Lizzie Addler's dream of working in Italy is about to come truethat is if she can convince passionate Italian chef Dante DeFiore to keep his side of their bargain. Dante might be hotter than the Italian sun, but he's as cool as ice toward Lizzie
Dante hasn't the time to pander to Lizzie's dreams of culinary famehe has a restaurant to run! But as Lizzie proves herself to be a spectacular addition to his kitchenand to his lifeDante wonders can he keep her forever?
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Dante DeFiore stepped into the path of a young woman trying to skirt around the line at Ristorante Massimo. Her long blond hair swished over her shoulder as she turned to him. Her icy blue gaze met his. The impact of her piercing stare rocked him. He couldn't turn away. Thick black eyeliner and sky-blue eye shadow that shimmered succeeded in making her stunning eyes even more extraordinary.
Dante cleared his throat. "Signorina, are you meeting someone?"
"No, I'm not."
"Really?" He truly was surprised. "Someone as beautiful as you shouldn't be alone."
Her fine brows rose and a smile tugged at her tempting lips.
He smiled back. Any other time, he'd have been happy to ask her to be his personal guest but not tonight. Inwardly he groaned. Why did he have to have his hands full juggling both positions of maitre d' and head chef when the most delicious creature was standing in front of him?
He choked down his regret. It just wasn't meant to be. Tonight there was no time for flirtingnot even with this stunning woman who could easily turn heads on the runways of Milan.
He glanced away from her in order to clear his thoughts. Expectant looks from the people waiting to be seated reminded him of his duties. He turned back to those amazing blue eyes. "I hate to say this, but you'll have to take your place at the end of the line."
"It's okay." Her pink glossy lips lifted into a knowing smile. "You don't have to worry. I work here."
"Here?" Impossible. He'd certainly remember her. By the sounds of her speech, she was American.
"This is Mr. Bianco's restaurant, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is."
"Then I'm in the right place."
Suddenly the pieces fell into place. His staff had been cut in half because of a nasty virus running rampant throughout Rome. He'd called around to see if any business associates could loan him an employee or two. Apparently when Luigi said he might be able to track down a friend of one of his daughters, he'd gotten lucky.
Relief flooded through Dante. Help was here at last and by the looks of her, she'd certainly be able to draw in the crowds. Not so long ago, they hadn't needed anyone to draw in customers; his grandfather's cooking was renowned throughout Rome. But in recent months all of that had changed.
"And I'd be the luckiest man in the world to have such a beauty working here. You'll have the men lined up down the street. Just give me a moment." Dante turned and signaled to the waiter.
When Michael approached Dante, the man's forehead was creased in confusion. "What do you need?"
In that moment, Dante's mind drew a blank. All he could envision were those mesmerizing blue eyes. This was ridiculous. He had a business to run.
When he glanced over at the line of customers at the door, the anxious stares struck a chord in his mind. "Michael, could you seat that couple over there?" He pointed to an older couple. "Give them the corner table. It's their fortieth anniversary, so make sure their meal is on us."
Lines of exhaustion bracketed Michael's mouth. Dante couldn't blame the guy. Being shorthanded and having to see to the dining room himself was a lot of work.
Dante turned his attention back to his unexpected employee. She had her arms crossed and her slender hip hitched to the side. A slight smile pulled at the corners of her lush lips as though she knew she'd caught him off guardsomething that rarely happened to him.
He started to smile back when a patron entered the door and called out a greeting, reminding Dante that work came first. Since his grandfather was no longer around to help shoulder the burden of running this place, Dante's social life had been reduced to interaction with the guests of Ristorante Massimo.
After a brief ciao to a regular patron, Dante turned back to his temporary employee. "Thanks for coming. If you give me your coat, I can hang it up for you."
"I've got it." She clutched the lapels but made no attempt to take it off.
"You can hang it over there." He pointed to the small cloakroom. "We can work out everything later."
"You want me to start right now?"
That was the plan, but perhaps Luigi had failed to make that part clear. "Didn't he tell you that you'd be starting right away?"
"Yes, but I thought I'd have a chance to look around. And I didn't think I'd be a hostess."
"Consider this an emergency. I promise you it's not hard. I'm certain you'll be fantastic uh " Did she give him her name? If she had, he couldn't recall it. "What did you say your name is?"
"Lizzie. Lizzie Addler."
"Well, Lizzie, it's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Dante. And I really appreciate you pitching in during this stressful time."
"Are you sure you want me out here? I'd be a lot more help in the kitchen."
The kitchen? With her looks, who would hide such a gem behind closed doors? Perhaps she was just shy. Not that anything about her stunning appearance said that she was an introvert.
"I'd really appreciate it if you could help these people find a table."
An assistant rushed out of the kitchen. "We need you."
By the harried look on the young man's face, Dante knew it couldn't be good. He turned to his new employee. There would be time for introductions and formalities later. Right now, he just needed to keep the kitchen from falling behind and giving the patrons an excuse to look for food elsewhere.
"Sorry for this rush but I am very shorthanded." When the girl sent him a puzzled look, he realized that Luigi might not have filled her in on the details of her duties. "If you could just get everyone seated and get their drinks, Michael can take their orders. Can you do that?"
She nodded before slipping off her long black coat to reveal a frilly white blouse that hinted at her willowy figure, a short black skirt that showed off her long legs and a pair of knee-high sleek black boots. He stifled a whistle. Definitely not the reaction a boss should give an employee, even if she was gorgeous enough to create a whirlwind of excitement on the cover of a fashion magazine.
He strode to the kitchen, hoping that nothing had caught fire and that no one had been injured. When was this evening going to end? And had his grandfather's friend Luigi been trying to help by sending Lizzie? Or trying to drive him to distraction?
Once the kitchen was again humming along, he retraced his steps just far enough to catch a glimpse of the blonde bombshell. She moved about on those high-heeled boots as if they were a natural extension of her long legs. He swallowed hard as his eyes followed her around the dining room. He assured himself that he was just doing his duty by checking up on her.
When she smiled and chatted with a couple of older gentlemen, Dante's gut tightened. She sure seemed far more at ease with those men than when he'd been talking with her. How strange. Usually he didn't have a problem making conversation with the female gender. Lizzie was certainly different. Too bad she wouldn't be around long enough to learn more about her. She intrigued him.
Obviously there was a misunderstanding.
Lizzie Addler frowned as she locked the front door of Ristorante Massimo. She hadn't flown from New York to Italy to be a hostess. She was here to work in the kitchento learn from the legendary chef, Massimo Bianco. And to film a television segment to air on the culinary channel's number-one-rated show. It was a dream come true.
The strange thing was she'd flown in two days early, hoping to get her bearings in this new country. How in the world did this Dante know she was going to show up this evening?
It was impossible. But then again, this smooth-talking man seemed to know who she was. So why put her on hostess duty when he knew that her true talents lay in the kitchen?
Her cheeks ached from smiling so much, but all it took was recalling Dante's flattering words and the corners of her lips lifted once again. She'd heard rumors that Italian men were known to be charmers and now that she knew that it was trueat least in Dante's caseshe'd have to be careful around him. She couldn't lose focus on her mission here.
She leaned her back against the door and sighed. She couldn't remember the last time her feet ached this much. Why in the world had she decided to wear her new boots today of all days?
Oh, yes, to make a good impression. And technically the boots weren't newjust new to her. They were secondhand, like all of Lizzie's things. But in her defense, some of her things still had the tags on them when she'd found them at the gently used upscale boutique. And boy, was she thankful she'd splurged on the stylish clothes.
Her gaze strayed to the wall full of framed pictures of celebrities. There were black and whites as well as color photos through the years. Massimo was in a lot of them alongside movie stars, singers and politicians from around the world. As Lizzie scanned the many snapshots, she found Dante's handsome face. In each photo of him, he was smiling broadly with his arm around a beautiful woman.
She knew without looking that it'd be Dante. "Very impressive." She forced her gaze to linger on the army of photos instead of rushing to ogle the tall, dark and undeniably handsome man at her side. "Have all of these people eaten here?"
"Yes. And there are more photos back in the office. We ran out of space out here." His voice was distinguishable with its heavy Italian accent. The rich tones flowed through her as seductively as crème brûlée. "We should add your photo."
"Me." She pressed a hand to her chest. "But I'm a nobody."
"You, my dear, are definitely not a nobody." His gaze met hers and heat rushed to her cheeks. "Is everything wrapped up out here?"
Her mouth went dry and she struggled to swallow. "Yes yes, the last customer just left."
Lines of exhaustion etched the tanned skin around his dark eyes. His lips were lifted in a friendly smile, but something told her that it was all for her benefit and that he didn't feel like doing anything but calling it a night.
"I can't thank you enough for your help this evening." His gaze connected with hers, making her pulse spike. "I suppose you'll be wanting your pay so that you can be on your way. If you would just wait a moment."
Before she could formulate words, he turned and headed to the back of the restaurant. Pay her? For what? Playing hostess for the evening? She supposed that was above and beyond her contract negotiations with the television network.
Dante quickly returned and placed some euros in her hand. His fingers were warm as the backs of his fingers brushed over her palm, causing her stomach to quiver. She quickly pulled her hand away.
"Thank you so much. You truly were a lifesaver." He moved to the door to let her out.
She didn't follow him. She wasn't done here. Not by a long shot. "I'm not leaving. Not yet."
Dante shot her a puzzled look. "If this is about the money, this is the amount I told Luigi I was willing to pay"
Lizzie shook her head. "It's not that. I came here to meet with Chef Massimo."
"You did? You mean Luigi didn't send you?"
"I don't know any Luigi."
Dante reached in his pocket and pulled out his smartphone. A few keystrokes later, he glanced up. "My mistake. Luigi wasn't able to find anyone to help out. Thank goodness you showed up."
"And I was happy to help. Now if you could introduce me to Chef Massimo."
Dante's forehead creased. "That's not going to happen." His tone was firm and unbendable. "He's not here. You'll have to deal with me."
"I don't think so. I'll wait for him."
Dante rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. "You'll be waiting a long time. Chef Massimo is out of town."
"Listen, I know I'm here a couple of days ahead of time, but we do have an agreement to meet."
"That's impossible." Dante's shoulders straightened and his expression grew serious. "I would have known. I know about everything that has to do with this place."
"Obviously not in this case." Lizzie pressed her lips together, immediately regretting her outburst. She was tired after her long flight and then having to work all evening as a hostess.
"You're obviously mixed up. You should be going." He pulled open the front door, letting a cool evening breeze sweep inside and wrap around her.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I typically stay away from books not set in the U.S. because I don't always relate well to the language differences. But because this book being written by an American, just being set in Rome, I thought I'd give it a shot. The Playboy of Rome was a sweet story of a girl who is sacrificing herself to support her foster sister. I liked the premise of the story - girl travels to Rome, boy doesn't expect her, makes assumptions. Dante and Lizzie had chemistry from the beginning and it permeated their relationship throughout the story. I did find it frustrating that Lizzie continued to believe Dante was a playboy when he had done nothing to earn that reputation while around Lizzie. Dante's reasons for avoiding commitment were equally compelling and I really felt for Dante as he struggled to fight his feelings for Lizzie because of his belief that he was destined to live alone. In true Harlequin form, the story was tightly written and well edited. As expected, Dante and Lizzie faced a situation that threatened their happiness. I felt the reason for their estrangement was a bit contrived and one or two simple conversations would have solved their miscommunication. All in all, The Playboy of Rome was a sweet read with an expected happily ever after. Recommend it to anyone who is looking for a quick read with a hero to swoon over!
3 Stars I liked this book for what it was - a light, fluffy romance novel. It is a rather short book that I was able to read in just a couple of hours while my family was sleeping on a weekend morning. I read a lot of different kinds of books and every once in a while I like to read a nice, easy romance novel. This book wasn't perfect and some of the events in the story felt a little too convenient but it was an enjoyable story nonetheless. Lizzie has had to deal with a lot in her lifetime. She leaves her job and life behind in America to take a chance in Italy working with a chef on a television show. She is determined to make things work because the person that means the most to her in the world is depending on her. When she arrives at the restaurant, she does not receive the warm welcome that she had expected. The chef that she had plans to work with is no longer able to work and has been replaced by his grandson, Dante. Dante is not impressed with the idea of training Lizzie or the television show. To make matters worse, his grandfather promised Lizzie a place to stay while she is in Italy and he finds himself sharing his apartment with her when they are not working. I liked the chemistry between Lizzie and Dante. They have both lost a lot and really seem to understand each other. I found the individual characters of Lizzie, Dante, and Dante's family to be very likeable. Everyone in this story has lost a lot in life and has learned to deal with things the best that they know how. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick contemporary romance. This was the first book that I have read by Jennifer Faye and I do plan to keep my eyes open for future titles by this author. I received a copy of this book from the author for the purpose of providing an honest review.
The Playboy of Rome is a light, fairly quick read. After a bit of back and forth from both Dante and Lizzie, these two get their feelings sorted out for each to give us a HEA. ARC received in exchange for an honest review
3.5 Stars In The Playboy of Rome, the Italian countryside provides a backdrop for romance when an aspiring chef faces off against a reluctant restaurateur over a reality show! Lizzie Alder has given up everything for the opportunity to film her reality show at Ristorante Massimo and with no backup plan, she is determined to convince Dante DeFiore to honor the agreement she entered into with his grandfather. Dante is in the process of finding a buyer for the restaurant and the signed agreement provided by Lizzie means putting the plans to sell on hold and stepping in for his grandfather on the show. Dante and Lizzie find themselves getting to know each other and dealing with the heat between them (not generated in the kitchen!) Both Dante and Lizzie have different backgrounds but share a lot of similarities. Lizzie was a foster child who was abandoned by her own mother and shuffled from home to home until she aged out of the system. Her experiences have taught her not to trust in anyone except herself and her foster sister Jules. Dante on the hand grew up within a large Italian family but was mostly ignored. Both crave love and acceptance and Lizzie finds the family she craves in Dante’s and also helps to heal the rift between Dante and his family. A few times, it felt like Lizzie was too hung up on her past as a foster child and just could not get past it, but she found the courage to overcome her issues and break through Dante’s resistance. Even though the characters were in the culinary industry, I liked that the story was not overwhelmed by cooking, but rather the scenes where they cooked were just enough to enhance the story. The Playboy of Rome was an enjoyable read with a strong and brave heroine, one who overcame adversities to achieve her dreams and find love. *I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*