Tangled Up in Tinsel

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“Checking for bats?”

Parker dropped his gaze from the rafters and turned toward the source of the question. In the opening where his brother had been just minutes before stood a lusciously curvy female.

“Hello.” Her red high heels tapped across the plywood floor as she came into the barn, where Parker got a better look.

Jeans, faded and painted on, hugged a shapely pair of hips and thighs. One sleeve of her thin beige sweater had slipped to reveal a bare shoulder, and long, silky brown hair draped in big loopy curls down her back. When his gaze eventually made it to her pretty face, her cherry red mouth and dark chocolate eyes were smiling.


She’d caught him checking her out.

As she came forward and stretched out her hand, he realized she was much shorter up close. Hell, he towered over her even with her wearing those high heels.

His hand engulfed hers as they shook.

“I’m pulling a blank.” Puzzled, he tilted his head. “Have we met before?”

“Not formally. Gabriella Francesca Montani,” she said in a voice that sounded like a shot of smooth whiskey. “I’m your new chef.”

“My what?” He glanced around the interior of the barn looking for the camera his brothers must have planted when they’d set up this prank.

She gripped his hand tight before letting go. “Surprised?”

“Being that I’m not currently in the market to hire anyone? Yes.”

“But you will be soon.” Her brown eyes sparkled. “Correct?”

“Eventually. For now the walls are barely up and the restaurant won’t be opening until after the holidays.”

“Good.” she flashed a smile that exuded confidence. “I like being the first in line.”

Suspicion rattled his bones. “How did you know I was building a restaurant here? I haven’t made a formal announcement yet.”

“But you’ve talked about it to your food truck customers.”

“You’re a customer?”


“And I’ve discussed it with you?”

“Not directly.”

“Ah. So you eavesdropped.”


“Does that mean you’re stalking me?” Not that he minded. She was beautiful and sexy as hell.

“I wouldn’t say stalking.” She chuckled and the sound rippled through his blood with images he had no business envisioning. “I just like to know everything I can about an employer before I work for them.”

Though she sounded more hopeful than pushy, there was no way he could lead her on about a job. Even if, on a personal level, he wouldn’t mind getting to know her a little better. It wouldn’t be fair. “Well, I appreciate your interest, but I’m sorry you wasted your time, Ms. . . .”

“Montani. But please, call me Gabriella.”

Everything male inside of him said he’d call her anything she wanted as long as her legs were wrapped around his waist and he was getting to know her in the most personal way possible.

“Ms. Montani.” No sense doing the whole how-ya-doin’ thing since she’d only be here a few minutes. Unless he could talk her into staying for a far more intimate reason. “As you can see I’m hardly in the position to hire anyone right now. I’m sorry you’ve come all this way for no reason but . . . well, there it is. You’ve come all this way for no reason.”

“Believe me, Mr. Kincade, anything I do is well thought out. You’re offering an amazing opportunity here and I want to be your chef. I can promise you that coming here was not a mistake.”

The woman was tenacious, he’d give her that. Unfortunately he had nothing to offer.

“You do realize that I’ll be the executive chef, right? I mean, this is my restaurant. Why would I hand over control to a perfect stranger?”

“So you have a problem handing over control?”

In work? Yes.

In bed? Never.

But he didn’t tell her that.


“No one can do everything all alone.” She smiled again and he realized she used that smile like a weapon to weaken mortal fools. “I’ve eaten your food. I’ve watched you work.”

“So you are stalking me.”

“Observing. And only enough to figure you out.”

“I never knew I was so easy to read.” Which was bullshit. He’d been told more than once that he was an open book. Maybe it was time he became a little more mysterious.

“Only in the way you work,” she said. “Your dedication is admirable, and your attention to detail is flawless.

Good thing she didn’t know how he thought or she might slap him right now. Because nothing, and he meant nothing, turned him on more than an assertive woman who knew what she wanted and went after it.

“Thank you.”

“The way you see food is important to me,” she said with enough emphasis in her tone to assure him she meant business. “I won’t work for someone who just slaps something on a plate and calls it a specialty. I’m looking for someone who sees food in its truest nature. Someone who, instead of trying to change the taste by smothering or crisping it to death, knows how to enhance a flavor to awaken the senses and make it a mouthwatering experience. Like the way a perfectly ripened tomato bursts sun-warmed sweetness in your mouth.”


If the woman waxed poetic like that about food, he couldn’t imagine the way she’d sound in bed.

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