Hot and Bothered by Kate Meader
A Fire They Can’t Put Out . . .
Although her baby boy keeps her plate full, Jules Kilroy is ready to take her love life off the back burner. Despite a bevy of eligible bachelors, it’s her best friend, Taddeo DeLuca, who’s fueling her hormones with a generous serving of his mouth-watering Italian sexiness. But Jules learned her lesson once before when she went in for a kiss, only to have Tad reject her. She’s vowed never to blur the lines again . . .
After a lifetime of excuses and false starts, Tad has finally opened a wine bar, a deal made even sweeter when Jules joins his staff. Lovers come and go, and he’s had his share, but friendships like theirs last forever. Still, ever since he tasted her luscious lips, he can’t stop fantasizing about what could be. Then she signs up on an online dating site-and the thought of his Jules with another man makes Tad’s blood boil. Even if he gets burned, Tad can’t stop himself from turning up the heat this time.
The t-shirt he wore tonight was a plain gray that would have looked, well, plain on any other guy. But not on Tad. Nothing looked plain on his sinfully sexy body. Thin cotton stretched over his well-defined chest muscles and fought a losing battle to cover his biceps. He’d always filled out a pair of jeans nicely, but for some reason, she was so much more aware of him tonight. Putting herself in dating mode had forged new neural pathways or something. Or she was just feeling randy after so long without a guy.
He brushed by her into the apartment, his upper arm kissing her shoulder and shiver-shocking her system. The one with all those newly forged neural pathways that led to Destination: Unfulfilled.
She shut the door behind her, the definitive click bringing Jack’s words about the size of the apartment back to her in a rush. Not so much character as claustrophobic. Toasty.
“Where’s the gelato?” she asked, removing her heated focus from his muscular body to his empty hands.
“What? Oh…I don’t have any.” He scanned the living room, still box-cluttered and messy from her move-in a month ago. “How are you settling in?”
“Okay. You want to tell me why you’re here?” For a moment, she had forgotten that she was mad at him from earlier and now he had waltzed in like she had nothing better to do but be at his beck and call. Her sour mood might have had something to do with the broken promise of salted caramel gelato.
He rubbed his chin and in the strained silence, she could almost hear the rough bristles under his palm. “Jules, about what I said earlier at the studio. I’m sorry if it came off as—”
“Paternal? Assholic? Slut-shaming?”
His eyes widened. “I’ll gladly own up to paternal and maybe, ass—”
“—holic,” she supplied helpfully.
“Okay,” he said, the word dragged out to soothe the barmy woman in the room, “but slut-shaming is all wrong.”
“You pretty much said that photo gave off a vibe. That’s the kind of crap guys come up with when women are attacked and they’re making excuses for their gender. She was asking for it because of what she was wearing. Commonly known as slut-shaming.”
He looked gobsmacked. “That’s not what I meant at all. I worry about you and I don’t want you to attract sleazy assholes looking to use you.”
She let loose a sigh in the hopes it might relax her anger-taut muscles. She wasn’t even sure why she was so angry. All she knew was she was cheesed off at all the paternal shit.
“I’ve already got a big brother, Tad. I don’t need another one.”
Thoughts chased each other across his face before finally settling on intense. Shocking, thunderstorm intense. “I don’t want to be your brother, Jules.”
The way he said it—a low rumble of sex—sent a shiver all the way down to her good parts. She opened her mouth to ask more and then closed it because she had nothing. Her mouth was desert dry. The sensitive area between her thighs? Not so much.
He walked into the kitchen, drawing her attention to his loose-limbed gait. She loved how he moved. He grabbed a spoon off the counter, twisted off the lid of the Nutella jar, and scooped some out.
“I heard you’re going to get busy with some guy in the back of his Honda Civic.” He popped a heaped spoonful of Nutella into his mouth as if that punctuation would keep him from shoving his other foot in his mouth.
Rage boiled up once more. “Been having a nice old gossip with your girlfriend, Shane? You braid each other’s hair, too?”
She took the spoon from him and helped herself from the jar of chocolate-hazelnut goodness, careful to keep as much distance from him as possible. Because there was a fair to middling chance she was going to use the spoon to excavate the sensitive area between his thighs.
“I thought you wanted to ease into the dating game. Now I hear you’re looking to hook up.”
She let out an exasperated noise. “And this is your business how?”
“Paternal. Assholic.” He held her gaze long enough to make her tingle. “Indulge me.”
Q: Romance readers have a lot of choices these days. What makes Hot and Bothered stand out in the crowd?
A: It’s the classic friends to lovers theme, between a British single mom and a tortured Italian wine bar owner/chef. This is Book 3 of the Hot in the Kitchen series, but can be easily enjoyed as a standalone novel.
Q: We like to include our favorite quote in our reviews of the books we read. What is your favorite quote from Hot and Bothered?
A: My favorite quote from Hot and Bothered is:
A low growl rumbled from Jack’s throat. For a reason known only to him, he subscribed to the view she’d only had sex once, likely an accidental fall onto a stranger’s penis that had resulted in Evan.
“Sex, Jack. Your baby sister wants to get rogered,” she said just as he released his hands-as-headphones from Evan’s ears.
About Kate Meader
Kate writes sexy contemporary romance that serves up to-die-for heroes and heroines with a dash of sass. Originally from Ireland, she cut her romance reader teeth on Catherine Cookson and Jilly Cooper novels, with some Mills & Boons thrown in for variety. Give her tales about brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron, and she’s there. When not writing about sexy men and the women who can match them quip for quip, she works in an academic library in Chicago.