eBook Details


12 Courses

Series: Delectable
By: EM Lynley | Other books by EM Lynley
Published By: Dreamspinner Press
Published: Dec 23, 2015
ISBN # 9781634766838
Word Count: 32,744
Heat Index     
Eligible Price: $4.99

Available in: Adobe Acrobat, Epub, Mobipocket (.mobi)

Categories: Romance>LGBTQ>Gay Romance>Contemporary


12 Courses (Delectable) by EM Lynley - Romance>Contemporary eBook

A Novella in the Delectable Series

Thom Kennedy Leyton returns to San Francisco to take up the reins of Graze, one of the city’s best restaurants, years after he lost his job when his innovative new set of recipes was stolen. Thom’s loss of self-esteem eventually caused his boyfriend, Blake Warner, to end their relationship, sending Thom into a deep depression.

Now, cured of fifty excess pounds and any attraction to Blake, Thom’s back in town. Blake catches him off guard when he visits Graze several days in a row, and Thom lets himself get caught up in Blake’s allure, despite knowing better.

Thom juggles a renewed relationship with Blake, a Christmas visit from his parents, and an important holiday menu based on a Twelve Days of Christmas theme. When an old acquaintance reveals that Blake knows more about the theft of the recipes than he lets on, Thom doesn’t know whom to trust. But the truth isn’t quite that simple, and Thom won’t be able to decide if Blake deserves a place in his life until he learns exactly what happened years ago.
Reader Rating:   4.0 starstarstarstar (3 Ratings)
Sensuality Rating:   liplipliplip
A WALL of heat rolled over Thom Kennedy Leyton as soon as he opened the door.

It felt good. Familiar. God, he loved this. Wouldn’t want to be anywhere but the busy kitchen of a top-tier restaurant.

“Morning, Chef!” Greetings rang out from the half-dozen prep cooks busy at their stations along the line. “Chef!” People looked up and nodded while continuing their tasks of peeling, chopping, mixing.

Chef. How long had he been waiting to be addressed that way by a kitchen full of cooks? Years. It had been a long time coming, this new post of executive chef at Graze, one of the top restaurants in San Francisco. He relished the simple greeting more than anyone would ever know.

“Morning, everyone.” He returned their greetings with a friendly nod and half smile. Best not to show how much he enjoyed this.

And best to keep some distance between himself and the kitchen staff, despite his desire to be friendly. Too friendly or casual to start and he wouldn’t get the respect and compliance his position commanded.

He briefly glanced at each workstation as he passed on his way to the office, reading the prep lists over each. Everyone had a specific set of duties: ingredients to chop, sauces to make, items to par cook.

This was the most crucial activity in the kitchen. Without proper prep, lunch and dinner service would falter and slow, extending the time to table and bogging down the whole production. It was one of the first skills drummed into new students in any culinary training program. Even more so at the Culinary Institute of America, where Thom had trained ten years earlier.

“Nice job, Tran.” He bent to get a closer look at carefully peeled and shaped baby carrots.

At the next station, he dipped a tiny plastic a spoon into a five-gallon stockpot and tasted. “Stock’s perfect.”

The next station belonged to Kyle, one of the more experienced cooks, who was finishing two of the sauces for lunch. Thom simply waved a hand over one of the simmering pots, inhaling the enticing aroma that wafted toward him. He gave an encouraging nod and moved on.

“Good morning, Chef.” Bitz, his sous chef, gave him a jaunty salute as he entered the chef’s office, a relatively quiet—and cooler—refuge for paperwork, planning, and privacy.

Shutting the door, he relaxed and smiled. Bitz had been with him for nearly five years. He wasn’t going to get much more respect out of her than he had at this moment.

“What’s the report?” He settled behind the desk.

“Shorted on three deliveries this morning.” She handed him a list of items the suppliers didn’t bring.

“Not the shallots again. What the hell is going on with that?” This was the third time they’d been sent nonorganic shallots when the purveyor knew they ordered organic produce across the board.

“The excuse this time is that someone else in town must be serving a menu featuring the damn things.”

Thom shook his head. Even if he believed the farfetched excuse, he wouldn’t take a chance with a menu like that. “Third time in the past two weeks. We need a direct farm source. I’m not going to put up with that crap.”

“Already on it. Added it to the orders of two farmers we already work with.”

Thom nodded. That was what Bitz got paid for. To fix problems and anticipate solutions to disasters that hadn’t yet happened. Nine times out of ten, she made the right decision. That tenth time was the reason she was his sous chef and not running her own kitchen. In a year or two, she’d outgrow his mentoring and be ready to move on. What the hell would he do then? She was his right hand, sometimes his left, his most-trusted person, and his best friend.

They went over the rest of the prelunch issues, then called in Kyle, third in the line of succession, to discuss daily specials.

“We’ve got a lot of fennel at the moment. What would you like to do with that?” Bitz read from her pad, listing the items that would be past their peak in the next twenty-four hours.

“Fennel confit, with some lemon, herbs…. Serve it over fish or something else we need to move. That’ll last another day or two if it doesn’t sell out.” Thom tossed out additional ideas, and Bitz took notes. They brainstormed on a batch of persimmons, unused tomatoes, and anything in the fish box older than a day. Thom preferred to serve only really fresh fish or take it off the menu.

By the time they’d agreed on two lunch specials and two dinner specials, the lunch cooks were arriving, heading into the locker room to change, then filing back into the kitchen to make sure their stations were properly prepped.

Yaz, the grill chef, poked his head into the office. “That good-for-nothing Tran hasn’t got the beef prep done for grill. How long do I have to put up with this BS?”

“Tran’s not ready to prep beef. You should handle that yourself, or hand it off to someone more experienced,” Bitz replied, saving Thom from having to say the same thing. She was a great foil for him, putting her foot down and managing the staff so he didn’t have to play kindergarten cop.

“You’re fucking kidding me?” Yaz’s face turned the color of raw chicken. “Everyplace else in town would have that prepped before the grill cook arrives.”

Kyle took the opportunity to sidle out past Yaz, who still loomed in the doorway. He practically had to chest bump Yaz out of the way to get past, earning a heated scowl.

“I, uh, I’m gonna give these specials to the, uh, front.” Kyle sped away from the kitchen with the list so the front-of-house manager could print up the little pages to slip into menus.

“You’re right, Yaz. Come in and shut the door.” Thom caught Bitz’s eye, and she put her hand on the door handle, ready to leave. “Bitz, stick around. Yaz, why don’t you let me know what else is going on.”

Yaz plopped himself into one of the chairs in front of Thom’s desk. “Let’s get some action here. I know you’ve been spending most of your time in the test kitchen, meaning there’s a lot of slacking off and poor performance. I’m tired of having to do other people’s jobs too.” He shot a scorching glance at Bitz, then slouched in the chair and draped one leg over the arm. He started listing his grievances.

Thom waved a hand in the air to shut Yaz up, but let out a breath before replying. “I’ve been focused on the new menu and the Christmas event, so I have had to rely on Bitz to handle some of my duties. I thought she’s been doing a good job.” Bitz’s eyebrows knitted.

“Well, she hasn’t. She’s been here two months, and she still hasn’t got the hang of how we do things at Graze. Where’d you learn to run a kitchen, Bitz?”

Bitz pressed her lips together, remaining silent, and Thom knew he owed her a few bottles of really good wine or dinner at her choice of restaurant.

“She learned from me, Yaz.”

Yaz sat up a little straighter and glowered from under his brow. “From you?”

Bitz wore a perfect poker face. She knew where Thom was going with this.

“She’s worked with me since I got my own kitchen, and I trust her to run this kitchen the way I’d like to see it function. When you criticize her management skills, you’re complaining about me, not about Bitz.” Thom paused to let this information sink in. “No matter how Bingham ran the kitchen before, many practices are different now. Bitz has been easing into the changes, and everyone else has adapted just fine.”

Yaz’s lower lip trembled as he rotated to a proper sitting positing. He opened his mouth, then closed it, clearly thinking better of whatever he had been about to say. “Oh.”

“Yes, Yaz. Oh.” Thom leaned back and interlaced his fingers on top of the desk. “I agree it is time for some action around here. You can clean out your locker, Yaz.”

“What?” Yaz swiveled his head from Thom to Bitz and back again like some kind of Looney Tunes character. Thom expected to see steam shooting out of his ears. “No, I mean that’s kind of extreme.”

“It is. You said we needed some big changes, and this is one. Thanks, Yaz. Bye now.” Thom picked up a stack of invoices and flipped through them as though he needed something urgently. In his peripheral vision, Yaz still sat in the chair.

“But, Chef….”

“We’re done here, Yaz. While you’re cleaning out your locker, I’ll get your final check cut.” He picked up the phone and dialed the business office upstairs. “I’m going to need a termination package for Yaz Ralman right away.” Thom hung up after a brief exchange with Rosa Morelli, who handled personnel and payroll issues.

Blustering and nearly blubbering, Yaz stood and stared. Then he turned on his heel and flung the office door open with such force it bounced off the wall and slammed back into Yaz’s arm, making him wince.

No one in the kitchen looked up from their station. Thom considered that validation of his decision. Either that or everyone worried they’d be next.

Bitz shut the door. “Now you’re talking. I wondered whether you still had it.”

Thom let out a huge breath, his hands trembling slightly. “I wasn’t sure, Bitz. I didn’t know whether I could do it until that moment.” He inhaled deeply and exhaled through his nose. He’d never let go a cook—or even a dishwasher—before, except for stealing. “Would I be a dick if I said I liked firing Yaz?”

“Hell no. I’d be more worried if you didn’t enjoy that. I have just the reward for you.” She moved to the back of the office and opened the small refrigerator nestled under a table strewn with cookbooks and menus, then pulled out a tray of cheeses. “Some scrumptious samples came in this morning from Cowgirl Creamery. They have two seasonal offerings only available until they run out. I put in an order already.”

“Let’s eat.”

They spent a quiet fifteen minutes tasting samples from the Bay Area’s top artisanal cheese producers. Thom approved Bitz’s choices, though he would have made a different selection had she asked him. He nibbled at the tasty cheeses, jotting down some notes and debating the right time to discuss his ideas with her. He was such a coward for putting this off, but time was running out.

Bitz wiped her hands on her apron and pushed her chair back from the desk. “And how’s the Christmas menu coming?” She tried to sound conversational.

“Just about nailed down.” Thom waved a hand in the air vaguely and focused on his notes again.

“Bingham’s been pressuring me to get you to give him the final menu so he can run it by Carla in time for press releases.”

“Bing’s certainly transitioned out of the kitchen and into the business office with Carla.”

“He can’t wait to officially and publicly hand over the reins to you as executive chef. They think we’ll sell most of the covers as soon as they announce Thom Kennedy, America’s Chef to Watch, is at Graze.” She chuckled as she used a pompous announcer-type voice.

The announcement. The word set Thom’s nerves on edge. While part of him craved the spotlight on his cooking, he preferred the anonymity of hiding behind a chef’s hat and going by his middle name rather than Leyton. He glanced at the half-empty sample bottle of port at one end of the bookshelf, then decided against pouring some for himself. Far too early.

“I don’t know why you keep putting off announcing your appointment, Thom. Graze needs the buzz. It’s not exactly dead, but we’re not selling out every service.”

Graze was looking at its glory days in the rearview mirror, one of the main reasons owners Carla Montel and Bingham had talked him into making the move from a comfortable chef de cuisine role at Glass Lake in Kansas City shortly after he’d been named a “Chef to Watch” by a top culinary magazine.

“Soon. It’s not the right time yet.” Thom plunged into the stack of invoices again. His version of a security blanket.

Bitz finished off her cheese samples and shrugged. Despite their friendship, he hadn’t told her what had happened to him years before, so she didn’t understand why he’d rather slink back into San Francisco than announce his return with banners hanging from the ramparts. The food industry in this city was so incestuous, he figured most of the kitchens in town already knew he was here, or at least their cooks did, even if it hadn’t trickled up to the chefs and the press yet.

A sharp knock sounded on the door. It opened and a thin man in a charcoal designer suit zipped into the room.

Thom looked up, wishing he’d left instead of sampling chesses. “Morning, Bingham.” The man insisted on using the one name, like Cher or Madonna.

“Nice to see you, Thom. I hope your presence here means you’ve got the Christmas menu finalized?” He spoke faster than the speed of sound, as if there was a time limit on getting the words out.

Too late for Thom to crawl under the desk, and it wouldn’t do to ask the outgoing executive chef and half partner in Graze to leave.

“Just about there. I’m tweaking a few things in case we run into any supply issues.” That was bullshit. He knew better than to build a menu around anything his suppliers couldn’t guarantee. The elaborate tasting menu Bingham insisted he create was far too important to leave anything to chance, even Mother Nature. Especially Mother Nature.

“Tomorrow, Thom. I want to taste it tomorrow. No arguments. Gotta run.” He sped back out of the office, leaving a palpable disturbance in the air.

Bitz turned to Thom. “In that case, you better let me taste it today.”

She was right. Thom had been working out a twelve-course feast and a complete menu overhaul with the help of Ricky, another assistant chef he’d brought from Kansas City. He preferred Bitz’s help, but he needed her managing the main kitchen while he slaved away in the test kitchen around the corner and one flight up, over a stationery store dying a slow death thanks to e-mail. The manager had jumped at the chance to give up the unused second floor to reduce rent.

“Come on over there now. Kyle can call if they need you back before lunch service.” Thom slowly stood and followed Bitz out of the office. The wave of heat rolled over him again, comforting him. As they went down the line, he spotted Kyle and another line cook prepping the beef for lunch, instructing Tran, who was so absorbed in the lesson he didn’t notice Thom and then belatedly called “Bye, Chef” to Thom’s retreating back.

Oh yeah, that never got old.

BITZ SWALLOWED, stood up straight, and looked Thom directly in the eye. “I see what you mean about this being different.” She paused and visibly ran her tongue around the inside of her mouth. Thom took that as a compliment to his cooking rather than simply a stalling tactic.

Truth was, the movement was probably both. “How do you think Bingham is going to react, Bitz?”

“He’s going to react all right. That man is already plutonium, so I’d rather not be around when he hits critical temperature for detonation. A walking dirty bomb.”

“Then Bingham bomb aside, how does it taste?” Thom glanced at Ricky for moral support.

“It’s incredible. It’s going to make a huge splash, even in San Francisco.”

Thom nodded. That was what he wanted, and what he feared. This menu would be a huge risk, one that could catapult him into the stratosphere of chefs or torpedo his career for good—just when he’d crawled out of the gutter.

What the fuck was he doing?

HOURS LATER, after Ricky went home, Thom carefully locked his notes and recipes in the safe he’d had built into the wall. Then he reached for the ceiling, stretching back muscles cramped from hunching over the counters for hours on end. What he really needed was a massage.

The clock on the wall reminded him it was time to get home. How had he stayed long past midnight again? He knew the answer, but instead of denying his motivation, he seized it and raced down the stairs to the tiny parking lot nestled behind Graze. It was for the executives, but he’d wrangled a spot with the excuse that he often needed to make unexpected trips to gather ingredients and BART wasn’t going to cut it.

Tonight as he headed home, he turned off Market Street a few blocks early and slowed as he passed the dark façade of Operatic, a one-Michelin-star-rated haven known for taking comfort food and glamming it up. At this hour the front of the house was tucked up and only a few of the kitchen crew would still be around, putting the last touches on closing down the kitchen or getting a head start on the night’s drinking with wine left over from dinner service.

Thom pulled into a spot opposite the dark alley leading to the kitchen entrance. It was never easy to park in SF, not even after midnight in this neighborhood. He took the empty spot as a sign from the universe.

Movement in the dimly lit alley caught Thom’s attention. Two people were coming out of the kitchen; one paused to lock the door as the other strolled toward the street where Thom could get a look at him. He was a handsome guy in his twenties, blond hair cut in some asymmetrical style that showed off his sharp cheekbones. His companion emerged onto the sidewalk. When he passed under a security light, Thom’s heart stood still.

Blake Warner hadn’t changed much in ten years. Damn him all to hell for that. From twenty feet away, his face still had the power to leave Thom speechless. He sucked in a breath and watched, realization dawning. There was only one reason Blake and this cute guy were the last out of the kitchen. Memories sliced like a freshly sharpened knife through Thom’s self-respect.

He watched as Blondie wrapped himself around Blake like a lettuce leaf around a tasty filling, then pressed his mouth to Blake’s. But Blake didn’t appear to be in the mood for a taste, based on the way he peeled the guy’s arms away. He said something, leaving the other guy staring after him as Blake walked away, alone.

Still, the hurt carved away a layer of Thom’s heart.

Why had he done this to himself?

Because he needed this pain. Needed to see who and what Blake was. Needed a constant reminder that Blake was poison to Thom’s professional and personal self-esteem.

Seeing was supposed to burn away the nerve endings so Thom wouldn’t crave Blake anymore. But Thom was no more successful at this than he had been at putting a fork down when he was full. Before he’d finally conquered that battle, he’d hit rock bottom.

He couldn’t afford to go back there again over Blake.

He pulled away from the curb toward home. When Thom rolled past Blake on the next block, Blake glanced at Thom and held his gaze for the time it took to drive past.

It would have been too dark for Blake to recognize Thom, but the power in Blake’s gaze haunted Thom until, hours later, he fell into a restless sleep in his big, half-empty bed.

Reader Reviews (2)
Submitted By: scorpgc@gmail.com on Dec 30, 2015
I very much enjoyed this novella by Ms Lynley! Loved the characters and fun menu! I'm not a Vegan by any stretch, but the way the courses are described is genius! Can't wait to read it again next Christmas...I just downloaded another novella by Lynley, yes from the yummy delectable series!
Submitted By: loveshake4 on Dec 26, 2015
great how someone can forgive for deceit in the past

12 Courses

By: EM Lynley