Turn Up the Heat
Second Chances, #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Date of Publication: July 14, 2015
Number of pages: 219
Cover Artist: Diane Lugar
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.
“Dinner rush is just starting. You will be in ten minutes. Look, I’m not giving you a choice.”
“Of course you’re fucking not.”
The men glared at each other, then turned to her.
Lily knew better than to look like she was waiting for an invitation. She grabbed an order ticket and got to work.
Of course it was the ticket for Booth 9. Her mystery man. He’d ordered a burger.
She let herself wonder, just a little. If he’d do it. If he’d pin her, hold her, boss her, own her. Wondering wasn’t doing. There was no harm in wondering.
She’d told herself that after what had happened with Fallon, she needed to give herself space. She’d told herself: No men in Tierney Bay. Do the job, make the money, get out.
The anger coiled now. The sense of betrayal.
Do the job, make the money, get out.
And yet, every time her mystery man came in here and she took in his size, the hewn-wood solidity of him, the ripple and surge of what he’d built under the surface of his skin like a barely contained threat, she wanted to rewrite the rules. And that was before he turned that cool blue gaze on her, stripped her to the skin and then barer still, and dared her something she didn’t have a name for.
She’d promised herself. And in her head, she’d promised her mother and her sister, who had given up so much for her.
And her father, who had given up everything.
So that meant she could wonder, but that was all.
But it wouldn’t be breaking the rules to cook for him. To grill him a burger and watch him eat it. She’d seen him eat a few times, like he was ravenous and barely restrained, but savoring every last nuance. Watching him eat would be only a consolation prize, but it would be a damn good one.
Unfortunately, she’d had a few of Tierney Bay Diner’s hamburgers, and they were nothing to write home about. That would dampen the fun of feeding him, for sure.
It would take her ten seconds, no more, to fix that.
A few chopped onions, minced garlic and parsley, Worcestershire sauce.
She dared a glance, and there he was. Icy-lake eyes, full lips, the slashes of cheek and jawbone, a day’s stubble. Not reading. Watching her.
They’d done this too many times for her to pretend they weren’t doing it. She looked right back at him, held his gaze, and heat flared in her, like the shimmer of air over the grill.
She oiled the grill and formed the patty, the sound of her hands loud as a slap in her mind but drowned by sizzle and the clang of metal and the god-awful eighties XM station playing on infinite loop.
In a few seconds she was flipping her own burgers with her left hand and clearing space for sausages with her right.
She brushed cooking oil on the grill—but someone had substituted lemon juice in her oil bottle and the whole thing caramelized in an instant.
Behind her, Hadley snickered.
Screw him. She scraped the grill clean, time wasted, and started over.
On his next pass, he knocked her elbow when she was salting, and she seared his forearm with a metal spatula she’d been heating on the grill for just that purpose.
He jumped a foot and his jaw tightened, but he half-grinned, too. He knew the score. It was every man for himself in the kitchen. Every woman, too.
She’d be poised for his next attack, but somehow, some way, she’d prove herself in here. This was how you did it.
Meantime, she wouldn’t let him distract her. Wouldn’t let him break her rhythm. The smack of patties on her latex palms, the swish of spatula against grill surface, the dance she was part of now as her brain tracked tickets and entrees, ingredients and subassemblies. What needed to be started and what needed to be finished.
Booth 9’s burger was up, and she watched it get delivered. He took a bite, then looked up from the burger and met her eyes. It was there: gratitude and worship, hot and dark as sex. Like no one had ever really fed him before.
She loved that. She couldn’t help her smile.
Someone stopped by his table, breaking her line of sight. Markos. He’d been moving around the diner, stopping to say hello to regular customers and to check on people to see if they were enjoying their meals. Markos and her mystery man began having an animated conversation, pointing to the burger. Removing the bun.
A cold hand fisted in her stomach.
Markos left Booth 9 and headed straight for her. “See me in the storeroom.” Markos’s thick-featured face was angry, his voice low and mean. “Hadley, watch her station.”
She followed Markos into the storeroom.
“You messed with my food.”
“We don’t put fucking onions and parsley in the hamburgers. Or anything fucking else.”
The real rage in his voice surprised her, set her back on her heels despite herself. “I was— Did he not like it?”
Because she knew he had. She’d seen him finish the last bite a moment ago and lick his fingers, which had sent a shiver of lust up her spine.
“That’s not the fucking point. You don’t mess with my food. You don’t try something new. I tell you what to cook, you cook it. Except you don’t, because it’ll be a frigid day in hell before I let you back in this kitchen. Get outta here. Go do what I hired you to do.”
He held out his hand and she shed her apron and hairnet and returned them to him.
She went back to the floor. Tears stung behind her eyes, but she ordered them back. Be tough. Show no weakness.
Or as one of her favorite teachers—a woman—had once said, Pull on your big-girl panties and turn up the heat.
Today, we welcome Serena Bell to Musings and Ramblings. Let's all give a big Geeky welcome!
Thank you so much for inviting me here today! It’s a pleasure to meet you and your readers.
Let's start with some writer specific questions before moving into the fun stuff. That way everyone can really get to know the person behind the writer. We will finish things off with a round of Think Fast. Ready for the interrogation to begin?
Ha, yes! I always liked the essay questions best in school.
Is your writing style more plotter or pantser?
A little of each. ☺ I start out outlining, plotting, all full of good intentions, then usually throw the whole pile of papers sky-high around the midpoint and pants the heck out of the rest of it.
When is your favorite time/place to write? Do you write structured or patchworked?
I’m pretty structured. My kids are in elementary school, so I write every day when they’re out of the house. I have this little garret office that’s actually at the back of a walk-in closet, with an octagonal window. It’s cozy! And I chew a lot of gum and eat a LOT of dark chocolate.
How do you deal with Writer's Block?
I deal with it by pretending it doesn’t exist and I never get it. ☺ Which is totally untrue, but denial is an excellent coping mechanism. I do get “really, really stuck” sometimes, which usually means writing and rewriting the same few scenes over and over again without making any forward progress. When that happens, I take long walks and talk it out or brainstorm with writer buddies.
Tell us something about yourself that's not in your bio.
I keep my freezer stocked with homemade chocolate chip cookie dough, and most nights I eat three with a big glass of milk.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The first agent who ever read something of mine read the first ten pages and said, “Have you ever written romance before?” Ouch. The best compliment—probably the fact that my awesome readers made Hold On Tight a bestseller. To me that says more than words, and I glowed for weeks.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
The first one that came into my head was suction cup hands and feet, but I think I’m going to go with flying. A, it would be so totally fun, and B, I could get places faster and I’m often in way too much of a hurry.
What was the name of the last book you read?
Do or Die by Suzanne Brockmann. I’m always looking for great book recs, so if readers want to comment and tell me something they’ve read recently—especially something that is a little off the beaten path or surprised them—I’d love the recs!!
If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, fictional or real, who would it be and why?
My grandmother. She died when I was fourteen, which is just a little too young for me to really have gotten to know her. And I think there’s a lot of her in me, including her love of romance novels. But I’m also totally fascinated by her chosen career, which was teaching blind and visually impaired children. She taught me to read and write Braille when I was little, although I’d have to brush up if I wanted to do it now. ☺
Pick two celebrities to be your parents. Who are they and why?
Dr. Ruth, for the frank sex talk, and Oprah, for making reading as popular as television. And yes, in my dream celebrity-parent life, I would apparently have two Mommies.
And I’ve got to say, this is definitely a back atcha question – who are your celeb parents?
I am going to go old school with Katherine Hepburn for her independence and strong will and Cary Grant because of his wit and charm.
What would we find in your refrigerator right now?
Many things that should have been thrown away a week ago. Still edible: Sharp cheddar cheese, basil and pine nuts for pesto, lactose-free milk, white wine, plain yogurt and lots of fresh fruit, the makings for ham, eggs, and toast.
AM or PM? AM. I’m useless after 4 p.m.
Mountains or Sea? Sea
Meat or Veggies? Um, yeah, typed veggies but that’s a lie. Bacon.
Italian or Chinese? Italian. Mr. Bell says I was Italian in a former life.
Summer or Winter? Summer, especially since moving to Pacific Northwest
Thanks for coming by and spending some time with us. Any final words of wisdom to pass along?
Thank you so much for having me, and for these great questions—I had so much fun with these! Wisdom, huh? I think the most important thing I’ve learned in life is that if your gut tells you something’s a bad idea, listen. Although, my heroines might put a more positive spin on it and say, If your gut tells you something’s a good idea, ignore all evidence to the contrary.
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.
To connect with the author online:
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