Excerpt from Cooking With Sin
by Koko Brown
“You can come out now,” he called. “The coast is clear.”
Met with silence, Cole cocked his head and listened. Not trained to second-guess a situation, he rechecked the front door at the same time he turned on his heel.
Since it was only a twenty-five-table establishment, Cole was able to stalk the length of the dining room in a matter of seconds and burst through the pair of double wooden doors at the back. On the other side, he relied on his training to quickly assess his environment.
Surprisingly small, the kitchen space had been optimized for efficiency, as every available inch seemed to be allocated to some task. A large grill and oven occupied one wall, while a large dishwasher took up the opposite, along with a table where dishes and stainless-steel cooking pans had been laid out for the night. Two stainless-steel prep tables took up the center space along with two large garbage cans. The brick-faced walls provided a cozy departure from the white, grease-spattered walls he was expecting, and he smiled at the cock clock above the grill.
His humor quickly fizzled. A tall, stocky brute stood hunched over the kitchen’s grill. Wide and swathed in hillbilly plaid and washed-out jeans, his bulky girth almost overshadowed the two tiny arms flailing on either side of him. At six-three and in better shape, Cole could take him easily.
Focused and operating on tunnel vision, Cole hopped onto the stainless-steel prep table separating them and slid across like a slider into second base. Once he landed on his feet, Cole paused. He needed a couple of seconds to regain his balance. It wouldn’t do either of them any good if he stepped into the fray half-assed, unsteady, and unable to bear the full brunt of his weight. It wouldn’t gain her freedom, and he’d just get his ass kicked.
Once he got his bearings, Cole pitched his body at the pair. He grabbed hold of the hillbilly’s collar with one hand and his beltless jeans with the other.
“What the hell…hack!” the guy wheezed.
Cole smiled smugly. He’d pulled the jerk’s collar back on purpose to cut off the guy’s air, disorienting him, but not enough to choke the shit out of him. He wanted to send the guy a message, not kill him.
Cole frowned. After living on numb for the past four years, the new adrenaline pumping through his veins felt alien, made him feel whole again.
He liked it. He really, really liked it!
Cole looked around for the woman who’d caused so many changes in his life in only a very short time and found her slumped against the grill, gasping for breath. He took in her flushed cheeks and the slobber marks on her face. Pissed, he twisted his hand, tightening the flannel shirt under the hillbilly’s double chins.
The guy gagged and wheezed, but Cole didn’t give a damn. He’d accosted a woman. In his personal rulebook, the hillbilly deserved to be roughed up.
Cole whipped the guy around in Sinclair’s direction. “Do you want this guy’s attentions, ma’am?”
Her big black eyes rose to meet his, and another inappropriate surge of desire pumped through Cole’s veins.
“No…” She paused to cough. “You can throw him out.” She lifted her arm and pointed to the opposite wall. “The back door’s behind you.”
Cole grinned. He liked a woman in distress, but he loved a woman who didn’t mind taking prisoners — or throwing them out with the trash.
Akin to morning drill practice, Cole marched the hillbilly past the kitchen line and several prep tables to the back door.
Cole almost rolled his eyes, but he gritted his teeth instead as the man stumbled in his wake. The guy wasn’t a lightweight, and with his bum leg, the task of extracting him wasn’t exactly a cakewalk. “You heard the lady.”
“But I’m a customer!”
“You changed from customer to an assailant the moment you put your hands on the lady.”
The guy turned his head, his blue eyes focused on the object of his affection. And to Cole’s amazement, he grinned broadly. “I couldn’t help it. She’s so darn pretty, and she can cook! I even volunteered to marry her tonight if we found a justice of the peace.”
Marry her? The possum-chaser had definitely lost his marbles! Curious, Cole glanced over his shoulder. His eyes ran over her, from her dark hair tumbling over one shoulder to her brown skin that screamed to be touched, and down over her mouthwatering, petite frame. Her tiny waist, full bosom, and round hips would be a handful, and he was just the man to handle them.
In truth, there wasn’t anything there he did not like. Plus she had spunk, and he liked that in a woman. Nine times out of ten, it meant she would be a spitfire in bed. And what man, a red-blooded American man, wanted a blow-up doll in his bed?
“I’m sure she appreciates the sentiment, son, but you’ve got to go. We’re closed.”
Once he reached the door, Cole released the man’s pants at the same time he swung him around to face the kitchen. Catching the guy off guard again, Cole used the opportunity to unlock the dead bolts. The guy didn’t seem to mind the jostling, because he lifted his hand and finger-waved at Sinclair, who remained on the far side of the prep line.
“What the…” Cole swallowed the rest. A tiny contingent of restaurant patrons stood in the alley. The old guy with the cane would be forever etched on his brain. Spotting him, they turned and attempted to climb the stairs. Thankfully, the old guy held back. Cole would’ve hated to have seen him trampled.
Before they could get the upper hand — a rabid crowd and a bum leg weren’t a good mix — Cole spun the hillbilly back around. “Get out of the way, Pops. Wide load coming through.”
Quickly catching on, the old man hustled behind a plastic recycle barrel. The mob, fortunately, was more obtuse, because they continued to stand at the bottom of the stairs.
Without wasting another minute, Cole pitched him into the lighted alley. With one artful swing, he sent Sinclair’s erstwhile admirer plowing through them, and they scattered like hapless bowling pins.
“Strike!” Cole chuckled. Yep, it was cheesy, but he couldn’t resist. He’d had too much seriousness in his life over the past few years. He deserved to be silly every now and then. With one last look and a check on the old man, he swept back inside, then locked and bolted the door behind him.
Grinning from ear to ear, Cole turned around. He’d done pretty well, and surely he’d receive profuse thank-yous, hopefully in the form of hugs and kisses!
“Don’t take another step!” his damsel-no-longer-in-distress warned while waving a butcher knife threateningly close to his crotch.
COOKING WITH SIN COMES OUT TOMORROW MARCH 13!
Don’t forget I have a really cool giveaway going on for the release of Cooking With Sin. I’m giving away a 2GB Dog Tag with a free download of the book. All you have to do is leave a comment on the official giveaway page. The contest closes at 11:59 ET on March 13!