ROMANCE TEST || CHAPTER 19. DAEBAK!

While he’s ringing up his restaurant, Emilia hides in the bathroom.

After a prolonged internal struggle, she changes into her favourite loungewear set: fleece joggers and an oversized, extra long top, all in mousy grey colour. Obviously, Emilia didn’t expect anyone but Elena to see the clothes; and still, when buying them, she didn’t go for the Piglet pink version, as much as she fancied it, since Kate reminded her that piglets were only cute because they were wee. 

Emilia steps out of the bathroom. Apparently, Oates is in her kitchen. She peeks around the doorframe, and sees him standing, sort of frozen indecisively, between her tiny table and the counter.

“Should we start the kettle?” he asks and turns to her. He looks her over. “You look like a cuddly toy.”

Emilia considers backing off like a crayfish. He left his jacket in the bedroom and unbuttoned his waistcoat. Once again, she’s reminded of all those ‘mafia romance slash CEO slash dominating boss’ book covers, even more so now that he’s dishevelled.

While you apparently look like something produced by Jellycat, Milly. Or, more so, like those creepy footie mascots, Moonchester and Moonbeam, considering your size. Emilia is a big football fan. More like a footballer fan, heh, Milly?

“Sorry,” she mutters.

“For what?”

She keeps forgetting how literal he is. He is literally asking why she’s sorry.

For not fitting the society’s standards of beauty, especially when it comes to a woman who he should be sharing physical space with? For not putting more effort into looking her best when she’s with him? For choosing to peel off the sausage casing that is any slimming undergarment, and putting on something that allows her to breathe and to fit any satisfactory amount of sustenance into her stomach?

“When is the food coming?” Emilia clumsily changes the subject and edges towards the stove to start the tea. He’s still vertical, and she gives him a shy smile. “Feel yourself at home.”

He tucks himself on one of her chairs. There are only two, and the one – which can hardly contain a person of his magnitude, all puns intended – has never been used. Emilia always takes the same one, she’s got a hang-up against sitting her back to a door. He’s watching her move – consequently giving her habdabs.

“In about twenty minutes,” he says. “It’s Korean.”

She just can’t get over how bright the blue of his eyes is.

“What’s Korean?” 

“Our dinner,” he answers. “I get… stuck. On a cuisine. Or an ingredient.” He takes a pensive pause. “This year it’s Korean.”

Emilia freezes, her hand on the cupboard above the counter. She was agonising over the fact that he collects vintage china, and she has a wild assortment of quirky mugs from the Wayfair site and Etsy, behind this cheap cabinet door made of fiberboard and melamine foil – but now she’s struck by how much insight into his personality his statement has been.

“How stuck are we talking?” she asks curiously. “Have you gone to Korea because of it?”

He nods. She lets go of the knob and focused on him. He’s fascinating!

“Did you watch K-drama on Netflix?”

He smirks. “I did. I even hired a private tutor, and I can get by without a translator now.”

“Wow,” Emilia exhales. “That’s basically obsessive! And ace!” She stares at him in admiration. “That’s why you’re so successful! You’re… driven!”

He smiles wider. He’s also visibly much more relaxed now. 

“I can never focus on anything,” she draws out. “I get bored of the same topic or aesthetics easily. To think of it, I don’t actually know how real life works.” She laughs lightly. “It’s not particularly bad for a writer, I reckon. I do my research, and I’m thorough. But if I ‘got stuck’ on one era or a type of conflict, then reading my books would be just dull, don’t you think? If every protagonist in my novels were a gastroenterologist, that would severely limit my readers’ enjoyment, innit?” 

Emilia turns away from him and finally opens the cupboard. Now, her choices are a mug with an Austen quote, one with a chicken and daisy pattern, a polka dot one from the City to Cottage, and Emilia’s favourite Gemma Wightman, the one with the heart handle. There are more, of course, in the back row, but they are even more embarrassing.

“Do you have any preferences?” Emilia asks, looking back at him over her shoulder. “In mugs, that is.”

“I’ll have the pink one.” He points with his finger. “I can’t drink from–” He stops, his face immediately aloof.

Emilia understands that he’s almost slipped and admitted one of his idiosyncrasies that Mistress Eva has mentioned.

“You can take the pink one!” Emilia exclaims and dashes towards the second chair. She can’t reach the second shelf. “Just give me a second!”

She grabs the back of the chair – and he sharply rises.

“I can just get it for you.”

She speaks at the same time, “And please, don’t hesitate and just say what you need! And if you hate something too, you should–”

She’s already on the chair, and he’s standing right in front of her – and her tits are an inch away from his nose. C divided by d equals Pi, Emilia’s brain supplies, not at all helpfully. She used to love maths at school. Currently, if he leans forward, he’ll tap the tip of his prominent nose into the great circle of her bust. Her double D means that said C is about 100 centimetres. He looks up and meets her eyes.

“Does it bother you?” she blurts out. “That I jump from topic to topic? I wanted to tell you how amazing it was that you’re so thorough, and I wanted to know your process. And then I was going to ask about ceramics and china, because you clearly have a strong preference when it comes to mugs. It’s about the texture, isn’t it? And also, I’m not used to anyone helping me – or being at my place – so I didn’t even think of asking for help. And it’s such a romance novel worthy moment, because you’re so tall and chivalrous.”

Oates blinks. That’s the only reaction she gets from him. 

“I reckon, I’m greedy, and I want to finish all the conversations we start,” she says with a shaky embarrassed laugh.

Sounds a tad like a baby goat bleating, Kate comments. Just not as cute. 

He rocks ahead and presses his face into her – as she’d call it in her books – soft mounds. That’s one pair of Silbury Hills you’ve got there, lady.

“It doesn’t,” he mutters and nuzzles her.

Emilia makes a croaking noise. If he’s being so unceremonious – in the best possible way – does it mean she’s allowed some frivolities too? She gingerly lifts her hands and slides them on the sides of his neck, and up, into his hair, behind his ears. Oates’ ‘burrowing’ intensifies, and Emilia scratches him like a dog. To think of it, he does remind her of the bouvier des flandres. She’s always dreamt of having a dog, but could never afford living in a place that would allow one. The bouviers and Riesenschnauzers have always been on top of her canine dream list. She’s done plenty of pointless reading on the breeds and religiously follows the Crufts.

“And yes, it is about texture,” he murmurs. “And I will.”

“What?” Emilia asks. 

He’s just put his left hand on her lower back, and she can’t concentrate on anything. His other palm lies on the back of her neck, and he pulls her down to his lips. Any qualms she’s had about leaning her weight onto him disappear when he picks her up under her arms like one of his Royal Copenhagen tureens, takes her off the chair – and then halts. She’s suspended mid-air! She’s pretty sure that her arms wrapped around his neck aren’t contributing anything to this position. Emilia’s mind isn’t coping with the fact that he doesn’t require putting her down to continue snogging her! 

And then his phone rings on her kitchen table.

Contrary to her expectations, he shows no signs of slowing down. He only tears his mouth away from hers and lowers her on the floor when he notices that she’s stopped reciprocating.

“That would be our dinner,” she says. 

He dives to her lips again. Emilia emits an ‘um,’ and he kisses her after a dismissive ‘it can wait.’ She decides arguing with the man would be daft. After all, unlike a meal, no matter how exclusive it is, more of Daniel Oates isn’t a guarantee. 

It’s his hand sliding up her spine and his fingers that are purposefully feeling the back of her bra that sober Emilia up a tad. 

“Should we– We should pick up the food,” she mutters, and he withdraws his hands. “We can go back to this– Later, right?”

In truth, Emilia isn’t sure whether she’s just looking for an excuse to impede him, and whether she’ll be OK with ‘going back to it later,’ but what she is sure about is that she’s hungry and highly invested in the idea of eating a Korean dinner from his restaurant. She vaguely remembers reading somewhere about Okeu, his ‘modern Korea meets countryside pub’ restaurant, called ‘sleek, sensual, and unapologetically elitist’ by the famous food critic, Gabriela Peniche Zavala Castillo.

He studies her face, and she’s almost worried, and then he clicks his tongue. Ah, right, he’s randy. A randy Oates is an animated Oates.

“Alright,” he purrs, pecks her lips, and walks out of the kitchen.

Emilia’s knees buckle, and she drops her backside on the chair near the counter. One thing for sure, she clearly hasn’t arsed up her chances on another shag with him. Whether a generous serving of Daniel Oates will be served to her before or after one of those colourful tempting bowls they show in K-drama is yet to be determined.

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