Home > Imperfectly Delicious (Imperfect Series #6)

Imperfectly Delicious (Imperfect Series #6)
Author: Mary Frame

Chapter One

 

 

If anything is good for pounding humility into you permanently, it’s the restaurant business.

–Anthony Bourdain

 

Scarlett

 

Fred steps over me to reach the order window, an exaggerated motion that makes her dark ponytail swish behind her. “Confrontation is your kryptonite,” she says over her shoulder.

“Do not tell him I’m here or you’re fired.” It’s a threat that would carry more weight if I weren’t a grown woman cowering on the floor of my own food truck in unequivocal terror.

She’s not wrong. I like dealing with conflict as much as I enjoy public speaking while scorpions crawl all over my face.

It’s not that I’m a total doormat. I deal with a variety of challenges and complications with ease. After all, I started my own food truck, I hired an employee—one who isn’t very respectful or deferential, but who’s counting? —and I run my own successful catering business as a side hustle.

I can totally adult. But talking to people who have a problem with me? Not my strongest suit.

And there is one person in particular who has many problems with me.

“Where is she?”

Guy Chapman.

His voice is as powerful as lightning in a summer storm—as if the air molecules themselves divided in terror at his words.

“She’s hiding,” Fred says.

I pinch her ankle and she kicks me with the top of her foot, bumping into my side with more force than necessary. I scowl up at her but it’s a wasted effort, my glare striking the underside of her chin as she leans on the counter toward my nemesis.

This isn’t the first time he’s been here, and it’s not the first time I’ve avoided him. We’re parked in a narrow lot adjacent to his restaurant. I have the perfect view of his door when it swings open, an intricately carved, thick wood piece. It probably cost more than my life is worth.

He sighs like he can’t believe he has to listen to such drivel, then says in a flat voice, “She’s hiding. Why would she be hiding?”

“Because you’re very scary,” Fred stage whispers.

There’s a small pause. “I am not.” Is that a thread of dismay lacing his voice?

Can’t be. He doesn’t care if he’s scary. That was basically the theme of his reality TV show, Devil’s Kitchen. It was all about him being a handsome devil and behaving like one, too. It only lasted a season, despite its popularity.

“Yeah, I don’t think so either,” she murmurs, tapping her fingers on the counter. She’s getting anxious, probably at the line of customers forming behind my sworn adversary.

Even though we’re parked too close to the devil for comfort, there’s no denying this is the best place I’ve found to park in the city. Situated on the south side of Gramercy Park, it’s close enough to where the Wall Street gurus call home to make it absolutely worthwhile for them to stop by when they’re heading home and need something sweet along the way.

He owns the block, but not this tiny little slice. And much to my satisfaction, he never will.

“When will she be available?” he asks.

Fred thinks about an answer while I examine her shoes. There’s a small hole in one seam at the top of her low-top black and white Vans, right next to a Ravenclaw patch.

“If I had to guess,” she says finally. “I’d say never. She doesn’t want to talk to you. I also can’t tell her what to do, since she’s my boss. You know how it is. I mean, you don’t know how it is, but you have people who know how it is.”

Laughter bubbles in my chest. But Guy Chapman isn’t laughing. Oh no, I can’t see him, but I can imagine the glower. His scowl can be felt within a three-mile radius.

I haven’t seen him up close in over a year, but I have watched him from a distance over the past few weeks, coming and going to his restaurant while they get it up and running. Everything about him screams efficiency, from his neatly trimmed dark hair to his perfectly tailored business casual suits. His features are strong and severe: sharp nose, sculpted jawline—always impeccably shaved, facial hair wouldn’t dare appear before five P.M.—and a thin slash of a mouth that would sooner crack into the earth than into a smile.

His features, on their own, are too much on the other side of harsh to be considered conventionally handsome. But it’s his confidence when he moves, the forcefulness of his speech, the way his presence demands attention and obedience…. He exudes a force of character that is entirely overwhelming. He’s like 125% of a person inside a body.

He’s too much to handle. Which is why the last time I saw Guy Chapman up close, I may have accidentally set him on fire.

It’s still silent up above. Is he leaving? Is he gone? It is over?

“Is this how you run a business?” His words are like the snap of a kitchen towel, quick and biting.

I cringe from my position crouched down low.

Fred, however, is not impressed. “It’s not my business, and since the person in charge is trembling at my feet, I don’t think she runs it well either, but you make an excellent point. I’ve got customers to serve and I don’t think they’re lining up for the smell of asshole in the afternoon, even if you were on a reality show three years ago. Do you mind stepping aside?”

Guy makes a disgusted noise, like he’s unable to clear a particularly tough glob of phlegm from the back of his throat, and then he says, “If you see her, if she actually exists that is, please tell her I need to speak with her. Right away.”

“I will for sure!” Fred’s voice is bright and happy. “So, what was your name?”

Ominous silence.

This is the third time this week that Guy has come over here, and every time, Fred’s asked him the same thing.

“Guy Chapman,” he bites out.

“Right. Got it. I’ll remember it this time.” A few fraught seconds later, Fred starts taking an order for a dozen bite-size When Life Gives You Lemon cupcakes, and I peer carefully over the counter in the direction of Decadence.

Guy is stalking back to his restaurant, head high, the line of his shoulders rigid.

“You can’t avoid him forever,” Fred tells me while she rings up the customer.

“I can try.” I stand up and move over to the counter on the opposite side where we’ve racked the cupcakes to help her box up the goods.

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