Lila felt her jaw drop. Hell, no. Not again. “The last time you proposed something, I said no, and you ran roughshod over my life. I’m not real fond of your propositions.”
“Don’t knock it. That particular proposition is going to make you a wealthy woman…if you can fix the menu. But you just said you need my help to do it. You want something from me. I want something from you, too. Let’s negotiate.”
He made it sound logical, but she didn’t trust the gleam in his eyes. Maybe she could do the menu without him after all. Maybe she hadn’t tried hard enough. In fact, she had a great idea for another chicken dish right now. She turned her back on him and headed for the line.
Jack followed her. “It isn’t going anywhere,” he said quietly, as she pulled marinated chicken halves out of the lowboy.
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“The attraction between us. It isn’t going anywhere.”
Her heart hammered in her chest, and she fought a wild urge to pinch herself. She was awake, right? Her dreams about Jack had become so real, she woke up aching, wanting him more than she wanted her next meal or even her next paycheck, but that was fantasy Jack. This was real Jack. Real Jack was a user, and since it was hard for her to fight her natural inclination to be helpful, she had to resist him. No more propositions.
She ignored him and laid the chicken breasts on the grill.
He took the tongs out of her hand. “I propose we declare a truce.”
She tried to snatch the tongs back, but he held them out of reach. In order to get them, she’d have to climb straight up his body. Heat flashed through her. The thought was so tempting, she went to the dish room to get another set of tongs.
When she turned back toward the kitchen, Jack was standing directly in front of her. “Move,” she commanded, staring at the center of his broad chest.
He didn’t budge. “You want to talk about food so you can fix my menu. I propose we have some fun while we do it.”
“Fun?” She was having trouble focusing on his words and even more trouble stringing a sentence together. He smelled good, like rosemary in the sun. The gap at the top of his chef coat displayed his tan throat, making her remember how good it had felt to press her lips to the hollow where his pulse beat. It didn’t make sense. She did not like this man. He was arrogant, manipulative, and utterly used to getting his own way. She should not want to kiss him. Kissing Jack was dangerous—like drowning in something that tasted good. He was like the chocolate cake she couldn’t resist, full of artery-clogging butter and heavy cream, heaven in her mouth but hell on her heart.
“Fun.” His eyes gleamed, and a wicked smile crossed his lips. A strangled sound escaped her throat. She clamped her lips shut. He chuckled. The bastard knew exactly what he was doing to her. The heat between them was undeniable and impossible to ignore. She was trying, though. He could cut her a break and try a little harder, too.
“Jackson,” she warned. “Get out of my way.”
His throat was so close to her lips, her mouth watered.
“Remember the graduation party, Delilah? The dry storage room? Remember how much fun we had? Before all the other stuff got in the way…”
“You mean before you used my ideas, bought Personal Chef, forced me to work for you…”
“The sex part is good, Lila. The best.”
“Stop right there.” He couldn’t possibly be proposing what it sounded like he was proposing…could he? She looked around for witnesses, but they were alone in the dish room.
“You hate my guts, but you like the rest of me just fine. I know you want to be mad at me, and I suppose I deserve it, but let’s declare a truce. One night. Let’s get away from Inferno. Let’s go out to dinner. Hell, I’ll take you on a tour of my favorite restaurants in New York, and we can talk about food as much as you want. And then I want to take you home and make love to you again. For hours. With no competition in the morning and no interruptions. Nothing but us and this…whatever it is that makes it impossible to think about anything but kissing you, touching you…being inside you. We fit together. When we aren’t arguing, we do some pretty amazing things.”
She stared up at him. He wasn’t touching her, yet she felt aftershocks of every one of those amazing things. “You’re actually serious. You want me to forget about everything that’s happened between us…and have sex with you?”
”Every time I look at you, I see you naked. I can’t walk into my own restaurant without getting a hard-on. I am losing my mind.”
“Clearly.” He’d been picturing her naked?
He pinned her with a look. “Don’t try and pretend it’s only me. You’re practically drooling. If you didn’t want me, you wouldn’t be standing here discussing my proposition when you have chickens on the grill.”
“Shit!” She pushed past him and raced for the smoking grill. She flipped them just in time. “I hate you even more now.”
“No, you don’t. You want me. And you hate that you want me. I know exactly how you feel. Let’s get it out of our systems and go back to hating each other next week.”
He hated her? She was the one who had been wronged. Repeatedly.
Jack stroked a hand down her arm and turned her to face him. “Please say yes…but not because I’m forcing you. Say yes because you want me. Say yes because of this.” His lips were a whisper away from hers, but he didn’t kiss her. She could hardly breathe. Her pulse roared in her ears, and it was impossible to care about anything except the ache in her center. She could deny it all she wanted, but it didn’t change the truth. He was right. She wanted him. Under his convenient truce conditions, she could have him. She could have everything, the menu, the money…and Jack.
“A truce. Purely physical. No strings attached.” His eyes darkened to slate. “I promise you won’t regret it.”
“I’ve heard that before.” She shook her head. “Pick me up at seven.”