Exclusive Excerpt: BURN FOR YOU by J.T. Geissinger
It was ten minutes before I could steal time away from the kitchen. When I stepped out from behind the swinging metal doors, I saw Pepper had followed my instructions.
Jackson Boudreaux stood at the end of the bar, glaring into his drink like it had made a rude comment about his mother. Though the rest of the bar was crowded, around him there was a five-foot circle of space, as if his presence were repelling.
I wonder if he smells?
Judging by his appearance, it was a distinct possibility. The black leather jacket he wore was so creased and battered it could have been from another century. The thick scruff on his jaw made it obvious he didn’t shave on anything resembling a regular basis, and his hair—as black as his expression—curled over the collar of his jacket and fell across his forehead in a way that suggested it hadn’t seen a pair of scissors in years.
No wonder Eeny had called him a werewolf. The man had the look of something wild and dangerous you might run across if you were out for amidnight stroll in the woods.
He looked up and caught me staring.
From all the way across the room I felt the weight of his gaze, the sudden shocking force of it, as if he’d reached out and seized me around the throat.
My breath caught. I had to convince myself not to step back. I forced a smile. Then I made myself move forward, when all my instincts were telling me to turn around and find a vial of holy water and a gun loaded with silver bullets.
I stopped often to shake hands with the regulars and say hello as I made my way through the room, so it was another few minutes before I made it to the bar. When I finally found myself standing in front of my intended target, I was dismayed to see his expression had turned from merely unpleasant to downright murderous.
The first thing Jackson Boudreaux said to me was, “I don’t like to be kept waiting.”
And my oh my did the Beast have a beautiful voice.
Deep and rich, silky but with an edge like a purr, it was at total odds with his unkempt appearance. It oozed confidence, command, and raw sex appeal. It was the voice of a man secure of his place in the world—a voice that was as used to giving orders to employees as it was to women beneath him in bed.
A flush of heat crept up my neck. I wasn’t sure if it was from annoyance, that voice, or his disturbing steely-blue eyes, which were now burning two holes in my head.
Before I could reply, he snapped, “Your hostess is incompetent. The music is too loud. And your drink menu is pretentious. ‘Romeo and Julep?’ ‘The Last of the Mojitos?’ Awful. If I were going on first impressions, I’d guess your food is awful, too.”
The flush on my neck flooded into my cheeks. My mouth decided to answer before I did. “And if I were going on first impressions, I’d guess you were one of the homeless panhandlers who harass the tourists over on the boulevard, and throw you out of my restaurant.”
Nostrils flared, he stared at me.
So much for unruffled feathers.
To cover my embarrassment, I stuck out my hand and introduced myself. “Bianca Hardwick. Pleased to meet you, Mr. Boudreaux.”
There was a long, terrible moment during which I thought he’d start to shout, but he simply took my hand and shook it.
“Miss Hardwick. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
Formal. So he wasn’t born in a barn after all.
“Call me Bianca, please. I apologize for the wait.”
Jackson dropped my hand, and with it, his brief civility. “If I wanted to call you Bianca, I would have. Where’s my table?”
He glared at me, his hand wrapped so tightly around his drink his knuckles were white.
Fighting the urge to kick him in the shin, I instead gave him my sweetest Southern-belle smile. I would not be intimidated, or bullied, or lose my cool on account of this arrogant jerk.
“Oh, it’s here somewhere.” Deliberately vague because I knew it would annoy him, I waved a hand in the air. “As soon as a table becomes available, we’ll squeeze you in where we can. So nice of you to drop by. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to—”
“Miss Hardwick,” he hissed, stepping closer to loom over me. “Where. Is. My. Table?”
I felt a dozen pairs of eyes on us. In my peripheral vision, I saw the bartender, Gilly—almost an older brother to me—red-faced in anger at how I was being treated. And was it my imagination, or had the restaurant gone quiet again?
One thing definitely wasn’t in my imagination. Jackson Boudreaux didn’t smell. At least not bad. Standing so close, I caught his scent: a delicious whiff of exotic musk and warm, clean skin that would have been extremely sexy on anyone else.
But it wasn’t anyone else. It was Prince A-hole, heir to an international bourbon dynasty, devoid of affection for shaving, haircuts, new clothes, or, it appeared, the human race.
Nappy! Picture him in a nappy with a binkie in his big fat mouth!
I lifted my chin and looked up into his eyes. I said calmly, “Maybe you were right about the music being too loud. It must have obstructed your hearing, because I just told you that we’d get you a table as soon as one becomes available. Or perhaps you’d prefer I throw someone out? Maybe that nice elderly couple by the piano? They look much less deserving of enjoying their meal than you do, am I right?”
His lips flattened. A muscle in his jaw flexed. Through his nose, he slowly drew in a breath.
I wondered if he was restraining himself from smashing his glass against the wall. Though my heart was hammering, I stood my ground and didn’t blink.
Finally, he dragged a hand through the thick mess of his hair and exhaled, an exasperated sound that clearly telegraphed how much he enjoyed interacting with the peasants.
Especially ones who dared to get lippy.
He snapped, “How long?”
By this time my smile had died a painful death. “You made my hostess cry. How long of a wait do you think that’s worth?”
Through gritted teeth, he replied, “I’m not a man to be toyed with, Miss Hardwick. As I told your hysterical hostess, I know all the prominent food critics—”
I snorted. “How lucky for them!”
“—and as my name is featured prominently on most of the dishes on your menu, I’d expect you’d be more accommodating—”
“Technically, Boudreaux is your family’s name, correct?”
“—because I make it my business to protect anything with my name on it—”
“Excuse me, how did my menu suddenly become your property?”
“—and if your food is as bad as everything else I’ve experienced so far, including your attitude, I won’t hesitate to speak with my industry contacts, along with my attorneys about your infringement on my family’s trademark.”
My mouth dropped open. I stared at him in horror. “You’re threatening to sue me? You can’t possibly be serious!”
For an answer, he narrowed his eyes at me. A low, dangerous growl rumbled through his chest.
Oh, no. Oh, no, he did not just try to scare me with that wild animal act!
I closed the final foot between us, looked straight into his cold blue eyes, and said, “I don’t care who you are, Mr. Boudreaux, or how much bad press you can bring me, or how many overpaid attorneys you have. Your manners are atrocious. Growl at me again and I will throw you out.”
I stepped back and met his burning stare with a level one of my own. “You’ll get the next available table. In the meantime, have another drink on me. Maybe the alcohol will turn you back into a human being.”
Fuming, I spun around and walked away, convinced Jackson Boudreaux was the most arrogant, stuck-up, bad-tempered man I’d ever had the misfortune to cross paths with. The only thing I could ever feel for him was disgust.
As it turned out, I was wrong about that, too.
The marriage is fake. But for a sassy chef and an arrogant billionaire, the sparks are real…
Jackson “The Beast” Boudreaux is rich, gorgeous, and unbelievably rude to the staff at Chef Bianca Hardwick’s New Orleans restaurant. Bianca would sooner douse herself in hot sauce than cook for Jackson again, but when he asks her to cater his fund-raiser, Bianca can’t refuse, knowing the cash will help pay her mother’s medical bills. Then Jackson makes another outrageous request: Marry me. The unconventional offer includes an enormous sum—money Bianca desperately needs, even if it does come with a contract—and a stunning ring.
The heir to a family bourbon dynasty, Jackson knows the rumors swirling around him. The truth is even darker. Still, he needs a wife to secure his inheritance, and free-spirited, sassy Bianca would play the part beautifully. Soon, though, their simple business deal evolves into an emotional intimacy he’s built walls to avoid.
As the passion heats up between them, Bianca and Jackson struggle to define which feelings are real and which are for show. Is falling for your fake fiancé the best happy ending…or a recipe for disaster?
Romance Contemporary [Montlake Romance, On Sale: October 16, 2017, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781542047456 / ]
About J.T. Geissinger
J.T. Geissinger is an award-winning author of paranormal and contemporary romance featuring dark and twisted plots, kick-ass heroines, and alpha heroes whose hearts are even bigger than their muscles. Her debut fantasy romance Shadow’s Edge was a #1 bestseller on Amazon US and UK and won the Prism award for Best First Book. Her follow-up novel, Edge of Oblivion, was a RITA Award finalist for Paranormal Romance from the Romance Writers of America, and she has been nominated for numerous awards for her work.
She resides in Los Angeles with her husband.