05 - Burnt Food

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Prof walked back to the head of the class, leaving me alone with my new protégé. I turned to look at Rian, one eyebrow raised. Ever since I told him off, he hadn't stopped studying me. Those obsidian orbs were relentlessly boring into my being.

It was getting annoying.

"Hey," I said, snapping my fingers in front of him. His gaze refocused on me, unflinching. "Let's test just how much you know," I challenged, smiling devilishly. "You ever make ratatouille before?"

Rian frowned, his rosy lips turning downward ever so slightly. "The French dish?"

"Yep," I said, grabbing my apron off the kitchen's coat hook. I wrapped it around my waist, tying the strings firmly behind my back. "I'm gonna show you how to cook it."

He tilted his head, his brow furrowing. "Doesn't that involve cutting several different types of vegetables, and preparing a side dish as well?"

"So you really did study up, huh?" I said, amused. "Well, you're right. This way, I can show you how to use several different knives and throw in a lesson on seasoning, all in one go." I turned and started to collect my set of culinary knives, assembling them on the counter.

"The books I read described it as a complex gourmet dish."

"What's your point?"

"Is it really suitable for a beginner to make this? Everyone will be tasting it afterwards."

I paused, glancing back at him. "Are you nervous?" I raised an eyebrow, a note of amused incredulity in my voice.

Rian's gaze darkened when my eyes met his. "Not at all," he replied. He surveyed me for a moment longer. Against my will, I found myself drawn into his stare. 

"Are you?" he asked abruptly.

"Huh?" I returned, surprised.

"Are you nervous?" There was an intensity to his voice that caught me off guard. "You are responsible for me, after all." He took a step in my direction. I turned to face him completely, feeling myself being pulled further in. "Wouldn't it reflect badly on you if the dish I make tastes horrible?"

I was face to face with him now. He took another step towards me, still with that intense glint in his eyes. I resisted the urge to grab the kitchen counter as a crutch—it felt like his stare placed a physical weight on me. The right side of my ribcage twinged painfully.

"Well?" he asked again. "Are you?"

I mentally dragged myself back to the present and forced my mind to focus on his question. Squaring my shoulders, I tried to communicate my honesty through my face.

"Rian," I said evenly. He stiffened when I said his name, but I pushed on anyway.

"I'm not nervous," I said truthfully. "I'm not worried—not in the slightest. You'll be fine."

He searched my eyes, no doubt looking for signs I was lying. "How do you know?" he questioned, expressionless as ever.

"Well," I said, grinning broadly. "You are learning from me, after all."

He seemed to freeze then, the tiniest bit of shock creeping into his face. My grin morphed into a smirk—even if it was at the very end, I was a bit proud of myself for cracking that icy exterior of his.

Turning back around, I started reassembling the culinary knives. After a moment, I heard Rian moving to go pick up an apron from the hook behind me. I took the opportunity to let out a shaky breath. How could someone pack so much into just one look?

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