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Broken Whispers: Chapter 6


I read the recipe on my phone, checking the ingredients lined up on the counter. There was flour and sugar in the cupboard, but I’m missing raisins and almonds. I would also need more chocolate.

Yesterday, Lena said that one of her friends brought cookies to the day care class, and she talked about them for twenty minutes, describing the different shapes and flavors. She asked Mikhail if he would make her cookies, so she can take them to class as well. The look on his face was priceless. I imagined my huge husband making cookies, and barely managed to keep a straight face as he explained to Lena how he’s not good at baking. I’m not much of a cook myself. I can make a few decent dishes and some sweets, but it’s nothing epic. Most of my time growing up was reserved for ballet, but when I did have an hour or two free, I loved to go into the kitchen and help our cook prepare food. I never tried making cookies, but it can’t be that hard. I grab my phone and send Mikhail a message.

14:17 Bianca: I need to run to the store across the street.. I’ll be back in 20.

A minute later the door to Mikhail’s office opens. He walks out, comes over to the kitchen, and looks at the stuff I’ve set out on the counter. His gaze dances over the big pan I lined with parchment paper, a bowl with grated chocolate I prepared, and a little pot with a huge chunk of butter I left to melt.

“You are making cookies for Lena,” he says and looks at me. I can’t gauge the expression on his face, but he seems confused.

I shrug, type on my phone, and show him the screen.

Don’t get your hopes up. It’s my first time, so I don’t know how edible these would turn out to be.

He places his finger on my chin and tilts up my head, his blue eye watching me. I find myself focusing on his lips. Hard, pressed together. Would they stay that way if I kissed him?

“Let’s go to that store,” he says and releases my chin.

I follow him with my eyes as he goes to pick up his keys and wallet. He reminds me of a panther—big, black, and seemingly relaxed—but I have a feeling that underneath all that composure and calm, there is a beast.

* * *

The store across the street is tiny, but I manage to find everything I need, as well as a small set of cookie molds in various shapes and some colorful edible decorations. Mikhail has been following me in silence, always staying a step behind. When I stop in the fruit aisle and start putting some apples and bananas in the basket, he reaches to take it from my hand, and our fingers touch. I slowly let go of the handle, but make sure to brush the back of his fingers before I continue browsing the fruit.

Mikhail pays for my purchases and carries the bags to the apartment. After he places them on the kitchen counter, I expect him to go back to his work. Instead, he leans with his back against the cabinets, crossing his arms in front of him, and watches me as I wash my hands. I can feel his gaze on me the whole time I prepare the dough. Each time I catch him out of the corner of my eye, I have to reread the recipe. I find it hard to concentrate, knowing he’s there, watching me, but it’s not because I’m nervous. It’s because I like it.

After I manage to finish the dough without messing up, I split it into two, place half on the countertop in front of me, the other a bit off to the right, and turn toward Mikhail. I point a finger to the second half of the dough, then at him, and raise an eyebrow. He cocks his head to the side, regarding me, and I think the corner of his lips curves slightly upward. Without breaking eye contact, he moves away from the counter and comes to stand on my right. A calming feeling overcomes me when he is near, which I find rather unusual. I’m not comfortable with people I don’t know well. It’s hard for me to communicate with them, and we usually end up in awkward silence. Mikhail doesn’t seem to mind that I can’t speak, probably because he’s not talkative himself, and the silence between us doesn’t feel uncomfortable at all. Just the opposite.

I break the eye contact and start working the dough in front of me, wondering what he’ll do. Mikhail watches me for a minute or so, then places his hands on his piece of dough and copies my moves. He has beautiful hands. Big, strong with long fingers, and I can’t help but wonder how it would feel to have those hands on me.

Peals of laughter accompany the opening of the front door. “Daddy, Daddy, what are you doing?” Lena rushes toward us while Sisi closes the door behind them. “Can I? Can I?”

“Hands first, Lena,” Mikhail says and points with his head to the bathroom. “Then you can make cookies with us.”

Lena laughs and runs to the bathroom. Sisi stands at the threshold, her eyes huge as she watches Mikhail working the dough. He certainly makes an interesting sight, so big and badass-looking with his eyepatch and that black shirt stretched over his wide shoulders. Especially with a speck of flour on the side of his chin. I lift my hand, intending to wipe it off, but the moment my fingers touch his skin, his body goes utterly still. He focuses intently on his hands buried in the dough in front of him. I brush some of the flour from his chin with my thumb and quickly pull my hand away. Did I cross some boundary?

“Daddy, Daddy!” Lena runs into the kitchen. “I’m ready! Can I have some, please?”

“Okay, zayka.”

Mikhail leaves the dough, heads off to the dining room table and comes back with a chair. Placing it next to the counter, he helps Lena climb on top, and slides his dough in front of her.

“I will make a cake. With chocolate.” She grins and looks over at me. “Do you like chocolate? Daddy doesn’t like chocolate, but he will eat the cake if I make it. I love chocolate, but Daddy says it’s bad for my teeth.”

I nod, smiling. She brushes her hands on the front of her dress and reaches for the bowl.

“Oh, I got flour on my dress.” She looks up at Mikhail. “Will it wash away?”

“It’ll wash away, Lenochka. Don’t worry.”

“You have flour on your face, Daddy.” Lena giggles, then proceeds to play with the dough.

Mikhail turns his gaze toward me, looks down at my hand on the work surface, then tilts his head to the side, offering me his chin. Slowly, I reach out and brush away the remnants of the flour using the back of my hand, taking slightly more time than necessary.


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