Savaged Surrender

By: Jennifer Lyon



Acknowledgements




A huge thank you to Liz Berry and M.J. Rose for including me in the 1,001 Dark Nights Discovery Authors! It’s truly an honor and pleasure to work with such a dynamic and successful group.



And a special shout out Rebecca Zanetti! This wouldn’t have happened without you. Thank you, my friend.





Chapter 1




For a few hours Ethan Hunt was living the dream by cooking in the kitchen of Stilts, the newest upscale restaurant that stretched out on pilings over the bay in San Diego, California. Surrounded by gleaming stainless-steel worktables, industrial stoves, wicked-sharp knives and the drone of voices yelling out directions, he got to work with the one thing he loved most in the world—food. All under the watchful eye of Chef Zane.

The frenetic yet focused energy in the kitchen was similar to being in the gym back when he’d trained to be a mixed martial arts fighter. That was before he’d fucked up so royally that he destroyed his reputation, his ability to fight professionally ever again, damn near ruined his health and earned a pile of debt as deep as the sea.

“How’s this?” His assistant for the day held up a pan.

He glanced over and couldn’t bite back his grin. Ana Kendall was a mess. Her dark-rimmed super-cool glasses were askew on her face, dark-blond hair scraped back into a ponytail, and her white apron was covered in…hell, what was that? She must have spilled virtually every sauce in the kitchen on herself. Knowing her, she’d managed to taste all of them in the process. But she proudly held up the pan of crusty rolls he’d had her hollow out to toast for his goat cheese bruschetta.

“Perfect.” He’d fix the uneven rolls when she got distracted by something else.

Chef Zane snorted behind them.

Ana shot him a look over her shoulder. “Still want that premium suite at Petco Park?”

The man’s judgmental scowl morphed into a contrite expression. “Best work I’ve ever seen.”

She nodded. “Thought so.”

Ethan narrowed his eyes. “You offered him your dad’s suite at Petco Park?” In trade for Ethan’s chance to cook with Zane? Her dad had passed away suddenly less than two months ago. The shock and grief had rocked her, although in typical Ana fashion she was bouncing back quickly. But this? Her dad, a former professional baseball player, had prepaid for a suite at Petco Park baseball stadium for several of the Padres’ home games. She was giving that away? “Ana—”

She cut him off with, “I need to change clothes.”

Right, not the time to bring it up. Whatever she’d done to get Ethan this chance to cook with one of the best chefs in San Diego, he couldn’t alter it now. Nor did he want to upset her in front of Zane and the staff by talking about her dad. He focused on her comment. “Why change? It’s just us.” He was cooking dinner for the two of them, and he didn’t care if she wore shorts and a T-shirt. “Take your apron off and you’ll be fine. Oh, and you might want to wash off the…” he reached up, rubbing his thumb over the smudge on her smooth cheek, “…soy sauce?”

Her brown eyes sparked, and a grin curved her mouth. “Chocolate. While you made the potatoes, Zane let me taste some desserts.”

Figures. Ana’s genuine friendliness and curiosity attracted people, and Zane was no different. Of course he wanted to show off his kitchen to the pretty girl. “You’re supposed to be my assistant, little traitor.”

God, he was going to miss her. Over the last few months, she’d become his closest friend. He could talk to her about anything. Well, almost anything; some subjects were off-limits. She didn’t see the ugliness in him, and he wanted to keep it that way.

Ana sighed. “I’ll make it up to you by eating the food you cook.” Raising her eyebrows, she added, “Even if it tastes awful.”

Her smart mouth amused the hell out of him. He leaned down, his face close to hers. “You’ll eat it and love every mouthful.” She always tasted every single dish he attempted. Ana was pretty fearless when it came to food and anything athletic.

Challenge gleamed in her eyes. “Or what?”

“No dessert.”

Outrage yanked up her shoulders and puffed out her chest. “You can’t do that. I have connections.” She looked at Zane for help.

Ethan stepped in front of the man, cutting off her view. He easily had a foot in height and a hundred pounds on the little fireball. Not that he could intimidate her; she’d figured out quickly he’d never hurt her.

“I’m the chef tonight. I decide if you get dessert.” Oh yeah, he loved taunting her.

“Is that right?” Ana’s mouth quirked. “FYI, Chef Ego, I have frosted sugar cookies at home. I was going to be nice and send them with you to eat on your flight tomorrow. But you continue irritating me, and I’m going to keep them for myself.” She turned and flounced out, her hips twitching in her shorts.

Ethan yanked his gaze away from her ass. Nope, not looking. Friends. They were friends. Ana wasn’t some chick he’d bang and never think about again.