Authors: Brenda Sinclair
Tags: #Brenda Sinclair, #cowboy, #series, #Calgary Stampede, #Romance, #steamy romance, #contemporary western, #Contemporary Romance
COOKING FOR COWBOY
Copyright 2013 Brenda Sinclair
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. Except for use in any review, the reproduction of this work in whole or in part in any form now known or hereafter invented is forbidden without the written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names.
First and foremost, thank you to my beta readers Victoria Chatham, Doreen Winona Logeot, Katie O’Connor and Sharon Vierboom for critiquing my work, providing excellent feedback, and making the book much better. I appreciate your time and hard work, ladies.
And a special thank you to Kymber Morgan for beta reading and giving this gal who has lived in urban centers three times longer than she ever lived on a farm a refresher course in the rural life and especially cowboys. Your assistance was invaluable and greatly appreciated.
Thank you to the extremely talented and very patient Su Kopil from Earthly Charms Designs at www.earthlycharms.com for the wonderful cover. And thanks also once again to Ted Williams for his excellent line editing.
And to Terry Sinclair, my son the chef, thank you for providing answers to my many questions concerning the life of a chef, workplaces, qualifications, training, etc. The lecherous restaurant owner in my story is a total figment of my imagination and was certainly not based on an actual person. And readers, next time you dine out in a casual fine-dining restaurant please take a moment to consider the possible chaos taking place in the kitchen to guarantee you enjoy a memorable dining experience.
Also, thank you to Riley Lang, former barn help for one of the prestigious Alberta pro chuckwagon families, for answering innumerable questions about professional chuckwagon racing and the brave (or crazy depending on how you look at it) gentlemen who entertain thousands of fans every year participating in their favorite sport. Thankfully, none of those magnificent Thoroughbreds were harmed in the writing of this book. Any mistakes made in regards to pro chuckwagon racing are my own.
A special thank you to fellow CaRWA member Mary Racioppo for putting me in contact with her brother Bill Koichopolos, a MS patient who provided me with invaluable assistance in understanding the disease and how it affects those living with it. Again any mistakes made, regarding the disease or anything relating to the portrayal of MS patients in this book, are my own.
This book is dedicated to Judy Knapp, a good friend and TOPS pal who has faced her MS diagnosis fearlessly and has fought back for decades. Her bravery and tenacity are an inspiration to everyone who knows her.
“Touch me like that again, Romeo, and I won’t be responsible for my actions,” warned Sierra Griffin, glaring at her boss. While holding a plated dinner, she waited for him to take a step back. When he moved aside, she set the customer’s meal on the spotless pass-through under the lights.
“Come on, babe. You love it,” insisted Romeo, owner of the fine-dining restaurant and lounge that carried his name. “You know I can’t resist you.” He reached over Sierra’s shoulder and snagged a piece of red pepper off the stir-fry.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she muttered in frustration while she slid the ruined food into the garbage can and slammed the plate on the metal counter beside the dishwasher. She wiped her hands on the white cotton apron protecting her spotless chef’s coat. As the restaurant’s executive chef, Sierra insisted on perfection from herself and her staff, and she didn’t mind pitching in to help cook on busy evenings.
“Hey, you’re costing me money, babe,” complained Romeo, standing with his pudgy hands on his broad hips.
“Sue me,” muttered Sierra. “I’m not sending anything out of this kitchen that you’ve dug your mitts into.”
“I stole a pepper and I only touched that one piece.”
“I’ll explain that to the health inspector next time he visits.” Sierra noted the stunned expressions on her staff’s faces. “Get busy, please. There’s a full house out there. Do you want the orders to start backing up?”
The kitchen staff leapt into action, busied themselves at their assigned stations.
“My, you’re touchy tonight. Wrong time of the month?” whispered Romeo, crossing his arms and resting them atop his substantial middle.
Sierra ignored the infuriating man. She adjusted her chef’s hat with the back of her hand and returned her attention to the top-of-the-line gas range in front of her. For the hundredth time she asked herself why she’d endured this nonsense for the past six months. No executive chef in her right mind should tolerate any man patting her butt or whispering x-rated innuendos in her ear.
“Martin, another stir-fry 9-1-1, please.”
“Right away, Chef.”
Cursing under her breath, Sierra removed the cover from a steaming pot of vegetable beef soup and tossed the lid onto the counter. Several heads jerked up. The staff glanced in her direction and then returned to their work. Damn Romeo anyway! She never lost her temper in the kitchen, and she felt her face redden. Was Romeo ever going to accept the fact she wasn’t interested in him, and there would never be anything personal between them? If she condoned violence and thought it would do any good, she would have slammed him up side the head with the pot lid in hopes that he’d get the idea. She tasted the soup, nodded in approval, and set the spoon in a tub of dirty dishes as a busboy passed by.
The potager returned from his break to his soup station. “I’ve been keeping an eye on that for you,” said Sierra. “Excellent soup. It’s ready to set out front for the waitresses to serve up.”
“Thanks, Chef.” The young man beamed with her praise and headed out front, maneuvering the heavy pot through the swinging doors.
Sierra grabbed her tongs and flipped the set of flame-broiled steaks she’d tossed on the grill just before plating the now ruined stir-fry. Romeo still stood behind her. The fact that he hovered nearby kept her nerves on edge, but she couldn’t order the boss out of the kitchen or he’d hang around all night just to annoy her. She took a moment to visualize her tongs wrapped around Romeo’s neck in a vise-like grip, tightening them until he promised to stop harassing her. Right. Like that would happen. She relaxed her white-knuckled grip, refusing to allow Romeo’s inappropriate behavior to get to her. Besides, she’d never resort to physical aggression against the jerk, or anyone else for that matter.
Where were all the good men in the world? Her mother had found her father, and her best girlfriend married a great guy three years ago. Good men existed somewhere, she reasoned. All she wanted was one man who loved her, who looked forward to raising a family with her, and who intended to spend the rest of his days at her side. Was that too much to ask?
Sierra passed the two plated medium-rare steaks to the sous-chef standing on her left. “Finish these off, please, Martin.” She reached for the order slip and handed it to him. Her co-worker passed his Chef de Cuisine certification examinations last week, and Sierra expected he’d submit his notice any day now in favor of running his own kitchen as an executive chef at a competing restaurant. Of course, it would mean extra work for her unless Romeo hired someone to replace him, but Martin was a really nice guy and she couldn’t be happier for him.
They finished off the last three orders in record time, including the 9-1-1 stir-fry to replace the one that ended up in the garbage.
“Take your break, Martin,” she suggested. “There seems to be a lull in the orders right now.”
“Okay, Chef, I’ll grab a cup of coffee. A buddy of mine texted me awhile ago that he’s in the lounge. The second seating will arrive in fifteen or twenty minutes, but I’ll be back in time.”
“Thanks,” said Sierra, smiling. “I appreciate you having my back when things get insane around here.”
“See you in a bit,” called Martin, as he strode through the swinging doors heading into the restaurant and lounge.
The savory smells in the kitchen had Sierra’s stomach grumbling for an hour already. She hadn’t eaten anything since noon. She should grab a quick coffee and a bite to eat before the next rush of orders started. Before she could move, Romeo sidled up behind her and leaned close.
“I’ve got your back, too, babe,” he whispered in her ear.
And then he patted her ass.
Sierra gasped and swung around. She fisted her hands, wanting more than anything to slug him. “I can’t believe you just did that!”
Romeo winked, leering at her in a suggestive way. “If you’d stop ignoring me, you’d realize I love admiring your backside.”
Sierra tugged her chef’s hat off and threw it on the counter. “That will never happen in this lifetime.” She whipped her apron off and tossed it in Romeo’s face. His smirk disappeared from sight.
Romeo pulled the apron down and covered his heart with his hand. A pained expression appeared on his face. “Babe, you’ve wounded me.”
“Don’t tempt me,” Sierra spat through gritted teeth while she grabbed her own set of knives and other culinary tools and stuffed them into their black leather carrying case. “I’ve had it. That stunt you just pulled was the last straw. You’ve manhandled my behind for the last time. I quit.”
“Temper, temper,” sang Romeo, waving his stubby index finger in her direction.
Sierra zipped up the case and threw the strap over her shoulder. “
wasn’t temper. Trust me. You don’t want to experience my temper.” She stomped down the hallway and entered her office, grabbed her purse out of the desk’s bottom drawer, and strode toward the back exit. “I mean it, Romeo. I’m out of here and I’m not coming back.” She paused for a moment and turned to confront the former bane of her existence. “You should thank your lucky stars that I’m not initiating a sexual harassment suit against your lecherous butt.”
“You can’t leave in the middle of a busy Friday night shift.” Romeo waddled after her down the narrow hallway leading to the back door. “Be reasonable, babe.”
“Take your ‘be reasonable, babe’ and stuff it you know where.” Sierra glared at the man she now considered her ex-boss. “Martin just became your new executive chef. Tell him I wish him all the best. And if I was you, I wouldn’t pat his ass every second shift. If you do, either you’ll end up with a black eye or, once again, you’ll find yourself without an executive chef.”
“Take the rest of the night off, Sierra. Martin will cover for you. Tomorrow will…”
“Forget it.” Sierra waved off Romeo’s suggestion. “Tomorrow I’ll be looking for a position with a restaurant whose owner understands professional standards of conduct,” she called over her shoulder. “Something you sadly lack any knowledge of.”
Sierra slammed the door on her way out. She strode across the poorly-lit parking lot, heading toward her apple-green Honda. She loved her little car and the color always cheered her up. But not tonight. She’d job hunted last January for several weeks before landing this job at Romeo’s. With the turbulent economy, executive chef jobs were as scarce as teeth in chickens.
“What have I done?” she asked herself aloud, unlocking the driver’s side door.
She climbed inside as an owl hooted in answer from a nearby tree.
is right? Who’s going to give me another job?” she muttered, setting her purse and knife case on the passenger seat.