Party Excerpts

Excerpt from Meg Benjamin's Fearless Love

She handed him the salt container, then watched him dump enough salt into the soup kettle to raise the water’s specific gravity. He brushed the salt grains from his hands and turned back to her again.
“Cutting board?”
She pointed to the plastic one alongside the magnetic strip with her precious knife set.
He picked up the board, then took down her eight-inch chef’s knife, running his thumb across the blade. He sighed. “Darlin’ we need to get you a wooden cutting board. It’s going to screw up your knives if you use ‘em on plastic.”
He laid the knife on the cutting board, then put the sauté pan on the stove, turning up the flame as he poured in olive oil. Then he turned back to the cutting board.
MG regarded the sauté pan uneasily. Maybe she should turn down the burner.
“Don’t worry,” he said without turning around. “It needs to heat up before we put anything into it.” He broke off a couple of cloves of garlic, laying them flat on the board, and whacked them with the side of the knife before shucking off the skin. He ran the knife through each clove with negligent grace and a speed that should shoot flames. “Kosher salt?” He raised an eyebrow.
She pushed the box toward him. He threw a pinch down on the chopped garlic, then ground it into paste with his knife.
“Now, the oil’s ready.” He gave her a quick smile, then grabbed the can of anchovies. “Can opener?”
She pulled open a drawer and handed it to him.
He opened the can, then dumped the fish into the oil where they sizzled dramatically. He pulled a wooden spoon out of the drawer and used it to stir the anchovies.
“What about the garlic?”
He shrugged. “Let the anchovies melt down a little. Then we’ll add it.” He glanced around the kitchen again. “Did I see some tomatoes around here someplace?”
“Over here.” She pulled the bag out of the cupboard. “I forgot to put them in the refrigerator.”
“Good for you. Don’t ever put them in the refrigerator.” He took two large tomatoes out of the sack and pulled the serrated knife off the rack. “Got any fresh basil hanging around?”
“No problem. They’re nice and ripe. Olive oil and salt’s probably all we need anyway.” He placed the slices on a plate and sprinkled more olive oil across them from the bottle, then sprinkled them with kosher salt.
MG glanced nervously at the stove. How long did it take anchovies to burn anyway?
Joe took the lid off the soup kettle, then dumped in most of the package of spaghetti. He stirred it enough to submerge the strands, then opened the oven and pulled out the now toasted slices of bread. “Okay, field expedient time. You got a grater?”
She pulled a Microplane out of the drawer and handed it to him.
He grinned. “No darlin’, this is where you get to help. Get a bowl and grate the bread into it, okay?”
“Crusts and all?”
“Just tear off the crusts. You’ll do fine.”
MG did as she was told, all the while watching the anchovies. Joe gave them another stir, then finally scraped up the garlic paste with his knife and dumped it into the pan stirring quickly to combine garlic and oil. “Any fresh parsley?”
MG shook her head.
“Green onions?”
“Maybe.” She opened the refrigerator door and dug through the hydrator until she found the bag. “They’re a little shopworn.”
“No problem.” He took them from her hand and chopped them quickly. Then he turned off the heat under the anchovies. “Okay, now we assemble. Got a pasta bowl?”
“Sort of.”  She pulled a plastic Tupperware salad bowl out of the cabinet and handed it to him.
To his credit, he didn’t blink. “Okay. Colander?”
She dug it out and placed it in the sink.
“Here we go.” He hoisted the soup pot full of spaghetti, then paused. “Almost forgot. Got a measuring cup handy?”
She handed him the plastic one on the counter, then watched him dip it into the pasta water.
“Okay, here we go.” He hoisted the pot again, then dumped spaghetti and water into the colander. He bounced the pasta a few times to shake off the water, then dumped it into the salad bowl and reached for the sauté pan. “I’m going to need some tongs here.”
MG pulled a pair of tongs out of the drawer, reflecting as she did that the drawer was almost empty. This particular meal was using every limited resource she had.
Joe tossed the spaghetti with the tongs, mixing in the anchovies and garlic, adding a splash of the pasta water from the cup. “Bread crumbs?”
MG handed him her bowl, then watched him pour them over the top. He gave the spaghetti one last toss before sprinkling on the green onions. “I think we’re done.”
“Good. After all of that, I’m starving.” She started toward the cupboard to get the plates, but he caught her around the waist pulling her tight against his body. Apparently, his recovery time was over. He cupped the back of her head and covered her mouth with his.

A few moment later, he raised his head. “I’m starved too,” he growled. “Eat fast.”

Excerpt from Skylar Kade's Heat Up the Night

Waves of subtle lemony air drifted over her, as they always did in his presence. Or they did during their one scene together. She hadn’t been able to serve a Lemontini since without her panties getting wet.
Tovia sighed at his teasing even as the little hint of jealousy in his voice made her stomach jump. She shouldn’t react, but her body betrayed her so easily. “What do you think you’re doing here?”
Laughter rumbled her bones at every point of contact with his body. “I’m an elite member. I’m here all the time.”
“Not since we—” She bit off the rest of her sentence before she could dig herself in further and tried again to wriggle from his lap.
“Silly girl.” His words gentled, soothed. One rough hand slid up and down her arm. Damnit, she should not like that. “I was in Greece. The owner of the Hellena sent me over there to sample food and wine vendors. I assumed you knew.”
Now he’d think she was pining after him. Just because she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about him didn’t mean she missed him. Or wanted a repeat that lasted all night.
No, because that would be ridiculous. Douglas women didn’t need men. It was practically the family motto.
To keep things light, she teased him back, ignoring the way her skin heated beneath his touch. “Oooh, poor thing. That must have been such a hardship.” A smile even teased at the corner of her lips despite her efforts to remain unaffected by his presence. When was the last time she smiled at a man who wasn’t tipping her for drinks?
Keilor stared down at her. “Actually, it was.”
Oh boy. She wasn’t touching the wealth of subtleties in those words. Not going down that path.

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