California's hottest resort just got hotter
Recently promoted to executive chef of California's hottest high-end resort, free-spirited Gabrielle Royce is ready for anything...except the gorgeous stranger who bursts into her kitchen. Despite her hands-off policy, Gabby's intrigued—until she discovers he's record mogul Geoffrey Girard, one of LA's most eligible bachelors. Now the man who always gets what he wants has decided he wants her.
It was a long road from the inner city to Beverly Hills, and Geoffrey has never forgotten his humble roots. Gabby is a refreshing change from the material girls who always pursue him. And the sensual night they share only makes him hungry for more. Then he uncovers her secret. As a series of accidents plague the Belleza Resort, Geoffrey has to choose: walk away or entrust his future to the woman who has transformed his life.
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Lisa Marie Perry writes sizzling, deep fiction featuring sexy guy-next-door heroes and larger-than-life alphas who are brought to their knees by the love of complicated women. She's received high praise from USA Today and has been nominated for an RT Book Reviews literary award. She lives in America's heartland, drives a truck, enjoys indie rock, collects Medieval literature, watches too many comedies, has a not-so-secret love for lace and adores rugged men with a little bit of nerd.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"When was the last time you faked it?"
Visions of uncomfortably thorough interviews that left her feeling naked, judged and stripped of her ego, and a few unfortunately memorable occasions of substandard sex came easily to Gabrielle Royce's mind. Too easily. "Faked it?" She darted smoothly through the restaurant's busy stadium-size kitchen to join the classically trained sous-chef and celebrity pastry chef in front of a stainless steel counter. "Confidence? Orgasms? What are we talking about faking here?"
"Dessert." The sous-chef indicated the lone plate on the counter, clearly speaking up for Hollywood's Hardcore Baking Challenge alum Nicola Joon, the pastry chef who could be belligerently bold on her top-rated reality baking show, Confection Affection X, but in actual reality stood subdued to silence, humbled by a trio of what might be champagne-glazed crème brûlée poppers. "When was the last time you faked culinary genius because you didn't want to accept that what you created was no more special than a store-bought snack?"
"Never. A girl can fake her way through a lot of things, and with damn good reason, but when it comes to food there's no point. Food always speaks for itself, and it's louder than any chef's nonsense." Gabrielle was a chef beyond occupation. She experienced and understood food, and demanded more from it than sustenance. For her, cooking was all or nothing. It had to be. At twenty-eight, she had no unforgivable regrets—after a good month of tattoo remorse, she'd even come to cherish the blowing dandelion inked on her left shoulder blade—yet she'd sacrificed more than most people realized just for the chance to study the nuances of culinary arts and put her stamp on the leisure and hospitality industry.
"You've got one of the most critical palates in the biz, Gabby." Nicola handed her a polished fork. The round shape and bite size suggested it was an eat-with-your-fingers dessert, an interesting coupling of gourmet elegance and down-to-earth comfort, but after two weeks of studying Gabrielle's technique, flair and quirks she must've detected that as a practice Gabrielle didn't taste without utensils. "Be brutal."
"Bitch brutal. Do your worst."
Gabrielle took the fork, twirled it between her fingers. "Nicola, do you truly think it's no more unique than 'store-bought'?"
"Truly, I haven't formed an opinion. I thought I'd reserve that honor for you."
"And you, Shoshanna?" She addressed the sous-chef hanging on her every syllable. A seasoned professional deserving of her own glory, Shoshanna Smirnov avidly believed that only by mastering a craft did one reach a point where they could start to actually learn it. A student of the kitchen, now and forever. Gabrielle had to admit she liked that about her. "Have you sampled one?"
"No, Nicola cake-blocked me."
Allowing a soft snort, Gabrielle said, "It's not cake, is it? It's crème brûlée that took a bath in champagne. Am I close, Nicola?"
Nicola nodded. "You didn't send spies to my workstation, did you?"
"No. All hands are on deck today, so nobody's spying." Their most versatile line cook on staff had called in sick, which was why Gabrielle had delegated herself to the kitchen for the entire morning and much of the afternoon. Come hell or high water, the restaurant couldn't skip a beat. "But now I'm intrigued. Am I looking at an authentic Nicola Joon pâtisserie prototype?"
"This could be the Pearl's new signature dessert, if you think it's acceptable to introduce to the pastry team."
"At the Belleza, it's not acceptable if it's not perfection" Gabrielle reminded her. It was the mind-set that had earned her the executive chef position at California's most exclusive resort and had catapulted her career to a peak that afforded her the clout to cherry-pick guest chefs and burdened her with the kind of attention that had celebrities interested in seducing her into their kitchens. But if there was anything as iron-strong as Gabrielle's backbone, it was her loyalty to the Belleza—and the Parkers, a family of brilliant minds who were relying on her visions of edge and class to lead the resort's award-winning restaurant, the Pearl, into a new era.
"When would you say a dessert has reached perfection?" Shoshanna asked.
Gabrielle rolled a popper onto her fork, considered the artistic beauty of the fragile dessert before arching a brow at the sous-chef, who pinched one off the plate. "When it triggers an emotional response. Or an orgasmic experience. On three?"
She closed her eyes, counted, then let its tantalizing aroma and airy texture contribute to her impression of the dessert's taste. A drop of citrus in the center was an unexpected burst of flavor that sent a delicate shiver directly down her spine. Heaven had to taste like this.
She laid down her fork. "I want this to cuddle with me tonight and call me tomorrow."
"Bozhe moi! This is all the satisfaction I need," Shoshanna said. "If I wasn't worried about calories jumping like paratroopers to my hips, I'd consider eating this every day and giving up my bob."
"Bob?" the others asked.
"You American girls, act like you know," she teased. "Bob. Bob. Battery-operated boyfriend."
Their evaluation of the sinfully satisfying pastry was interrupted with "Don't walk backward. Dangerously hot garlic saffron broth coming through." The words, accompanied with the harsh footsteps of the harried chef carting a large stockpot haloed with billowing steam, brought back the realities of the hectic kitchen. Gabrielle searched for innovative ways to reduce stress and promote a positive environment, but even the Pearl's staff fell prey to the pressures of providing five-star excellence to the world's elite.
Grateful that Nicola's dessert had allowed her to escape the stress for a few minutes, she nodded her approval to the chef. "Great start, but it needs refining. Perhaps we can experiment with the citrus? Before we get the pastry team fired up, let's play with the recipe. Our produce supplier has a soft spot for this kitchen. We can drive out and consider more options. We'll make a field trip of it."
"Would that soft spot be for the Pearl, or for you?" Chef Stu Merritt jibed as he passed them. Gabrielle had met Stu in London and had considered it a personal win that the Belleza had tempted him to add his seafood expertise to the Pearl. A seven-foot hulk, he cloaked Gabrielle with his shadow as he paused at the workstation. She could pass as average height only in her most ambitious high heels. "There has to be a reason we're getting the best produce in California and the delivery blokes splash on cologne before they get you to sign their forms."
"The Belleza requires we work with the best ingredients. Our current suppliers happen to provide that and a pleasant business relationship. As far as personal relationships go, cologne and high-quality organic produce are nice, but what gal wouldn't ask for more? I'm harder to get than that." This was met with a clipped nod and an unconvinced grunt, but no further debate from the chef. Still, Gabrielle picked up on the curious glance between Nicola and Shoshanna as if it were the strike of a shaft of light against a gem. "Okay, I'm sensing either of you has something to add. Is there something you want to add?"
"You mean to say there's no...ah—" Shoshanna wrung her pale hands, causing the scatter of faint blue veins to appear more vibrant under her skin "—overlap between your business and personal relationships?"
"As in business with benefits? No. To maintain the integrity of this kitchen and the Pearl, I don't allow that kind of overlap. If you're affiliated with the Belleza, you'd better believe that where you're concerned there's an invisible bear trap between these legs." An A plus policy, she figured. In a delicate position as a twenty-eight-year-old executive chef at a resort owned by the family of one of her closest friends, she had enough potential vulnerabilities to draw tabloid attention without courting sex scandals. She didn't need anyone—the press, the staff she managed, her friends and especially her family—to open their ears to gossip. So to minimize the probability of stirring up media hell and then paddling her way to redemption, she was "Sorry, I'm closed" when it came to getting intimate with colleagues, members of the press and Belleza guests.
"But Kimberly Parker is engaged to Jaxon Dunham. The Dunhams are some of the resort's most high-profile clients," Shoshanna persisted. "The precedent's already there. Besides, since your life is all about the Belleza, the only way to save yourself from seeing that invisible bear trap turn into cobwebs is to add a little play to your work."
Gabrielle started to scoff, but Shoshanna was picking up momentum. "Daversya mne, I know volumes about romance. Ask any of my lovers. The Belleza does not need your entire life. We want to share you." She snapped her fingers, beamed a photo-perfect smile. "I know—you'll hook up with the next sexy eligible man you see."
"Don't look at me," Stu said, backing away with his tattooed arms up as if to hold her off, his eyes wide through his fuchsia-framed glasses. "I've taken you out for ale before, Chef Royce. You could drink a pub bankrupt. And pie isn't my preferred dessert."
"Funny, Chef Merritt. So funny."
"Dry sarcasm. Always dry sarcasm. Why don't you laugh more often? I don't know any male who wouldn't fall half in love with your laugh."
"I'm too busy to laugh," she said, freeing her curly hair from its nets, untying her apron and gearing up to check on the Pearl's dining room. All morning she'd fluttered from one kitchen task to another, filling in wherever she was needed while still juggling her executive chef duties. "And I don't want a male who's only half in love with me."
If I wanted to settle for "halfway" and "sort of," I would've stayed in my family's world and lived a life that'd make me half happy.
The coarse, comfortable banter of this kitchen was something she appreciated. As for the aha moment that made it clear that every member of her crew knew she had no man—not so much. "I'm choosing to blame Kimberly for the direction of this conversation, but let me end it with this. Unlike her, I would never get involved with a guest. Things can get messy fast. The Belleza's been through too much recent drama already. I won't invite more."
The Pearl, in particular, had faced the brunt of that drama. A rash of guests complaining about food poi-soning...numerous harsh reviews on several popular travel websites...speculation that had wrinkled the Belleza's stellar reputation and had forced Gabrielle to suspect that any day her employers might tear her a new one or cut her from the resort's staff.
She'd hated wearing that uneasiness, could hardly stomach wondering when the women who'd been her friends since their Massachusetts private school days, Kimberly Parker and Robyn Henderson, might turn on her for the good of the resort. The Parkers owned the Belleza and their histories were intertwined, yet each of the three friends now carried high-level positions and had a stake in its prosperity. Over a span of several decades the resort had endured everything from a grim 1980s recession to whispers of buried treasure, from ownership carousels to rumors of what she'd heard Shoshanna call bad omens.
In a shocking business maneuver that had turned siblings into adversaries, Kimberly's parents had named her general manager—not her brother, the Parker heir who'd been groomed to be the successor. Robyn was the Belleza's lead event planner, who took every success personally and flat-out believed failure wasn't an option. And as executive chef of the Pearl, Gabrielle was caught between two violently ambitious people— Kim, a friend who'd had her back since way back when, and Kim's brother, a guy she admired and whose job Gabrielle had swiped three years ago.
But, somehow, a seed of suspicion that the woman responsible for keeping the upper crust clientele wined and dined was in fact incompetent despite immaculate credentials had caused the foundation of what kept this place running—trust—to buckle.
Gabrielle would do her damnedest to never see that "buckle" give way to complete collapse. She cared too much about the resort, her friendships and her craft to see that happen.
So she was okay with skipping the daybreak yoga class she shared with her friends and streamlining her beauty routine to make it to the Pearl two hours early. She even accepted with tremendous gusto that she'd need to not only substitute for an ill line cook, but also step in for a member of the waitstaff who'd been involved in a fender bender on Hollywood Boulevard. Dividing her morning between cooking and bopping into the dining room to take orders, tend to the breakfast buffet, refill coffee and mingle with guests had left tiny intervals for her to escape to the office and check in with her assistant.
Confronting the Pearl's main dining room, appreciating the quiet grandeur of its bold crystal touches; sharp, clean lines and tasteful blend of pure white against sleek gray, and realizing time had ticked to eleven thirty, she took a bracing breath. The bar was open. The restaurant's exceptional wine service was one of its famous features. The waitstaff was professionally trained in wine presentation and well versed in the Pearl's list, constantly educated through workshops and winery tours. But having been born to alcohol enthusiasts and expert wine collectors, Gabrielle remained the most knowledgeable, and guests often requested her personal recommendations—though she rarely could accommodate. Her schedule didn't normally allow it, and most who attempted to beckon her to their tables did so only because they thought the Pearl's top chef's attention was a sign of their celebrity, and that only annoyed the bejesus out of her.
Not in a mood to bolster the selfentitled's egos, she softened her features to pleasant and approachable and visited the buffet first. Smoothly, her staff was changing the offerings from European-influenced breakfast foods to afternoonoriented selections ranging from fruit to salad options to an array of fresh breads.
"The air's so refreshing and cool in here, but the food stays just hot enough," a woman wrapped in pale chiffon said, pinching the buttered bread roll on her plate. "I spent the morning sorting out appointments and answering email in one of the cabanas at the pool, but the heat said it was time for a break. In here you wouldn't know it's a stifling California July out there."
My hair knows it. Gabrielle's gold-brushed auburn coils always seemed to know when heat and humidity were in cahoots. No scrunchie, barrette, bandanna or salon stylist's diligence could wrestle her curly hair to submission, so she'd finally embraced expensively messy as her style. Today she'd had to double up hairnets to secure it all out of the way, and now the loose curls lounged against her shoulders.
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Descrizione libro Kimani, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: Brand New. 224 pages. 6.70x4.30x0.60 inches. In Stock. Codice libro della libreria zk0373864094
Descrizione libro Harlequin Kimani, 2015. Mass Market Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria P110373864094