Guest Post & Giveaway: Turn Up the Heat by Serena Bell
Turn up the Heat
Second Chances # 1
Second Chances # 1
By: Serena Bell
Releasing July 14, 2015
For readers of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery, USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell teases all five senses in this poignant, tantalizing novel of fantasies long hidden . . . and finally indulged.
Aspiring chef Lily McKee noticed Kincaid Graves the first time he walked into the dingy diner where she waits tables. With his ice-blue eyes and primal tattoos, his presence puts Lily on edge—and reminds her of all the unfulfilled longings she isn’t pursuing while she’s stuck in this dead-end job. Without a doubt, the man is dangerous to her long-term plans of leaving town and hiring on at a real kitchen—and yet, she hungers for him, if even for just a taste.
Kincaid didn’t come back to his coastal Oregon hometown looking for a good time or a good meal. The ex-con has a score to settle, old wrongs to set right. But Lily, equal parts innocence and insight, brings out an impulsive side of him he thought he’d left behind in the past. And it only takes one intense moment of weakness between them to make him consider the possibility of an entirely new future—and the promise of passion beyond either of their wildest dreams.
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“Dinner rush is just starting. You will be in ten minutes. Look, I’m not giving you a choice.”
“Of course you’re fucking not.”
The men glared at each other, then turned to her.
Lily knew better than to look like she was waiting for an invitation. She grabbed an order ticket and got to work.
Of course it was the ticket for Booth 9. Her mystery man. He’d ordered a burger.
She let herself wonder, just a little. If he’d do it. If he’d pin her, hold her, boss her, own her. Wondering wasn’t doing. There was no harm in wondering.
She’d told herself that after what had happened with Fallon, she needed to give herself space. She’d told herself: No men in Tierney Bay. Do the job, make the money, get out.
The anger coiled now. The sense of betrayal.
Do the job, make the money, get out.
And yet, every time her mystery man came in here and she took in his size, the hewn-wood solidity of him, the ripple and surge of what he’d built under the surface of his skin like a barely contained threat, she wanted to rewrite the rules. And that was before he turned that cool blue gaze on her, stripped her to the skin and then barer still, and dared her something she didn’t have a name for.
She’d promised herself. And in her head, she’d promised her mother and her sister, who had given up so much for her.
And her father, who had given up everything.
So that meant she could wonder, but that was all.
But it wouldn’t be breaking the rules to cook for him. To grill him a burger and watch him eat it. She’d seen him eat a few times, like he was ravenous and barely restrained, but savoring every last nuance. Watching him eat would be only a consolation prize, but it would be a damn good one.
Unfortunately, she’d had a few of Tierney Bay Diner’s hamburgers, and they were nothing to write home about. That would dampen the fun of feeding him, for sure.
It would take her ten seconds, no more, to fix that.
A few chopped onions, minced garlic and parsley, Worcestershire sauce.
She dared a glance, and there he was. Icy-lake eyes, full lips, the slashes of cheek and jawbone, a day’s stubble. Not reading. Watching her.
They’d done this too many times for her to pretend they weren’t doing it. She looked right back at him, held his gaze, and heat flared in her, like the shimmer of air over the grill.
She oiled the grill and formed the patty, the sound of her hands loud as a slap in her mind but drowned by sizzle and the clang of metal and the god-awful eighties XM station playing on infinite loop.
In a few seconds she was flipping her own burgers with her left hand and clearing space for sausages with her right.
She brushed cooking oil on the grill—but someone had substituted lemon juice in her oil bottle and the whole thing caramelized in an instant.
Behind her, Hadley snickered.
Screw him. She scraped the grill clean, time wasted, and started over.
On his next pass, he knocked her elbow when she was salting, and she seared his forearm with a metal spatula she’d been heating on the grill for just that purpose.
He jumped a foot and his jaw tightened, but he half-grinned, too. He knew the score. It was every man for himself in the kitchen. Every woman, too.
She’d be poised for his next attack, but somehow, some way, she’d prove herself in here. This was how you did it.
Meantime, she wouldn’t let him distract her. Wouldn’t let him break her rhythm. The smack of patties on her latex palms, the swish of spatula against grill surface, the dance she was part of now as her brain tracked tickets and entrees, ingredients and subassemblies. What needed to be started and what needed to be finished.
Booth 9’s burger was up, and she watched it get delivered. He took a bite, then looked up from the burger and met her eyes. It was there: gratitude and worship, hot and dark as sex. Like no one had ever really fed him before.
She loved that. She couldn’t help her smile.
Someone stopped by his table, breaking her line of sight. Markos. He’d been moving around the diner, stopping to say hello to regular customers and to check on people to see if they were enjoying their meals. Markos and her mystery man began having an animated conversation, pointing to the burger. Removing the bun.
A cold hand fisted in her stomach.
Markos left Booth 9 and headed straight for her. “See me in the storeroom.” Markos’s thick-featured face was angry, his voice low and mean. “Hadley, watch her station.”
She followed Markos into the storeroom.
“You messed with my food.”
“We don’t put fucking onions and parsley in the hamburgers. Or anything fucking else.”
The real rage in his voice surprised her, set her back on her heels despite herself. “I was— Did he not like it?”
Because she knew he had. She’d seen him finish the last bite a moment ago and lick his fingers, which had sent a shiver of lust up her spine.
“That’s not the fucking point. You don’t mess with my food. You don’t try something new. I tell you what to cook, you cook it. Except you don’t, because it’ll be a frigid day in hell before I let you back in this kitchen. Get outta here. Go do what I hired you to do.”
He held out his hand and she shed her apron and hairnet and returned them to him.
She went back to the floor. Tears stung behind her eyes, but she ordered them back. Be tough. Show no weakness.
Or as one of her favorite teachers—a woman—had once said, Pull on your big-girl panties and turn up the heat.
Romancing the Readers welcomes Serena Bell! Thanks for visiting with us!
I’m thrilled to be visiting Romancing the Readers as part of my Turn Up the Heat blog tour. Thank you so much, Ann for inviting me today!
Turn Up the Heat is the story of Lily, a waitress whose culinary school training is languishing in a seaside town diner, and Kincaid, who has just been paroled from maximum security prison for the crime of trying to protect the woman who raised him. Lily recognizes something kindred—and rough—in Kincaid, and the two form a sizzling hot and bone-deep connection. But both Kincaid and Lily have to find a way to move past old mistakes if they want to find a future together.
I thought I’d talk a little bit today about building a character, specifically the parts of a character that grow out of problem-solving. There are parts of Lily and Kincaid that just “are who they are,” aspects of them that arose from sheer inspiration. But there are also character traits that are answers to questions I asked myself as I was writing the book. Here’s an example:
As I was writing, I realized I had to think about how Kincaid might have been able to survive, relatively unscathed, in maximum security prison. As you probably know from movies and books, or even from having a friend or relative on the inside, it’s a jungle in there, and survival of the fittest prevails.
So I made Kincaid big, physically intimidating, the kind of guy who could reasonably bulk up and make an unappealing target. That fit with who I imagined Lily would be attracted, too, anyway, but it also gave him a better chance of survival. I made him savvy, able to keep his cool under pressure. But I still knew he needed something else.
You survive in prison if you’ve got something other people want—cell phones, food, drugs, cigarettes, etc. I wanted to keep Kincaid as above-board as possible—after all, I was already trying to rehab him from having committed a violent crime—so I thought about what he could have that other prisoners might want—and realized that he was probably a jailhouse lawyer—a guy who’d schooled himself in criminal law so he could help his fellow inmates fight bureaucracy and appeal their convictions.
From there, lots of other aspects of Kincaid came into relief—his close friendship with his own lawyer, who’d helped teach him the rudiments of criminal law before prison and who’d fixed him up with a “protector” inside; his fascination with law and desire to pursue a degree; the fact that he’d spent seven years in the pen without losing all of his humanity. In fact, it wasn’t really until the jailhouse lawyer piece fell into place that I really knew who Kincaid was, and after that, the book started to gel.
Almost every character I write has parts of character that seem to grow organically, and the parts that emerge from problem solving. It’s one of the things I love most about writing—getting to watch characters develop in both these ways.
USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell writes stories about how sex messes with your head, why smart people sometimes do stupid things, and how love can make it all better. She wrote her first steamy romance before she was old enough to understand what all the words meant and has been perfecting the art of hiding pages and screens from curious eyes ever since—a skill that’s particularly useful now that she’s the mother of two school-aged children.