I was really interested in the premise of this series when Roni Loren first announced it and I couldn’t wait to read the first book once it came out. I enjoyed that book so much that The One You Can’t Forget went straight to the top of my wishlist so I’m super thrilled to be featuring this book today. It’s just as great as the first book and I hope today’s excerpt entices you to read it.
Check it out.
Wes Garrett peeked through the crack in the door to the apartment inside, eyeing the small group of women laughing and drinking champagne. One was wearing a party hat with a big light-up dick on it. He shut the door and leaned against the wall in the hallway. “I can’t believe I’m considering this.”
Suzie grinned wickedly at him, her lip ring glinting in the hallway light. “Don’t be such a prude, Garrett. What happened to that wild, try-anything-once guy I used to know?”
His jaw clenched. “Are you really asking me that?”
She waved a dismissive hand. “You know that’s not what I mean. I don’t want post-apocalyptic you. That sucked.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m talking about the you before everything went to shit. You’ve swung too far in the other direction.” She shrugged. “Walking the straight and narrow doesn’t mean not having any fun or, you know, a sense of humor.”
“This is a good gig.” She pinned him with her gaze. “Three hundred bucks for two hours of your time. All you’re going to be doing is teaching drunk chicks how to cook simple things. You teach cooking every day. This is no different.”
He gave her a droll look. “I teach cooking to teenagers. I get to wear my chef’s whites. I don’t have to cook naked.”
“Ugh. You’re not going to be naked. That would be a major kitchen hazard. Just…shirtless. And hey, with all your tattoos, you have some added coverage.”
Christ. This was what his life had come to? From four-star restaurants to this? He’d thought teaching at an after-school program was a giant tumble down the staircase from his chef dreams, but this was a new level. The basement. At least with the kids, he could convince himself he was training future chefs. Here he would be the special of the day. “I don’t know.”
She reached out and grabbed his hands, her face earnest beneath the fringe of bright-pink hair. “Come on, Wes. My other guy called in. Shirtless Chefs is just getting off the ground. If I have chefs no-showing for parties, I’m going to catch hell in the online reviews, and the business will tank before I really get rolling. You’ve got the skills. You’ve got the blond bad-boy thing going, which is going to rock their socks off. And once upon a time, you could charm the ladies, so I know you’re capable. Plus, you said you needed the extra money. This is easy cash. Win-win.”
Wes grimaced. He hated needing the money. Hated that he was anywhere near that place he’d been so long ago, where he’d had to scrape together every damn dime. He’d thought he was far past that, and then boom, life had exploded. But need wasn’t even the right word. He had enough to live on right now with his teaching gig. He knew how to stretch his dollars. What he wanted the money for was a stupid idea. Something he shouldn’t be messing with. His family would kick his ass if they even knew he was thinking about it.
Still, he couldn’t help closing his eyes and picturing the beat-up school bus his friend Devin had shown him last week. The old bus had looked like it’d been rolled off the side of a rocky cliff and set on fire, but Wes had been able to see the bones beneath, the potential to be converted into a food truck. He’d gotten that itch he’d tried to ignore since he’d lost everything. The what-ifs.
He’d found himself inquiring about a loan at the bank. He’d known the answer before asking, but he’d asked anyway. And he’d put out feelers with his friends, telling them to give him a call if they had any extra catering or temporary cooking gigs.
Of course, Suzie had been the one to call, and she hadn’t told him exactly how her new private chef business worked or the name she’d chosen for it until he’d arrived. She was smart enough to know he would’ve run in the other direction.
But now he was here and she needed his help. And dammit, he wanted the money. He tilted his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. “What am I teaching them to make?”
When she didn’t answer immediately, he lifted his head, finding her biting her lip.
“Suze,” he said, warning in his voice.
She held up her palms. “Don’t hate me, okay? There’s a bruschetta recipe and a bourbon nut brittle that you’re going to love. But some of the other stuff is…themed.”
His shoulders sagged in acceptance. “I’m making dick-shaped things, aren’t I?”
“Um…” Her nose wrinkled. “There may be recipes for Big, Meaty Balls and Eat My Taco Dip.”
“I fucking hate you.”
She grinned and stepped up to pat him on the cheek. “You’re the best, Garrett. If I didn’t want to put lipstick on the merchandise, I’d kiss you.”
“You say the sweetest things, Suze. I just feel showered by your sweetness and affection.”
“Right?” She pinched his hip. “Now go in there, be nice, and look pretty.”
He gave her a look. “You treat all your employees like cattle?”
She stuck out her tongue. “Only my friends who won’t sue me.”
He let out a tired breath. “I won’t sue you, but if you tell anyone about this…”
“I could lose my job.” Not to mention whatever shreds of dignity he had left.
She mimed sealing her lips and tossing the key. “Your secret’s safe. I swear.”
“Fine. I’ll go in.”
She did a little celebratory clap, but then her smile sagged a bit. “And you sure you’re cool with alcohol being at the party? I mean, I know I’m pushing you to do this, but for real, if that part’s a problem—”
“I told you it’s not an issue,” he said, cutting her off, anger trying to surface. “Tonight, that’s the least of my worries.”
She pressed her lips together and nodded. “Okay. Good.”
He ran a hand through his hair, resigned. “Let’s get this over with.”
“Right.” She swept an arm out toward the door. “Godspeed, my friend.”
With one last steeling breath, he stepped past her and pushed open the door. All eyes turned his way, and the blond woman with the penis hat grinned widely and clapped her hands together. “Ooh, y’all got me a stripper?”
Wes almost reversed his steps right there. Three. Two. One. Right back out the door. But he gritted his teeth and kept moving forward.