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[A Family Business 01] - Tempting Donovan Ford
Jennifer McKenzie


Title: [A Family Business 01] - Tempting Donovan Ford

25 downloads, last downloaded at November 10, 2018

There's sizzle in this kitchen! Chef Julia Laurent has poured everything into her late mother's restaurant. When the time is right, she'll buy it herself. Before she can, though, the Ford family swoops in and acquires it out from under her! Suddenly Julia has a new boss—the sexy and intriguing Donovan Ford. Donovan and his family are legends in the restaurant business, so Julia will go along with his plans…for now. The chemistry between them is undeniable, but Julia remains focused on her goal of owning this place. Donovan has the power to help her—Julia simply has to convince him that he wants to.­About the AuthorJennifer McKenzie lives in Vancouver, Canada where she enjoys being able to ski and surf in the same day—not that she ever does either of those things. After years of working as a communications professional and spending her days writing for everyone else, she traded in the world of water coolers, cubicles and high heels to write for herself and wear pajamas all day. Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.­Julia Laurent had always liked traditions. Turkey at Thanksgiving, cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, strawberry pie in the summer. Classics. Things that stood the test of time. She hummed as she stepped out of the cold, midmorning January air and into the back entrance of her restaurant, La Petite Bouchée. Though her name wasn't on the deed, in every other way the space was hers. As executive chef, she'd lovingly tweaked the menu, hung some of her own personal photos on the walls and trained the staff. She'd spent the past two years building traditions and trust, taking the routines her mother had started in the kitchen and making them better. In time, she was certain her name would be listed on the deed, too. Assuming she could ever get Jean-­Paul, current owner and massive pain in her ass, to agree to terms. Still, she was satisfied. Jean-­Paul had no interest in the restaurant. He'd inherited the Vancouver property six months ago and had been looking to sell it ever since. And she had financial backers and an offer on the table. As soon as they could come to an agreement, La Petite Bouchée would be hers. Julia unwound her scarf as she passed through the delivery bay and into the long hallway that led to the staff rooms and her office. The kitchen would already be buzzing. Prep chefs would be chopping, dicing and julienning the mise en place for tonight's service. Stocks and sauces would be simmering on the burners. Veggies tourneed, beans soaking. And Sasha, her closest friend and sous chef, flying out of the swinging doors toward her. "Julia.­" Julia stopped and stared. Sasha looked harried and not the normal busy-­kitchen harried. More like the sky was falling. Or they'd run out of chicken. "Where have you been? Why aren't you answering your phone?­" There was a spatter of brown sauce on Sasha's chef coat and a dusting of flour on her cheek. "My phone?­" Julia frowned and pulled the device out of her bag. A black screen looked back at her even when she tapped the power button. Obviously, she'd forgotten to plug it in last night. Again. Which was why people rarely called her on it. Something Sasha well knew. "It's out of juice. Why?­" "Never mind.­" Sasha waved away the concerns of the dead phone. "You haven't heard.­" "Heard what?­" Julia felt a trickle of unease run down her spine, but she kept her expression cool. Sasha might be one of the few people she felt close to, but at the restaurant, Julia needed to appear in charge at all times. It was key to the authority structure of the kitchen. "Jean-­Paul sold the restaurant.­" Julia's stomach dropped. Actually it took a sky-­dive off a skyscraper and splatted on the concrete sidewalk. But she didn't even flinch. She'd trained in some of the toughest kitchens in Paris. She'd mislabeled food in the walk-­in and had her chef throw it all over her and the floor before insisting that she clean the cooler and relabel everything. She'd fired salmon too early and put the entire kitchen in the weeds on a night when they were serving the prime minister and other heads of state. And she'd made it through without losing her job or her cool. She knew how to hide fear. "He sold the restaurant.­" "Yes.­" Sasha's huge green eyes looked worried. "And the new owner is here.­" Sasha's gaze darted back toward the kitchen door. "I tried to call you.­" Julia dropped her phone back into the depths of her bag, where she'd probably forget to charge it again tonight. "I see.­" But she didn't see. Jean-­Paul had sold? And not to her? "Where is the new owner?­" Julia fought back the rise of terror. She had no information, nothing to make an informed decision with. "I set him up in the dining room. He's been waiting there about twenty minutes. He's a Ford.­" Julia knew the name. The restaurant industry was a small one and everyone either knew or knew of each other. The Fords ran a string of well-­respected, well-­run wine bars that populated Vancouver's hot spots. She'd been to one last month and been pleased with the friendly service, decent selection of wines and small plates that could be ordered à la carte or in pairs with the wine. But running a bar was nothing like running a restaurant. Nothing at all. Oh, God. Her restaurant. La Petite Bouchée had a great location on Granville Island, which was actually a peninsula not an island, located on False Creek across from the downtown core. Once a premier eating spot, over the past couple of decades it had fallen out of favor with local foodies and been replaced by hipper establishments that catered to the city's adventurous palates. But Julia thought—no, knew—she could turn that around, given the necessary time and money. The restaurant didn't need a complete overhaul. It was full of old-­world charm and she'd put her food up against anyone else's. But… A chilly dread crept over her. Was it possible that the Fords had bought the place simply to turn it into another wine bar? Was the owner here now to tell her to pack her things and get out? Julia swallowed the sick feeling that was trying to rise. She wouldn't, couldn't, show weakness. "I'll go speak with him.­" She used her chef voice, the one that accepted nothing but absolute obedience. The deference of cooks to those above them in the line of command was key. One person who didn't follow orders could lead to a complete breakdown. An entire table's meal needing to be remade because someone didn't fire the steak on time or the veggies weren't ready. And that didn't just affect one table—it was a domino effect, rippling through the restaurant as other orders backed up. Julia's biggest job was ensuring that this happened. Every service. Every night. But she wished she'd worn something nicer today. Of course, she hadn't expected to meet a new owner. Up until two minutes ago, she'd thought she would be the next owner of the restaurant. At least her jeans were clean and her sweater was cashmere. Julia didn't have closets full of clothing, but the pieces she owned were expensive and classic. Something she'd picked up from living in France for six years before returning to Vancouver. Julia took the time to open her office and remove her scarf and coat, to check her teeth and smooth her hair. Then she steeled her spine and headed out to face whatever might be waiting for her. She had no clue what the Fords intended to do with the restaurant or with her. But if she was going to get fired, she'd do it in style, looking as cool and chic as any Parisienne. The sounds of the kitchen washed over her as she walked toward the dining room. Noises that normally relaxed her, the clink of spoons and pots, the hiss of sauces reducing on gas burners, the whir of sharp knives hitting cutting boards, served only to highlight that she couldn't join her staff, at least not yet. She pushed open the doors that led to the dining room. The space was cool and dim, as though it was sleeping in preparation for service tonight. Julia strode down the middle of the tables, most with the chairs still upended, toward the one in the center. Her eyes locked on the man sitting there. He glanced up at her and smiled. A nice smile that made her stomach do a slow turn. Of course, that might also be the fear of the unknown. Julia shook off both thoughts. Her apprehension and the man's attractiveness needed to remain on the back burner until she uncovered exactly why he'd chosen to drop in without notice. She smiled back, a slightly haughty one learned at the elbow of France's best, and held out her hand. "Mr. Ford.­" He rose, clasping her hand in his larger one. "Donovan.­" The oldest son. The one who'd been groomed to take over the family business. Julia had heard the stories about all three of the Ford children. The youngest, a daughter who was off in Jamaica or somewhere running a restaurant with her boyfriend; the middle son, Owen, who was a regular in the social pages; and the oldest, Donovan, who, while not exactly like his brother, was no social slouch himself. "Donovan, then.­" She inclined her head. "Julia Laurent. Executive chef.­" Might as well put it out there now. If she was about to get canned, she didn't want to waste the next ten minutes on the niceties. She felt the ball of dread in her stomach grow. She eyeballed him up and down, taking everything in. His steel-­gray wool pants. No doubt made by Armani or some other expensive designer. The immaculate white shirt left open at the collar and leather shoes so shiny that she could see the reflection of her kitchen in the toes. Black, polished, Italian, expensive. Oh, yes, even if she hadn't already heard of him, she would have known everything about him from his clothes. Even his hair looked pricey. Dark and styled off his face so she could get the full brunt of his brown eyes. She realized they were still holding hands though they'd stopped shaking long ago, and carefully disentangled her fingers. Polite and professional was the order of the day. She needed to know what his plans were and how—or if—she fit into them. Until she'd established that, nothing else mattered. So Julia took a seat, allowing him to assist her into the chair as if he was serving her and waited until he'd sat back down across from her. She noted a briefcase on the floor by his chair and the intense look in his eyes. This was no ordinary, getting-­to-­know-­you meeting. No quick visit to introduce himself and explain that he had no intention of making any big changes. Then she took a deep breath and said, "So what is it you have in mind for my restaurant?­" Donovan watched the woman across the table from him. Julia Laurent's dark hair fell over her shoulders in smooth waves and her eyes had that sleepy look, like a woman who'd just rolled out of bed. And she wanted to know his plans for her restaurant? As far as he was concerned, she could have it. La Petite Bouchée had been overpriced and, though the location was excellent, it didn't break even. Which was just one of the reasons he'd argued against the purchase. He thought that was reason enough. But if not? He had another trust fund's worth of motives to spend the company's money elsewhere. Top of them being that an investment in a restaurant was the reason he no longer had much of a trust fund to speak of. But despite his clear and concise arguments, his father had made up his mind. He wanted this restaurant and they were buying it. And even a heart attack two months ago hadn't been enough to change Gus Ford's decision on the matter. Donovan exhaled around the twist in his gut that formed whenever he thought of that afternoon. His loud, gregarious father gray-­faced and gasping as the paramedics wheeled him from his office into an ambulance and off to the hospital. They'd been lucky. Gus had survived and according to the doctor would go on to lead a full life with only some changes to his diet and exercise routine. But the difference in lifestyle and the inability to go into the office every day had been hard on him. The entire family had felt Gus needed something, a distraction or a reminder of the way he'd been before the heart attack. Which was why Donovan now sat in the dining room of the Ford Group's newest acquisition. He focused on the pretty chef again, his gaze drinking her up. Her clothes were simple but well made and showed off a curvy figure. She watched him with keen eyes that he suspected missed very little and he felt a tingle of interest. "Maybe I should ask you what you have in mind.­" She narrowed her eyes at him. "Is this the part where you thank me for my hard work and show me the door?­" He blinked. She thought he was going to fire her? As far as he could tell, Julia Laurent was one of the few good things about the restaurant. And since he still believed he could convince his father that the Fords were wine-­bar owners and should be expanding into the gastropub market, not restaurants, he wanted to make as few waves and spend as little money as he could before selling it to the highest bidder. Ensuring that he didn't have to go hunting for a new chef was a key part of that plan. "No. I have no intention of firing you.­" Julia didn't smile at his statement, didn't even blink, just continued to watch him with those sleepy eyes and folded her hands in front of her. "I see.­" Donovan frowned. Shouldn't she be showing some signs of interest here? He'd just made it explicitly clear that he was keeping her on as executive chef. Something that didn't always happen when a restaurant changed owners. He pushed the thought aside. "I reviewed your contract with the previous owner.­" Her fingers tightened, the knuckles turning white, but Julia didn't say anything. Donovan pulled a new contract out of his leather briefcase. The contract was standard, a customary agreement of employment that all employees of the Ford Group signed, including the executive chef for all of their wine bars. Donovan opened the folder and slid it across the table to her. "I think you'll see that compensation is fair and on par with other restaurants in the city.­" Julia didn't even read the large print, let alone the small, before pushing it back at him. "I'm not signing that.­" Donovan felt the growing inklings of irritation. It had cost a small fortune to have their lawyer draw up the contract over the holidays, but that was what happened when your father insisted on buying a property in the second week of January. He studied her, leaving the papers there in the middle of the table. "Are you intending to leave the restaurant?­" A part of him was elated by the idea. If Julia left, it might be the impetus he needed to convince his father that the Ford Group had no place in the restaurant industry. But even as anticipation skirted through him, guilt overtook it. "Absolutely not.­" Julia looked shocked, as though the thought had never crossed her mind. So if she wanted to be here, why wouldn't she sign the papers? Her old contract had been lousy. Even if his offer had been under market value, it still would have provided more. Donovan pushed the papers back toward her. "Then I think you should read over our offer. It's a standard term of employment.­" "I'm not signing.­" She leaned back in her chair. "And I'm not a standard anything.­" She raised a dark eyebrow at him as though daring him to disagree. That flicker of attraction returned. He was used to people who agreed with him, who nodded and did as he requested. There was something about her confidence, the innate conviction that she could turn him down cold and be okay, that intrigued him. "Perhaps you want to read the contract before refusing.­" "Perhaps.­" But she still didn't pull the papers toward her or bother to even grace them with a glance. "Are shares included in the terms?­" 

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