Life, Love and Lemon Cookies: Love's Evolution
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by Ally Blue
Category: Romance/Gay Fiction
Description: When life hands you lemons?make cookies. A Love's Evolution story. Chris Tucker's perfect life has just gone up in smoke. The fire that destroyed the best restaurant in Asheville took his head-chef dream job along with it--and the owner is walking away. Sure, Chris still has his beautiful home and blissful marriage to his soul mate, Matt Gallagher. But for the first time in his working life, he's unemployed and spiraling into depression. Matt's trying hard to be supportive, but it's tough when every time he tries to get Chris to open up, the man shuts down tighter than a live clam. Maybe it's best to hide his hurt and back off. Yet as Chris's fruitless search for work wears on, Matt begins to wonder if his lover will ever come around. As the tension between them reaches breaking point, Chris faces the fact that it could be the end of an era for him and Matt. Unless one sweet idea can turn his mounting troubles into a fresh-cut path back to the arms of the one man who makes him whole. Warning: This book contains gay sex, lots of angst, occasional smartassedness, and an abundance of cookies. Ally Blue and Samhain Publishing will not be held responsible for any resulting food-porn habit.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: September 2011
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [96 KB]
Reading time: 56-79 min.
The fire that gutted The Falls didn't start in the kitchen, like one might expect of a restaurant fire. It started in the women's restroom.
Head Chef Chris Tucker had just arrived not twenty minutes before and had barely begun preparing the menu for the night when Sheree, the evening's hostess, rushed out of the bathroom with dripping hands and panic stamped all over her face. "Fire! Oh my God, the hand dryer caught on fire and it's all up the wall, oh, oh shit!"
In an instant, chaos erupted. Chris heard the sounds of shouting from the dining area. The kitchen staff stared at one another, frozen.
"I'm calling nine-one-one," Jasmine yelled from the bar out front. "Chris, get everyone out of the back."
"Yes. Yes, of course." Chris glanced around the kitchen, his kitchen, his heart in his throat. Already, smoke billowed from the bathroom into the short hallway between the dining room and the kitchen. The staff all looked as shell-shocked as he felt. He took the nearest assistant cook, Alice, by the arm and steered her toward the door. "Get outside. Everyone, get outside. Hurry."
Their paralysis broken, they all ran for the door. Chris brought up the rear. He paused on the threshold, some instinct making him look one more time just to be sure. A glimpse of a black jacket and a flash of red in the deepening gloom caught his eye. He peered closer, squinting, and cursed when he made out the neat white hair and uneven gait. Diego, one of the waiters, had taken the fire extinguisher from the kitchen and gone charging toward the restroom.
"Dammit." Chris edged back inside, holding his chef's jacket over his face to keep out the smoke. "Diego, get out of there! The fire department's on the way." Even as he spoke, Chris heard sirens in the distance. "Diego?"
The older man didn't answer, nor did he emerge from the thickening black pall.
Orange flames licked through the plumes of smoke. Cursing under his breath, Chris dropped to his hands and knees and crawled as quickly as he could toward the heart of the blaze.
He half-expected to find Diego unconscious on the restroom floor. When he spotted the hunched form curled against the wall just inside the hallway, wheezing and obviously terrified but unharmed, the crushing weight of fear rolled off Chris's chest so fast it left him dizzy.
Of course, that could've been the smoke he kept breathing in spite of staying low to the ground like he'd been taught to all his life.
He crouched beside Diego and looked around. Flames crept along the hallway walls. In the other direction, he could barely see the back door through the smoke. "Diego, can you crawl?"
Diego nodded. "I think...think so."
His obvious breathlessness worried Chris, but there was nothing for it. He hadn't the time to determine how bad off Diego might be. They needed to get out. Hopefully the firefighters and emergency medical personnel would be there to help, if they could just make it outside.
Together, they crawled toward the rear exit. Diego coughed and hacked until Chris feared he might break a rib. A good fifteen feet short of the door, he collapsed onto his side, his lips blue even through the smoky haze. His eyes drifted shut.
Chris shook his head. "No, no, no, Diego, come on, just a little farther, okay?"
Diego didn't answer. Terror dug icy claws into Chris's gut. He hooked his hands beneath Diego's armpits and pulled as hard as he could, but the older man was bigger and heavier than him, and the smoke made it difficult to breathe. Chris managed to slide his friend a few feet before dizziness and air hunger forced him to stop. He sat on the floor, breathing hard. His eyes burned, tears streaming down his cheeks and blurring his vision. Black smoke, the acrid smell of burning wood and insulation and the sinister roar of the fire filled the room.
God, it couldn't have been even five minutes since this whole nightmare started, but it felt like forever.
Somewhere in the dining area, a crash sounded. The rumbling noise intensified. A blast of fierce heat hit the side of Chris's face. Heart hammering, Chris heaved Diego's upper body into his arms, locked his hands across Diego's chest and dragged him toward the door. He got Diego around the wooden chopping block and tantalizingly close to the half-open door before his limbs gave out and he crumpled to the floor, gasping for air. Darkness ate at the edges of his vision.
Outside--just a few feet away, God, so close--a riot of sirens and shouts rose over the noise of the fire. It seemed ridiculous to Chris that he didn't have the strength left to reach safety when it was right there, but it was true. He couldn't seem to move a muscle, except to draw the next oxygen-starved breath, and the next.
I'm going to die. I'm going to die here, right here on the kitchen floor of The Falls, and I'll never see Matt again.
The thought was enough to propel Chris forward again, pushing himself with hands and feet. He was ashamed of leaving Diego behind--or trying to, since he crumpled into a heap once more after only a few inches--but the thought of never seeing his husband again frightened Chris more than anything. More than the fire, more than the prospect of his own death.
A couple of feet from his face, the door eased inward, sending the smoke into a lazy swirl. Three firefighters entered the room. Chris lifted his head to watch. He'd never seen anything more beautiful in his life. Two of the men--men? Women? Who knew, under all that gear?--went straight to Diego. The third knelt beside Chris. "Sir? Let's get you out of here."
Chris meant to answer. He really did. He meant to thank the nice woman--definitely a female, this one--let her help him up and out that door into the free air. But he couldn't seem to make his body cooperate. His head drooped and bounced on the tile floor. The pain barely registered, all his energy concentrated on pulling air into his lungs. He felt as if he were trying to breathe through a straw. His head swam, and he couldn't seem to blink away the gray haze that kept trying to swallow everything.
God, he was exhausted. He shut his eyes, ignoring the firefighter's hand on his shoulder and her shouts for help. If only he could rest for a moment. Just a moment.
He thought he heard her calling to him before the buzzing between his ears dragged him under.