When Rosemary Davis inherited Earthly Delights from her mother, chef Daphne Davis, her aim was to sell the California restaurant as fast as she could and return to Manhattan. Then she met the restaurant’s passionate and sexy sous chef, Jake Cosgrove.
To Jake Cosgrove, Earthly Delights isn’t just a job; it’s his life and his home. Learning that Rosemary has baking skills, and hoping to soften her resolve to sell, he offers to cook up three savory dishes using fresh produce from the garden, if she’ll bake up three sweets using the same.
It’s a challenge Rosemary can’t resist. The question is, will she succumb to Jake’s savory dishes, or will her delectable pastries win him over instead?
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Rosemary folded her arms before her, and her eyes resentfully slid away, like he’d reminded her of some forgotten insult. “I don’t cook.”
Don’t cook? Chef’s daughter?
His thoughts must have shown in his expression, because she qualified herself, “I mean I don’t cook like my mother does—did. Professionally or for others.” Her full lips tightened. “Mother… kept family and work very separate. She almost never cooked at home and she never gave me any lessons. She didn’t even like for me to come to the restaurant.”
Jake could almost taste the bitterness. He winced. That explained why, in the four years he’d been here, Rosemary had never visited. He’d imagined her as some kind of ivory tower brat, an intellectual snob with no interest in her mother’s hands-on profession. It had never occurred to him that Chef Davis might have been to blame.
“If it hadn’t been for my grandfather,” Rosemary added, “I wouldn’t even know what a kitchen was.”
“Oh.” Jake managed. “Um. So, what did your grandfather teach you?”
She shrugged. “How to bake.”
Jake straightened, suddenly aroused in a whole different way. “You mean pastries? Desserts? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Chef never made any of that stuff. She always ordered in the breads and sweets.”
“Ah.” For the first time Rosemary’s gaze softened. And for the first time, Jake saw a resemblance between her and her mother. It was there in that same, amused expression.
“That’s ’cause Momma spent her childhood and adolescence slaving away in grandpa’s bakery. It was one of the most famous bakeries in Oakland,” she added in that bluesy accent common to certain parts of the East Bay. “They made cobblers and monkey bread, rice pudding and such—all without air-conditioning. They just had big fans blowing the hot air around. Grandpa and grandma did all the baking, which left Momma stuck behind the counter filling orders.”
“Um-hmmmm.” Rosemary agreed. “She hated it, so much that when she left for culinary school she made a vow to never make sweets or baked goods, not ever.”
“That… explains a lot.”
“My dad died around the same time that Momma finally became a head chef,” Rosemary went on. “Grandpa, who was a widower by then and having trouble with arthritis, sold the bakery and came to live with us.” She shrugged. “I got a different view of baking from him than Momma did. It was an activity we could share, like making things out of clay. It was fun, not work.”
Jake felt that his eyes must be nearly falling out of his head, he was staring at her so intently now. “So you do cook.”
“I bake,” she insisted, “and usually only for myself. That’s different.”
“All right, then. I’ll make the savory, you make the sweet.”
“Huh?” Her arms dropped to her sides. “No. Oh no”
“Yes!” He grinned. “Come on. I’ve got all this fresh produce that will just go to waste. You can help me figure out what to do with it, or better yet, you can show me.”
“Jake, I don’t want to spend the day making pies.”
“Two quick breads and a dessert,” he cut in. “That’s all I ask. And I’ll make three savory dishes in return. The only rule is that we have to use at least one ingredient from the garden. Whoever makes the most delicious item wins.”
He waggled his brows. “We’ll think of something, unless you don’t believe your homey baking skills can match my culinary expertise?”
That got to her. A spark came to her eyes. So, she did have some of Chef Davis’s competitive edge.
Rosemary stepped forward and snatched the pails of boysenberries from him. “These are mine,” she announced. “And I’m going to want some peaches. Where do you keep the flour?”