Title: And He Cooks Too
Author: Barbara Barrett
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Chef Reese Dunbar’s ambition to hit the big time is fried when she walks out on a conniving boss and gets blacklisted from every decent restaurant in New York. Compelled to find a new way to reach her goal, she takes a menial job with a struggling cooking show and immediately clashes with its manipulative executive producer. Sensing a threat, producer Leonie will do anything to hang on to her star, who also happens to be the nephew she raised — a sexy charmer with a craving for Reese.
Actor Nick Coltrane agreed to host his aunt’s cooking show just long enough for it to get on its feet. It’s long past time for him to get back to the stage, before Broadway and Hollywood forget him and someone discovers his secret: The star of And He Cooks Too can’t cook. He knows hiring a real chef who can sniff out the truth might be dangerous, but Reese could also be his ticket off the show — and, he discovers, so much more.
Forced to work together, Reese and Nick are hot in front of the camera and hotter behind closed doors. She can’t understand why he won’t cut the apron strings. He questions why she’s so driven. Will their secrets and ambitions burn them both before they realize that together, they might just have the perfect recipe for love?
“Nobody leaves me high and dry. You’ll regret going out that door.”
“Let’s see who regrets what.” She ripped a net from her head, allowing a mass of raven black hair to escape, and pushed through the door to the outside world.
Boy, did life slam its ironies in your face. Why couldn’t he stand up to Leonie the way that dazzling dynamo had with her boss? Louis Whatever-His-Name was a fool. If Reese, the runaway chef, had prepared the few bites of pasta he’d been able to get down, she was a keeper. He’d figured that out even before she released that gleaming cascade of dark hair. The city was full of good-looking women, but this one was extraordinary. Those wide-set, coffee-brown eyes, pale neck and full, red lips could easily heat up any guy’s kitchen.
Wait a sec. Real chef. Great food. Beaten out of her job by someone with two minutes of television experience. She could be his ticket off the show! Either his replacement or the inducement Leonie needed to take over as host. The timing of her exit couldn’t have worked better. Who was he to turn down his nose at Opportunity?
Couldn’t let her get away. He threw several bills at the cash register and sprinted for the door. There she was, near the curb, engaged in a futile attempt to flag down a cab. Even a looker like that couldn’t stop traffic at this busy hour.
He called out to her heaving back. “Miss? You probably don’t want company, but if I didn’t catch you now, I’d have to hire a private investigator to hunt you down.”
That got her attention. She pivoted to face him, taking one last swipe at the tiny river of mascara running down her cheek. “Excuse me?”
God, she was gorgeous, even with a tear-stained face. “Back there in the restaurant, I overheard you. You’re a chef, right?”
“Yes. At least I used to be.”
“And they’re letting you go because you don’t have television experience?”
She blinked. Damn! He’d gone too far.
Her expression turned guarded. “Do you make a habit of eavesdropping on others’ conversations?”
“Sorry. I didn’t have much choice. Couldn’t get past you and your pal.”
She glanced back at the street. “Whoever you are, this isn’t a good time. I just want to get out of here, go home and fall apart.”
“Looks like you’ve already started that last part.”
“Cut the counseling act. I don’t want anything from anyone right now.” She resumed her attempt to snare a cab. “Unless you’re here to offer me another job?” she added, almost as an afterthought.
“Although I sense sarcasm, as a matter of fact, that’s why I followed you.” He extended a hand as she jerked her head around to stare at him. “I’m Nick Coltrane. I host a cooking show called And He Cooks
Too—the executive producer’s title, not mine. Ever heard of us?”
She studied him a moment. “I don’t watch much television.”
He moved a little closer. “Even if you did, you’d be hard-pressed to find us. We’re on a local channel.” Geez, Nick, can you make it sound any less enticing? “But we’ve built up a respectable following.”
She didn’t respond. But she didn’t dismiss him either as she kept scanning the street.
He kept talking while she was still there. “Can’t offer you anything in front of the camera.” Couldn’t offer her anything period, since only Leonie and Jasper, their supervising producer slash director, did the hiring. But that was beside the point at the moment. “We do need a production assistant, though. Probably doesn’t pay as much as the job you just left, but it would add television experience to your resume. Sounds like you’re going to need that to stay competitive.”
“How do I know you’re for real?” she asked, her eyes narrowed. “You could have invented that story just to pick me up.”
He waggled an eyebrow, attempting to lighten the situation. Like he could. The woman had just quit her job, and her former boss had threatened retaliation. “Any guy in his right mind would consider that possibility, but the offer’s legit.” He pulled a card from his tailored black Hugo Boss jacket. “Here, take this. Watch the show. This gives the time and channel.”
She took the card. “This doesn’t mean I’m interested. I’m being polite, which is about all the civility I have left.” “Got it,” he replied, stifling an amused grin.
“Like you overheard back there, I expect people to mean what they say. This had better not be a scam.”
He did the thing with his eyebrow again, attempting to reassure her. “Don’t worry. I’m bona fide.” He stepped into the street and stuck his arm in the air. Least he could do for a lady in distress. An approaching cab screeched to a stop in front of them. The female driver behind the wheel smiled seductively at him.
“My friend here will give you the address.” He turned back to the unemployed chef. “Hey, wait. I need your name and number.”
She stared at him a moment. “Reese. Reese Dunbar.” She let down her guard enough to give him her cell phone number as well.
He took her hand, just for a fraction of a second, but that’s all it took. A reckless charge of electricity coursed up his arm on its way to other parts of his body. Uh-oh. Watch yourself, Nick. “Nice to meet you, Reese.” He opened the back door of the cab and tucked her in. “Take care. Things are going to get better. Especially if you sign on with us.”
Why is your featured book a must-read?
Ever sabotaged something important in your life with a spur of the moment, knee-jerk reaction to someone else’s decision? If you can identify, then And He Cooks Too is a must-read for you. Reese Dunbar is on her way to becoming a top chef in the Big Apple, but when another woman is promoted instead of her even though Reese was promised the job, she walks out in a huff during the dinner hour. Chefs don’t do that. As a result, she’s blackballed in all the name eating places and must find a new career path. This book is the story of her comeback as the co-host of a TV cooking show despite the obstacles thrown in her path by the executive producer who doesn’t want a real chef around for fear she’ll discover her co-host can’t cook. Not to be overlooked is the growing attraction Reese feels for said co-host and the behind-the-scenes look at what goes into a TV production.
Enter to win an e-book bundle of all 66 books featured in the Backlist Bonanza: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/92db775072 Open Internationally. Runs August 25 – 31, 2020. Winner will be drawn on September 7, 2020.
Barbara Barrett’s first professional career was as a human resources analyst for Iowa state government, and her continued fascination with the jobs people do infiltrates her plots almost as a secondary character.
A member of Romance Writers of America, she was first “published” in sixth grade when a fictional account of a trip to France she wrote for school appeared in her hometown e, the Burlington Hawk Eye. Her essay, however, never envisioned that, years later, she would trip on a curb near the Arc d’Triomphe and have to limp her way through the Louvre.
She has published eleven contemporary romance novels, two contemporary romance novellas and six cozy mysteries in her Mah Jongg Mystery series.
Now retired, Barbara spends her winters basking in the Florida sunshine and returns to her home state of Iowa in the summer to “stay cool.” She married the man she met in sensitivity training for dormitory advisors her senior year of college. They have two grown children and eight grandchildren. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with friends or playing Mah Jongg.
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