... to be released on April 18th!
Hiring my brother’s best friend was not on my to-do list.
Neither was he.
Expanding my dirty cocktail bar into food was supposed to be easy, except finding a chef in my little town of Whiskey Key is anything but.
Until Parker Hamilton comes home—bringing his Michelin starred chef’s hat with him.
He has no work. I need someone like him in my new kitchen.
There’s just one problem: I hate his cocky, filthy-mouthed, sexy-as-hell guts.
Even if I might want him. Just a little…
Working for my best friend’s sister? Not on my to-do list.
She’s another story.
Whiskey Key was supposed to be a relaxing vacation, except I haven’t reached the heights I have by lying in a hammock drinking cocktails. So when Raven Archer is desperate for a chef, I offer up my skills.
I’m bored. She needs what I can give her.
Except there’s a problem: I’ve always hated her.
Her and her big, blue eyes, sassy mouth, and killer curves.
If only I didn’t want her.
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Aunt Alexa came to the bar, her arm through my mom’s. “Thank you for pussy pounding,” she slurred, grinning wildly. “You must share recipe.”
“You got it, Aunt Alexa. I’ll write it down for you.”
“Now!” She threw her arm in the air, almost punching the guy next to her in the face. “Oh!” She turned and cupped his face and apologized in Greek.
My mom managed to pull her away in a flurry of English apologies and a high-pitched scream that she planned to call me.
I, meanwhile, turned to the guy my aunt almost punched. “I’m so sorry. My aunt just got in from Greece yesterday, and I don’t think jetlag and cocktails mix,” I said, leaning forward slightly.
He laughed. “Don’t worry about it. Can I get a Slutwhisperer for my friend’s girlfriend?”
“Sure. Normal or sexy?”
I bit the inside of my cheek. “A Sexy Slutwhisperer has vodka as well.”
“Oh.” He looked over his shoulder but apparently not finding his friend, shrugged. “Make it a sexy one. I’m sure my friend won’t complain.”
“Sure.” I grabbed a shaker.
“Are you still serving food?”
“Sorry, the kitchen closed an hour ago. There are some great little places around here, though.” I talked through mixing.
“It’s all good. I heard you were looking for kitchen staff. Is the owner around?”
“You’re speaking to her.” I flashed a small over my shoulder.
He laughed. “Well, that was easier than I thought. Are you still hiring?”
I held up two fingers as I blended the raspberries and threw in the other ingredients. I grabbed a tall glass and scooped ice into it before answering. “I think we’re actually good right now, but I know the two guys my chef hired are on a trial, so there’s always a chance. Twelve-fifty, please.”
He handed over fifteen dollars. “Keep the rest. Can I leave my name and number with you in case a position opens up? I’m staying in Key West with family, so I’ll be around all summer.”
“You can leave it with me.” Parker stepped up beside me and held his hand out to the guy. “Parker Hamilton, executive chef. Raven, do you have a pen and paper?”
I hit the button on the register for some plain receipt paper and handed it to him with a pen. “There you go.”
“Thanks.” He winked at me and put the stuff down in front of the unnamed—yet cute—guy. “Write down your details and I’ll get in touch.”
I side-eyed him. Why would he be in touch? Was there a problem with one of the guys in the kitchen?
Parker and the guy exchanged a few more words before the guy grabbed the drink he’d ordered and held a hand up to me in goodbye. I smiled and returned the gesture, then immediately gave Parker my attention.
“Don’t go anywhere,” I told him. I walked down the bar and grabbed Sienna. “Are you good for five minutes?”
She nodded, a shaker in each hand. “It’s quieter. Everything all right?”
“Fine and fucking dandy,” I answered, leaving her staring after me with her eyebrows shooting up. “You,” I said to Parker. “With me.” I didn’t wait before I stormed into the kitchen and caught a shocked Wes’s eye. “You’re good to go, Wes, thanks.”
He nodded and headed out to the bar. He’d changed and had his stuff nearby, so he met Parker on the way through.
“What,” I said the moment the door shut, “Was that?”
He folded his arms across his chest. “That was me taking details for a section I hire.”
“And he couldn’t give me his details because?”
“Because he was making an obvious play to give you his number.”
My eyebrows shot up. “And you know this how?”
“Because it’s the oldest trick in the fucking book. Give your number to the hot girl behind the bar and hope she calls it and invites you for a job interview,” he said, his tone flat. “Pretty sure I made that up before I’d even fucking graduated.”
“Why does it matter to you if he gives me his number? Did you consider I might have wanted it?”
He stops with his mouth open. If he had a response, he changed his mind about saying it. Instead, he stared me down. He locked his gaze onto mine and holds it, the intensity of his dark eyes too much to keep looking at, yet too compelling to turn away from.
We stayed like this, a silent battle of wills, for a good minute. Neither of us moved or spoke, almost as if time had frozen, suspending us in it. There were plenty of places to move to, but no room to go. I was locked entirely on him, held in his space by nothing more than one stare I couldn’t help meeting.
“You want his number?” Parker’s voice was low, yet it sliced through the silence as if it were a scream. “Here.”
My heart skipped as he closed the distance between us in a few long strides. He stopped only inches away from me and held the small, torn-off sheet out for me.
I didn’t want the guy’s number.
But I took it anyway. Just to make a point.
His eyes searched mine with the closer distance, and I couldn’t help but notice the amber flecks that speckled the dark brown of his irises. They glinted gold when the light caught them right, and momentarily, I was struck by how handsome he actually was. Not only was the color of his eyes mesmerizing, they were surrounded by thick, dark eyelashes I’d give my left ovary for. Even the mole just below his right eye, in the corner, added to the perfection when it had no right to.
My heart didn’t just skip. It sprinted, beating wildly against my ribs, trying to outrun itself even though there was nowhere to go.
I wanted Parker Hamilton.
I wanted him to kiss me just so I could see if his lips were as soft as they looked.
I wanted him to fist the back of my hair just to know if his grip on it would be as firm as it was when he held a knife.
I wanted him to sit me on the edge of the goddamn counter to see if he’d keep his word.
And it was wrong. It was so, so wrong.
“I can tell you all about him,” Parker said, his voice still low. “Call him, Raven.”
I hated the way my name rolled off his tongue.
“He’ll fuck you to get a job. Then he’ll tell you he doesn’t mix work with pleasure.”
I hated the way he said pleasure, with a low inflection at the end.
“And when he’s bored, he’ll move on until something challenges him.”
I hated the smugness that tinted every word he said.
“The woman or the kitchen—it doesn’t matter. He’s not a career chef. If he were, he wouldn’t be buying drinks for his girlfriend and chatting you up at the same time.”
“His friend’s girlfriend,” I finally said, clearing my throat.
“I watched him walk to the bar. He was alone at a table with a girl who, seconds before, had kissed him.”
Shit. He had me there.
His lips curved into a smug little smirk I wanted to pluck right off his face.
“Don’t ever undermine my authority again,” I said, my voice matching his. “You won’t like what happens when you do.”
Parker took my chin in his hand, his thumb brushing the underside of my lower lip. “The next time I undermine your authority, you’ll be on your goddamn knees in front of me with my hand print on your ass.”
“Over my dead body.”
“That can be arranged.”
I smacked his hand away from me and forced myself not to look at his mouth. I couldn’t—I wouldn’t. “Get yourself the fuck out of here before I listen to the voice telling me to fire your ass for overstepping the line again.”
His hand fell to his side, and I didn’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t what he said next. “If I didn’t respect your brother so much, you’d have a fucking good reason to fire me.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“It means that your brother is the only reason you’re not against that wall with your legs wrapped around my fucking waist.”
The words were a warning.
Maybe even a promise.
“Try it,” I bluffed despite the shiver that tickled my spine. “See what happens if you do.”
He grabbed my wrist and pushed me to the wall right next to us. One hand fisted as he rested his knuckles on the wall near my hip, and the other flattened just above my head. He wasn’t touching me, but his breath fanned across my lips, making it seem as if he was.
I held his gaze. I wanted to look away, to stop this from happening, but I couldn’t. I refused to back down from whatever the hell this was. I didn’t know if his heart was beating anywhere near as fast as mine or if his stomach was flipping the same way mine was, but I could see what I wanted to see in the twitch of his jaw—
He was barely holding onto his self-control.
It was hanging by a thread, and one more word would snap it.
One more word, and it wouldn’t matter how much he respected my brother.
He’d kiss me anyway.