Interlude: Effortless

“What do you think I should do?”

Hmm… Zayne stroked his beard gently as he considered the cook’s question.

He was still getting used to being the one everyone in the kitchen turned to for advice. It was a bit of a scary change from what he’d been used to… But a good one too. It was so easy to get frustrated with Greg calling the shots about pretty much everything else — advertising, prices, decor… But the kitchen was still his domain. And Zayne loved it.

“Try garlic instead.” He replied at last, smiling. “You can never go wrong with garlic, right?”

The young woman nodded. “Sounds good to me!”

Zayne watched with a smile as she got back to work preparing the customer’s meal. He took a moment to appreciate just how smoothly the kitchen was running that afternoon. Three weeks since opening day, and they’d finally developed a good rhythm. He just hoped the momentum stayed as good when his shift ended.

He’d been working on not stressing as much when he handed control of the kitchen over to Felix… But he still found himself spending most of his days off wondering how things were going and resisting the urge to call and check in. Zayne took a moment to promise himself that after his appointment with Dr. Hall, he’d spend the rest of his evening relaxing instead of worrying.

“Um, Zayne?” A soft voice interrupted his thoughts, calling him back to the present.

“What’s up, Bec?”

“I know you’re out in like, twenty minutes, but do you think you could help with this order?” Her voice was almost apologetic. “The customer was very… specific.

He raised an eyebrow at her “Oh?”

Becca nodded as she began reading the complicated order from the paper in front of her. “She wants a Monte Cristo sandwich — all turkey, no ham, extra mustard, light on the mayo, cooked ‘extra crispy’?”

Zayne’s eyes widened at her words. Oh my God. Had he heard her correctly? Could it just be a coincidence?

“Thanks…I’ll take care of it.” He replied at last as he got to work retrieving the ingredients.

Zayne could feel the eyes of the rest of the kitchen staff on him as he began preparing the meal with the utmost care. He did his best to ignore them, instead focusing on making sure he got every detail of the recipe correct.

“Hey, Felix?” He called across the kitchen when he’d finally finished. “I’m leaving a few minutes early… Do you mind taking the reigns for me?”

The other man shrugged. “Sure, that’s fine.”

“Great, thank you!”

Zayne lifted the plate from the counter and began heading out toward the dining room. “Aren’t you gonna let the waitstaff take care of that…?” A voice called out after him.

He ignored them completely.

“Surprise.” Hope smiled gently at him as he finally reached the table.

Zayne felt his breath catch in his throat at the sight of her. He’d seen Hope’s face countless times on billboards and magazine covers over the past year… but nothing compared to seeing her sitting there in front of him. It was almost too much to take. How could she possibly be even more beautiful than he’d remembered?

A small smile came to his lips as he set the plate down in front of her. “I knew it. There’s only one person in the entire world who’d have the audacity to ruin a perfectly good Monte Cristo like this.” He teased.

“I know. You always loved to remind me of that.” Hope laughed softly. “I had a feeling my order would be a dead giveaway… Actually, that’s kind of what I was hoping for.” She confessed.

Zayne still couldn’t believe she was actually there in the flesh. He wanted nothing more than to reach down and take one of her soft hands in his. Or lift her into his arms and press his lips against hers.

Instead, he pulled out the chair across from her and took a seat. “It’s great to see you… You look amazing.” For a moment, he paused, his eyes drinking in the sight of her once more.

“Thanks! You too.” The way she looked at him sent a pleasant shiver up his spine. “I’m digging the new beard.” Hope added with a little laugh. “It suits you.”

“You think?” Zayne reached up, stroking the coarse hair on his chin for a moment. “I decided to try something new.”

“Well, I like it. It looks great!”

He smiled gently at her for a moment as they fell into a brief silence. But it was not like the usual easy silences they often shared when they were together. There was so much tension in the air between them… It was a bit awkward and uncomfortable, but not entirely unpleasant either. It was difficult to describe.

Zayne cleared his throat softly. “You should probably eat your sandwich before it gets cold… I know how much you hate it when the cheese starts to harden again…”

“Oh! Right… Yeah…” Hope laughed almost nervously for a moment before lifting the sandwich to her lips. “Mmm… Oh my God. I think this is even better than I remember.”

Zayne smiled playfully at her. “Couldn’t miss the opportunity to try my cooking again, huh?”

“You think I’m just here for the food?” Hope shook her head, smiling. “I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to see your restaurant in person! And see you…” She paused for a moment before speaking again. Zayne would have given anything to know what she was thinking. “I had a shoot in Falkenburg yesterday, and I knew I had to make it down here while I had the chance. I wanted to surprise you.”

“You succeeded.” He chuckled to himself. “And I’m really happy you made it.”

“Me too… This is incredible.” The way she smiled at him sent a flurry of butterflies through his stomach. “I just knew you’d do amazing things.”

“Thanks. But I didn’t get here on my own, y’know… I had a lot of help.” Zayne paused. “I never really got the chance to tell you… But I don’t think I could have made it this far without you.”

Hope shook her head. “Oh, I don’t know about that.” She said simply. For a moment, it looked as though she wanted to say more. Instead, she took another bite of her sandwich. “This place is so nice, Zayne.” She continued, changing the subject. “It’s beautiful. I guess it’s just a little different than what I was imagining…” Hope admitted.

Me too. He almost said. “My business partner had a lot of new ideas.” Zayne chose his words carefully. “And some of my tastes might’ve changed a little, I guess.” He shrugged slightly as he spoke.

“I get that.” Hope smiled. “It’s crazy how much time can change things, huh? And change people too…”

“It is.” Zayne agreed. “But… I think there are some things that never change.”

It was amazing how easy and effortless talking to Hope turned out to be… For a while, it almost felt like nothing had changed between them at all.

Zayne kept her updated on everything going on with his family, and how everyone was moving forward after Mari’s death. Hope was so supportive and understanding when their conversation touched upon his grief, which he was extremely thankful for. Still, it was a relief to move on and tell her all about the restaurant too, and how things had been going since they’d opened. He was very careful to only focus on the positives, of course. Why ruin their conversation by bringing up the bad stuff? The last thing he wanted was for Hope to worry about anything… Least of all him.

He had fun sharing his triumphs with her, and watching the way her eyes lit up at some of the stories he told.

In turn, Hope told him all about her adventures traveling the world and meeting so many famous photographers, designers, and fellow models — including some fun and rather scandalous gossip that left Zayne in stitches. She also told him every detail of the day she finally brushed elbows with her favorite member of the Fangs cast (and what a skirt-chasing douchebag he turned out to be).

Zayne loved hearing her laugh, and he loved listening to all of her stories (which proved to be a lot more entertaining when told in person, rather than through text messages).

They spent nearly an hour chatting together before Zayne noticed the time. “Fuck.” He muttered.

“What?”

“I have an appointment with Dr. Hall at five… And I still need to go home and change first…”

Hope eyed him curiously for a moment, and Zayne realized his slip-up. He’d never actually mentioned to Hope that he was seeing a therapist. Should he tell her? What would she think of him if she knew? Would she be weirded-out? Would it make him look weak?

He was too afraid to find out the answer.

“That’s okay… I need to catch my train back to Falkenburg anyway. My flight home leaves in the morning…”

Zayne felt a slight heaviness in his chest as he watched her rise to her feet. Was it already time to say goodbye?

Hope looked around uncertainly for a moment. “I’m sure the waitress gave up on us a long time ago.” She almost laughed. “But I need to get my bill…”

He shook his head, rising from the table as well. “It’s on me, don’t worry.”

“Are you sure?”

“I insist.”

“Well, thank you.” She smiled warmly at him. “I’m so happy I got to see you, Zayne.” Hope said softly. “And I promise that next time I’m in town, I’ll give you a little more warning before I show up, okay?”

He let out a small laugh. “As long as you don’t force me to butcher another recipe again.” Zayne teased.

“Hmm… No promises there.” She gave him another beautiful smile before closing the distance between them and pulling Zayne into a tight embrace.

He closed his eyes, relishing in the warm feeling of her body pressed against his. The sound of her soft breaths, the smell of her hair… It was killing him.

“I miss you.” The words left his lips before he even realized what he was saying. “So much.”

Her soft breath tickled against his ear as she whispered her reply.

“I miss you too.”

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66 thoughts on “Interlude: Effortless

  1. Oh no! Which member of the Fangs cast is Hope’s favourite? I wonder…

    That was awkward but a little sweet…I’m glad that they’re at a good place with each other, even if nothing more comes from it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hehehehe I talked to Lobster, and her favorite cast member is the actor who plays Lysander 😮 Lobster confirmed him as a horndog who goes after young models 😂 Who knew!

      Awkward and sweet definitely sums up their reunion quite well! We’ll find out Wednesday how Zayne felt about it… Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, he REALLY needs that Dr. Appt now. Don’t skip it Zayne! You have been doing so well! No back sliding now. And Caitlin and those pretty blue eyes. She would mix up the gene pool. But Hope said she missed him and there was a hint of a promise to see him again…but will he wait if it’s months and months?

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Hehe I love the stubble too!

        And I think the favorite cast member was Lysander 😮 Lobster and I joked once about what his actor would be like in real life (back when Hope mentioned almost meeting him the first time), and I went with her analysis hehe

        Like

    1. Haha the blue eyed girl is Becca 😛 But yes, she’s cute haha

      Hope definitely does intend on visiting Zayne again, but right now it’s uncertain when that will be… and YES, Zayne definitely needs that appointment, especially after this unexpected reunion 😮

      Like

  3. So in feeling like really awful right now but this made me!!! So happy and dad at the same time like yeah!!! Zayne and hope!!! But at the same time oh no,,, zayne and hope??? Plus I don’t want either of them hurt smh

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha I understand the conflicted feelings about this… it could be a good OR a bad thing… hard to say right now!

      I hope you feel better, by the way!

      Like

  4. Zayne really needs to see Dr.Hall now. If he misses it then he’ll feel worse and go back a few steps. Even, if his tante has to drag him there,make sure he goes. I’m hoping that he won’t have to wait too long to see Hope again. That conversation went better than he expected. I’m not quite sure about the stubble but if he likes it then, ok. 🙂

    There seems to be a little ‘hope’ in this relationship even if it would take time and a lot of patience to work. I’m ‘hoping’ they would make it work.;)*Crossing fingers*

    I promise i’ll stop with the ‘hope’ thing. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. He definitely needs that appointment after this one! Lots of conflicted feelings for him, I think! And ‘hope’fully the stubble will grow on you 😛

      I’m glad you have so much ‘hope’ and I ‘hope’ you enjoyed this chapter… 😉 😛

      Like

        1. I just realised, in all the ‘hope’ for HoZay, I didn’t mention Greg.

          I’m still suspicious. Though,tell Zayne, that we’ve all got his back, and that most of us have people that can sort Greg out for him. (If he is up to anything, that is. We can’t allow it, if he’s just being a little bossy.) Me included, (Vince doesn’t appreciate me putting him forward but he’s coming around to the idea). I’m now picturing Greg getting pinned to a wall by an angry mob of Americans, while Zayne looks a little scared at what they’re going to do.

          I will give it to Greg that he doesn’t seem to be doing anything wrong just yet. But his hate level is at 10 points (because he’s a bit bossy.)

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad to see Hope back!

    So far Greg doesn’t seem too bad – though we’ll see if that continues. I’m glad Zayne gets to cook and be in charge, because I know, for him, a lot of his issues were dealing with the overwhelming nature of opening his restaurant. He’s good with food. Let somebody else handle the business (the question, of course, is this: are there backdoor deals going on? If so, I’d assume that they’re happening at the other restaurants Greg manages, so hopefully not? If anything, this is a good step for Zayne – I’m glad to see he’s able to hand over control).

    In terms of Zayne and Hope – I like them together, but as long as Zayne is happy I don’t care who he ends up with. I’m obviously glad that their reunion wasn’t just totally awkward, but with their conversation I somewhat got the impression that they’ve grown apart from each other – we’ll see what Zayne thinks about it next time, though. The fact he didn’t tell her he was in therapy is a bit of a red flag – but we’ll see, I could be blowing things out of proportion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zayne is definitely loving being in charge of the kitchen! That’s probably his #1 priority, so in that regard, everything is great! Zayne knows food, Greg knows business… And they’re each enjoying being in charge of their respective little corners of this restaurant!

      The Hope and Zayne situation is definitely a little tricky right now. I think he hasn’t told her he’s going to therapy because he subconsciously (or maybe even a little consciously :P) wants her to think everything is okay with him… Which it is anyway, mostly haha. I think in some ways they’ve grown apart a bit because of the time and distance that’s separated them, so you are not wrong there! We’ll have to wait and see how it all goes from here…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lover WitcHazard: There’s five reasons an ex comes back into your life!
    1. They want to get back together!
    2. They’re dying!
    3. They found out you’re a match and want you to donate a vital organ!
    4. They’re seeing someone else or are engaged! Making it clear it’s time for you to move on!
    5. They’re having a baby!

    I’m leaning to 4 she’s seeing someone new and just doesn’t know how to bring it up! Plus she still getting caught up ifn her old feelings!

    Nooboos WitcHazard: I want 5. Please let it be 5.

    Shipper WitcHazard; Its hard to tell on the valentine poster everyone else lived happily lives together but that might just be a rouse to get us off the scent of the real wifey!

    Justice WitcHazard: Also I maybe wrong but I’m not sure if every girl in the call back from the teen years made an appearance! I might just be overthinking it!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That list is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen LMAO

      I can definitely rule out #5 (sorry, nooboos!) Zayne and Hope have been broken up for a year now… We’d have known about any nooboos already 😦

      Like

      1. Hahaha I was afraid after yesterday people would start the Zecca ship to go alongside the Zaytlin! 😛

        I was happy to have Hope back too! We’ll have to wait and see what kind of impact this has on Zayne though…

        Like

  7. First of all: You have to seriously be in top supermodel-shape if you can wear a crop top like THAT when you go to lunch.. Hope is a lucky girl!

    I’m kind of unsure about whether Hope and Zayne seeing each other again was a good thing. Yes, Zayne is doing much better, but seeing her brings up old doubts in him again immediately (will she think he’s weak for going to a therapist etc.). Keep up the good work Zayne, don’t spiral down now!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Oh, don’t fall into bad habits again, Zayne…Now, something I wonder, is Hope doing lik, okay, without Zayne, or if we saw things by her point-of-view we would see she was just as misarable as Zayne? Who knows…And when it said ”everyone was moving foward after Mari’s death” I readed real quick ” and everyone was looking foward to Mari’s death” Wait, what!? XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “looking forward to Mari’s death” OMG HA! That would be so awful,wouldn’t it? XD

      Good question about Hope… Honestly? We might never know exactly how she’s doing without him. I guess people can be left to wonder and imagine 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Well, hey, he’s been doing so well at therapy, he was probably running out of things to talk about. So let’s just be happy that now he has a whole bunch of stuff to talk to his therapist about again.

    I’m glad they saw each other, and both survived.

    Zayne, honey, THERE IS STRENGTH IN VULNERABILITY. THE ONLY WEAKNESS IS HIDING YOUR TRUTH.

    Ahem, sorry for yelling. I’m good now, got that outta my system.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahahahaha that is true — I am sure he had a LOT to talk about at that appointment that evening 😉 But yes, they did indeed both survive their meeting! And I wish Zayne could take that advice about vulnerability haha. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  10. *Inside the HoZay Repair Submarine*
    *Cheering can be heard throughout*

    “THAT HUG!”

    “THEY MISS EACH OTHER!”

    “LOOK AT THEM SMILING!”

    “MY HEART! IT CAN’T TAKE THAT CUTENESS!!!”

    *Captain clears throat* Okay, yes the ship’s repairs are going AMAZING right now. I mean look at all that hard work! It may actually float again one day. But there’s still work need to be done, but today, we celebrate. WE CELEBRATE SS HOZAY!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Uh oh, be careful not to fall off the wagon, Z. Don’t forget the progress you’ve made!

    I have decided to become the devil’s advocate today.

    I know there are still lingering feelings (at least on Zayne’s side), but I think it’s better for them to stay apart, romantically speaking (sorry, HoZay shippers). I have a feeling that if they got back together anytime soon, they’d just have the same problems. Even during that bit of their conversation, they exchanged the same type of remarks and tension Zayne and Hope used to have before fighting. It was very subtle, but it was there. You could cut the tension created by their effort to try to not rub each other the wrong way. A hiccup is still a hiccup. She’s still a traveling supermodel; he’s still a hot headed chef. They may cut each other some slack, but he’ll still be worried and she’ll still be doing things her way. Maybe a little, maybe a lot.

    They might be able to get back together someday and be okay, but i feel that someday is far away. Maybe when she settles? They need more maturing, methinks. Maybe they don’t get back together, but instead become friends again over the years.

    I do want Zayne to be happy, he needs it, tbh. If, in the end, being a couple truly makes them happy, then I’ll be happy for them, too.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into it (most probably), since I always had those little doubts throughout their relationship; but, like I said, I was feeling like wearing my devil’s advocate cap today.

    My best wishes to the SS HoZay, happy sailing, y’all!
    *waves shyly at the Captain*

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I love that you chose to play devil’s advocate here haha You bring up great points about why getting back together would not be a good idea for them! We will see in time what the future holds for these two (platonically, romantically, or otherwise!)

      Thanks for reading, Sara 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. “Low on mayo…”
    Me: Hope!!! It’s Hope!
    Visitng the restaurant was very sweet of her and I think that meeting went well.
    I’m very happy Zayne’s doing well in therapy. Keep working on it, buddy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha I love that you guessed it! 😀 I think the meeting went pretty well too! ^_^ Hopefully Zayne felt the same way… We’ll see! 😀

      1. Lol I don’t usually go back to reader but I will on Wednesday because I want to see her turn round and tell him how much she’s missed him come on stupid girl … how could you throw away somebody that loves you that much augh

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I was lurking for the last few chapters because I barely found time from work to read them, but I was able to scoop up some free-time because I’m sick and have nothing better to do than dig myself into great stories!
    I really like the way Hope initiated the contact. Even though it was awkward and tense for them, it seemed like they are on their way to make it into friends, at least. I’m not much of a shipper (sorry, I hope nobody is offended by this), and I love to see their individual growth. Also the beard-growth. He looks even more handsome with it. 🙂
    I’m a bit worried that Zayne will act harshly, but he has grown so much, I think he might be able to pick himself up. I see their meeting as an opportunity to deal with their pain at a more mature stage. Don’t mess up, Zayne! *fingers crossed*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you feel better! Sorry you’re sick 😦

      I’m glad you liked their little reunion here. It was definitely a mixture of emotions for both of them (including a bit of awkwardness, like you said!) Zayne’s definitely grown up a bit, and time will tell how much 😉 hehe

      And don’t feel bad about not being a shipper haha 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. 😁❤️ I knew she would make an appearance (had no idea it would be this chapter but yay) there’s still so much love between them, I think that’s what made it uncomfortable at first but they seemed to fall right back into place toward the end. Come back soon Hope.

    Liked by 1 person

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