How cozy is your kitchen?
Sample a sweet, tasty tidbit of
~~Sweet, spicy romance – A heartbeat away~~
Valentine’s Day surgery trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey? OVER HER DEAD BODY!
Rambunctious runaway K.C. Montreaux—thirtyish and coddled—crashes the men’s room at Bush Intercontinental and straight into Nick Hart. His clear eyes x-ray through her while she hovers with a facetious grin on a lovely caramel face. A ruckus launches her to an empty stall and forces him into defense mode. Drafted actions cloak Nick’s deceit—from the mainland to Maui—as he helps outwit her pursuer.
Will K.C. snuff out their combustible emotions like hushed Haleakala or forgive Nick’s misguided lies?
Dare his nicked heart dream?
Scene: Nick’s lies and deceit have him determined to win back K.C.’s affections. She’s just as strong-willed about ousting him from her life. Will an electrifying comfort food encounter set the stage for forgiveness?
Whirling around sent her careening to the cabinets. The fine wood grain door plucked a loud smack from the fierceness of her snatch. She required a bowl big enough to accommodate her need for comfort food. She turned to search out the cereal spotting her father’s closed toe leather slippers under the refrigerator door. His whole body stood in the deep recesses of the stainless steel wall unit hiding him from view. K.C. seized the opportunity to set him straight.
“Zeke, you owe me an apology.” Another bang sounded and her bowl clattered to the granite island. “I can’t believe you fell for his trickery. He’s nothing but a con artist.” Flakes skittered into the ceramic dish practically filling it to the rim. The cellophane crackled as she folded it down to prevent staleness. “It’s bad enough you deceived me but to encourage him.”
K.C. heaved—a mind clearing breath— slapping her palms to the counter with an exasperated shake of her springy loose curls.
She skirted the island to retrieve a spoon from the drawer. The move put her back to the open refrigerator door. “Make yourself useful and give me the milk.” Her extended arm waited for the handoff. It came and with it a trilling sensation her father could in no way induce.
K.C. fought the feeling as the fingers holding the carton curled her wrist in the switch. They were long, strong and very capable of reducing her to quivering jelly, just as they did at that very moment. She hallucinated really badly due to medication. That had to be it. Nick was not standing in her kitchen sporting her father’s sweats and slides.
“We need to talk.”
On the other hand, his apparition spoke to her in his soothing baritone timbre. She unhooked her arm and backed away.
“I’m not leaving here until you forgive me.”
“Then you stay. I’ll leave,” she quipped and proceeded to follow the words with action.
His free hand snagged her arm drawing a cutting look that surely could have sliced and diced if they resided in a paranormal state. Nick freed her and poured milk around the edges of her bowl. “Your cereal will get soggy if you don’t eat it now.” She seemed to deliberate the idea of rejecting his reasoning. He knew her social consciousness would not allow her to let food go to waste.
K.C. palmed her bowl with both hands spiriting it away from his reach to take it where she hoped he would not follow. Needless to say, he did. She scooped a spoonful into her mouth having a hard time chewing and swallowing because of the knot in her throat. His closeness electrified the air around them. The spoon clanked to the bowl.
“Say what you came to say and get out, Nick!”
Nick intended to take his time laying out his position refusing to let her rush him into saying anything she could misconstrue. “I’m hungry, too. Will you return to the kitchen with me and I’ll explain everything?”
He left her staring at his back as he turned on his heels, praying she honored his request. Behind him, the enticement to admire his retreating form warmed her all over. Nick made himself at home pulling the ham platter and all the fixings from the refrigerator. They landed on the island while the vine ripened tomato spun on its way to hitting the floor. K.C. caught it, and rolled it back in the opposite direction.
K.C. claimed a stool at the far end out of his reaching distance to continue her snack under his observant eye. He had another think coming if he imagined her gullible enough to fall for his smooth talking performance a second time. He had until she saw the design on the bottom of her empty bowl to convince her otherwise.
She began to inhale her food.
Nick struggled to keep his amusement from surfacing by burying his head in the refrigerator as if hunting for something. He held a jar of pickle slices upon turning back to his masterful creation. The Dagwood held down the counter while he replaced the ingredients. K.C.’s spoon scraped the bottom of the bowl snaring his attention.
“Don’t choke,” he teased.
In between bites, she retorted, “I’d like to choke…you.” Raising the spoon with such velocity, it skidded along the corner of her lips completely missing her mouth.
He dragged his saucer nearer, picked an adjacent stool, deviated to dab at the milky trail dribbling on her chin and dived into his sandwich.
K.C.’s duck came too late.
She gleaned his intent like a book read over and over again. He tried to break down her defenses. She called his bluff. “You’re so transparent.”
He discerned her recognition of his ploy opting to jump right in and grovel. “I love you, K.C.” Her mouth opened and he knew it was not to spoon in more flakes. “Let me finish before you use that serrated-edged tongue of yours.”
She was glad he realized she came into her own those few days in his company and was quite eloquent in speaking her mind.
“You think I lied but I didn’t. I simply avoided the dissemination of certain details.”
“No. Under the terms of my contract with your father, I wasn’t at liberty to divulge any of my involvement in your scheduled operation. I was to serve as a driving force during your recuperation and administer future recovery strategies.”
“How was I to know after meeting you I’d lose the focus of an objective participant?” He fiddled with his sandwich. Rearranged the lettuce. Repositioned the bread slices in precise slants with nimble fingers. “Everything about you rang my bell—set me on fire. Your infectious giggle. That innocent look in those alluring eyes of yours.” The look he spoke of shone brightly. “The whimsical way you saw Maui’s beauty.”
He fell silent to afford her the opportunity of rebuttal.
Instead, she chose another mouthful.
“No amount of segregating your feelings for me—”
“Don’t talk to me about segregating anything?” Her shrill denouncement filled the air. “What feelings?”
“The ones you clearly oppose exposing or even admitting to yourself, let alone to me.”
K.C. let her spoon rattle against the dish. “You’re an arrogant somebody, Nicholas Hart!”
He took a breather while pondering her assessment of his character, loving the way her eyes flashed and her tasty lips parted in exclamation. “K.C., once upon a time, that illustration was enough to skyrocket my self-worth.”
“I rest my case.”
That signaled the end of their conversation for the last morsel in her bowl disappeared. K.C. strode to the sink—mimicked busy work rinsing and disposing of the container—then promptly sashayed towards the rear stairs. Nick lunged. The sandwich disassembled on its way to the plate as he zoomed across the floor abbreviating her departure. Her reaction to his seizure of her body unveiled animosity and goaded him to act.
Nick twirled her into his unyielding arms to plant an earthquake of a kiss on her luscious lips. The act thrust them back into another time zone—on the other side of the hemisphere—loaded with enthusiastic companionship and burgeoning feelings. K.C.’s arms slithered tightly around his neck as freewill grooved her to his hard body. He manipulated his reaction to her pliable response tapping down his male lust-o-meter as not to offend or cheapen the moment.
The decrease in pressure awakened K.C. to the reality of what transpired forcing her to make a tiny gap between their bodies. They stood toe to toe reveling in the newly ignited fires only he seemed to acknowledge. He examined her posture closely for signs of his forgiveness. Dare his jolted heart dream? Her brown eyes kept all of her secrets until she completely broke from him.
Nick knew, at once, his time expired. His spirits flagged when her eyes narrowed. His reach for her hand came up empty. K.C. showed her disregard for his feelings, trampling all over them with one gut wrenching acronym as she stamped out of the kitchen.
Will K.C. forgive Nick’s misguided lies?
Dare his nicked heart dream?
Louisiana Hot Sauce
A sweet, zesty read with just the right spice.
Jack’s a helicopter mechanic. Can he repair Mesha’s broken heart?
Scene: Jack awakens from a medicated sleep and melodious chants draw him into Mesha’s homey kitchen.
An Ace bandage overlaid the wad of gauze protecting the wound and drove home the severity of his plight, in particular, when the tips of his fingers were all that was visible. He was pretty sure her obstinacy saved his hand. He would live to mechanic another day thanks to her. His fuzzy thoughts cleared as he burst completely out of the fog at a baby’s howl. The crooning going on in the other room had him test his stamina as he stumbled to the bathroom for a more detailed examination.
His bedraggled image popped into view when he flicked the light switch. He looked rough—and a whole lot of pale. He splashed cool water on his face with his good hand, which regenerated him enough to take care of his other needs before he struck out from her bedroom. As luck would have it, on his way out, he stubbed his toe on several crib pieces he did not know were there. “Sonofa***!” His muffled curse hit the air. Light hardly illuminated but was ample for him to make out the cardboard box propped lean-to style and held in place by the wooden bed rails. He nudged the puzzle pieces aside to follow the melodious chants in the kitchen.
Mesha heard him stir a while ago, decoding his moves right down to his trip to the bathroom where the waterfall sound effects had that distinctive characteristic of something absent from her life for years. She noticed him in the doorway—clothing wrinkled and dark-stained—standing a little wobbly and unsure in his thick, snowy cotton socks.
“Do you feel okay?” she asked. He nodded. “Hungry?” She never missed a beat, rocking side to side, winning a brief lull in the crying. “Are you hungry?” She coochie-cooed, “Tell me what‟s wrong.”
Jack’s mistake was in thinking she talked to him. He was famished but remained quiet about it, enthralled with the dance she performed in front of him. The baby’s distress captured his attention as she batted at her face and ears. “Can I give it a try?” he asked.
“You want to hold Mya?” she uttered incredulously.
“I promise not to drop her,” he pledged. “I’m ambidextrous. I’m equally competent with either hand.”
Insulted, Mesha huffed. “I know what ambidextrous means, Jack.”
“Wow. I’ve never heard my name said with such loathing.” Standing was beginning to take its toll, so he made himself comfortable at the table.
Mya yowled in earnest.
He was driving her nuts with his antagonistic comments. “I asked if you wanted something to eat.” She walked and shook. Shook and walked. “It’s only leftovers.”
“If it’s not too much trouble. I’d appreciate it,” he said. “May I?” She looked at his outstretched hands like they were tentacles, unsure of what her next step should be. Reluctantly, she eased Mya into the crook of his right arm. “Wrap a few ice cubes in a clean towel for me.”
“I’m not your servant, Jack,” she snapped.
“I’m keeping count,” he warned. “By the way, I don’t know your name.”
“No matter,” she answered flippantly. “You won’t be here long enough for that to make a difference.”
Bent on revenge, he pondered. “I’ll call you Sassy,” he said, his mustache cocked to one side, “since you’re so…biggety.”
She blew in disgust at the insulting moniker. “My name is Mesha.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mesha. Now, where’s that towel?” Jack dismissed her simply by devoting his attention to the baby. “Hey, little girl.”
He repositioned Mya in his bad arm to rub a finger of his good hand across her gums. A smile twitched under the hair on his lip. Mesha brought the items to him, appearing flabbergasted as he massaged the baby’s sore gums with the cloth like there was nothing he would rather be doing. He withdrew the cloth to feel the area once more.
“Run your finger,” he directed, “right here.”
Skepticism highlighted her features as she did as requested. “She’s teething…and I didn’t know it.”
He knew she beat up on herself. That’s not why he brought it to her attention. He merely wanted to ease the baby’s suffering. “You’re new at this. I can tell.”
“How many children do you have—Jack?” Mesha sparred in anger.
Their eyes locked.
“Not a one,” he admitted with a shame face. “Never married.”
“Since when did that impede childbirth?” she asked glibly.
“I didn’t mean to offend you. Your marital status is none of my business.”
“Who says I’m not married?” she nearly shouted. His look told her to lower her voice as Mya settled down. “Okay, maybe I’m not married. But perhaps I was.”
“Like I said before—no offense.” He endured the caustic look that poured over him.
He may not be a good mechanic, but he was an expert at needling her.
Her eyes noticed things about him that she overlooked before, like the silver glinting at his temples and sprinkling his well-groomed goatee. If gray was any indication of old age, that theory did not bear out in this instance, for she had firsthand knowledge of his spry athletic abilities. In addition, it was impossible to tell if the crinkles at the corners of his hazel eyes were remnants of frowns or evidence of his love of laughter. The time he did laugh was in a condescending manner at her and not with her. His age was hard to guess because his light skin had none of the leathery qualities health professionals warned against when sunning.
“Um-hmm,” he bristled.
The grunt was sufficient to bring her out of the trance-like state with a haughty air that said she could care less what he thought of her perusal. The opportunity pressed her to busy herself heating the leftovers in the microwave, preparing one place setting at the table and securing Mya from his embrace to lay her down for the night. The timer buzzed by the time she returned from down the hall.
Jack eyed the plate she dropped under his nose, salivating at the aroma wafting in the air. Picking up the fork, he heaped a portion of the vegetable rice dish into his mouth, savoring the flavors with a slow chew. “What is this?”
“Why?” she asked suspiciously. “If you don’t like it, don’t eat it.” Mesha reached for the plate.
“Wait!” he bellowed. Staring deeply into her eyes, he said, “Man, you’re so defensive. It’s really good. I just want to know what I’m eating, that’s all.”
She dropped back a step and sat opposite him.
“You’re in the South. It’s okra.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” he challenged. “Okra can’t taste this good, no matter how it’s prepared.”
“Apparently, it can. You’re eating smothered okra and tomatoes—from my little garden—over a bed of white rice.”
The pride in her voice was hard to miss.
He gobbled another bite and his attention turned to the steak. Jack tested the utensils in both hands in an effort to get the best grip for cutting the meat. Neither approach worked as the loud clank against china foretold when the knife slipped and fell. “Sonofa—” he cussed. “Oops. Sorry.”
Ambidextrous my foot. Mesha gloated inwardly, losing the battle to keep it under wraps when a facetious grin slid across her face.
The smile lighting up her features lassoed him. But only momentarily.
“Would you mind?” he asked in irritation. Her tinkling laughter erupted as she strolled close by to take his silverware, thereby reducing his rib eye to bite-sized pieces.
“Thank you,” he mumbled with a connecting gaze.
“Soda or water?”
She stepped over to the refrigerator with the intention of giving him space after seeing hurt in his eyes, realizing she knifed his pride, also. The sight bowed her head in remorse. She snatched at the handle, ducking behind the door, hoping the cool air inside would hide her embarrassment from his view. A big buffoonish grin masked his face when she looked at him again. Her interpretation: he badgered her and enjoyed her uncomfortable position.
Repentance etched her lovely face. Yet, her face had little to do with spurring him to let her off the hook. The toot of her rear-end poking from behind the refrigerator door did that. Jack smoothed the hair around his mouth before exclaiming, “Gotcha!”
Mesha’s pendulum-like emotions bounced her from sad to happy to indifferent. “Soda or water?” she repeated glumly.
“Soda on ice, if you don’t mind.”
He studied her while she bustled about the kitchen before ice crackled in a tall glass and she approached him with a chilled can in one hand and the glass in the other. Jack stabbed at a chunk of meat, quite taken aback with the way it parted with the insertion of the tines. The succulent morsel practically melted in his mouth, extracting an appreciative moan it was so tender.
Either he was starved or the meal was definitely to his liking. Mesha reclaimed her seat, as if observing a spectator sport. Neither one of them shied away from the open curiosity visible in their looks. He fumbled pitifully with the pull tab on the can, prompting her to come to his rescue once again, for which she received what she believed was a genuine smile.
There was her answer. His eyes crinkled at the corners.
Sitting around the table with someone other than Mya had an unnatural feel inasmuch as she rarely had company. That was the way she preferred it. Her heart lurched at the devastation of Jack’s death. Now that he was gone, her undivided attention pointed to Mya.
His astonishment at the sadness suddenly flickering in her wistful eyes proclaimed itself in the way his hand hung in mid-air on the way to his mouth. “Are you alright?” he asked, the fork lowering as he waited for her answer.
“Of course I’m alright,” she contested. The sincere interest coating his words flustered Mesha, sending her to the counter away from his mind-reading eyes.
Will Jack run head-on into Mesha’s wall of self-protection?
Or will he tear it down—brick by brick?
Louisiana Hot Sauce