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Cocky Chef(2)

By:J.D. Hawkins

Maybe they recognize me from the TV show I had a couple of years ago, where I taught a bunch of ex-convicts and young offenders how to cook professionally. It was a fun time, but I quit the show when I realized the production company kept trying to stir up drama between the cast members. In reality, most of them took to the kitchen like ducks to water, and the heat of it left none of them with enough energy to cause trouble. So the producers thought it would spice the show up a little to instigate some fights, get the cooks wound up. Well, I don't like drama-especially in my kitchens. So I quit. Swapped the chef whites for fine suits, started combing my hair in the mornings, and decided to get back to the business side of things since Knife seemed to be running well on its own with limited supervision from me. That's when I started my plans to open up another restaurant, this time in Vegas.

The wine arrives and I enjoy the show, the women still all shocked mouths and slight blushes. The waiter points back at me and I raise an eyebrow, keeping my eyes on the blonde as I bring the glass to my lips, savoring the sweet taste of the wine and the elegant curve of her cleavage at the same time. She's smiling now, bashfully hiding behind that hair and stealing glances at me. Her slender fingers delicately holding the fork that plays around her plate. Gentle and careful. I won't say getting this woman into bed tonight will be easy, but the truth is, it's not gonna be hard. And after the week I've had, I could use the distraction.

"Your steak, Cole."

I turn away from the blonde to see Ryan, the waiter, place the large plate in front of me.


"Thanks," I say, a little growl edging into my voice as I look down at the marbled meat. It's all juicy softness, outlined by the prickles of peppercorns and grill lines, the red wine sauce glistening so that it seems almost alive. The blonde's gonna have to wait a little.

I slice a piece-pleased to find the knives have been sharpened as I like them-and reveal the center; red as lust. I spear it, take a piece of the crisp potato like an afterthought, and put it in my mouth.

It takes about a second for my brain to get the messages my tongue is sending it, but when I realize it I slam the cutlery back on the plate loud enough to make the diners around me turn in my direction. Ryan rushes over, his Ken-doll eyebrows shooting upward as he sees my tightened jawline, my fixed expression.

"Something wrong?" he says tentatively.

"Who's working the vegetables tonight?"

"Um … Willow."


"Yeah … the new chef. We hired her last week, remember? While you were in Vegas."

I frown. "Bring her out here."

Ryan hesitates for a split second, forcing me to look at him and erase any doubt that I'm being 100% serious. Then, he bolts. After tapping my fingers on the fine tablecloth for a few moments, Ryan returns, the chef in question following close behind him.

She walks elegantly, proud. Shoulders back and chin high. The chef whites and baggy black slacks hiding her body, dark blonde hair twisted up and buried under a hairnet, but the long neck and delicate features of her face all the more striking for the outfit's plainness. Doe-brown eyes set in an oval shape, lips that pout like they're mid-kiss, and a slightly upturned nose so demurely imperfect that only an artist could have made it.

"Is there a problem?" she asks, glancing from me to Ryan and back again. Her hand is on her hip, exhibiting a flash of attitude.

I take a second, frowning at her. She clearly has no idea who I am …

"You cooked these potatoes?"

"Yes … " she says, frowning back. "And?"

"Can you tell me which herbs go into them?"

"Uh … sure," she says, shooting a confused look at Ryan. "There's a little sage, some thyme-"


There's a slight tilt of her head when I interrupt. Enough to show me that she knows where I'm going with this, but the fierce defensiveness doesn't leave her expression, or her voice.

"Yeah. Thyme."

"The menu says thyme," I announce, then point contemptuously at the potatoes on my plate. "But this? This is lemon thyme."

She sighs quickly, a slight admission, but there's not an ounce of regret about it. 

"We're out of regular thyme, sir."

I can tell she's trying to appease me, using her soothing ‘customer service' voice. Unfortunately for her, it won't work on me. Because I'm the boss, and this is my recipe.

Ryan leans toward Willow and murmurs, "It's probably at Leo's station, he always forgets to put stuff back when he's done."