"How was your day?" Noah asked that evening when William returned home.
"Profitable," William replied with a smirk. "You make desserts that sell well."
Noah shook his head wonderingly. "No one compliments me quite like you do."
William smiled in return. He was glad he had someone that appreciated his backhanded compliments. He had offended too many people by accident over the years. Noah put his arms around him and gave him a light kiss on the lips.
"There's your reward for making money," he teased. "You're the breadwinner in the relationship."
William blushed at that line despite the sheer number of corny romantic lines Noah had used on him for the past month. It was probably going to be like that for the rest of his life and he didn't mind the thought in the slightest.
The sound of someone coughing nearby punctuated the lovey-dovey atmosphere in the hallway.
"Sorry to interrupt you two," James began. "I would like to know if Mr Charles is staying for the night so I can make the bed in the guest room."
William and Noah exchanged looks. If Noah did stay the night, it would be the fourth time in the week. It was beginning to become a normal routine.
"I was only planning to stay for dinner… I'm always up for staying the night," Noah said and squeezed William's cheek.
James nodded and returned to the kitchen without saying anything. William would have given a lot to know what his butler was thinking about his boyfriend staying the night so often. Did he think it was strange or was he really okay with it?
"What is for dinner?" William asked.
Noah's shift had ended around three in the afternoon so he had been waiting for him to come home for several hours. Normally when that happened he helped out with dinner and that meant a good dessert. As much as William loved James' cooking, it paled in comparison to Noah's.
"It's Italian so I made Limoncello Tart to go with it."
Whilst William was a connoisseur of desserts, he had to admit he had no idea what that was. However if Noah made it, it had to be good. That was a guarantee.
"I'm going to change," he said and made his way to his bedroom to get out of his uncomfortable tie, shirt and trousers.
He changed into jeans and a plain shirt and rearranged his hair so it didn't resemble the style he wore to the office. At first, he had hated dressing formally to go to the office and now he was used to it. It was odd how he had just got used to everything that he had to do in the past four years.
There had been some strong opposition from family members and shareholders at Quinn's Sweets about him taking over at 18. William had decided without much thinking that he had a duty to continue in his father's footsteps and had fought for the role. Before then, the company had been run by his father's second in command who had stepped down so he could take his place. Eliza became his second in command a year later after she finished university.
Did he regret going straight into the business?
If he had been asked a month ago he would have said he had no regrets because he was following in his father's footsteps and protecting the business that had been thriving through several generations of the Quinn family.
Now after his conversations with Noah and Eliza he was wondering if he should have waited until he had experienced more of the world.
William's reverie was interrupted by a knock at the door. Noah walked in a few seconds later.
"I've come to collect you for dinner. Are you all right?"
He checked the time and realised he had taken ten minutes instead of the one minute he usually took to change.
"I was just thinking some things over," he said and took Noah's hand.
"You're not thinking of dumping me," Noah said with a laugh. "I've waited ten years for you to date me."
"Of course I'm not going to dump you," William protested. "I feel happy when I'm with you."
He was telling the truth. He didn't feel constrained at all around Noah now. It was a good feeling.
Keeping their relationship secret was what was bothering him.
James, Eliza, Eliza's brother and Dave were the only people that knew about their relationship so far. William could guess that Noah's parents probably knew they were going out by now, but he didn't know for sure and it didn't bother him that they knew.
He wanted to be open about dating Noah to everyone, but every time he thought about publicly showing he was dating Noah, he felt scared.
He had made progress in not denying he was gay, he just wasn't ready for the next step quite yet.
Noah's Limoncello Tart was well received by James and even better received by his boyfriend who finished it all off in the space of five minutes with a smile on his face.
"I've never seen him eat something that fast before," the butler commented in amazement after watching William enthusiastically shovel down the tart.
"I have a magic touch," Noah said modestly.
The years studying baking in France hadn't gone to waste. He had been serious about keeping their pinky promise.
William excused himself from the table a few minutes later after his phone buzzed to answer some emails at his work computer which left Noah in the dining room with James.
"I'll help with the dishes," he said politely.
He was keen to make a good impression on William's butler. It wouldn't do if James secretly wanted to kick him out.
"That would be appreciated," James replied. "You used a lot of bowls making that tart."
Noah helped gather up all of the dirty dishes and they moved to the kitchen where they worked in a companionable silence for a few minutes. Then Noah plucked up the courage to finally ask something he had been wondering about.
"What was Mr Quinn- I mean William's father- like?" he asked.
James raised an eyebrow. "Are you helping the young master face his fears?"
It appeared that James knew exactly why he was asking.
"I hope to," Noah answered.
"He needs to let a lot of things go," James said and wiped down the last plate. "I'll make you some tea and we can talk about it."
The butler didn't speak again until they were both at the kitchen table with cups of tea.
"Henry Quinn was very charismatic and a successful businessman as you probably know from your parents. He was very good at what he did."
"In other words, he's a hard act to follow," Noah summarised. "I guessed William is very keen to follow in his father's stead."
James took a sip of tea.
"Henry took over the company in his late thirties after his own father stepped down. Before that he worked in different departments learning the ins and outs of the company and building good relations. William did not had the same luxury. I am not implying he is bad, if he was the company would be in ruins- he just didn't have the same experience his predecessors had."
"I think he does a good job," Noah said faithfully. "I heard from my parents that he took over as soon as he finished his A-levels at 18."
James nodded sadly. "I was strongly against it because I wanted him to experience more before going straight into a highly demanding job. He was stubborn and here we are now."
Noah realised that James really did care for William. James finished off his tea before speaking again.
"I've done all I can to help him. I should be retired- I'm 71, but I didn't want him to live here alone so I've stayed on," James continued on. "Eliza has done a lot too. She obtained a business degree and joined the company to help him. I know she has a greater interest and talent in fashion design and threw that away to help William instead. He's not alone in this."
Eliza had done a lot more for William than he had ever imagined. He was glad that she had been there to help him out and James as well. He didn't want to think of William loving alone in a dark house and going to work without anyone helping him.
"Thank you for telling me all of this," he said sincerely. "I'm going to check on him now."
James had one more thing to say.
"Thank you for loving him, he needs someone to tell him that it's okay to be what he is and that he doesn't need to worry about what his parents would have thought. I've tried to tell him that indirectly with no success. The effect of his parents' death was greater than I feared. I didn't realise until he moved out of his aunt's house and came to live here with me. Please be the one to draw him out of that."
Noah knocked on the door of the study and entered after getting a reply. He found his boyfriend was yawning at the computer and his eyes were looking strained. William looked exhausted and it was only eight in the evening. He was still working too hard.
"Is it anything urgent?" he asked.
"No, I just couldn't leave the emails unanswered overnight," William explained and his eyes went to the teacup in his hand. "Is that for me?"
Noah handed over the tea and produced a packet of chocolate biscuits that were of course a Quinn's Sweets product. He was loyal to his boyfriend's brand rather than his own family's. He shut down the computer whilst William was distracted devouring the chocolate biscuit.
"Your eyes don't look good, no more work tonight," he warned.
"I thought I was supposed to be the breadwinner in the relationship," William quipped.
His boyfriend seemed to be okay with him telling him to stop. There was hope for him trying to improve his wellbeing.
"What are we doing tonight?" his boyfriend asked.
If it was anyone but William he would have made a perverted joke, but it was William so he answered sensibly.
"I found a series to watch on Netflix."
He had spent a while finding something that he thought his boyfriend would like. Noah had been slightly horrified to find that William didn't watch anything for entertainment and was determined to correct that.
"We can watch it in my room," William replied. "I enjoyed the one we watched last week."
Noah was enjoying how domestic they were sounding after only two weeks of dating so he decided to ask a certain question.
"When can I move in?"
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