Jennifer rushed around the kitchen, tasting this, stirring that. They had a large lunch crowd today due to the writer’s conference at the hotel across the street. To make matters worse the babysitter had called in sick, so she’d had to bring Katie to work with her. Trying to run a kitchen with a baby on your hip was nearly impossible. To top that off the produce man had forgotten her strawberries for today’s dessert special so she spent the morning making chocolate ganache. She’d scream if one more thing went wrong.
“Jen, a customer is insisting on speaking to you.”
Handing Katie off to her head waiter Craig, she ran to her office to put on the black blazer she kept there. She kicked off her white Nike’s and slipped into some black patent leather pumps. “Why? Is something wrong with the food?” she asked as she pulled her long blond hair out of the bun she kept it in while cooking. A dash of lip gloss and she was in professional mode, ready to soothe the most dissatisfied customer with her smile.
“He refused to say.”
“What’s he having?”
“The Monte Cristo.”
She frowned. She had made those herself. There couldn’t possibly be anything wrong with it. “Which one is he?” she asked, looking over the French country style dining room of her café.
“Table four. Gentleman in the blue shirt.”
With her head high, shoulders back she approached the table calmly. “I’m Jennifer Wyatt. What can I do for you?” she asked with a smile.
The first thing she noticed when he looked up were startling blue eyes set in a handsome face, a lock of black hair falling on his forehead.
“Ms. Wyatt. I felt this was something for your eyes only. This wasn’t quite what I ordered.” He lifted the corner of his sandwich to reveal a pink baby teether. “A secret ingredient perhaps?” Amusement laced his voice.
Jennifer closed her eyes in embarrassment. She’d noticed it was missing but assumed Katie had dropped it and it had rolled under something.
“I’m so sorry. Let me get you another one right away.” She reached for his plate. “It’s on the house. Please order anything you want from our dessert menu. I can assure you nothing like this has ever happened before at the Stanford.”
Still smiling he leaned back in his chair looking relaxed and friendly, not mad or upset as he had every right to be. “What I’d like to know is how it got there. I’m sure it’s a fascinating story.”
“I could explain but you wouldn’t believe me. I’ll be right back with your food.”
As she walked away she heard the other man at his table ask. “You going to tell me what was in the sandwich?”
Jennifer dropped the teether in the sink and the sandwich in the trash. She looked up to see Craig watching her, brow raised. This was humiliating and disastrous. Never in her entire career had she made a mistake like this. If she wasn’t the boss she would be fired.
“Not a word.” She turned to the stove. “Get me a bottle of Vietti from the cellar and put it in a gift box.”
She slid the sandwich onto the plate just as Craig emerged with the wine. Taking a deep breath she walked into the dining room. He was sitting alone. She panicked wondering if she’d made him late. Laying the plate on the table she said. “I hope this is more to your liking Mr……?”
“Blade. Jake Blade.”
“Mr. Blade. I see the rest of your party left, would you like me to box it for you?”
“Clay had an appointment but I have nowhere I need to be anytime soon. Have a seat.” He gestured to the chair opposite him.
Considering what he had found in his food she figured having the chef sit with him while he ate was a reasonable request.
She laid the wine on the table. “Please accept this with our compliments and apologies Mr. Blade.”
He pulled the bottle out of the bag. “Vietti 1995. Very nice. I will accept it on one condition.”
She raised a brow questioningly.
“Share it with me over dinner tonight.”
Could this near disaster be turning into something more? Something much sweeter than the chocolate ganache dessert? She sure hoped so. Thankfully her sister and brother-in-law would be picking Katie up today. “I’d like that.” She smiled warmly. Katie chose that moment to let out a loud wail. “Excuse me. I need to take care of something.”
A flustered Craig emerged from the kitchen with a wailing Katie. “I don’t know what to do!”
Jennifer took her niece in her arms and she instantly quieted.
“The owner of the toy I assume.” She turned to find Jake standing right behind her. He playfully reached for Katie’s hand, she grabbed his finger tightly.
“My niece Katie. I’ve been watching her while my sister was out of town and today the babysitter called in sick. I had no choice but to bring her with me. Unfortunately, she doesn’t work on a schedule.”
“Will she be joining us tonight?”
Jen laughed. “No. Her parents will be home today.”
“A pity, having dinner with two beautiful females is every man’s dream. Is seven ok for you?”
“Sure. Pick me up here?”
“That’s perfect. Now, I will return to my lunch and let you return to your work. I wouldn’t want you to have to work late. See you at seven.”
If Katie hadn’t pulled on her hair Jennifer would have made a fool of herself, standing there watching him walk back to his table. “Ok pipsqueak. It’s time for your bottle and hopefully a long nap.” She allowed herself one last glance before she went back into the kitchen. Her eyes met Jake’s and he winked as he took a bite of his sandwich. She felt the heat creeping up her body and turned quickly away before the flush reached her face. The man was positively gorgeous. What had she gotten herself into? She couldn’t wait to find out.
Want to know how their date goes? Check back next month for Part Two, coming October 11th.