Enjoy a taste of this steamy romcom with this excerpt!
She trailed after him into the kitchen, where he set her bags on the gleaming, white quartz countertop.
“Plates, dishes, whatever you need …” He waved his hand toward a set of pantry doors. “Taking a quick shower. She’ll be here in twenty minutes. You’ll have dinner set up outside by then, I trust.” He didn’t wait for an answer.
Striding to his bedroom, he went straight for the shower. Hot water might unknot the kinks in his neck from traffic hell.
When he returned to the kitchen, Rayen was busying herself before a giant skillet. The soup simmered in a pot. It did smell delicious.
He moved closer. “Find everything you needed? Everything set up on the balcony?”
She averted her eyes, rolled her lips between her teeth, and tapped a large spoon against the pot holding the soup. “Dining room. She won’t like outside.”
He peeked out the swinging door to the large walnut table. Burgundy placements, gleaming stemware, shining silver … all in place. Just not in the right place.
He let the door close, and before he could confront the rogue move, Rayen raised a hand at him. Literally put her palm up to stop his words.
People did not do that to him.
A growl might have left his throat as she quickly slapped her hand back down to her side. “The wind will mess with her hair.”
Rayen had long glossy black hair, the kind women in that town spent hundreds of dollars to achieve. “I don’t care.”
“Then there’s this.” She waved a finger over her lips, reddened and glossy. “Hair sticks to lip gloss. At least it does to mine.”
Now, he stared at her lips. She’d been gifted with that perfect pout. Plump.
Shit, noticing a stranger’s mouth only meant one thing. It was time for him to get laid. Noticing details like that was the surefire signal he’d waited too long—at least two weeks. Ending that streak wouldn’t be tonight, however.
She sucked a little of her lip into her mouth. “I want your date to be perfect.”
And speaking of the diva, his phone pinged with a text. Charity was running a “smidge late.” That meant a good thirty minutes, and he wasn’t upset about it.
He pocketed his phone and measured his voice. “I suppose indoors will do.” They could move outside later, giving him an excuse to get Charity up from the table and one step closer to the door.
He moved to the liquor cabinet to pour himself a whisky. He could use a few minutes to shake off the last remnants of the day—and the fact he had a chef who clearly knew what she was doing with food but didn’t seem to take client’s orders well.
Something sizzled in the pan, and Rayen slipped an enormous piece of fish into it. “She’s late because she wants to make an entrance.”
“Your date.” She pointed at his phone.
“She does, huh?” More like punishing him for not picking her up, yet another thing she suggested. As if the woman didn’t have two drivers at her disposal twenty-four-seven. “It’s a business meeting. Not a date.”
He brought out a bottle of thirty-year-old Glenfiddich. “But I suppose you’re an expert on dating, given what you do.”
He poured himself two fingerfuls, the splash mixing with a snort from Rayen. “I suck at it.”
“I doubt that.” Though he couldn’t imagine the type of man she would go for. She was casual yet clearly had ambition if she was taking on the food scene in DC. He enjoyed women with vision, though he was beginning to believe he was sold a load of horseshit about her being “up and coming.”
She leveled her dark eyes on him. “No, I’m better with fish.”
He took a long pull on his drink. “I’m not disappointed about that.” A peppery spice and maple wafted in the air, and it surprisingly mixed well with the earthy scent of his drink.
“So, what else are you cooking so I know whether to serve white or red.” Gentleman’s Gourmet web site didn’t mention wine pairings, so he’d opted to do his own.
Clearly, his judgment to handle the drinks himself was right. “Wine.”
“Oh.” Her brow furrowed. “Um, besides the soup, pine nut encrusted trout, wild greens in an herb sauce, butternut squash in maple syrup, and fresh berries for dessert.”
“Hmm.” Simple, but it made his belly rumble with hunger. He pulled out a sauvignon blanc and a riesling. “So, you don’t offer wine? Even my barber offers it.”
“Ayana says I should.”
“You should. Great margins.” He reached into a drawer for the corkscrew. “And Ayana?”
“The development officer for the Native Peoples Culture Center. She was the one who recommended me.”
Ah, yes. One of the many fundraisers who came begging for money. Her efforts, however, earned his interest.
Ayana had also slipped him Gentleman’s Gourmet card after overhearing his conversation with someone seeking a personal chef service. He’d remembered the exchange because she’d handed it over and walked away. Women rarely walked away from him. Arrogant but true.
Rayen held out a spoon with the soup. It was a familiar move, something a mother might do—or so he’d seen in the movies.
He released the spoon from her fingers and brought it to his lips. A burst of creamy pumpkin danced on his tongue. “Mmm. Good.” Not too cloying and not too sharp.
“Oh, and full disclosure, Ayana is my sister.”
Now he understood the over-the-top endorsement. “I see nepotism still rules in this town.” And now that she’d mentioned her family connection, he could see the resemblance between her and her sister—the same shining dark hair and high cheekbones.
“Is that a problem?” she asked.
“Not with me.” Truth is, it was how DC worked—mostly. It’d done little to help him.
“Anything special I can do to help with your date?” She leaned against the countertop casually as if they were two friends chatting it up. “I mean, other than risk my life on your balcony—and for the record, I’m right about the lip gloss.”
He was back to staring at her lips. He normally didn’t care about lips unless they were wrapped around a certain part of his anatomy.
“Okay, I’ll give you credit for foreseeing the wind issue. And again, not a date.”
“I foresee a lot of things.” She winked at him—and it went straight to his crotch.
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