It’s another First Kiss Friday and my guest today is fellow San Francisco Area Chapter of Romance Writers of America member, Kilby Blades. Be sure to read down to the end to be in the running for an eCopy of Kilby’s story. Happy reading and enjoy this excerpt from The Secret Ingredient, my lovelies!
“What the fuck am I doing wrong?” Cella asked bluntly, still in a bit of a foul mood from that afternoon.
Cella looked back and forth between the two pots of Bolognese sauce sitting on the front burners of the stove. The left had been cooked by Max, the right cooked by Cella. Both worked off of a recipe found in her grandmother’s book. The sun had long since set, and through his windows she saw only faint hints of the shoreline through the darkness. Her tasting spoon sat, forgotten, in her hand.
“Do these not look the same?”
He nodded affirmation, but she was already on a tear.
“Smell the same?”
“Did we not go through each and every ingredient together?
He nodded again.
“Have we not tried this experiment twice?”
“Then why does your sauce still taste better than mine?” She looked up sharply. “Don’t laugh at me, Max!” she warned.
“I can’t help it.” He chuckling through sweeping breaths.
Sighing dejectedly, she flopped down on her stool. “I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong.”
“You’re not doing anything wrong,” he soothed, tugging the end of her ponytail that had long-since fallen out of its bun.
“But there must be something you’re doing, that I’m not.”
It wasn’t a bad theory that Cella was simply off. She didn’t cook well when she was in a bad mood.
“I’m going to share a family secret with you. Do you want to know what it is?”
She nodded her head lightly, in a question. Whereas his mood had been joking just moments before, she could see that he was about to speak in solemn truth.
“The secret ingredient is love.”
For all the love lost between she and Liz that day, it served only to sadden her. Cella was pretty sure she had to fire her agent.
“What if I’m fresh out of that?” Her voice caught slightly at the end.
He knew what was bugging her. He’d remained silent as she relayed the entire sordid tale on the bike ride home.
“Then I’ll put in enough for the both of us…just until you get yours back.”
She swallowed, still facing the sauce.
“Can you show me?”
He reached toward the stove, placing his hand on hers where it lay upon a long wooden spoon. Lifting their hands in tandem, he placed the spoon into Cella’s batch. Slowly—so slowly—he stirred their hands as he stepped in closer behind her. He closed his eyes as he bent his head lower. If she wasn’t mistaken, he was inhaling the scent of her hair.
“Close your eyes, Cella.” His voice held gentle command.
They stirred a rotation.
“Now, think of who you’re cooking this for, what a gift this will be to all who taste it, what a gift it is to have plenty of food to eat…”
Their hands kept stirring, with Max’s guiding, but Cella’s slowly taking over. He continued his tutelage.
“Think of the people you like sitting down to a meal with—people you love and people who love you…”
She exhaled shakily, then relaxed. She liked the way her substantial figure fit into his, the way one of his hands had fallen to her hip. For what seemed like minutes, they stirred. She found herself lost in his scent, in the heaven of their bodies so close, in the intimacy of their shared breaths. Though they kept their pace steady, some energy was building between them, working them towards something more, something she’d begun to want more fiercely with every minute they spent together.
“Can you feel it?”
“Yes.” Her voice was a whisper.
“Tell me how it feels.“
“Like nothing I’ve felt before.”
“Now, taste it,” he whispered, lifting his hand from the spoon.
Cella’s eyes remained closed but her ears were keen to the smacking of her lips.
“No offense, but it’s better than yours.”
He kissed the top of her head and murmured, “Twice as much love…”
Max spent much of that night wondering what she might have done if he had kissed her over a batch of Bolognese. It marked the third time he nearly had in as many days. She’d looked entirely too appealing day-before-yesterday, soaking wet and laughing as they’d washed his dog. That same night when they’d headed to Kaito’s for karaoke, they’d gotten a bit handsy after two sake bombs. There was no way this would hold for another two weeks.
“Change of plans.” Cella’s voice held command as she breezed into the kitchen the next morning. “We’ll do Tiramisu tomorrow. Today it’s Capezzoli di Venere.”
He blinked, wondering whether he’d gotten the translation right.
“Nipples of Venus.” She busily removed ingredients from her bag, not meeting his gaze. “Roman chestnuts in brandied sugar.”
Her eyes held something he hadn’t seen before.
“It’s a difficult dish.” She ignored the fact that he had yet to speak. “The sugar has to be molded so it forms a hard shell on the surface, but stay so soft inside that you have to lick out it’s creamy middle. The candied chestnuts are finished with salt, which makes them a bit savory. Placing them in the sugar can be tricky. I’m putting you in charge of tweaking the nipples.”
But he followed her lead.
“So, tell me.” he asked cautiously, once they got started. “What led to this change of heart?”
“Tiramisu is so predictable.” Her voice lost some of its muster. “I thought maybe it was time I took a risk.”
She stopped measuring out sugar, refusing to meet his eyes again as she stared down at the scoop.
“Does that scare you?”
He knew they weren’t talking about recipes and cookbooks. Vanilla extract sat motionlessly in his hand.
She laughed ironically. “Everything scares me, Max. I thought you figured that out.”
He set down the bottle.
“Do I scare you?”
She didn’t laugh this time. “You scare me most of all.”
Since we’re being honest…
“You scare me, too.”
He held his breath to hear her response. When she set back to measuring her sugar, he knew none would come.
They worked in silence, Cella molding the sugary mixture, with Max handling the delicate confections like glass. After he set the chestnuts, she used a fine brush to seal the assembly with caramelized liqueur. They spent the next half hour silently cleaning up after themselves as their concoction set in his chiller.
“Time to taste,” she proclaimed when the timer went off.
She retrieved the tray. He picked up two pieces—so carefully—before placing one in her delicate hand. Their eyes remained locked as each one took a bite. It was the size of a bonbon—his teeth sliced into half, his senses rejoicing in the drunken sweetness that melted across his tongue.
“They’re perfect,” she breathed. He watched as her lips curled into a beatific smile.
His second bite was less guarded—he took out the base but left the nipple. He wanted to save the chestnuts for last. Watching as she devoured the rest of hers, Max followed her lips as they moved. Lazily, he fed himself his last bite. At some point, he noticed that her eyes were fixed on his lips.
“You missed a spot,” she whispered, extending her finger to point to the corner of his mouth.
He let his own finger run the length of his bottom lip before licking it with the tip of his tongue.
“Did I get it?”
She shook her head, eyes still glued to his mouth. “No.”
Before her finger could reach his mouth, he sealed his lips to hers.
Her kiss was hungry, and surged his desire as her tongue lapped at his mouth. Max was certain that it was not as hungry as his. Before he could contemplate what he was doing, he’d grabbed her by the waistline fold of her apron and pulled her close. Their tongues stroked deeply, urgent licks of fire, each of their mouths refusing to let go. Her soft moans caused him to pull her in closer as his arousal stiffened impossibly. With the sounds that he made, she tightened her grip where her twined fingers pulled on his hair. God, did that turn him on.
She nuzzled his neck, and he gulped, gripping her hip with one hand and the counter behind him with the other. His hold on her hip was tight and he no longer knew whether he was holding her at arm’s length or pulling her in.
“Do you want to stop?” she asked.
She licked his ear and he shuddered. “No.”
“Do you want this?”
Her breath was hot on his ear. “God, yes.”
She dove in for another kiss, which he eagerly met, covering her lips this time without hesitation. The next thing he knew, he had untied her strings and her apron was on the floor.
“I want to make a slow meal out of you, Marcella,” he crooned, leaning in deeply to kiss her lovely neck.
They were against the counter; Cella bowed back to receive him, exposing to him her luscious expanse. He pushed her shirt up and over her head, revealing a lacy, green bra, its pattern and hue in the likeness of vines of cascading ivy. More gorgeous than the pretty thing that had teased him from beneath the edge of her shirt was her ample bosom heaving gorgeously from above the intricate top.
Freeing an itching hand, he slid his fingers from her hip up her pillowy flesh until her more-than-a-handful weighed magnificently in his palm. He gloried in their buoyant substance, in their perfection—they were just like risen dough. When her nipples pebbled he lowered his teeth to her opposite breast, grazing the tip with a playful bite.
“Next time,” she commanded, after letting loose a strangled groan. “Make a slow meal out of me next time.”
The Secret Ingredient
by Kilby Blades
TV chef Cella journeys to an idyllic seaside town to write an Italian cookbook. She’s also mourning a failed restaurant project, dodging her predatory agent, and finding respite from soul-crushing fame. When she learns that her next-door neighbor, hot doctor Max, is the nephew of a famed Italian restaurateur, she convinces him to help her write the book.
But guilt-ridden Max botched his own attempt to become a chef—a failure that’s left his late aunt’s gorgeous restaurant sitting empty for years. When the heat between Max and Cella burns hotter than the flames on the stove, how will they say goodbye at summer’s end?
The Secret Ingredient
Kilby Blades Bio
Kilby Blades is a 40-time-award-winning author of Romance and Women’s Fiction. Critics laud her “feminist romance”. Her debut novel, Snapdragon, was a HOLT Medallion finalist, a Publisher’s Weekly BookLife Prize Semi-Finalist, and an IPPY Award medalist. Kilby was awarded an RSJ Emma for Best Debut Author in 2018.
When she’s not writing, Kilby goes to movie matinees alone, where she eats Chocolate Pocky and buttered popcorn and usually smuggles in not-a-little-bit of red wine. Kilby is a mother, a social-justice fighter, and above all else, a glutton for a good story.
- Winner of the 2018 Stiletto Award
- Finalist in the 2019 Sexy Scribbles Contest
- Finalist in the 2019 I Heart Indie Awards
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GIVEAWAY: To be in the running for Kilby’s giveaway, leave a comment telling us how old you were when you got your first kiss? A random comment will be generated as the winner of an eBook.