Room Service Read online

  Just as she remembered—no hugging the boss.

  Backing up with an apologetic smile, she did a little three-sixty dance, then sank back to her chair. “Okay, then. Whew. Whew.”

  Nathan grinned. “What’s the plan for the next few cities?”

  “I was thinking Seattle, Miami, Chicago.”

  “What about New York? I don’t understand why you haven’t done New York.”

  Just the words caused a ping low in her belly. “Well, you know, New York seems so obvious.”

  “Don’t be ridiculous, New York has got to be included. In fact, why don’t you use Amuse Bouche, with Jacob Hill? I bet he’d love to have the opportunity to showcase his restaurant.”

  “I don’t think—”

  “Are you kidding? What kind of chef wouldn’t want the publicity a show like this is going to offer?”

  “The kind who could care less about publicity. Trust me.” Em shoved her bangs out of her face, her hand shaking. This was not the conversation she wanted to be having. It was better when she didn’t think about Jacob at all, which she managed to do for whole minutes. Sometimes. “He’s not interested.”

  “A real shame.” He patted her arm and left the office.

  Em let out a pent-up breath and sagged into her chair, only to straighten up again when Nathan suddenly stuck his head back in. He had a funny look on his face, one she couldn’t quite place as he held out a basket. “This is for you.”

  Standing up, she took the basket. When she saw the pale pink and black tissue paper, embossed with the word Hush, her heart kicked into gear. “Where did you get this?”

  “Just got delivered,” Nathan said.

  She stared at him, the oddest sensations running through her: confusion, denial and, the worst, hope. “It’s for me?”

  “That’s what it says.” He merely winked at her and left.

  Em stared down at the basket. If her hands had been shaking before, they were apoplectic now, almost a blur. It had to be from Jacob, but she hadn’t heard from him, not once in all these weeks. She’d long ago despaired of ever seeing him again.

  Why would he send a basket?

  Probably it wasn’t from him. Probably it was from the hotel itself, thanking her for all the money she’d spent while there. Yep, that had to be it.

  She sat on the corner of her desk and peeled the pretty tissue paper back. At the contents, she let out a choked laugh as her eyes welled.

  The makings of s’mores, Chef Jacob Hill style, with house-made marshmallows and the most expensive of chocolates along with fresh graham crackers.

  What had he been thinking?

  She was running her finger over the wrapped chocolate wondering what it meant, when she saw the note. Setting the basket down on her desk, she pulled out the paper.

  Dear Em,

  I’m hoping you’re still interested in desserts. I’m hoping you’re still interested in a lot of things. Enclosed is my résumé. J

  What? What did that mean? Em extracted the second piece of paper, and smoothed it out, her gaze running over the carefully printed page.

  She sagged back, laughing as a tear escaped. It was a résumé, formally typed up. Not for the chef’s position, but to be “your lover, your friend and bearer of your heart.”

  He’d gone on to list his qualifications, including being loyal to a fault, honest to the point of bluntness and willing to make sacrifices to strengthen the relationship.

  At the bottom was a footnote that read:

  Available for interviews upon request. And by the way, now would be a great time to request an interview.

  Heart drumming, she stood up and opened her office door, gasping at the tall figure standing there.


  He looked so completely overwhelmingly magnificently gorgeous that he took her breath. And then she looked closer and saw the strain in his beautiful mocha eyes, the tenseness in his jaw, the way he had his hands jammed in the pockets of those beloved battered black Levi’s. His hair had grown out a bit, and looked dark and glossy under the harsh lights. She itched to sink her fingers into it. His scent came to her, so familiar her knees nearly buckled.

  And as he met her eyes, she felt that fist around her heart loosen very slightly.

  “You have a minute?” he asked in that quiet way he had.

  Behind him the office staff, mostly women, were all watching with interest. Stacy, Nathan’s secretary, was nearly falling off her chair as she tried to get a better look. She was speaking into a phone as though giving a play-by-play, which didn’t make any sense, until Liza came skittering down the hall with her cell phone to her ear, stopping on a dime at the sight of them.

  “Em,” Liza said, shoving her cell phone in her pocket after a glance back at Stacy, who hung up her phone, looking guilty. “I need to talk to you.”

  Em gestured to Jacob. “I’m kind of in the middle of something—”

  “I know.” Liza came close and looked at Jacob. In a very low voice she said, “Why are you here?”

  “Liza,” Em said, horrified at the unfriendly tone.

  “No, I want to know,” Liza said in quiet fury to Em. “Because for three weeks you haven’t been yourself, you’ve been sad and grieving and not eating and not sleeping, and just today I thought you were getting better, that you were getting over him, but now here he is, ready to sleep with you and then walk away again. I’m not going to have it, Em. You’re strong, so very strong, and I love you too much to let an egotistical jerk-off—”

  “Excuse me,” Jacob said. “I’m right here.”

  Liza barely spared him a glance. “I mean it, Em. He’s only here for the sex—”

  “Until three weeks ago,” Em reminded her, “sex was all you were interested in yourself. So, Ms. Pot, please. I think I can handle Mr. Kettle.”

  Liza looked at Em for a long moment, and nodded. Then she subjected Jacob to a long, withering stare.

  Em thought he would offer Liza some pithy remark. She didn’t expect him to speak with quiet earnestness.

  “This is the second time I’ve said this,” he said to Liza. “The first time was to Eric, and it turns out I was wrong. I’m not wrong this time. I’m not going to hurt her. Not ever again. I promise.”

  Liza stared at him for a minute more, then gave another nod and turned to leave them alone.

  “Can we talk now?” Jacob asked.

  The rest of the staff were pretending to work but hanging on every word.

  “For someone bearing chocolate,” she managed to say in a normal voice. “I can definitely talk.” She brought him into her office and shut the door on their audience.

  Em tried to keep it together as she lifted Jacob’s résumé, silently asking him to tell her what it meant, even though she thought maybe she knew. God, she hoped she knew. “Impressive,” she said.

  “I was thinking we could discuss terms.” He nodded to the résumé. “I still don’t want to be on your show,” he said very gently.

  “I didn’t think so.” A lump blocked her throat at the worry in his eyes. “It’s okay.”

  “You look great, Em.”

  She had black circles beneath her eyes, she’d forgotten to put mascara on that morning, and her hair…she couldn’t bear thinking about her hair. She was wearing her last pair of panties because she hadn’t had the energy to do laundry, and she thought that if he said one more nice word, she would do the unthinkable and burst into tears.

  “I’ve missed you,” he said quietly.

  Oh, damn. She blinked hard.

  “I was a fool.” He took a step toward her. “A complete fool to let you go. A cowardly one, too.” Another step, and then another. “All my life I’ve walked away from commitment, from relationships, from anything that was more than skin-deep.” One last step put them face-to-face, only inches apart. “But when I was with you, Em, I realized something.”

  She could scarcely breathe. “What’s that?”

  “I don’t want to be that guy