An excerpt from
The Chef's Choice

Book #1 of the McBains of Grace Harbor

Silhouette Special Edition
August 2008


“Anybody home?” A man’s voice carried in through the open top of the Dutch door. Cady could hear his boot heels thud on the lobby floor with each step. Not one of the staff. It didn’t sound like one of the guests she’d packed off to shopping in Freeport or Kennebunkport, either, which probably meant that it was the day’s arrival. Perfect. The fact that check-in was clearly listed as three pm never stopped guests from showing up an hour or two early and blithely expecting to be shown to their rooms, whether the maids had finished their cleaning rounds or not.


“Just a minute.” Suppressing the urge to snap, Cady walked to the opening. “What do you --”

And her voice died in her throat.

His was the face of an sixteenth century libertine. Lean and angular, with razor sharp cheekbones, it was a face that knew pleasure. She could imagine him dueling at dawn or seducing high-born ladies. She could imagine him slashing paint over canvas in an artist’s garret or bending over a keyboard, pounding out impassioned blues in a smoky, late-night club.

His dark, straight brows matched the hair that flowed thick and undisciplined to his shoulders. He hadn’t bothered to shave that morning and the shadow of beard ran along the bottom of his face like the artful shading of a charcoal sketch, drawing attention to the line of jaw, the strong chin, framing his mouth.

His mouth.

Temptation and mischief, fascination and promise. It was the kind of mouth that offered laughter, the kind of mouth that offered an invitation to decadence.

And delicious, lingering kisses.

Sudden color flooded her cheeks. Look at her, standing there staring at him like an idiot.

Get it together, Cady.

She cleared her throat. “Welcome to the Compass Rose. Are you here to check in?”

“Kind of. I’m looking for Amanda or Ian McBain.”

“They’re not around just now, I’m afraid. I’d be happy to help you, though.”

The corner of his mouth curved up a bit. "My good luck.”

It was said with the casual ease of guy who turned every woman he met into putty, the kind of guy who charmed as second nature. Her eyes narrowed. She wasn’t big on good-looking guys in general, and she was in no mood to be charmed, not after the morning she’d had. “Your room’s probably not ready this early but I’ll check with housekeeping.” When she got around to it. “Here's your paperwork, anyway. It’s Donnelly, right? Scott Donnelly?”

“Hurst,” he corrected. “Damon Hurst.”

“Welcome to the Compass Rose Guest Quarters Mr.-- “ Cady stopped. Stared at him blankly. “Damon Hurst?” she repeated. “The Damon Hurst?”

“The same.”

She saw it now, the famous cheekbones, the Renaissance hair, the face that had launched a hundred magazine covers.

And a thousand tabloid stories over his half decade of infamy.

Damon Hurst, the enfant terrible of the Cooking Channel, the charismatic star who’d sent the upstart network soaring against its entrenched rival before he’d flamed out the year before. Known more for his baroque personal life and volatile kitchen persona than for his undeniably brilliant cuisine, he’d been the subject of speculation, rumors, spite and stories too outrageous to be believed.

Except that they were true.

Cady cleared her throat. “Yes, well, welcome to the Compass Rose, Mr. Hurst,” she said. “It’ll take a little time to get a room put together for you but we do have a vacancy. If you’ll just fill out the registration form, please?” She put the paper on the little counter that topped the lower half of the door.

“I’m not checking in.”

Cady frowned. “I’m not sure I understand.”

“The restaurant.”

“Ah. I see.” She hadn’t realized that the Sextant, the Compass Rose’s restaurant, had a reputation that stretched all the way to Manhattan. Then again, with his shows very publicly cancelled and his restaurant doors shuttered, maybe Damon Hurst had little else to do than run around obscure eateries in Maine. She dredged up a faint smile. “The Sextant is just across the parking lot. I believe they’re still serving lunch.”

“I’m not here for lunch, either,” he said. He was laughing at her, she realized, and felt her face flame.

“If you’re hoping for a tour of the restaurant, I think you’re out of luck.” Even she could hear the tartness in her voice. “We’re shorthanded and I doubt our chef has any interest in letting you go traipsing around his kitchen.”

“My kitchen, now,” Hurst corrected. “I guess you haven’t heard. I’m the new chef.”

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