Perched on a bar-stool at the central island in his spacious kitchen, she sipped a full-bodied vintage Nebbiolo and watched Marc cook. His knife sliced through garlic and parsley at breathtaking speed. One-handed, he cracked eggs into a bowl, added a dash of salt, and whisked in freshly-grated cheese.
At her raised brow, he shrugged. “I love to eat. And cooking relaxes me.”
The kitchen was a chef’s dream, laid out with an eye toward efficiency and no expense spared: Viking range, professional exhaust hood, Sub-zero fridge, and Franke stainless steel double sink set into a Blue Bahia granite countertop.
The pasta turned out perfectly al dente, laced with browned pancetta and creamy parmesan. Kate relaxed over dinner, her initial reservations melting with the realization that the evening was turning out to be nothing like she had anticipated.
She’d looked him up online the same night they had met. Hours after Jake had dropped her off at her apartment, she found herself wide awake, staring into the darkness, reliving the feeling of dancing in Marc’s arms. A sense of restlessness simmered through her, like a carbonated stream of bubbles rising, bursting, and then reforming at the pit of her stomach. She tried to convince herself it was the after-effect of the unpleasant encounter with her parents earlier that evening. Or the stress of speaking in front of several hundred people at the awards gala. But when the usual remedy of valerian root tea failed to calm her nerves, she finally gave in to curiosity and powered up her laptop.
There he was: Marcus DiStefano, MD. Golden boy of the Main Line set. Star of the university hospital’s division of gynecological oncology. Walking advertisement for Zegna and Armani in endless photos from glossy gossip rags, the captions linking him to a veritable who’s who of actresses and models, never the same face twice. Where he found time to see patients, she didn’t know.
When he’d shown up in her lab and practically bullied her into having lunch with him, she’d been intrigued. She’d also been sure it was a one-off. Men like Marc DiStefano didn’t pursue women like her. There wasn’t a single serious-minded academic type in his long roster of female companions.
Which was why the offer of an affair had caught her completely by surprise. She had to scramble to recover her equilibrium. Short term, that’s what he was talking about. Fun, light-hearted, no commitment required. She was tempted. And what did she have to lose? She wasn’t interested in the long haul. She was completely focused on her work. It consumed her. The last thing she needed was someone who would tie her down with responsibilities that would compete with her drive to succeed in her career.
Besides, she’d spent years bearing silent witness to the disaster zone of her parents’ marriage, and vowed never to put herself in that position. Marriage? Children? No thanks. Just the idea of anything permanent made her break out in a cold sweat.
But that didn’t mean she had to stay celibate forever. It was nearly three years since she’d been involved with anyone intimately. That relationship had died a natural death when she’d left Berkeley to return to Philadelphia. Since then, she’d been so consumed with her research and the perennial dictum of academe—publish or perish—that everything else had fallen by the wayside. If not for Jake, who periodically dragged her out for a meal or a hike, she would have been completely subsumed by work.
An affair, especially with a man like Marc DiStefano, who was well-known for his short attention span when it came to women, could be quite enjoyable. It obligated her to nothing.
And he was magnificent, a prime specimen of male virility, tall, broad-shouldered, with lean hips and loose-limbed gait. He exuded a confidence that bordered on arrogance, and while in anyone else that attitude might have been off-putting, she conceded that it only enhanced his appeal. Should she do it, take him up on his offer? Her pulse skittered at the thought.
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