Tyler tossed her suitcase into the trunk of his car and they got in. “I brought you coffee.” He indicated the cup in the holder on her side. He had one too. “Gotta have my coffee,” he added with a grin.
“Thank you,” she said, touched by the thoughtful gesture. After she buckled her seatbelt she sipped the coffee, the rich dark roast immediately recognizable as Karma Coffee, the micro roaster near the restaurant.
How had she left him talking her into coming to LA with him on this business trip? Her tummy jumped with nerves as they drove north on the 101. She gazed out the window, first at the intensely blue Pacific Ocean stretching out to the curved horizon on her right, later at orchards and mountains on her left, carved and grooved by winter rains.
Near LA the traffic thickened and their speed slowed. “I like visiting LA,” Tyler said, “but I’m glad I don’t live here.”
“You wouldn’t want to open a restaurant here?” Surely the idea must have occurred to him, given his popularity. A restaurant in LA would be the pinnacle of success.
“I don’t know,” he said thoughtfully. “No.Things are getting too big...”
This wasn’t the first time he’d alluded to that. “I thought you wanted big.”
“I never wanted big!” he said with a laugh. “Everyone else wants big.”
“But Tyler...if you don’t want all this...”
He was silent. “Don’t get me wrong,” he said, eyes on the road, shaded by his sunglasses. “Believe me, I want to be successful. I love knowing that people appreciate what I do. I love knowing I’m the best.”
“And so modest,” she murmured.
He laughed. “Yeah. It’s just...a lot of pressure sometimes. I like the attention, but the constant pushing to do more...makes me feel like I’m not doing what I’m really good at.”
Chloe choked and he laughed again. “No. I mean, cook. That’s what I really love doing. Well, and sex, too.”
“Uh...I’ll take your word for it.”
“You don’t have to do that...”
“Yeah, yeah. Anyway, it's a hell of a ride. Unfuckingbelievable.”
She couldn’t help but smile at his exuberance and knew she was along for the ride of her life.
“Michael okay with you coming with me?” he asked suddenly.
“Of course!” She turned to look out the window again. “Why would you ask that?”
He shrugged. “If I was your boyfriend, I wouldn’t let you go away with me.”
She laughed helplessly. “Of course everyone must be jealous of you.”
He grinned devilishly. “I know me.”
Oh-oh. Since they’d shared a bowl of frosting and a kiss in her office, he’d backed off a bit. He seemed to have gotten over his temper tantrums, as Chloe thought of them with amusement, but his impudent charm was even more dangerous. What was she in for?
* * *
After their business meetings that took all afternoon, they drove to the hotel. Tyler wondered how he was going to get Chloe into his room. Given she was the one who had made the reservations, he was pretty sure she’d booked them two separate rooms. Maybe he could try that old ‘there was a mix-up with the reservation and the hotel is all booked up’ ploy.
Nah, it would never work. He sighed. Goddamn Michael was still in the picture, hanging out in the background, making Tyler’s admittedly small conscience prickle with guilt.
Yup. Two rooms. He checked them in and they went up the elevator followed by a bellhop with their luggage. At least they were next door to each other.
Tyler tipped the bellhop and helped Chloe into her room.
“Dinner’s at seven,” he said. “Josh is sending a car for us. Do you want to meet down in the bar for a drink before we go?”
She smiled and all but shut the door in his face. Damn. He went to his own room to shower and change.
When he walked into the hotel bar an hour later he almost didn’t recognize Chloe. She was sitting at a small table across the room. His eyes were drawn immediately to the long shiny hair but, whoa...the last time she’d come to an awards dinner with him, she hadn’t looked like this.
All she wore in the office were casual pants, long skirts and button-down shirts. Today, for their business meetings, she’d worn a navy blue suit.
Now she wore an amber-colored slip dress with tiny straps and a little ruffle along the top edge. It showed a lot of smooth golden skin, round shoulders and slender arms. She glowed like a candle, sitting there in the subdued light of the hotel bar.
Tyler crossed the room toward her.
“You’re like a movie star,” she said to him as he sat down, a smile tugging her glossy lips. She’d put some makeup on her eyes that make them look huge and sexy. “You don’t even notice people staring at you, do you?”
Still oblivious, he gazed at her, mesmerized, hoping he wasn’t actually drooling.
“What?” Her eyes narrowed a bit.
“Chloe, you’re gorgeous,” he said, unable to take his eyes off her. She flushed a pretty pink.
“I look okay?” she asked uncertainly.
“You look fucking awesome.”
“Thank you.” She shifted in her seat and he continued to gaze at her until a waiter arrived to take their drink order. Tyler confirmed they had Chloe’s favorite Pinot, then lifted a brow at her and she nodded. He ordered two glasses of it.
They looked up as a man approached their table and introduced himself as maitre d’ of the hotel restaurant.
“Mr. Gregg,” he said, extending his hand. “Are you joining us for dinner this evening?”
Tyler stood up, smiled and shook his hand. “Unfortunately not tonight,” he said. “We’re having dinner with an old friend.”
“Ah.” Was that disappointment or relief on the man’s face? “Well, we’d be honored to have you any time.”
After he left, Tyler dropped back into his chair and he and Chloe shared a laugh.
“Did you see the look on his face?” she whispered, putting her hand over her mouth.
“They didn’t have my name in their book,” he said, laughing too. “Then I show up and they panic!”
Her blue eyes sparkled with humor, her mouth curved in a tempting smile, and Tyler’s breath stuck in his throat.
“Ah, Chloe, you should laugh more often.”
“I do laugh,” she protested.
He shook his head. The waiter arrived to place their wine before them. Tyler waited till he was gone.
“No, you don’t,” he said, now serious. “You don’t laugh, you don’t cry, you don’t get mad...you’re so even-tempered it’s scary.”
She looked astonished. “But...”
“I know, I know,” he held up a hand. “I probably yell and cry and laugh enough for both of us. And you do have the ability to calm me down. How do you do it?”
“I don’t know,” she whispered. “I guess I had lots of practice with my mother.”
“How so?” He tipped the glass to his lips. The silky, voluptuous taste filled his mouth. He wanted to know everything about her.
She sighed. “I don’t want to talk about it right now,” she said. “This is so nice...” She glanced around the elegant room.
“Okay.” He’d let it go for now if that’s what she wanted.
He glanced at his watch. “We should go in a few minutes,” he said. “The car is likely here.”
They finished their Pinot Noir and Tyler tossed some bills on the table to cover the bill.
When they stood up, Tyler’s mouth almost dropped open again. Now he could see the full effect of Chloe’s dress, instead of just from the waist up. The silky fabric was cut in a way that made it cling to her body even though it was not a tight dress. Her breasts jiggled enticingly under the thin fabric. The skirt ended just above her knees and she was wearing the most incredible shoes he’d ever seen. Okay, he’d seen shoes like that before, just not on Chloe. They were bare and strappy with a spiky high heel. He couldn’t drag his eyes off her as they walked through the hotel lobby.
A limo waited in front of the hotel and the driver hopped out to get the door. Chloe flashed him a clearly uncomfortable look. He grinned.
“We’ll see what Josh cooks up for us,” he said, rubbing his hands with anticipation.
Chloe smiled. “Are you hungry?”
“I’m always hungry,” he said with a grin. “But I’m curious, too, to try something different.”
Josh’s restaurant was more casual than Insatiable, with an open kitchen, a packed bar of people waiting for tables, and a high energy level.
They were led immediately to a table for two in the corner – no waiting at the bar for them! Josh emerged from the kitchen moments later to greet his friend.
Tyler stood and they grabbed each others hands and slapped shoulders. “Hey, buddy, how the hell are you? Long time no see!”
Tyler grinned, stepped aside a little so he could introduce Chloe. She rose out of her chair and shook Josh’s hand with a smile and Tyler admired her all over again as she did so. He saw the appreciation in Josh’s eyes too and felt a tug of possessiveness. Huh.
“So, Tyler, you dog,” Josh said. “You’re everywhere these days...it’s incredible.”
“I know.” He grinned and shrugged. “It’s been fun. So what have you got for us to eat tonight?”
Josh grinned back. “You’ll have to wait and see.”
He disappeared back into the kitchen and Tyler and Chloe sat back down to enjoy their experience.
They talked and laughed and ate and drank, starting with a terrine of foie gras with dried fruit chutney and black truffle vinaigrette, then pan-seared dorade with caramelized sun chokes and roasted red peppers, ending with little sticky toffee puddings with vanilla ice cream. Tyler could have pointed out some things, made some changes, but he said nothing, would never say anything to Josh, and ate with appreciation and genuine pleasure.
“It’s all fantastic,” Chloe said later. “I think so, anyway.”
“Fantastic,” he agreed. “Do you want to come see the kitchen?”
She shook her head. “You go. I know you want to.”
Tyler had to see it, check out the equipment, see how Josh’s team worked. It was professional curiosity and Josh was happy to show off for him.
“Business is good?” Tyler asked.
“Hell, yeah. Business is great. Not as crazy as yours, pretty boy, but it’s good.”
“Asshole,” Tyler said mildly.
“Dinner’s on me,” Josh said. “I owe you from when I came up to check out Insatiable.”
“Thanks, man. Come back any time.”
Tyler went back to the table and found Chloe patiently waiting for him.
“Sorry, sweetheart,” he said.
“It’s fine, Tyler.” She smiled. “I know you.”
Tyler left a very generous tip for the wait staff then they stood out front as the limo was brought around.
Back in the hotel they paused outside Chloe’s room. “Invite me in for a drink,” Tyler said.
Insatiable Part 11