All uptight, workaholic Claudia Mackey wanted for her birthday was to forget it and wash away the affects of her stressful day with a nice, quiet evening at home soaking in a bubble bath with a good book. But when she found Nick Lowder, a local chef and laid back flirt, waiting on her doorstep to prepare dinner as a birthday gift- the stress she had wanted to forget came back at full throttle. But when their defenses weaken after mindless bickering, the sweet and sour opposites begin to attract and just might find themselves ending the night with an extra sweet dessert.
“Are you Claudia Mackey?” the handsome stranger asked. His words layered by a thick accent as he offered a charming smile.
“Yes. How do you know who I am? And what are you doing here?”
“Waiting for you to come home and let me in.”
“Like I’d fall for that!” Claudia hollered, whipping out a can of mace. “Stay back! Don’t think I won’t use this!”
“Holy crap, lady. Is that pepper spray?” he stammered, raising his hands in defense.
“Mace, actually. A woman can’t live alone in this city without it. Now, stay right where you are!” She grasped her cell phone with her free hand.
“Are you callin’ the cops, lady?”
“Well, who else do you think I’d call to come and deal with a potential murderer or rapist?”
“Potential murderer or rapist?” he repeated. “Whoa, hold on. I’m a chef for cryin’ out loud! Look in the cooler I brought if you don’t believe me!”
“For all I know you have a knife in there,” Claudia shot back.
“Well, yeah, but it’s for cooking!” he persisted. “Your friend, Dawn, sent me. She’s a big fan of the restaurant where I work and asked me to come here and prepare dinner as a birthday gift since she couldn’t be here to celebrate with you. Look, if you don’t believe me, take my business card out of my pocket.”
Reluctantly, Claudia reached into the pocket of his white coat—fighting to remain composed as she felt his firm chest beneath the thin material. She retrieved the business card. “Nick Lowder,” she read. “Foster’s Diner.”
“See! Now, do you believe me?” the man asked hopefully.
“Maybe. How did you get up here? You have to have a key to get into the building.”
“Some old woman let me in and she told me to tell you if the meal’s bad, there’s always Junior—whatever that means. And it’s chilly today, so I accepted the offer. I already had your address from Dawn, so I decided to come on up. I’m sorry if I offended you or anything.”
Claudia smirked, remembering how her elderly neighbor had been begging her to go out on a date with her grandson for the last two years. “All right, I believe you.” She relented, returning the mace and the cell to her purse.
“So, can we start over? As the card said, I’m Nick. Nick Lowder. Chef extraordinaire.” A faint smile brushed the corner of his lips.
“I’m Claudia Mac…well, never mind. You know who I am. Sorry. Come on in.”