IF YOU CAN'T STAND THE HEAT
Derek Dunne is a Cordon Bleu-trained food critic for the prestigious New York Monitor, whose scathing review of a popular Italian bistro has driven away all but the most loyal neighborhood patrons.
Lucrezia Serafina DiCicco is a clumsy business school drop-out, working as a chef and scrambling to keep her family's restaurant afloat, after her father develops diabetes and is banned from his kitchen for his own good.
Now, with The Monitor folding, Derek is searching for his next career path and longing to get back to his first love—cooking—while Lu is desperate for an influx of cash to save the struggling restaurant…even as her father puts his foot down about non-family employees.
Derek and Lu embark on a marriage of inconvenience to save the restaurant. But can Lu ever really trust the man who nearly destroyed her family, who once noted her initials spelled “LSD,” and her food was like a “bad trip?”
Or will it be their hearts on the chopping block?
Lu did not know what to make of this whirlwind of a man, who had taken her kitchen by storm, moving about as if he owned the place, apparently very comfortable behind the stove. Obviously more comfortable than she was.
Derek Dunne’s larger-than-life masculine presence seemed to cut the size of the joint in half, his virile male vitality so compelling the shining stainless steel and tile fixtures looked dull and drab by comparison. He looked good with his shirtsleeves rolled up to reveal strong forearms and a hint of bulging biceps. Damn good. Distracted and bedazzled, she brought the chopping knife down and sliced off a bit of skin at the tip of her thumb. She shrieked in surprised pain, blood pouring onto the cutting board.
"Oh, Christ!” He grabbed her wrist, examining her finger and then popping it into his mouth.His gaze met hers over her hand, the riveting blue of his eyes darkening, deep as the Mediterranean, filled with a bold heat that melted her like a dab of butter on a hot skillet. Flames licked at her, as he stroked his tongue slowly, sensuously over the cut, sucking as if he’d never tasted anything so sublime. Not very sanitary. But delicious.
Warm, erotic pleasure mixed with the stinging pain, his tongue as talented as everything else about him. Darts of delight shot through her, pooling at her core. Images of his skillful mouth enjoying other parts of her hungry, neglected body sent her reeling. He braced a strong forearm behind her before she toppled over. His scent enveloped her, lime clean and citrus tart and so masculine she went completely light-headed, nearly swooning. Thank God for the sure, steady grip keeping her upright.
"Where’s the first-aid kit?” His yell bounced off the tiled kitchen walls, as he substituted a wad of paper towels for his lips and applied pressure. Did she only imagine that his voice sounded huskier, sexier, more raw and gravelly?