Just a Taste

Just a Taste

by Shannyn Schroeder
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Overview

Just a Taste by Shannyn Schroeder

Grief has brought them together again-will love open the door to their future? When it's an O'Leary in the picture, finding out is just part of the adventure...

Carmen Delgado is left reeling when her father dies. Taking care of him has been her sole purpose for so long, she's forgotten what it's like to have dreams of her own. And with steady, sexy Liam O'Leary inheriting a share in her dad's successful food truck, Carmen is suddenly free to explore her life's possibilities. She never expected Liam to provide the kind of temptation she's not sure she can resist...

A talented chef, Liam O'Leary has been itching to open his own restaurant for years-and the death of his mentor is a reminder that time passes too quickly. Gus's Taco Taxi isn't exactly what he dreamed of, but he can't desert Gus's daughter. Working side by side is an unexpected pleasure-and grownup Carmen is alluring in all new ways. Is love on the menu-or will old fears and insecurities drive them apart?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601833303
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: 01/19/2014
Pages: 270
Sales rank: 853,685
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.61(d)

Read an Excerpt

Just a Taste

The O'Learys


By SHANNYN SCHROEDER

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 2015 Shannyn Schroeder
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60183-330-3


CHAPTER 1

Liam O'Leary walked through his apartment and peeled off his sweaty T-shirt, one that smelled of grease and onion soup that a clumsy line cook had spilled on him. The kid had no idea what he was doing, couldn't keep up with the pace of the kitchen, and Liam knew the owner would have to fire him. Exhaustion tugged at every muscle. Thoughts of the line cook—Liam didn't bother learning names until one proved himself—made Liam shake his head.

He'd asked Jonathan if he could sit in on the interviews for the last round of new hires, but Jonathan refused, saying he wanted Liam to focus on running the kitchen. The man might be a brilliant businessman, but he had no idea what it took to run a kitchen. Liam had been working at Porter's for more than two years and he still didn't understand how Jonathan managed to own a restaurant.

Jonathan had graduated from culinary school, but had never taken a job in a kitchen. He bought Porter's and hired a kitchen staff. Liam had been his fourth executive chef. It didn't take long to figure out why: Jonathan didn't want to work the kitchen, but wanted the credit for what happened there. He created the menu but rarely listened to new ideas.

Every now and then, though, Liam made small changes without Jonathan's knowledge. Tonight had been one of those nights. Unfortunately, Jonathan chose tonight to grace them with his presence, and the small addition of some herbs to the soup had turned into an explosive argument.

Liam stepped under the hot spray of the shower and tried to figure out what he wanted to do. He'd been thinking about opening his own restaurant for over a year now, but had yet to make a move. Unlike his older brother Colin, who would jump into anything that looked good, Liam needed to weigh his options.

One thing he knew for sure was that his time at Porter's was coming to an end.

With a towel wrapped around his waist, he went to the kitchen and popped the top on a beer. He fished his phone from his jacket pocket and checked messages. He'd heard the phone earlier in the evening, but since it wasn't a number he recognized, he bumped it to voice mail.

He carried his beer back to his room to pull on a pair of boxers while he listened.

"Hi, Liam, this is Carmen Delgado. I don't know if you remember me, Gus's daughter. I'm calling to let you know that my dad passed away."

The barest hitch caught in the girl's voice. She continued talking, but Liam no longer heard. Of course he remembered Carmen. She'd been a sweet kid who'd always played at giving him a hard time when he worked for Gus.

Gus.

Liam sank to the edge of his bed. Gus was dead?

Gus had been his first mentor. He'd given Liam his first real job, understood his love of cooking and food, taught him how to create. Liam's chest felt heavy. He took a swig of his beer and pushed it past the sudden lump in his throat.

"Here's to you, Gus." He lifted his bottle and drank again. He'd been a bad friend in recent years. He couldn't remember the last time he went to see Gus. How long had it been? Maybe once or twice since Gus's wife had died. Liam had gotten busy with his own life and few friendships survived his hectic schedule.

When they had spoken by phone, Liam knew Gus understood that. He'd lived a similar life. His last conversation with Gus flooded back into his head. A food critic did a write-up about Porter's and said wonderful things about Liam.

Gus had called to congratulate him. Liam had heard the pride in the old man's voice. That had been over a year ago. Guilt crept into Liam for letting so much time pass. Picking up his phone from where he'd dropped it on the mattress, he pressed the buttons to listen to the message again, needing to find the information to pay his respects to a great man.

* * *

After two days of making phone calls, Carmen's throat was scratchy and her voice almost nonexistent. Making all of the other arrangements for her father had been simple enough. But the phone calls nearly did her in. She'd found herself praying for answering machines and voice mails so she could leave the practiced message instead of having a real conversation.

Everyone had loved Gus. He'd had friends everywhere. Her family arrived on her doorstep and tried to take over for her. Her aunts and uncles meant well. She knew that, but taking care of her father was her job and she couldn't let anyone else do it. Her whole house was crammed with people, just like it had been when her mother had died.

Gus had felt like they'd needed that support and it was simply the way of her family, but she wanted peace. She needed to be alone and she couldn't find space anywhere. It was part of the reason she made the wake only a few short hours on Sunday. People would attend the wake and come back to the house to share a meal. The faster they got her dad to his final resting place, the faster they would all move on.

So she could move on.

She didn't know what that even meant. The idea made her feel light-headed. She'd been taking care of her parents for so long, she hadn't been able to think about herself. For now, she pushed the heavy thought away. She had details to attend to, people to speak with, arrangements to make.

Her cousin Rosa popped into the kitchen. "Hey, girl, how are you doing?"

"I'm okay. I think all the calls are done."

Rosa crossed the room and wrapped her arms around Carmen. "Let's get out of here. Go have a drink, do some dancing."

Carmen pulled away from Rosa. "What are you thinking? I can't go dancing. What would people think? My dad just died and I'm going out to party?"

Rosa rolled her eyes. "What do you care what people—forget that. It shouldn't matter what people think. Everyone needs a break. Especially you."

"I can't. I still have things to do to get ready for the wake."

"Well, I'm going out. You have my number." Rosa swished out of the room in her super-skinny jeans and kitten heels.

As much as Carmen loved her cousin, they had never had much in common. No matter how different they were, though, Rosa was the closest thing Carmen had to a best friend. She was an excellent confidant, but Carmen could never keep up with Rosa's social life. Heck, Carmen didn't even have a social life. She was the only twenty-seven-year-old spinster she knew.

Pouring herself another cup of coffee, she reclaimed a seat at the kitchen table. Her uncle and cousins were still sitting in her living room, watching something on TV. They had all pitched in doing various things, but she craved space and peace. She was used to being alone most days. Her dad went out on the truck and she handled the house and the office end of the business. The extra people were suffocating.

With the sounds of the TV from the other room, she focused on making a list of things she still needed to do. She had to update the web site and let customers know that the truck would be out of commission for a while. Maybe forever? She hadn't thought about what to do with Dad's business. He'd loved the food truck, but Carmen couldn't imagine running it.

Maybe Pete would want to take it over. Her younger cousin often went out with her dad to work. He knew most of the operation. Pete, however, was immature and she didn't know if she could trust him to work consistently. Her uncles had already mentioned selling the truck and the house and having her move in with one of them.

As if she wasn't a grown woman capable of taking care of herself.

She forced her head back to the task at hand. No decisions had to be made right now. She added Update Web Site to her list, followed by Clean Out Dad's Bedroom. That would be a huge task. When her mother had died, Gus would only let Carmen get rid of a few things. He clung to every item of Inez's that he could. He hadn't been ready to let her go. Over the months, Carmen snuck and removed things her dad might not notice, but overall, she knew she would now have to clear out the belongings of both of her parents.

Those two items alone weighed her down. She knew there would be more. Her father had a will, so she would have to talk to his lawyer about that. Then the outstanding bills for both the house and the business. At least her dad had been smart enough to add her name to everything after Inez's death.

She blinked back the tears and focused on the details. She'd be able to hold her shit together as long as she had a job to do.

* * *

Liam walked into his childhood home, so glad to feel the calm and comfort of family when he knew he would face sorrow later in the day. The O'Leary family dinner was mandatory at least once a month. Eileen O'Leary expected her children to share a meal as a means to keep close. It was something his parents worked together to achieve as soon as he and his five siblings neared adulthood and branched out to have their own lives.

He walked straight to the back of the house. The living room was empty, so he must've beaten his brothers to the house today. In the kitchen, he knew he'd find his mother standing over the stove. He wished she would let him help with the meal preparation, but she never would. They took turns bringing dessert because as much as Eileen loved her sweets, she didn't make them. Dinner was her job and she refused to share it.

"Hi, Mom," he called as he opened the refrigerator to slide in the cheesecake he'd made for after dinner.

She peered around his shoulder to see what he'd brought. "Don't tell your brothers and sister, but I like it most when it's your turn for dessert."

"That's no secret, Mom. I always make your favorites. That's why I'm your favorite."

She slapped a towel at his arm. "Don't say that. I love all of my children equally."

"No one else is here. You can tell the truth." He looked down at her, suddenly struck by how small she appeared.

Her face grew serious. "What's the matter?"

"What do you mean?"

"Something's wrong. What is it?"

He hadn't been trying to cover his grief, but he hadn't planned on talking about it either. "Remember Gus Delgado? He owned the Mexican restaurant I first worked at?" Eileen nodded. "He died. His daughter called and left a message. After dinner, I have to go pay my respects."

Eileen didn't say anything, but she patted his arm. As far as physical affection went, that was about it for his mom. His dad had been the hugger in the family.

She turned back to the stove. Judging by the smells, they'd have roast for dinner. "Is there anything I can help with?"

She shook her head. He heard the front door open and he went to see which siblings had arrived. Moira pushed through the door and Liam hoped she brought Jimmy with her. Although he hadn't been thrilled with his friend entering a relationship with Moira, he'd appreciate seeing Jimmy today.

Unfortunately, Moira entered alone. "No Jimmy?" he asked.

She sighed. "Don't look so disappointed. He'll be here in a few minutes. He went to check on his dad."

"I'm not disappointed in seeing you." He squeezed her hard until she gasped.

"Why are you all dressed up? What's going on?"

"Nothing." He released her.

She crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. Like their mother, she didn't need words to call him a liar.

"I found out an old friend died. The wake is today. I'm just feeling out of it."

Her whole face changed, filling with sadness for a friend she hadn't even known. She wrapped her arms around him in a gentle hug, unlike the playful one he'd forced on her. Jimmy opened the door without knocking, assessed the situation, and asked, "What's going on?"

"Nothing," Moira answered. As she stepped away, she ran a hand down his arm in reassurance. She would understand his desire to not discuss it.

Jimmy's gaze went back and forth between him and Moira, and then landed on him, questioning. Liam smiled. "Any luck on the house hunt?"

"I thought so." Jimmy took off his coat and hung it in the closet. "Your sister's too picky."

"I am not," Moira retorted.

Before the discussion could go further, Eileen called from the kitchen, "Moira, come help with the vegetables."

She shot Liam a dirty look.

He shrugged. "Don't look at me. I offered to help when I got here. She doesn't want my help."

Moira moped out of the room. Liam knew it wasn't fair that their mother assigned traditional gender roles.

"What was the hug about?" Jimmy asked when Moira had left.

"I don't want to talk about it. Tell me about the house." Anything to keep his mind off his plans for later that afternoon. He and Jimmy didn't have long to talk alone. Before he knew it, Ryan and Quinn arrived with baby Patrick, and Michael and Brianna came in. Colin arrived solo.

Moira came out of the kitchen as Colin sat on the couch beside Liam. "Where's Elizabeth?"

"At the bar."

"Why do I get the feeling she's avoiding family dinner? Doesn't she know it's a requirement? Shoot, if I have to be here, she should too."

"You're blood. No escaping it. She likes to point out that she's not an O'Leary and is therefore not required to be here."

Moira headed back to the kitchen, but shot over her shoulder, "Then maybe it's about time you made her an O'Leary."

Liam watched Colin and smiled. He recognized the look on his big brother's face.

"What are you looking at?" Colin asked.

"Did you already buy the ring?"

"What are you talking about?"

"You go ahead and play it cool around Moira because we know she'll flap her jaws to everyone, but I saw your face change when she suggested marriage."

Colin leaned closer. "Is it that obvious?"

Liam shook his head. "Probably not to everyone. But you don't get nervous and that's what I saw."

"The damn thing has been burning a hole in my pocket for a couple of weeks now. I can't figure out when to ask. Or where to ask. It seems like it would be a big deal for a woman, you know? I don't want to screw it up."

"I've got nothing for you there, but let me know if there's anything I can do to help."

Colin picked up the remote and turned the TV on to a football game. The Bears were losing to the Packers as usual. Within minutes, all four O'Leary men along with Jimmy O'Malley were sitting in the living room, screaming at the television at football players who couldn't hear them.

Hours later, Liam drove through the Humboldt Park neighborhood, dreading his destination. He'd missed the viewing at the funeral home intentionally. He didn't want to see Gus like that. The thought alone brought too many memories of his own father's funeral. The street in front of the Delgado house was filled with bumper-to-bumper cars. He drove around the corner and searched for a spot.

The flowers he bought wobbled in the passenger seat and part of him wanted to leave. But he couldn't. It wouldn't be right. Not for Gus and not for Carmen. At the end of the next block, he squeezed into a spot. As he stepped from his car, a blast of cold air hit him. He pulled his jacket tighter around him with one hand while he cradled the flowers in the other.

He walked into the harsh wind down the block toward Gus's house. He hadn't been a guest at Gus's house often, but he'd eaten dinner there a few times. Of course, he'd been there when Gus's wife had died. He hadn't stayed long. His own grief had been still too fresh and he couldn't stand it.

It had been years and he thought by now it would be easier, but with each heavy step, his doubt increased. He climbed the steps to the porch and knocked. No one answered. The noise from the other side of the door was loud. He knocked harder and then turned the knob.

He entered the house and looked around. People packed the entire living room. He stood still for a moment, allowing the air of the room to warm him. He studied the faces and realized he didn't know anyone. No one approached him, but many looked in his direction with open interest.

Then he spotted Carmen. She bustled around, taking plates and delivering coffee to older men and women around the room. He crossed to her and followed until she went into the kitchen. He waited in the doorway.

The kitchen was empty of guests. She put the dishes in the sink and then braced her arms on the counter and released a breath that shuddered through her. Guilt poked at him. He was interrupting a private moment and he should leave, but his feet wouldn't listen.

He cleared his throat. "Carmen?"

She straightened slowly before turning to face him. A slow smile formed on her face. "Liam."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Just a Taste by SHANNYN SCHROEDER. Copyright © 2015 Shannyn Schroeder. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Just a Taste 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
gaele More than 1 year ago
I’ve jumped about a bit in this series, and I really do need to go back and catch up: the O’Learys is such a fun series, with real characters and situations that are easy for all of us to relate to.  In Just  A Taste, Carmen has been taking care of her father during his illness, until he finally succumbs.  Apparently Carmen’s father had a bit of the matchmaker in him, as he bequests half of Gus’ Taco Taxi to Liam, a  talented chef, in the hopes that he and Carmen will continue the legacy.  Liam isn’t sure he wants a food truck, his own restaurant has been a dream for a long time. But Gus was an old friend and mentor, and he doesn’t want to see Carmen struggle.  These two learn what is needed in terms of compromise to make things work, and then Liam’s  mother takes ill.   What an up and down story this was: both Carmen and Liam’s family are concerned about these two very different people trying to make  a relationship, an issue that I wish Schroeder delved into a bit deeper to show the determination of Carmen and Liam to deal with and celebrate those differences, rather than just push that aspect of the story to the side.  More important to the plot though was the difference in how these two communicated and how they related to food and their memories of cooking. Her plans for her own life were  not to be in the restaurant business, her early memories of cooking and food are tied to her mother that she lost when she was young. Liam’s destiny is food, even with his culinary education and a taco truck not being high on his initial priority list, he isn’t willing to leave Carmen in the lurch.  And Carmen is more the fiery Latina, smart, sharp and quick witted, her honest approach to life has served her well, and even her own insecurities are carefully exposed when she feels comfortable.  Liam is quiet and close-mouthed, prone to speaking plainly without always considering what others may think of what he says. It takes him a while to understand that his intentions are not always clear when he makes a statement.  These two push, pull, bicker and banter as the attraction grows and they see a future together.   Schroeder builds characters that are complex and nuanced, easy to understand with the information we as readers have, and it isn’t hard to consider them as people you’d want to know or could encounter on the street.  As the story progressed, both Liam and Carmen came to realize that they are more alike than they expected, and isn’t that just what makes a relationship sing? I received an eArc copy of the title via the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review:  all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
Barb-TRC More than 1 year ago
Just a Taste by Shannyn Schroeder is the 5th book in her wonderful O’Learys series. The O’Learys is a wonderful enjoyable series about a close knit Irish family, and in each book, we get to spend time with them all, as well as watch one of them find their mate. Just a Taste belongs Liam O’Leary, who is a chef. Liam has always wanted his own restaurant, and is now working at high clientele establishment as the head chef. However, he is not happy, as he feels his boss does not appreciate him, and makes changes without his knowledge. Our heroine is Carmen Delgado, the daughter of an old friend, who Liam worked for when he was young, and he taught him everything. We find out early on, that Carmen’s father, Gus has died, and has left his food truck to both Carmen and Liam. They need to run the truck for a year, before they can even attempt to sell. Needless to say, this brings Carmen and Liam together, as it has been years since they have seen each other. What follows is sweet, slow to build romance between Liam and Carmen. It was fun to watch two friends work together, and learn from each other how the truck business works. While they end up enjoying their partnership, they begin to discover there is something more between them. Carmen has her own private issues, one being able to handle the loss of her mother and father in a short period. The other being her lack of self confidence in herself and her looks. When she was young, she was overweight, and though Carmen is now very beautiful, she does not see that. It will take Liam to show her how beautiful she is in every way. I enjoyed the romance, as it was sweet, and soon became sizzling. I loved Liam, as he is exactly what every mother would want for their daughter. He was sweet, caring, loving and determined to win Carmen. They made a great couple. Most of all I loved seeing all the family again, as well as the fun of the truck. This really was wonderful story, and a great series. If you love romance, great couple, family atmosphere, then look no further than the O’Learys series. Just a Taste continues the trend of wonderful stories by Shannyn Schroeder.
gromine49 More than 1 year ago
Liam is a chef who, unbeknownst to him, has inherited a 50% share in a food truck will to him from Carmen's dad, Gus. I didn't know until the end of the story that this was part of a series so that the introduction of characters was so smooth. Hot and sexy Liam finds temptation in Carmen but old hurts come into play. Great story, easy flow. 
Bette313 More than 1 year ago
Fantastic read! I loved the O'Leary clan and I will definitely be going back to read the other books in this series. Although this was the first of this series I've read I easily followed the story so reading as a stand alone is no problem. It's very well written and like I said the characters are great. This is the story of Carmen Delgado and Liam O'Leary. Reunited after the death of her father, their attraction is quick and intense. There are obstacles to overcome but the relationship seems worth it. I loved it and I highly recommend this one.
ReneeEntress More than 1 year ago
4.5 star The story has laughs, grief, betrayal, and heartbreak. I would recommend reading the below before reading this story More Than This (The O'Leary's, #1) A Good Time (The O'Leary's, #2) Something to Prove (The O'Leary's, #3) Catch Your Breath (The O'Leary's #4) This is Carmen and Liam’s story. Liam goes to check on Carmen after she loses her father. Her father left his food truck to both Carmen and Liam. After Liam leaves his job he takes over the food truck. The more they are together the closer they become. Liam and Carmen are on the truck for a few days before his mother is taken ill. Once he is back on the truck there are misunderstandings and hurt feeling. Liam wants Carmen to do what she wants and he will take care of the truck but she takes his words the wrong way. Carmen decides she is done and is leaving on a trip. Liam is wondering if she will come back. If she does will she still want a relationship with him? I felt I was able to connect with the characters and the story was a great read. I recommend this book, this series and this author.