Turn up the Heat
Second Chances # 1
By: Serena Bell
Releasing July 14, 2015
For readers of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery, USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell teases all five senses in this poignant, tantalizing novel of fantasies long hidden . . . and finally indulged.
Aspiring chef Lily McKee noticed Kincaid Graves the first time he walked into the dingy diner where she waits tables. With his ice-blue eyes and primal tattoos, his presence puts Lily on edge—and reminds her of all the unfulfilled longings she isn’t pursuing while she’s stuck in this dead-end job. Without a doubt, the man is dangerous to her long-term plans of leaving town and hiring on at a real kitchen—and yet, she hungers for him, if even for just a taste.
Kincaid didn’t come back to his coastal Oregon hometown looking for a good time or a good meal. The ex-con has a score to settle, old wrongs to set right. But Lily, equal parts innocence and insight, brings out an impulsive side of him he thought he’d left behind in the past. And it only takes one intense moment of weakness between them to make him consider the possibility of an entirely new future—and the promise of passion beyond either of their wildest dreams.
“Tonight’s special is turkey dinner,” Lily told her table.
The turkey dinner was safe enough: sliced deli turkey, a small scoop of powdered mashed potatoes, canned cranberries, and gravy made from cream of chicken soup, all served on white bread. Nothing much to go wrong there, if nothing to celebrate, either.
If the diner had been hers, turkey dinner would have been fresh-roasted turkey, homemade gravy, a warm, freshly buttered biscuit, apple-and-bacon stuffing, local cranberry preserves, and a heap of hot, creamy garlic mashed potatoes. Her mouth watered at the thought. Her hands felt itchy with her desire to overhaul Markos’s dad’s Thanksgiving feast. And pretty much everything else about the diner, too—it was a shame that a diner in a seaside town hadn’t nodded at a beach theme, or at least gone after a sunshiny feel. Markos’s diner was cozy at night, but cavelike and stifling when the sun was up.
But the diner wasn’t hers, and she had to keep her eyes on the prize. If she kept saving at her current rate, she’d have enough money to move back to Chicago, where most of her culinary school friends now lived. She’d get a job in a real restaurant, actually cooking. And eventually, someday, she’d have the know-how and the name recognition to start her own place. It would happen, despite her mistakes.
“And the meatloaf?”
“If you liked the meatloaf, you’ll love our spaghetti and meatballs tonight.” There were only so many ways to warn people away from a meal without turning them off a restaurant completely, and Lily was mastering all of them.
“I want that,” said the freckled, redheaded children simultaneously.
“Two turkey dinners and two spaghetti and meatballs,” the mom said, smiling at Lily.
“Easy enough! Thanks, guys!”
Lily turned toward the counter, a wood and stone monstrosity built to look like a hunting lodge’s fireplace, just in time to see the diner’s front door open. She had only a general impression of the figure pushing through it, but that was enough.
Him. Her mystery man.
Her body woke up. Pulse, breath, that surge of adrenaline in her veins. Maybe, if she were willing to admit it, other body parts were taking notice, too.
A strange push-pull. Half of her wished he’d find some other place to hang out, while the other half constantly monitored that back booth, noting his absence or celebrating his presence. When he wasn’t there, she wished he were, and when he was, she wished he’d leave and take the distraction with him. So she could just do this job, do it well, and get on with things.
But she couldn’t deny that he cut through the twitchy boredom of waiting tables, like a wire through wet clay.
She forced herself to focus on the tasks at hand, hanging the order for the kitchen and delivering the drinks for Booth 12, though she knew from past experience that she couldn’t pretend he wasn’t there. Even when she couldn’t see him, she registered him—how much space he took up in the diner, how he moved through the restaurant to his seat, his walk as assured as a swagger but so much more self-contained. Unhurried. Unapologetic.
His expression was grim—no smile for the hostess, only his cool pale-blue eyes absorbing everything, wary and watchful. In his jaw, she saw the knot of muscle that told her he never let his guard down.
At first she’d guessed he was a cop, maybe, or ex-army. He had that look.
He sat, as always, in the corner, his back angled so there were two walls behind him. He drew the blind—another habit of his—even though the sun was weak. He almost always sat alone, though once he’d had dinner with a man Lily knew, a grizzled, bearded grandfatherly man who was one of her brother-in-law’s fishing friends. That was a small town for you—if you didn’t know someone, you at least knew someone who knew him.
She’d been trying not to let herself wonder about him, about what it would be like to be with him, whether he could—and would—give her what she wanted and needed, because she was supposed to have shut down that whole line of thinking. But it wasn’t working so well. Her mind kept going there, even as she delivered the drinks to Booth 12 and took their orders. They made it easy for her—turkey dinners and burgers all around.
When she had a moment to peek again, he was drinking coffee, which was all he ever drank, and reading an impressively large book. And still, his thickly corded arms, the span of his shoulders, dwarfed the book and, somehow, the whole booth. Her gaze slipped over the tattoos that peeked out of the neck of his T-shirt. Black and flesh, geometric, triangles and diamonds—almost tribal-looking. His arms were tattooed, too—she’d seen enough to know that one arm was densely and elaborately drawn with evergreen forest.
He glanced up and caught her eye, quickly looked away.
Her heart pounded, as it always did when she caught him looking. A little thrill of speculation chased its tail in the pit of her gut.
I bet he’d be rough . . .
USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell writes stories about how sex messes with your head, why smart people sometimes do stupid things, and how love can make it all better. She wrote her first steamy romance before she was old enough to understand what all the words meant and has been perfecting the art of hiding pages and screens from curious eyes ever since—a skill that’s particularly useful now that she’s the mother of two school-aged children.
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