Hot, Sexy & Bad(2)

By: Judy Angelo



She’d been one of the unfortunate ones who hadn’t been adopted into a family. Maybe it had been her independent spirit, maybe her unusual name. Who knew? Instead of enjoying the security of one loving family she’d moved from foster home to foster home, spending two years here then four years there until, before she knew it, she was eighteen and off into the big, wild world. Thankfully, she'd been the independent, 'go-getter' type. She’d survived on her own, graduated magna cum laude, and had done darned well for herself, all things considered.

With a savvy friend like Lena Rossini in her life how could she have gone wrong? Every day she thanked the stars that fate had thrown them together in that tiny dorm room on the Duke campus. That had been the beginning of a partnership that had blossomed into a catering company that benefited from Lena’s business acumen and showcased Arie’s culinary skills.

And today was more of the same. They’d been contracted by the planning manager of Belitalia to host their sales award dinner and the fact that the occasion was scheduled just days before Thanksgiving did not faze her one bit. Sure, they had six events scheduled over the next four days but that was what made Talk of the Town so special. When it came to being organized and handling multiple projects efficiently their reputation was spotless.

But there was just one little problem. Today, for the first time since she’d started her business, Arie was distracted. And it was all the fault of that too, too sexy man sitting at the head table, making her think thoughts that had absolutely nothing to do with cooking or catering.

She shook her head, trying to clear him from her mind, then turned toward her tuxedoed team of well-trained servers, some of them talented apprentice chefs. “Time for the Bananas Foster, guys. Let's get some fires going.”

“We’re on it, boss.” That had to be Paul, always willing, always the first to tackle a task. She smiled as the young man led the way into the massive banquet hall, straight to the specially prepared table in the middle of the room.

There, four of them would prepare the classic New Orleans dessert right there in front of a rapt audience. Of course, with all that fire flaming in the pans there would always be two other servers watching and waiting in the wings, fire extinguishers in hand. Thankfully, in all her years in the catering business they’d never had to use that contingency plan.

With the guests totally caught up in the show her team was putting on, Arie saw the perfect opportunity to glide out and, as inconspicuously as possible, make her way from table to table, making sure that all was well. She often did that at big events just to reduce the likelihood of any eventualities but today she had an ulterior motive. What better way to get a closer look at the object of her admiration? And no, she wasn’t a desperate, sex-starved woman who had nothing better to do with her time. She was just enjoying the view, that was all.

Arie smiled when the staff members of Belitalia burst into applause as Paul finished the dish with a flourish, bowing low in appreciation of their praise. Showman that he was, he was never one to disappoint.

As the chatter and applause died down she turned, still smiling, and found herself staring directly into the deep brown eyes of a man who was watching her so intently that she almost stopped in her tracks. It was her Adonis.

She blinked and that fraction of a second was what it took to unfreeze her and release her from his unwavering stare. Earlier she’d been the stalker but now she knew what it felt like. Mercy, was he checking her out?

The idea was farfetched, she knew, but contrary or not, it made her nipples pebble in her blouse as she turned and hurried back to the safety of the kitchen.

Lena was laughing as she strode in. “Don’t give me that innocent look,” she said. “I know what you were up to.”

“I was just checking that things were going smoothly.”

“Among other things,” Lena said, coming this close to rolling her eyes. “You just remember what I said. Out of your league.”

Arie only smiled and busied herself with arranging the tea and coffee trays. Lena didn’t know it but her insistence that she back off only made her want to know this guy more. Call it the temptation of the forbidden fruit. Whatever.

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