“This amber ale just won the silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival,” Zach Montgomery told Tyler. Zach was the brew master at Surf Coast Brewery just down the coast in Rocky Harbor. He’d been making quite a name for himself, winning awards like crazy with his quality beers. “It’s excellent with steaks, chicken, pasta...”
Tyler studied the glass of ale he’d just tasted – beautiful amber color, and a rich caramel malt flavor. “I want to serve this beer in the restaurant. You can talk to my restaurant manager, Ryan. He handles business details. And I’d like to try some of your other products, too.”
Zach grinned. “Great. Thanks.”
Tyler caught the interest from his female restaurant staff as they watched him talk to Zach. Since Zach had walked into Insatiable, they’d been hanging around making a pretense of folding napkins and setting tables. The big blonde guy had a surfer-dude air about him and a quick, charming grin. Tyler shook his head and called to Lola.
“Can you go find Ryan, Lola?”
She disappeared with a last look at Zach. A few moments later Ryan joined them. Immaculately dressed as usual in elegant pants, a crisp shirt and silky tie, he was as meticulous and detail-oriented about his appearance as he was about managing the restaurant, and Tyler appreciated that.
“I’ll let you two talk business,” Tyler said. “I have to check things out in the kitchen and then make some calls. When are you heading back to Rocky Harbor?”
“Let’s have lunch after,” Tyler suggested. “You can tell more about your brewery.”
Tension coiled in Tyler, and he rubbed the back of his neck as he walked to the kitchen, thinking about everything he had to do. This was where he wanted to be – in his kitchen, creating...cooking. At the stove, he dipped a spoon into a pot of simmering sauce. “Damn, that’s good.” He nodded his approval.
Tyler watched Jon chop vegetables with precise speedy moves, his knife thunking on the cutting board. Jon had been a line cook for a few years and was developing into a fine chef, but sometimes Tyler worried that he wasn’t enough of a perfectionist. He really tried hard, though. A good worker in the kitchen was nothing to complain about.
“Make those leeks a little finer.”
“They’re good, Chef.”
“They’re not perfect. They have to be perfect.”
Jon nodded and kept slicing.
Carlos called from across the kitchen.
Tyler strode over to him. “What’s up?”
Carlos had worked as Tyler’s sous-chef for years. Although they shared the same intense passion for food, neither took it too seriously. It had to be fun for them. They had the same flowing, economical moves that allowed them to work together in a tight kitchen, moving as if they were doing a graceful, choreographed dance. And Carlos was capable of running the show during the frequent times Tyler was away “Check out these tomatoes.”
Tyler picked up a tomato in each hand, hefted their weight, squeezed gently, then sniffed, eyes closed with sensuous pleasure.
“Where’d we get these?” he asked. “Manuel?”
Carlos nodded. “They’re the best I’ve seen this summer.”
“Perfect. Let’s get some more. I’ll do a tarte – tomatoes and goat cheese and some of those awesome Sevallanos from Santa Ynez Olives. Yeah.”
That started him thinking about a pasta special for the day and he strode to his office. He threw himself down into the chair behind his desk and grabbed a pad of paper and a pen, started thinking, scribbling ideas, creating. He loved thinking about food and creating new combinations, loved intense tastes and combining them in ways so that you could taste them together and separately at the same time. Pine nuts and dried currants...saffron... They had lots of fennel left. Add some anchovies and onion, some of those tomatoes...that would be awesome.
After the conference call with two staffers from the Food Network to plan his upcoming appearance on a television special, he spoke to his agent. As usual, Joe had a few things on the go. Tyler’s cookbook had been released a few months earlier, resulting in a flurry of publicity appearances all over the country. He was still inundated with requests for book signings, cooking demos and more TV appearances.
“Leno wants you on his show,” Joe said.
Jesus. Should he be happy? Or overwhelmed? Hell, it was getting to be a lot. Sometimes lately he was away so much it felt like it wasn’t even his restaurant any more. That familiar pressure built inside his chest.
“Okay.” He pushed aside his weariness and reservations. What was happening to him? He used to love doing TV. He’d never had a problem with attention - only if he wasn’t getting any. Centre of attention, life of the party, the star...that was him. And yet that feeling of being squeezed, out of control, kept mounting in him.
Life had become so damn complicated lately. He’d always managed to deal with stress by having sex. Lots of sex. But after what had happened with Chloe, sex was only making things more complicated. Dammit.
“And Epicure Magazine wants to do an article about you. They want you on the cover. I’m trying to set something up later this month.”
“They’ll come to you,” Joe said. “I’ll work with Chloe to find a good time.”
“Okay. She knows my schedule.”
And speaking of Chloe, he had to go face her. He hadn’t seen her since that little stunt at his place Saturday afternoon.
He bounded up the stairs to her office and she turned to face him as he strode in. As usual, she was all serene composure, her long blonde hair hanging in a silky curtain down her back. But the flicker in her pretty blue eyes told him she felt...something.
“Are you mad at me?” she asked immediately.
He stared at her.
“Hell, no,” he said. “I want to thank you.”
Her eyes widened fractionally.
“You did what you had to, to get me here. Thank Christ. Oprah was here and I was acting like an ass.”
“I shouldn’t have done that,” she murmured.
He shrugged and grinned, moved closer to her. “But it was so much fun. The only problem was - you stopped too soon.”
Insatiable Part 7