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  Whether Nathan caught on, or if he was just worried, he paused. Then said, “Remember, Em. Do whatever you have to do to get him. Hell, use your feminine wiles.”

  Em looked at Liza in disbelief as she shook her head. “You did not just say use my feminine wiles.”

  “Why not? By all accounts, he’s not bad to look at. You’re single. Sleeping with him wouldn’t be a hardship.”

  No, sleeping with Jacob wouldn’t be a hardship. Too bad she’d be doing it for reasons entirely separate from the show. “Goodbye, Nathan.”

  “You’re thinking about it,” he said.

  She growled.

  He laughed. “Seriously, stay tough. Remember the hair-in-the-food trick.”

  Em hung up on him. She sighed and looked at Liza. “Here’s the problem.”

  “You mean besides Nathan being a complete ass?”

  “Yeah. I don’t think Jacob’s all that interested in his career at all, other than he enjoys what he does.”

  “Wait a minute.” Liza narrowed her eyes. “Since when are you on a first-name basis with the chef?”

  “Since that’s his name.”

  Liza let it go, which meant her head still hurt, because it was unlike her to let anything go. “Are you sure he’s not interested?”

  Interested in the show? Or Em herself? “He runs the show here. He likes that. I don’t see him happily letting a show run him.”

  Liza carefully rubbed her temples, her beauty looking a little strained this morning. “This aspirin needs to hurry up and kick in. Look, Em, just put it out there on the table for him, see what happens.”

  “I know.”


  “I will. Eric,” she said in surprise when he walked by.

  He stopped, then with his eyes locked on Liza, came up to them. “Hey.”

  “What’s up?” Em asked. “Want to have a seat? We’re coming up with my plan of attack for approaching Jacob.”

  “I know an approach,” Liza said as Eric sat. “Offer to have a wild fling with him. He wouldn’t turn you down. No man who finds a woman attractive would turn her down.” After having carefully avoided looking at Eric, she purposely turned her head to him. “Right, Eric?”

  He cleared his throat. “Maybe he’d have his reasons.”

  “What reason could possibly be more important than making that woman feel good?” Liza pressed. “Than helping her out in her time of need?”

  He glared at her. “Look, I didn’t turn you down to insult you.”

  Liza snorted.

  “Okay.” Em stood up. “I’m going to leave you two alone—”

  “Don’t go,” Liza said, snagging Em’s wrist without taking her eyes off Eric.

  “All I’m saying is that there are reasons,” Eric said to Liza.

  “Name one.”

  Em tried to pull free.

  “I said don’t go!” Liza snapped.

  “Okay, that’s it.” Em gently but firmly extricated herself. “You two need to work this out, preferably by yourselves, without killing each other. Personally, I think you should work it out upstairs, maybe even in bed….”

  Eric made some sort of strangled sound.

  Liza just lifted a shoulder. “Can’t. Eric has an aversion to getting in my bed these days.”

  Em put a hand on her friend’s tense shoulder. “Stop torturing him.”

  “Tell him the same thing.”

  Eric shook his head.

  Em kissed his cheek, then Liza’s. “Be kind,” she whispered to Liza, and walked off.

  Caffeine, she decided. Now. A few other people were moving around, sitting on the black sofas talking, taking in the incredible artwork on display. She stopped in front of a large painting near the elevators, done in the bold strokes and colors of an early art deco piece. It was of a woman, nude, her hands outstretched, a look of ecstasy on her face as a man and another woman, also nude, attended to her. From their positions, one could assume the man took pleasure at a breast, the woman between her legs.

  It should have been lewd, should have made the heat rise to Em’s face, but instead she couldn’t tear her eyes off the thing, not off the bright colors, or the boldly painted, beautiful bodies. In fact, she found herself just standing there, surrounded by the tranquility around her, absorbing it, breathing it in, trying to find her own center, her own sense of self, which was all tied into her job, into getting Chef Jacob Hill. She had to do this. “I have to do this.”

  “Really?” It was the same low, husky voice as last night.

  Jacob had come up to her side to look at the picture, too. “Which woman did you want to be?”

  Just his proximity made everything within her react, tighten in anticipation, leap to attention. A little shocked at the effect he had on her, she turned her head and looked into his caramel eyes.

  Yum, thought her body.

  Watch out, thought her remaining working brain cells, and there weren’t many.

  He looked great, more than great, more like gorgeous in his work trousers, wool and gray and fitted to that long hard body, and a black dress shirt. His short, short hair seemed glossy beneath the lights. The scent of him alone should have been bottled and marketed as an aphrodisiac.

  He arched a brow, waiting for an answer to his question, amusement swimming in his gaze. That look released something inside her.

  She thought maybe it was the last of her resistance. “I didn’t mean…” Damn it, she felt herself blush as she gestured to the painting. “I didn’t mean I have to do that.”

  “No?” Tipping his head back, he looked at the two women in the picture again. “Now that’s just a damn shame.”


  To: Pastry Chef Ed Mohr

  From: Sous-Chef Jacob Hill

  Tonight send a basket with fresh makings for Bouche S’mores to room 1212, with my compliments.

  JACOB WATCHED EM SHIFT her weight from foot to foot as she glanced again at the bold art deco painting of the threesome. It made him want to smile. God, he loved to ruffle her feathers.

  “I really was talking about something else,” she said.

  “Like I said, it’s really too bad.”

  Embarrassed or not, she met his gaze straight on. “So it’s true. Men really do fantasize about two women in their bed.”

  “Doesn’t have to be in bed.” She rolled her eyes, and he laughed. “You asked.”

  “I thought it was a myth. That men couldn’t really be so…so base.”

  “’Fraid not, and that we are.”

  She cocked her head and studied him thoughtfully. “What’s the draw? Two women? Seems like a lot of work.”

  “You mean ’cause there are two of every body part, and in some cases, four? Not work.” He grinned.

  “Women don’t fantasize about two men.”


  She squirmed just a little, went a touch red, and he knew she was torn between lying or admitting a truth she preferred not to.

  A minute ago he’d turned in the staff schedules for the week, and had planned on spending the next few hours on his own before he had to get started in the kitchen, but he’d seen her standing here and had been drawn to her like a metal rod to a magnet.

  What was it about her? He wished he knew. He’d always been attracted to beautiful women, the more outspoken and unabashedly sexual the better. Em was beautiful, no doubt, but neither outspoken nor unabashedly sexual, and yet she fascinated him. She stood there in a long floral skirt and cream angora sweater with a row of tiny buttons down the front, looking very together despite her blush and wry smile. She’d made an attempt at taming her hair, which amused him. The sides were pulled up in clips, but her long bangs had escaped, framing her jaw on either side. She wore gloss on her lips, something peachy, and he was hungry for it, for her.

  Then there was the way she was looking at him, with a repressed yearning that stopped his jaded heart. Damn, her eyes were intoxicating, and suddenly, or maybe not so suddenly at all, he want