Copyright © 2017 by Joline Hayes
Joline Hayes is represented by AVA München
Originally published in German in 2016
Translation into English and editing: Jaime McGill
Cover design: Catrin Sommer, www.rausch-gold.com
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All rights reserved. Reprints, in whole or in part, require the express written permission of the author. This is a work of fiction; names, characters, places, businesses, and events are either the products of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental and unintended. Brand names and copyrights used in this book are the property of their legally recognized owners.
I hope you come to love Michael, Ben, Camille, and Lilian just as much as I have.
Your heart in mine
Translated from the German by
For my father.
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
What is essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“Wow, you’re really living in luxury,” the buxom blonde giggled as she stepped into his Lower East Side apartment.
“I do what I can,” he replied indifferently, loosening his tie. “Would you like something to drink?”
“Got any gin and tonic?” she purred, as though they were talking about some powerful aphrodisiac. Eyes fixed on him, she sank down onto the barstool with a provocative wiggle.
He clanked some ice cubes into a glass and poured gin over them. He was used to women gazing at him in wonder like that, awed by his good looks. It bored him, even.
He handed her the drink.
“Aren’t you having anything?” She looked astonished.
“No. I prefer to stay sober.” He took off his jacket and tossed it onto the sofa.
She giggled again and took a sip. Her breasts were clearly outlined beneath the thin material of her blouse. He took a step toward her and pulled her close, until their faces were barely a hand-width apart.
“You sure don’t waste any time,” she cooed.
“This is why you’re here, isn’t it?” Before she could reply, he kissed her. She tasted like gin.
“Wow,” she breathed, blinking in amazement, when he let go of her again. “Where’d you learn to kiss like that?”
“Summer camp,” he replied dryly as he led her off to the bedroom.
The floor-to-ceiling windows spanning one wall of the large room offered a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline and Central Park. It was a clear night, and the moon hung in the sky like a lantern.
“Awesome!” she whispered, visibly impressed. “I wish I had a view like that. All you can see from my bedroom is the fire escape next door.”
He nodded. The view really had been one of the reasons he’d chosen this apartment. It had made up for a few sleepless nights.
He’d never been a sound sleeper, but it had gotten worse since that terrible day. He usually didn’t get more than a few hours of restless sleep now, and often woke up bathed in sweat after the ghosts of his past invaded his dreams.
Slowly he unbuttoned her blouse, revealing her plump breasts. As they kissed, the top fluttered to the ground like a wilted petal. Giggling wildly, she started undoing the buttons on his shirt. His hand glided down her back. Seconds later, she was standing before him in only lingerie, her full, red lips shimmering seductively in the light. She let out a moan as his lips traveled down her neck. He unhooked her bra with a soft click. Her nipples stretched toward him invitingly, and he heard her gasp as he drew one into his mouth. Hm… she might end up being more fun he’d expected.
“That was so amazing!” She sank back against the pillow beside him.
“Always nice to hear,” he laughed hoarsely, focusing on slowing down his pulse.
She turned over onto her stomach, with her ankles crossed in the air and her chin resting on her hands. “Do you always leave your undershirt on during sex?” she asked.
“Why?” She regarded him with her large, brown eyes. Her mascara was smeared, and her hair was wild.
“Force of habit,” he grunted. He didn’t feel like talking about it.
“Oh.” She let her gaze travel down his body, brows knitted in incomprehension.
“Something to drink?” He was a little thirsty himself, plus he still had to take his pills.
“Yeah, a glass of water would be great.” She pulled the blanket up to cover her bare breasts.
He felt her eyes on him as he strode off to the kitchen wearing only the undershirt, already mulling over ways to get her out of his apartment politely, without her making a scene.
As he reached for a bottle of water, his gaze fell upon the stack of mail his cleaning lady had carefully set out on the kitchen table for him to go through in the evening. It was just one of the many little things he appreciated about her.
The letter at the top of the pile had an official-looking stamp. When he saw the sender’s name, his heart skipped a beat.
Water ran cold across his hand and onto the table. Cursing, he put the bottle down, but didn’t give the spill another thought. All of his attention was focused on the envelope sitting there on the table in front of him, white and innocent, waiting to be opened. He’d been waiting for this letter for two long years, and now here it was. He drew in a sharp breath as he reached for it.
The answers to his questions were just a few inches away.
“Are you coming?” he heard her call.
His fingers trembled as he picked up the envelope.
“Hey, what are you doing in here? Why aren’t you answering me?” The blonde was suddenly standing in the room, bedsheet tucked around her breasts. Her face was still flushed, and her hair was standing out in every direction.
“It’d be best if you go now,” he said almost tonelessly, without raising his eyes.
“Are you kidding me?”
“No, not at all.” He glanced briefly into her eyes. From the look of disbelief on her face, she seemed to understand that he was trying to get rid of her. “I’d just like you to go,” he repeated in an emphatic voice.
“Is that how you always do it?” Her tone was sharp. Every ounce of its earlier charm had vanished.
“What do you mean?” He folded his hands so she wouldn’t see them shaking.
“Hook up with girls and then kick them to the curb?”
“No,” was his only reply. He didn’t feel like getting into it with her. The only thing he was interested in right now was the letter. He wanted to be alone so that he could read in peace.
He heard her scoff in indignation. “You’re really a scumbag, you know that?” With that, she disappeared into the bedroom again.
It didn’t matter. She didn’t matter. Another meaningless one-night stand.
His hands were still trembling violently, and his pulse was racing like he’d just run the hundred-meter dash.
For a moment, he closed his eyes and concentrated on bringing his heart rate down. Somewhere in the background, he could hear her high heels clacking on the wooden floor. He opened his eyes again. She whooshed past him without deigning to glance in his direction. Her jaw was set, her body rigid. The realization that he’d apparently hurt her feelings gave him a pang of conscience.
“I’m sorry…” He grasped for her name, but he couldn’t remember it for the life of him. “I got an important letter.”
She halted abruptly in her tracks and turned to face him. “Is that the best you can come up with?” She flipped him off before spinning on her heel and stalking out.
When he heard the front door slam, taking the blonde out of his life forever, he breathed a sigh of relief.
The letter was heavy in his hand. Agitated, he fished a knife out of the drawer to open it with.
Instinctively, he held his breath as he withdrew the folded sheet of paper from the envelope. He was almost disappointed to discover that it was printed—somehow, he’d thought that a message this important would have been handwritten.
His eyes flew over the lines.
Once. Twice. A third time.
He repeated the name on the paper like a mantra. Again and again, as though he was afraid he’d forget it.
For a moment, the world ceased to exist.
Two years earlier
“I can’t believe it!” Camille Moore crowed, her blue eyes twinkling in delight. They were standing in Tercentenary Theatre, the grassy expanse in the center of Harvard Yard, surrounded by stately old university buildings. Her black robes gleamed in the sun, and her honey-blond hair spilled out from beneath her cap. Today was the big day, the one Camille had been working toward for years. Her longstanding dream of becoming a doctor was finally about to come true.
“Dr. Camille Moore,” Lilian laughed, throwing her arms around her twin’s neck. “You did it, little sister!”
The two of them were like peas in a pod. From their expressive eyes, to their high cheekbones, to their straight noses and the sensuous curve of their lips, the girls were absolutely identical. The only visible differences between them were the small mole on Lilian’s cheek—which many people used as a kind of landmark when telling them apart—and the freckles only visible on Lilian’s nose and cheeks, because Camille took great pains to cover hers up with makeup every morning. Camille hated them—“fly specks,” she called them—but they didn’t bother Lilian. She displayed them proudly, like her own personal trademark.
Unlike Camille, Lilian was wearing a light summer dress that flattered her slim figure and made her legs look even longer than they already were.
“Hey, so you’re twelve minutes older, don’t let it go to your head.” Camille gave her sister a gentle poke in the side, and Lilian laughed loudly. They’d been joshing each other about the ‘age difference’ between them all their lives.
“Do you see Brandon anywhere?” Camille stretched up on tiptoe, her eyes scanning the crowd.
Brandon Rogers was the love of Camille’s life—and a rising NFL star, having signed with the Patriots after an illustrious career as an offensive lineman at Boston College. He and Camille had met at a party years ago, when they were both students, and had fallen hopelessly in love. They’d been practically inseparable ever since, which had altered the relationship between her and Lilian somewhat. Brandon had always been careful not to get between the sisters, or to give Camille reason to be jealous. He accepted how close the twins were, saw it as part of the deal when it came to Camille, and Lilian respected him for that. Even so, it had taken Lilian a while to get used to the fact that she didn’t come first in Camille’s life anymore.
“Nope.” Lilian craned her neck to get a better view. “I thought I saw him talking to a professor earlier. Probably another Patriots fan.” She glanced through the rows upon rows of chairs set up around them, and then back to the stage where, just a few minutes before, the Deans had conferred the candidates’ degrees upon them in front of their friends and relatives. Now that the official ceremony was over, most of the guests had gotten up to congratulate the new graduates. A cacophony of voices filled the air, blending with the sounds of the band playing a quiet march in the background.
“Hey, Mom and Dad are up there!” Lilian pointed to their elegantly dressed parents, who were standing not ten paces away, chatting with another couple.
“Come on, let’s go talk to them,” Camille said.
Lilian nodded, linking arms with her sister, and together they wove their way through the crowd. The eyes of the people nearby followed them, as always happened whenever they were out together. A few people leaned in and whispered to one another as they passed. Even in this day and age, identical twins were an unusual sight, let alone such pretty ones.
“There they are.” James Moore stretched out his arms. “You girls come over here and give your dad a hug.”
“Dad! We’re twenty-nine!” Lilian giggled. “What’s next, are we playing peek-a-boo?”
“Well, you’ll always be my little girls.” He gave them a loving look.
“I’m so proud of you, Camille.” Elinore Moore was beaming. She was a tall woman with bright blue eyes, and still turned heads even at her age. “The Moore family’s first doctor.” She stroked Camille’s cheek. “Now we’ve got a star chef and a physician!”
Elinore and James Moore had sacrificed a lot to finance their children’s educations. As a teacher, James had only made enough to get by, and even with Elinore going back to her old librarian job after the children were born, they hadn’t made any great financial strides. Lilian had started supporting herself quickly, but paying for Camille’s studies had been a challenge.
“Oh, Mom, you know it’s all thanks to you and Dad. We could never have done it without you.” Lilian took her mother’s hand. “You never stopped believing in us!”
Though her parents had silently accepted her decision to become a chef, Lilian knew her father had been hoping she’d follow in his footsteps and become a teacher, since he knew how much she loved kids. So far, though, she’d never regretted her choice.
And James and Elinore had been equally tolerant when it came to Camille’s insatiable need for freedom. Camille had always been the more courageous twin. Unlike the cautious, introverted Lilian, Camille loved testing her own limits and pushing herself—which had caused her parents more than a few sleepless nights.
“That’s true,” Camille said, reaching for her father’s hand. “You guys are the best parents in the world. I love you both so much.”
“Me too!” Lilian laughed delightedly. She absolutely treasured her family, and she especially loved having the four of them together like this. Unfortunately, days like these had grown few and far between lately—Camille had been buried under a pile of books for weeks, and the restaurant kept Lilian running off her feet—so she was looking forward to her vacation on Martha’s Vineyard with Camille and Brandon all the more. Just thinking about it brought a smile to Lilian’s lips.
Ever since she could remember, the island had been like a second home to her, a secret refuge. Her mother had inherited the beach house from her own parents, back when Martha’s Vineyard had still been a place of quiet magic, a serene coastal island where well-to-do Bostoners came to relax and rejuvenate. Now “the Vineyard,” as the locals called it, was more of a swanky vacation spot for the rich and famous—even Presidential families went there in summer to get away from global politics for a few days. The property’s value had skyrocketed over the years, and the Moores had been offered ever-increasing sums of money for the place, but ultimately their love for the old house had won out and they’d voted unanimously to keep it. In Lilian’s eyes, selling the house her grandparents had poured so much love into all their lives, the house they’d built with their own hands when they were first married, would have been betraying their memory. Then, last Christmas, James and Elinore Moore had surprised their daughters by signing the place over to them, making Lilian and Camille officially joint owners of Sea Holly Cottage.
But the vacation they were taking on the Vineyard this summer would likely be the last one the twins spent together for quite some time. Camille was starting her residency at Massachusetts General Hospital that fall, and Lilian had accepted a job in Paris to round out her culinary training with some international experience.
“There’s Brandon.” Camille pointed to a shock of dark-blond hair making its way toward them. Brandon came over to her, grinning broadly. His athletic physique and striking features added up to one fantastic-looking package. His suit jacket sat perfectly on his broad-shouldered frame, and the trousers emphasized his long, powerful legs. Brandon’s presence at the commencement ceremony had caused quite a stir, but Brandon had handled the attention with his usual stoic calm. Now, seeing him approach, Camille was smiling from ear to ear.
“Hi, Lilian,” he said with a casual wave.
“Hey, Brandon. You’re really fighting them off with sticks today,” Lilian replied.
“What can I say? I’m a star.” He winked.
“What, don’t I get a hello?” Camille made a kiss face at Brandon.
“Wild horses couldn’t keep me away,” he grinned, kissing her tenderly.
“Hey, hey, there are other people here,” Lilian protested, laughing.
“And? How’s my beautiful doctor?” Brandon’s eyes glided lovingly over Camille’s face.
“Much better now that you’re here,” she said with a soft laugh and wrapped her arms around his neck possessively.
“What about me?” Lilian puckered her lips as well. “Why didn’t I get a hello kiss?” She winked merrily.
Brandon blinked at Camille, baffled.
“Well, kiss her already,” Camille ordered him. “We’re twins, you won’t even notice the difference.”
Brandon knitted his brow, looking uncomfortable. “But—”
“Joke,” Lilian assured him. “Don’t listen to me, I’m just messing with you. I’d be perfectly fine with a friendly hug.” She liked Brandon, but he definitely wasn’t her type. She and Camille had never gotten in each other’s way in that regard. Camille liked them athletic and ultra-motivated, just as she was, while Lilian preferred mysterious, quiet guys—she enjoyed the challenge of finding out what was behind the mask. Guys like Ben, one of her fellow chefs at Petit Gourmand, the restaurant she worked at. So far, unfortunately, she hadn’t gotten anywhere with him.
“Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Moore,” Brandon said politely.
“Brandon,” nodded James Moore, who was perfectly delighted with his daughter’s choice. Lilian had heard him say more than once that he couldn’t imagine a nicer son-in-law. “Nice to see you. I hear you’re doing all right out there.”
“I can’t complain, sir. We’re working hard, hoping to win it all this season.”
“Good, good. Anyway, I know at least three women who have their fingers crossed for you,” James chuckled, clapping Brandon on the shoulder. At six-one, James wasn’t exactly small, but standing beside his future son-in-law made him appear almost delicate.
“That’s more than I could have ever dreamed.” Brandon winked at Elinore Moore.
“Such a charmer,” Elinor laughed, nudging him in the side with her elbow. “I’m happy you’re here, too.”
“Wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” He drew Camille in close and gave her a kiss.
“So, what’s the story, you kids all packed yet?” James Moore glanced around at the three of them. “Four weeks is a long time.”
“Dad! Of course we are. Brandon’s already got our bags loaded into the car,” Lilian told him. “We’re going to head out tomorrow morning, after a nice, long breakfast.”
“Yeah, I can’t wait to show Brandon the cottage,” Camille beamed.
“Are you this excited, too?” Elinore Moore asked Brandon.
He grinned. “Sure, I’m looking forward to it. Sea Holly Cottage is all Camille’s talked about for days.”
“My parents’ old house really is a magical place, you’ll see. I have to say, I envy you all a little.”
“Well, why don’t you guys come with us, then?” Lilian gave her mother a hopeful look.
“Yeah, it’s not like there isn’t space,” Camille said. “Brandon and I will share a room, and Lilian has her own room… what' the problem?”
Their father sighed. “As much as I’d love to, you know they need me there at work.” His school was being completely modernized that summer—new computers, new furniture, the works. The dramatic changes had the whole faculty anxious, and it was up to James as the principal to keep an eye on the process.
“Anyway, I wouldn’t be able to get that much time off, not on such short notice,” his wife added.
“That’s a shame,” Lilian sighed. “I’ll really miss you guys. Vacations just aren’t the same without you.”
“Oh, honey.” Her mother patted her cheek. “I’m sure you’ll have a great time without us. What do you kids need a couple of old relics like us around for? We’d just drive you crazy with all our nagging.”
“Never!” Camille hugged her mother tightly.
“Camille’s absolutely right. You’d never drive us crazy.” Lilian gave Elinore a warm smile.
“Hey, are you guys hungry too? My stomach’s really growling.” James patted the slight pudge beneath his button-down shirt with a wink.
That was the signal they’d agreed upon. Lilian’s stomach fluttered in anticipation. The dinner was going to be her gift to Camille, and she’d been planning it for weeks. Gus Howard, her boss, had immediately loved the idea of celebrating Camille’s graduation at his restaurant. He’d refused all reservations for that evening, and had promised Lilian free run of the kitchen.
Petit Gourmand was in the Bacon Hill neighborhood, one of the nicest parts of Boston, and had an excellent reputation. Ben Pickett was in charge of the kitchen... and Lilian had secretly had her eye on the gruff chef from Day One. He was a culinary virtuoso, delighting Petit Gourmand diners with one imaginative dish after the next. Lilian couldn’t imagine a better mentor. Night after night, he’d stood there in the kitchen with her, praising her talent one minute, bemoaning her incompetence the next. He’d pushed her to her physical and mental limits, but she’d stuck it out, and it had made her the excellent chef she was today.
Alas, her fantasies of spending the night with him in a different sense had gone unfulfilled. This was going to be her last evening at the Petit Gourmand: as soon as they got back from the island, she’d be flying off to France for an apprenticeship. So, in a way, this dinner was also Lilian’s parting gift to Gus. Ben had agreed to help her in the kitchen as well.
“Great idea,” Brandon agreed. Lilian had let him in on the secret and asked him to invite Camille’s friends. “Seriously, I’m so hungry, I feel like my stomach is about to start digesting itself.”
“Of course you’d say that,” Camille grinned. “Brandon eats more in a day than I do in a week... but you guys still haven’t told me where we’re going.” She glanced around expectantly.
“Wait and see,” Lilian told her with a mysterious smile.
“Don’t torture me,” Camille moaned. “This is my big day, I have a right to know where we’re eating!”
“A right to know? Maybe you should have studied law instead of medicine…” Lilian grinned broadly at her sister.
“Such a bitch,” Camille grumbled.
Lilian blew her a kiss. “I love you, too.”
Their father looked at Lilian. “Are you riding with us?”
“No, I’ll ride with Camille and Brandon. We’ll meet you there.”
“Okay, honey.” Elinore kissed each of her daughters on the cheek. “See you soon.” Arm in arm, their parents strolled off.
“Isn’t that great how they treat each other with such love even after all these years?” Camille threaded her own arm through Brandon’s.
“That’s how it should be.” He gave her a kiss. “And that’s how we’ll be.”
“Oh, Brandon.” Camille gazed deeply into his eyes.
Lilian grinned quietly to herself. She’d had front-row seats to all the ups and downs of Camille’s love life, of course. Brandon really was the first man who’d managed to tame her wild, fiercely confident sister.
Brandon’s beloved Dodge Ram was parked in a nearby lot. Camille sat up front beside him, and Lilian got comfortable in the back. As they slowly rolled past the stately university buildings, Camille gazed out the window with a melancholy look on her face. “Crazy to think just how much of my life I’ve spent on this campus… I mean, I can’t wait to start my residency, but I’ll still miss this dusty old place.” Then she straightened up a little. “Anyway, high time I started putting my knowledge to good use and helping people. I mean, that’s the whole reason I came here in the first place, right?”
“I totally know how you feel.” Lilian played nervously with a lock of hair.
Camille turned to look at her. “Are you excited about Paris?”
“I dunno...” Lilian shrugged one shoulder. “Kinda, yeah.”
“Kinda? Oh, come on. It’s Paris! The Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur, Montmartre, pigeons, Crepes Suzette…” Camille’s face took on a rapturous look. “Brandon, promise me we’ll go visit Lilian there.”
“Of course,” Brandon nodded. Lilian glanced up into the rear-view mirror and saw a smile playing on his lips.
“You should be excited, Lilian,” Camille said.
“I am, I am. I’m just not good at showing it like you are.”
“Paris is the birthplace of fine cuisine! You’re just going to be cooking and eating all day, every day.” Camille sighed dreamily.
“You trying to take my place or something?” Lilian smirked.
“No, no, I have my hospital. And my Brandon.” She leaned over and kissed his shoulder.
Lilian turned and gazed thoughtfully out the window. The end of this vacation would mark the beginning of a new chapter in her life. For the first time ever, she’d be thousands of miles away from her family, in a foreign country where she didn’t know anyone and only spoke a little of the language. Gus had written her a recommendation letter to a certain Jeremy Sounders, an old friend of his who owned a trendy restaurant in Paris. Gus had returned to Boston after they’d finished culinary school, but Jeremy had stayed in Paris to try his luck. It had paid off: Le Faisan, his restaurant, was now one of the best in the city, and had even received a second Michelin star last year.
When Gus had asked her if she’d be interested in checking out his friend’s place and possibly working there, Lilian had been speechless with excitement. Leaving Petit Gourmand would be hard in a way, though. Without Ben at her side, she knew she’d feel totally at sea.
“Just don’t expect it’ll all be roses and sunshine there,” Gus had told her. “Jeremy’s a fantastic chef, but he can also be kind of an asshole.”
“Sounds a little like you,” she’d replied, at which they’d both burst out laughing. Her invitation had come less than a week later, and she’d eagerly accepted. She couldn’t wait to find out what Jeremy had to teach her—earning and keeping Michelin stars nowadays meant showing innovation, surprising customers again and again with new and delicious creations.
Whenever she talked about medicine, Camille always got a romantic look on her face. Lilian knew she looked the same way when she rhapsodized about cooking.
“How the hell do you keep from getting fat?”
Camille was extraordinarily disciplined when it came to food. Everything that crossed her lips was healthy, nutritionally balanced, and low in calories. She also went jogging every morning before breakfast, and went to the gym at least three times a week. Her great passion was kiteboarding—she and Brandon spent every available minute out on the water. Lilian joined them when she had time, but she preferred to lounge on the beach with a good book. She liked sports, just not the way Camille did.
“Good genes, you know? Oh, wait, I forgot: we have exactly the same genes.” Lilian winked at Camille.
“Har, har.” Camille stuck her tongue out at Lilian in the rear-view mirror. “Mine must be in a different order or something, then. I mean, I gain weight if I’m not careful.”
“Yeah, right,” Brandon chuckled as he turned onto the street leading to Petit Gourmand. “You haven’t changed a bit the entire time I’ve known you.”
“You’re biased,” Camille retorted, smiling. Then her gaze shifted to the street. “Hey, that’s Petit Gourmand!” she exclaimed, peering out at the little restaurant nestled between two houses.
Lilian nodded. “Sure is.”
“Yeah, but...” Camille blinked at her in confusion.
“I’m cooking for you tonight. My gift to you, to celebrate your big day.”
“You’re kidding!” Camille sat bolt upright.
“Nope!” Lilian trilled. “It’s not every day your twin sister earns her doctorate. I figured I needed to come up with something special.”
The car pulled up at the front door to the restaurant.
“Oh, Lilian!” Camille clambered halfway over her seat to give her sister a kiss on the cheek. Her eyes were shimmering. “You’re nuts!”
“Me? You’re totally the crazy twin.” Lilian smiled affectionately. “But how could I let anyone else cook your celebratory dinner on a day like this?”
“Well, if you’re the one cooking it, it’ll be amazing.” Camille opened the car door.
“Hey, how do you know?” Lilian protested jokingly, climbing out as well. “It might be disgusting.”
“Right, like your food ever turns out disgusting! I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything you cooked that wasn’t spectacularly awesome.”
“Uh oh, I’m not sure I can live up to these expectations,” Lilian grinned. “Oh, good, Mom and Dad are here already, too,” she added as their parents’ silver Chevrolet turned into a parking spot nearby.
As the name suggested, Petit Gourmand was a small, elegant place with a French flair. It was plain and unassuming from the outside, so much so that the sign over the door was the only indication that it was even a restaurant.
“Wait here a second,” Lilian told them as they stepped inside. “You can check your coats if you want.” She hurried into the main service area to let everyone know that their guest of honor had arrived.
When she came in, everything was set up and ready for the big moment. Nearly all of Camille’s friends had accepted Brandon and Lilian’s secret invitations to join them in celebrating Camille’s big day, and most of them had already taken their seats. Gus had pushed the tables together into one long table with space for at least twenty. The place settings were appropriately lavish: elegantly contoured fine china, crystal glassware and candleholders, along with table linens in soft pastel hues. A hundred thousand tiny shards of light shimmered down from the crystal chandeliers overhead, reflecting off the framed photos of Paris adorning the dark stone walls and the chrome espresso machine atop the cherrywood bar. French chansons were playing quietly in the background, and the faint scent of vanilla lingered in the air.
“She’s here,” Lilian whispered, grinning broadly at the dinner guests, most of whom nodded excitedly in reply. Her stomach was doing somersaults, and her palms were clammy. Gus glanced over and signaled to the wait staff, who approached with trays laden with filled champagne flutes.
Lilian hurried back to the entrance, where her parents, her sister, and Brandon were waiting a little impatiently. “If you would all please follow me…” she called to them. Camille’s face lit up in excitement. Lilian knew her sister loved surprises, so this was right up her alley.
“Congratulations!” a dozen voices sang out as Camille entered the room.
“Oh, my God!” Camille clapped in delight. “You guys are amazing!” She looked over at Lilian, who was standing beside her. “This was all your idea?”
“No, Gus and his wife did the decorations, and Brandon handled the invites. Like Mom said, you’re the first doctor in the family, this calls for a proper celebration.” She took Camille’s hand. “Congratulations, sis.”
“Thanks,” Camille whispered, blinking back tears of emotion.
Just then, Gus came over with arms outstretched. “My favorite doctor and my favorite chef!” he announced, kissing first Camille and then Lilian on both cheeks. “Sheesh, if you two weren’t wearing different clothes, I’d never be able to tell you apart. Congratulations, Camille.” Then he reached back and snapped his fingers, and a waiter hurried over with one of the champagne trays.
“Thank you, Gus.” Camille beamed. “This is so touching, I can’t believe all the trouble you guys went to!”
“All Lilian’s idea,” Gus grinned. “She kept pestering me about it until I agreed… ah, Mr. and Mrs. Moore, so nice to see you both again.”
“The pleasure is all ours,” Elinore Moore replied with a warm smile. “I’m looking forward to seeing what my daughter has learned over the past two years under your watchful eye.”
“That makes two of us,” Gus said, winking at Lilian, who swallowed nervously.
Camille raised her glass. “Here’s to a wonderful evening. Glad you’re all here!”
“À votre santé! To your health!” Gus raised his own glass.
“À votre santé,” Lilian echoed and took a large swig.
Gus glanced down at Lilian’s dress. “Why haven’t you changed yet? You’ve got a ton of work waiting for you in there.” He made a shooing motion with his free hand. “Go on, allez! The kitchen is yours, this is your evening. Make me proud.”
“You see what I mean now?” Lilian moaned in mock horror, looking at her family. “He’s a slave driver, even tonight. So if you’ll excuse me...” She flushed with nervous excitement.
As several of Camille’s friends sidled over to extend their congratulations, Camille turned to look at Lilian, mouthing a silent Love you. Lilian nodded and mouthed Love you, too! before hastening away.
She went to the changing room, where her coworkers’ things were already hung neatly on wall hooks. After shrugging her white chef’s jacket on over her summer dress, she snuck a glance in the mirror. She felt a little ridiculous—normally, she wore plain T-shirts and slacks to work—but today was no ordinary day. “Well, whatever,” she murmured, buttoning the jacket. Her reflection smiled back at her anxiously, and her heart was hammering in her throat. Taking a deep breath, she withdrew a ponytail holder from her pocket and pulled her hair into a messy bun.
She heard Ben giving quiet instructions in the kitchen. She needed to hurry, or her guests would be eating dinner at midnight. She and Gus had agreed that she’d start with the champagne reception, along with nibbles she’d prepared in advance. There would be a few speeches after that, and then they’d start with the appetizers.
This was Lilian’s first time organizing an entire menu. Professional kitchens normally followed a strict hierarchy, and theirs was no exception. The head chef, or chef de cuisine, called the shots, with the sous chef second in command and the commis de cuisine—apprentice chefs—at the bottom of the pecking order. Lilian had worked her way up to sous chef at Petit Gourmand, but tonight they’d all be following her instructions… so it was a big day for her, too.
She shut her eyes for a moment and took another deep breath. Then she squared her shoulders, opened her eyes, and flung open the door to the kitchen.
When she walked in, Ben was standing at the stove, swirling butter around in a pan. A gigantic pile of raw shrimp sat on a nearby counter, waiting to be sautéed. Startled by the sound of the door opening, Ben raised his eyes. When he saw her, a grin flitted across his face. “Madame Chef has arrived,” he announced energetically.
Ben was tall and well-built—Lilian knew he worked out regularly. Dark tattoos encircled his forearms and biceps, disappearing beneath the sleeves of his white T-shirt. A black apron was tied loosely around his slim hips, and his long, dark hair was up in a bun. The shadow of his three-day beard somehow only emphasized the strong lines of his chin and jaw. His brown eyes glittered like hot coals beneath his long, dark lashes.
Lilian found herself wondering yet again what it would feel like to kiss him. Some nights when she came home from work, limp with exhaustion, she’d end up lying in bed awake, imagining his hands on her body. When she finally fell asleep, he’d show up in her dreams, and they’d make passionate love.
Ben was exactly the kind of man Lilian wanted to sleep with, but it had never come to that. He’d always been friendly toward her, but reserved. From the first moment she arrived at the restaurant, he’d taken her under his wing, checking up on her and explaining everything with infinite patience. Whenever the chaos of the dinnertime rush began to wear her down, he’d always been the one to lighten the mood with a joke. And he was the only person there who called her by her full name, Lilian Grace.
The kitchen went completely silent when Ben announced her arrival. Lilian felt the other chefs’ expectant gazes upon her. Gus had kept his word—he’d called the entire crew in to help tonight. She took another calming breath as she glanced around the room.
“As you all know, tonight is very special to me for two reasons,” she began. “For one, it’s the last night for a long time that I’ll be here in Gus’s kitchen with you guys as we work our culinary magic. Petit Gourmand has been like a second home to me for the past two years. I’ve learned so much here, and I have one man in particular to thank for that.” Her eyes sought Ben’s. He smirked. “Ben, you’ve shown me what it means to be a good chef. You’ve shared your knowledge and your skill with me, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.” She felt a warm blush spread over her cheeks. “I’d also like to thank the rest of you! It’s been wonderful here, and I’ll really miss you all.” Applause rang out. Lilian glanced around, smiling. Her heart was still hammering. “And, of course, the second reason I’m here right now is for my sister’s party. She graduated today, and this meal is my gift to her. I want this dinner to be truly special for her, an evening to remember, and I can’t do it without you guys.”
“We got your back, Lilian,” one of the apprentices called out, and the others nodded.
Lilian felt tears of emotion springing to her eyes. “Okay, enough sentimental crap, they’re waiting out there, let’s get to it!” She clapped her hands, and everyone sprang into action.
“Nice speech,” Ben murmured, clapping her on the shoulder.
“I meant every word,” she replied, giving him a serious look. His eyes met hers, and her stomach fluttered.
“Where should we start?” interrupted one of the apprentices.
Swallowing hard, Lilian ran through the menu quickly in her mind. “Portion out the salad and put the plates on the appetizer tray.”
“You got it, boss,” the young apprentice grinned and hurried over to his station.
Ben regarded her thoughtfully, caressing her with his eyes.
“And what are you going to do?” she asked with a sassy grin.
“I’ll be at your side making sure you don’t screw up, just like always.” He winked. His eyes shimmered like liquid honey. “But maybe more discreetly than usual... and only if you want me to.”
“Please do,” she breathed.
Gus poked his head in through the door. “You guys ready? Your guests are waiting.”
“Just about,” she nodded, and Gus slipped out again.
She’d spent more than a few sleepless nights trying to decide what to put on tonight’s menu, and had finally decided to do Camille’s favorite foods with a few creative twists. They’d start with shrimp on a bed of wild herbs with pomegranate seeds and a mango-balsamic dressing, followed by juicy filet mignon with strawberry barbecue sauce, caramelized onions and sweet potato chips. She’d already prepared the dessert course: pistachio cheesecake parfaits with raspberry-lime sauce, dates and cashews.
“Appetizers ready?” Lilian called out over the noise.
“Yes, ma’am.” Ben pointed to the plates.
“Where are the shrimp?”
Ben snapped his fingers, and an apprentice rushed over carrying a sizzling pan of shrimp swimming in hot, golden-brown butter. Lilian fished the shrimp out a few at a time with tongs, drained them for a moment on paper towels and then arranged them atop the wild-herb salad. Then she drizzled on dressing with skillful flicks of her wrist.
She admired her work for a moment, pleased.
“Very nice,” Ben whispered into her ear. “But you should probably hurry so it doesn’t get cold.”
She jumped a little, then set about finishing up the last few plates with Ben’s assistance. Finally, she signaled to the wait staff, who were already waiting impatiently beside the heat lamps.
Two hours later, the last dessert was on its way to the table, the waiters were out in the dining area, and the two apprentice chefs were standing at the back door smoking cigarettes.
We did it! Lilian wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, relieved. Her face was still glowing with excitement, and she felt her blood pulsing through her veins. She felt truly alive, truly content. She’d enjoyed every minute of the experience—the heat, the stress, the hectic rush, the noise. To her it was an electrifying combination that spurred her on to do her best.
As she stood there, lost in thought, her gaze fell upon a couple of stray order tickets hanging up above the heat lamps.
Today was her last night as the sous chef at Petit Gourmand, she realized again. It hadn’t always been easy here, but she’d loved the work. The other cooks, the servers, Gus, and Ben had become like family to her.
She felt a hand upon her shoulder. “Well? You satisfied?” Ben’s voice hit her like a jolt of electricity.
“It was... unbelievable,” she said, beaming as she turned to face him. “The most amazing experience of my life. I’ve never felt so completely fulfilled before. I knew before, but tonight just made me even more sure of it: I want to be a chef.”
“So you feel the way I do.” Without warning, he wrapped his arms around her waist and drew her close. Now his face was just inches from hers, and she could feel his warm breath on her cheek.
She blinked at him in astonishment. This was the last thing she’d expected him to do. Ben, who’d always taken such great pains not to get too close to her, was holding her in his arms! She was practically light-headed. Their eyes locked, and she held her breath in anticipation.
“Lilian Grace Moore, ever since you first walked into this kitchen, I’ve wanted to do this…” He bent down and pressed his lips to hers. A ray of heat shot through her lower body, and she nearly jumped in surprise. She closed her eyes, enjoying his delicious warmth, as he put his hand on the back of her head and parted her lips with his tongue—which she was only too happy to allow. The kiss was passionate yet tender, the fulfillment of all her dreams over the last two years. She was filled with an almost unbearable desire for more.
The wait staff were forgotten, the apprentices were forgotten. Nothing mattered now but her and Ben. His masculine scent enveloped her. She wished he would never stop kissing her. Lips still locked with his, she wrapped one leg around his hip and pressed herself against him. Her back prickled deliciously as his hand ran down it. Every pore, every fiber, every cell in her body wanted Ben, wanted to melt into him.
When they broke off the kiss after what seemed like hours, she felt something like disappointment wash over her. She wanted more. More of Ben, more of his kiss, his touch. She wanted everything about him. “Wow,” she panted. “Why didn’t you do that ages ago?”
He shrugged. “I was your boss. In my experience, that’s a recipe for disaster.”
“You make it sound like you’ve kissed a lot of cooks in your day.”
“Let’s just say I have relevant experience. But that doesn’t matter, does it?” He raised one eyebrow.
She smiled, tilting her head a little. “Nah, not really.” Their eyes met, and then they were kissing again, urgently, greedily. His hands slid feverishly over her body. After all those months of holding back, she felt like she’d fallen into one of her dreams. It was so wonderful, it almost didn’t seem real.
“Hey, what’s going on here?”
Startled, they spun around. Neither of them had heard Gus open the door; it was like he’d just magically appeared. Now he was standing there staring at them, hands on his hips. “Why haven’t I heard anything about this?”
“I just found out myself two minutes ago,” Lilian said with an embarrassed smile. Her cheeks were burning.
“Ben and Lilian... tsk, tsk.” The corners of Gus’s mouth were twitching. “I’m glad you kept your hands to yourselves until now, anyway. Two chefs in love, that’s like having a crate of dynamite in your kitchen. I don’t know how happy I should be about this.”
She felt like a high schooler who’d been caught smoking in the girls’ room. The thought sent her into a fit of hysterical giggling.
Ben simply shrugged and wrapped his arms a little tighter around her.
“They’re asking for you.” Gus motioned at Lilian with his head. “You should get out there and talk to your adoring public.”
She nodded, running a hand through her hair shyly. “How do I look?”
“Never better,” Ben grinned, letting his eyes travel down her body.
“Awakened with a kiss,” Gus added with a wink.
Lilian smoothed down her jacket. Just then, the two apprentices came back inside. They stopped short, glancing uncertainly from Gus to Lilian to Ben.
“Um. Did we miss something?” one of the two finally asked.
“I don’t think so,” Ben replied and grinned wolfishly at Lilian, who gave him a gentle poke in the side.
“See you later?” she whispered.
“If you like. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Good.” She brushed a kiss against his lips and then hurried out. Before stepping into the restaurant, she took a few deep breaths to calm herself down. Her whole body was tingling, and she was dizzy with joy.
“There’s our star chef!” Camille crowed when she walked in. Her sister’s cheeks were flushed with alcohol, and her eyes were gleaming. “That was the best food and the best evening of my whole life,” she said, throwing her arms around Lilian’s neck and giving her a loud, smacking kiss. “Thank you for everything, sis.”
“But of course. Why else would you have a chef in the family?”
“True... Hey, you know this means you have to cook for me forever.” Camille laughed mischievously.
“Uh-uh, don’t you dare!” Lilian raised one finger. “No way am I cooking every meal for you guys while we’re on vacation.”
“Pleeeeeease?” Camille batted her eyelashes.
“Forget it. I’m immune to your puppy-dog eyes. I see them in the mirror every day.”
“Damn.” Camille gave her a crooked grin. Lilian saw Brandon give her sister a signal. “I think it’s time I gave a little speech,” she whispered in Lilian’s ear.
Lilian picked up a nearby glass and gently tapped a spoon against the side.
“Everyone listen up!” Camille called out. The conversation around them died away immediately, and every pair of eyes in the room turned toward the twins. “My wonderful family and friends! I just want to take this opportunity and thank you all for this amazing party. This is a very special day for me, and I’m so glad all of you came out here to celebrate it with me.
“When I first decided to become a doctor, I had no idea of what a long journey lay ahead of me. And it’s a good thing, too, because if I had known, I might have chosen an easier path. Today, I know I made the right decision. This may sound weird to a lot of you, but when I see someone with a very serious illness, I get excited. Excited at the prospect of helping them, hopefully even healing them. I love medicine, and I can hardly wait to start working in a hospital at last.
“Someone once told me that you can only really experience joy when you share it with others.” A few of the other guests nodded in agreement. “It’s hard to put the happiness I feel tonight into words. Becoming a doctor has been my dream for as long as I can remember.”
“That’s true,” Lilian interrupted, to everyone’s general amusement. “Because for as long as I can remember, you’ve been using poor little me as your guinea pig.” A few people laughed. Lilian grinned at her sister merrily. “And you were pretty creative about it, too. You remember bandaging me with toilet paper because Mom and Dad didn’t have any dressings? Or when you cut off all my hair because you claimed I had lice...” The laughter in the room grew louder. “...Or when you really did save my life when we were seven, and I choked on a piece of chicken, and you used the Heimlich maneuver on me?” Lilian wrapped an arm around Camille’s waist. “You put all of that passion into your studies, and look how it’s paid off.”
“But dreams only come true when you have other people who believe in you,” Camille went on. “People like you, Mom and Dad.” She waved to their parents, who were sitting at a table not ten feet away. A few of Camille’s friends applauded. “And I didn’t just have the support of my family. I had you guys, too. My friends.” Camille glanced around. “I mean, how often did you guys have to listen to me whining when things got tough?”
“Not to mention all your long, elaborate descriptions of terrible diseases,” one of her friends called out, laughing.
“That, too!” Camille nodded. “Anyway, you guys have always been there for me, and I’m so grateful for it.” Camille reached for her glass. “Thank you, all of you, and a big thank-you especially to my wonderful, wonderful sister.” Camille took a breath. “Lilian, this evening you created for us all tonight was absolutely magical, and you’re the best cook in the universe. Err, present company excluded,” she added, glancing over at Gus and Ben, who had emerged from the kitchen. “And most of all, you’re the best sister ever. I love you!”
“Oh, stop, you’re going to make me cry!” Lilian fanned herself with her hand.
Camille raised her glass, and everyone present did the same. “Here’s to life in all its beauty. And here’s to wishing this evening would never end!”
“Thanks so much for coming!” Camille hugged the last few party guests as they left. It was already well past midnight, and now everyone was gone except for their parents. Gus and his wife had said their goodbyes more than half an hour ago, leaving Ben the keys to the restaurant. That was nothing unusual—Ben often stayed after hours so he could try out new ideas undisturbed. Judging by the sounds coming from the kitchen, he was cleaning up at the moment.
Lilian handed her father his jacket.
“This was absolutely wonderful, honey,” he said, laying an affectionate hand on her shoulder. “You’re going to be a superstar chef someday, I’m sure of it.” Then he turned to Camille, who was standing beside Lilian. “And you’re going to be an amazing doctor, and help a lot of people in need. I don’t think any father in the world could be prouder of his kids than I am of my two girls.” His eyes shimmered with tears of emotion.
“It feels like yesterday that your dad was holding you two in the hospital right after you were born. You were so tiny!” Elinore Moore brushed her daughters’ cheeks. “And now look at you. Two beautiful, successful women carving out your own paths in life.”
“We’ll always be your kids, though,” Lilian replied.
“Of course we will.” Camille grinned. “Remember when Lilian and I decided we were going to be storm chasers when we grew up?” The others laughed. “We wanted to buy a truck and drive around the country finding tornadoes.”
Elinore nodded, eyes twinkling. “Right! I can still picture you two standing there with your hands in your pockets, telling me all about your big plan.” She sighed. “I could have just eaten you up, you were so cute!”
“They still are.” Brandon put his arm around Camille.
“Thank God you gave up on that idea and found more sensible careers,” Elinore smiled. “And promise me you’ll be careful and won’t do anything foolish.”
“Mom!” the twins cried in unison. “We’re not kids anymore!”
“Too bad,” Elinore sighed. “Sometimes I wish I could turn back time.”
“Come here, give me another hug.” James stretched out his arms. Camille and Lilian snuggled against his father’s chest the way they always had as young girls. “I love you both.”
“We love you, too, Dad.” They each gave their father a kiss.
“Brandon,” he said, looking over at the other man. “You’re in charge. I expect you to keep my girls healthy and happy, and bring them back in one piece.”
“Yes, sir.” Brandon gave a playful salute. “I’ll make sure their every need is satisfied.”
“Um, Brandon, I don’t think they wanted to know quite that much,” Camille smirked. Lilian began giggling hysterically.
“I didn’t mean it like that!” Brandon protested, a blush rising to his cheeks.
“I know what you were trying to say, Brandon. And we appreciate the sentiment.” James Moore held out a hand, and Brandon shook it.
Lilian watched her parents walk away in thoughtful silence, until Camille’s voice brought her back to the present. “So, what now?” her twin asked, leaning her head against Brandon’s chest. “Nightcap, anyone?”
Lilian glanced back toward the kitchen. Ben was leaning casually against the door frame, watching them. The sight of him made her stomach do a little somersault of gleeful anticipation. “Um, if you guys don’t mind, I’ve still got a couple of things to do here,” she said evasively, feeling herself turning red.
Camille followed her sister’s gaze, and then a broad grin spread over her face. “These… things… you have to do... they wouldn’t happen to involve that nice-looking chef over there who’s been staring at you this whole time like you’re his favorite dessert?”
“They... might.” Lilian grinned sheepishly.
“See you tomorrow, then!” Camille gave Lilian a hug. “Thank you so much for this amazing party. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” she added with a wink.
“That leaves me pretty much all the freedom in the world,” Lilian retorted, snickering.
Camille gasped in mock horror and pinched her arm. “Smart-ass!”
“My little sister rubbed off on me, what can I say? But go on, get out of here.” Lilian made a shooing motion. “Our driver needs his beauty rest.”
“Thank you, Lilian. At least someone here’s looking out for me.” The corners of Brandon’s mouth twitched in amusement.
“Hey! Jerk! Are you suggesting I don’t take care of you enough?” Camille pushed her boyfriend playfully.
“I sure am,” he laughed.
Camille took his face between her hands and kissed him long and deep, until finally Lilian exclaimed, “Get a room already!”
“Your wish is my command.” Brandon scooped his girlfriend up in one swift motion and carried her out of the restaurant.
“See you tomorrow!” Lilian heard them both call as the door closed behind them.
At that, Ben stepped out of the door frame and came toward her with slow, panther-like smoothness. Without saying a word, he pulled her close and kissed her. Wildly, passionately. Lilian felt like she was melting in his arms. He tasted like wine and chocolate, a mixture that made the blood rush to her head.
When he released her from his embrace, she looked up at him, breathless. His eyes were twinkling, and a smile was playing on his lips. “Come on, I made you a little something.” He reached out to curl an arm around her, and then guided her into the kitchen.
The room was bathed in the dim glow of candlelight, which Lilian discovered was coming from the old wooden table in the back, where the kitchen crew normally ate their meals together. Now, it held several glass storm lanterns with small candles flickering inside, as well as an open bottle of champagne in a terracotta ice bucket.
“Madame!” Ben pulled out one chair with a gallant bow. “If you’d please have a seat.”
“But, Ben...” She gave him a look of confusion. “What’s all this for?”
“This evening was a masterpiece. I’m very proud of you.” He picked up the champagne and poured them each a glass. “So I thought we ought to celebrate a little.” He handed her one of the flutes.
“I had the best teacher in the world,” she replied, her voice shaking slightly in excitement.
“Here’s to a successful evening.” He raised his glass.
“To a successful evening,” she echoed. The champagne was deliciously cool and dry. “Mm...” She shut her eyes in rapture. “Wow, that’s good.”
“I thought you might like it.” His gaze traveled slowly down her body, and a shiver of pleasure ran down her back. His skin shimmered in the candlelight like molten gold, and she wondered what it would be like to caress it. “You’re beautiful,” he added, setting his glass down and bending toward her. She felt his warm breath on her skin as he softly traced the contours of her face with his fingertips. “I suggest we skip the main course and go straight to dessert.” His eyes seemed to glow.
“Excellent idea,” she breathed. She didn’t want to wait another second. She longed for him, for his tenderness.
“Okay, close your eyes,” he ordered in a rough voice.
She did as she was told. The blood was rushing in her ears, and it took every ounce of her willpower not to keep her eyes shut. There was soft clinking sound in the background. Ice? Something cold touched her lips, and she flinched.
“Trust me,” he whispered softly, invitingly. “I created this just for you.”
Tentatively, she opened her mouth, and immediately tasted chocolate, along with a fruity note of some kind. She licked her lips, prompting a soft chuckle from Ben. She opened her eyes and saw his face just inches from hers.
“Want more?” Lilian saw her own lust reflected in his eyes.
“Lots more.” She leaned forward and kissed him. As their tongues danced playfully, their hands began exploring what their eyes had already discovered. She mapped out his muscles with her fingertips, heard his breathing quicken, felt his heart hammering against her chest. Then she leaned back and opened her eyes again.
“I want you.” His voice was a husky whisper.
“I want you, too.” Slowly, she drew his shirt up over his broad shoulders. Her eyes slid over his torso admiringly, down to the six-pack so perfect, it almost looked drawn on. He was even better looking in person than she’d ever dreamed. Amazingly masculine. She felt herself getting wet.
Impulsively, she dipped a finger in the bowl of chocolate mousse and held it out to Ben, who began sucking on it greedily. Encouraged by his reaction, she reached in for another fingerful of the sticky-sweet mass, which she traced first over his lips, then across his chest.
“Is this how you always eat dessert?” he murmured.
“Just with you.”
“Help yourself, please.” His eyes glittered with desire.
“That was the plan,” she purred, teasing his lips with the tip of her tongue. He moaned softly as she worked her way down his neck and to his nipples, moving her tongue in slow, tantalizing circles as she licked the mousse from his skin.
“Do you like your dessert?”
“Best thing I’ve ever tasted,” she whispered, licking his chest. “You should try some, too.”
At that, he grasped her hair with one hand and drew her head back. His breath caressed her cheek for a moment, and then she felt his lips hot on her neck. He nibbled her earlobes, teased the soft skin of her neck until she was trembling with arousal. His hands slid over her breasts through her clothing, and her nipples stiffened immediately, as though in invitation.
“Wow,” Ben gasped. A few strands of his hair had come loose and were hanging in his face, making him look breathtakingly wild. “I can hardly wait to see you naked.” Grinning wolfishly, he drew her chef’s jacket from her shoulders and then pushed the straps of her dress to either side, until it fell down around
Publisher: BookRix GmbH & Co. KG
Text: Martina Gercke
Publication Date: 09-06-2021
All Rights Reserved