As LA's hottest up-and-coming chef, Alexa Montoya is known for her ruby red lipstick, award-winning arroz con pollo and a penchant for falling for the wrong kind of men. And when a confrontation with a loser ex-boyfriend lands her in some legal trouble, she's forced to call her long-time friend, Dante Perez, to bail her out. Only this time, Dante seems different, somehow. More gorgeous, more sexy, more…mouthwateringly irresistible. Suddenly she's tempted to give the lawyer much more than a simple thank you…
Dante is tired of seeing Alexa with guys who only know how to steal her money and break her heart. He's watched--and waited for--her long enough. Helping with her legal situation will finally give him a chance to win her over for good. His plan? He'll seduce her into finally believing that there's something deliciously right between them…
Despite their chemistry, Alexa can't trust that Dante won't leave. But Dante knows how to win a case. And he'll do whatever it takes to convince Alexa that she'll always leave him hungry for more…
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.44(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Delicious Desires Series
By Sabrina Sol, Brenda Chin
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Sabrina Sol
All rights reserved.
If the food tastes as good as it smells, I'm going to be royally pissed.
As soon as she walked through the double glass doors of Formosa, Alexa's expert chef's nose twitched.
The onslaught of deliciously recognizable odors also made her mouth salivate and her stomach grumble way too loud. In other words, her body was already betraying her, and she hadn't even had a single bite.
Natalie squeezed through the crowd of people standing near the hostess stand and grabbed her wrist. "Hey, girl! Right on time. We just got seated."
Alexa put on a big smile as her friend led her through Hollywood's new it restaurant, which just so happened to be owned by her ex-boyfriend Nick Angelo. Not that she still cared what — or whom — he did these days.
Nope. She had arrived at Formosa with the best of intentions to put the past behind her. But the more she saw of the restaurant as she walked through it with Natalie, the more her past kept popping up.
Formosa looked familiar. Too familiar.
Black leather buttoned booths lined the walls and curved around tables draped with white linens. The center of the room was dotted with smaller tables surrounded by black leather chairs trimmed with gold. Red velvet drapes framed the restaurant's few windows so the room was dimly lit by the mini lamp centerpieces and ornate chandeliers hanging from the vaulted ceiling. The atmosphere was subdued but lively at the same time. It was like she'd stepped into what she'd always imagined a 1940s supper club would look and feel like.
Her gut cramped.
She stopped in her tracks as they came upon two walls made of empty green and blue wine bottles hanging from dark wooden beams. The space between the pseudo walls created an entryway into the main dining room, casually segmenting it from the crowded bar area. The bottles, fastened together somehow, seemed to float in the air right side up, casting colorful shimmers of light onto the beige-colored tile below. It was an impressive decor feature.
And way too similar to the one she'd once doodled on a napkin and showed to Nick.
That son of a bitch had stolen her restaurant idea — even down to the glass bottles hanging from the ceiling.
Take a breath, Alexa. Don't let him do this to you.
She inhaled and continued walking until she reached the table where Natalie had just taken a seat.
"Yay, you made it," Clarissa said. She reached over to squeeze her hand after she sat down.
"We were taking bets on whether you were going to cancel," Natalie said.
Alexa winced. "Why would you even think that?"
"Because of Nick," Clarissa said with a frown.
She shrugged. "Like I said last night, I don't care that he owns this place. You've both been wanting to come here since it opened, and we finally got reservations. So let's have a good time and not worry about Nick."
Natalie's eyes narrowed. "What if he sees you?"
Alexa fiddled with her black pearl necklace. "Then he sees me. So what? I've been over Nick since the day I walked into my bedroom and found his face between my neighbor's legs. Is he an asshole? Yes. But he's an asshole I haven't thought about in ages."
Although that wasn't entirely true. The day she and Brandon opened their own Los Angeles restaurant, L.A. Cuchara, she'd received a flower arrangement from Nick. In the note, he'd offered her his congratulations and his current phone number. She'd actually laughed out loud and then thrown everything into the dumpster behind the restaurant.
"Well, we're glad you're here. We've missed you," Natalie said and reached out to squeeze Alexa's arm.
"I've missed you girls, too. Sorry for disappearing there for a while. The new Miami project has my brother tied up, so I've had to pick up the slack on some of the regular day-to-day operations stuff at L.A. Cuchara, in addition to being in the kitchen. Then I was down a sous chef until last week. Things are slowly getting manageable again, so I'm ready to get my party on."
"Awesome! Does that mean you're also ready to let me set you up with my cute trainer from the gym?" Natalie asked.
Alexa sighed. "No, that doesn't. I already told you I'm taking a break from the whole relationship game for now."
"Who said anything about relationships? Chica, I was just trying to get you laid."
They all burst into laughter, and it was a welcome relief from the anxiety she'd faced walking through Nick's restaurant. She was glad she'd made the effort to show up. She'd needed a night out with her friends.
After the giggles died down, Natalie's tone became serious. "Honestly, Alexa, that's your problem right there. You automatically equate dating with relationships. You need to act more like a man. Get out there and screw whomever you want, whenever you want, and stop thinking that it has to mean something."
"Natalie's right," Clarissa added. "You fall way too hard, way too fast, and then you end up flat on your face. Didn't you want to move in with what's his name after only two dates?"
"I thought his name was Ben?" Natalie asked.
"No, Ben was before Leo," Alexa corrected while pushing down the inkling of embarrassment at the fact that her complicated relationship history required footnotes. "Anyway, Leo was different."
There were those looks again.
"Fine," she admitted. "Leo was different ... until he wasn't." She put her face in her hands and groaned. "You guys are right. I am the worst judge of character when it comes to men. This is why I need a break."
"Or ... you could just let us pick them for you," Natalie said. "I'm telling you, my trainer is hot."
Clarissa raised her hand. "I know! What about your brother's sexy lawyer? God, if I were single, I'd be all over that man."
Pricks of heat marched across her arms and chest like an army of fire ants. They didn't even have to say his name for Alexa's body to respond. It was freaking Pavlovian. Or maybe it was just recall of when she'd felt what it was like to surrender to Dante Perez.
But that was a lifetime ago, and there were a thousand reasons why she'd never let history repeat itself.
"No way," she told Clarissa, shaking her head furiously. "Been there. Almost done that. Dante will never be an option."
"I just realized that you've still never told us what happened between you two," Natalie said.
"That's right. What's up with that?" Clarissa chimed in.
Because talking about the past only makes me wonder what could have been.
"There's nothing to tell. Just trust me when I say that Dante isn't the guy for me. Besides, I want to believe that the right guy will come into my life at the right time. I just have to be patient."
That cracked them up for some reason.
Alexa straightened in her chair. "And what's so goddamn funny about that?"
In between snorts, Natalie tried to answer. "I'm sorry, but the one thing you are not is patient."
"Sure I am. For example, I'm being very patient right now by not pinching you both for making fun of me."
"Aw, honey, we don't mean to laugh," Clarissa said when she finally caught her breath. "It's just that you tend to act on your emotions before really thinking them through. It's not a bad thing, but it isn't always the best thing when it comes to men."
"Or shoes. Or purses," Natalie added drily.
Okay, that comment stung. "Hey, it's not my fault I love a good sale."
"And how many 'good sales' are stacked up in your closet right now?" Natalie smirked when Alexa didn't answer right away.
"Fine. Maybe you both have a point. I'll make you a deal. Starting now, I promise to be less, um, impulsive about things if you two promise to put a hold on the whole 'Let's get Alexa a new man' plan. I swear you're almost as bad as my Puerto Rican mami."
"Aw, Lorena isn't that bad," Clarissa said.
"That's because she's not trying to marry you off to random strangers."
"Are they at least rich random strangers?" Natalie asked.
Alexa picked up her red linen napkin and threw it at her friend. Then everyone started laughing again.
As if on cue, their server finally showed up. "Sorry for the wait, ladies. We are very busy tonight, as you can see. Can I start you off with some drinks from our bar?"
Her friends began asking the waitress about some fruity-sounding cocktails, but Alexa's thoughts wandered away from alcohol and back to Dante. Lately, it seemed that's where her thoughts always drifted when she wasn't focused on holding them down tight. Why did he have to be so damn good-looking? And smart? And super confident about his effect on women, especially her? And why, oh, why did he have to come sauntering back into her life two years ago, bringing old desires and feelings along with him?
"And what can I get you?"
Alexa realized the server was talking to her, and she grabbed the bar menu sitting in front of her on the table. A curious thought occurred to her at that moment, so she put it back down without even opening it.
"Any chance you serve sidecars?" It was a calculated guess. Not many places offered the stiff drink made with Cognac and lime juice that was once associated with post-Prohibition supper clubs. She had a feeling this one did, though.
"We sure do, hon," the server confirmed. "It's a house specialty. Is that what you'd like?"
Actually, I'd like for this not to be happening. But since it seems like it is, I'll take the strongest drink you've got.
"Sure. Bring me a sidecar," Alexa said between tightened lips.
"A sidecar? How fun! I'm really digging this place's retro vibe. Isn't it cool?" Natalie gushed after the waitress left.
Clarissa nodded but then stopped when she caught Alexa's gaze. "But, you know, not as cool as yours."
Alexa attempted a smile. It didn't surprise her that her friends would love this place. Like her, they were deep into L.A.'s rockabilly culture. They preferred pinup dresses to slacks and do-wop oldies to top forty hits. Vintage glam was their signature style. Just like it would've been for the restaurant she'd always wanted to open on her own.
Even though she once had the money to do it, she'd put aside that dream to help Brandon realize his.
Alexa owed a lot to her twin brother. He'd worked his ass off to take care of her and their mami after their papi had died. Even after he'd opened his first restaurant in New York and she'd moved to Los Angeles, he'd still made sure she had everything she needed. Two years ago he'd wanted to expand his restaurant business to L.A. and asked her to design the menu and be his executive chef. She'd agreed to run the kitchen but with the stipulation that she could invest some of her own money and become a part owner. That way, she could learn how to manage a restaurant until she was finally ready to open hers. She even had a name picked out — The Joint.
Based on everything she had seen tonight, though, it looked like Nick had beaten her to the punch.
"Oh, wow, I think I've gained five pounds just looking at this menu. This macaroni and cheese sounds absolutely decadent."
Natalie's overenthusiastic response to Nick's food crashed through Alexa's thoughts, and her head began to throb. Good thing she always carried Excedrin.
She pulled her purse from the back of the chair and moved it to her lap.
"Is that new?" Clarissa asked in an accusatory tone.
Alexa petted the newest addition to her collection — a gently used, shiny, black pleather retro bowling bag with white piping. "It is," she said, a feeling of pride welling inside. "I found it on eBay and it just arrived today. I'm in love."
Her friends shook their heads so Alexa quickly added, "This was not an impulse buy. I've been looking for one like this for ages, okay?"
The vintage Brunswick bag was both stylish and functional. The interior was wide enough to carry, well, a bowling ball. But Alexa hadn't been thinking of strikes or spares when she'd bought it. She just thought it was exactly what she needed to hold her wallet, makeup bag, and whatever else she could carry during her weekly shopping trips to her favorite swap meet in the Valley. In fact, it still held two silver-plated candlesticks from today's excursion, since she'd planned to stop by L.A. Cuchara after dinner and store them with her supplies for special events.
No wonder it's so heavy, she thought.
After popping two pills and gulping down her water, Alexa finally opened Formosa's dinner menu. The names of familiar dishes screamed back at her, and her head throbbed harder.
Butter chicken potpie. Of course it's made with heirloom fingerling potatoes. Nick didn't even know the difference between fingerlings and Yukons before me.
Seafood paella. Really? That was the first thing I taught the ass to make. He could've at least tried to make it his own.
Arroz con pollo. Wait, did I read that right?
Arroz con pollo. Saffron and spices. Traditional sofrito. Secret family recipe?
Oh. Hell. No.
That was it. It was bad enough that Nick had stolen her idea, but her abuelita's recipe, too? "Excuse me, girls," she announced to her friends. "I'll be right back."
Alexa got up from the table and followed a trail of servers heading for a door in the back. Her brother's voice — the one he liked to use when he thought she needed advice — issued a warning in her head, but she ignored it. This wasn't the time to be careful or reasonable. This was the time to be Alexa.
The chaos of the kitchen covered her entry so no one looked up or ordered her to get out. She scanned from left to right until her eyes fell upon her target.
Nick stood with his back to her, next to a stainless steel island in the middle of the room. He was barking out orders to the line cooks on the other side as he sprinkled parsley onto a row of dinner plates that held heaps of food she couldn't quite make out. He wore his dark hair short and spiky underneath a black bandanna tied around his forehead. And when he turned to hand the plates to waiting servers, she noticed that his white chef's coat was crisp and pristine, a stark contrast to the way hers usually looked a few hours into dinner service. She surmised that sprinkling parsley was as close as he got to cooking these days.
Of course he'd leave the real work to others.
The realization left a bitter taste on her tongue, despite being surrounded with such delicious smells. She needed to have her say and get the hell out of there. But before she could open her mouth, he turned all the way around and caught her eye.
"Well, well, well. Look who just walked into my kitchen," he said, causing a few of the cooks and servers to turn in her direction. "Hello, Alexa."
She stiffened at the sound of her name on his lips. "Nick."
"God, you look amazing. Did you look this good when we were together?"
"I did. But then again, you were too busy screwing our neighbors to notice."
He laughed so hard she wanted to scream. "I see you still have that same charming way with words. You should've told me you were coming so I could reserve one of my best tables for you," he said. "Who's your server? I'm going to let her know that there's no way you're paying for anything tonight."
It was her turn to laugh. "So what? You think you can give me a free meal and a few drinks and that's going to make up for stealing from me?" He folded his arms across his chest. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said coolly.
She had to give Nick credit. He was still a good liar. "I think you know exactly what I'm talking about. This place is everything I used to tell you about how I wanted The Joint to be."
"I thought your brother's restaurant was called L.A. Cuchara?" The fact that he didn't question more about what The Joint was curled her stomach. It was the final confirmation she needed.
"The menu. The drinks. The decor. Even the freaking wall of wine bottles. All of it. All of this belonged to me first."
He waved a hand in the air. "Is there a second restaurant you've opened recently that I don't know about? Because last time I checked, you hadn't, which means nothing here belongs to you."
Revulsion burned her throat like bile. "You haven't changed at all. Three years later and you're still a cheater and a liar."
There was that smirk again. "And you will never have what it takes to open up a restaurant on your own. Don't blame me if you're still cooking someone else's food and training someone else's staff. You're all talk. No action. No wonder I got bored."
Nick shook his head in pity and returned to dressing the plates.
Waves of fury rocked her from the inside out, causing her heart to pound and her body to tremble. "You're going to be sorry for betraying me this time," she spat.
Excerpted from Delicious Satisfaction by Sabrina Sol, Brenda Chin. Copyright © 2017 Sabrina Sol. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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