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Title: Love, Death, and the Art of Cooking
Author: Linda Griffin
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Book Cover Art by Jennifer Greeff
Author Photo by Laurens Antoine
She wants to be friends. And he wants so much more.
Software engineer Reid Lucas loves to cook and has a history of falling in love with married women. When he leaves his complicated past in Chicago for a job in California, he runs into trouble and must call a virtual stranger to bail him out of jail. Alyssa Knight, a tough street cop waiting for a church annulment from her passive-aggressive husband, is the roommate of the woman Reid calls for help, and she reluctantly provides bail for Reid. He falls for her immediately, and cooking for her is an act of love. She just wants to be friends, but they keep ending up in bed together. When his boss is murdered, Reid is a suspect—or is he the intended target?
“Thank you,” he said, but they were just pancakes. He wanted to lay a feast of ambrosia before Alyssa, to seduce her with flavors and textures she’d never encountered before. Yes, he was definitely done for.
“How do you get the bacon so crisp and even?” Jane asked. “It’s never like this in restaurants.”
“Constant attention,” he said. “Restaurants don’t have the time.”
“Uh huh,” she said dubiously. “The frying pan’s not what you were paying attention to.” She twitched her eyebrows in a Groucho Marx leer.
Alyssa gave her a sharp look and turned her gaze accusingly on Reid.
“You’re imagining things,” he said, and to change the subject asked, “Are you going to be able to go back to work tomorrow, Jane?”
“Oh sure. I couldn’t do her job,” she said, gesturing toward Alyssa, “but driving little monsters around, yeah.”
“Are you working today?” he asked Alyssa, meaning How long can I stretch this visit?
“Four to midnight shift,” she said.
“Please be careful,” he said. “The streets are dangerous after dark.”
“The streets are always dangerous,” she said. “Yesterday…” She waved a dismissive hand. “But I got to see a baby born. Very cool. And do you know what the most dangerous thing on the streets is, to cops and citizens? Drunk and distracted drivers.”
“We did not get off to the best start,” he acknowledged. “But I swear to you I will never again get behind the wheel when I’ve had even a taste of alcohol. Lesson learned.”
Jane ate voraciously, cleaned her plate, and then said, “I think I need to take a nap. Rest up for tomorrow.” She rose, started to lean toward Reid to kiss his cheek, and stopped when she remembered her germs. “I’ll see you guys later. Happy Easter.” She said it as if she was joking.
After she was gone, Alyssa kept her gaze on her plate, chasing a stray bite of pancake.
“Is she okay?” he asked.
She looked up. “Yes,” she said, and he guessed, from her mutinous expression, that she believed Jane had set them up. “She thinks I should be dating,” she said.
“That’s not for her to decide.”
“No, it isn’t. I’m not ready, but she thinks I should be. And she thinks it might as well be you.”
“Because I’m harmless?” he guessed.
Alyssa exhaled, exasperated. “You are not harmless,” she said.
He studied her, trying to understand what she was thinking, to get past his own feelings. “You know I would never hurt you,” he said.
“Not on purpose anyway.” She took a last morsel of bacon. “Even cocker spaniel puppies sometimes bite.” She pushed her plate away and got up, ready to clear the table.
“Let me,” he said. “I’ll load the dishwasher, since you’ll have to unload it.”
She continued to gather plates. “I don’t like the way you do it,” she objected, reclaiming the kitchen as her territory.
“Tell me how you want it done, then,” he said reasonably. He reached for her silverware, and their hands touched briefly.
She pretended she didn’t notice. “Some handles up and some down,” she said.
“Okay.” It sounded reasonable to him, but he always put them all down. “I understand loading the dishwasher is a primary source of domestic discord, right up there with sex, money, and leaving the toilet seat up.”
“We can do better than that,” she said.
He was still trying to figure out what she meant when she closed and started the dishwasher and turned away. He was standing too close, and they all but collided. Reid couldn’t resist the opportunity, the scent of her hair enticingly near. He kissed her.
She held him off a little at first, but soon yielded and relaxed into it, soft and vulnerable. She looked like an innocent young girl in her navy blouse and the gold cross around her neck, but he could feel every part of her body against his, as if for the first time…or the last?
He wanted her so much, in every way, not merely the physical, although touching her would be the expression of everything else he felt.
She was enjoying the moment as much as he was, so he kept kissing her, nuzzled her neck, gently touched her breast, and then she pushed him away. “Don’t,” she said, but she didn’t seem angry. “I don’t want to do this.”
“Then we won’t,” he said. He took a deep breath, holding onto his self-control.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“Don’t be. I’m good at this.”
“Denial. Married women…”
“Is that what you like?” she asked. “Your little fantasy? ‘No, please, I can’t, my husband will find out’?”
“I don’t think …”
“I’m sorry. That was an awful thing to say.”
“Anyway, I’m not married anymore,” she reminded him.
“Maybe you are. It’s not always easy to let go and move on,”
“I want to, though. Move on.”
“I know. You will…Maybe I should go.”
She hesitated before she nodded, as if she was reluctant to see him go…or was he indulging in wishful thinking? “I’ll drive you home,” she said. “The buses will be on the holiday schedule.”
Making a clean break would be easier right now, but how could he resist the opportunity to spend a few more minutes in her presence?
They didn’t talk much in the car. At the last minute, as she pulled into the empty parking spot next to his, he said, “I love you.”
“Don’t say that,” she protested. “I love you too,” she added, but her tone suggested she was already taking it back, as if the words were meaningless. Could there be any more insincere line in the English language than I love you too?
Linda Griffin is a native of San Diego and has a BA in English from San Diego State University and an MLS from UCLA. She retired from a position as the fiction librarian for the San Diego Public Library to spend more time on her writing. Her stories have been published in numerous journals, including Eclectica, Thema, The Binnacle, Orbis, and The Nassau Review. She has had th