Tales of food, sex and friendship




Archive for April, 2011

Hot Cross Buns

April 28, 2011


Although these baked delicacies are generally specific to a particular time of year, you can actually make them anytime. If you fancy, just don’t put the crosses on! This particular recipe is great for those who don’t like too much fruit in their buns, but if you would rather more, you can always add it. Perfect on a cold afternoon with a hot cup of tea.

Buns

500g plain flour

2 tsp dried bakers yeast

230ml milk (lukewarm)

60g sugar

90g butter

1 egg

1tsp salt

60-100g currant and sultanas (depending on taste)

Egg yolk for glazing

Sugar and milk for glazing

Serve with fresh butter and honey or homemade jam. Makes 16.

Cross Mixture

Make a paste of flour, sugar and milk. It should be the consistency of icing.

Put flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Combine yeast with milk and sugar and pour into the centre of the well. Stir in a little of the flour until it is about pancake batter consistency. Place cubes of butter onto the flour at the top of the well. Cover and place in a warm place for at least 20 minutes. When it has doubled in volume, add egg, salt, cinnamon, currents and sultanas. Knead thoroughly until dough is elastic and smooth. Sprinkle with flour and cover with cloth and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in volume again (about an hour). Divide dough into 16 equal portions and shape into round buns. With scissors, snip the top of the buns so that you make a cross. Brush with egg yolk and allow to rise again in a warm place for about 20 minutes (until each bun has doubled in size). Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Pipe the cross mixture into the crosses on the top of the buns.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with a mixture of sugar and milk and then return to the oven for another two minutes to dry. Enjoy immediately or allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

Season 2: Episode 9

April 26, 2011

The house was rich with smells of cinnamon, nutmeg and dried fruit as Willow pulled a tray of hot cross buns out of the oven. She loved Easter – not because of the religious significance it held for so many – but for the very fact that, guilt-free, you could eat freshly baked hot cross buns with mountains of butter.

As with most of Willow’s baking, today’s offering served a higher purpose. She’d grown tired of waiting for Carlo to call, so she’d decided that it was time to take things into her own hands. It was the 21st century, for crying out loud. Since when did a girl have to wait for a guy to call her? There was one small problem, of course. In her haze of lust the other week, she hadn’t remembered to get his phone number.

“Doesn’t matter,” Willow said, as she inhaled the warm aroma from the tray in front of her. “I know where he lives!”

Why it had taken her this long to figure out she could go visit him was held in sharp relief to the fact that she now realised she should go and visit him. She pushed to the back of her mind the niggling doubt that, had he wanted to see her again, he probably would have called. He was just a guy who obviously didn’t know what he was missing out on. And, besides, who could resist a gorgeous woman bearing baked goods?

She carefully wrapped some of the buns in a clean tea towel, put them in an attractive wicker basket with some butter and homemade cherry jam, and grabbed her car keys. She whistled as she walked towards her car, excitement bubbling through her.

Willow’s bravado began to waver as she approached the Art Deco apartment building. Again, she wondered how he could afford such an amazing place. She hadn’t realised that being a chef in Italy was so lucrative. She also had no idea how long he was planning to stay in Australia, but the fact he had an apartment here was probably an indication (she hoped) that it was going to be a while.

“Details, details,” she muttered to herself.

Willow buzzed the intercom for Carlo’s penthouse apartment but there was no answer. Not willing to admit defeat so easily, she loitered outside the security door in the hope that someone would either come in or out. She could leave the hot cross buns with a note outside his apartment.

It’s not stalking, she reasoned with herself. It’s demonstrating admiration without reciprocity.

She didn’t need to wait long. An elderly gentleman, dressed head-to-toe in what appeared to be Ralph Lauren, emerged from inside the building as Willow pretended to search her handbag for keys.

“They smell good,” he said, indicating to the basket of hot cross buns she held in her hand. “Any spares?” he winked at her as he held the door open.

Willow laughed. She unwrapped a corner of the tea towel. “Go on.” He had let her in, after all.

“Don’t tell my wife,” he whispered conspiratorially and took a bite. “Delicious!” he said as he walked outside, leaving her alone in the foyer of the building.

Willow entered the lift and hit the button for the penthouse. She used the mirror in the lift to check her hair, obsessively smoothing a few stray strands near her ears. She was nervous again.

He’s not even there, she told herself, so why are you freaking out?

When she reached Carlo’s front door, Willow placed the basket on the ground. The buns had cooled almost completely, but their spicy, warm smell still lingered in the air.  She pulled out a pen and some paper to write a note but hesitated, giving a tentative knock on his door instead, just in case.

To her surprise, the door flung open, and she was confronted with Carlo, wrapped in a crisp white towel, his hair damp from the shower. He smelled of shampoo and soap. She instantly felt herself distracted by the warmth emanating from his body. His face went through a range of emotions, but ended up on something resembling delight, which Willow took to be an OK sign.

“Willow!” He pulled her into a hug and kissed the top of her head. “You must think that I am terrible.”

Willow started to speak, but he cut her off.

“I’ve been wanting to call. I’ve been waiting for you to come to the market so I could see you. I lost your phone number, I didn’t know where you lived…” He took her hand and kissed it, muttering apologies the whole time. “Willow, I have been in agony, desperate to see you again.”

Of course! He had lost her phone number! It all made perfect sense now.

Willow’s face split into a huge smile and all her nervous energy melted away. “Well, it’s lucky I came to you then, isn’t it.” She quickly bent to retrieve the basket. “And I brought breakfast.”

“My darling Willow,” Carlo said as he swooped her inside and closed the door.

***

They didn’t get to breakfast straight away. But they sated their appetites in other ways, exploring each other’s bodies until exhausted and they could do nothing but lie, limbs entwined, their breaths heavy and even.

Carlo languidly rolled over and looked up at the living room clock (they hadn’t even made it into the bedroom). “Oh no,” he breathed, his eyes apologetic. “I have to go.”

Willow smiled at him and tried to quell her unhappiness at the prospect that he would leave. But, she had arrived unannounced. She couldn’t just expect him to put all his plans on hold.

Carlo leapt up and then leaned down to give her a kiss. “I’m just going to use the shower. Wait for me and we can walk out together.”

She nodded and continued to lie on the floor for a few seconds after he left the room. Stretching, she looked around for her clothes, which had been flung across every nearby piece of furniture, and saw the hot cross buns sitting on the counter. Willow suddenly remembered how hungry she was.

Pulling on her dress, she padded over to the kitchen to grab a bun. She heard the shower turn on and the sound of Carlo stepping in. Taking a bite at one of her creations, Willow marvelled at how light and fluffy they were. Could these be the best batch yet?

As she was giving herself an imaginary pat on the back for her baking prowess, the telephone in the apartment rang. She waited to see if Carlo would get out of the shower to answer it, but he didn’t so she shrugged and let the answering machine pick up, taking another bite of her late breakfast. A woman’s voice disrupted her reverie. Willow paused mid-bite.

“Carlo? Are you there?” There was a pause and then a sigh. “My meeting has been delayed and I’m not going to be back until Monday. I hope you’re enjoying the apartment and have made yourself at home.”

Cousin? Willow thought, feeling unsettled. Old friend, perhaps?

The woman’s voice dropped to a softer, huskier tone. “I can’t wait for another night like the one we had before I left. And don’t forget you promised to make me the baked tomatoes, seeing as we didn’t get to them last time.” She uttered a throaty laugh. “Ciao,” she said, then hung up.

Willow was stunned. Her mouth, full of hot cross bun, had dropped open in disbelief. That lying, cheating son of a bitch! He hadn’t lost her number! He was shacked up in some other woman’s apartment and was using it as his own personal… brothel! She didn’t even want to think of how many other women he’d had since her.

The shower had turned off. Willow grabbed her bag and flung it over her shoulder, heading for the exit. She didn’t feel like making a scene and, besides, Carlo didn’t even deserve the chance to try to explain his way out of this. She yanked open the front door, paused, ran back inside to pick up the basket of hot cross buns, and ran out of the apartment.

As she reached the main entrance she nearly bowled over the same elderly gentleman who had ushered her in earlier, the weekend newspapers and a carton of milk now in his hand.

“Here.” Willow thrust the baked goods into his hands as he propped the door open with his foot. “Enjoy.”

He watched, bemused, as the charming young girl fled across the road to her car. He was still standing there as she drove off, holding his hand up in a wave.

“Thank you!” he called out to the retreating car. The man looked down at the unexpected basket of buns in his hands, eager to try another. The sample he’d had earlier was like none other he’d eaten before, with the perfect balance of cinnamon and – what was it? Orange peel? He was struck by how much those buns seemed to be like their maker.

Spicy, sweet and a little… unusual.

 

Black Olive Tapenade

April 21, 2011


This dip is a delicious entree for any occasion. The almond meal tones down the strong flavour of the olives, and gives it a creamy texture. Don’t be afraid of the anchovies – they add a lovely richness without being overpowering.

Serve with warmed bread, crackers or vegetable dipping sticks. Makes one cup.

2/3 cup pitted kalamata olives

1/3 cup almond meal

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 salted anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained and coarsely chopped

A few sprigs of fresh oregano

Black pepper

Olive oil – about 1/4 cup, depending on taste

Place the olives, anchovies, garlic, almond meal and oregano in a food processor and whiz until finely chopped. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream until the the mixture forms a smooth paste. Add black pepper to taste. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container.

Season 2: Episode 8

April 19, 2011

At exactly 6:30pm the doorbell rang.

Regardless of the fact everyone else had gone out for the evening – Ana to Tom’s and Willow with some work friends – Mia knew the door was for her. He said he’d pick her up at 6:30 and here he was, right on time. Mia usually appreciated punctuality. She thought it was a forgotten courtesy, lost thanks to mobile phones. But tonight, the promptness of the doorbell frustrated her.

Tonight, Nick was taking her out on a ‘surprise’ date.

Mia wasn’t sure she liked surprises. A surprise was something you couldn’t plan for, couldn’t control. And if there was one thing Mia couldn’t tolerate, it was feeling out of control. This was compounded by the fact that she would rather have been going out with Johnny and resented the fact that Nick had got in first. She wondered, if Johnny had planned the surprise, whether she would be as grumpy. She suspected not.

I’m a bitch, Mia thought as she took a deep breath, plastered a fake smile on her face and opened the door.

“You look beautiful,” Nick exclaimed, sounding as though he really meant it.

Yep. Total bitch, Mia thought to herself guiltily. Heartless and cold.

***

Mia pulled her lightweight trench coat around her tightly. The evening air was crisp and perfectly autumnal and she could smell a wood fire burning somewhere in the vicinity.

“You won’t tell me where we’re going?” she asked again.

Nick laughed. “The point of it being a surprise, Mia, is precisely that I don’t tell you where we are going.”

She smiled thinly. They walked together, at first in silence but then Nick started chatting about the weather, work, and life in general. Mia started to relax. She’d been so caught up in the whole Johnny thing that she’d forgotten what good company Nick actually was. Sure, he didn’t send her heart racing every time she looked at him any more, but he was funny and smart and could carry a conversation.

They were locked in an animated discussion about whether couscous or quinoa was the more delicious grain (Mia was on the side of quinoa and Nick was rallying support for – in Mia’s opinion – its inferior cousin. “It’s so good they named it twice!” was the basis of his argument) when Nick announced:

“We’re here!”

Mia looked up to see where ‘here’ was. She panicked. It could have been anywhere in Melbourne, but Nick had chosen the last place on Earth she wanted to be.

Medina.

Johnny’s restaurant.

Nick talked excitedly. “…I was so lucky they had a cancellation, it’s impossible to get a reservation…”

He held the door open for her. Mia glanced around cautiously as she stepped into the beautifully lit and atmospheric bar. No sign of Johnny. Then she remembered – Johnny had asked her out tonight as well, which meant he probably wasn’t working. But the relief was short-lived when she saw him appear from behind the bar. He faltered for only a second.

“This is where you chose to come for your date?”

“It was a surprise,” Mia said quickly. “I didn’t know.”

Poor Nick looked puzzled. “You two know each other?”

“Yes,” they said in unison. Neither of them elaborated.

***

They had to wait for their table, so Nick pulled up a stool at the bar for Mia to sit on. Johnny took their drink orders silently and then wandered to the other end of the bar to clean glasses. Mia could see the muscles in his jaw working overtime. He looked up and they locked eyes. Mia’s pulse raced and she quickly dropped her gaze, taking a large sip of her wine, hoping that Nick didn’t notice her flushed cheeks.

“Johnny!”

Both Mia and Johnny looked towards the voice.

Johnny recognised the girl, but couldn’t place her. Where did he know her from? Or, worse, where didn’t he remember her from? She was young – much younger than he generally allowed himself to get involved with – but she had that twinkle in her eye, as though they shared a naughty secret…

We couldn’t have, Johnny thought to himself. Could we?

Mia’s eyes travelled over the shapely body of the girl who had just walked in and she couldn’t suppress the pang of envy. This girl was young and beautiful. She didn’t need to worry yet about that extra glass of wine or piece of chocolate, or getting up early to make sure she had time to go for a run to work off said wine and chocolate. Surely she was way too young for Johnny? It would be practically illegal!

They can’t have, Mia thought to herself. Could they?

The girl laughed, tossing her chestnut brown hair around as though she were the star of a Pantene commercial. “Cecelia,” she said, leaning across the bar to Johnny. “Remember? From Flinders.”

Johnny’s smile was a little forced. Of course, Claude’s niece. Or, as he remembered her, the mango girl. He’d done his best to avoid giving her his number but, now, here she was in his restaurant. With Mia sitting just a few metres away.

Cecelia had turned to her companion and was explaining – loudly enough for the whole restaurant to hear – about the “special connection” that she and Johnny had.

She turned to Johnny and clasped her hands together in delight, a final toss of the hair for good measure. “…and now I know where you work, we’ll get to see each other all the time!”

At the other end of the bar, Mia nearly choked on her wine.

***

The night just went from bad to worse. Even though she and Nick were now seated towards the back of the restaurant, Mia still had a front-row view of the “Cecelia show”. The girl was flirting like a pro – much more advanced than someone of her tender years. As a result, Mia found it difficult to concentrate on a word Nick was saying. Instead, she was focused on not leaping from her seat and killing the ridiculous child who was fawning all over Johnny with her inane giggling and hair tossing.

On the other side of the room, Johnny was doing his best not to stare towards their table. From here, he had a perfect view of their intimate conversation, of Nick feeding Mia morsels of food and looking like a love-sick puppy. Johnny noticed the guy couldn’t take his eyes off Mia; that he was oblivious to anything and everything else.

It’s disgusting, Johnny thought furiously, that a grown man would behave like that in public.

Nick and Cecelia – unwitting bit players in the unfolding drama – were completely oblivious to any of the tensions that were brewing across the dining room.

And the food? As always, it was excellent.

***

Mia declined dessert, saying that she had to get up early tomorrow morning for work. Nick had insisted on walking her home. At her front door, she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and closed the door behind her, leaving him standing there, puzzled.

Officially the biggest bitch in the world, she thought to herself, as she walked upstairs to bed.

Mia tossed and turned all night , thinking of nothing but Johnny.

***

As it turned out, Johnny’s night ended much later. Cecelia had stayed until closing, refusing to take Johnny’s hints that he wanted to be alone. Johnny sighed. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want it at all. But he was tired, lonely and depressed. Mia wasn’t interested – she’d made that abundantly clear. He couldn’t be bothered having an altercation with Cecelia, and suspected it would be easier just to go with the flow in this situation. So he did, thinking of nothing but Mia the whole time.

Red Berries with Ricotta, Mint and Honey

April 14, 2011


A desert to compliment any meal. Creamy ricotta, tart berries and sweet honey – perfectly balanced with the freshness of mint. Just try not to end up wearing it, like Johnny!

Serves 6.

3 punnets strawberries, hulled and chopped

2 punnets raspberries (you can use frozen raspberries if fresh are not available)

200 grams fresh ricotta

handful fresh mint, finely chopped

honey to taste

In a bowl place the berries. Break the ricotta into small chunks and sprinkle over the top. Add mint and honey to taste (about a tablespoon). Mix gently together so that the raspberries don’t fall apart, and serve. Can be made earlier and left in refrigerator if you want the flavours to combine more.

Season 2: Episode 7

April 12, 2011

“Why hasn’t he called?” Willow demanded, for about the 700th time that day. She threw down the tea towel she’d been using to dry the dishes and stomped her foot on the ground. “He said he would call!”

Ana and Mia looked at each other. Whose turn was it to placate her? They’d never seen Willow so upset by a man before – she usually just brushed these things off with a laugh and some baked goods. After her “amazing” 24-hour date last weekend, Willow had been floating on cloud nine. But it had gradually downgraded to cloud eight by Tuesday, four by Thursday and today, Saturday, she had moved into negatives. Cloud minus-three. Carlo had said he would call, but he hadn’t.

“He’s probably been busy with, ahhh… work,” Ana was clutching at straws. It was hard when neither she nor Mia had met the man Willow had fallen for so hard, so fast. He sounded great, they couldn’t deny it, but perhaps a bit too good to be true?

Willow sighed. “You’re right. Of course, you’re right.”

Neither of them wanted to be the one to break it to her that, perhaps, Carlo was not good news.

For the first time in ages, the girls were all home together. They had invited Tom and Johnny over for dinner – or, rather, Ana had invited Tom and Johnny over – so they were preparing an easy meal. Although, Ana was beginning to regret the impromptu dinner party invitation. Neither of her co-hosts seemed to be in particularly good sprits, both of them undertaking preparation tasks with about as much enthusiasm as if readying for a trip to the dentist. Mia was doing her best impression of a mime, having barely said three words since she had got home from work. Willow – who had refused to go to the market for fear of seeing Carlo – was making a salad with the ingredients she had made Ana fetch, while she verbally dissected – again – every interaction she had ever had with Carlo.

“So Mia, are you going to see Nick again soon?” Ana said, trying to both move the topic away from Carlo and elicit some kind of conversation from her silent housemate.

“Dunno,” Mia mumbled before turning her attention back to shelling the prawns.

She can’t get hers to stop calling, and mine won’t call at all,” snapped Willow, uncharacteristically.

“Well, maybe you should swap!” Ana bit back, exasperated.

There was silence for a second before Willow gave a sheepish smile. “I sound like a broken record, don’t I?”

She went to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of chilled wine, opening it and pouring three glasses. She raised her glass. “I promise that I won’t mention the C word again. For tonight, at least.”

At that moment, Tom jogged into the kitchen. “Has he called?” he asked Willow, breathlessly.

***

“I’ll get dessert ready,” Mia said, after they had all had their fill of prawns and fresh salad.

She wandered into the kitchen, grateful to be away from the table. She’d felt Johnny’s eyes on her the whole night and was trying her best to be cool, calm and collected, but felt she was failing. Miserably.

She opened the fridge, closing her eyes and letting the cool air rush out and calm her crimson cheeks.

“Can I help?”

She turned abruptly.

Johnny.

Mia smiled shyly. “Sure. Wash these?”

She passed him punnets of fresh strawberries and raspberries, recoiling quickly as his hands brushed hers. They worked in silence for a little while, Johnny washing and hulling, and Mia chopping the berries into bite-size pieces, adding fresh ricotta, honey and mint.

Mia eventually broke the silence. “Sorry about the other night. I had a… work thing on. Couldn’t get out of it.”

Johnny shrugged with a nonchalance Mia recognised but then was thoughtful for a minute. When he spoke, his voice was tentative. “We could try again tomorrow?”

Mia couldn’t suppress her grin. “Yeah, that’d be…” She trailed off. Shit! She’d already agreed to go out with Nick tomorrow. He had a surprise planned, had phoned earlier to make sure she could still come. She couldn’t cancel on him at this short notice.

“Oh, actually, I’ve got another… work thing on tomorrow night. Next week, maybe?”

Just at that moment Tom and Willow strolled into the kitchen carrying a stack of plates each.

“Hey Mia, I keep forgetting to ask. How was your hot date last weekend?” Tom said.

Mia glanced at Johnny. He was holding a bowl of berries so tightly his knuckles had turned white.

“It was no big deal,” Mia said as casually as she could. “Not a date, really.”

Willow snorted and put down the plates. “No big deal?” She turned to Tom. “She has been in love with this guy for, like, ever! And they’re going out again tomorrow night.”

It was as if the bowl just disintegrated in his hands, because all of a sudden Johnny had dessert all over himself, the red berries staining his white T-shirt and trickling down his hands, landing with soft plops on the tiled floor. He held up the two broken halves of the bowl, looking at them in shock.

Tom laughed. “Obviously don’t know your own strength!”

“I’m so sorry…” Johnny sounded as though he was almost in tears.

The others assured him it was OK – it was just an IKEA bowl, a remnant from their student days when the Swedish homewares seemed the pinnacle of affordable design.

Johnny looked down at his soiled clothes. “Guess I’d better get home and soak these.”

He picked up his jacket, said brief good byes and, before anyone could protest, hurried towards the front door.

“I’ll walk you out,” called Mia, following him down the hall. “Look, Johnny, I can explain…” She placed her hand on his arm when they were out of sight of the others, but he shook it off.

“Have fun at your work thing tomorrow,” he mumbled as he walked out the door.

Baked Tomatoes with Coriander

April 7, 2011


This delicious dish is perfect for breakfast or lunch. The rich sweetness of the tomatoes is perfectly complimented by spicy coriander and garlic.

Serve on thick slices of sourdough toast with avocado. Serves 6


6 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, halved

6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Extra virgin olive oil, generous slug

Bunch corinader, finely chopped

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Lay tomatoes on a baking tray, insides up. Mix garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and brush over tomatoes so each tomato half is fully coated. Bake tomatoes for 15-20 minutes, or until they soften (you still want them to retain their shape), then place under a hot grill for a few minutes until the tops blacken ever-so-slightly.

Sprinkle coriander over tomatoes and serve immediately.

 

 

Season 2: Episode 6

April 5, 2011

Willow’s heart was battering against the inside of her ribs as she stood in front of the mirror surveying her reflection. She couldn’t remember being this nervous before a date… ever! She had selected a simple black silk dress that fell just below her knees. A scoop neck emphasised her elegant collarbones and the cinched waist fell into a full skirt, which swirled around her legs as she walked. From behind, the fabric dipped daringly, exposing the length of her alabaster back in a dramatic ‘V’. She sprayed her favourite perfume into the air and walked though it so that the scent fell lightly over her body.

Not bad, she thought, giving herself one last glance in the mirror.

Mia had left an hour before on her date with Nick. Mia didn’t speak about guys all too often – she was an intensely private person when it came to her love life. She had mentioned Nick a few times in passing, which to Willow and Ana indicated true love. Willow hoped the date would cheer her friend up. She had seemed so down since Ana and Tom’s impromptu engagement party the week before.

As she wandered outside to flag down a taxi, Willow’s thoughts turned to her own night ahead. She couldn’t believe that she was finally going on a date with Carlo, the most gorgeous man she had ever set eyes on. And from the twinkle she’d noticed in his eye, he didn’t seem to think she was too bad, either.

Something about him just made her feel so feminine. Not generally a shrinking violet, Willow suddenly found herself quite happy to let this man take total control and lead her wherever he wanted to go.

***

The taxi came to a halt and Willow peered up at the apartment complex.

“Here?” The taxi driver sounded bored. He probably saw places like this everyday.

She checked the address on the piece of paper. It matched. Taking a deep breath she paid the driver and got out, glad that she had decided on a dressier outfit than she normally would for a first date.

At the crest of a hill overlooking the city, stood an immaculately preserved Art Deco building. In its grounds sat a large swimming pool and, next to that, a tennis court. A floodlit couple dressed in what looked like designer tennis whites were hitting a ball back and forth with skill that suggested professional coaching.

Christ, she thought. How does he afford this place?

She pressed the buzzer.

“Bella.”

Even his voice over the intercom sent her mad with desire.

“Top floor.”

***

He kissed her gently on both cheeks before leading her into the apartment.

“Wow.” Willow had never seen a view quite like it.

Floor-to-ceiling glass panels gave a panoramic view of Melbourne across the Yarra River. City lights twinkled in the distance and the moon shone brightly in the clear sky. She felt as though she had stumbled into a fairy tale.

Willow was snapped out of her reverie by the loud pop of a cork from a bottle of Champagne. She looked towards the open plan kitchen to see Carlo filling two glasses. She had been so taken with the view, Willow had barely noticed how handsome he looked tonight. His hair, still wet from the shower, was pushed back off his face. A light sweater was casually rolled at the sleeves, revealing muscular forearms, and Willow had never seen jeans look so good on anyone. He strode over and handed her a glass of crisp, sparkling wine.

“You look beautiful,” he said, tilting his glass in her direction before taking a sip, his eyes glinting in appreciation.

Willow sipped her Champagne, unable to take her eyes off his. She was sure her heart was beating audibly. He put his glass down, and placed one hand against her smooth cheek. He smelled of soap and spices.

He gently tilted her head and traced her jawline with feather light kisses.

She moaned softly, arching her body towards his. His lips found hers and his tongue expertly probed between her soft lips. She ran her hand down his back, underneath his jumper. His whole body responded and he kissed her with an intensity she had never known. His hands slid over the silk clinging to her curves, under the skirt of the dress then up the entire length of her body before pulling the dress over her head.

“Oh Willow,” he whispered into her ear. “I’ve wanted you for so long.”

Clad only in her black lace underwear, Willow gave him a coy smile before taking his hand and showing him exactly what he had been craving.

***

Willow opened her eyes slowly. She stretched, the Egyptian cotton sheets smooth against her naked body. The clock next the bed said 10 am. Heady aromas of garlic and olive oil emanated from the kitchen and she realised she was starving. They hadn’t actually managed to eat dinner last night, instead enjoying the delights of each other’s bodies for hours and hours. She found a cotton robe draped over the end of the bed, put it on, and padded into the kitchen.

Carlo had his back to her. He wore nothing but light cotton trousers, the muscles in his back rippling as he moved. When he turned and saw Willow, his face broke into a wide smile. He moved to kiss her deeply before leading her towards the counter where an espresso was waiting. She sat, sipping the coffee and watching him work.

After he had placed the tomatoes in the oven to bake he came around and kissed her again, sliding his hand inside her robe and stroking her soft skin.

“The tomatoes are going to take twenty minutes,” he said softly into her ear.

“Twenty minutes?” she exclaimed with mock-disappointment.

“I think I have a way to pass the time.”

***

Hours later Willow sat in a taxi on her way home. She couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. He had fed her breakfast in bed – well, lunch by the time they had managed to eat it – and then they had made love again, falling asleep in each other’s arms. Eventually she’d managed to tear herself away – she still had classes to prepare for tomorrow! But that didn’t matter. Carlo was going to call her and she would see him again very soon.