Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures

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by Cathy Yardley

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Mari Salazar has to get her act together—otherwise her backstreet restaurant will quickly become a been-there, done-that kind of thing. She risked everything to create her place, Guilty Pleasures, and she's willing to risk everything all over again just to save it. She doesn't have a plan, but she does have...

Nick Avery is a super-sexy chef looking for

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Mari Salazar has to get her act together—otherwise her backstreet restaurant will quickly become a been-there, done-that kind of thing. She risked everything to create her place, Guilty Pleasures, and she's willing to risk everything all over again just to save it. She doesn't have a plan, but she does have...

Nick Avery is a super-sexy chef looking for a second chance. His once-four-star reputation is now no-star, thanks to a longtime rival. When Nick shows up on Mari's doorstep she knows it means trouble, and not just for her restaurant, either! Soon she's not only sampling his delectable dishes, she's sampling the chef himself.

Together they cook up a sinful menu that garners many new patrons, but when opportunity knocks on Nick's door, with high-class offers, he must decide, as will Mari, what and who they truly desire...

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Publication date:
Harlequin Blaze Series , #59
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Guilty Pleasures

By Yardley

Harlequin Enterprises Limited

Copyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0373790635

Chapter One

"What do you mean, the restaurant is closing?"

Twenty-three-year-old Marion Worthington sat in her parents' lavish dining room. She stared down at the blue-patterned china that held the meal she was pushing around with her fork. She wasn't able to choke down a bite.

"I mean Le Pome is officially going out of business, closing up shop, going under." Marion looked up, to see her parents' horrified disbelief. "You can't honestly be surprised, after all the publicity we got."

Her mother's face was stony and impassive. "What does Derek say about all this?"

"Derek." Marion briefly looked away, fighting the tears in her eyes. Derek Black, the owner of Le Pome, the restaurant where she was the highly publicized head chef. Derek, who had been her lover up to about a month ago, when she discovered that he'd also been sleeping with the restaurant's interior decorator. She wouldn't have been surprised if it had actually been the decorator's idea to shut the place down and get young Marion Worthington out of his life forever. "It was his idea to shut us down, actually. After the disastrous reviews we had when we opened, I think he wanted to shut us down the first month." Derek Black was not a man who could handle failure, in any form.

Unfortunately,neither were the Worthingtons. "I told you," her father said, looking at her mother as if Marion herself wasn't even in the room. "I told you this was a stupid venture from the start. Culinary school! For God's sake, that prepares you for nothing in the real world!"

"Henry," her mother said warningly. Then she turned back to Marion. "Well. I would assume you've learned your lesson."

Marion nodded. She had. Never let your parents set you up with a "perfect position" with an old friend of theirs. Never trust a bunch of old chefs and consultants and marketing people rather than your own instincts. Never fool yourself into thinking you're in love.

"Well, that's over with, and I for one am thankful," her mother said, in a business-like tone. "You'll move back home, of course."

Marion looked at her, stunned. "But, Mom ..."

"And then we'll start figuring out what you're going to do next." Her mother's smile was crafty. "You know, it's a little late in the game, but I might be able to get you on Berkeley's wait list. The dean owes me a favor...."

"Wait a minute," Marion said sharply. "I'm not going to college!"

Her father rolled his eyes, turning an unattractive shade of red. "I could have told you this was going to happen, Claudia," he boomed.

Her mother's eyebrows knitted together. "Well, you're obviously not very good as a chef, Marion," her mother said, all the more hurtful in her matter-of-fact tone. "And I don't think it's a very good profession, anyway. It's unstable, it's hardly attractive ..."

"Spent all that money so you could learn how to chop potatoes and carrots," her father muttered darkly. "Cooking is what uneducated people do."

Marion flushed. "I love cooking. I love food."

"Well, if you love it so much, why don't you go out there and keep on cooking?" Her father stood up, a vein in his forehead pulsing. "Without your cushy restaurant, without your little helpers and hangers-on. Without Derek Black telling you what to do!"

Marion closed her eyes for a second, rage burning inside her. Something, some part of her, finally snapped. She opened her eyes.

"You were the ones that liked Derek," Marion said, her voice frozen of all emotion. "You were the ones who introduced us, who convinced him to take me on. You were the ones who liked him because he invested in Father's company."

Her mother blanched. Her father, on the other hand, stared at her with bug eyes. "I'm not saying I wasn't to blame," Marion said, feeling the pain like acid in her chest. "But damn it, I'm not going to apologize for trying. And I'm not going to be what you want me to be."

"Really? Even if it means you're going to be washing dishes and ... and ... I don't know what the hell else it is! Doing grunt work in some smelly, hot grease joint? How very noble. How completely idealistic!"

"Put it this way," Marion said, standing up and putting her napkin down on the table. "I'd rather wash dishes in a grease joint than take another bite of food from a man who has complete contempt for me."

Her father gaped like a goldfish. "I am so ashamed of you," her mother said in the intervening silence.

Marion spun to look at her mother, who had tears in her eyes.

"How can you talk to us like this?" Her mother's voice was muted and her eyes wide. "After all we've done for you? All the strings we've pulled? Everything we've sacrificed ..."

"I never asked you to, Mother," Marion said, and earned herself another scathing glance from her father.

"Ungrateful," her father spat out. "You've never thanked us once. Well, you want to make it on your own? Don't want to ask us for anything? Then get out!"

Marion stared at them for a moment, and her mother looked away. Finally, without another word, she left.

Marion headed for her car. She sat in the driveway of the stately home on Nob Hill, the place she'd grown up in. The place she'd hated for so many years.

She was twenty-three years old. The dream of her life, her restaurant, had closed its doors forever - with enough of a cloud of failure that no one would want to hire her. Her lover had abandoned her, her family had thrown her out.

She had nothing: no help, no living. No love.

She turned on the car, taking a second to brush the moisture from her eyes.

One day, I'll have a restaurant that I run my way. No more asking permission from a man who wants to use me. No more pandering to the opinions of critics. No more trying to become someone I'm not to meet the expectations of people who care more about their image and social standing than about their own daughter.

"No more," Mari whispered. And as of that moment, she was officially starting over.

Excerpted from Guilty Pleasures by Yardley Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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