Lily Redman will do anything to be a success. She also loves creating sinfully delicious food. Now, she has a shot to get everything she wants with her new American cooking show, Celebrity Chef Swap. All she has to do is survive in the pastoral wilds of southwest England.
After a stint in the army—and an absolute train wreck of a divorce—Kenan Rowse thought the quiet of Cornwall would be a perfect respite from life’s complications. Then he gets a temp job driving a beautiful chef around . . . and before he knows it, things are more complicated than ever.
Unfortunately, their rabid mutual attraction is equaled by their astounding lack of common ground. Because while Lily wants to live in the limelight, Kenan would rather be staid in the shade. And both will have to decide whether they’re willing to compromise if they want to keep it together . . .
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Lily admired the fact that her taxi driver didn't flinch at the enormous pile of luggage by her feet. Her two oversized suitcases, garment bag, carry-on, computer bag and handbag were all in matching bright pink leather complete with luggage tags encrusted with her name in fake diamonds.
'Can you fit it all in?' She cocked an eye at his old, and to her eyes, miniature blue car.
'No problem, love, although you might have to hold a couple of the small things on your lap.' He started to load and for a second Lily hesitated as a sliver of apprehension sneaked through her.
Last week this trip had struck her as a great idea – doing research for her new cookery programme combined with getting away from Patrick and all the hassles he'd put her through recently. She intended to prove that she didn't need him once and for all. Now, standing outside a rain soaked train station and shivering in the Cornish drizzle, Lily wasn't so sure. Sure it had been a hundred degrees and sweat-dripping humid when she left Nashville, but didn't the weather here realise mid-July meant summer?
'Hop in. You picked the worst day to arrive. Saturdays are always a nightmare this time of year,' her driver said, with a shake of his head.
Were other people mad enough to consider this a desirable place to visit? Lily dredged up a smile. 'How long will it take us to get there?'
'About twenty minutes or so, love, give or take. Hop in,' he said again. She did as she was told and clambered into the back seat.
As least she wasn't stuck on the train anymore, trying to survive four plus hours of torment. It had been overcrowded, packed with screaming kids, irritated parents, and teenagers jabbering non-stop on their cellphones. She'd risked lunch from the buffet car and shuddered at the thin, tasteless sandwiches and lukewarm Coke. Another time she'd rather starve and for a serious foodie like her that was a sacrilegious statement.
'Ever been to Cornwall before?' the driver asked, glancing in his rear-view mirror.
'No, but I've heard a lot about the place from my secretary. She's originally from Mevagissey and recommended St Dinas as being quieter.'
He chuckled. 'It's that all right. Mevagissey's a zoo in the summer. Nothing much in St Dinas though, but maybe you want that?' the man probed, but Lily couldn't resent his natural curiosity.
'Yeah, it should suit my purpose. I guess there's public transport to get around?'
'The buses aren't bad, but they often get held up with all the traffic. They're all right if you're not in a hurry.' He shrugged in a resigned way.
Officially she wasn't, but Lily knew herself well. Workaholic was a kind term for her driven personality and rest one of her favourite curse words. Her mother made her promise to take a few days off before starting work, but Tricia Redman was four thousand miles away so would never know. Lily hoped the internet connection was as good as she'd been promised because without being able to use her Blackberry, iPad and iPod she'd be screwed.
The soft rain misting up the windows, combined with jet lag, lulled her into resting her head back against the seat. Lily allowed her heavy, tired eyes to shut and drifted off.
'Here we are, love. Cliff House. I'll get your gear out while you run up and get Betty to open the door.'
Lily jerked awake and gazed blankly around. 'Oh, right. Sorry. I fell asleep. I'm not quite with it yet.'
'That's all right. Better you than a car full of drunken yobs throwing up out of the windows.' He laughed and grimaced at the same time.
'I guess it is.' Lily opened the door and stepped out, surprised to realise that it had stopped raining somewhere along the way. She stared at the stunning view in front of her and her jaw dropped. 'Oh, wow.' An endless deep blue sea, miniature fishing boats bobbing around in a neat little harbour, and a soft blue sky dotted with fluffy marshmallow clouds – Lily had never seen anything like it before. 'Oh, wow,' she said again.
A broad smile creased her driver's weathered face. 'We take it for granted 'til someone sees it for the first time and reminds us.'
Lily couldn't believe anyone would ever get used to seeing this everyday.
'Miss Redman?' A small, dumpy woman stood on the front step of the pretty, white-painted house. Lily smiled at the hanging baskets of exuberant red geraniums flanking the glossy black front door. They'd be nothing but shrivelled up twigs in Tennessee's searing summer heat.
'Yeah. Just coming.' Lily threw an apologetic grin at the man hauling all her bags out of the car. 'Can you manage?'
'No problem, love. I'll bring them up. You go on.' He shooed her away.
She opened the gate and picked her way carefully up the narrow path, the combination of uneven flagstones and her high heels were an accident waiting to happen. Lily admired the colourful flower garden on both sides still glistening from the recent rain. When she reached her new landlady she stuck out her hand, managing to remember at the last second not to initiate a traditional Southern hug. It had been top of her secretary's long list of things not to do in England.
'Betty Tremayne. Come on in, my dear. You must be fair worn out.'
Close up Lily guessed the woman was around sixty, her brown wavy hair streaked with grey, the dark skirt and pale blue blouse giving the impression of a woman comfortable in her skin. Amusement sparkled in her soft blue eyes as she checked out her new visitor. No doubt Lily's wild red curly hair, tight white jeans, clingy pink T-shirt and pink stilettos were out of the ordinary for Cornwall.
Lily stepped into a hallway eerily reminiscent of her grandmother's home in rural Mississippi with its dark patterned carpet, plain cream walls, brown paint, framed family photos and lingering smell of cooking.
'I'll show you your room so you can freshen up while I make us some tea.'
Lily sucked in a deep breath and prepared to check out where she'd committed to spend the next two weeks. A small knot of excitement unfurled in her gut as she followed Betty Tremayne up the steep narrow staircase.
She stifled a groan as her new landlady opened the door to the tiniest bedroom she'd ever seen, wondering where on earth she could put all her luggage.
'I had the en suite put in last winter,' Betty said with great pride, pointing to a small cubicle taking up one corner. 'There's one of those newfangled electric showers, but if you want a proper bath you can go along the landing and use mine.'
'Thanks.' Lily looked around the sunny room, amazed to see it managed to contain a single bed, a chest of drawers, something Betty declared to be a wardrobe but she'd call a free-standing closet, and a straight-back chair. The overwhelming effect was of blue flowers – lots of them in various shades on the wallpaper, the bedcover and curtains.
'There's a tea tray over in the window, dear, and some of that nasty long-life milk but if you want the proper stuff you come down to the kitchen and help yourself.'
'I'm sure I'll be very comfortable here.' Lily scanned the room again, deciding cat swinging wouldn't be on the agenda.
'You get settled in dear and then come back down for a cup of tea.' Betty smiled and left her to it.
Lily had come to Britain to find chefs for her new television programme, but she suspected that she might just discover more about herself too.
Lily slathered her second scone with more of Betty's wonderful home-made strawberry jam and thick Cornish clotted cream. 'These are delicious. Would you mind sharing the recipe with me?'
Betty chuckled and shook her head. 'Recipe? I make them up until the mixture feels right, dearie.'
Lily understood because she did most of her own cooking the same way. The soft, almost biscuit like cakes didn't resemble any scones she'd eaten in the States. 'Can I watch you make them sometime?'
The woman's gentle laugh showed that she thought Lily was a touch strange. 'Of course you can. You'm a bit of a cook, then?'
'Yeah. I've got my own catering business, and I do some television work.' Patrick would cringe to hear her playing down her reputation but she didn't care what he thought anymore. Lily's name meant nothing to these people and that was something of a welcome relief.
'Oh, dear, I'll be afraid to cook for you now.' Betty frowned.
'Please don't say that.' Lily switched on her famous Luscious Lily smile – the kind to send ratings sky high, especially when combined with a low cut sparkly pink T-shirt. 'I'm always on the look out for new recipes and love nothing better than eating.' It was the absolute truth and the simple reason why she'd learnt to cook in the first place – that and a fear of being condemned to eat her mother's out-of-the-box Hamburger Helper and canned peas until she left home. 'That's why I'm here.'
'To eat?' Betty sounded puzzled.
'Sort of. I'll take a few days to recover from the journey and then I'll start by checking out some Cornish restaurants I've heard about. After that I'm planning to tour around the country some.' Lily's brain raced as she recalculated. 'I'd planned to use public transportation but I gather from the taxi driver it might not be straightforward so I'm having second thoughts.'
'It won't be easy, my dear, especially if you're carrying much.'
Lily smiled at the polite reference to her large amount of luggage. There'd barely been room to stack it all in the small bedroom.
'I don't much fancy driving on the wrong side of the road either. You don't know of anyone who might be interested in maybe a month's work driving me around, I suppose?'
'I might,' Betty replied. 'My friend's son left the Army recently. He's ... not very chatty but he's reliable.'
'Would you mind giving him a call?'
Betty's brow furrowed. 'I'll ring his mum first and see what she thinks.'
Lily picked up on something unsaid, but was pretty sure Betty wouldn't hook her up with any weirdo. 'Thanks.' She kept her seat as her landlady got up and went out into the hall, closing the door behind her. She itched to creep across and listen but it wouldn't do to be caught out. Lily caught the hum of low conversation then the sound of the phone being hung up.
Betty came back in. 'He'll meet you tonight, seven o'clock down at the Shark's Fin.'
'It's the pub down the bottom of the hill.' Betty smiled.
'Does this man have a name?'
''Course he do. Kenan Rowse.'
Lily smirked. 'Whatever kind of name's that?'
'A good Cornish one.' Betty's sharp tone indicated that she didn't appreciate the disparaging comment.
'Sorry. It's an unusual name, I've never heard it before.' Lily tried to back-pedal.
'Hmm. Don't suppose you have it over there.'
'How will I recognise him?' She didn't intend to wander around the whole pub asking for this unknown man.
'He'll know you. I described you over the phone. It shouldn't be hard.' Betty's eyes twinkled and Lily could just imagine what had been said.
'I'd better go up and change.' This was work so Mr Kenan Rowse would get Luscious Lily full-bore on tonight.
Kenan's beer glass slipped from his hand and he managed to catch it with two fingers and set it down on the table. His vision filled with a mass of shining red curls resting on creamy shoulders dusted with freckles. Kenan's brain registered a short, bright orange dress clinging to every curve and something deep inside him tightened. On automatic pilot he stood up and caught her eye, giving a quick nod of acknowledgment. The woman sashayed across the room and every man in the place followed her progress with their eyes. Next thing she stood right in front of him and a dangerous musky perfume tickled his senses.
'Kenan Rowse, I assume?' Her smooth honeyed drawl wrapped around his brain and he wished himself safely back in a foxhole in Afghanistan.
He snapped out of his trance. 'Yes. Sorry. I was miles away.' Kenan shot out his hand and as she gave it a firm shake his fingers rubbed against a myriad of small calluses and scars. 'Join me.'
Lily dropped into the nearest chair, crossing one long elegant leg over the other, and he fought not to stare. He met her inquisitive sapphire eyes and wondered why she was frowning. Perhaps she was waiting for him to have some manners, offer her a drink, and make conversation like a normal person? 'You must be Lily Redman.'
'Boy, you're a smart one,' she jibed. 'Go to the top of the class.' She quickly surveyed the room before fixing her attention back on him. 'You gonna offer me a drink or do I buy my own?'
'Sorry,' Kenan muttered. 'What can I get you?'
'Rum and Coke with plenty of ice, not the couple of pathetic cubes I hear y'all consider enough.' She tossed her head and the dramatic halo of curls flew around before settling back down.
'Certainly.' He already hated the idea of being a lackey for this disturbing woman but needed to get out from under his parents' feet. They'd put up with him for six months now and their patience was wearing thin, along with his own. Until he decided what to do with the rest of his life this temporary job was better than nothing.
Up at the bar he glared at Dave Winter, making it clear he'd better not ask any dumb questions about Lily. With the efficient village grapevine working its usual magic, no doubt everyone in the village already knew who she was. Kenan made his way back to the table and set the glass down in front of her. 'There you are.' He almost added – don't choke on the ice cubes – but didn't do sarcastic humour or any other sort these days.
'Thanks.' She took a deep swallow before breaking into a satisfied smile. 'Boy, I needed that.'
He sat in silence as she finished it off, and set down the empty glass.
'So, would you care to hear what I've got planned?' she asked.
'We won't wear ourselves out talking that's for sure,' she jested, and the corners of her glossy orange lips turned up in a tempting smile.
'I was told you're after a driver not a conversationalist,' he challenged and her bright blue eyes twinkled right back at him.
'So you can speak more than two words? I was beginning to wonder.'
He deliberately didn't rise to her bait.
'I'm a chef.'
'That explains your hands.' Kenan wanted to bite off his tongue. Keeping things impersonal was his number one rule these days.
He wasn't sure Lily intended it to be a point in his favour and felt a touch guilty as she drew her hands back down to her lap.
'I run my own catering business in Nashville, Tennessee and I've got a nationally syndicated TV show called Luscious Lily. I'm putting together ideas for a new show called Celebrity Chef Swap, which will feature renowned British chefs swapping kitchens with ones in the States. I'll purposely match people with very different styles of working so it should make for interesting viewing. After I get over the jet lag, I want to start by meeting up with a couple of chefs in Cornwall who've agreed to talk to me: Luc Pascal at the Bountiful restaurant in Fowey and Fiona Madden at the Water's Edge in Charlestown. I've also made tentative plans to go to Keswick in the Lake District, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Cardiff in Wales, too. I need someone to drive, deal with the travel arrangements, and luggage. I plan to be here for a month. Think you could manage?'
He'd never heard anyone talk for so long without apparently drawing breath. 'Yes.'
'Yes? That's all you've got to say?'
'You spelled out the details of the job and asked if I could do it. I said yes. What more do you want?' he snapped.
'Nothing, I guess.' She succinctly listed the pay and hours and a few more details, but he kept his response to a brief nod. 'So, you comin' on board?'
'Yes. When do we start?'
She nibbled at her lip and Kenan resented the fact that he found the childish trait endearing. It hinted at an unexpected vulnerability and made him wonder about the woman underneath the flashy outer persona. 'Today's Saturday, how about Monday?'
'Fine. Have a list ready for me of all your planned stops and I'll get an itinerary put together,' he quickly replied.
'I'm sure you will, down to the last minute I'm guessing.'
He didn't comment, pretty sure she hadn't intended him to.
'My round. Isn't that what you Brits say?' Lily picked up her glass. 'What're you drinking?'
'Pint of Tribute.' He pushed his glass across the table. 'Thanks.'
'You're welcome.' Lily stood up and headed for the bar, her hips swaying far too temptingly. The last thing he intended was to dally with his new employer but ... Bad idea. Forget it. He didn't do relationships with women these days in any shape or form, and for bloody good reasons. Remember them.
Excerpted from "Sugar and Spice"
Copyright © 2014 Angela Britnell.
Excerpted by permission of Choc Lit Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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