The Cooking Incident
“Where in the hell did he hide my stepstool? And does he really think that’s gonna stop me?”
Ben Richman leaned on the doorframe, his arms crossed over his chest as he watched his curvy wife, Holly, grumble as she paced around the kitchen trying to… Well, he assumed cook something, which was an instant cause for alarm since this was Holly, after all.
His curvy, drop-dead gorgeous, trips over thin air, should win the award for the most klutzy person in the world, who could not cook at all, love of his life.
He didn’t call her Grace for nothing. Holly was as graceful as one could get. If by graceful, Ben meant she had a superpower to walk into walls, among other things, of course.
But hey, it was fine by him. Swooping in to save his accident-prone wife was an excuse to get his hands on her.
That would always be a win-win if you asked him. Although, his constant need to make sure Holly wasn’t about to accidentally make him a single parent left him lurking around corners when she’d get extra quiet.
Which is how Ben ended up where he was right now. He should have known Holly would be up to no good when he found her scrolling through the latest Cooking Can Be For Anyone blog the other night.
It was only a matter of time.
Something nudged at Ben’s leg, causing him to look down to see their very opinionated Corgi, Lord Waffles, giving him a concerned look, then darting his attention back to Holly.
Ben swore he should’ve been used to it by now, but even after all this time, the fact Waffles acted more human than dog constantly surprised him.
When Waffles nudged his leg again, narrowing his eyes at him, Ben shook his head. “Why am I the one who always has to save her? Why not give it a shot yourself?” he whispered, even though Ben knew he didn’t need to. When Holly was in one of her moods, there was no breaking her focus until something or someoneintervened.
Waffles huffed out a grunt as his eyes flicked toward Holly and then back to him as if to say get on with it.
“Okay. One… two… Wait. I think I need to be farther away.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
Ben shook his head as he watched Holly take a few steps back, as he assumed it would give her more room for a running leap to jump on top of the counter.
Yep, this was going to end in a disaster.
It wouldn’t surprise him if they needed to take a ride to Richman Veterinary Hospital to stitch her up… again.
Waffles whined from beside him before he trotted over to Holly, bumping his nose into her leg.
He had to give it to the pup for at least trying.
“Shhh,” Holly whisper-shouted. “You’re gonna rat me out. I just need to get to the mixer on the top shelf before—”
“Before what?” Ben pushed off the doorframe.
At his words, she screamed. And, in pure Holly fashion, she ended up spinning in a few circles, tripping over her own two feet — although Waffles might’ve helped with that. She was two seconds from ending up on her ass when Ben leaped into action and caught her under her arms.
“Hey!” Holly pushed her wayward hair out of her face as she glared at him. “Why’d you make me lose my concentration?”
“Holly,” Ben warned. “Are you really gonna blame this on me?”
“Who else am I gonna blame? I almost fell over. If you hadn’t come out of nowhere to scare me, none of this would’ve happened.”
He pinned her with his stare.
“Okay, well, there might have been some sort of incident.”
“You don’t say?”
“Ben Richman,” she growled. “I am perfectly capable of getting the mixer down myself.” Holly crossed her arms over her ample chest, with that adorable pout on her face Ben loved so much.
“That’s why you were about to catapult yourself onto the counter?” He cocked his brow. “You and I both know it would only end in one of two ways.”
Holly narrowed her eyes at him as she pursed her lips together in a standoff. “Shut your face.”
“Fine. Whatever. With my track record, it might not have been my brightest idea, but I promised to make something for the fall potluck at the library.”
“You promised to bring something. No one said anything about you making anything.” Ben tapped his chin. “Actually, if I remember correctly, Mildred specifically said you weren’t allowed to cook anything.”
Holly huffed. “I was gonna put it in a plastic container from the store.”
“Nice.” Ben quirked his brow. “So when everyone gets food poisoning, you can blame the manufacturer?”
“Ben!” she grunted. “And when do I listen to Mildred? If I did, we’d have a sex dungeon in the house.” Holly scrunched her nose. “No, it’d probably be in the library. For an old lady, the ideas she has… hoo-boy.”
Ben threw his head back and laughed. “But you’ve got to love her.”
“I do.” Ben’s eyes softened on his wife. “Now, what in the hell are you doing?”
“Don’t you agree with him, Mister, or no treats for you.” Holly snapped her face to their dog as she glared at him. Waffles then had the audacity to twitch his tiny brow at her. “Don’t give me that look. I’m serious. No treats for you.”
Waffles scoffed, turning up his nose before walking out of the kitchen, his head held high. When he got to the doorway, though, he turned to face them, his eyes hard.
With one last snort aimed directly in their direction, he walked out of the room.
“I can’t tell if you just offended him, or if we need to be worried that he might be planning something?” Ben chuckled with a shake of his head.
Holly shrugged. “It’s Waffles. When’s it not both?”
“True.” Ben nodded, his eyes honing in on the items placed on the countertop. “Wanna tell me what you’ve got going on here?”
“Nothing,” Holly innocently replied, her eyes rounding.
“Nu-uhh.” Ben shook his head. “Explain to me what you’ve got going on here. They’re my friends too, and as soon as you poison them, they’re gonna blame me.”
Holly’s hand shot to her chest. “Jerk.”
“Am I wrong?” Ben cocked his brow.
“Yes,” she hissed. “Not all intestinal problems after a potluck are my fault.”
“They are when you pass off your cooking as store-bought.”
“If I don’t, they won’t even try what I made.”
Ben’s whole face lit at Holly’s adorable pout. “With good reason.” He pointed to the ingredients on the kitchen island. “Why do you have a bag of powdered sugar on the counter?”
Holly mumbled, her arms crossing over her chest. “We’re out of flour, so I grabbed the powdered sugar. I don’t see why you’re giving me crap about it. They look exactly the same.”
Both of Ben’s brows nearly shot off his head. “That’s not how it works. We’ve had this conversation before. And I have a sinking suspicion the Allspice is out of place.”
“It says it has cinnamon in it!”
“For the love of…” Ben walked over to his wife, his hands going to her hips, pulling her in closer as he kissed the crown of her head. “You amaze me at times. I’m surprised you survived until I came around.”
Holly pushed out of his arms. “Hey! That’s rude. Me and Waffles were doing fine before you shoved your way into my life.”
“That so?” He laughed, the corners of his eyes crinkling as he took in her annoyed stance, which only made Ben want to laugh harder.
“Yes. And while we’re at it. You were the one with the rogue frisbee that hit me in the face. I was just minding my own business at the dog park and then boom, I was on my ass.”
Ben barked out a laugh as he easily grabbed Holly by the waist as he hoisted her onto the counter before nudging between her spread legs. “I believe I’ve more than enough made up for that. Don’t you think?”
Holly scrunched her nose, but Ben saw her smile. “The sex is okay…”
“Just okay?” Ben cocked his head to the side as he squeezed her ass, bringing her closer.
“You little shit.” Ben grabbed the back of Holly’s neck, yanking her forward as he pulled her into a deep kiss. It was only a few seconds before he pulled back to rest his forehead on hers.
“Why’d you stop?” she panted, her eyes full of heat, which he knew matched his own.
“Reminding you what we’ve got.”
“Oh, I know. Trust me.” Holly’s smile lit the room as she wiggled on the counter. “Now, if you’d just get down the mixer for me, you can be on your merry way.”
Ben laughed as he pulled her into another kiss. “Not on your life.”
“Because I’d prefer it if our friends still liked us afterward.” Ben leaned forward and kissed the tip of her nose.
“You are absolutely no fun.” She pushed him away. As soon as she was free, she wiggled to the edge of the counter, and with no surprise to Ben, stumbled off the edge and right into his arms. “Geez. I can’t even make a dramatic exit without you coming to the rescue.”
“Would you have rather I moved and let you fall into the sink?”
“It would’ve been nice.”
Ben barked out another laugh. “I’ll try and remember that.” He kissed her head once more. He released her and then strolled over to the wall with the scorch marks on it. The same wall that held one of his favorite things in the house. Other than Holly, the kids, and their pets, of course.
“Don’t you dare, Ben Richman,” Holly growled from behind him. “If you put a check mark, a star, or whatever the hell you choose on today’s date, you’re sleeping on the couch.”
Ben’s megawatt smile beamed at Holly as he looked over his shoulder to see her hands on her hips, her eyes shooting daggers in his direction. “Babe, what do you want me to do? I can’t not mark The Cooking Incident calendar. What would John think?” Ben opened the drawer next to him and grabbed a pen, still keeping his eyes on his wife.
“John can kiss my ass.” She threw her hands in the air. “I can’t believe he found someone to make a custom calendar to mark all the times I’m in the kitchen trying to cook. I will never forgive him.”
“I think Emma, Mildred, and your dad all chipped in too.” Ben uncapped the pen, his laughter filling the room.
“You better not!”
Ben shrugged, the corner of his lips quirking. “It’d be rude not to use the gift someone bought you.”
“I’m doing this out of love.”
“The hell you are.” Holly stomped over to him to grab the pen, but Ben held it out of reach as he laughed. “I don’t think so, Grace.”
“Stop calling me Grace. And you can’t mark anything I didn’t actually cook. Plus, the fire department wasn’t called. I thought this was only to mark the times they ended up here.”
Ben’s laugh deepened as he held the pen higher. “No, that’s when I use the red marker. The local station appreciates the statistics.”
“I hate you.”
“You love me.” Ben capped the pen and held open his arms.
It only took Holly a few seconds to sigh before leaning into his embrace. “You’re still a jerk, but I do.”
“Good. Now let’s get this place cleaned up, then we’ll head to the store and get something to bring that won’t cause any issues at the potluck.”
“I still don’t see where that’s fair?” Holly grunted, but then poked out her lower lip, giving him puppy dog eyes. She must have learned that trick from Waffles since that’s exactly how he gets away with everything. “I can make something I know I can.”
“You can make something alright, but I think people want it to be edible.” Ben placed a kiss on her cheek. “How about a compromise? I won’t mark the calendar, and I’ll do that thing you like with my tongue, in exchange for us not giving food poisoning to our friends.”
Holly’s eyes widened as her breath hitched before a mischievous smile appeared on her face. “What about you doing the thing with your tongue, we throw the calendar in the trash like I keep trying to do, but somehow it keeps reappearing… and I buy a cake from the local bakery and decorate it myself?”
Ben eyed her for a moment his lips quirking with amusement. “Pastries & Paws?”
“Only if Riley agrees to watch you decorate it.”
Holly pulled back, her hand flying to her chest. “You don’t trust me to decorate the cake on my own? What harm can I do?”
Ben lifted his brows.
“Fine. Whatever. We’re getting dog and cat treats while we’re there.” She nodded her head. “And I’m getting a croissant.”
“Whatever you say, love.” As Holly moved to walk away Ben grabbed her arm, pulling her back. “Love you.” He kissed her lips softly, resting his forehead on hers.
“Mostly love you too.”
“I can always add the check mark if you want?”
Holly grumbled with a shake of her head. “Remind me again why I love you?”
“Because I’m always there to catch you when you fall.”
Copyright © 2022 Molly O’Hare, Be You Publishing LLC
Curious about the bakery Holly mentioned? Check out Just a Batter of Time