William frowned and fought back a yet another blush. Noah's flirtatious nature was getting on his nerves for more than one reason. It was distracting and his face would be permanently red soon.
"We're meeting professionally, it's not a date," he corrected in the coldest tone he could muster.
"If you say so," Noah said casually and got up from his chair. "I'll see you tomorrow."
William watched him put on his coat and walk out the door. He breathed a sigh of relief only to have Noah stroll back in again.
"I'm guessing you don't remember me?" Noah asked with a smirk and left again.
William groaned. His mysterious meeting with Noah had come to the forefront of his mind again. He had only just stopped wondering about it. He was going to have to pester James again now that he definitely knew Noah was going to tease him about it.
Noah obtained the address of the pâtisserie from a heavily blushing Katherine who looked like she was swooning every time he spoke. He was well used to the effect his presence had. William's reactions hadn't escaped his attention either.
On his way down the corridor he encountered someone else that was resistant to his charms. Her glare and crossed arms didn't go with the bows in her hair.
"I thought I had seen you before," Eliza Quinn observed with a triumphant tone to her voice.
Noah realised that she had overheard him talking to William and felt a little hope spark. If she could remember him, shouldn't William remember him?
"Let's have a talk about this," she continued and showed him into her office.
Her office was quite a contrast to her cousin's. Instead of being plain and sterile with white walls and glass, it had a bright colourful scheme and looked more like the office of someone that worked in confectionery with cushions shaped like cakes and sweets everywhere.
"Why doesn't William's office look like this?" he asked as he sat down on the sofa and picked up a cushion. This one was of a giant strawberry sweet.
"William thinks that running the company means he can't have any fun," she replied. "That's why we've all been glad that he suggested the pâtisserie because he enjoyed coming up with it and planning it."
It was true that William had looked more animated when he had been showing him all the details regarding the pâtisserie. It had been fun to see him look more alive.
"I didn't scout you because I recognised you. You looked to be right and you had an attractive cake, that's all," she warned. "I only recognised you just now. It's been a long time."
Noah took that as 'I didn't ask you to interview because I wanted you to date my cousin.'
"How come you remember meeting me and William doesn't?" he asked.
He had been over the moon when Eliza had told him that he could interview at Quinn's Sweets because that had meant seeing William earlier than planned. Naturally he had been disappointed when William had shown no signs of recognition. At least William had liked his cake. He could console himself with that.
"I am a year older than him," Eliza reminded him. "It was also 12 years ago. Do you know what happened a week after that party?"
A week later Noah had been sent to boarding school and hadn't known any details from the outside world until he had come home for the Christmas holidays. It had been shocking to be told the news about the Quinn family.
"His parents died in a fire."
"That's right. William doesn't remember much from that time and it has affected him greatly. We still don't know if it was suicide, an accident or murder. Not knowing what truly happened to his parents had an impact on William," Eliza explained.
"What happened to him after that?"
"My family adopted him and he lived with us. The company was run by associates until William was old enough. Now all he does is work," she complained. "I'm open to you being around him for that reason. But I have two requests."
Noah had been expecting that there would be catch somewhere. She had imparted a lot of personal information about her cousin.
Eliza held up a finger.
"First, don't make him remember you, he might just never remember. Let it happen naturally and if it never happens, start from the beginning again."
"I understand," he replied.
She held up another finger and looked forlorn.
"…I know you're gay," she hesitated. "My cousin is the same. He just wants to keep it very quiet. He won't tell anyone- he didn't tell me. William seems to think people will look down on him. It's sad. He's very lonely because of it. He doesn't have any friends either."
Noah felt his heart melt. He hadn't realised how bad William was feeling about being gay. His parents had simply said that they had already guessed and that had been the end of it. He had never had to worry about being looked down on. However he and William had very different responsibilities.
"I understand. I won't say anything to upset him. It's his decision to keep it secret," he answered.
He stood up to go and Eliza opened the door for him.
"Remember what I've told you," she warned.
The temperature dropped steeply the next day and William stood outside the pâtisserie wishing he had brought his scarf with him. The temperature always plummeted at this time of year, he should have seen it coming. If he had to wait another minute for Noah, he was going to have to dock his pay.
Fortunately for both of them Noah chose that moment to turn up. Noah took in the sight of William shivering and unwound his scarf and held it out to William. Then he took off his knitted gloves and added those to the pile.
"You need these more than me," he said.
William accepted begrudgingly as he was very cold and took out the keys to unlock the door. The alarm went off as soon as they stepped inside and William quickly deactivated it. He put on the gloves and scarf as the heating for the shop hadn't been switched on yet to save on the electricity bill.
"You could have waited inside for me," Noah noted. "I had the address."
"I thought you might miss it because the sign is covered."
"Is that your way of hiding from Charles Confectionery?" Noah teased. "What's this place going to be called? The photos you showed me didn't have a name."
William took a folder out of his bag and found a design of the sign.
"It's nothing special. It's going to match all our other products. 'Quinn's Cakes' with the same style of writing and logo as the confectionery company," he informed Noah and showed him the design.
"I like it, it shows consistency," Noah commented and then switched his attention to the room they were in.
The interior design had clearly cost a lot of money. The floor was marbled with intricate designs that contained the Quinn's Sweets logo and the lights in the ceiling were works of art. The counter took up most of one side of the shopfloor and was set up to display every kind of dessert.
William noticed him looking and started his tour.
"You won't need to worry much about this, however I will give you a tour. This area here will display all the products, behind the counter is the door to the kitchen where you will be. There's some seating and alcoves here."
Noah was able to appreciate how the limited space had been used to look cosier, but not claustrophobic.
"The main area for customers is through here."
William led the way past the counter and into another room which opened up into a vast seating area with a fireplace at one end.
"It's perfect for people who think afternoon tea is actually a thing," Noah observed wryly. "I like the fireplace and the chandelier."
"It will be good for foreign tourists," William agreed. "I've analysed a lot of factors for this. We need to have an upmarket British aesthetic for the tourists, but not too much that it puts off people that live here as well as domestic tourists."
"Capitalising on both markets, you've thought this out," Noah said admiringly. "I don't know if my parents have considered that."
William wasn't sure if Noah was hinting that he had done a better job than Charles Confectionery and chose to answer cautiously.
"Your parents' pop-up pâtisserie was very modern and minimalist so there shouldn't be much overlap. We're going to the kitchen next."
The kitchen was completely different to the shopfloor. It was brightly lit and had stainless steel everywhere. It also had all the right equipment for the size of the shop. It had device a pastry chef would need.
"You won't be the only person working here, other kitchen staff have been hired," William added. "You're in charge of deciding the items and working on large pieces. "Can you make something now? All ingredients are fully stocked."
"Are you testing me?" Noah teased.
"No, I'm hungry," William corrected. "Find me when you're done."
William found the switch for the heating in the electrical box and pressed it. It was too cold to go without the heating. Then he sat down at a table next to a radiator and pulled out his laptop. There were more things to arrange now that they were ready for opening and he had his normal workload on top of it. Eliza phoned him a few minutes later when he was assigning the budget for the opening event.
"How's Noah?" was the first thing she asked.
"He's hard at work in the kitchen," William answered. "I'm working on the opening event, how fancy should it be?"
"Hmm, give out lots of free samples. Make the cakes a little cheaper and get Noah to make a few showstopper cakes," she suggested.
That was in line with the ideas William had come up with. Eliza always came up with a few that were more imaginative than his though.
"Shall we get any social media influencers?" she added. "Personally, I find them annoying and don't think they affect much, but I can get hold of some if you like."
William always left anything social media related up to Eliza due to his social ineptitude. He had no idea about social media trends and found them tiresome when Katherine tried to tell him things.
"If you think it's annoying and not worth it, don't do it," he advised.
"I'll get the marketing manager to advertise the opening on the usual channels," she said. "Has Noah been friendly? He seemed to be nice."
William thought back to all their exchanges in the past thirty minutes. Noah had certainly been friendly.
"He has been friendly," he said and an email notification pinged. "I'm quite busy at the moment. I'll give you more updates later."
He hung up the phone and went back to work. His mind began to wander after a few minutes.
Did friends give each other scarves when they were cold? Perhaps it was called having concern for another person and was perfectly normal.
Noah had also been very complimentary about the pâtisserie. Eliza was as well.
It just felt a little different when Eliza complimented him. He was still happy to receive a compliment from her, but he had felt warm inside when Noah had said it. Perhaps Eliza complimented him too often.
"Here's your second breakfast," Noah's voice announced from very close by.
William looked up to see Noah standing over him with a plate of waffles. His stomach rumbled at the sight and he hoped Noah hadn't heard it.
"Your cake is cooling right now. You can have it after I've put the cream in," Noah continued. "Let me know how the waffles taste."
He placed the plate of waffles on the table and closed the laptop. William didn't bother to protest as his eyes were strained from staring at the screen.
"Don't eat and work at the same time," he said and headed off back to the kitchen.
William looked down at the plate of waffles. There was a waffle machine in the kitchen. He didn't realise it made heart shaped waffles. There were more hearts in the form of neatly cut strawberries and strawberry syrup.
Did friends make each other heart shaped waffles?
Or was that flirting?
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