From the author:
MAKING IT UP AS YOU GO ALONG
Rising sous-chef Kelly Matlock’s sudden collapse at work is a wake-up call. Disillusioned and burned out, she’s retreated to her sister Jillian’s house in Virgin River to rest and reevaluate.
Puttering in Jill’s garden and cooking with her heirloom vegetables is wonderful, but Virgin River is a far cry from San Francisco. Kelly’s starting to feel a little too unmotivated...until she meets Lief Holbrook. The handsome widower looks more like a lumberjack than a sophisticated screenwriter—a combination Kelly finds irresistible. But less appealing is Lief’s rebellious stepdaughter, Courtney. She’s the reason they moved from L.A., but Courtney’s finding plenty of trouble even in Virgin River.
Kelly’s never fallen for a guy with such serious baggage, but some things are worth fighting for. Besides, a bratty teenager can’t be any worse than a histrionic chef...right?
Kelly Matlock was right in the middle of trying to get between two hot-headed, shouting, red-faced, armed line cooks who were fighting over stovetop territory when the restaurant manager tapped her shoulder.
“I need to see you,” Phillip said. “My office.”
Kelly, sous chef, threw him an incredulous look. She was literally holding apart a big Italian and a big Swede; the Italian had a spatula and the Swede was wielding a metal spoon. The request that she go to the manager’s office right now was so absurd, she almost laughed. “Really too busy here, Phillip,” she said. “Not only are we having a brawl in the kitchen, but it’s seven o’clock. Check with me at ten.”
“It’s urgent,” he said. “Otherwise, believe me, I wouldn’t ask.”
“Where’s Durant?” Kelly asked, speaking of the Chef de Cuisine, the head chef.
“Making his rounds in the front of the house, gloating. Let these two morons kill each other — we’re short on meat anyway.”
That suggestion did far more to separate the line cooks than Kelly had. “I’ll be right there,” she said to Phillip. He liked to be addressed as Philippe, although Kelly had learned he didn’t actually have a French cell in his body and his accent was totally contrived. She went to her locker, removed her apron and exchanged her soiled white jacket for a clean, crisp one, something she would do before leaving the kitchen no matter what her business. She washed her hands and left her senior line cook in charge.
It never crossed her mind that it might be a real emergency; Phillip was known for his melodramatic displays. His second favorite thing was making passes at the female staff and his third, screaming matches with Durant.
One day, when Kelly was Chef de Cuisine, there would be no Phillip; she would never tolerate a manager with such annoying, socially unacceptable behaviors.
She gave a couple of taps on Phillip’s office door and then pushed it open. Her heart almost stopped. Seated there, in a chair facing the restaurant manager’s desk, was Olivia Brazzi, wife of the famous Luciano Brazzi, uber chef. Although Kelly crossed her path regularly — at charity events and in this very restaurant — they didn’t know each other at all. Olivia was tight with Durant; her presence here was not unusual. Luca owned a controlling interest in this restaurant; naturally he frequented the kitchen and his wife frequented the dining room. But Olivia had always coldly ignored Kelly, treating her as if she were a mere cook, not worthy of her time.
Olivia smiled at her with such warmth and kindness, Kelly wondered for an insane moment if she’d come to turn Luca over to her.
Mrs. Brazzi was stunning in her elegant black crepe dress, shiny textured stockings, three-inch heels and strategically placed diamonds. Her ash blond hair was swept up in a sexy chignon; she did not look her fifty years, not by twenty. She looked like a girl. A sophisticated girl with ice blue eyes.
Kelly felt her stomach flip. What in the world could she want with me? she thought. Could she expect me to cater a special dinner party or event?
Olivia glanced at Phillip. “A moment, Philippe? May I have the room?”
Kelly felt light headed. On her list of most unexpected events, a private meeting with Olivia Brazzi was up there with alien abduction.
“Of course, Olivia,” he said gallantly. Then he paused to kiss the back of her hand before leaving and closing the door. It made Kelly want to gag.
“Ms. Matlock, please,” Olivia invited graciously. “Sit down a moment.” She gestured with a small, delicate hand to the chair beside her.
Kelly said a brief prayer. Whatever this is, please let it be over quickly!
“I’m sorry that our first meeting is so awkward, Ms. Matlock, but I’ve come to ask you to stop sleeping with my husband.”
Kelly’s eyes grew large in spite of her desire to remain poised. “Are you serious?” she asked, mortified.
“Oh my, yes,” Olivia said.
“Mrs. Brazzi, I’m not sleeping with Luca!”
“Perhaps there’s not that much sleeping... Now, let’s get it sorted out quickly and quietly. Shall we?” And she lifted a slim, shapely brow.
Whew, Olivia was quick and to the point. And that sounded suspiciously as if Olivia and Luca were not as separated as Luca claimed.
Of course, Kelly wasn’t sleeping with him! But best to say nothing at all, she decided, because her feelings for Luca would probably show all over her face. She swallowed nervously.
Kelly was pretty; she knew she was pretty. But Olivia was beautiful. And chic. And seasoned; experienced. Her sophisticated and contained self-confidence was a bit overpowering. Kelly had been up against the most diabolical chefs in the world, yet the soft spoken Mrs. Brazzi had her completely intimidated.
“Luca told me everything. How you met, how long you’ve been seeing each other, et cetera. It’s a familiar story. Of course you’re not the first,” Olivia said. “I imagine you know that by now. My husband seems to have a particular taste for blonds. Please, will you break it off?”
She knew she shouldn’t say anything at all. But this was a bit too crazy to leave alone. “With all due respect, Mrs. Brazzi, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Your affair with Luca has been going on for about three months now. Four? You met at a charity event; in fact I was present at the same event. You love to exchange food. It leads to all the other things — for Luca food equals passion. Your number was all over his cell phone so I confronted him. It’s not the first time we’ve gone around about something like that. The messages, the texts, the pictures, all that. Please, it’s out now. I just want it to end.”
Kelly stiffened. “Really, Mrs. Brazzi, I’ve known your husband much longer than three months. I’ve been sous chef here for three years! We’ve had professional contact, sometimes frequent — this is his restaurant even if Durant thinks he owns the place, but--”
To continue reading, click here.
ebook 359 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Mira Books
(first published 2011)