Taste

By: Cambria Hebert

Take It Off Series


One taste is never enough…

Spencer Waller’s main purpose in life is to protect and serve. After spending years in the military, he gets a coveted spot on the Secret Service detail protecting the president. Spence doesn’t have time for women or all the work having a relationship with one requires. But just because he isn’t looking for a lady doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate a beautiful one when he sees her.

And he makes it a point to see one in particular every single day.

Elle Bond has literally chopped and fried her way to the top of the food chain. Earning a coveted position in the White House as the president’s personal chef, she figures her professional life can only get better. Her personal life, on the other hand, could use a little bit of an overhaul, and because of that, she tries to ignore the charm-dripping cookie thief every time he comes into her kitchen. After all, she knows better than anyone that just one taste of something good is never enough.

One night after work, Elle is assaulted, threatened, and given an ultimatum. She can’t go to the police, and she sure as hell can’t do what she was ordered.

But she has to. Or else.

Pale, shaken, and scared to death, Elle confides in Spence, and his protective instincts take over. Together, Elle and Spencer have to uncover a sinister plot and stop it before someone ends up dead.




1


I was restless. Even after a full day of work and the feeling of exhaustion cloaking my limbs, I still couldn’t fall asleep. There was a recipe, a few ideas for new dishes to try, and the beginnings of a big menu plan I needed to write cluttering up my mind. I knew it was likely the reason I was still lying here staring at the ceiling.

Sigh…

I sent the covers flying back, kicking my legs free, and climbed out of bed. With one last lingering, yearning glance at my pillow, I turned away and quietly made my way down to the kitchen.

Once there, I pulled out my notebook and black pen to jot down all the competing thoughts and ideas. They were good ideas, great ingredient combinations and a solid start to the menu. Too bad I couldn’t think of this stuff during the day, say, when I wasn’t supposed to be sleeping.

Of course, my day was so filled with everything else that it really wasn’t that surprising these ideas only came after the lights were out and I was blessed with moments of quiet silence.

As I pondered a new sauce for a rack of lamb, I worked on autopilot, brewing a cup of hot chamomile tea. Perhaps its relaxing herbs and heat would be the remedy I needed to rest tonight.

I reached into the overhead cabinet for the tea bags, and my eyes landed on the cookies. A smile immediately stole over my features, causing me to stand there in the center of the kitchen, grinning in the middle of the night, alone, like a complete idiot.

I couldn’t see a cookie these days and not think of Spencer. His charm was like a stealth ninja and so was his ability to blindside my mind with thoughts of him. He was only the second man I’d ever met in my entire life who could completely take over the inside of my head.

But it didn’t matter how much he grinned, how much he teased me, and how many of my cookies he managed to stuff into his mouth at once; I couldn’t let him in my life.

The first guy who ever took over my thoughts taught me that.

I was just now getting my life where I wanted it to be after the disarray he left behind.

But oh, Spence was tempting. With dark-blond hair that always looked like it was just a little too long and needed trimming, short sideburns that hugged the side of his striking face… I couldn’t really call Spencer handsome. He was too rough around the edges for that. He had strong, dark eyebrows that slashed over honey-colored eyes, full lips that could draw into an intimidating line, and a strong nose that appeared to have been broken a time or two.

His body also looked like it had been through a couple of battles. He boasted wide shoulders, thick arms, and a tapered waist that was always accentuated by the tailored black suit he had to wear.

It just proved that clothes did not make the man. Spence made his clothes. Hell, he owned them. As a Secret Service operative, I think Spencer was supposed to look professional and quiet, sort of like he could blend in anywhere.

I have no idea how the hell he got his job because nothing about him blended in. He drew eyes like fireworks in a pitch-black sky. I mean, every time he waltzed into the kitchen, every pot on the stove was in danger of being burnt up because none of the staff could concentrate.

As if to prove my point, the teakettle whistled angrily, the shrill sound snapping me out of my daydreaming and making me wince. Quickly, I yanked the kettle off the burner and poured the boiling water over a bag into a ceramic mug. Steam rose from the top in great puffs, and I shook my head, annoyed I let the water boil that heavily. I’d have to wait forever for this tea to cool enough to drink.

I carried the mug a few steps to the tiny island in the center of the kitchen and set it beside my notebook. The perfect herb to add to the crust on the lamb popped into my head and I hurried to jot it down.

The room was completely silent except for the light scrawling of my pen across paper. Maybe that’s why I heard the sound.

It was a low scraping sound, like wood rubbing against wood. I tilted my head, confused. It was an odd sound to hear in the middle of the night, something I might not even think twice about if it were daylight.

But it wasn’t.

A muffled thump overhead caused my entire body to tighten like a shoelace with a double knot. My head snapped back to stare up at the ceiling.

I was being crazy.

I was being paranoid.

Thump.

There was someone in the apartment!

A surge of adrenaline so powerful it blurred my vision for a few seconds rocketed through me. My brain tried to think as my body went into overdrive. That first sound, someone had opened a window upstairs. The thump was when that someone dropped their up-to-no-good ass into my house.

Still clutching the pen, I raced for the stairs, out of my mind with fear. All the times my mother told me I needed to get a landline phone installed haunted me in that moment. My only means of calling for help was upstairs, beside my bed, in the form of my smart phone.

She was never going to let me hear the end of this.

If I survive. The thought floated through my head like a vicious taunt. Another light scuffling sound upstairs had my heart thumping even harder.

My God, it might not be me they hurt!

I wasn’t quiet on my way up the old wooden steps. In fact, I sounded like a herd of elephants that needed to lose about twenty pounds.

Good.

It would draw all the attention of the no good dirty rotten bastards in here.

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