LUSCIOUS by Amanda Usen
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2012
A sizzling second book in a new contemporary series featuring sexy chefs. Newly divorced chef Olivia Marconi is balanced on the knife-edge of a major meltdown. A week in Italy with Sean, her hot divorce attorney–not to mention the fantastic food and wine–sounds like the perfect getaway. If only she wasn’t there to break her parents’ hearts by quitting the family business. Sean’s attention makes her feel brave, desirable, and adventurous again. But Sean is hiding something, and Olivia is short on trust these days. Can a romantic interlude in Italy turn into something more, or will it all go up in smoke?
PRAISE FOR LUSCIOUS:
“Usen expertly blends engaging characters with a swoon-worthy Italian setting right out of Under the Tuscan Sun (1996) and an abundance of delectably described Italian dishes to create an irresistible literary treat for fans of sizzling hot contemporary romances.” — Booklist
“The travelogue and delectable descriptions of food are satisfying, and sweetheart Sean will appeal to fans of genuinely nice guys.” — Publishers Weekly
“Readers will really empathize with Usen’s heroine, who is on the verge of letting her past ruin her future. The emotion in the novel is palpable and will draw readers in.” — RT Book Reviews
“Luscious is a hot and spicy kind of read. It’s seductive, with pinches of witty dialogue that leave you wanting just a taste more and not just in the kitchen.” — Book Loons
“I can’t wait to read what Amanda Usen comes up with next and I will definitely reread this one and savor every moment of Olivia and Sean’s love story. TOP PICK.” — Night Owl Reviews
“Grab yourself a glass of wine and kick back, but be prepared for Luscious to leave you hungry – for both good food and more Usen books.” — Booktrib
“LUSCIOUS lives up to its name.” — Fresh Fiction
Sean chewed, but he didn’t really taste the food in his mouth. Oh, he was smooth, all right. Smooth like the freakin’ Alps, no doubt about it. He didn’t want her pity, he wanted to seduce her, but Olivia looked more bowled over by the food on the plate in front of her than by his proposition.
She had initially responded to his kiss on the plane but then froze in his arms. That did not bode well for his plan. He shook his head slightly, taking another bite and watching Olivia savor her food. She smiled a little every time her lips closed around the fork. Anticipation swirled inside of him as he thought about all the other ways he wanted to bring her pleasure. Her kiss had been so sweet—raw response mixed with hesitation. He wanted to kiss her again, over and over until she relaxed and opened to him. He wanted to know if their bodies would fit together as perfectly as their mouths—but first he had to convince her.
Olivia sighed and set her fork down with a clink. Immediately, a busboy swooped in to retrieve their empty plates. She took a long drink of her wine, then folded her hands in front of her on the white tablecloth. She met his eyes squarely. “I think you’d better tell me more about those high school fantasies, Counselor.”
His pulse jumped. Maybe he had a chance, after all. “Are you sure you don’t want me to whisper them in your ear on the airplane?” She couldn’t say no after they were in the air.
“Positive.” She tipped her chin up, so her eyelids were at half-mast. Her expectant expression made him think of her head on a pillow, gazing down at him while he…
“Last chance to avoid shocking our waiter,” he warned.
“You can’t shock a waiter in a place like this.”
Sean was certain she was incorrect, but out of public decency, he kept his voice low. He began to weave a fantasy, noticing that every server who passed within earshot of their table discreetly slowed his steps. Olivia attempted to taste the next course delivered by a wide-eyed waiter but dropped her fork with a clatter when Sean mentioned blindfold and gondola in the same breath. Still, he had to give her credit. After dropping her fork, she had focused her attention entirely on him and had barely twitched a muscle.
As he neared the end of his pitch, Olivia’s head was cocked to the side and her eyes were glazed. He’d thrown in everything but the kitchen sink, hoping that something might pique her interest. She cleared her throat and straightened in her chair. “There aren’t any gondolas in Verona. The canals are in Venice.”
“A balcony would work. Plenty of those, right?”
Olivia picked up her fork, color rising in her cheeks. “I wouldn’t have pegged you for the kinky type.”
He lifted one eyebrow, unable to prevent the corners of his mouth from turning up. He encouraged his buttoned-down, by-the-book, technicality driven, Type-A, loophole lawyer image. He enjoyed arguing a point, any point, just for the sheer fun of it. He liked to be right. He liked to be in control. He liked to win. It had been impressed on him at a very early age that all of these things were necessary for survival, but the bedroom was not a courtroom. Control was necessary up to a point, of course, but buttoned-down lawyer guy disappeared with his tie.
She leaned forward. “Sean, I just don’t get it. You had a prime opportunity last summer—”
“I told you, you were married.”
“I’ve been under the impression that guys don’t give that detail a lot of thought.”
“Some guys don’t.” He shrugged. “I’m not your ex-husband.”
She flinched and dropped her gaze. After a second, her eyes met his again. “You want me to believe you’ve been dying to have sex with me? That you rejected me a couple of months ago because I was barely married, but now you want to take me to Italy and blindfold me in a freaking gondola?” Her voice was soft, belying the intensity of her words. “Give me one good goddamn reason.”
Sean let the desire that had sharpened inside him for years roll across his face. He reached across the table and brushed her hair out of her eyes. “I’ll make you glad you did.”
Her nostrils flared. “A better reason than that.”
He never put anyone on the stand unless he knew exactly what they were going to say, and that went double for his personal life. He had no idea how Olivia would react to the information he was about to give to her, and that made him nervous. Unfortunately, this felt like his last chance to convince her to let him join her.
“Your mother is expecting me,” he said reluctantly.
The color drained out of her cheeks. For a minute, he thought she might fling her fresh glass of wine in his face. When she didn’t even glance at the food the waiter gingerly placed in front of her, Sean knew he was in serious trouble.
“You called my mother?” Her voice rose unevenly.
“I’m afraid she’ll be very disappointed if I don’t arrive at Villa Farfalla. I got the impression she’s eager for American tourists to discover the delights of her hospitality.”
“The Villa sounds amazing. A sprawling estate, a vineyard, cooking classes with a famous chef, wine tours, a private spa…” Sean was actually looking forward to spending a week there, as long as he didn’t have to do it from a shallow grave dug by Olivia, which is where it looked like he was headed.
“Spare me the propaganda. My mother is a brilliant businesswoman, but if you think I’m difficult, wait until you meet her. No detail escapes her attention.”
Sean covered his elation with a frown. “Do you think she’ll check your bed every night? That would put a kink in my plans.”
“Your plans are kinky enough,” she said darkly.
Sean chuckled. “C’mon, it’ll be fun.” He leaned across the table to take her hand. “I didn’t mention I was arriving with you, but if I cancel my reservation, I’ll feel compelled to give your mother a reason.”
“So sue me. I get free legal representation.” Olivia’s green eyes reminded Sean of the sky just before a tornado ripped across the horizon—lush, eerie, and dangerous to life and limb. He squeezed her hand. “All you have to do is say yes, Olivia.”