KITCHEN GODS, BOOK 3
RELEASE DATE: 10.02.18
COVER DESIGN: AngstyG
When Chef Xander Bridges leaves the warmth and safety of his car on a cold, stormy night and approaches a stranger, the last thing he expects to find is a future. He’s wanted to leave his job for a while, but with no good opportunities on the horizon, he’s been stuck in a long, painful rut. But when he befriends the stranger viciously tearing up his own vineyard, Xander discovers something inexplicable. Maybe he’s not the bitter, sarcastic man that everyone, including himself, has endured for years.
Maybe, with someone like Damon in his life, he could be something more. Something better.
Damon Hess doesn’t just want more, he demands it. With his alcoholic past, there are no gray areas for him. Only black and white. In love or not. Sober or drunk. But the chance meeting with Xander opens Damon’s eyes, and gives him a vision full of something he hasn’t experienced in years: hope.
Hope that he can expect companionship and affection, hope that he doesn’t have to grapple with his family’s questionable Napa legacy any longer, and most importantly, hope that there’s a future worth believing in. But the longer he and Xander spend cultivating that future, the more Damon realizes that the key is so much simpler than he ever imagined–it’s Xander.
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Hands down, it was one of the best meals Damon had ever eaten. Even though he’d watched Xander prep it with his own two hands, it was a marvel that he’d done it with only those hands. It was a far better meal than any he’d ever had at Terroir, and that was prepared by an entire staff and countless pieces of expensive equipment.
Xander had come to his house with a bag of groceries and a knife, borrowed a pan and a pizza cutter, and had made an astoundingly delicious meal. It was talent and drive, all wrapped up in one package.
A cute package.
Damon had been telling himself not to notice—or if he was going to notice, then he should just ignore the attraction. But sitting across from Xander, staring at him in the candlelight, it was much harder than he’d imagined. Especially when he looked relaxed and much more at peace than he had that night a year ago.
At first he’d been too worked up himself to notice the anxiousness that Xander wore like a cloak. Or a very difficult-to-scale wall complete with archers equipped with fiery arrows and soldiers pouring boiling oil.
But tonight his guard had fallen a little, and despite everything, Damon wanted desperately to believe it was more than just quitting a job he’d really hated.
Damon wanted to believe the smile on Xander’s face had something to do with him.
“Thank you,” Damon said. “If that was an audition, you nailed it.”
“I know.” He was a little smug, and it was more than a little adorable. The way his nose scrunched up, the eye crinkles, the expressive look in his dark brown eyes.
Damon had imagined he might be in danger, hanging around Xander all the time, especially considering the impression he’d made on him in such a short time, but this was Trouble with a capital t.
“You’d better watch yourself. Not sure your head’s gonna fit back through the back door,” Damon teased.
“You wanted a chef,” Xander said, spreading his arms. “You got one.”
“They’re sort of thick on the ground in Napa,” Damon softly insisted, “but it turns out I’m particular.”
“Imagine that, a Hess particular.” The sarcasm in Xander’s voice cut through the dreamy romantic quality of the candlelight and let in a little of the real world. Specifically his family.
He couldn’t exactly tell Xander he didn’t ever want to talk about his family. After all, this land was their legacy, and his trust fund was making the restaurant a reality. Truth was, he really didn’t want to talk about them, and it felt like Xander brought them up as some sort of defense mechanism. Damon still didn’t understand why, and this was definitely not the first time it had happened.
“What’s your deal with the Hesses?” Damon asked. Might as well be honest, at least before Xander walked back in the house and signed the contract that would tie them together for the near future. Of course, that also meant the question had barely made it out of his mouth.
Something ugly churned deep in his stomach, exactly the opposite reaction he should have had after that incredible meal.
What if he changes his mind?
“Nothing,” Xander said, but his chin was jutting out again, and his fingers were drumming anxiously against the wood tabletop. It sure didn’t look like nothing.
There was a definite voice in his head, begging him to leave it, to make sure he didn’t drive Xander away with his insistent questioning. After all, Xander wasn’t signing with Hess Vineyards, he was signing with Damon, who stayed as far away from his family as possible.
But Damon’s last name was still Hess, and it wasn’t going to change.
“Really?” Damon asked.
Xander sighed. “I said it was nothing, and it is. It’s stupid.”
“I don’t want it to interfere,” Damon offered. “Not with what we’re about to build.”
“It won’t. I promise. I know you’re not your family. And to be honest, that’s what it is. I’ve had a few run-ins with Hess employees. But you’re not like them.”
The thing Damon had discovered before coming back to Napa, and definitely after returning to the Valley, was that he could run as far and as hard as he could, but his family was still his family. Time and distance couldn’t alter his blood, no matter how much he wished otherwise.
Beth Bolden lives in Portland, Oregon with her supportive husband. She wholly believes in Keeping Portland Weird, but wishes she didn’t have to make the yearly pilgrimage up to Seattle to watch her Boston Red Sox play baseball. She’s a fan of fandoms, and spends too much of her free time on tumblr.
Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. She’s published eight novels and two novellas, with Catch Me, the next novel in the Kitchen Gods series, releasing in May 2018.
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