Exclusive Excerpt: Chef’s Table by Lynn Charles

Sure, Thanksgiving’s over, and you’re probably still full. Or, if you’re like us, daydreaming of leftovers. Mmmm, turkey sandwiches. While we’re in this culinary state of mind, let us present to you: M/M, contemporary romance Chef’s Table by Lynn Charles. The men bond over food — and more. We love food, we love romance, so we were intrigued by this “delectable” tale. Want to check it out with us? Read on for an excerpt! It will help with your food coma. We swear. 

When Evan was finished with his meal, Mimi brought him a slice of red velvet cake—unordered, but upon sight suddenly necessary. “You need a break from all that cheesecake, Chef. I cut ya’ an extra big slice.”

Evan caught Patrick’s eye and dug in. “Is there an end to the variety here?”

“Nope. Infinite. I’m actually an alien.” Patrick washed his hands and took off his apron and headband, ruffling his hair as it escaped its trap in the sweaty terrycloth, and joined Evan in the dining room.

He was a bit of an adorable mess.

“You off for the night?”

“No. We’re slow and there’s this really cute guy in my dining room.” He pointed to the end of the counter. “Come down here, huh? A little more private.”

Evan moved down with him and offered a bite of cake. “Where’s the cute guy? Maybe I should check him out?”

Patrick took the offered bite and his lips curled around the fork, not taking his eyes off of Evan. “Damn, that’s good.” He swiped his finger into the piped icing at the base of the cake and looked at it piled there, and then up into Evan’s eyes, before popping it into his own mouth. “How was your shift?”

“No cute guy?” Evan wagged his eyebrows and took a bite of the cake. It was perfectly light and fluffy—just as expected.

“Oh, very cute. I just want to look at him, not talk about him.” Patrick watched Evan sneak his tongue out of his mouth to swipe at a stray crumb. “So, your shift? You seem a little more… buoyant tonight.”

“Well, besides the delicious dinner and dessert”—Evan licked his lips again just to see if Patrick followed. He did. “After a debacle tonight, Perci has only one more strike.”

“You look entirely too pleased about that.”

Evan focused on the cake again, taking a break from Patrick’s intense gaze. “The dumb-ass contaminated an entire vat of po­len­ta—which is the bad news.” He stabbed a piece of the cake and poked the full fork into the air as he spoke. “And I was getting a really good rage going, but then it hit me. One more strike. God only knows what it’ll be, but it’ll be her last.”

Evan indelicately shoved the bite of cake into his mouth and Patrick laughed and handed Evan a napkin. “What’s ridiculous is that you’ve had to put up with her for so long.”

“I finally spoke to DiSante’s heart—his wallet.” Evan wiped his mouth with a blush. “Finds out she’s losing him money and he’s suddenly all about getting her out of there.” He sighed, swirling his fork into the cream cheese frosting. “I’m aiming at a good mood; I don’t want to talk about Perci.”

“So, let’s not talk about Perci.” Patrick pulled up a stool and thanked Mimi for the coffee she brought them, also unordered but suddenly necessary.

“Yes, let’s talk about Millie instead. She’s been on my mind a lot thanks to you, and I think I need to find time to go see her.”

“How long has it been?”

“I talked to her over the holidays, but haven’t seen her in… God, it’s been… three or four years. You know how hard it is to get home—”

Patrick laughed. “I grab a cab.”

“Oh. Right. Smart-ass. Well, for those of us who have to fly, it’s a hassle. I mean, when’s the last time you took off even two days in a row?”

“Um.”

“Right. So, it’s been years. Now she’s in assisted living, and… I shouldn’t wait any longer than I have. It’s going to be weird to see her anywhere but at her own house.”

“I can imagine. That was like a second home for you, wasn’t it?”

“It really was.” For a moment, Evan disappeared into memories of Millie’s home, the sights, sounds and smells of so many days of his childhood and teen years, and later a required stop every time he did fly home from New York. “She had the best kitchen—knocked out a half bath for her pantry. A cook’s dream.”

Evan sipped his coffee and gathered his memories, trying to focus on his story and not Patrick’s eyes, which were dark and engaged and occasionally slipped down to watch his mouth.

“Every summer she’d go to the shore for a month or so. On the few days leading up to it, she’d plant me in front of this massive closet of food to help her clean it out. ‘Four things tonight, Evy. No peeking in containers and first touch gets the pick. We’ll make a masterpiece.’”

Patrick forked the last piece of cake, almost forgotten between them, and lifted it to Evan’s mouth, watching him intently. Then he pressed up the crumbs and laughed when Evan nabbed the fork and ate them himself. “You are passionate about your crumbs.”

“Nothing this good should ever go to waste.” Evan sighed and took a sip of his coffee. “I’m sorry I’m rambling on. I just don’t think I’ve taken the time to realize how much I miss her.”

“Maybe you’ve let yourself get so busy so you won’t miss her so much.”

Evan settled his mug into the saucer slowly, its rattle mir­ror­ing the rattle that went through him at those words. “You know, I don’t think I like how you get right to the heart of me so easily.”

Patrick smiled, his eyes soft and warm. “I’m sorry, do you want me to stop?”

“I don’t think you are sorry.” Evan smiled back. “And, no.”

Patrick poked at one more cake crumb and popped it into his mouth with a wicked grin. “So did you and Millie make any masterpieces?”

Evan cocked his head side to side, considering. “Rarely. Some­times. By the time we played, the pantry was almost empty. Nor­mal­ly it was loaded. Vinegars and oils, dried fruits and nuts, flours, chocolates, pastas.” He sighed, envisioning the organized chaos of it. “She always had the best truffle oil.”

“Mmm, truffle oil. Kryptonite.”

“Of the gods.”

Patrick took Evan’s plate and dumped it into a bus bin. “So, what happened when you pulled a crappy mix?”

“One of the first times, I got oyster sauce, flaxseed and Nutella. I dove in blind, thinking it was peanut butter—make some kind of peanut sauce, you know? That night we did take-out.”

“Wise choice.” Patrick drained his coffee and tossed the mug into the bin. He hopped off his stool and settled his elbows on the counter across from Evan, so close that Evan had to refocus just to see the whole of his face.

And when he did, he couldn’t hide the sharp intake of air, the warmth rushing through him, the desire to reach out and scratch at the scruff on Patrick’s jaw. “Hi.”

Patrick smiled and ran his fingers through his sweaty hair.

And then he winked.

And Evan blushed, missing the first bit of what Patrick was saying.

“ … Just stand next to Oona in the kitchen. The chatter about nothing. Lessons that have less to do with deglazing a pan and more about using a little heat and acid to scrape up the crap from your life.”

“How long has she been gone?”

“She passed just after I came back to help Johnny. Sometimes, I just miss the food. Cooking it. Eating it—”

Evan lifted his elbows to the counter too, his hands folded in front of him, chin resting on his thumbs. “You know, if you want to cook it… it wasn’t that long ago that you promised me a full fry.”

Patrick’s eyes trailed up to Evan’s and down to his mouth again, pupils dilating as Evan brushed his lips up over the knuckles of his thumbs, tasting his own skin with his tongue.

Evan was speechless, breathless, caught in Patrick’s intense gaze. They lingered there, their eyes unwavering, soft shy smiles curling at their lips.

Patrick bit at his bottom lip before speaking. “Am, um—am I reading things right here?”

Evan blinked, trying to hide his bubbling joy behind his folded hands. “I’m not sure. What are you reading?”

Patrick smiled as if in on the secret. Which of course he was—that was the whole point. “Well. I’m reading… that if I do what I’ve wanted to do since that first night you showed up here—”

“Since the first night?”

“The first night.”

“Hmmm… go on.”

Patrick blinked and licked his lips as if to fully prepare his statement. “Since that first night, I’ve wanted to lean across this counter and kiss you.”

Evan lowered his hands to the counter, just avoiding brushing his fingers along the dark hair on Patrick’s arms. “Interesting. And what happens after the kiss?”

“Well, if I’m reading right,” Patrick paused and reached to trace Evan’s jaw, but changed course and ran his fingers down the curve of his shoulder. “If I do that, not only will you be okay with it, but maybe, in time—” He stopped his motion and looked back in Evan’s eyes, smiling when they locked, all shyness and in­security driven away. “In a short time, if I’m an advanced enough reader—it might lead to me having an opportunity to fix you that full fry.”

“Hunh.” Evan felt the blood rush up his cheeks to the tips of his ears. And maybe lower as well. “So. Maybe in a little more private setting than say—the middle of a diner in downtown Brooklyn?”

“A little.”

Evan leaned closer; their breath almost mingled as they spoke. “You know what I think?”

“What do you think?”

“I think you’re a very good reader.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Neither of them budged, and Evan’s heart raced. The conversation between them continued with their eyes, which dragged up and down each other’s faces from eyes to lips to necks and back. They blindly reached for each other’s hands, their fingers twisting and twining together, want and lust calculating how to best make this happen—yesterday.

“Sadly, you’d better move on that first idea, because my phone alarm is about to bring reality crashing in on our moment.”

“Oh?”

“I need to sleep—Greenmarket at seven tomorrow.”

“Seven a.m.?” Patrick kissed Evan’s knuckles and Evan had to close his eyes as Patrick’s lips dragged across his skin. “That’s harsh.”

“That’s life.” Evan opened his eyes and let them linger on Patrick’s mouth as his own imagination fired and snapped. How soft and sweet, powerful and tender those lips would feel against his. He dared drag his eyes up to Patrick’s and found them crinkled in an amused smile. “Stop flirting and kiss me.”

Patrick groaned as he closed the small distance between them, fulfilling Evan’s imagined fantasy perfectly. The kiss was soft and sweet, with just enough power to make his toes curl. And when he pressed in again, leading with the tenderest brush of his tongue, Evan ignored the fact that they were in public and made a noise that would embarrass the sassiest of streetwalkers.

They pulled back with a loud smack, flushing at their display, Patrick’s voice raspy and deep. “Come back in the kitchen.”

“I can’t stay.”

“I know. I just want to send you off properly.”

Evan didn’t miss Mimi’s cackle as he stood and gathered his coat, slipped behind the counter and disappeared into the kitchen, the swing door flapping loudly behind him. And when Patrick pressed him up against the reach-in, hands cupping at his neck and jaw, thigh slipping between Evan’s, he didn’t rightly care that she knew. Hell, the few patrons still enjoying their meals at this hour probably knew.

They kissed and tasted, cream cheese frosting-flavored and coffee-accented kisses, Evan’s fingers sinking into Patrick’s hair with matched groans at its silky softness and the scratch and soothe of Evan’s fingers on Patrick’s scalp. After a few more mo­ments, desire building a slow burn between them, Evan’s phone buzzed in his pocket. Its low hum broke them apart, breathless, forehead to forehead, their bodies still moving together in a slow roll.

“I’ve got to… oh God… I have to go. I’m sorry.”

“I understand.”

“I know. Thank you.”

“Besides, I’m not looking for fast food here.”

“No?”

Patrick shook his head, his eyes dark with want, and scratched his fingers at the nape of Evan’s neck.

With one more lingering kiss, Evan slid his hands down Patrick’s arms, sighed and stepped back. “I understand.”

“I know. Thank you.”

Evan smiled and grabbed for his coat that he’d haphazardly tossed onto Patrick’s work table. “I’ll call you after shift tomorrow.” Patrick pulled Evan in for one final kiss, stealing just one more taste. “That is some damned good frosting.”

Chef’s Table is available tomorrow! Give it a taste, won’t you? We’re done with the food puns, so we’ll just point you toward our Everything Romance page if you’re hungry (we knew we had one more in us!) for some more love stories. 

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