Turn up the Heat (Second Chances #1)
by Serena Bell
For readers of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery, 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.
The other two waitresses had temporarily divvied up Lily’s tables between them, but Gina hadn’t come in yet, so Lily retook her tables. She made the rounds, getting back on track with her customers. She brought the redheaded family desserts, refilled water glasses, and took a few more orders. Then she grabbed the coffeepot and headed back to 9.
Getting near him felt like being drawn into some planet’s orbit.
His eyes scraped over her as she poured his coffee. “You cooked this.” He tilted his head at his now empty plate.
“Best burger I’ve had here. By a mile.”
“Thanks.” She couldn’t keep the pleasure off her face.
She waited for him to say something else, but he didn’t, only kept those blue eyes on her. His gaze should have felt cool where it touched her face, but it felt hot instead, and it sent heat sloshing through her. She looked down. The book he’d been reading was on the table. A textbook, with a stack of flags and a highlighter beside it. Abernathy’s Law in the United States.
She rearranged her notions of him around that. Maybe a cop, but a law student, too. Huh. “Light reading?”
“You done?” she asked.
“I’ll take a slice of chocolate cake.”
She went back for the cake, cutting an extra-thick piece for him. God, the need to feed him was intense. And all mixed up with her other cravings.
Just because he’s big doesn’t mean he’s rough. Doesn’t mean he likes it rough. And it doesn’t matter, because that’s not what you’re here to do.
But the frustration and disappointment of failing at her chance in the kitchen got all wrapped up with her other feelings. The elation she’d experienced when her ex-boyfriend, Fallon, had bound her—the ropes, the tape, the surge of power that powerlessness had given her. The way she’d struggled, the way restraint had poured pleasure into her body.
How Fallon had turned away from it, in distaste and disgust.
How willing she’d been to renounce her newfound self, her newfound joy, for what she thought was love. For the trappings that came with love—the apartment she shared with him, the mentoring he’d given freely, the job he could offer her. How deep she’d buried her real self so she could be what he needed her to be and so she could have the life he was offering her.
And most of all, the true shame and hurt—of losing it all, anyway, to lies.
All of that, that tight knot of emotion, needed an outlet. It wanted to work itself raw, shake itself off. It wanted to drown itself.
It wanted this man, rational or not. It wanted to unbury itself for him. She wanted to unbury herself for him.
Instead, she set the cake down before him.
“Did you get in trouble with the owner? I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything. I just wanted him to know you did good.”
She wanted to shrug it off, but instead was horrified to discover that the tears she’d pushed back were threatening to fall. “It was a rookie mistake,” she said, steadying her voice. “I should have known better. You never mess with the recipes. You don’t question the chef. Ever.”
She’d known, but she’d wanted too desperately to cook this man something he’d love. Her desire to feed him would do her in. She knew it, now, already.
He was shaking his head, the muscles flowing in his thick—and yet somehow finely built—neck. The skin under his tattoo was as smooth as satin, and she realized she was fantasizing about licking it. Biting it.
He rubbed a thumb back and forth over the laminate table, as if cleaning up a spot of something that had spilled. “Rumor is he’s crazy. Should have retired years ago, but has some price in mind and won’t settle for less, even though the place needs a ton of work. Meanwhile, he won’t change anything from his dad’s day—not the recipes, the decor, nothing. It’s not you, kiddo. It’s him.”
The kiddo killed her. Slew her dead, right then. It should have felt demeaning, condescending, but it had the same effect on her the rest of him did. Made her want to be a small thing he tossed around, the way his sandpaper voice tossed off that word. Kiddo.
She needed to walk away from this craving, from this stranger who didn’t feel like a stranger. As if maybe all those locked gazes, the fact of his being there dependably week after week, had built a slow, strange, invisible trust.
She was here in Tierney Bay, love life ruined, career in suspended animation, self-regard shredded, having fled as far as she could from her mistakes, and she had vowed not to make them again. She had vowed not to let anything get between her and rebuilding her life. Because it wasn’t, couldn’t possibly be, worth it.
But in the end, there were two parts of her. There was the part that wanted to rebuild her life.
And there was the part that just wanted to live.
Connect with Serena Bell