Grill Me, Baby
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by Sophia Knightly
Description: The heat is on? Raised among women who taught him to cook at his family's Buenos Aires restaurant, master chef Paolo Santos deftly works his culinary wiles--and his gypsy charm--on posh Flamingo Island's female clientele. The tastiest tidbit on the island, though, is cool, elegant Michaela Willoughby. The redhead's slender curves are as enticing as her rabbit-food menus are maddening. And she's his main competition for the chance of a lifetime. Michaela overcame her own weight issues to become Flamingo Island's premiere spa chef. Now she has a chance to share her innovative recipes for healthy living on a new cooking show--if she can somehow outshine Paolo. His sizzling, Latin-lover looks are more heart stopping than his decadent cooking. And she'd love nothing better than to stick a fork in his outsized ego. When the stage lights ignite, so does the competition?and a sexual chemistry no one--least of all Paolo and Michaela--saw coming. Suddenly, separating business from pleasure is as impossible as separating a scrambled egg. And the big question isn't whose knife cuts fastest?it's whose heart can take the most heat. Warning: Contains two hot chefs duking it out in a lively showdown of sexy rivalry. Mix in family drama, luscious recipes and spicy mischief, and there's more than just steam rising out of the kitchen. May cause lusty cravings for midnight indulgences.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2012 2012
eBookwise Release Date: July 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [417 KB]
Reading time: 255-358 min.
So this was the infamous Paolo Santos.
Michaela sized up her opponent in the waiting area of the producer's office. The seriously hot Argentine seated across from her looked so relaxed, nobody would have guessed he was vying against her to host the hottest new celebrity chef TV show, Miami Spice. A confident smile spread over Paolo's rugged face as she assessed him. His large, muscular body was sprawled across the sofa, with one tanned arm draped across the sofa back and long legs stretched before him. A crisp white linen shirt revealed a hint of hard chest beneath a tailored buff suit. He looked like a perfectly caramelized Argentine churrasco steak. Good enough to eat--damn him!
Michaela's stomach growled so loudly that Paolo raised an amused eyebrow. A gentleman would have acted like he hadn't heard it and discreetly looked away.
"Hungry?" he asked with a brazen grin. His deep voice and sexy Latin accent sounded as delicious as he looked.
"Maybe just a little," she replied breezily. She was trying to relax before her meeting with the producer, but cocky Paolo Santos was doing his best to disarm her with steady, smoldering looks.
She smiled coolly and looked away. Focus, she told herself. In a few minutes, she would have to sell herself to Mr. Blumenthal, the producer, in order to land the host spot. If she did, she'd become an instant celebrity chef and her almost finished cookbook would rack up lots of sales. She would also be able to pay back her parents every cent they had shelled out for her education. Her parents, two successful partners in the same law firm, still hadn't forgiven her for dropping out of Duke Law School in her third year. Adding insult to injury, she had chucked it all to become a chef. Their grimace of shame when friends asked about Michaela's new career never failed to make her stomach churn. At thirty years of age, it still felt awful being a failure in their eyes.
She needed to use her nervous energy to show she could hold her own alongside celebrity chefs Paula Deen's zaniness or Rachael Ray's perkiness or Bobby Flay's wise guy banter. But she wasn't the only one competing. She had Santos to contend with, and for the life of her, Michaela couldn't help staring at his mouth. It wasn't just the pair of deep-slashed dimples that drew her attention; it was his full lips that were probably great at kissing...
Stop, she told herself, concentrate on the upcoming interview.
Michaela focused on the stark, modern painting on the wall before her, but the image of Paolo's white teeth gleaming against his bronzed olive skin invaded her thoughts--strong teeth poised to take a bite out of her chances for the job. From the corner of her eye, she caught his black-as-sin eyes giving her a slow and thorough once-over.
Were all Latin men so forward? Could be a cultural thing, but he might be trying to seduce her into losing her focus. She had to be on her toes around this one. From the moment he'd stepped off the airplane from Buenos Aires and burst upon the scene at Flamingo Island, an exclusive country club residence island, Paolo had built up quite a rep as a player. Oh, she'd heard plenty of gossip about the executive chef's prowess, but today was the first time she'd seen him in action.
During the past half-hour, Michaela had watched Paolo chat and flirt with the young, blonde receptionist, and then with the producer's middle-aged secretary, Ellie. His sexy accent and exotic looks had captivated both women, as he charmed them with his impressions of Miami and its beautiful inhabitants--meaning them, of course.
They hadn't even met yet and Santos's attitude was a bit too familiar this morning. She already knew about his magnetic appeal, especially with the wealthy socialites of Flamingo Island who had standing reservations at Bella Luna. But bad boy types didn't tempt her anymore, not after her break-up with Jeff Convers, tennis bad boy extraordinaire. That regrettable part of her life was behind her. Don't think about Jeff, the two-timing player, she told herself. She took a deep breath and forced her thoughts back to meeting Edwin Blumenthal.
"Don't look so worried, Maki." One corner of Paolo's mouth quirked up as he regarded her with interest. "Relax."
"If I were any more relaxed, I'd be asleep." She gave him a raised brow look. Usually that squelched the over-confident types. Distance was needed with this one. His smile alone could charm the shell off an escargot. "My name is Michaela. Maki sounds like a girlie cocktail, and I'm anything but."
He cocked an eyebrow and she took instant note of the twitch at the corners of his lips. Paolo had glossy, jet-black layers cut like Keith Urban's, except he wasn't an Aussie country star--he was a hot chef and a major player.
"Michaela?" he repeated, drawing her attention to the shrugging gesture of his upraised hands. He gave her hair an assessing glance. "You should have been named Penny, it suits you better. Your hair shines like a new copper penny."
"Are you a hairdresser too?" she asked, smoothing the sides of her long hair that were pulled half up.
Paolo flashed a dazzling grin. "No, just a chef." He leaned forward and gave her a hearty handshake. "Paolo Santos."
Strong grip. Nothing wrong with that, Michaela thought as she snatched her hand back the moment it touched his warm, callused palm. "Nice to meet you."
"Encantado, likewise." He leaned back on the sofa looking a little too pleased with himself. "I can't wait to tell Mr. Blumenthal about my gimmick for the show."
She eyed him suspiciously. "Nobody said anything about coming up with a gimmick. Did you just make that up?"
His brow furrowed. "Why would I do that?"
She shrugged as if it didn't matter. "No gimmick can substitute for fine cooking." She had certificates from The Culinary Institute of America and Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to prove it.
Paolo snorted. "Is that what you call your rabbit food?" He gazed up at the ceiling with a pained expression. When he looked back at her, his eyes twinkled with mischief. "I can't imagine anyone feeling satisfied after eating only birdseed."