentric," William said.
His cousin calmly put her teacup down and looked at him in the eye.
"I'm assuming you have already thought of this before and have a plan. I didn't feel like he was a spy, that said, you're smarter than me."
William did agree with her. He didn't come across as a spy. In fact, he seemed to be more interested in flirting with him. Was that more dangerous?
"There a few points to consider," William began. "They should know we are opening a pâtisserie- we've been actively recruiting for staff. We have also purchased a location which they could find out through ordinary means. We didn't tell Noah anything confidential and he will be signing watertight contract before we tell him anything important."
"So if he's a spy, he hasn't gained anything from coming here?" Eliza summarised.
William cut a slice of Noah's cake to have with his cup of tea. Eliza waited a moment and cut herself one and arranged it neatly on a napkin.
"It's delicious," she said enthusiastically after finishing the whole slice. "I see why you went for him so easily. Are you taking it home?"
"Of course I am… I need my butler's opinion," William replied awkwardly. "You can take another slice with you if you really want it…"
Eliza sniggered. "No, you just want Noah's cake all to yourself. He seemed to be keen on you."
William had been worried about her noticing that. He had never told her he was gay and feared that she would notice because they worked closely together. Noah might be his downfall. However he had a way to stop her from mentioning the flirting.
"Say that again and you can't have any more cake."
Eliza pouted and then turned the conversation onto business matters. The flirting was apparently forgotten.
The next hour between them was purely for business matters and William drew up Noah's strict contract. The contract read like a standard employment contract until the confidentiality section. William had fun making all the clauses strong deterrents. Then he handed it to Eliza for a final check.
Her eyebrows were raised very far by the end of it.
"If he passes on information he has to pay the company a million-pound fine and he can't work in a similar position for 24 months?" Eliza frowned at her cousin. "Is this legal?"
William looked at her and shrugged.
"It's a good deterrent. Similar contracts do exist."
"It's a well-made cake," James commented and went to have another bite.
James was the Quinn family butler and had been looking after William since he had been born. William always asked his opinion on anything business related as James had been a close confidant of his father before his untimely death.
William moved the cake from his grasp and looked up at him with defiant eyes.
"I want to finish it."
James looked like he wanted to sigh and was holding it back with great difficulty.
"William, I thought you were 22 not two. Leave some for after your dinner."
The insult caused William to relinquish his grip on the plate. He had managed to bring the remainder of the cake home unscathed. Katherine had been hinting very heavily that she wanted to try some and William had pretended not to notice. He was still annoyed at the nosebleed she had over Noah's good looks.
"Have you hired the person that made this cake?" James asked.
"I have," William confirmed.
His butler stared at him probingly. "Is there something you're not happy with? You don't look as relieved about finding someone perfect for the position as I thought you would. You've been worrying about it for a week."
James was always able to see through William. If he knew his employer was gay, he had never said anything.
"His name is Noah Charles," William told him after a second of silence.
"Is he related to the owners of your biggest rival?"
James was very quick on the uptake. He was always sharp despite his age.
William nodded. "Eliza scouted him from outside their head office and he interviewed at Quinn's Sweets instead. He said he didn't mind and he doesn't seem to be close to his parents. I'm just worried about him leaking anything."
James saw through him again. "You're worried about something else to do with him."
"I am," William confirmed. "I'm just not sure what it is."
He placated himself by having more of the cake which worked until his butler's answer caused him to choke on it.
"Is he attractive?" James asked with a faint smile.
Did James know about his orientation?
"I suppose he is by conventional standards," William replied very cautiously. "Katherine certainly had enough nosebleeds."
"You've met before," James said mysteriously and changed the subject. "Young master, you are getting in the way of my dinner preparations."
He unceremoniously removed William from the kitchen leaving him without the cake and mystery to solve. Had he really met Noah before? He hadn't recognised him at all. The fact he had hired him without knowing his surname attested to that.
Noah had been in France for the past five years so it had to be before that. The meeting would have occurred at somewhere James would have been present. William couldn't think of much because James had no active connections to the Quinn family company. He was just his butler.
It couldn't be school either as Noah's fancy boarding school was listed on his CV and William had gone to a completely different school with Eliza.
James adroitly side stepped all his questions when he was serving dinner. William resolved to ask him when he wasn't expecting it. Those attempts all ended in resounding failures and James began to look exhausted with him.
"William, if you are so curious, ask Noah instead of me," James said to him when he announced his departure to bed. "You said you had an appointment with him tomorrow."
William had to admit James had a point there. It just felt like it would be an odd question to ask someone he had hired and he felt like Noah would tease him for asking.
Noah arrived promptly at 11 o'clock the next day. William had decided that he didn't care about meeting Noah before so he wasn't going to ask. It was likely that they had met in passing at a party or gathering that was business related. If he wasted anymore brain power on it, he would start slipping up in other areas like pretending he wasn't affected by Noah's flirting.
"You've really locked in my contract," Noah observed once he had finished reading it. "I will sign it though. I have no intention of spying on you or sabotaging your business."
He signed his name and then printed it neatly. William took a moment to admire the precise penmanship.
"Do your parents know about me hiring you?"
He was genuinely curious about the answer. Noah's relationship with his parents came across being more than a little estranged. Noah hadn't appeared bothered about their reaction the day before.
"They asked how you were doing and said to look after you," was the unhelpful answer. "They called me yesterday to ask why I didn't turn up. I explained, and they said it didn't matter because they had hired someone else. They don't think it's an issue."
William hadn't realised that Mr and Mrs Charles were concerned about him. Then again, they would know about his parents' death and anyone that knew about that always asked about his health.
"I see. Are you happy to proceed with everything? I'll tell you about the pâtisserie."
He received an affirmative so he dimmed the lights and turned the projector on and moved his chair to be next to Noah. He had a presentation prepared to explain the project. It was an updated version of the he had shown to the board of directors to get permission for the project.
"My company, Quinn's Sweets is branching out into pâtisseries. We've seen a gap in the market and hope to fill it. You have been hired to be the main attraction at our planned flapship location in Piccadilly Circus," William said formally and changed the screen from market research stats to show a photo of the building and a small one of the interior.
The storefront of the pâtisserie was homely yet sophisticated enough to fit in with the rest of the shops on the street. The interior had been extensively remodelled to fit the needs of a pâtisserie as it had been a vintage clothing shop before William bought it.
William always felt more confident when talking about business matters. He now felt like he could look at Noah without blushing.
"Your duties are to make the desserts to an exceptionally high standard and innovate new ones," William continued. "We're looking to open in a week, the place has been fully equipped. I'm taking you to the location tomorrow so you can start working."
William had been wanting to open for a while as the rent wasn't cheap and having an unused building wasn't making him money. The good location had come at a premium. Everything had been set in the place and now that he had Noah, it should all proceed smoothly. In theory.
"Will you visit me often?" Noah requested. "Don't you need to keep a close eye on me?"
"I'm going to be there every day until the opening," William said sharply. "There's more than you to keep an eye on."
Noah smiled widely. "I will enjoy baking for you."
William looked at him suspiciously. Did that constitute as flirting? The smile had been very dazzling and impossible to look away from.
"I will see you there tomorrow," he said as formally as he could manage after that smile. "Katherine will give you the address."
"It's a date," Noah said cheerfully.
That was the moment William realised that Noah was technically the worst person he could have hired. Noah was gay and could tell he was also gay.
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