Hi, everyone! I’m thrilled to share an excerpt from THE SECRET INGREDIENT, my queer rivals-to-lovers foodie romance. When classically trained chef Adah Campbell and intuitive baker Beth Summers meet, their attraction. . . and rivalry. . . is immediate. The two women couldn’t be more different, but their intense passion for food and undeniable chemistry draws them together. Below is a sneak-peak of Adah and Beth’s meet-cute (in this case more of a meet tense…that’s a thing, right?)
THE SECRET INGREDIENT is available now. Thanks for reading and I hope you all enjoy!
The woman stepped forward without missing a beat, extending her hand. I closed the gap between us, shivering as her long fingers brushed my palm. Her skin was warm and a little work-rough. A heavy quiet settled over me as we shook hands. I had the strange thought that I could have held her hand all day. Up close I realized her narrow, wary eyes were a soft shade of green. They widened for a fraction of a second before she stepped back, shoving her hands into her pockets.
“I’m Adah Campbell, the new executive chef at Bella Vista. This is Sean Jacobs, our GM, and Riccardo Visconti, the head of our restaurant group.” Beneath the formal veneer of her words, her voice thrummed with life. Her accent wasn’t quite Southern, more country than anything else. It was the sound of humid thunderstorms and steaming biscuits slathered in home-churned butter. I never wanted her to stop talking.
I exchanged far briefer handshakes with the two men.
“Well, lovely to meet you.” I fiddled with a stray curl that kept bouncing in and out of my peripheral vision. “I’m Beth Summers, the madwoman behind this whole operation.” I jabbed my thumb back at the house.
I had no earthly idea what Bella Vista was. To be fair, though, I hadn’t eaten at another restaurant in ages. Most of my meals consisted of late-night affairs conjured up after the final guests left for the night. I’d developed the bad habit of burrowing into my own life so deep I sometimes forgot a world outside of The Yellow House existed.
The angry-looking man, whose name I’d promptly forgotten, glared at the cottage behind me like it had single-handedly murdered his entire family. “So, the Williams Award, huh? Pretty big deal. How are you guys handling the attention? I bet you’re getting a lot more customers than you’re used to.”
He was talking to me like I was a child running a lemonade stand with her parent’s money.
I shrugged and smoothed my apron, letting the pleasant texture of the coarse linen distract me from the unpleasantness of this man’s voice. “It’s been a wild few months, that’s for sure. Lots of folks from away coming to eat here. But it’s amazing to build a community of people who really care about good food.” The sun inched higher in the sky. I need to get back inside, put the first loaves of sourdough in the oven, and start prepping the berries for the tarts.
A long, tense silence stretched between us. Normally, I would have invited them in for coffee and a few fat slices of peach cake leftover from last night’s dessert service. But something about the three of them unsettled me. The fancy suit, the rough demeanor, the. . . well, I didn’t have time to think about why Adah had me all out of alignment.
“I read your interview in Bread & Wine. Sounds like you take the whole ‘farm-to-table’ thing pretty seriously.” Mr. Jerkface said “farm-to-table” like a particularly foul swearword.
“Sure do.” I plastered a smile on my face. I felt like a politician when all I wanted to do was stop talking and start working. “My dad’s a lobsterman and my mom ran this place as a coffee shop my whole life. This is my home. I want the food to reflect that. To taste both familiar and exciting.” As much as I meant it, it was a canned response. One I’d given a dozen or so times since people started asking me silly questions about my culinary philosophy. Whatever in the world that meant.
“What’s your staff situation look like?” I half expected this guy to pull out his phone and start recording. Adah and the fancy suit dude exchanged a meaningful look.
“Well…” I trailed off for a long moment, letting the irritation creep up my throat just a little more. I didn’t owe these people anything. And they still hadn’t told me what they wanted. Was this a thing big shot restaurant people did? Drive out to small-town eateries and pester the owners with weird questions? I sighed. “It’s just me, my best friend Nina, and my brother, Andrew, in the kitchen. Plus Ahmed, our front of house superstar, and our two servers.” I left out the fact that one of said servers spent most of his time on shift getting stoned and that I was desperately in need of about five more people I could not possibly afford to pay a decent wage, which meant I was a living breathing poster child for overwork. I rolled my neck and inhaled deeply.
“That’s a pretty lean operation.” Adah shot me an unreadable expression.
Usually, I could get a sense of a person’s energy within the first few minutes of meeting them, understand who they were and what they were looking for. My mom called it empathy. My brother called me a psychic. Really, people just made sense to me. But not this woman.
Adah squinted back at the cottage, shielding her eyes with her elegant hand. Smoke poured from the stone chimney. Fuck. I’d forgotten to adjust the flue before rushing outside and the fire had gotten too hot. In all likelihood the kitchen temperature had climbed from hot as hell to face-meltingly sweltering, meaning my dough would be trash. This little conversation had cost me a good thirty minutes of work. Now instead of slipping the breads into the oven, I’d have to tamp the flames, start over on my choux pastry, and recalibrate my entire morning. No way in hell was I getting around to the job posting today.
“Looks like your oven’s burning too hot.” Adah nodded, a sharp definitive motion.
Suddenly, rage engulfed me, whole and scalding. Maybe it was the exhaustion. Maybe it was the ache in my lower back. Maybe it was the fact that after years spent running away from my hometown I was still reeling from my decision to come back. When I spoke, my voice was brittle and too loud. Unfamiliar. “Thanks. I know that. You all have been taking up my morning and I have to say, I’m not quite sure why. So, if you need something, please enlighten me. Otherwise, I have to get back to work.” Probably by most standards I wasn’t being that rude. The few disastrous months I’d spent at culinary school had taught me that most chefs and bakers carried explosive tempers beneath their neatly starched whites. But that wasn’t me. At least not usually.
At my words Adah visibly stiffened and took a step away from me, her face going from unreadable to stormy.
(C) K.D. Fisher, Carina Press, 2020. Reprinted with permission from the publisher and author.
Two amazing chefs. Two very different restaurants. One recipe for love.
For single mom Adah Campbell, the executive chef job at a posh restaurant in quaint South Bay, Maine is a dream come true—and the perfect opportunity to start over, far away from a home that’s never felt entirely hers. But fitting in has never been easy, and between a new town, a new boss, and the unexpectedly attractive owner of a rival café, things get off to a rocky start.
Never did free-spirited Beth Summers think she’d still be in Maine. Travel the world gathering delicious recipes and finding friends and lovers? Absolutely. Step in to run her family’s small-town café? Not so much. However, once Beth commits to something, that’s it. Soon, The Yellow House is the hottest spot in town, but Beth’s out of energy—and out of ideas for moving forward.
Until Adah Campbell walks into her life. As sparks fly, both chefs have to decide if they are willing to make sacrifices…or if it’s really too many cooks in the kitchen.
Carina Adores is home to highly romantic contemporary love stories where LGBTQ+ characters find their happily-ever-afters.
A new Carina Adores title is available each month:
The Hideaway Inn by Philip William Stover
The Girl Next Door by Chelsea M. Cameron
Just Like That by Cole McCade
Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters
Better Than People by Roan Parrish
The Secret Ingredient by KD Fisher
Just Like This by Cole McCade
Teddy Spenser Isn’t Looking for Love by Kim Fielding
LGBTQ Romance [Carina Adores, On Sale: October 27, 2020, Trade Size / e-Book, ISBN: 9781335957146 / eISBN: 9780369701978]
About K.D. Fisher
KD Fisher is a queer New England-based writer of authentic, heartfelt LGBTQ+ narratives. KD grew up all over the United States, bouncing from North Carolina to Hawaii to Illinois, and finally settling in Maine where they spend far too much time at the beach. When KD isn’t writing they can usually be found hiking with their overly enthusiastic dog, obsessing over plants, or cooking elaborate meals. KD loves classic country, perfectly ripe tomatoes, and falling asleep in the sun.