Title: Cafe Romance
Category: Romance, Slash
Pairings: Giovanni Keats/Kevin McMichaels
Characters: Giovanni Keats, Kevin McMichaels, William, Sandee
Summary: Sugar and Spice Cafe had been up and running for five years with owner Giovanni Keats giving the place his everything to make it successful. Now he was ready to get out there and date once more. The problem was, the hours he worked didn’t always make for the best date nights. There was one man he was interested in but after two years of innuendo and flirting, Gio had come to the conclusion that nothing was going to come of his crush. That was until Kevin McMichaels saw him out on a date and finally decided to make a move.
Tags: Romance, Food Porn, Fluff
Beta: None. No non-consensual Beta
Notes: The Mexican Chocolate Truffles described later on in the story is my own recipe and every time I make them people love them. I don’t have it written out, but if anyone is interested in the method and the amounts I am happy to share that.
* * * * *
Giovanni arrived at the cafe at 2 a.m. to begin working on that day’s pastries. He started with the ones the doughs that required yeast to give them enough time to properly rise. He had the base dough for the cafe’s famous cinnamon rolls, the challah bread, and the brioche for the breakfast sandwiches all set aside. Next, he worked on the dough for the croissants and after getting the first ‘turn’ done he put it in the fridge to rest. Next was the puff pastry for a variety of pastries that would be available for that day.
Gio had his Bluetooth earbuds listening to some eighties hair band rock as he worked. After the first two hours Gio’s helpers, Sandee and William came in and started on making the fillings and some of the quick bread Gio had put on the menu for that day. The three of them had been working together so long that they didn’t need to talk very much. If one of them had a question they knew they could tap Gio on the shoulder and wait for him to respond.
When he pulled the chocolate croissants from the oven he knew they were done for the morning. Gio and William filled the cases with three types of croissants, bear claws, guava, and sweet cheese pastries, filled horns, zucchini bread, lemon poppy seed bread, a variety of muffins, and two kinds of breakfast oatmeal cookies. The challah bread was sliced, and several loaves of brioche were ready for the breakfast sandwiches.
“Looks good, my man.” William quirked up the side of his mouth as he looked at the case from the front which Gio adjusted things to make the layout as attractive to customers as possible.
“You and Sandee, as always, did an amazing job. Once we get the cafe open, I want to work on the cookies, brownies, blondies, the individual pies, and the cupcakes, and we should work on those new cake pop flavors. I have a couple of interviews for what we discussed about bringing in a cake artist.”
“You’re really serious about expanding into catering?”
“I’m still on the fence about it. I don’t know how far I want to take it, but I still want a cake artist for all of the requests we get.”
“I saw Jenna and Winston come in so if you’re ready I’ll flip the sign and we’ll open up.”
“Thanks, William.” Gio loved his business. He had started Flour and Bean a year after getting out of culinary school. He had some money set aside as an investment that he had worked hard on accumulating ever since High School when he started baking as an outlet. He had been taught to bake at his Grandmother’s knee from the time he was five years old and showed an interest. Gio loved being in the kitchen making cookies, cakes, or whatever sweet treat his Grandmother wanted to make that day.
Being a Southern woman living in California had been hard for her as she didn’t have access at that time to some of the things she loved, so she had learned to make do. Gio’s mother was a single mom and had worked two jobs to make ends meet to take care of Gio and his younger sister, Heather. When they moved in with his Grandmother full time when Gio was twelve, that was when his life upended.
Gio’s mother and Grandmother fought constantly over the slightest things. It did not help things when Phyllis Kates decided she wanted to date. Gio’s Grandmother, Maria Elena Kates, took offense to her daughter ‘philandering’ when she had children at home to take care of. Gio began to retreat into the kitchen more and more, baking and coming up with recipes of his own.
In Junior High, Gio got in trouble for selling off some of his sweet treats to teachers and fellow students without a license to do so. That forced Gio to research how to begin his own business. He would spend hours in his room researching first with books he found at the library, then later online when his absentee Father had gifted him a laptop. His mother had tried to take it away, but the fight that ensued was horrible with Gio running away to his best friends house for a few days. His mother conceded and let him keep the computer. It had been a horrible fight in which his mother almost slapped him. Phyllis was horrified at her actions, but it broke something in their relationship because they were never the same after.
At fourteen, Gio made a business plan, at fifteen he obtained a license as long as he found a commercial kitchen to bake out of. Luckily the city he grew up in had a commercial kitchen that aspiring cooks and caterers just starting out could rent by the hour. He took the money he had made previously and signed up for a weekly time slot at the kitchen. When his Mother and Grandmother started fighting more and more, Gio had a place to go to get away from it all. He began selling at the High School, but only in the cafeteria and only during certain times of the day. He did well and often sold out of his things almost every single day.
Gio set aside the money he made from his baked goods, as well as doing summer jobs, money from family for birthday’s, Christmas’, and other special occasions. After getting out of Culinary School he worked for a year in a few high-end pastry shops in places like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood. He saved every penny he could and when he found the right space to open his own place, Gio jumped on it. Now almost five years later the cafe was turning a profit and Gio was thinking of expanding.
All of this went through Gio’s mind as he went back to the kitchen to begin the next part of the day’s baking.
Around noon, Gio put together something for himself to eat and went to sit in the main part of the cafe. It made him proud to see happy diners sitting around smiling and praising the food they were eating. Gio was a little lost in his head when a voice that he recognized as a frequent customer, one he didn’t want to admit he had a crush on, pulled him out of his thoughts.
“Gio, I haven’t seen you around the last week.” Kevin McMichaels stood there in all of his six-foot-two-inch glory and Gio had to take a drink to of his iced tea to whet his throat enough to be able to make, hopefully, decent conversation.
“Kevin.” Gio smiled and waved at the open space at his table and watched as Kevin folded himself effortlessly onto the seat. “I ah, I’ve been busy working on a proposal. I don’t know if it’s something I want to go through with or not, but I’ve been toying around with it.”
“I think you could do whatever it is you’re planning.” Kevin sipped at his coffee making Gio blush at the look he was getting. To help cover up how he was feeling he finished up his sandwich and took a long drink of his iced tea.
“Do I make you nervous, Gio?” Kevin had to go and smile that damn smile.
“Honestly, yes you do.”
Kevin slid out of his chair leaned in close to Gio and whispered in his ear, “Good. See you tomorrow.”
Gio watched as Kevin threw his things away while sipping at his coffee then walked out of the café. Kevin made him both nervous, and excited in equal measure. However, in the two years that Kevin had been coming into the café he never actually took things further. There was a part of Gio that was pissed off that Kevin kept doing this to him and never even hinted at anything further. He hated mind games and Gio felt that Kevin was playing some kind of game that he didn’t know the rules of. Besides, Gio had a date later that night. He would put Kevin ‘Jackass’ McMichaels out of his mind and move on with the rest of his day.
* * * * *
“Italian and Irish, huh?” Bradley, not Brad, but Bradley with an ey Jones, asked as he leaned forward attempting to look sexy. Gio found the whole thing pretentious and boring. Not wanting to insult his date, Gio kept the sigh internal.
“Yeah. Not as interesting as you think. My parents met in New York and after getting married moved to California. Mom’s the Italian side and my Grandmother was the one that taught me to bake.”
“Must have been an interesting childhood.”
“No. Not really. My Dad wasn’t around much after the divorce. So, you run a bookstore in San Bernardino. That’s quite the commute.”
“Actually it’s near the Harvey Mudd Colleges. I get a lot of traffic from the college crowd. I don’t mind the commute, gives me quiet time in the morning to ponder.”
Gio steered the conversation away from his childhood and back to other subjects in an attempt to find something in common. Gio could tell Bradley, with an ey, wasn’t quite into the date either, but they both soldiered on anyway trying to find some kind of common ground. That was until someone came into the restaurant Gio immediately recognized.
“Gio?” Kevin walked in with a group of friends Gio recognized from the Café. There was a harsh tone in the man’s voice that had Gio lifting a brow in question.
“Hello, Kevin. This is Bradley, my date.” Gio and Bradley stood, shaking hands and introductions went all around.
“How is your date going then?” That tone was back and Gio full on frowned at Kevin.
“I think it’s going rather well, what do you think, Bradley?”
Bradley looked between the men and smiled while taking Gio’s hand and lifting to his lips to kiss the back. Gio didn’t even try to stop the little squeak that came out of his mouth, but then smiled back at Bradley when he saw the playful glint in his eyes. He still hated games, but Kevin had no reason to be mad, his teasing Gio over the last couple of years had led nowhere and Gio had a right to a life outside of the café.
“Gio is the perfect gentlemen and our conversation has been lively, to say the least.” Bradley got into the role Gio wanted him to play, making Gio snicker under his breath.
“Well, I’ll leave you two alone then. I hope you have a good evening.” Kevin was curt and his expression was closed off when he walked away. Gio had to wonder if Kevin was actually hurt seeing him out on a date. Staring after Kevin as he sat down Gio mulled over the interaction as he frowned while leaning back in his chair.
“I take it you two know each other?” Bradley went back to his dinner, but the underlying curiosity in his eyes had Gio almost rolling his.
“He comes into my Cafe almost every day.” Gio finished off his coffee after pushing away his plate. He no longer wanted anything to eat as his stomach rolled a little after the weird encounter with Kevin.
“I see. Is there something going on I should know about here?” Bradley ate one of his shrimp but after laid his fork and knife across the plate, pushing the plate towards the middle of the table, and leaned against the edge.
“No. At least I don’t think there is anything going on because all he does is tease. The flirting and joking is fun, but it never goes anywhere and I don’t want to play games. I’ve had too much of that in my life before I started my business.” Gio sighed and threw his napkin on the table in frustration.
“Look, you’re a really great guy and we both know that we aren’t going to have a second date. My advice is to make him talk to you. If there is something there, he should act like an adult and tell you what he feels. If not, you have every right to move on.” Bradley’s crooked, almost wistful smile had Gio feeling sorry that they had not hit it off. He was now feeling disingenuous about how he had treated Bradley in his mind when they first sat down to dinner. He was a nice guy, but they were just too different.
“Thanks. And, truly I’m sorry about tonight.”
“Hey, dating sucks, and not in a fun, sexy way.” Gio laughed at Bradley’s bad joke, but it made him like the man just a little more. “To be honest, I think you have a thing for Kevin that you don’t want to acknowledge. Maybe you need to think about why you haven’t asked him out.”
Gio looked off to the side and rubbed at that knot in his stomach that had formed when Kevin walked into the restaurant. There was something to what Bradley was saying and Gio knew he probably needed to find out from Kevin what the man really wanted.
* * * * *
Three days after his failed date, Gio had not seen Kevin come into the café. The man was like clockwork and always came in at the same time every day except weekends. Gio knew he shouldn’t be angry about it, they were both adults, but it felt as if Kevin was pouting. Gio worked on a new recipe, he was experimenting with some chocolate confections. He always made a handful of boxed chocolates for the holidays and they always sold out fast, but he had never put any on the menu at Flour and Bean. Gio wanted to try out a few truffles, bonbon’s, filled chocolates, and fudge. They were going to be heavily bent towards coffee flavors and even using some spices.
Gio had a bowl with some tempered chocolate that he added some cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, toasted and ground up almonds, with a trio of ground chilies. Chipotle, Arbol, and Guajillo dried chilies combined to make a smoky, sweet, and spicy combination that he added to the chocolate a little at a time. He wanted that balance of flavors. Gio also used some hand-ground piloncillo, a Mexican sugar that is made from cane sugar which is boiled down until the cane juice has evaporated. It’s less sweet than pure refined sugar but has a deep rich caramel taste profile. Gio ground the sugar down and added a teaspoon at a time until he got the chocolate where he wanted it. He kept the chocolate at a perfect temper until he was ready to add the cream cheese and sweet cream that would turn the chocolate into velvety smooth truffles.
While he worked, Gio put Kevin out of his mind until after he had the truffle mixture in the refrigerator. Taking a break he went to go make himself some tea and grabbed a sandwich out of the front case. He happened to look up after plating his food and saw Kevin walking in.
Gio did not say a thing. If Kevin wanted to talk to him, he would have to make the first move. Gio was not being petty, he did not want to play games and it felt like that was what Kevin was doing. Playing with him. Before sitting down Gio pulled his notebook out of his apron he was still wearing and started to plan some of the other confections, even sketching out how he wanted them to look. Taking a sip of tea he concentrated on what he was doing and not on the fact that Kevin was sitting across from him.
“I suppose I should apologize for my behavior the other day. I had no reason to be jealous.” Kevin spoke making Gio look away from what he was writing and focusing on Kevin.
“I don’t like games, Kevin. For two years you’ve come in here, flirting, teasing, making suggestive comments and you have never once given me any indication that you wanted anything more. I do have the right to a private life outside of the café. If you want to be friends, we can be friends, if you want something more you need to tell me.” Gio was annoyed and he let Kevin know exactly how annoyed he felt. He had enjoyed the flirting and teasing, but if this was something more he wanted Kevin to let him know.
“Does it make sense when I tell you that I’ve been scared to ask you out? That it’s been easier to keep you at a distance and flirt with you than to take that next step?” Kevin was at least making eye contact with Gio which gave more weight to his questions. “I like you, a lot, and I like seeing you every day. But, I know I should act like an adult and actually ask you if you’d like to go out on a date with me.”
Gio pondered the question. He liked Kevin, probably more than he should after only short conversations over the last two years, but he felt like they could actually be something together. He could admit he was nervous. Gio needed to know something before he accepted.
“Are you always a jealous asshole?” Gio lifted the corner of his mouth and his eyes stayed watching Kevin.
“I deserved that,” Kevin sighed as he sipped the coffee he had bought, but let go cold as they sat there talking. “I was a jealous asshole, but that isn’t normally how I am. It caught me off guard seeing you like that, outside the cafe. I can’t promise that I will never get jealous, but I can promise that I will try my best to keep it in check.”
Gio nodded as he lifted his tea up and took a long drink before setting the glass back on the table.
“Thursday night, you can pick me up at my apartment above the cafe at 8:00. You have to plan the date and I am not into games or passive-aggressive non-commital plans.”
Kevin smiled and Gio did not even try to stop the nervous flip in his stomach.
“All right, Thursday at 8:00.” Kevin slid out of the chair and walked closer to Gio, who was still sitting. Kevin bent down as he reached out to cup Gio’s cheek. “If I don’t ask you if I can kiss you right now, I will regret it until I see you again.”
Gio laughed while he reached up and grabbed Kevin’s shirt at the neck and pulled the man closer to him. “Yes, you can kiss me.”
Kevin smiled as he leaned down, pressing his lips against Gio’s in a soft, but chaste kiss.
“I liked that.” Kevin stood tall, grabbed his coffee up and looked back at Gio once more before leaving the cafe.
Gio stood and walked back towards his kitchen with a bounce to his step. As he passed by the counter where William was working he heard a quiet ‘about fucking time’ before he got all the way into the kitchen. Gio was looking forward to his first date with Kevin in the hopes it was the beginning of many, many more.