“Just got a call from Oprah’s people,” he said, excitement edging his voice. “Apparently she had dinner there a few weeks ago?”
“Yes, she apparently did,” Chloe said with a laugh.
“Well, she wants to have Tyler on her show. They’re thinking of coming to the restaurant, doing a bit with him cooking, customers in the restaurant, yadda yadda, then she’ll have him on the show and interview him.”
“Wow. That’s awesome.”
“No shit,” he said. “Is Tyler there?”
She glanced at her watch. “He’s probably on his way. Did you try his cell?”
“Nah. Have him call me when he gets in. Maybe do a conference call so I can talk to both of you at the same time and we’ll get this set up.”
“Hold on. He just walked in.”
Tyler lifted one eyebrow as he entered her office and heard her. She smiled and said, “Joe.” She put the phone on speaker.
Tyler listened as Joe talked, a slow smile spreading across his face. They talked about dates and when they were wrapping up, Joe said, “I just want to make sure you really want to do this, Ty buddy.”
Tyler frowned. “Why are you asking that? Who wouldn’t want to be on Oprah?”
“Just a word of caution. Once you’ve been on Oprah and people see that show, your business is going to literally explode. You think you’re busy now, just wait. I want to make sure you’re prepared for that.”
Tyler nodded, eyebrows pinched together. He rubbed the back of his neck.
“You don’t have to do it, Tyler,” Chloe said softly.
“Yeah, I know.” He met her eyes. “What do you think, Chloe?”
She sighed and shook her head. “Tyler...you have to decide. Obviously there are pros and cons...do you want to think about it before you decide for sure?”
“No.” He gave a short nod. “That’s okay. Yeah, I’ll do it. It’ll be a blast.”
“Great! I’ll see you Thursday for the magazine shoot,” Joe said as they hung up.
“Holy shit,” Tyler said, pressing his fingers between his eyes.
“I know.” She stood and walked around behind his chair to rub his tight shoulders. The big muscles were like boulders. “You’re a star, Tyler.”
It wasn’t a surprise to her that all this was happening. She’d seen this coming long ago, once the attention had started. He was a star. His personality drew people like a magnet. He charmed them, cast them under his spell and then he fed them with his fabulous food and they were all his, devoted adoring fans.
“That feels so good,” he groaned, rolling his head around.
She massaged his shoulders for a few moments longer, digging her fingers into tense muscles, then he spun the chair around and grabbed her, pulled her onto his lap. He buried his face against her neck. “Thank you.”
“For what? The massage?”
He shook his head against her. “For being here. For being you. I couldn’t do this without you, Chloe.”
She smiled and stroked his silky hair. “Sure you could.”
He shook his head again. “No. I always knew it. You’re so important to me.”
Her heart felt like it was going to explode out of her chest. While Tyler’s success was no surprise, it was still unbelievable that he wanted her...her! Chloe Graham, a total nobody.
“Thank you,” she whispered to him, her breath catching. She wanted to tell him how important he was to her, too, but couldn’t bring herself to say the words...not yet, anyway. Although hope flickered inside her at his words, she still couldn’t shake the feeling that this was too good to be true.
“What do you want to do tonight?” he asked her a moment later. “I feel bad. I work so late every night. We can’t do things like normal people.”
She drew back, her arms still looped around his neck and smiled. “You’re not a normal person, Tyler.”
“You’re saying I’m abnormal?” He lifted a brow.
She laughed. “How about extraordinary?”
“Yeah, I like that better. Come to my place tonight. I’ll make you dinner.”
“Really? Do you want to cook on your day off?”
“I want to cook for you.” He kissed her mouth. “You can help me.”
They spent some time on business, planning, making decisions, then Tyler worked in his own office for the afternoon. Around five o’clock he came back to get her.
“Leave your car here,” he said. “I’ll take you home in the morning and drive you to work.”
Chloe loved Tyler’s house. Perched on a mountain above the city, it looked over the city and the ocean. In his living room, she wandered over to the wall of windows and gazed out. The city fell away beneath her, green trees and red tile roofs, down to meet the ocean where it rolled in. Deep blue water stretched out, faded to a hazy blue at the horizon where it met the sky of the same color.
She turned around and her eyes fell on the black leather couch. She couldn’t help but remember the last time she was there when she’d seduced Tyler. When all this had started.
“Tell me the truth, Chloe,” Tyler said from his open kitchen. “That day you came on to me, here...you really did want me, didn’t you?”
Apparently he was remembering, too.
She wandered over to the gleaming dark granite counter that separated the kitchen from the living room. He handed her a glass of wine.
“Not at first,” she said. “I actually thought I could do that without getting...involved.”
He raised a brow at her. “But after...?”
She laughed and shook her head. “Your ego is big enough, Tyler. Do you really need me to tell you how turned on I got and how much I wanted to keep going?”
He grinned. “Yeah, I do.”
He opened the stainless steel refrigerator and started pulling things out.
“What are you making me?” she asked.
“Huh!” She blinked. “Tacos.”
“Yup.” He pulled a pan from the rack that hung over one end of the island and set it on the stove.
“Special, fancy gourmet tacos?”
“Nope. Just tacos.”
They cooked, laughed, and yeah, kissed, and then they ate tacos, dripping hot sauce and guacamole, dropping pieces of lettuce and tomato. Tyler reached out and with one fingertip swiped a drop of sauce from beside her mouth.
She watched in amazement as he devoured six tacos, then she lost count. “Where do you put it all?”
“Good metabolism,” he said with a grin. “This is the kind of food I grew up eating. My parents own a tacqueria in Carpentaria.” She nodded, recalling that. “My sister and my brothers all work there now. It’s a great little place. You can’t get better Mexican food.”
“Why didn’t you stay there too?”
“I needed more,” he said simply. “I love food...I wanted to know more, though. I wanted to know about French food, Italian food, Japanese food...all of it. I wanted to try new things. I mean, create new things, not just eat them. It was like something inside me that had to get out, the creativity I guess.”
She helped him clean up and as they finished, he said, “Next week come with me to meet my family.” Her hands paused as she hung a dish towel. Holy crap. “On Monday I’ll take you there and we can have dinner...better tacos than mine even.”
“That’s hard to believe,” she murmured. He settled his hands on her waist and pulled her against him.
“I know,” he said with a complete lack of modesty, grinning. “But it’s true. My mom makes the best in the world.”
They sat on his couch, the scene of her outrageous seduction, and he talked about his family, then told her stories about the places he’d worked and the crazy people he’d worked with - the chef who’d screamed abuse at the kitchen staff and actually threw knives at them, the cook that came to work drunk and stoned every night, the time Tyler’d caught the hostess giving the chef a blow job in the walk-in, the restaurant in New York which he was sure was a money-laundering operation for the owner who was one day arrested for trafficking.
“I wanted my kitchen to be different,” he said. “I know everyone throws language around and drops the f-bomb all over the place, but I won’t put up with abuse.”
She nodded, lifted her hand to his lean cheek, rough with stubble, and kissed him, a deep, full-bodied kiss. His arms tightened around her, one hand spearing into her hair to hold her head. His tongue filled her mouth and a little groan escaped her. She slid her hands up his chest to his shoulders and burrowed closer in to his body. His erection pressed against her leg and she wanted to touch him, so without conscious thought her hand slipped down to his lap and stroked his hard length through his jeans. Now he groaned, covered her hand with his and pressed her against his arousal.
She stroked him more and kept kissing him, their kisses growing hungrier and hotter, their mouths eating at each other until he broke the kiss and they stared at each other, panting.
“Do you want to keep making out here on the couch? Or go into the bedroom?” he rasped.
She smiled slowly at him. “I want to finish what I started that afternoon.”