Authors: Emily Jane Trent
A New Adult Romance
Emily Jane Trent
In the few short weeks Cami had been in Seattle, she’d grown to love it. As her knife flew over the mushrooms, cutting them just so, she peeked out the window for another look at the bay. The day was disappearing, turning the sky from deep purple to crimson with a blinding strip of yellow that was all that was left of the sun.
With temperatures barely over fifty degrees and constant drizzle, many people complained the weather was dreary or even depressing. But Cami found it exhilarating. The big city was bursting with music, art, coffee, and good food, which was her passion. She still pinched herself that she’d landed a job.
Blue Skirt Catering was a small company but perfect, something she could handle. The city was big and overwhelming, though in a good way, and starting with something more intimate suited her. Reaching for the celery, she switched knives and continued to chop. The lace knit blouse she wore was itchy but she tried to ignore it.
A starched white apron covered her blue skirt. She was glad that it wasn’t a uniform, as she wanted to feel more like the gourmet she was than service staff. That evening was a company party for one of the many tech start-ups in the area. A top floor of their suite housed the banquet room, and the windows looked out to the water.
Brittany burst through the swinging doors in her boisterous fashion. She wore the same blue skirt and white top, with her deep brown hair piled high in slight disarray.
“Hey, did you see the rock star?” Her hazel-brown eyes shone with the interest she conveyed. Brittany was a couple of years older than Cami, but acted younger. Her heart-shaped face and gleaming smile gave the impression of innocence, but in the short time Cami had known her, it was clear she was beyond that stage.
“Another one?” Cami glanced up as she scooped the celery slivers into a ceramic bowl.
“That other guy never called me.” Brittany pouted, but it didn’t last.
“They have a band out there?”
Brittany checked on the glazed short ribs in one of the stainless-steel ovens. “Yep, and the lead is a hunk. He must be the lead; he has the biggest guitar.” Her eyes gleamed as she recited her encounter of moments before. “He has tattoos on both arms, blue and red ones on the right down to his elbow. Long hair and killer gray eyes.”
“I take it you met him.”
“Well, he kept looking at me, so yeah. I think he might be interested.”
Cami brushed a stray strand of hair out of her eyes. “Well, you have all night to find out.”
The first part of the evening was a bustle of activity with the arrival of the party crowd. And it wasn’t long before the music started—more soft than hard rock, but Cami suspected that might change as the drinking progressed. Her boss was in and out of the kitchen, overseeing all the commotion with an expert hand.
Malena Parker was older, though not old. Cami guessed thirties, but she hadn’t asked. Her Blue Skirt Catering company had been transplanted from New York. Her talent, honed in the big city, fit right in with the trendy, hip feel of Seattle. Catering was good business, and the food was the fresh style seen in the local restaurants, with Malena’s touch added. The blue skirts were her idea. Adding a little sex appeal was good for business.
“Can you bring out another tray of the caramelized scallops? Just take them straight to the big table in the center of the room. They were asking for more.” Malena’s brunette hair was tied back loosely with shorter wisps escaping. Looking at her, Cami could easily imagine she was in her twenties, not thirties. Her chocolate-brown eyes and classy makeup were attractive. Likely she had no trouble connecting up with the plethora of men in the city.
Wanting to look her best, Cami had worn her sexiest heels, some beige strappy ones. Not that anyone would see them, since the deep blue skirt hung past the ankle. The skirt was a winner, as the stretchy fabric hugged her slender hips and accented her small butt, giving her more shape than she had. Then it flared out at the shin. She called it her mermaid skirt, as that was what it reminded her of.
Cami removed her white apron, setting it aside to go out and serve. She placed two plates of the grilled scallops on a round tray and lifted it. It wasn’t too heavy, so it ought to be okay. Keeping a slow, steady step in her dressy shoes, she headed out the double doors.
At first her eyes had to adjust because the lights were dim, and having just come from the brightly lit kitchen, for a moment Cami was blinded. Once she could see, her foray into the noisy, crowded party continued. The music boomed from a small stage in the corner, and she caught a glimpse of Brittany flirting with the lead singer.
Trying to focus on her own task, Cami searched the room for the table she sought. The banquet room was huge and it wasn’t easy to spot. Many people stood around chatting, some were dancing, and others crowded around the sea of tables. The tray was holding steady, and she tried to navigate through the partiers without getting bumped.
Success. She made it to a big table in the center of the room.
That must be the one
. It was long with seating on both sides; many of the chairs were empty. At one end, a twenty-something guy snuggled up to his date, and along the far side was a group of businessmen drinking and laughing. Cami stepped closer and looked about to see who had asked for the scallops.
Then she saw him. He’d been turned the other way, leaning way back in his chair, watching the dance floor. When he turned back, their eyes met and electricity went through her petite frame like a lightning bolt. His thick brown hair was etched with blond sun streaks, gleaming beneath one of the few spotlights in the room. His blue eyes captivated her.
But it was his body that made her swoon. If he’d worn a blazer, it was off now. He had only a soft, pale shirt with several buttons open, and the cloth settled over his hard body. The gorgeous man was solid sculpted muscle, which couldn’t be missed even under the casual shirt. With his thighs, shapely under the dark pants he wore, and the way he leaned back with his legs apart, Cami couldn’t take her eyes off of him.
She realized she was staring at the same instant that she became aware of the tray slipping. Shocked back to reality, it was too late. In a slow-motion nightmare, the plates slid to the far side of the tray, making it heavier on that side. Out of balance, Cami could not recover it, and she watched in horror as the plates flew off the tray and hit the table, scallops and glaze pouring over the thighs she’d just been admiring.
A tiny shriek came out of her throat, and with the tray dangling in one hand, she put the other over her mouth. Like a stack of dominoes, the plates had hit, the food had flown all over, and the handsome man had leaned even further back in the chair. Hardly believing what had just happened, Cami froze.
Looking into the crystal-blue eyes, she did not see anger or even upset, only humor. Then he smiled, showing perfect white teeth, which became a laugh. “I think you are going to have to bring me another whiskey,” he said in a deep voice. “And a change of clothes.”
He seemed overly relaxed about it, and Cami suspected he’d been downing the whiskies, which accounted for his calm demeanor. After dropping the tray on the table, she moved closer and grabbed several linen napkins. Madly dapping at his slacks, she realized how forward that must seem.
“I’m just making it worse,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”
The hunk stood and Cami looked up at him. If he was a heartthrob sitting down, he was devastatingly handsome standing up. His full, chiseled form was within inches of her, and it was all she could do to resist touching. To see if he was real.
“I don’t know. I kind of liked that.” His eyes twinkled with devilishness, further throwing her off.
Tossing the wadded napkins on the table, Cami said, “Come with me. I think I can do something for this.”
As she said it, her eyes caught a glimpse of those desirable thighs again, and either he was just naturally really built, or there was a bulge where she’d most like to touch. Quickly, she looked away, embarrassed by the unintended double meaning of her words.
He laughed, and with easy, masculine strides he followed her to the kitchen. In the blinding lights, Cami blinked. He was a sight to see in the semi-darkness of the dining room, and completely swoon-worthy in good light. The man was flawless and exuded charm from every pore of his body. She was doomed.
“Here, sit.” She motioned him into an aluminum chair and raced to the sink for supplies. In a flash she returned, armed for rescue.
Hesitating a moment, she glanced at his blue eyes, not daring to really look at him. She couldn’t trust herself. “Uh, we keep this on hand. It takes out wine stains and all kinds of stuff. Let me see if I can save these pants.”
He just looked, his blue eyes piercing holes into her. Nervously, Cami poured the liquid onto a clean white rag and dabbed at one thigh.
He laughed and she could smell the whiskey on his breath. It smelled good, and it made her want to kiss him.
“What?” She continued to dab at the material without looking up.
“You can rub my thighs any day.” Heat radiated off his body, and the feel of his hard thigh under her fingers made Cami a little faint.
She had no clue how to respond. So far, she’d dealt with the big city pretty well. But she hadn’t encountered anyone like him. His command over her was unsettling and, try as she might, Cami couldn’t gather her composure.
It was the best she could do: “The pants really need to come off.” The instant she said it, she regretted it. “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”
His eyes burned into her. “I think you did.”
He was exasperating. How could a man be so good looking, so sexy, so charming, and so unnerving? It was an impossible package.
Trying to ignore the feelings radiating between them, Cami took a fan from the opposite counter and placed it on the cutting board near him, angling the air toward his gorgeous thighs.
“We can dry it out a little. That will help. I’m just so sorry.” She could feel her cheeks heat as she said it. But it wasn’t the embarrassment of being a klutz; it was the magnetism between them that she didn’t know how to deal with.
Never taking his eyes from her, the heartthrob said, “I’m not sorry.”
She chanced a look at him. It would be rude to keep looking away.
His endearing smile warmed her, all the way from her head to the tips of her toes.
Without missing a beat, he said, “I’m Bradan Reid. And you are?”
She swallowed thickly. “Camille Joubert.”
“My father’s side.”
He just nodded.
“But you can call me Cami.”
he’d be calling her.
“Okay, Cami. You’ve made my evening a lot more exciting, I must say. But I think my date will be wondering where I am.”
Flustered, Cami readjusted her ponytail, a nervous habit. “Your date. Of course.”
“Jealous?” His blue eyes taunted her.
“No. I am not jealous.” Now she was miffed. “Conceited much?” What an ego the guy must have. Not that he didn’t have a right to one.
“That’s a matter of opinion.” He didn’t seem the least bit ruffled about her accusation.
Again he stood, drop-dead gorgeous, and feeling his strength so close made Cami’s knees weak. “I wouldn’t worry about the pants. I can replace them. It was worth meeting you. My date is boring. Beautiful…but boring.”
He said it with such honesty, and Cami believed he meant it. “Well, you brought her, didn’t you?”
Bradan raised an eyebrow. “This time, but I doubt there will be a repeat. She’s found someone else to dance with already. I’ll take her home later, though, I’m sure.”
The image of Bradan taking another woman home irritated Cami, a feeling that made no sense. She didn’t know the guy.
Without another comment, Bradan disappeared through the swinging doors, and Cami fell into the chair he’d vacated. Her muscles felt like jelly and her heart pounded. No man had ever had that effect on her. She’d really been missing out, that was for sure.
Brittany burst through the doors again. “What happened to you? Malena saw the mess out there.”
Cami shook her head. “You wouldn’t believe it.”
Throwing food onto plates, Brittany glanced over. “What? That you dropped a tray?” She shrugged. “I’ve done that plenty of times. No big deal. It’s already cleaned up.”
Cami took a deep breath. “No, not that.” She brushed loose strands of hair back from her face. “The guy I just met. Did you see him out there?
Brittany laughed. “No, you know where
“The rock star?”
Cami chuckled. “I see you’ve met him.”
“Yes. And anyway, I didn’t see your guy until he walked out of this kitchen. He’s a total hunk.”
“And then some.” Cami closed her eyes for a second, but visions of Bradan persisted.