Kitchen Affairs

By: Brooke Cumberland

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS





To my amazing husband who always supports me no matter what! You’re my soul mate. My forever. To my little girl who inspires me in everything I do. Also, to my two stepsons who’ve put up with take out, piles of dishes and laundry, and tons of Starbucks runs while I buried my head into writing my debut novel. A huge thank you to my mom & dad, who are my biggest fans. You always encouraged me to do what I love and to be who I am.


I love you all so much!


Most importantly, to God, who has given me the strength and faith to cherish every moment and to live for each and every day.





CHAPTER ONE





AS I REACHED FOR A POT, I heard an unfamiliar voice behind me. "Are you married?" I quickly turned around startled at the question and raised my eyes up to the Mr. Drake Stagliano. His dark eyes and hair matched his deep, dark tone.

Wow… just wow.

"No," I replied in a little more than a whisper. Rather an odd question for someone I've never met. His eyes looked through me as if I was transparent.

He nodded his chin toward my left ring finger recognizing my engagement ring from Liam. I haven’t taken if off since the day he proposed and even though we were no longer getting married, I still wore it as a reminder of the love we once shared.

I stared at him waiting to see if he furthered his actions, but he stayed quiet with his hands in his pockets anxiously awaiting my response. "I was engaged a long time ago," was all I managed to say. I turned back around grabbing the pot and utensils I needed in order to finish my cooking assignment.

"Why do you still wear it?" he asked intrigued, keeping his eyes on me as I moved through the kitchen.

"As a reminder," I said seriously. "And to keep danger away," I smirked as I walked back to my counter.

"Danger, huh?" he raised his eyebrows while following me.

“Keeps men away,” I grinned. "Usually," I continued, rolling my eyes. He wasn’t the first man since Liam to hit on me. Typical.

"That's quite misleading, Miss Woods. Why not wear it on your right hand then?" he asked with a serious look.

“Molly,” I corrected. “I haven’t taken it off since - ” My mind flashed to the moment Liam bent down on his knee, his palms sweaty and clammy, asking me to marry him. Of course, I cried and agreed to immediately. We were expecting our first child together, four months along already but I was only eighteen years old. We were young and in love and just starting our family. It was everything I had dreamed it would be. Until, he died. " - the day it was put on," I managed to finish.

"What happened?" he asked eagerly with attentive eyes. I could tell he was trying to be sympathetic.

This was the last place I wanted to talk about Liam. Being in the kitchen was my comfort place where it kept my mind free of pain. I consumed myself with cooking and creating new ideas. I loved cooking in high school, and after I had Stella I immediately started looking into culinary schools. I wanted to be a chef and make food appealing and desiring. Being in the kitchen was one place where my mind felt free.

"I have to get back to my work if you don’t mind, Mr. Stagliano. I'm quite busy today," I remarked without making eye contact. He was making me nervous as I stammered over my words. Drake is the hotel and restaurant manager and oversaw the Riverside where I currently intern. Today was the first day of my last semester, and the homestretch to graduation was in four months.

I moved to Chicago almost three years ago when Stella was one. Chicago offered the best culinary schools. Kendall College accepted me and granted me a scholarship. Apart from interning three times a week, I also attend classes twice a week. My best friend, Michael moved here with me to help with Stella while he focused on his writing career.

On campus, we worked in professional grade kitchens learning different techniques about the science of food. In our last semester, we were given a choice of where to intern in gaining more experience than just at school. Riverside was one of the options this year, and since I hoped to work there someday, I applied for the internship program.

"Sure sorry to impose," he grinned with a bright smile and nodded. "Have a pleasant day." My face reddened as he walked away from me. I'd done my research before accepting the internship and knew of the Stagliano family quite well. I also knew Drake was a ladies man and extremely powerful. And mostly, he’s incredibly intimidating. And hot.

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