Nathaniel may be looking for more than a recipe when he walks into Jacob's library. As a librarian, Jacob prides himself on his professionalism, but being around Nathaniel makes him want to engage in highly unprofessional behavior.
When Jacob offers to give Nathaniel a private cooking lesson, the encounter is certain to test the limits of Jacob's self-control. Then again, maybe buttoned-up, by-the-book Jacob needs someone to help him loosen his tie ... and Nathaniel is just the man to do it.
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Technically, Jacob didn’t need to be present to hand over an interlibrary loan. He wasn’t sure why he had even mentioned his own work schedule when he left the message informing Mr. Bard that his book was now available. He hadn’t planned to do so, but there it was.
And here was the man himself, clad in leather pants and some kind of tunic this time, along with the same crooked, mocking smile that had kept Jacob awake the past few nights. Not fair, Jacob thought. Not fucking fair. Aloud he said only, “Mr. Bard! I have your book right here.” Allowing himself a tight-lipped and entirely professional smile, he passed over the item in question.
“Thanks so much. I really appreciate your help.” He arched an eyebrow. “But really, you can call me Nathaniel, Jacob.” His grin broadened, revealing an adorable dimple in his right cheek.. “I can call you Jacob, right?”
Jacob swallowed, grateful that the desk was hiding his lower half. “Of ... of course. No, um, standing on ceremony here. Public servant and all.” Shut up, Jacob. You’re babbling again. Nathaniel didn’t seem to mind -- on the contrary, it looked like he was thoroughly enjoying Jacob’s discomfort. Jacob refocused on the task at hand. “Is there anything else I can do for you? Er, to help you? Informationally speaking?”
Nathaniel flipped his hair over one shoulder and paged idly through the book. After a few short moments, he clapped it shut and set it back on the desk. “You know, this stuff still looks kind of ... beyond my abilities.” He raised helpless blue eyes to Jacob’s face. “I don’t suppose you know anything about cooking?”
Grateful for something to do with his hands, Jacob turned and began entering search terms into the computer beside him. “I’m sure we can find something else for you ... just give me a second.”
He smelled sandalwood and smoke as the other man leaned over the desk again. “No.”
“No?” Jacob looked up, startled. To his surprise, he saw that Nathaniel’s cheeks were slightly pink.
“Sorry! I didn’t mean to be abrupt. I just meant, do you personally know anything about cooking? I just don’t know if I can learn this from a book.”
Jacob looked thoughtfully into Nathaniel’s eyes. There was flirtation there, yes, but also genuine anxiety, and Jacob found it difficult to turn away an information seeker. He sighed. “Can I ask why you even want to make a medieval recipe? Normally I wouldn’t pry, but ...” He trailed off.
“No, no, it’s fine. Of course. I’m part of the Society for Creative Anachronism -- you know, the nerds with armor and tights? Anyway, every few months we have a potluck, and I’ve earned kind of a reputation as the guy who always brings beer. Never food. I’m just tired of being teased, and I want to show them that I can actually produce something edible, but after looking at these recipes I think I may have to admit defeat.”
Jacob told himself that he was not going to offer a private cooking lesson to Nathaniel Bard. It would be totally unprofessional, not to mention emotionally unwise. He didn’t know what Nathaniel had in mind for after dinner activities, but they probably didn’t include things like dating and actual commitment. Jacob had learned the hard way that the gay dating pool was filled with beautiful men who wanted sex without strings. He hadn’t figured out how to deactivate his own strings, but he could at least try to keep them from getting jerked around by other people.
Or that was his usual policy, at any rate. Today seemed to be all about tossing his usual rules to the wind. “I’m actually a pretty good cook,” he said, folding his arms across his chest in an unconscious gesture of self-protection. “It’s not exactly a service that we usually provide, but I guess I could show you a few things.” He cursed his suggestive word choice.
“God, could you? You would totally save my life. Or my reputation, anyway.”
There was that crooked grin again, sending warmth spreading through Jacob’s chest. He forced himself to put on a placid smile of his own, though his heart was pounding with combined anticipation and terror. “Yeah. I can do that. My kitchen is really small, though.” His apartment was his stronghold, his one safe place, and he wasn’t about to break all of his rules.
“Oh, no problem. You can come to my place.” He wrote down his address and phone number, and they agreed on a time to meet the next day. As Jacob entered the appointment into his phone, he tried to ignore the tremble in his hands.