Rosalind Brewery Series-

Book Three

Too many cooks in the kitchen…

The man infuriated her.

Frankie Wilson needed a cook. A simple, impressive cook to match the incredible beers produced at the Rosalind Brewery. Her best friends are counting on her, and her perfectionist streak refuses to let her fail.

And until now, Frankie controlled the menu for each cook she hired.

But Noah refuses to play by her rules.

He’s an obstinate, opinionated, incredible father to his little boy. Each time they call a truce, the attraction flares. He may be the best option for the brewery, but he is the worst option for her heart.

The woman would be the death of him.

Noah Adams ditched his musical career to go back to his roots and put his culinary degree to use. Having a child with an ex-girlfriend reprioritizes a man’s life that way.

A job at Rosalind Brewery in Asheville is ideal. Except for Frankie.

She contradicts him at every turn. She’s exasperating and unbelievably gorgeous and dates an odd array of men that don’t even come close to appreciating her intelligence.

But he does. Once he gets Frankie out of the kitchen and into his bed, letting her walk away isn’t on the menu.

Brewing Chemistry: Frankie, Book Three in the Rosalind Brewery Series, is a full-length romance novel full of laughter, sexy-bits with a rakish chef, and a satisfying happily ever after.



“I’d rather eat one of those greasy hot dogs at the gas station.” Frankie Wilson shoved the plate of hamburger sliders away. Calling them hamburgers was generous. They were more like small, burnt frisbees on stale bread with an odd combination of honey and ketchup.

And the pickle didn’t help.

“It’s trash. We’re never going to make a name for ourselves with our food if we keep serving crap like this. And? How’s yours?”

Jake Rossi sat across the table from her with a fork in one hand and holding Frankie’s goddaughter with the other. He shoveled the last bite of the slop the cook tried to pass off as chili into his mouth.

“I don’t have a problem with it.”

“Of course, you don’t. You didn’t even hesitate when I asked you to try chili at ten in the morning.” Jake was the size of a house, solid muscle from years spent in the Special Forces, and the man loved food—even bad food. “Did you know your wife calls you a human garbage disposal?”

Jake wiggled his eyebrows. “She calls me a lot of things.”

Frankie laughed. “None of them are appropriate for your daughter’s ears.” She rose and held out her hands. “Here, let me take Winnie, and you can finish my plate, too. Do you want a beer? Reese has a new brew on tap. I know it’s early, but it might make the suffering of eating that crap go down better.”

He picked up his water, shaking it slightly and rattling the ice in the glass. “I’ll have to try it tomorrow. I’m on baby duty for the rest of the day.”

“Come to Frankie, big girl, nine months old tomorrow. I think that’s old enough to learn how to fire someone.” Frankie set Winnie on her hip.

Jake paused, one of the sliders hanging in midair between the plate and his mouth. “Fire? You’re going to fire this cook, too?” He frowned down at the burnt frisbee. “I know you don’t like it, but he’s a hell of a lot better than the last guy. At least my chili is the right color and hot.”

Frankie huffed. “And better isn’t the best. They put me in charge of the food, Jake. I refuse to settle. You’ve been married to my best friend for—” she glanced at Winnie “—almost nine months. Ava is great at her job, and Reese makes fantastic beers, but me...the kitchen...” She did a thumbs down. “It stinks.” She kissed Winnie’s temple. “C’mon, sweetie. Let’s go fire a cook. Maybe you’ll soften the blow.”

Jake held up his hand. “Wait. Shouldn’t you get a new cook before you dismiss this one? I mean, the last time your timing failed, you were back there serving frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets. I realize Ava played that off with some promotion about the food being nostalgic, but it was still a sketchy three days.”

“Fine. I’ll wait.” But the search starts first thing in the morning.

Ava walked up and set a hand on Jake’s shoulder. “Are you stealing my baby, Frankie? If so, let me get you the diaper bag and her bottles.” She covered a yawn. “Just have her back by tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll miss her.”

Frankie shifted Winnie, looking down at her sweet face. She smelled like baby lotion and Goldfish. “Are you still not sleeping for your mama?”

Winnie stuck her tongue out and blew.

“Stinker,” Frankie said, laughing as she carted Winnie away, giving Ava and Jake a break for a few minutes. She crossed the dining room and exited to the courtyard.

Something about May in North Carolina made Frankie happy. A hint of coolness lingered in the air with the summer humidity still a month away. They could leave all the doors open and cut off the air conditioner inside the dining room. The bright green trees made the view of the valley below their little spot picture perfect.

She placed Winnie on her two chubby legs, holding onto her hands and helping her stumble walk along the concrete path in the courtyard.

“Let’s go, sweetheart,” she cooed, taking tiny steps backward, encouraging Winnie to walk along with her. Frankie started singing along to the Taylor Swift song playing out of the speakers.

Winnie grinned and started to take bigger steps.

“You should play better music for her to listen to.”

Frankie picked up Winnie, ready to verbally battle with whoever just insulted one of her favorite artists.

The guy flinging the insults stood behind her, half-turned and surveyed the courtyard. “I just think she’d be better off with some Clapton or Pink Floyd or Incubus. Basically, anything.”

“I haven’t had any complaints from her. If you don’t enjoy this music, then you should come back tomorrow with the playlist changes to rock.” Ava’s night for music. “You can listen to all the rock you like.”

The man faced her. His lips pulled back into a cocky smirk as the afternoon sunlight illuminated his uncommonly green eyes. He sported a five o’clock shadow, which looked to be permanent.

And if she wasn’t totally annoyed by his Taylor Swift jibe, she’d admit he was cute. Who was she kidding? The guy was hot. Not her type, but she’d bet he didn’t have a damn issue getting a date.

“Cute kid,” he said, resting his hands on the strap of the messenger bag slung across his chest, looking like he was there to make idle conversation with her.

“Thank you,” Frankie murmured, trying to get a read on the situation. “We don’t open until eleven on Saturday.”

“I was told to be here at ten-thirty for an interview.”


Reese Montes shouted, “Frankie,” from the edge of the courtyard, waving as she walked across the patio holding her husband’s hand.

“Hi, there. You must be Noah Adams.” Eli dropped Reese’s hand and shook Noah’s. “I’m Eli Montes. I was the one who spoke with you on the phone.”

“Interview for...” Frankie locked eyes with Reese. What had she missed? More servers? Help with the brewing process? “Are we all interviewing him? Why didn’t you mention this to me?”

Reese shook her head. “I don’t think we all need to interview him. The kitchen is your area, and you’re pickier than any of us.”

Wait. What?

“He’s the guy I told you about a few months back,” Eli said casually as if her head wasn’t spinning. “You asked me to contact him once you finally got fed up with the current cook. Based on what Reese said last week, you were on the verge of letting Grant go.” He raised his eyebrows over his dark eyes. “Is that right?”

“Yes.” Frankie did a once over on Noah, trying not to judge him, but it was difficult. He looked like a rock star. Not leather pants or fishnet shirts, but like a cool indie rocker. Distressed jeans and scuffed boots. His gray T-shirt was so faded that Frankie couldn’t make out the words on the front. His dark hair was short and messy. “You’re a cook?”

“Guilty.” He slipped his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels.

Well, even if he did insult her music, she might as well interview him since Eli had issued him an invitation. She hated people to judge her based on her looks. She wouldn’t do the same to him.

Winnie tugged on Frankie’s hair, pulling it out of the sloppy topknot she’d thrown it in that morning. “Ah! All right. I guess our fun time is over for now.”

“I’ll take her back to her mama.” Reese held her hands out. Winnie went willingly. Reese nuzzled Winnie’s cheek. “Or I may just steal you away, sweet girl.”

Eli shook his head. “She keeps telling me she’s joking, but sometimes I wonder.” He glanced back at Noah. “Stop by my office once you’re done with Frankie.”

“Sure thing.”

Frankie felt her hair where Winnie destroyed it. When she tugged out the rubber band, her blond hair fell around her shoulders. She needed to get it cut, but just never had the time.

Noah continued to watch her as she ran her hair through it a few times. It wasn’t a creepy stare, not like one of those no-blinking, mouth-breathing stares that the odd men at the mall gave her. It didn’t make her uncomfortable.

But it unnerved her. Guys like Noah weren’t her type. First, he was a potential employee. Second, he appeared close to her own age, which meant he was younger than most of the men she dated.

“I have an office where we could do the interview,” she started, before remembering about the number of cookbooks she had spread out across her desk. “But it’s a complete mess right now. The kitchen might work, but the cook already showed up for his shift, and I think that might be in poor taste, you know, to interview someone before I tell him he’s fired.”

Noah motioned to a picnic table nearby. “We can sit here if you’d like.”

“That’s fine. Do you want something to drink? Water. Coke. Beer.” She smiled, trying to lighten the mood. “We have a lot of beer.”

He chuckled. “I guess you do, but no. Not right now.”

“You don’t seem like a cook. I mean, you don’t look like any of the cooks we’ve had work for us so far.” She walked ahead of him to a table. Odd. She wasn’t used to the subtle politeness while at work. He’d held back, intentionally letting her go first and didn’t sit until she did.

The men she hung with were her best friends’ husbands, Jake and Eli or Bradley, Reese’s cousin. They weren’t rude, but at this point, they all thought of her as a sister. Well, maybe not Bradley. He still asked her for a date about twice a week.

“I’m a trained chef. Studied at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York.”

“Oh.” She wasn’t expecting that, either. “And you want to come and work at a small microbrewery outside Asheville? We’re only open for dinner Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Lunchtime and dinner Friday and Saturday. Only Lunch Sunday. Closed Mondays.”

“I’m in the middle of a personal transition right now. Something low key is what I need. But I’d create my own menu. Eli sent me a copy of the current menu. Some of the staples I’d keep, just because that’s what people expect when they come to drink beer, but I’d get rid of most of it. Did the current cook develop it?”

Frankie pulled her shoulders back. “No. I did.”

“And you have a background in what? Based on what Eli told me, I’m assuming it’s not a food profession.”

Her cheeks heated. “No.” And no matter how much she studied books and watched TV shows, she still couldn’t cook a damn thing. She knew how to create complex chemical compounds and not blow up an entire building, but instant rice gave her trouble. Go figure.

Reese and Ava had both excelled at their thirds of dividing up the workload. So far, Frankie had to outsource the accounting to Eli, and now, a trained chef was implying that her menu sucked—after telling her that her music sucked.

“What is your background if you’re in charge of the kitchen? Eli was a little evasive when he discussed that with me. Told me to ask once I came in and met the owners.”

She could make civil conversation with him. She might take exception to his question about creating the menu, but it didn’t make it invalid, just insensitive.

“You’ve met two of the owners already. Reese is married to Eli. She handles the beer. Brewing. Creation. Naming. Everything goes through her. Ava is married to Jake. They handle the marketing and building management.” She shrugged. “And then there’s me.”

“And you’re in charge of the food?” He grimaced and glanced at the speaker mounted in the corner. “And this music?”

“Nothing is wrong with Britney Spears.”

“There’s a lot wrong with Britney Spears.”

Frankie narrowed her eyes. “You’re not helping your chances of getting hired.”

The damn man grinned. Hell, if it didn’t make him sinfully handsome in the process.

“And the three of you just decided one day to open up a brewery?”

“Nothing was that simple. We went through school together. Got our degrees in chemistry, and all went to work at the same company. One day, we got sick of the grind. That’s when Rosalind Brewery was created. It’s hard work, but it beats the hell out of sitting in a lab all day. I loved experimenting, but we discovered that running experiments for a large corporation is a little different than the fun we’d had in college.”

Noah’s eyes held hers a moment before he stood. “Chemists. Wasn’t expecting that.” He nodded slowly. “All right. Well, since I don’t have any references, do you want me to cook you something? I mean, you can always just take my word for it.”

“Like an audition?” She wrinkled her nose as she followed his lead and rose from the table. “What do we tell the cook that’s in there now?”

Noah was slightly taller than she was with a body that reminded her of a soccer player, lean with a perfect amount of muscle. He stepped close, lowering his voice like he told her a secret. His green eyes might as well have had those mesmerizing, black swirly things in them.

“You could always tell him the truth,” he said.

“But that might hurt his feelings, especially since I don’t know if I’m going to hire you yet.” The cook, Grant, was a nice guy—crappy cook, but a decent guy. “I’ll tell him to take a break.”

Noah lifted a shoulder. “Suit yourself, but I think you’ll hire me.”

Frankie pressed her lips together to keep from laughing at his conceited statement. Hopefully, Noah was as good as he portrayed himself to be. Otherwise, her search for a new cook started on Monday.


Hell, the woman was gorgeous.

Noah followed Frankie into the large dining room from the courtyard at the brewery. A long, stainless-steel bartop ran along the back wall, beer taps lined up like little soldiers. Big, wooden tables were spaced out across the concrete floor. It felt industrial but warm at the same time.

Even without the prospect of a job, Noah could see himself hanging out here.

His gaze trailed back to Frankie as she stopped to speak with a guy named Josh about the napkins.

Noah’s brain had run through every scenario when he’d first spotted her in the courtyard earlier. He’d assumed that she was the mom of the little girl and felt the sharp bite of jealousy at whoever the man was in her life. Did Lisa ever help their son, Oliver, walk that way?

But his thoughts of his ex-girlfriend stalled when Frankie’s bright blue eyes landed on him.

Most people said that about his eyes and their unusual shade of green. Now, he understood what they meant.

Noah readjusted the bag slung across his shoulder. He’d pissed her off with his music comment, too. And that was all right with him. He needed this job, not a date with the owner. The more distance he kept between them, the better.

The ink was barely dry from the custody agreement with Lisa. If there was a term for being more distant than just an ex, he’d apply it to her.

Frankie stopped at the opening to the brewery warehouse. “This is the heart of the operation at Rosalind Brewery.”

Tall, silver machines lined the room. The strong smell of hops competed with whatever sweet perfume Frankie wore. “You should take the beer tour Bradley gives before you leave today.”

If he got the job. “I’ll be sure to stop by later.”

They turned left down a hallway with three doors. She pointed to each door. “This is Ava’s office. Then Eli. Reese spends most of her time back in the lab.” She tapped on the last closed door. “Then me.”

Noah paused behind her, a little too close. Raspberries, she smelled like raspberries.

She continued in the opposite direction of the offices. “The kitchen is this way. I designed it myself based on several pictures.”

“Pictures?” The function of a kitchen shouldn’t be based on pictures. Why didn’t they hire a designer? He stepped into the room and half-laughed. Well, her “pictures” had steered her in the right direction because it was great. Perfect for one chef, maybe someone to prep.

“I also performed a scientific analysis of the kitchen layout and airflow and exhaust. The architect wasn’t the friendliest of people after we finished construction, but I’m pleased with it.”

“It’s good.” His excitement surprised him. He wanted to do this, stop touring, have a steady job, all for Oliver. But he never thought he’d enjoy being back in the kitchen again.

“Hey, Grant, why don’t you take a break before we get a rush of people?” Frankie’s voice held a touch of nervous energy that hadn’t been their earlier. Noah nearly laughed at her inability to lie.

Grant didn’t argue or speak. He eyed Noah as he passed.

“Don’t mind him. He hardly says two words to me most of the time. He was nice at first. We’ve had a few disagreements over the color, taste, and temperature of chili in the past few days.” Frankie motioned to the room. “This is it.”

“You did a good job.” Noah surveyed the space a moment. “Do you care if I poke around? Try to find something to make for you?”

Frankie waved her hand around. “Go right ahead. Do you want me to stay or leave?”

He shrugged, hoping he seemed nonchalant in his response. She distracted him, but not enough to choke. He opened the fridge, taking quick stock of what they had before moving to the supply room. Organized and labeled. Nice. Was that the cook’s doing or Frankie’s?

“You had nachos on your menu,” he began, gathering a few ingredients.

“I did. I think most places have nachos. I don’t like Grant’s version. The cheese should be gooey, not break the chips apart when you try to pick one up to eat.”

Judging by the way she said it, she’d told Grant that—probably several times.

“I won’t be using the canned cheese I saw in there.”

Her brow furrowed. “I bought that cheese. Grant refuses to use it. It’s that yellow cheese you get at concession stands. The customers liked it before when we used it.”

If Noah worked there, she wouldn’t have any input on how he prepared his dishes. “I’m not a fan of the canned cheese. I’d like to do something my way. I need about thirty minutes since I’ll need to prep a few things.” As in make the cheese sauce from scratch.

“Go for it.” She drummed her fingers on the countertop and glanced around. “I’ll, um... I’ll go to my office. I have some books I’ve been searching through for some new things to offer on the menu.” She left before he had a chance to tell her not to bother.

He’d create the menu.

Cook what he wanted to cook.

That was the best part of working for a small business like this. Creative freedom. He had the degree, but not the experience to walk into a larger establishment and take it over. Until Oliver, he lived how he wanted, singing in his band, touring the country.

But with a child came responsibility and the need to provide. And he wanted this. He wanted a chance to be a good dad and buy diapers without juggling where the money would come from.

Noah scanned the kitchen one more time and unclipped his messenger bag. He wanted this job.

He moved the prep work Grant had already done for the day to the side. With lunch service starting in a half-hour, he’d already started the “chili” and had a chicken boiling.

Noah pulled an old baseball hat out of his bag and bent the brim down a few times before putting it on backward. He would start by cooking a small batch of chicken to add to the nachos. In the future, he’d slow cook it, giving it a better flavor than what he could do on the fly. Maybe make it a jerk chicken and offer it as street tacos as well.

Preparing the cheese sauce from scratch proved a little tricky with the ingredients they had on hand, but he made it work. At least Frankie or Grant had ordered some great, fresh vegetables.

He finished the nachos as Frankie came back into the kitchen, carrying a cookbook. “I found a version of nachos that sounds amazing.”

“I just made you nachos.” He pushed the plate her direction. “And they are amazing.”

She stared at him for a moment. “I can tell you’re modest.”

He grinned.

Frankie snapped her focus back to the plate. “Those do look good.”

He nudged it closer. “You should try one.”

“Right.” She set the book down, keeping it open to the page with the nacho recipe. Hesitantly, she picked up a chip loaded with a little bit of each topping. “It smells good.”

“And...this is where you take a bite.”

She shot him an annoyed glance like before, but she shoved the chip in her mouth. Her eyes widened. “Wow,” she mumbled over the chip in her mouth. “This is really good.” She swallowed and pointed at the plate. “Did you make that cheese sauce?”

“Yes. It’s not exactly the way I’d do it, but it worked for now. And I’d like to do the chicken a different way as well.”

“I think it’s great.”

He pointed at the cookbook. “So, you won’t be needing that.”

“Oh,” she said, motioning back down the hallway adjacent to the kitchen. “I have plenty of other items to add.”

He crossed his arms. “I thought I mentioned creating my own menu.”

“That doesn’t mean I might not have suggestions. It’s part of my job duties.” She motioned around the room. “This is my responsibility.”

“But you’re hiring me to do this.” He really wanted this job. Arguing with the one owner who had the decision power to hire him wasn’t the best game plan, but she was a chemist, not a chef. “Let me create the menu. Then, you can tell me if you think something else should be added.” And he’d argue about it—after he had the job.

She reached for a second nacho chip. “I’ve done a significant amount of research on cooking, the process, and chemical reactions, since we opened about eighteen months ago. I’m trying to learn, so I’m better at managing this portion of the job.” She crunched down on the chip.

Noah tried not to laugh at how invested she’d become in eating the nachos. “Are these better than Grant’s nachos?” He asked, already knowing the answer.

She nodded and went for a third chip.

“Do I have the job?”

“Yes,” she mumbled after eating the next chip. Frankie picked up the plate. “I’m going to go let the girls taste this.” She started to walk out the door, still eating the nachos.

Grant practically ran into her.

She jumped back, managing to keep most of the chips on the plate. “Whoa! You scared me.”

Grant lifted his chin toward Noah. “Is he here to replace me?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Yes. And I’d like for him to start immediately if possible. I’ll still pay you for the next two weeks.”

“Nah. Don’t bother. I was getting ready to quit anyway. I may use you as a reference, though.”

Frankie nodded. “Absolutely. Thanks for everything.” She exited quickly down the hallway, leaving Noah and Grant alone.

Kitchens were territorial spaces, so Noah waited, hands in his pockets, casually watching Grant grab a bag from underneath the counter, putting a few of his personal knives into it.

“Frankie is as sweet as they come,” Grant began. “Easy on the eyes as well.” He shook his head and gave Noah a sidelong look. “But she likes to control everything. It’s tiring after a while. I was about through with it.”

“I appreciate the insight.” But he could handle her. He’d made his intentions about the menu clear from the beginning. What else could she possibly control without having any culinary background?

Noah wandered around the kitchen and found a small room off to the side. It contained three large stainless-steel sinks and two dishwashers. Several stacks of clean plates sat on a counter near the door, but a large number of dirty dishes were piled in the sink.

“Is there a dishwasher?” asked Noah.

“Yes. He doesn’t come in for another hour.”

That would have to change.

“And then there’s Bradley,” Grant said.

“Who is Bradley?” Noah asked. “Another server?”

“No. Not really. He’s Reese’s cousin who helps her in the back with the beer. But the boy likes to eat. All the time, if you let him. And talk. Shoot, he can talk for days.” Grant rolled up the knife carrier as he glanced around the room. “It’s been entertaining, that’s for sure.” He shook Noah’s hand. “Good luck, son.”

And like that, Noah got the damn job.

He gave in to the excitement and smiled while he looked over the first kitchen he’d ever worked in professionally. He could turn this into a success. Not just for his pride, but for Oliver.

Noah rearranged the workspace in front of the grill before moving into the supply room. He took out his phone and made notes about what he wanted Frankie to order. No matter what dishes he cooked, he needed more than what they had.

Next, he’d have to figure out what to cook tonight.

“Settling in?” Eli leaned against the supply room door with his hands in his pockets. His thick, black-rimmed glasses went along with the dress shirt and slacks he wore, giving him a straitlaced, nerdy accountant look. But the barely visible tattoo and dark, trimmed beard ruined the effect.

“Taking stock of what they have. I’ll need to do an order.” At Eli’s silence, Noah turned. “What? I can tell you want to say something.”

“I’m debating on saying something. I’m hoping, if I explain this particular situation, you’ll give Frankie some allowances and not quit.”

“You make her sound as bad as the cook who just left did.”

“This position has been filled nearly a dozen times in a year.”

“Seriously?” The kitchen was great. The atmosphere laid back. He imagined that appetizers formed a lot of the orders. Why couldn’t they keep a chef? It seemed crazy that an owner would make it that impossible to work.

“Some cooks left because Frankie fired them. Others because they got fed up with her. What you need to understand is that Frankie is a chemist. She’s highly intelligent. We’re talking genius level. I think a few of the cooks underestimated her because of how she looks.”

Not hard for Noah to see she was smart, but a man had to make a point to look past the eyes and body.

“I imagine that happens a lot for her,” Noah said.

“Yes, it does. For Frankie, the food being good or even great isn’t enough. She wants perfection. Reese, she’s the other owner—”

“Your wife?”

He smirked. “Yes. That one. She claims that Frankie has been this way for as long as she’s known her. It worked in the chemistry lab, striving to accomplish something that had to be perfect, or it didn’t work. Reese, and Ava for that matter, aren’t sure what Frankie’s using to measure success for the kitchen.”

“You don’t think I should take this job?” He needed it and the freedom it brought.

Eli blinked and pushed off the door. “No. I think you need to take this job. And I think you need to stick to your plans for the menu. Create your own menu. Serve what you think should be served. You went to school for this.”

Noah laughed. “Won’t that just cause her to fire me, too?”

Eli chuckled. “No. Reese and Ava have decided to help in this situation, running interference in the background.”

“That should make for an awesome working relationship. She wants to get rid of me, but the other owners won’t let her.” The enthusiasm about the job started to fade.

Frankie’s head popped into view just beyond Eli. “Can I join whatever odd meeting you’re having in the supply room, or is this a new place to have a male heart-to-heart?”

Eli gave Noah a bland smile. “I’m done. Just welcoming Noah into the fold. I know he’ll do great.”

“Reese is looking for you,” Frankie said, shifting to the side for Eli to leave.

“She’s always looking for me, it seems.”

Frankie grinned, and like before, it was a little dazzling. Noah shifted back to taking stock of the ingredients they had on hand.

“I think you like her looking for you,” Frankie said.

Eli’s laugh faded as he walked out of the kitchen.

The scent of raspberries grew stronger. Noah didn’t have to turn around to know Frankie had moved into the supply room.

“How do you do the ordering? Do you want me to put it in, or give you a list, or what?”

“I’ve been doing it.”

He shifted farther away, glanced over his shoulder, and then refocused on his phone. Damn, in another situation, another life, he’d make a move on her.

Job. Money. Security. Everything that forced him to move far, far away from the line he couldn’t even fantasize about crossing. His son came before any type of active dating life. Hard to imagine dating a woman when Lisa called him every night to come to get Oliver.

“I’ll email you the list.” He looked up at the ceiling as a Mandy Moore launched into her song Candy. “Is it possible to get the music cut off back here. I know you like to subject your customers to that be-bop stuff, but I’d rather not listen to it while I cook.”

Bingo. He did it again.

Her blue eyes darkened. “I’ll ask Jake. He’s Ava’s husband. He helps take care of the building.”

“Great. And about the dishwasher—”

“What about him?” She crossed her arms.

If Noah wanted to push her a safe distance away, he’d done it. Too bad that, in the process, he’d seen exactly how hot a woman like Frankie could look thoroughly pissed off.

There wasn’t much else to do but dig deeper and let his asshole-nature run free. “I’ll need him here when my shift starts. I’ll have an hour or two of prep work to do before you open each day.”

“That might not be possible.”

He crossed his arms, matching her position. “Why not?”

She huffed out her nose, and he almost smiled. “Because he doesn’t have a car and has to wait for his mom to bring him.”

“When he comes in, I’ll ask him if I can pick him up. Are you willing to pay him for the couple extra hours?”

“If he’s here, he’ll get paid,” she snapped. The tone in her voice must have shocked her. She took a step back and cleared her voice. “I’ll pull up the ordering information in my office. You can use my desk to pick what you want, and then I’ll check out once you’re done.”

“Good. One last thing.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Great. There’s more.”

“It’s your hair.”

Her expression cleared. “What about my hair?” She ran a hand down the length of it.

“It’s pretty.”

Her blue eyes widened. “Thanks—”

“But you can’t be back here without it secured somehow.”

Her face fell. “Oh. I don’t normally come back here without grabbing a hat I keep in my office. Hiring you was somewhat of a surprise.”

“Even so, I’m sure no one wants your hair in their nachos.”

She huffed and crossed her arms again. “Do you have any other rules?” she asked, her teeth grinding together.

He refrained from pointing out that it was more of a Health Department rule than a Noah rule. “I’m sure I’ll come up with more later.”

She swung around and left him standing in the room, surrounded by meticulously organized ingredients and her raspberry scent. He finally let out a short laugh. Any other response from the woman and he wouldn’t have liked her half as much. Again, dangerous thoughts he wouldn’t entertain. He needed this job more than he needed Frankie Wilson.

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