Title: Love, Death, and the Art of Cooking
Author: Linda Griffin
Genre: Romantic Suspense
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?
They returned to the living room, sat down, and tried to pick up where they had left off, but it was hard to remember what they had been talking about before the interruption. “I see what you mean,” he said. “He’s obviously not ready for a calm discussion.”
“And I’m not ready to deal with him,” she said. “I’m sorry he was rude.”
“You’re not responsible for him.”
“I know, but it’s my fault he showed up here.” She sighed. “He always made me feel this way—guilty, in the wrong.”
“Right, but…I’m sorry to bring our drama here.”
“It’s not a problem. What does he do?”
“He works for a biotech company. It’s an admin job, dead boring, but it pays well.” She nibbled at a piece of buttery cheese and studied Reid.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yeah… After we separated and he applied for the annulment, people told me it was okay for me to date,” she said, “but I didn’t. I never wanted to—or not enough. It’s not like I miss sex. As overrated things go, it’s pretty high on the list.”
He didn’t agree, but no response seemed like the wisest choice.
“Why do men always think you’re a slut if you don’t want them?” she asked. “Or else a lesbian?”
Reid shook his head. “Ego?”
“Which do you think I am?”
“Neither. I think you made a very sensible decision—to divorce him.”
Alyssa sighed. “He was so great when I first met him,” she said. “He was always nice to me, as long as I stayed where he wanted me. He didn’t mind my working, so I couldn’t think of him as a controlling male chauvinist…but I guess he was. He was always trying to put me in my place, even in bed…Don’t you hate it when women whine about their awful exes?” She looked at him, but he didn’t answer. Silence was better than saying the wrong thing. “I suppose you liked me better when I was married.”
“I like you either way,” he said lightly. She was watching him intently, and he had trouble holding her gaze. She was so beautiful like this, thoughtful and troubled. It made it hard to think rationally. He looked at his glass and asked, “I didn’t have anything to do with your decision, did I?” He took a sip of wine before he met her eyes.
“No,” she said, but she averted her gaze.
“We’re just friends,” he said. It was a statement of fact, but something other than friendship was shimmering between them. Not sexual tension, or not exactly… Did she feel it too?
“Damn,” she said. “Don’t do this to me.” Without another word, she put her wine glass on the coffee table, rose, and took his hand. She led him into the bedroom. The lush, green view from the large window had never been prettier, but she stood next to the bed, looking only at him. She seemed uncertain what she wanted to do and let go of his hand.
Reid wasn’t looking at the view either. He couldn’t see anything but her as she skinned off her T-shirt. What was this? Gratitude? Recklessness? “You don’t have to do that,” he said.
“Apparently I want to.” She unhooked her simple white bra.
“Can we slow down a little here?” he asked. He couldn’t pretend he wasn’t aroused, but if she went any further, it might be too late to stop what might turn out to be a big mistake. It could end what they already had—not that their friendship was anything to brag about, patched together by Jane out of Alyssa’s wariness and his longing.
“Coward,” she said, but she kept her tone light. She took a step closer and kissed him, an aggressive, challenging kiss with the rich tang of white wine. “What’s the matter? You can’t handle it when it’s attainable?”
He shook his head. “I like…a few preliminaries. I’m not a slam-bang-thank-you-ma’am kind of guy.”
Alyssa studied him for a few weighted seconds before she reached back to re-hook her bra. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t usually throw myself at guys. I’m a little out of practice.” She grabbed her T-shirt and started to leave the room.
Reid caught her arm and pulled her close. He kissed her, much more gently than she had kissed him. Her mouth was lush and inviting, promising more.
She pulled back to look at him, surprised. “What kind of preliminaries?” she asked.
He kissed her again. “Hi,” he said. “I’m Reid. Nice to meet you.”
She managed a self-conscious laugh. “It wasn’t that fast.”
He put his arms around her. He found the clasp and unhooked her bra. Her skin was so smooth under his hands, as he had long imagined it would be. Her breathing quickened.
“Make up your mind,” she said, but the new huskiness in her voice belied the stern words.
“Hush.” He kissed her again, holding it long enough to keep her quiet while he cupped her beautiful breasts, as soft as velvet and unbelievably responsive to his touch.
“I know what you think,” she said.
“No, you don’t,” he said and kissed her again.
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What’s your favorite part about being a romance author?
When the lovers talk to each other and all I have to do is take dictation.
Here’s my tip to add romance to your love life:
Be best friends, first and always.
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I retired as fiction librarian for the San Diego Public Library to spend more time on my writing. My stories have been published in numerous journals including Eclectica, Thema Literary Review, The Binnacle, Orbis, and The Adirondack Review. Love, Death, and the Art of Cooking is my fourth novel from the Wild Rose Press, after Seventeen Days (2018), The Rebound Effect (2019), and Guilty Knowledge (2020). The fifth, Bridges, will be released soon.
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