2 cups arrogance 1 cup intensity 3 tbsp impulsiveness 1-1/2 tsp aloofness Dash of pettyExcerpt from Chapter 1 of An Acquired Taste
Recipe for an Asshat Boy
2 cups arrogance 1 cup intensity 3 tbsp impulsiveness 1-1/2 tsp aloofness Dash of petty
Cream together arrogance and intensity. Slowly add impulsiveness. Mix in aloofness and beat until thoroughly combined. Pour into a square pan and sprinkle with petty. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and remove from oven. Allow an hour to cool.
Yield: one giant asshat named Knox Everheart.
Recipe for disaster.
We haven’t even opened yet, and the line is around the corner. Smothered in Love Restaurant? Pbssht, more like smothered in too many people and not enough kitchen space. Maybe Mama will let me rebrand with the more appropriate name. I shouldn’t complain—this is a good problem to have. Mostly. I back away from the front window. When I stride back into the kitchen, the four people cooking today are bustling around, careful not to bump into each other in the assembly-line designed kitchen. Counters run the length of two of the walls, with appliances lining the others. Adjacent to the kitchen is a walk-in freezer and a storage room. To accommodate our increase in customers and service, we need twice the space. The cooks are busy chopping onions, bell pepper, and celery, stirring pots of gumbo and étouffée, and measuring flour, butter, peaches, and various other ingredients for desserts such as sweet potato pie and peach cobbler. The air is thick with Southern comfort food. Everyone’s busy except Wyatt, who’s leaning against a low counter, shaking his head and chomping on an apple. If my brother is eating instead of chopping, he’s stressed, but I need him to focus. We open in fifteen minutes. I take my earbuds out, the sound of “You Can't Cook Through A Buffalo Herd” still vibrating around my neck. “What’s your deal?” He walks right up to me, a frown creasing his thick eyebrows, and now I’m breathing his fruity breath. “I don’t think you made enough greens. Did you see how many people are already here? Sundays are the worst. Especially right after church.” After stepping back a smidge, I stretch to the five-foot nine height I took after Daddy so that I’m a bit taller than him. He got Mama’s height. “Wyatt Townsend, have you ever known me to not cook enough? I’ve been doing this for over six years. I think I know how to plan meals for this restaurant by now.” He scoffs, and I say, more insistently, forcing a confidence I do not fully feel, “You just need to go over there and get those green onions chopped before Lillie gets in here and realizes she doesn’t have what she needs to finish her étouffée.” Invoking Mama’s name does the trick every time. If nothing else, my brother is obedient. Hannah glances at Wyatt, but only when she doesn’t think I’m looking. She’s called me opinionated and overbearing, but she’s also learned a ton from me. She hasn’t been able to afford culinary school, and I’m happy to mentor her, but her mixing business with pleasure—that pleasure being my brother—doesn’t quite work for me. He just graduated from college and needs to figure out his career path before even thinking about being in a serious relationship. She does seem to genuinely care for him, which is why I haven’t sacked her for insubordination. Okay, mostly she’s still here because she’s dependable and a damn good cook. I peek into the pot of collard greens, biting the inside of my cheek. Is it enough? I thought so before Wyatt came along. Today I made nearly a fourth more than last week when we’d had just enough. It’ll be plenty… I hope. Mama comes into the kitchen just as I balance the lid half on the pot. “Smells good, Rowan.” Collard greens cooking never smell good. “Thanks, Mama.” The swelling at her elbows is noticeable, but I know enough not to mention it. “Those collards have all those people lined up out there, you know that don’t you?” She reaches up to pat my cheek, a sparkle in her hazel eyes, but the pain is lurking just beneath. I grab her hand and hold it against my face, closing my eyes. When I open them, she smiles and takes her hand back without another word. She shuffles over to the counter where Wyatt is set on his task, concentrating on his knife movement, but keeping a protective eye on our mother. Mama pats him on his arm. “You can leave those a little bigger if you want.” “Okay, Mama.” She looks around the kitchen and nods at each person in turn. “I better get out front and make sure everything is ready to open. Darlene called in sick earlier, but thankfully Leonard was able to come in. Looks like we’ll need all six waitstaff scheduled today.” Before she walks through the kitchen door into the dining room, she bends to rub her knees. “Wyatt, how’s that new bartender working out?” She’s through the door before he has a chance to answer. I imagine in her mind, her question distracted us enough to not notice what she was trying to cover up. Wyatt frowns. “Does she think we can’t see she’s in pain?” I turn back to the stove and stir her étouffée, taking a moment to gather myself. Wyatt’s younger than me by five years, and although technically a grown man, there’s only the two of us. I still have the need to be the stronger one and take care of him. “She must not be taking all her steroids.” Sometimes she cuts them in half. I’ve seen them in the bottle split in two. She’s known others with lupus who’ve had to get knee or hip replacements in their thirties. At almost fifty, that’s got to be on her mind. She only got the diagnosis less than two years ago, and it’s been a difficult adjustment for us all. Hannah walks her petite self over to Wyatt and rubs his shoulders, her rosy-porcelain hand a contrast to Wyatt’s russet-brown neck. I roll my eyes and turn back to the stove. “He’s fine, Hannah.” She may be a great cook, but I’m still not convinced about this girlfriend business. She ignores me and continues comforting my brother. Which is fine, but I do know she better wash her hands before she goes back to cooking.
Mondays mean Smothered in Love is closed and I can relax without worrying what’s going on there without me unlike on my scheduled days off. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, there’s no rest for the weary, so I still end up driving to downtown Austin to pick up some new plants for our garden behind the restaurant. I’ve been keeping an eye out at the nursery closer to home in Round Rock, but they haven’t had the okra plants I’ve been looking for. I’m blasting the latest School of the Eighteen Horse album through my Bluetooth when I turn onto Red River, and the Everheart Bar and Fine Dining sign practically slaps me in the face. God, why did I come this way? Fucking Everhearts. Must I be reminded of their wealth and privilege at every turn? I zoom past and cross under the freeway, pulling into the nursery parking lot just east of downtown. This place is occupying some prime real estate. I’m surprised they haven’t been gentrified out of this part of town yet. Lord knows people are doing their best out our way. This time of year has lots of folks out in the balmy days of spring, the smell of fresh flowers flowing freely through the air. I pass some healthy-looking juvenile lemon trees and bend to rub the leaves, inhaling the heady citrus smell. Lillie Townsend would kill me if I brought home another lemon tree. They’re my weakness. When I straighten, a long shadow passes over me and I jump a bit. “Hey there, Rowan. I thought that was you.” Ugh, an Everheart. At least it’s the okay one. I fix my face before looking up. He’s the tallest one too, although they’re all vertically blessed. Not the only thing they’ve been blessed with. They’ve got good looks in spades, dirty bastards. Something I can begrudgingly admit while looking at the nice one I haven’t seen in some years. Thank goodness he’s alone. “Hi, Weston. What’s shaking?” “Oh, nothing much. We’re just looking for some herbs my dad wanted us to pick up.” We. Us. Crap! “Oh okay. I’m looking for some plants too.” Real sharp, Rowan. You’re in a frickin’ nursery. “I mean there’s some okra plants I want for our garden.” As nonchalantly as I can, I peek around him, looking to see who makes us we. No way am I asking him. He frowns, pulling his eyebrows together, placing his hands on his hips. “I don’t think I’ve had okra. I’ve definitely never cooked with it?” He puts a question mark on the end of his sentence even though he isn’t actually asking a question. An irritating habit of his I thankfully only had to endure sparingly over the four years I spent with his brother in culinary school. If that was all I’d had to endure from the Everhearts… “Considering you’re a pastry chef, I wouldn’t imagine you have.” I smirk and glance at my Fitbit for the time, hoping to move along before another less-savory Everheart shows up. “That’s a good point. Definitely more up Knox’s alley.” “What’s up my alley?” And there he is. Knox Asshat Everheart, fresh out of the oven, ready to eat. Fucker. “Rowan.” “Knox.” Why couldn’t it have been obstinate Declan? I would’ve even settled for the old man with his prickly self even though I see enough of him at quarterly culinary school alumni meetings. Knox looks at his brother and asks again, “What’s up my alley? My ears were burning.” He crumples the bag of potato chips he was eating and pulls out a stick of gum. For such a talented chef, I don’t understand how his palate can tolerate so much junk food. All during college, it was either packaged donuts, candy bars, chips, or whatever else he could get his hands on from the vending machines. Weston hesitates, placing his hands in the pockets of his chino shorts. “You guys aren’t going to fight, are you?” I laugh and turn toward the seasonal vegetable plants. “Not even worth my time, Weston. See ya.” Before I walk away, Knox’s eye color doesn’t escape me. Aqua. He’s in a social mood, not angry. Weston needn’t have bothered worrying. I make it about five steps before Knox’s heavy footfalls mask mine. “I think you dropped something.” I turn in time to see him pull a star-shaped ornament out of the pocket of his khaki shorts. A Michelin star. My face falls in spite of myself. He grins. “Oh wait, sorry. This is mine.” His eyes have turned cornflower blue. Knox is petty as fuck. My icy voice forms a retort. “It’s your dad’s, and if you ever make head chef, he won’t have that for very long.” He shrugs and puts the symbol back in his pocket. “Come on, Amber, I’m only kidding around.” Through tight lips, I barely grunt out, “Stop calling me that.” Knox isn’t usually a close-talker like my brother, but he saunters right up to me and stops, stance wide, and bends his six-foot-two frame over so our faces are aligned. The smell of his gum climbs up my nose. I don’t even flinch. Or take another breath. “Let’s be friends. Put everything behind us.” The sincerity in his voice doesn’t matter to me. “The day I become your friend, Knox Everheart, will be the day I’ve lost the last bit of my mind.” I arch my eyebrows, daring him to come with the snark. Instead, he stands tall, pushing his sturdy chest out. “That’s a shame, Amber.” He winks and reverses course, heading back to his brother. And just like that, Knox Everheart has ruined my day off, just like he ruined my entire college career.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------- I got these babies in the mail this weekend. Personalized and signed, and am so looking forward to the 10 Goodreads winners receiving them.
Another excellent addition to the series. Again the ghosts play a factor in some mystery sightings and eventual murder, but the resolution will not beAnother excellent addition to the series. Again the ghosts play a factor in some mystery sightings and eventual murder, but the resolution will not be what you think.
I'm really enjoying the last few older/younger pairings I've read as of late. Beau is so reluctant to accept Hal's overtures, not so much because of the age difference (although that does play a part), but because he doesn't feel he's worthy after such a terrible relationship in his past. Luckily Hal isn't easily dissuaded. Hal's brother is such a stand-out in this one and I can't wait to see what's in store for him down the line in the series.
If you haven't started The Bisbee Bachelors' Club series, what in the world are you waiting for? Seriously....more
What an excellent book to kick off Sterling's new series, The Bisbee Bachelors' Club. I've read a couple of her other standalones and was hooked on heWhat an excellent book to kick off Sterling's new series, The Bisbee Bachelors' Club. I've read a couple of her other standalones and was hooked on her writing style right away so was anxious to give this series a try. I was sucked in right from the beginning with a slate of 3-dimensional characters easily identified and remembered. The star couple of this one, Cace and Lorrie, were both worth rooting for but I have a special place in my heart for Lorrie and am so happy he got his HEA from a very reluctant Case who did not make it easy for dear Lorrie.
The backdrop of the town of Bisbee is properly spooky and at the same time delightful. Sterling's descriptions of the coffee shop, biker bar, and noodle shop had me wanting to pack my bags for a road trip. I am definitely intrigued to visit when I'm out and about again. Oh, and did I mention the ghosts? I loved the way she weaved in the town lore with the mystery murder. I definitely didn't see the resolution coming and I'm usually pretty good about those things.
I'm very much looking forward to devouring the remainder of the series....more