PreHeat (Fire & Ice)
 
    CHAPTER ONE
     
    I crawled into bed, bone tired but anxious to see how many people had replied to my comment about microwaving the potatoes for gnocchi instead of steaming them as a time and energy saver. It was nice to have something besides work to focus on because tonight at the restaurant had been brutal.
    The walk-in freezer went out at some point during the day and we had spent the bulk of the afternoon trying to cram everything we could into the cooler and changing the specials so that we could use up the quickly thawing veggie chili that wouldn't fit into the small working freezer no matter how we tried to rearrange things on the shelf. That was on top of Frank's complaints about my liberal use of Parmigiano-Reggiano in the freaking Parmesan béchamel sauce for the eggplant lasagna. It had all left me longing to get the heck out of Heavenly Vegetables.
    I loved my job, maybe not as much as I used to, though. I was head chef at one of the most popular vegetarian restaurants in town, and I wasn't even a vegetarian. I had actually gotten the position as a temporary promotion when Cecil quit during a busy Friday night, but although I had only been working the line for four months, I stepped right in and Gina, the manager, ended up filling my old position instead.
    Now that Gina had quit to have her baby and Frank managed the place, I was finding myself less excited to go to work, but I was already looking ahead. I had been contributing to several of the largest foodie websites for months, and I'd been encouraged by dozens of people that I knew virtually to start my own blog. I’d even had my best friend, Cheryl's, fiancé Paulo record a short cooking demo of me making a spicy roasted pineapple salsa that I'd uploaded to Youtube and a few other places. It already had several thousand hits. The comments had emboldened me to the point that I had let Cheryl talk me into hiring her brother, Carter, to design a website for me. He was coming over tomorrow to talk about what I was looking to do. Honestly, I had so many ideas that I wasn't exactly sure what I needed, but I was more than ready to make a change in my professional life. After seeing a few “thumbs up” on my comment I settled into bed, satisfied that I’d been able to help at least a few people. Now it was time to work on myself.
     
     
    The bell chimed and I opened the door to Carter. He was dressed in jeans and a brown shirt that fit him like a glove. Not that I was noticing, or anything.
    “Hi Carter, thank you so much for helping me figure out where to start with this. I can't tell you how relieved I am to be able to talk with someone who knows what he's doing.” I had tried to set up my own blog a couple of weeks ago, but it looked so amateurish that I had abandoned it and given up. I ushered him in and closed the door while trying not to look at his butt as he passed by.
    “No problem. I don't know if I should mention this, but you'll only be my third paying gig, and one of the other two is Cheryl.”
    “Her website is gorgeous. That's why I wanted your help.”
    He smiled at the compliment and I noticed again how attractive he'd become. He’d filled out, and now sported broad shoulders in addition to his well defined muscles. His face also seemed to have become more, for lack of a better word, manly. He'd always been good-looking, but it was like I was finally seeing him as a grown man instead of the kid I'd first met. That was only appropriate, though, since he'd graduated from UT a few months ago. It wasn't like he was a teenager anymore.
    I led him to the kitchen where I had my notes and laptop, and he pulled his computer bag off of his shoulder and set up as I got us some drinks.
    The time seemed to fly by, and before I realized it, I had hired Carter as my new webmaster. He'd taken my notes and pictures and agreed to work up a few ideas for me for next Monday, my only certain off day at the restaurant. He even quoted me a price I could afford

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