Growing up in Eastbridge, Connecticut, Carolyn Rivington was a young debutante who did whatever her parents asked. So when her father demanded that she break things off with the boy from the wrong side of the tracks or else, she did. Now Carolyn’s family is deep in debt. She’s no longer a member of the Briarwood Golf and Yacht Club, she’s an employee. And the tanned, tattooed, dangerously handsome stranger who saunters into her lobby isn’t just her new boss . . . he’s also her first love.
The last time he saw Carolyn, Jake Gaffney was in the back of a police cruiser, handcuffed and humiliated. But seeing her again stirs other memories: a blanket on the beach, the moon above their heads, and the most expensive bottle of wine he could afford. Now the tables have turned. As a real-estate magnate and Briarwood’s new owner, Jake doesn’t have to answer to anyone. But now that he’s back home, he’s finding it hard to live down his old reputation.
Before they can move forward, Jake and Carolyn must face their pasts. But it’ll take more than sizzling chemistry for them to heal old wounds and return to the love they once shared.
Once and Again
Return to Briarwood # 1
Return to Briarwood # 1
By: Elisabeth Barrett
Releasing July 14, 2015
Sighing, she put on her suit jacket and made her way down the carpeted corridor of the club’s offices to head to the kitchen. In a pinch, she could usually snare a sandwich or a roll, if they had extras, and Eric’s cuisine was really quite good. Not that she’d be in a position to complain if it weren’t.
As she approached the rear kitchen door, she heard yelling and swearing in French. Oh, crap. Eric was at it again.
Carolyn pushed open one of the double doors and poked her head inside to assess the situation. Eric had his back to her as he screamed something unintelligible to Madison Klein, one of his line chefs. Carolyn could see his head bobbing as he dressed down the poor young woman. Cheeks crimson, eyes on the ground, Madison looked like she’d rather be in the seventh layer of hell than in the spacious kitchen at the Briarwood. Had Eric found out that Madison was moonlighting at a seafood restaurant in New Haven on her off-days?
Susumo Norimoto, the very exacting pastry chef, stood to the left, using a miniature blowtorch to caramelize some sugar on the top of a delicious-looking crème brûlée. Spying Carolyn out of the corner of his eye, he stopped and turned fractionally toward her. Carolyn noted the imperceptible tightening of his lips. She could always count on Susumo to let her know the score. She glanced at Madison, then gave him a questioning look. In an incredibly minute gesture, he nodded no. Madison’s secret was safe, but things were not all right. Even Jane Pringle, the sometimes assistant pastry chef who was known for her cool head, looked rattled. Her brown eyes were huge, and her gaze flicked worriedly between Maddy and Eric.
Nick Landon, another line chef close with Madison, had taken a step toward the scene. Not good. Clearly, an intervention by a neutral party was needed. Now.
“What is going on in here?” Carolyn demanded, stepping into the space. “I heard your screaming all the way down the hall!”
Eric immediately turned and switched to straight English. “That imbecile at table six sent the sole back again because it is too bland! He has no taste buds! And this one,” he made some Gallic gesture in Madison’s direction, “offered to fix it, but I am the chef de cuisine! I make the decisions in my kitchen!” There was more rapid French, and Carolyn caught a few choice swearwords. “Table six wants flavor? They get flavor!” He snatched the offending plate from a server named Will, who was cowering nearby, slammed it on the counter, and dumped a full cup of salt onto the fish. “Here,” he said, thrusting the plate back at the poor server. “It is ready now.”
The kitchen was silent except for a dripping faucet and the hiss of a forgotten burner. Everyone just stood there, staring at the mound of salt covering the fish.
“Go!” Eric screamed into the stillness.
The plate trembled in Will’s hand. He turned, and looked like he was actually going to deliver the plate to the table.
“Stop,” Carolyn said, and Will froze. Carolyn held out her hand. “Will, give me that.” Will looked back and forth between her and Eric, and then slowly handed her the plate. Without saying a word, Carolyn dumped the contents into a nearby garbage can and slid the dirty plate onto the counter. Then she turned to Eric. In top form, he was a younger, hotter, French version of Hugh Jackman. Right now, with his wild hair and his red face and his crazed eyes, he just looked like a madman.
She stared him down, and when he realized she wasn’t budging, he stalked back to his private office. She followed him in and shut the door.
“Have you gone crazy?” she demanded. “If I could hear you in the hall, they can definitely hear you in the dining room. Vernon and Alicia Chelmsford are out there, and Alicia just hired us for a twenty-thousand-dollar affair. Twenty thousand dollars, Eric!” The sad part was, in Carolyn’s heyday, she could have blown through that in a week. Now, it just seemed like an exorbitant amount of money that wealthy people threw away on fancy parties. “Do you want her to think the chef has lost his mind?”
“I have been insulted,” Eric said, sounding indignant.
“Ninety-five percent of the time, the criticism says more about the person making it than it does about your cooking.”
Eric pounded on his chest. “I am the chef here.”
“And an excellent one,” Carolyn said, sensing the shift. “But just like it is my job to make our guests happy, it is your job to give your guests the kind of food they want.”
He really was a superior chef, and the problem was that he belonged in an elite Manhattan kitchen, not at Waves. He’d taken this job to be close to his sister, who was going through some experimental drug trial at Yale–New Haven Hospital. As his sister’s health had deteriorated, so had Eric’s mental state. He’d been on edge for the past few months, but the new acquisition of Briarwood had clearly gotten to him. This was the worst she’d seen him in a long time.
Carolyn shook her head. “I know you’re stressed-out, but so is everyone else. We are all under heightened scrutiny, and we need to be able to depend on each other.” Everyone worked together as a team and one person could easily make the difference between them succeeding and failing. Eric needed to realize that it wasn’t just his ego on the line; it was his job, along with those of everyone who worked with him—including hers. “Try to keep your temper in check, Eric. Please.” She put as much weight into the word as she could muster.
“Je comprende, Carolyn,” Eric finally said. “I understand. Tell Madison to prepare another filet and season it well. I am taking a break.” Then he stripped off his apron and left his office. In a second, she heard the back door to the kitchen slam shut.
She stepped back into the kitchen. Everyone else had already gotten back to work. Susumo gave her a short nod. Only if she looked closely could she see the relief in his eyes.
On cue, her stomach rumbled again, but given how jumpy everyone was, now definitely wasn’t the time to beg for some real food. Instead, she gave Madison her marching orders, then grabbed a roll from the bread basket and stuffed it in her mouth.
Elisabeth Barrett lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and spends her days teaching, editing, writing sexy contemporary romance, and enjoying time with her sometimes-bearded husband and three spirited children. She is constantly perfecting her home-work-writing juggling act, but in her free time she loves to hike open-space preserves, grow orchids, bake sweet things her husband won’t eat, and sing in grand choruses. For more about Elisabeth, please visit her website.