Authors: Melissa Schroeder
This blizzard is blazing hot...
Trevor MacMillian is the tart and incredibly sexy executive chef who’s made pastry chef Elaine Masterson’s life a living hell. But when she catches him in nothing but a tiny little towel, it’s almost enough to make her forget they’re stranded in a luxurious mountain cabin together...or that she hates him almost as much as she craves him like a sinfully forbidden dessert.
Being alone in a romantic secluded cabin might just kill Trevor outright. If Elaine hates him now, how much will she hate him if she finds out he’s been fantastizing about her full, kissable lips? So Trevor argues with her. Makes her angry—until an intense and unexpected kiss turns their hostility into insatiable hunger. And with this much heat, the snowstorm outside doesn’t stand a chance...
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 by Melissa Schroeder. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
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Select Contemporary is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
Edited by Alethea Spiridon
Cover design by Louisa Maggio
Cover art from Shutterstock and iStock
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition March 2016
Over twenty-five years together, and I haven’t killed you. I guess that’s good.
Elaine Masterson had had enough. She stood in the kitchen, the entire staff watching her and Trevor MacMillian. They were waiting to see what she would do.
For six long months, she’d put up with him, his complaints, and his lifestyle. She had always been considered the most professional of chefs. People loved working with her. Trevor did not. And he made sure to nitpick every little mistake he thought she had made. But calling her names went beyond anything he had done before. He had stepped over the line.
“What did you call me?” she asked, her teeth clenched so tight her jaw ached. From the moment they had opened the restaurant, the man had been the bane of her existence. He had quibbled and prodded. He questioned her abilities in the kitchen. Tonight, though, was the last straw. He settled his hands on his hips and took a step closer. Even with the aromatic scents of the kitchen surrounding her, she could smell him—deep, dark, delicious. It teased her senses. That irritated her more than his comment.
“I think you bloody well heard what I said, but I will repeat it for everyone. You are the most uptight and untalented chef I have ever worked with. You wouldn’t know a bloody croissant from a ganache. I wonder on a daily basis how you ever made it out of pastry class.”
Her anger flashed to a full blaze. Never in her life had she ever been so mad…or so hurt. Without thinking, she looked to her left, picked up the whipped cream she had asked for, and upended the bowl over his head.
“Bugger off,” she said, with relish. Satisfaction filled her as she watched him wipe the delicate cream out of his eyes. Elaine knew this was the one moment she might ever see the idiot at a loss for words. Her moment of triumph was cut short when their partner said from behind her, “What the bloody hell is going on in here?”
Elaine Masterson studied the Canadian Rockies as they flew by her car window. The jagged snow-covered rocks stood out against the fading sun. Normally, they would take her breath away. She had never been to this area of Canada before, and it was awe inspiring. Any normal person would be entranced with the idyllic scene she was being exposed to. Instead, she wondered if her driver was taking her out to the woods to kill her.
She glanced at the man in question. Harold. It was the only name he gave her. He was probably in his late forties, with long gray hair, a large and very crooked nose, and eyes so small she couldn’t quite discern their color. That was one thing she thought she should know—the color of her killer’s eyes.
She shook that thought away. Her imagination always did get her into trouble. There was no music or talking in the car, and that was another thing that bothered her. Long uncomfortable silences reminded her a little too much of her childhood. She cleared her throat to gain his attention. Harold said nothing. Of course he didn’t. His mind was probably occupied on where to dump her body.
“How much longer?” she asked.
“Just up around the bend here and we’ll be there. We got it all ready for you, as per Mr. McConnell’s instructions.”
Great, now Mick was in on the killing. She wouldn’t doubt it. The last few months had been horrible at the restaurant. Mick had warned her and Trevor both he would kill one of them in the end. Now he had sent her to a snowy wasteland to have her whacked. She should have been suspicious when he offered her the cabin for the weekend.
As a girl who grew up in the south, she liked snow. It was so peaceful as it fell. She liked to sit by her window and watch as it landed on the ground without a sound. Her only problem was that even after living in France for a couple years, she didn’t know how to drive in it. Or dress for it. Or deal with it.
“There you go,” Harold said, breaking into her thoughts.
She turned, and her breath caught in her throat. It was the epitome of dream log cabin. It was huge, bigger than she expected, with a floor to ceiling window in the front. Elaine could just imagine the view as the sun rose over the Rockies in the morning. When he parked in the driveway she could only sit and stare.
She shook herself and looked at him. “Sorry. I guess I’m tired from the flight.”
“I’ll help you with your bags.”
Then he jumped out of the SUV. She followed suit and pulled out the keys Mick had given her. As she waited for Harold to retrieve her bags, she glanced around. When he had suggested the trip to the cabin, Elaine had been thrilled. She’d been stressed about work, and she and Trevor had been at each other’s throats the last few weeks.
She sighed as she followed her driver up to the door. Trevor MacMillian was a pretty man. A very pretty man. Okay, not truly pretty because he had a broken nose and an obnoxious personality, but she couldn’t avoid the fact that part of the problem was she was attracted to him. Like wanting to eat him up with a spoon kind of attracted. What added to the problem was that he was an ass.
“Here you go,” her driver said.
She stepped in and sighed again. There was a fire roaring to her right. Off to her left was a pristine kitchen. Mick couldn’t cook, but he made sure there was something fantastic to play with. A Viking cooktop, two ovens, a sub-zero fridge. Lord.
“My number’s by the phone. The storm coming in should just miss us, so you shouldn’t have a problem.”
His weathered face split into a smile. “There’s a big one coming down, but the weatherman is saying we should get an inch or two. Nothing big.”
She smiled. “That would paralyze Atlanta.”
“Well, don’t worry. There’s a generator out back. Do you know how to use it?”
She nodded and grabbed her purse to pull out a tip, but he held out his hands. “No, ma’am. Mr. Connelly said everything was his treat.”
“Well, thank you.”
She barely had the words out of her mouth when she heard the front door shut. She looked up and found herself alone in the room; the only sound was the wind outside and the crackling of the fire.
She walked around the open space. After she pulled off her jacket and hung it on the back of a chair, she spied a decanter of whiskey. Mick did know what she needed. If there was a storm moving in, her nerves were not going to be able to handle it, not without her favorite crutch.
As she crossed the room, the floor squeaked under her feet. It was weird, but it made her feel more at home. There was something about a wooden floor that always got to her. She poured herself two fingers of whiskey and sipped at it. The warmth of the fire drew her. As she wandered over, her mind went back to work. The idea for the restaurant had been a good one. She knew Mick from her time in New York, and he’d wanted to expand to the south. She might not want to spend time with what little family she had, but the south still pulled at her. Atlanta was perfect for her—a little hot and sticky in the summer and a short winter. It had been hard work, but six months in and they were the most popular new restaurant in the Southeast. If it weren’t for the executive chef, everything would be wonderful.
Trevor Macmillan, English bad boy with a titled father and loads of money, she thought with a sneer. He irritated as much as he attracted her. The duality of her feelings was enough to drive even the most even tempered person insane. Most people didn’t know she had a bad temper. She had spent a huge part of her time in culinary school learning to control it. Now, though, all Trevor had to do was make a small comment, and she lost her good sense. Never before had a man been able to reduce her to that behavior. There were times he made her so crazy she couldn’t remember what she said after screaming at him.
Her number one rule about work was never mixing personal feelings with business dealings. Unfortunately, Trevor made her want to break that rule. There were times she would watch him working in the kitchen, those blue eyes of his concentrated on the dish he was creating. And those hands… He had what people called artist’s hands. Long, lean, sexy—just like that man. She sighed and sipped her whiskey. She had to work out those issues, and then she could deal with him. If she could clear her head of the man, she’d be able to deal with him at work. Time away was exactly what she needed.
“What the bloody hell are you doing here?”
She turned with a gasp, spilling some of her whiskey on her sweater. Standing on the landing above was her nemesis Trevor. He was frowning at her, his hair still damp, droplets of water slipping down his impressive chest, and all that he wore was a little bitty towel.
Trevor stared down at Lainey, his brain trying to work through the idea that she was standing there. It had to be some kind of mistake. A bloody awful mistake.
God, that voice. She never used his preferred nickname of Trev. Always Trevor. It should piss him off good, but he loved the way she drew out his name in that deep Georgia accent. It reminded him of those slow summer days when the heat was too much to take. Just that thought had certain body parts coming to life, and the little towel he was using wouldn’t cover up his reaction. He drew in a deep breath and counted back from ten.
“Yeah, Trevor,” he said.
This had to be some kind of nightmare—a bloody insane nightmare with the object of his obsession standing as pretty as she pleased, dressed neat as a pin staring up at him as if he were the boogey man. And he was getting hard. There was something really wrong with him if a woman looked at him in horror and he was turned on.
She swallowed. Lord, she was driving him batty. Every little move had him aching to close the distance between him and show her just what was going on under his towel. He was lucky she had no idea how attracted he was to her, or she’d hate him even more.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“This has to be some kind of joke.” She closed her eyes then opened them again.
“What are you doing?”
“I was hoping this was a nightmare or something.” She shook her head. “I’m here because Mick told me I needed a weekend away.”
The puzzle pieces were starting to connect, and it was not a pretty pattern. “Needed time away to regroup?”
She frowned. “Yes.”
Dammit, his best friend had set him up. Mick had threatened for months to do something drastic to stop their constant bickering. Trevor should have seen it coming. He’d been told Mick was ready to lose it, but Trevor had ignored the warning. And now he was in a secluded cabin with the woman who made him itch from the inside out.
“I’m assuming you agree that this is some kind of weird intervention by Mick?” she asked.
Of course it was. His friend wasn’t the kind of man who allowed things to go. If he wanted something handled, Mick would figure out a way. This was a bloody ignorant way to handle it, but it had Mick’s name all over it.
“I’m going to kill the wanker.”
She cleared her throat. “Do you think you could, ah, get dressed?”
Her face was pink with embarrassment, and you would think she was a virgin from the way she was acting. Of course, like always, it made him want to push her. Whenever she got on her puritanical high horse he felt the need to knock her off—preferably into his bed.
He pushed that disturbing and highly arousing thought away. “Sure, then we’re going to call Mick and give it to him.”
She was looking out the window, apparently not able to stomach even looking at him.
He stomped into his room cursing under his breath all the way. In his life he had avoided women like her—uptight, particular, and always on a schedule. That was his mother and his sister. Owning a business with one would have never been his choice, but it had been a sound decision. She was considered one of the top pastry chefs in the U.S., if not the western hemisphere. Her reputation alone brought people to the restaurant. With Mick’s business sense and Trevor’s menu, it had been a dream. Until the two of them got into the kitchen.
He shook his head as he tossed the towel onto his bed and grabbed his jeans. Mick had really done it now. A night in a deserted cabin with his nemesis, the one woman who tempted him beyond reason. She was also the woman who hated him.
. She hated the nickname, but it was what he called her. Most people—including the woman herself—probably thought he did it to irritate her. That was part of it. The other part was sadder. Calling her Lainey was intimate, as if there was something else going on. Trevor knew there was part of him that wanted other people to think there was something going on. That fact was enough to bother him but not enough to get him to stop.
He pulled his sweater over his head then went to face the woman. When he stepped out on the landing, he spotted her right away. He was in tune with her on some sick level. If they were in the same room, he knew where she was. Worse, she acted as if he didn’t exist. So, to get her attention, he acted like an ass. It wasn’t the way his mother had raised him. If her hair had been in pigtails he would have pulled them.
Sad, Trev, real sad
Worse, it left him feeling horrible. He hated the way he acted around her, which made him even madder, and he took it out on Elaine. Scum. He was definitely scum.
He studied her for a moment, taking in the long line of her neck. She had all that glorious golden hair up in a twist on the back of her head. She wasn’t what most people would call beautiful. She was…striking. Tall, slender, and reserved. Not his usual type. Her skin was as soft as it looked, and he wanted to touch every inch of it. Lick it, too.
But every now and then he would see something there, some kind of vulnerability that called to him. Like now. She was staring out at the setting sun, a drink in her hand and she looked so…alone. He had never seen a woman who could be so alone in a crowd of people.
He must have made a sound because she raised her gaze to his, and for a second his brain refused to function. Every bleeding thought evaporated when she looked at him. He had to pull himself away from those thoughts and back to the problem at hand.
“I guess we should call Mick,” he said as he trotted down the stairs.
She nodded. “Then we can discuss what hit man we hire. I can’t believe he did this to us.”
“It isn’t that bad. Tomorrow we can head out.”
She nodded then glanced at him. “I’m surprised to find you alone.”
He grabbed his cell phone and walked to the kitchen. “What?”
“I would have thought you would have brought a friend.”
“Mick didn’t want to come.”
She blinked at him. “I mean of the female variety.”
That hadn’t been an option. The last several months he’d had a few women here and there, but he’d thrown himself into the opening of the restaurant and then…his obsession with Lainey had started. When he realized he was dating women who looked like her, he freaked. It had been over two months since his last date, which wasn’t a good thing considering the situation. But the tone in her voice made him rise to the bait. He couldn’t help it. “If I did, it isn’t something you should worry about. It’s my private life.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’d be happy to leave it private if you would.”
Okay, so that was a problem. He was known as The Titled Chef, although he would never gain his father’s title. It was honorary. The U.S. press had eaten it up, especially the people of Atlanta, who loved pretty manners and old money. Still, he was linked to more women than Hugh Hefner, though he assumed his colleagues knew it wasn’t true. He would never make it to work if he had slept with all of them.
“It’s not my fault they follow me around.”
“Of course not. It’s not your fault you don’t have morals.”
“I have morals. Just because I enjoy women doesn’t mean I don’t have any standards.”
She crossed her arms. “Of course not. Granted, people would call me names if I was linked to that many men, but enjoy your double standard.”
He opened his mouth to argue but stopped. They didn’t need to fight about this, not now. It would lead to him being an ass. Worse, they had no buffer. Mick wasn’t there to control him, and Trevor was worried he might lose control and kiss her. That would not be good. It would be fantastic…but not good for the business. “Let’s call our wanker of a partner, then we can decide on dinner.”