If you can’t stand the heat,
stay out of the kitchen…
Chef Charlee has spent a lifetime trying to outrun her difficult past. A head chef job in a small town might be the start of something new—but she never expected the boss to be more sizzling hot than anything she’s ever cooked! But Charlee has been burned before, so keeping her mind on the job is the only safe choice.
If only she would stop imagining the kitchen counter as a great place for a steamy rendezvous… (No, Charlee! No! You prepare food on that! Stop thinking that way! But he’s so handsome…!)
His new restaurant is his fresh start. But the head chef is the tastiest thing on the menu…
Bear shifter Steven has big plans to break away from his family’s brewhouse tradition. All he needs is a new town, a new restaurant, and a new…incredibly sexy, curvy chef who just happens to be his fated mate?! Now it’s not ambitions for the bistro that get him all fired up—it’s Charlee, and finding a way to coax her out of her shell.
Charlee doesn’t know about shifters, and Steven doesn’t know if this restaurant is really what he wants after all—but the more they work together, the more they become certain that above all else, what they want is…each other.
Bear Shifter Steven Torbin’s family has many successful brewery pubs. He wants a new start here in Virtue and part of that is to create more of a bistro instead of a pub.
When he first meets Chef Charlee Lind, he knows she’s his mate but she’s also human. It also almost leads to an accident with a large sink on the way to a dumpster. Charlee sets out to impress him with her kitchen skills, which she does in spades.
This is a favorite scene.
Steve was doing something terrifying with a circular saw when Charlee got back to the restaurant. He lifted his voice to call, “Go on and take over the kitchen! Just call me when you’re done!”
For an instant, Charlee was tempted to forget about going to work herself, and just stay to watch him work. All those muscles straining against the white t-shirt and the sweat beading along his nape and the snug fit of his jeans were certainly worth watching. Furthermore, he looked like he knew exactly what he was doing with the circular saw, and Charlee had always thought watching someone be good at something was really appealing.
But standing in the yard goggling at him wouldn’t get her a job, so she went into the kitchen and smiled around at the clean chrome and stainless steel. “You’ll be all mine, baby,” she told the space. “I’m not gonna let anybody else take you over.”
A few minutes later she had the oven going, and chicken breasts butterflied so she could stuff them with spinach and mozzarella, and was whistling merrily as she chopped tomatoes. The chicken got wrapped in very thinly sliced prosciutto and went into the oven to bake gently while she decided to fire up the fryer after all, cut up the potatoes, and threw them in to the sounds of satisfying sizzling. The sauce and fresh cauliflower came last, and just under an hour after she started, she plated up what she knew to be a wonderful meal, and called Steve in.
He apparently dropped everything to come in and wash up, because he wasn’t more than two minutes, and even his hair was damp like he’d run his hands through it to tidy it up. Water dripped along his collarbones, and Charlee, standing proudly beside her presentation plate, forgot she was supposed to be showing off and just gazed at him with pure admiration.
His smile was bright with excitement as he sat down. “This smells incredible. Tell me about it?”
“Mozzarella and spinach stuffed chicken breast, wrapped in prosciutto, steak fries—” which were tidily stacked in a crosshatch pattern, for the visual appeal— “and cauliflower florets. The star of the meal is—”
Steve moaned, “That sauce,” as he took a small bite. His eyes closed gently with obvious bliss, and he sat silently for a moment, savoring the mouthful before he gazed up at Charlee with pure adoration. “My God. What is it?”
“Tomato, sun-dried tomato, garlic, pine nuts, and cream.”
“That is unbelievable,” Steve whispered reverently. “Oh my God. Sit down, sit down, tell me more about this. Wait, don’t you have some? You have to have some! This is incredible!”
“Oh, I—” Charlee faltered, but Steve waved his hands as if an emergency was occurring right in front of him.
“Please, make yourself up a plate? It’s magnificent when I’m eating by myself, obviously, but it’s so good I want to share it with someone.”
Far be it from her to deny sharing anything with this guy. Charlee smiled shyly and went to make up her own plate, although she didn’t take quite as much care with its presentation as she had with Steve’s.
He hadn’t taken even so much as a second bite by the time she returned, although he was looking at his plate like polite society was the only thing between himself and eternal happiness. But then he lifted his eyes, which were shining. “Go on. Take a bite. I want to see if the chef is as happy as I am.”
“The chef tasted it in the kitchen,” Charlee promised, but sat down with him and cut a bite of the chicken, making sure to get plenty of sauce on it as she brought it to her mouth. Tangy, sweet, rich tomato cream sauce hit her tongue, and she closed her eyes happily, enjoying the bite. “Honestly, you know it’s good when you’ve spent an hour cooking it and it still tastes wonderful. Try a fry.”
Steve took a bite, obligingly, then sighed with contentment. “Home fries are always best. Why are they better hand-cut?”
“It’s the love,” Charlee said without embarrassment, which surprised her. Usually she wouldn’t say something like that at all, even if she felt it. Usually she would expect somebody to roll their eyes at her, at best. But Steve Torben smiled encouragingly, and she went on. “I have a theory that food tastes best when it’s made with love, and hand-cutting fries so they’re perfect is an act of love, see. Dip it in the sauce.”
“But it’s so good the way it is.” Steve did what he was told, though, then began laughing helplessly around his mouthful. “It’s so good,” he said when he’d finished. “It’s so, so good.”
Charlee beamed. “I like cauliflower on its own, myself, but the reason to serve it with this meal is that it’s another perfect carrier for the sauce. It’s mild enough that it really showcases the sauce.”
“You’re telling me to dip my cauliflower in the sauce, too?” Steve asked eagerly, and did so before she’d even nodded. Then he actually wiggled in his seat. That was a lot of man to be wiggling, and Charlee loved every bit of it. “Oh, you’re hired,” Steve said. “You are very very hired. If you want the job. Did you want to look at the apartment upstairs? It’s kind of basic, but it would mean you didn’t have to look for a place.”
“After lunch?” Charlee suggested. “Unless you’re just a taster-menu kind of eater, of course.”
Steve laughed out loud and gestured at himself. “Do I look like I limit myself to the taster menu? It takes a lot of food to keep this much body going.”
“Yeah, but I bet it goes all night lo—” Charlee dropped her fork and clapped both hands over her mouth, feeling herself turn scarlet. She parted her fingers enough to squeak, “I am so sorry,” through them.
Steve’s eyes had widened, but his laugh had turned to a huge grin, which stayed put. “No, no, don’t worry about it, I kind of walked into that.”
Charlee, still squeakily, said, “Did you, though?” and Steve’s wonderful laugh rolled over her again. It almost made her feel better. It would have, in fact, if she would just let it, but she was too busy making sure she felt mortified and awful, to remind herself never ever ever to do something like that again.
“I kind of think so, yeah. I’ve been out there being all manly and stuff, doing the whole sweat of my brow Paul Bunyan thing and drawing attention to my—” He paused and somehow struck a model’s pose, even though he was still sitting. “My powerful and handsome physique.” Then he snorted, almost another laugh. “So, yeah, I kind of think I walked into it. But I can tell you’re uncomfortable, so we shall never speak of it again.”
His eyes sparkled, but Charlee was momentarily dumbstruck.
Chant, Zoe. Hold My Bear (Virtue Shifters Book 5) Kindle Locations (227-256). Kindle Edition.
Steve and Charlee work very hard to get everything ready to open on schedule. Then when they do although it’s a success, people ready were expecting the pub atmosphere.
The shocking thing for both of them is that they weren’t happy either. They proved what they set out to do, but deep down they both want what the town does.
Lots of fun, craziness, romance and sizzle.