CHAPTER FOURTEEN

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"I meant, we were always good at arguing," I murmur in a voice so husky it sounds foreign to my ears. He offers no response to my explanation, his piercing gaze holds mine. "It's a miracle we didn't end up killing each other," I continue breathlessly, in an attempt to jokingly diffuse the intensity between us. It doesn't work. The air around us remains charged.

I feel warm; flushed even. My heart thumps in my chest as he leans further over the table. My body instinctively follows, stopping when my waist reaches the obstacle between us. With our faces inches apart, his gaze drops to my lips. Ethan is going to kiss me and I want him to; need him to. I lick my bottom lip in anticipation. His dark eyes slide back to mine; whatever he sees in their depths encourages him to move closer.  I hold my breath as he begins to close the short distance between us.

The sound of someone clearing their throat breaks us from our moment. Leaning back into my seat, I reluctantly slide my attention towards the source of the noise and I'm met with Betty's friendly smile. Suddenly the loud chatter of the surrounding customers, the aroma of baked goods and the busy cafe come back into focus. Telling myself to breathe, I give her a smile that I hope isn't tinged with the guilt and embarrassment I feel. "Betty, hi!"

"Hey, Charlotte," She says as her attention shifts to Ethan and then back to me. The subtle raise of her brows and tight-lipped smile tells me that the strain in my voice and the flush in both our cheeks has not gone unnoticed.

"This is Ethan, the best man."  I gesture towards him. "Ethan, this is Betty. Baker extraordinaire and owner of this amazing establishment."

"Hi, Ethan," Betty says warmly.

I follow her gaze and look to Ethan expectantly. His blank stare disappears when he realizes our attention is on him. Clearing his throat he forms an easy smile. "Pleasure to meet you, Betty."

I'm not the only one affected by what almost happened. 

"We studied at the Culinary Institute of America together for four years."  I avoid his stare as I say this.

"That feels like a lifetime ago," Betty says nostalgically.

"It's been eight whole years,"  I say, stating the obvious. How much time has passed since Ethan and I almost kissed? Two whole minutes. I take a steadying breath and tell myself to keep calm. The cheeky smirk on Ethan's lips when I glance his way has my heart racing all over again.  Concerned that he has gained the ability to read minds, I turn all my attention back to Betty, "the bride and groom can't make it so the maid of honor and best man are here to save the day."

My voice is too cheery, my words too rushed, my mind still hazy from the almost-kiss.

"You are both so considerate." She says with a wink as she reaches to the center of the table and places a wooden board between us.  "Here we have all the tasting flavors." 

I feel my eyes widen in shock as I comprehend the assortment of cake slices, each of varying colors. How did I not notice she was carrying a plate of heaven that entire time? It would have nothing to do with the man opposite me. The same man that currently looks at me as though I'm the thing he wants to indulge in.  

"......and that last one is hummingbird."

I look to Betty as I hear the end of her sentence. I nod in acknowledgment and thank her, pretending as though I heard her every word. 

"Let me know which flavors you guys decide on. Enjoy!" Placing two spoons on the table, her high blonde ponytail sways as she turns and makes her way back to her post behind the counter. 

Glancing at the glass display, I notice the variety of cakes, cupcakes, and biscuits for the first time since entering. Although this place is my idea of paradise, I'm overwhelmed with the sudden urge to flee. My awareness of Ethan is too heightened, the emotion too raw. I don't trust him to keep his hands to himself and, worst of all, I'm not entirely sure I can trust myself to. Clutching the spoon closest to me, I dig into the first delectable slice, deciding that getting this done quickly is best. I roll my eyes in ecstasy the second the rich chocolate flavor reaches my tongue.

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