Room Service Read online

  Which meant either Chef Jacob Hill was relatively new to his field, or he had a past he didn’t care to advertise.

  An enigma.

  And the last piece to the puzzle of Em’s success.

  Hopefully he had one element common with the rest of the human race, that he could be coaxed, by either the promise of money or fame, all the way across the country to L.A.

  “Look at this place,” Liza said in awe. Liza was Em’s oldest friend and newest assistant. That she looked like Barbara Eden circa I Dream of Jeannie had turned out to be invaluable in the industry as far as getting things done her way. Which was good, as Liza, never a warm, fuzzy sort, never one to back off from a good fight, liked to get her way. This made her an extremely efficient assistant, if a rather fierce one.

  “They sure take the art deco theme seriously, don’t they?” She looked all around them. “This stuff is all museum quality.”

  “Yeah, I’m sure that’s why the male guests come here.” This from Eric, Em’s second-closest friend, and new location director. He was looking at a bold, bright painting of a very beautiful and very nude woman stretched out on a luxurious daybed for all to see—and he was enjoying the view greatly, if the smile on his face was anything to judge by. “The quality.”

  Liza rolled her eyes. “We’re here for the restaurant.”

  “Yeah, and trust me, as a chef, good restaurants hold a special place in my heart, but we’re really here to save Em’s ass—Oomph.” Rubbing the ribs Liza had just elbowed, he glared at her. “What? It’s true.”

  Liza shook her head in disgust. “It’s not true, and you’re not a chef.”

  “Am so.”

  “Are not.”

  Em sighed. The two of them possessed a unique talent for getting a reaction out of each other, be it annoyance—or sexual tension.

  Eric went back to ogling the nudes.

  “You’re a dog,” Liza said to him. “Men are dogs.”

  “Woof, woof,” Eric said.

  If Eric was a dog, he was a good-looking one—tall and very Californian in his casual chinos, untucked polo shirt, tennis shoes and sunglasses shoved to the top of his blond mop. He had eyes the color of an azure sky, and could stop traffic with a single smile.

  Also handy when it came to getting his way.

  Em couldn’t do this without either of them.

  “I’m going to check in,” Liza said. “I’m getting a room as far from yours—” she pointed at Eric “—as possible.”

  “Works for me.” Eric gave a careless shrug. “Last chance, Em. Save yourself all the trouble and use me as your chef. You know I’m good.”

  He was good, but not formally trained, and such a goofball that no one ever took him seriously. She was afraid that would be apparent on the TV screen. “Eric—” Emma said.

  “Yeah, yeah. I’m going to the bar.”

  “Works for me,” Liza snapped, and with a mutual growl, both of them were gone, leaving Em standing in the lobby alone. “Well,” she said to herself. “This is going to be fun.”

  The three of them together had always been fun before. They’d made their way through college, existing on fun.

  That is, until last year. That had been when Eric had been stupid enough to tell Liza he loved her, then given her a diamond ring and married her.

  The marriage—based on fun and lust—had lasted for two wild, sexually charged months before they’d had an explosive fight. And because neither of them had ever had a real relationship, neither of them had known what to do with real love. Now, with all that emotion still pent up inside them, with no way to deal with it, they snarled and growled and bickered.

  Em loved both of them, but if they didn’t realize that they just needed to trust themselves—and get back in the sack—then she was going to lock them together in the same room until they figured it out for themselves.

  Another time, though. Because right now, Eric was right. She had to save herself. To that end, she walked toward check-in. The front desk had the same sexy sophistication as the rest of the lobby, with its chest-high black marble counters. The wall behind matched, broken only by the neon-pink HUSH blazing in the center.

  The check-in process was handled by a pretty woman wearing a black tux with a pink tie and a friendly smile. “Twelfth floor, same as your friends. Room 1212 for you. It’s got a great view of the city and should have everything you need. Feel free to call us for anything.”

  If only it were that easy. Just call the front desk for Chef Jacob Hill…She took the room key with a wry smile and caught up with Liza and Eric at the elevators.

  Eric held out a beer, lifting it in a toast. “This place is really something. You can actually smell the excitement in the air.”

  Liza inhaled and shrugged.

  Eric laughed. “This place is for people who want a rush, who want to feel cosmopolitan, exotic. I feel it.”

  “Since when did you ever want cosmopolitan, Mr. Beer-on-the-couch-with-the-remote?” Liza asked.

  “Since two women in Erotique practically lapped me up just now.”

  Liza’s eyes fired with temper but she merely inquired, “Erotique?”

  “The bar. You should have seen me in there. Hot stuff, baby.” He waggled his eyebrows. “You should have kept me while you had the chance.”


  Appearing happy to have irritated the thorn in his side, Eric smiled at Em. “Here’s to phase two,” he said and lifted his beer in another toast. “To getting our TV chef.”

  Liza nodded. “To Em’s success.”

  “Absolutely.” Eric’s eyes locked on hers and went warm, his smile genuine.

  Liza’s slowly faded.

  “What?” he asked. “What’s the matter?”

  Liza shook her head. “Did we just…agree on something?”

  He laughed. “Doubt it.”

  “No, we did.”

  “Mark the calendar,” he said softly. “Hell must have frozen over.”

  “You’re a funny guy.”

  “No, it’s true.” He stepped closer to her. “When we were married, you’d disagree with me no matter what I said. I’d say, ‘honey, the sky is blue,’ and you’d say, ‘nope, it’s light blue. Maybe dark blue. But not just blue, because I wouldn’t want to agree with you on anything, even a frigging color thing.’”

  Liza took a step toward him this time, her body leaning forward. “That’s not what I did.”

  Their noses nearly touched. “Truth hurts, doesn’t it, babe?”

  The two of them were breathing heavily, tension dripping off them in waves, and not all of it anger.

  “Guys,” Em said.

  “You know what’s the matter with you?” Liza asked Eric.

  “No, but I’m guessing you’re about to tell me.”

  “Guys?” Em said again.

  “You think you’re God’s gift to women,” Liza said to Eric. “It’s obnoxious.”

  “I’ll try to keep it to myself then,” Eric said lightly. “Thanks.”

  “This was stupid,” Liza said. “Being here, the two of us.”

  “Right. Em, you want to give up on this whole chef search and just use me? Seeing as I’m God’s gift and all? Then we can all go home.”

  “We’re doing this,” Em said. “You guys can do this. Please.”

  Eric looked at Liza. Liza looked back. Both sighed and nodded.

  Em let out a breath. She’d done her research. She was as prepared as it got. They needed Jacob Hill, and she intended to get him.

  Her way.

  As they waited for the elevator doors to open, Liza scoped out a gorgeous man walking through the lobby.

  Eric watched her, eyes shuttered.

  Em sighed, then bent to pet a sleek black cat who’d showed up out of nowhere, wearing a bright pink collar with a tag that read Eartha Kitty. With a purr, Eartha Kitty wound around Em’s ankles until the elevator doors finally opened.

  Em stepped on. The inside was as plush as the r