“It’s probably to drown out the snoring of her husband,” Elizabeth said.
She nodded her head, and I saw a man whose eyes were already falling shut. He sat right beside Gwyneth, his head sinking to her shoulder before bobbing back up. Elizabeth stifled a giggle, and I buried a smirk. Then, something else caught the corner of my eye.
The first dish was served, a beautiful soup that smelled delightful. And Cristoff’s sister and her husband were at the other end of the table slurping their soup straight from the bowl, like the scene from Beauty and the Beast, where they just pick up their bowls, bring it to their lips, and down it in one go.
I watched them as Elizabeth clung to my thigh, trying not to laugh as their lips drained the bowl of the tomato bisque.
“Cristoff, that chef of yours really knows how to make a wonderful soup,” his sister said.
“I wonder if she even tasted it,” Elizabeth murmured.
I shot her a look before a chuckle fell from my lips. She smoothed her hand over my thigh as we settled into the first course. And then the second. And then the third. Food continued to pour out of the kitchen at a rate that was astounding even to me. Elizabeth and I watched this entire family down full-sized portions of food without a second thought. Every time a plate was set in front of her, I heard her sigh, like she was gearing up for a marathon she hadn’t trained for.
“No wonder they’re Catholics. They need the exercise after meals like this,” she whispered in my ear.
I brought my napkin up to my lips and laughed into it to cover the sound.
Having her close to me all night was driving me insane, but her jokes kept the air light. I had no idea how in the world I was going to share a bed with that woman and not fuck her every single night while we were in the countryside. Her playful stare always caught my eye before her jokes had me stifling very rude laughter into my napkin, and yet I couldn’t get enough.
And I knew if she came onto me like she did last night, I’d never be able to resist her. Not with those legs, not with that smile, and certainly not with that sense of humor of hers.
Dinner was an arduous affair. Cristoff’s family yelled at one another across the table, and all of them bombarded Elizabeth with questions. They didn’t even attempt to address me anymore. They figured Elizabeth did all the talking for me. Which was probably for the best because she obviously had a knack for spinning stories. But I found myself wanting all of those stories to be true. Like the story of our first date, when I picked her up and whisked her away for an entire weekend in Italy just so I could treat her to the finest dish of homemade pasta. Or the first time she ever got sick, where I came over to her modest apartment and set up shop to take care of her all week. Dipping her into baths and washing her hair and feeding her food until she could feed herself.
I hung on to every word, painting this fake relationship in my mind and wishing it were real.
I shook the thought from my head. It was time to talk business. Dinner had been wonderful, but we were finishing up dessert and not an ounce of shop talk had been addressed.
“Cristoff, this dinner was amazing. Maybe we could grab a drink and head to the library to talk about those documents,” I said.
And then, I felt it.
I felt Elizabeth nudge me underneath the table again.
I shot Elizabeth a look that told her to back down. I got that maybe dinner the first time wasn’t the best scenario to talk shop, but she now needed to know where her expertise stopped and where mine began. Her eyes fluttered over to mine before she scooted over a little bit. I must’ve been looking at her pretty harshly.
“Something the matter?” Cristoff asked.
“I’m actually feeling a little fatigued,” Elizabeth said.
“It must be that long walk you took in the gardens this afternoon, beautiful. Because I’m not tired at all,” I said.
“Is this going to lead to a lovers’ quarrel?” Cristoff asked.
“Nonsense. No need to fight. Phillip knows I sleep better with him at my side,” Elizabeth said as her hand slid down to my knee.
“I’m sure you’ll take a long bath before we retire, however. It’ll give me some time to speak with Cristoff alone,” I said curtly.