Dishing Up Romance, due for release next month, was truly a labor of love for me. Every chef I know dreams of having their own cookbook, and I’m no exception. When Avalon asked me to write this series, I was over the moon knowing my dream was about to come true. And, what better way to combine two of my favorite subjects: romance and food, but also, to write the sequel to Cupid's Web. I hope you enjoy reading the excerpt I’ve included below.
Washing vegetables during my externship for the last month at Chez Francoise hadn’t taught me anything about my aspiring career in the culinary arts except to give me chapped hands. I blocked a yawn using my forearm and drained the water, only to refill it for the third time and watch the spinach float to the top.
Charlie Johnson, the executive chef and owner of Chez Francoise entered, and I gasped as I gawked at Mr. Rock-hard Chest Guy standing next to him. I stood up a little straighter. Oh yeah, flashed through my mind. Things were indeed looking up—big time.
I quickly moved behind a wall that jutted out to get a better look at him so those close by wouldn’t witness my girlish fantasies coming to life. He said something to Charlie and as his mouth moved, I watched his sexy lips and crooked smile. Charlie said something to him and pointed in my direction. I jolted back to the sink, my heart now wildly pulsating and watched him head my way. I tried to calm down, but as he got closer, my mind imagined he was Don Giovanni, the Italian Don Juan, and I was Princess Caterina being lured into his world by his good looks and charm. Then all of a sudden, Dad’s favorite song played through my mind.
When the moon . . . hits your eye . . .like a big-a pizza pie.
“That’s amore,” shot out of my mouth like a canyon when he stood next to me, the scent from his aftershave teasing my senses. I cleared my throat to squelch my embarrassment, but then this wasn’t the first time I’d made a fool of myself. He leaned toward me. I inhaled deeply, enjoying the woody scent of what I thought was cedar or pine, but maybe it was the wooden crate of spinach he held in his hands—the one I hadn’t noticed before.
“Amore?” he said with a devilish grin.
“Cooking!” I responded quickly, my index finger doing a standalone. “The food . . . the cooking . . . that’s love—don’t you think?” My lashes fluttered. I couldn’t believe how quickly I’d resorted to acting like a love starved woman who’d been on a deserted island most of her life. Actually, I was, but that’s my doing—darn it!
“Yes, I agree,” he said with a wink. “Food is love. Now, where would you like me to put this crate of spinach?”
“Crate?” I asked, still watching his mouth move, my legs now wavering like a limp piece of liver.
“Yeah,” he said, “Charlie asked me to bring this over to you.”
“Oh, right. More spinach,” I mumbled, too embarrassed to look him in the eyes. “Sorry.” I pointed ahead. “By the sink, please.” I followed close behind, enjoying his back view as much as the front. He placed the crate on the floor then stood and extended his hand. I was barely able to lift mine, now limp and shaking, into his warm palm.
I shook my head. This wasn’t real and I had no desire to become involved with anyone, especially now that I had a new career on the horizon. So why was I so bowled over by his looks? Because he was gorgeous, and I was lonely? Or because I had conflicting thoughts about having a love life?
“I’m Josh Benson.” He interrupted my thoughts. “Are you alright? You look a little pale.”
“Uh huh,” I said, still trying to avoid his baby blues. “I’m Cassie Pirelli,” I stammered. “I’m just getting over a cold.” I didn’t sound nasally, but hey, I thought it might work, but then maybe not so much.
He grinned, and I knew I’d been snagged. He knew exactly what I’d been thinking.
“I’d like to ask you something.”
Ohmigod rushed through my mind as my pulse picked up speed. It had been a long time since any guy had paid attention to me.
“So what did you have in mind?” I said fast and flirty.
I chastised myself, but you think I could stop acting like a jerk? I knew it, and he knew it, but here I stood while he watched me with a cautious eye and a toothy grin. My eyes glanced down at his left hand just for Yuks—you know, in case I was interested, all the while praying I wouldn’t see a ring on that finger. Ah, my prayers were answered. No wedding band. Not even a tan line. My heart skipped another beat.
“How long have you worked here?” he asked.
Dishing Up Romance includes 32 recipes, several of which are my closely guarded family recipes, like my mother’s Tomato Sauce and Meatballs that I’ve weaved into the story. And the good news is it’s currently up for pre-order at Barnes and Noble at the discounted rate of $16.16. If you like to cook, this series is for you.