Gorgeous celebrity chef Reggie Caldwell’s star is on the rise, but her fame comes with a price: her very own stalker. To keep production going on her popular cooking show, she needs a bodyguard - fast. Gabe Bankovic is perfect for the job: ex-military, muscles for days, and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep Reggie safe. When Gabe says yes, she knows she's in the hands of an expert. Because she's had those hands on her body before...Gabe never forgot the one unbelievable night of anonymous passion they shared. Reggie's lush mouth, her sensual curves, her passionate response to his touch…Determined to keep things professional, Gabe soon succumbs to his overwhelming desire. Because Reggie Caldwell is just too delicious to resist.
4 Stars from Romantic Times Book Reviews!
“Delicious is an apt title…blends romance, suspense and hot sexual encounters. Her characters are compelling and multidimensional, and the sexual tension between the protagonists sizzles until it finally explodes.
Praise For Jami Alden:
“Jami Alden always takes you on a wild ride!
- New York Times best seller Catherine Coulter
“The perfect balance of emotion and romance.”
-New York Times best seller Maya Banks
“Hot and emotionally charged, Jami Alden always delivers.”
-New York Times best seller Shannon McKenna
“A fantastic story that will keep you hot and bothered.”
-Romantic Times Book Reviews for Private Party
“Alden can wring every emotion from her characters.”
-Romantic Times Book Reviews
|File size:||344 KB|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Like so many romance readers, my first romance novel was by Kathleen Woodiwiss - The Flame and the Flower, to be exact. I was thirteen. I spent the next month ignoring my friends while I worked my way through her back list. Shortly thereafter I discovered Judith McNaught, Johanna Lindsey, Karen Robards, Catherine Coulter, Shirlee Busbee among others, and devoured their lavish historical epics full of overbearing alpha males and the women who brought them to their knees. I was hooked. My high school teachers marveled at my ability to read romance novels under the desk and still score straight A's. I started to imagine myself, living in a cabin in the mountains somewhere, writing romance novels. It took me quite awhile to pursue my dream. After graduating from Stanford with a degree in English Literature, I worked in a variety of not so interesting admin jobs before I began my career in marketing. It wasn't exactly my dream job, but at least my writing appeared on several web sites and in many software marketing brochures. Unfortunately I wasn't able to fit the phrase "and her loins melted like hot wax" into any of them. During my stint as the world's surliest receptionist, I took my first stab at writing. The result was a very melodramatic western historical which reads like a bad Elizabeth Lowell rip off. It's currently languishing on my hard drive, forever stuck on page 330. Then in fall 2001 I had an incredible stroke of luck and got laid off from my marketing job. I decided it was time to stop saying I wanted to be a writer and to actually give it a serious go. Fortunately my husband, a socially well adjusted alpha male, is a very generous patron of the arts. Four years later, I sold my first book and now I'm pretty much living the dream of getting paid to write romance. I don't live in a cabin in the mountains, but I do live in a rural-ish town near San Francisco (hey, we have deer and bunnies, along with the occasional coyote) with my husband, 2 sons, and a dog who patiently listens to my dialogue and helps me work out plot points. When I'm not writing, I enjoy running, reading, cooking, and watching a brain numbing quantity of food network programming.
Read an Excerpt
By JAMI ALDEN
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2006 Jami Alden
All right reserved.
Chapter One"How can you tell it's a scrotum?" Reggie turned the page sideways, then a full 180 degrees, then back to what she assumed was the original orientation.
"Well, there." Her sister, Natalie, traced a perfectly French-manicured nail along a blurry shape. "That's definitely a testicle. And right there"-she indicated a dark gray area at the top of the page-"I'm pretty sure that's his butt crack."
"I'm not seeing it."
The page had arrived in today's mail, shuffled in with junk mail, a PG&E bill, and her monthly issue of Cooking Light. The blurry black-and-white photocopy had just six words at the top: Darling Reggie, these are Simply Delicious. To add to the creep factor, the words were composed of magazine cutouts like psycho kidnapper serial killers always used in the Lifetime Channel's movie of the week.
"Yeah, but how long has it been since you've seen one?"
Reggie shot her sister a glare. "It may have been a while since I've had sex, but I think I could recognize a scrotum if it were in front of my face. Besides, there's no penis."
Natalie snatched the paper up. "Maybe his balls are the best part. Or maybe they're so massive, they obscure everything else."
"Gross! How does one even accomplish that?" Reggie's lip curled in revulsion.
"Well, Ithink if he put his leg over like this ..." Natalie swung one thin, Blue Cult Jean-clad leg over the corner of Reggie's kitchen table. "And held his dick up like this ..." She cupped her hand between her legs to demonstrate how a man might cup his penis up and out of the way of the photocopier glass. "I think you might get that angle."
Reggie looked at her sister, then back at the picture. She supposed, yes, if a man did decide to assault a hapless copier machine in such a fashion, such an image might result. This guy definitely had more ass to work with than Natalie. Not that that was a great achievement, since Natalie's skinny rump barely filled out the seat of her size two jeans.
Her admirer's butt, when smashed against the copier glass, left the impression of two hair-speckled pressed hams.
Since her cooking show, Simply Delicious with Reggie Caldwell, had become a big hit-for the Cuisine Network, anyway-she'd received all kinds of interesting fan mail. Everything from the mundane-recipe suggestions, self-published cookbooks fans hoped she would promote, general letters of admiration (and criticism, but she chose to ignore those)-to the slightly wacko.
That category included five marriage proposals, a handful of accusations from viewers claiming that she'd broken into their houses and stolen their grandmother's top-secret recipe for any number of dishes, and one offer of ten thousand dollars from a man who wanted to watch her smear pie all over her face.
But a lonely scrotum, that took the cake. She couldn't suppress a giggle as she imagined some guy, pants hanging off one ankle as he swung a leg over the unfortunate piece of office equipment. "This is great. Anyone can send flowers or chocolate, but a man willing to squash his nuts in the pursuit of great fan mail? This is even better than the guy with the pie fetish."
Natalie snickered. "Reminds me of the guy who wanted a pair of my panties after I did that douche commercial. Said he wanted to see if I was really as 'fresh' as I looked." Reggie made a sound of disgust as Natalie once again picked up the envelope the scrotum copy came in. Natalie's laughter stopped abruptly, and her perfectly waxed eyebrows compressed in a tight vee over the bridge of her nose.
"I don't want to freak you out, but this wasn't sent through the network."
In an attempt to maintain her privacy, Reggie had all of her fan mail sent care of the network's New York offices, then forwarded either to her producer's office here in San Francisco or to her home address.
"This was sent directly to your home address. Whoever sent this knows where you live."
A cold little fist pinched somewhere around Reggie's small intestine. "But I'm not listed," she said, wincing at how stupid that sounded. Like that made a difference now.
She shook off the flutter of panic. So some oddball had figured out where she lived. Big deal. He was most likely as harmless as the rest of the other nutbars who wrote her. She shook her head, pushed back from the table, and went to the freezer to break off a square of dark Scharffenberger chocolate. "I don't think it's anything to worry about."
Natalie eyed the chocolate in her hand, her eyebrow raised skeptically. "Sure. That's exactly why you went straight for the chocolate pacifier. Remember, you're filming for the next two months straight."
Reggie rolled her eyes. She loved her sister, but sometimes she wondered how Natalie seemed to have infinite self-control over base urges like hunger and never succumbed to dreaded emotional eating. And Natalie never hesitated to remind Reggie that the camera added ten pounds. A not-so-subtle implication that Reggie's relatively slim size-eight figure looked positively elephantine when reduced to two dimensions.
At times like this she could barely restrain herself from shoving a dozen Krispy Kremes down her younger sister's size-two throat. Reggie defiantly broke off another square and devoured it with enough relish to give Natalie nightmares of cellulite and belly flab.
"If you cut carbs for the next few days, you should be fine," Natalie continued, "and you need to step up your cardio big time." Pausing, Natalie contemplated her own sinewy-looking arm, frowning as she pinched about a millimeter of extra skin. "As for that"-she looked meaningfully at the blotchy black-and-white photocopy-"I think you should do something about this guy."
Reggie poured a glass of water to chase the chocolate. "What am I supposed to do, Nat? Call the police and say I received a suspicious photocopy of genitalia in the mail? They have murders to solve."
Natalie combed her fingers through her waist-length, perfectly streaked, light brown hair. "Despite your attempts to stay private, some guy managed to find your address to send you a picture of his balls. Doesn't that freak you out just a little bit, considering you live here all by yourself? And it's not the most secure building in the world. Just yesterday your neighbor downstairs let me in and didn't even ask who I was."
"That's because he wants to get in your pants."
Natalie brightened, momentarily distracted. "Really?" She frowned again, refocusing on the subject at hand. "When I lived down in L.A., one of my friends"-she mentioned a well-known TV star-"had a stalker. It started out just like this. Letters, pictures, no big deal." She leaned forward intently, her dark blue gaze boring into Reggie's face. "Then one day she came home and her cat was hanging from the oak tree in her front yard." She sat back and nodded emphatically.
The chocolate curdled in Reggie's stomach as she imagined the unfortunate feline. But, she reminded herself, this was Natalie, with her flair for the dramatic and a tendency to embellish for effect. More likely, the actress had come home to find a squirrel had been hit in front of her driveway. "Good thing I don't have any pets." Rex, the ficus she'd barely managed to keep alive for the past five years, didn't count. "And my apartment doesn't have a yard."
Natalie's hands flew up in exasperation. "You have to take this seriously. Things like this start small, and then they escalate. I've seen it hundreds of times." She went on to list a handful of famous stars that had experienced stalker problems.
Considering the douche commercial and a couple of walk-on TV and movie rolls were the extent of her acting résumé, Reggie found it hard to believe that Natalie had ever, in fact, come within spitting distance of any of the women she named, much less discussed their personal security problems.
"This guy could come over any time he wants and catch you unaware," Natalie ranted. "Then what do you think will happen?"
"He'll take me to Kinko's?"
Natalie got up from the table and grabbed the telephone. "I'm calling the police. This way if anything else happens, at least they have a file started."
Reggie started to stop her, then thought better of it. Maybe Natalie was right. It was creepy to think that someone she didn't even know had gone to the trouble of tracking down her home address.
A prickle of unease raised the hairs on the back of Reggie's neck; she pushed away from the counter and yanked the blinds down over the kitchen sink. Then she went out into the living room and closed the blinds over her big bay window. She would enjoy her view of the Golden Gate Bridge some other day.
Then she snapped the blinds back up. What was up with that? No way was she going to let herself be intimidated by some freako who thought his balls were worth sharing. She had way too much going on to waste any thoughts worrying about this. Besides, didn't California have laws against this?
She walked back into the kitchen and cast the offending picture a scathing glance. As much as she hated to admit it, Natalie was right. The sooner she went to the police, the sooner they would nail this joker. Then he'd see it wasn't so funny, sending semiobscene material through the mail.
Natalie hung up. "They said we should come in to give a statement."
Reggie groaned. "I don't have time for this. My editor's going to kill me if I don't finish my draft of the side dish chapter." The first draft of her second cookbook was weeks overdue, and the fact that Natalie had sent the main dish chapter to the wrong editorial department last week hadn't helped matters.
Natalie rolled her eyes and held out Reggie's purse. "Oh, please. How long can it take you to write out a few stupid recipes?"
A lot harder than it is to mooch off my sister's charity while flitting from one fruitless audition to another. But Reggie kept quiet. It was her own stupid fault for hiring Natalie as her assistant rather than simply lending her money. It wasn't Natalie's fault she was borderline incompetent.
Forty-five minutes later, they were at the San Francisco Police Department providing a statement to the desk sergeant on duty. She was black, burly, and highly amused by the picture Reggie provided. "Honestly, what kinda man has to stoop to sending pictures of his stuff in the mail? No surprise he don't show no dick. Probably got a little itty bitty one." She held her thumb and forefinger about an inch apart to demonstrate.
Reggie couldn't help grinning in response. "That's exactly what I thought. I mean, what kind of guy humps a copier so he can send a love letter?"
"But, Sergeant Mulvaney, whoever sent it knows where Reggie lives," Natalie interjected. "Shouldn't that be cause for alarm?"
Sergeant Mulvaney tried her best to assume a serious expression. "Have you received anything of a similar nature?"
Reggie bit her lip. "Nothing like this, and never sent directly to my house." Suddenly the idea of the police diligently tracking down her prankster seemed a bit far-fetched.
"What about that guy with the pie fetish?" Natalie asked.
Sergeant Mulvaney looked quizzically at Reggie.
Reggie shook her head. "That was sent to the studio."
"I host a cooking show."
Sergeant Mulvaney's big brown eyes got even bigger. "Ooh, girl, I knew I recognized your name! You're the one who does the easy recipes. You are so skinny in person!"
Reggie grinned and thanked her, resisting the urge to flash Natalie a smug look. Not everyone thought she was chunky.
Sergeant Mulvaney wasn't finished. "I made that chicken coated in the corn chips for a potluck, and it was such a hit. Except I mixed in some cayenne pepper to give it a little kick."
There was nothing Reggie loved to talk about more than food. "The cayenne is a great idea. Or if you wanted, you could even go with that new chipotle powder they have out now for a smokier flavor, and I've even mixed the chips with a little shredded parmesan, just to give it kind of a nacho taste-"
"Hello! I think we're getting a little off track here," Natalie said peevishly.
Reggie smiled sheepishly at the sergeant. "Well, uh, thanks for watching the show." Usually she loved being recognized. She loved talking to fans, sharing tips and ideas, hearing that she helped someone make a meal that his or her family loved. Good thing, since a huge part of her popularity was her approachability and reputation for fan-friendliness.
But she hated being recognized around Natalie. Natalie had clawed her way around Hollywood seeking fame and fortune for the past seven years, and suddenly in the last year both had fallen right into Reggie's lap.
Semi-fame, at least. Enough to make her feel guilty about rubbing it in her baby sister's face. And a respectable fortune, especially now that her first cookbook had spent its twenty-second week on The New York Times best-seller list and her agent had negotiated a ridiculous advance for her second cookbook.
An advance that might be revoked if she didn't get her butt in gear and finish the first draft. She should have known better than to agree to her editor's deadline of three months when she was simultaneously developing another cooking show.
Sergeant Mulvaney's glum look and tsking sounds brought her focus back to the issue at hand. "I'm real sorry, honey. We can dust this for fingerprints, but if there's no pattern and no threat of violence, there's not much we can do."
Reggie and Natalie slumped, defeated.
"But what about the antistalker laws?" Natalie protested.
The sergeant shook her head, the beads of her cornrows softly clicking. "Without anything to go on, there's not much we can do to catch him. And even if we could find him, without any threats of violence, we can't even press charges. My advice to you: Lock your doors, try to be more aware of your surroundings, and maybe enroll in a self-defense class."
They left after Sergeant Mulvaney confirmed she would start a file for the case. On the way home, Reggie dropped Natalie off for her audition for a local health club chain commercial.
Reggie wished her good luck, to which Natalie's only response was a grunt. Obviously, she was still ticked about having to deal with Reggie's fan encounter. "Nat," she called out to her sister's retreating back, "if you want, you can come in early to do my makeup tomorrow before the shoot. Then you can borrow my car to drive to your audition, okay?" Reggie breathed a sigh of relief at Nat's nearly imperceptible nod.
Inwardly, she cringed at her knee-jerk appeasement of her sister's temper. Wasn't it time she stopped feeling guilty for her own success? Hadn't she worked her ass off for the past four years since leaving her job as a successful CPA?
Shouldn't she be proud and impressed with her own success, since no one else in her family seemed inclined to be?
Still, her mother's voice echoed in her head. "Take care of Natalie, Reggie. You're her big sister, and you know you're the more sensible one."
By the time Reggie got home, all she wanted was to pour herself a glass of wine and settle down with a snack in front of the TV until she could slink off to bed at an astoundingly uncool hour. But not only was she way behind in getting recipes to her editor for her new book, with six weeks of location shoots starting in less than two weeks, this was her last chance to get the bulk of her already overdue manuscript done.
Deliberately bypassing the kitchen, she went directly to her office and flipped on her Sony Vaio. Call her a nerd, but after years of making do with a clunker of a laptop, she still loved the sound of the chimes that greeted her as she fired it up. It was her second gift to herself after her first book hit the nonfiction best-seller list, the first having been a move to a 1,500 square foot two-bedroom apartment in Pacific Heights. After living in a studio since graduating from college, she still found herself occasionally overwhelmed by all the space.
She quickly scanned through her e-mails. Predictably, Sharon, her editor, had e-mailed no less than three times, reminding Reggie that she'd promised to send the recipes for the last three chapters by the end of the week. Tyler, her PR manager, wrote to provide the details of a cooking demonstration and book signing she had scheduled for next week and asked again for her updated travel and shooting schedule so he could schedule appearances in the cities she planned to visit.
Excerpted from DELICIOUS by JAMI ALDEN Copyright © 2006 by Jami Alden. Excerpted by permission.
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