Writing Challenge: If You Can’t Stand the Heat…

It feels like only yesterday that we asked you all to conjure up a hero(ine) and their untold wealth. We were so taken aback by your responses that we couldn’t wait to serve up another writing challenge, and we’re eager to see just what you’re going to come up with!

Everyone loves a romantic candlelit dinner. The lighting, the music, the wine, everything comes together to create an enchanting atmosphere. But in those moments what matters most is not what’s on your plate, but the person who is staring intently back at you from across the pristine white tablecloth. It’s a dinner by definition, but the food is far from what’s important.

As perfect a moment as that can be, that’s not what we’re tasking you with writing. We actually drew inspiration from the last challenge’s winner, which featured a millionaire rolling up the sleeves of his expensive dress shirt and frying up a few grilled cheeses for himself and his date. It was an image that really stuck with us, and provided a great template for what we’re looking for this week.

In three to five paragraphs we would like you to compose a scene that involves one (or both members) of your couple cooking the meal they’re going to be enjoying together. What that looks like is entirely up to you!

Do they move together in the kitchen like a well-oiled machine?

Is this more a one-man operation with a bit of “help” from the other party?

Or have things taken an absolute turn for the worst…

What we don’t want to see are step-by-step recipes for some of your favourite dishes (though if you want to send those over separately, let me know!). While a few details in your characters’ cooking process are necessary, the true contenders for this challenge will allow the scene to build on the emotions between the two leads, as well as tell us more about their relationship. This could be steamy, fun-filled, or adorably awkward, but the focus has to be on the couple.

And, just to amp up the creativity for this particular challenge, the person cooking cannot be a chef by trade. An amateur home cook? Sure! A dishwasher with lofty aspirations? Why not? Whoever the beautiful person standing over the stove is, they can be anything but a chef.

Please send us what you’ve come up with by Sunday, November 10th, 2019, at the very latest! We’ll be looking over your submissions on Monday and letting you all know that afternoon who the winners are. Good luck, and looking forward to what you’ve cooked up!

UPDATE: With this writing challenge we didn’t have to choose between quantity and quality. We received almost two dozen submissions, and they were so good we had a tough time settling on the winners! After a lot of deliberation, we were finally able to settle on our Editors’ Choice Top 3…

Taffy Marie took 1st Place by not only making us feel like we were in that kitchen, but by blindsiding us with a hilariously unexpected twist.

In 2nd Place is Marianne, who proved that clean kitchens can be overrated. We loved the spice and sweetness in the couple’s banter.

3rd Place belongs to Wendy, for forever changing the way we’ll look at the simple task of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

Thank you so much for taking our challenge, and for letting us know just how much you enjoy lasagnas and sexy firemen. We’re looking forward to our next one in December, and we hope that you are too!

33 replies on “Writing Challenge: If You Can’t Stand the Heat…”

We were pulling up in front of Graham’s home. I felt like the Ultimate Intruder. Not only was I on the payroll as a Fake Girlfriend, but now I was a Displaced Person in charge of salad dressing.

The house smelled of Italo-American style spaghetti sauce. “I use the slow cooker a lot,” said Graham. “Wanna taste?” He was lifting the cover and offering me a spoon, looking at me expectantly.

“You bet,” I said. I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch, which wasn’t that long ago, but after losing my house and life savings, albeit temporarily, I was beginning to pick up on Banner’s food insecurities. “Oh, that tastes good,” I said. I was going to take a second spoonful, or maybe just belly up to the trough, but I held back.

Remember, you are helping him pay for grad school. This is a good deed. Layla tried to reason with her guilty conscience. Her knees buckled as she stood behind the bar and watched Cal maneuver her tiny kitchen. “Is this all of it or is there more of it somewhere else?” he glanced around the small space. The countertops barely held the grocery bags that he dropped on them. His smile was kissed by those quarter deep dimples when he turned to her. “I’m kidding.”
“Do people usually have bigger kitchens?” She asked, suddenly feeling inadequate in more ways than one.
“I don’t know. This is my first time ever doing something like this.”
“Mines too. I don’t do dating apps.” She blurted and then panicked. “I mean food apps! Or apps in general. Dating, traveling, I despise running apps. I also despise running—What are you doing?”
“Taking my shirt off.” That was obvious. The florescent light shined on him. “It’s a part of the uniform.”
Uniform? If by ‘uniform’ he meant a black apron laid over his bare chest, then he was in accordance. The muscles in his back stretched and tighten as he took every ingredient out of the bag. Layla felt an asthma attack coming on. Her inhaler was a million miles away in her room. She contemplated taking her glasses off to blur his attractiveness. She only rented Cal – God, that sounded awful — from ‘College Hunks who Cook’ for two hours. She could do two hours. She once dissected a pig for two hours. Cal wasn’t a pig and pigs don’t wear ‘Why lick the spoon when you can lick the cook?’ aprons.
“Roses.” The bouquet seemed to appear out of nowhere in his hand. It was like magic.
Layla looked at it as if it was on fire. “What are those for?”
He smirked. “For you. Thanks for renting me for the night. I never thought I would pick up a second job but if I’m going to do it, I might as well do it with someone I know.”
All the wrong words of that statement lingered in her mind. Layla squeezed the stems until her thoughts became pure and the thorns pricked her skin. “… No problem, Cal. Anytime.”
“I must tell you before we start that I am not a professional. If you are cut, severed or set on fire, you must pay for your own medical injuries.”
Layla pushed up her glasses. “Absolutely.”
“Also, I only know how to make lasagna.” He bashfully admitted. That explained the eggplant in his grasp. She was deadly allergic to the vegetable, but she didn’t want to stop him from lathering it up with Veggie Wash and rinsing it under the steamy water. His hand could palm a watermelon.
“I love lasagna.” She chirped. “My grandmother taught me how to spice up marinara. All I need is pepper.”
Cal’s hazel eyes searched the counter to no avail. “Check my apron.”
Without thinking, without ever thinking, she shoved her hand down the front panel of his apron. She grabbed something thick enough but not hard enough to be a pepper grinder. Cal froze and so did she. Layla swallowed, her voice quivered from embarrassment. “…Is that the pepper?”

She swayed, suddenly a little light-headed. “Could we eat? I was too nervous at lunch time.”
“God, yes! Elena will skin me alive if I let you faint from hunger.”
He gave her crackers to munch while they explored the kitchen, finding beans and soup and canned peaches in the cupboard. Ben pulled a carton from the freezer. “All right! Aunt Reggie must have left this stew — she and Uncle Bud stayed here one night with Winona after we finished the repairs. There’s cornbread, some kind of cake . . .”
Full night had fallen by the time they sat facing each other across the table. Light from oil lamps and the fire on the hearth held them in a warm glow. Only a week ago Roberta had sat like this in the twilight with Frank; it seemed like a different lifetime.
After supper they washed dishes together as they had at the home ranch, but tonight it became part of the mating ritual, his hand lingering on hers as she passed him plates and cups to dry. He grinned as if reading her mind, and she almost laughed aloud at the corny sweetness.

‘Why are YOU here?’ Pernille Kaspersen squinted at the tall lanky Italian on her doorstep with obvious disapproval. The face that she’d often snarkily remarked looked like ‘Dean Martin before the nose-job’ wrinkled up with confusion.

‘I’m cooking you my grandmother’s famous lasagne for Thanksgiving, like we talked about. I don’t have plans for Thanksgiving, you don’t have plans, remember?’ Frank Esposito saw an opening and snuck in the door past Pernille. He was starting to worry that he’d misinterpreted the witty office banter. The Pernille he knew was always immaculately dressed, striding through the office on high heels without a strand of her platinum hair out of place. The Pernille before him was wearing an ABBA T-Shirt, a worn pair of sweatpants, thick wool socks and an oversize apron that said “Don’t kiss the cook, he’s Norwegian”. Her hair disheveled, her face red and glistening with sweat. Not at all dressed for a date.

‘Right’. Pernille closed the door and turned. ‘Change of plans. My parents are coming to town for Thanksgiving weekend, which means my brothers are coming as well, and their families, and I have to cook. I don’t have time for romance.’ She grabbed his paper bag of groceries, strode past and placed it in the fridge. ‘There was going to be romance?’ Frank cocked an eyebrow, he couldn’t help but interject a little sarcasm, while pointedly indicating her outfit. She frowned at him. ‘ That was my plan. Was that not your plan?’ Her tone was serious. ‘Well, yes. I just didn’t think we were … saying it out loud.’ His voice trailed off. ‘Listen, since I’m here, I can help. Just show me the Turkey. I’m very good with Turkey.’ He removed his jacket and draped it over the back of a chair.

‘Oh, that’s so cute, you think the Kaspersens eat Turkey for Thanksgiving?’ She drew his attention to the Kitchen. A large 2 gallon pan was simmering on the stove, the sink was full of very large potatoes and the cutting board had a selection of meats and large, dark sausages. ‘We’re Making Raspeball. Now, you can help by peeling the rest of those potatoes as quickly as possible so I can mince them and prepare the dumpling paste’. She put her hand on the small of his back and gently pushed him at the sink. ‘What is Raas… bah … , what you said, and why aren’t we making Turkey?’ He asked. ‘Rass-Peh-Baal’ , she enunciated, ‘Potato and barley dumplings in a salt pig’s knuckle broth with “Vossakorv”, which is a lamb, pork and beef sausage, and we’re making it because my family is Norwegian and Thanksgiving is on a Thursday. ‘ She looked at him as if that answered every question he could possibly have about the situation.

‘Okay’. Frank started peeling, while Pernille kept squeezing past him to get fresh potatoes to run through the food processor. ‘The kitchen is not THAT small’ he thought, but every time Frank turned to Pernille to make conversation she’d smile coyly, drop in some more chunks of potato and the grinding of the mincing blade would drown him out. As she put the potato paste in a bowl and added flour, she asked him to roll up his sleeves and mix it with a large wooden spoon. ‘You’re so strong. Frankie’ she sighed, and batted her eyes at him while stroking his biceps with exaggerated admiration. ‘Let me show you how to shape the dumplings, she cooed, ducking in between his arms and guiding his hands as he strained to follow her directions. Pernille had switched from master level subtle office flirting to ‘teenage boy being painfully obvious’ and Frankie could only barely prevent himself from laughing. With the “Raspeball” all simmering in the pan, he remarked ‘What now? ‘ Pernille smiled. ‘Now, we let it boil for an hour, by which time my family will be here. I need to take a shower and change, why don’t you …’ She hesitated. ‘Yes?’ said Frank. ‘ … set the table. 12 settings including you.’ Frank finally laughed, as Pernille tripped gaily towards the bath with all the grace and elegance of Lucille Ball.

Startled as she awoke to noises coming from the other room, it took Ariel a moment to remember where she was and why she was here. As the details became clearer in her mind once more, she snuggled into the blanket a little further, inhaling the wonderful aroma filling the living room. Dishes were clanging in the kitchen. Glancing to where her children were still sleeping on the floor, she carefully eased up from the couch to slip into the kitchen. Rounding the corner, she found Tom just now cleaning what was obviously last night’s dishes.
“Is that how you cook up your signature homemade lasagna?” she asked as she glanced at the frozen lasagna box, pulling the blanket tightly around her shoulders for extra warmth as she slid onto a bar stool.
Staring at her with a sheepish look, he leaned over closer and confessed, “I don’t really have a signature, homemade lasagna. When I was just out of college, my mom wouldn’t stop harassing me about getting married and having a wife to cook for me. So, one night when she was coming for dinner, I bought a frozen one and slipped it into my own pan. I wanted to prove to her I could take care of myself. From then on, it was my most requested dish.”
Ariel’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, then she found herself fighting the urge to bust out laughing. Or maybe she just wanted to kiss him, wherever that thought came from he must be thinking the same thing, as close as he was getting. Just then, a very sleepy Derek traipsed into the kitchen and announced, “I’m hungry.”
Glancing her way for approval, Tom offered, “I could make you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“Are you sure you know how?” asked Ariel, with a playful smile.
“That is one thing I can cook,” he announced, grabbing a jar of peanut butter from the cupboard. “Want to help?”
Without answering, Ariel opened the fridge, searching for jelly. Finding what she wanted, she turned too quickly, bumping straight into Tom. As he held her gaze, Ariel marveled at how romantic making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich could be.

” You ready?” he quirked a too-sexy, lopsided grin in her direction.
Karin’s face flared a beacon of red and being she was of fair skin she knew she had to look like she’d been sun kissed… and it was humiliating.
Followed by a shy smile, she managed to get her mouth moving to form some sort of intelligible speech. ” “Ready as I’ll ever be, I guess.” she absently murmurred.
Why did she feel all flighty around him? Him being her brother’s best friend since grade school.
As Karin grabbed the church’s white crisp apron that hung on a nearby pantry rack, embossed in red caption ‘Food for the Soul,’ she shook her head in dismay making her way to the sink to wash her hands.
Why was Rokand who is almost her senior making her feel things? She already has a nagging big brother! Karin chuckled lightly as she thought of having two of them in her life.
Thanks to her best friend, Bianca, the food service coordinator she was reluctantly paired with firefighter, Roland in baking the pastries for the ‘Room in the Inn’ shelter ministry. She would have to endure two hours of pure torture because not only was Roland drop-dead gorgeous, a man who knew his way around a kitchen, he was just as sexy, and just as toxic because so.
She didn’t need any of that of that since breaking it off with her overly protective ex two months ago.
“I was thinking cheese cakes?” his syrupy, baritone voice serenaded. He grinned at her and then winked over broad shoulder. Turning back to his prep in front of him, he lifted the bowl from the counter top and began gently stirring the bowl of batter like he was cradling a newborn.
Karin’s mouth went bone dry and she blinked. Why was she now envisioning in her over-the–top imagination Roland Nelson cocooning and rocking their baby ever so gently in sexy arms?

Seven in the morning and already a stack of logs set up outside, for the cold nights to come. Pretty damn good for Jake, really if you considered about three years ago, he wouldn’t get his butt out of bed till after twelve.

The front door slams shut behind him, the outside air is washed away by the smell of biscuits, gravy, eggs and oh good Lord, she was making muffins that would send his fire department buddies over to the house in ten minutes.

He walks into the kitchen quite as to be, the best part of the day before bed, by far. No makeup, bed head, loose clothes and the smell of him on her. He walks up behind her, almost scaring the crap out of her, when he puts his hands on her hips. “Morning,” he whispers against her ear.

She slaps his arm, frowning up at him. “You scared me.” She scolds.

He chuckles softly. “Sorry. Do you mind if I help?”

She turns the gravy down, turns to him and pushes him backwards. “You touch the food, I will make you sleep outside.”

“Is this because, I almost started a fire?”

“Babe, you save lives for a living, how you can’t cook and almost catches the house on fire, is beyond me.”

He rolls his eyes. “Hey, I still have to hear crap from the guys about it.” He slides his hands up under her shirt, smiling down at her lazily, for just a few short seconds, he can’t help but think of the baby growing in her tummy. “Please Meg, let me help.” He gets down on his knees in front of her, giving her big eyes. “Pretty please, oh queen of the kitchen, who feeds me and makes sure I don’t starve.”

She folds her arms and stairs down at him with a raised eyebrow. “And?”

He smiles up at her. “Really? Your going to make me say it?”

She leans down, resting her elbows on his shoulders, with her butt out in the air. “Your damn right I’m going to make you say it.”

He groans, rolling his eyes. “Fine,” he gets up, getting her to straighten up. He looks to the corner from his eye and sees the flower for more biscuits to be made and a wicked idea forms in his head. He moves them around so he is closer to the flower and goes far as to turn off the single burner that still on. “The love of my life, the reason for me to breath, oh how I love your cooking, your company and-” he yanks her close to him one armed, as his other hand grabs a fist full of flower in the other. “Your great sense of humor.” Then dumps the flower all over her head and some on himself, as he tries to get away from her.

She stunned for a few long seconds, then dusts her face off as best as she can and looks at him, and not that look of he’s going to get his ass kicked, but the playing field will be equaled out. “Oh really? That’s how you want to play this?”

He smiles at her, as he wiggles his eyebrows. “You know how I like to play.”
She grabs the flower bowl; Jake eye’s grow a size bigger. “No one has won this game yet.”

She grabs a fist full of flower in her hand and throws it at him, even as he tries to get out of the way.

He goes for the eggs still on the counter and even if there is only a few left, it’ll give him a few minutes to think of a better plan. He hopes. He tosses a couple eggs at her feet and one on her leg, her come back, is more flower and then goes for the fridge, pulling out the half gallon of milk. “Oh, we are playing dirty now?” he asks with a raised eyebrow.

“You got egg on my sleeping pants.” She unscrews the jug. “Give up, or things are going to get milky.”

That gets a laugh out of him. “Oh please, don’t tell me you just said that. That was soooo bad.”

“Shut up,” she slushes out the milk, getting him head to chest.

He cleans his face of milk with one hand. “You come up with really bad jokes.”

She walks up to him, a good foot taller then her, but she never been afraid to bring him down to her height. “Yeah well, you can kiss those muffins goodbye, the guys at the fire station are getting them now.” She yanks a gap in his pants and dump what’s left down them.

Jake squirms and when he can, jumps back from her. “You wouldn’t dare, those are my muffins!”

She sticks her tong out at him, in response, getting between him and the. “Try me, big boy.”

He lunges forward, she of course tries to stop him, but he gets around her, takes her arm and spins her grabs a muffin and yes, it’s cold hearted and they are fantastic muffins, but he smashes the muffin on her head. “My muffins!” he declares like a spoiled child.

She frowns up at him and sticks her tong out at him. “Not all of them are yours, you muffin killer.”

He exhales like this has started to drug on to long. “Fine, if I must share.” He then smiles at her. “I’ll be happy to share with you and the baby.”

Meg laces her fingers behind his neck. “Fantastic, but we are cleaning up first and then eating.”

He groans in protest. “Your so evil, why must you be so heartless?!” he complains.

Meg reaches around him, grabs a muffin and smiles up at him. “I might be heartless, but my muffins are fantastic.” And then she smashes the muffin in his face.

The muffin crumbles away from his face and shakes his head. “Okay, I may deserved that.”

She kisses him. “Yeah, just a little bit.”

Brendan’s hug made her feel so much better. She didn’t even care if her apron with “Don’t kiss the cook. Give her a book” written on it was getting wrinkled. She loved him. “Are you ready to taste my extraordinary Mac and Cheese?” He let go long enough to look into her eyes. Beguiling eyes, wonderful eyes, eyes that would make a man wanna settle down. “But not this man,” said the six foot caramel haired rancher to himself and under his breath.

“Brendan you are amazing. Where’d you come from?”
“Out ta field over yonder,” he said mimicking a country accent.
“Well I’m glad you’re here with me. But I do not believe for a moment that you can make excellent Mac and Cheese without milk or fresh cheese.”
“You would think that wouldn’t you,” he said putting his hand around her waist and pulling her to him. Their gaze froze like eternity, lite. Then he kissed her sweet and gentle, making her knees almost bend and her eyes weep. “But you would be wrong.”

“So how do you make this unique Mac and Cheese?” She would eat it anyway, even if it wasn’t good. Just the most mundane things became sacred with Brendan.

“Well,” he said smiling, “you know I’m allergic to everything.”

“Yes.” Concern written on her brow. He really was. She felt bad for him.

“I found you can put some margarine and almond milk in a pan with rice flour and it works out. Add some pasta, canned mozzarella, or shake cheese as I like to call it, and voila instant Mac and Cheese.”

“Hey this is not half bad,” she said later, smiling.
You know what else isn’t half bad?”
“What?” She wondered as his face drew close to hers.
The blue and green eyes a mirror for each other. Like an enormous peaceful sea.
Then she began to laugh with delight as her man swept her up and carried her to the bed they made love in, made peace in, made life in.
A billion suns built up in her heart while he started taking off her clothes.
“You know what?”
“What?” He whispered.
“With all this light in here I am getting warm,” with that she helped him out of his dungarees, and they made love in the afternoon, but they made their own light.

“It’s killing you, isn’t it?” Mike said, sounding as though he hadn’t been absent from her kitchen, or her life, for the past two years.
Jenna looked at the mess he was making on her countertop as she kneaded the pizza dough. “No. It’s fine.”
“Mm-hmm? So, when I do this…” he smeared a tablespoon of tomato paste next to the chopping board, “it doesn’t bother you?”
She felt heat swell in her chest and crawl up her neck. “No. Not one bit.”
He nodded. “Good to know. And this?” He brushed flour from the benchtop onto floor.
A prickling sensation ran along her hairline. “Well, that is a slip hazard, so if you don’t mind risking your life, then it’s fine.”
“I am prepared to laugh in the face of danger,” he said. “But I don’t want you risking life and limb.”
Jenna wondered when his voice had taken on the ability to make her feel gooey when his strong hands spanned her waist, and she landed on the countertop.
“What the hay!” She whipped her head towards him. His gold-green eyes sparkled at her and his lips twitched.
She should be annoyed, but she was feeling… excited? Had she gone mad?
This was Mike. Put-a-slug-on-her-schoolbag, race-her-to-the-corner, Mike.
When did he become a man? A manly man. With man muscles and coarse, golden arm hair that glistened on taut forearms below his rolled-up shirtsleeves?
His voice broke into her thoughts. “On a scale of one to ten, how much are you hating sitting on the counter knowing you have flour on your butt?”
She blinked. “Um, fifty.”
He chuckled, and the sound rippled through her, causing her arms to tingle. When he stepped closer, she gripped the edge of the bench. Damn, he smelled good.
“It’s great to see you again, Jenna. I missed you.”
His minty breath fanned her cheek and something near her diaphragm fluttered. “I missed you too.”
A smile lit his whole face. “Let’s get you down. I shouldn’t be pestering the woman who is making me a welcome-back pizza.”
Now, when his hands spanned her waist, she felt it. Eight fingers and two thumbs ignited ten hotspots of scalding awareness. His calloused palms deprived her of breath more than any pair of Spanx.
Coming down from the bench was in stark contrast to her ascent. This was a slow slither. Her body was mere millimeters from his, held captive by his gold-green eyes that no longer sparkled with humor but darkened to a shade she’d never seen. She swallowed.
“There,” he whispered.
Her feet touched the ground. Or floated. Mike’s hands were still on her waist but his gaze was on her mouth.
He was going to kiss her! Her legs felt like jelly. She adjusted her footing.
And slipped.
“Oh my god, the flour!” she cried as his hold tightened.
He stared at her for a fraction of a second then laughed. The rich throaty sound reverberated around the kitchen cabinets as his head tipped backwards. The noise shattered the tension and reset their relationship to its default.
Though he had a rueful expression on his face. She was sure hers matched.
It was now or never. “Err, Mike?” She inhaled. “You want to try that again?”
His pupils dilated, and she was back on the countertop within a heartbeat.
Her heart pounded high in her chest but she slid forward and wrapped her arms around his neck. She hesitated a moment before she brushed her lips over his, once, twice, marveling at the sensation. He deepened the kiss, and she ran her fingers through his thick sandy hair, leaving flour streaks in their wake. She had never been happier to make a mess.

Lucas suddenly turned away from the window, fixing his blue gaze on her.
“If this weather doesn’t let up, we could be stuck here for a few days,” he said, giving her an enigmatic smile.
Katrina’s troubled brown eyes looked into his then outside at the snow that was falling continuously.
“But it’s important that I get to my interview tomorrow,” she said. Jobs around here were hard to come by and she didn’t want to miss this opportunity.
I’m sure your prospective employer will understand,” he shrugged. “In the meantime, why don’t I make us something to eat – thankfully there’s plenty of food in the house.”
“You’re going to cook?”
“Why not?” I can still make a mean omelet,” he said, going over to the fridge and taking out the eggs.
She smiled at the memory and took a bowl out of one of the cupboards, as he placed a saucepan on the stove. He then reached above her to take two plates out of the top shelf. He was so close that she felt the warmth of his body behind her.
Katrina finished cracking the eggs into the bowl and moved away to set the table. His nearness was doing strange things to her pulse, and she didn’t want him to realize the effect he still had on her.

Jake Hamlin read the recipe for the umpteenth time before he shoved it into the tool drawer in the kitchen. Making dinner for a beautiful woman like Ally Smart, who was a top-notch food critic with her own TV show, was of supreme importance to him. If he could impress this woman with his talent, he would consider himself a lucky man. Trouble was he didn’t know how to cook anything more than scrambled eggs and burnt toast. Hell, he even caught the microwave on fire once. Good thing that was his job. As Captain of the local fire department, he’d met Ally when his company was called to put out a small fire on her television stage. The visiting chef had drunk too much vino and tilted the sauté pan over an open flame, causing a nice little stove fire.

Tonight, Jake would impress the famous food critic with his ability to cook. How they’d gotten into that conversation was a mystery but it had landed him this date. He glanced at the ingredients lined up on the counter. Ally had arrived early so she could see him in action. She was the most delectable redhead he’d ever seen, from a spray of freckles over her nose and cheeks to her body that shouted 911. She was a fire he didn’t want to put out.

“So, you’re making us Linguine?” She watched his every move like a hawk. Did it make him nervous? Hell, yes. He never should have opened his big mouth. But this recipe said it was easy and that’s why he’d chosen it. What could go wrong?

“Trust me, you’re gonna love it.” He turned the bacon strips in the pan, dumped the prepared onions and garlic into the grease, then distracted by her nearness he added the rest of the ingredients. Why not? It all ended up in the same place.

“You know I would have said yes to dinner anywhere, Jake. You didn’t have to go all out and make me dinner just to capture my interest.” Ally looked up at him and he swore her lips puckered.

He bent to kiss their sweetness. One short kiss…

The fire alarm went off. Billowing fumes of smoke rose from the pan he’d left to burn while easing his desire for his date. He flipped off the burner, slid the pan to the side, hit the overhead fan to on, and coughing grabbed Ally’s hand and led her out onto the deck for fresh air. She was laughing and for some reason, it hit his funny bone too. He sobered. “Sorry about that.”

Ally’s smile was genuine. “Don’t be. I assume you can’t really cook?”

“I even burn toast.”

Her laughter eased any tension between them as she traced his lower lip with her finger. “Then it’s a good thing you can put out fires, Jake Hamlin.”

“Oh yeah?” He pulled her into his arms, closer was always better.

“Yeah. I feel a ‘burning’ desire for another kiss.”

“I can handle that just fine.” And he did.

I rolled into the kitchen. It was my first day in the wheelchair. It had been delivered today and I was trying it out. My muscular dystrophy had progressed so that I could no longer walk on my own.
I looked over my kitchen with a heavy heart. I’d loved cooking, standing for hours over the stove and counter tops making meals for my husband. My dear husband, Mark. I would have to give it up too.
“You can teach me.” His voice came from behind me. I wouldn’t spin around in this clumsy thing to face him. I couldn’t. I’d cry if our eyes met. The soft blue eyes that always held love, affection, compassion. It would be one more thing he’d have to take on. When would he break, have enough of all of this, of me?
I took in a deep breath, willing away the deep resentment of what life had dealt me and said to the dearest man on earth, “I would love to.”

He’s the one.

Honestly, if someone had told me 24 hours ago that Steve was the one, I would have laughed in their face. I had low expectations, I will admit it. I had him pegged for a boyfriend of convenience, someone to go out with and maybe have a little fun with to break up the monotony and stress of my job. I hadn’t seen him as husband material. After all, I went to Cornell and he went to—the fire academy, I guess. After three dates, I hadn’t asked.

Making this shepherd’s pie together, though, showed we were a team. I browned the meat while he chopped the carrots and onions. I peeled the potatoes, he cut them to put in the boiling water. We worked effortlessly in sync, never bumping into each other in this big, beautiful kitchen, with a convection oven, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.. That in itself surprised me. I hadn’t expected a single dad civil servant to live in McMurray Estates and I certainly pictured a more masculine kitchen, with neon beer signs and Yankees pot holders.

Instead, there were coffee, tea, flower and sugar holders shaped like pink cats. OK, he had a daughter. But come to think of it, there was something adult about many of the accessories and items in this kitchen.

As the water boiled, and Steve checked on Ally’s hockey injury upstairs iI did a little snooping. There was a calendar of inspirational quotes stuck to the refrigerator, a large rose-scented hand lotion by the sink and a bottle of chardonnay chilling by the window. There were some books, too, held up by cherub bookends. There were cookbooks, Martha Stewart and Firehouse Recipes. There was Ally’s Hamlet, sitting all but forgotten—I’d have to speak to her about that, as her English teacher—and there was a copy of “The Virgin’s Marriage of Convenience With a Fireman.”


Who was reading this? And why? Did Steve have to enter a marriage of convenience with a virgin? Why? Was Ally reading this fluff instead of the books on the AP English recommended reading list? No wonder she was getting a C! If she referred to the “Virgin’s Marriage of Convenience With a Fireman” when she wrote her AP English essay, she’d be lucky to get a 2! I picked up the book to see if it was suitable for a high school student and a card fell from behind it. An anniversary card. To Pat and Steven.

It wasn’t his book. It was his wife’s. My future husband was someone else’s husband.

It couldn’t get any worse. But of course it did.

“That’s my mother’s book,” he said, coming back into the kitchen. “My parents are on a cruise for their anniversary. You can meet them next time.”

“Do they come by often?” I was relieved, but something still didn’t seem right.

“They live here. This is my mom’s domain, really. I usually grill outside or I just heat something up in my little kitchenette downstairs in the basement.”

His little kitchenette. He lived in his parents’ basement. He’s not the one.

I can see why Taffy Marie won first place; but, i would have loved to have read something perhaps humerous about his cutting onions. Onions are powerful things and i always cry from the cut onion…unless i cut onion beneath cold running water. After all he is a fireman and knows his way around hot stuff so i’m sure he handled the situation perfectly. Looking for more from Taffy Marie.

Nicki watched with a contented smile while Andrew nonchalantly tossed ingredients into the pot on the stove. His dark hair cut in traditional military style, his broad shoulders which tugged at his worn, forest green t-shirt. He looked every part of the marine turned lawman that he was. Nikki had come to enjoy his company on the many afternoons a week that he had spent at her house cooking while she was laid up after a horse had crushed several bones in her foot. But, it was healing nicely and she had her follow up appointment at the end of the week. After she was cleared for a walking boot, Andrew wouldn’t need to come over for supper anymore. She found herself oddly unhappy at the idea. “Penny for your thoughts,” Andrew broke into her reverie as he leaned against the chair her foot was propped in, his green eyes betraying his concern.
“I don’t think I’m going to like your chili,” Nicki teased, straight-faced.
“Disapproval of the sheriff’s chili… well now, that might be a federal offense.” Andrew placed his hand under his chin, feigning deep thought. Nicki shook her head as she began giggling. No one had ever quite made her laugh or drove her crazy like the man standing before her, not even her late husband. The kind of friendship they had developed in just a few short weeks was a revelation to her. All because he had inadvertently scared the horse she was walking, resulting in her injury. Pity dinners, to make up for it, was all she thought these were going to be. However, the look in Andrew’s eyes as he grinned back at her told her something else. They reflected the warmth that welled within her own spirit. But what would happen when he found out about the miscarriages? She bit her lip as the warmth faded. She had never learned what would Sean’s reaction would have been to the second one since he was killed in action before it occured. He had taken the first one hard, growing so distant that the second pregnancy had been a complete shock to her. Nicki felt herself begin to shake as she felt the old tears well up at the thought of losing her babies. She closed her eyes, hard, to fight them off. But as Andrew turned from stirring the simmering chili, he rushed to her side, easily lifting her from where she sat. He moved back to the stove to deftly switch off the burner despite his sobbing cargo. Then, he sat right there in the middle of the kitchen floor, rubbing her back while she cried into his hard chest. “I’m so sorry,” Nicki apologized as she began to pull herself together. “I…”
“Don’t worry about it darlin’,” Andrew drawled as he wiped her tears from her cheek. This close, she could see every shade of green which painted his eyes.

She wanted to talk, wanted *him* to talk, wanted to explain. It was clear from the way she hesitated, licked her lips before speaking. He did not demand an explanation, did not ask why she was there, where she had come from, how she’d even remembered the location of his home, his modest compound on the outskirts of town. For Ara it was all rather elemental at the moment; Jamila had walked at least an hour from the palace in an unforgiving rain, and now was sodden to the skin. Night was falling and chill was stealing into the air. Conversation would not change the fact that he needed to get her dry and warm. He gave her the low stool by the fire-place, along with a dry wrapper from the basket he had kept closed tightly for many seasons. She looked at it and fixed large brown eyes on him.

“That is my sister’s; she left it here when she visited,” he said in reply to the question. He knew she would not care to wear an *iro* meant as a bridal gift; the fact that it had never been used would make little difference, even if it had been intended for her. He turned his back to stir the coals on the hearth, then fanned them vigorously, then stirred them again. They glowed brighter.

“I can build the fire for you,” she said. Her voice was still soft, still possessed that odd musical cadence of the north. He turned. She’d knotted the wrapper high above her breasts in the old style; the earth-colored fabric nearly matched her skin. It suited her as well as he’d thought it did when he purchased the gleaming lengths for her, years ago. She looked listless, but at least, he noted with some satisfaction, she had stopped shivering. Her eyes were scanning round the small but impeccable space; the simple designs painted into the smooth clay walls, the bed with its soft cover, the baskets arranged neatly to hold his few belongings. Not much had changed since her night there five years ago.

He surrendered the large fan to her, concentrated on food. She was too thin, he thought, despite her jutting abdomen and swollen breasts. She was not eating enough; the child was taking all her food, as babes must do to survive. Was there starvation even in the palace? There was vegetable soup with smoked fish he’d cooked yesterday, and half a roasted fowl, and new yams cooked in a smoky pottage, delicate, with a flowery sweetness. He should have something that would give strength to a pregnant woman; a thick bean porridge, perhaps, or proper meat. But he had not known she would come, or would be expecting a child. He placed the clay pot of vegetable soup in the fire, and the pottage closer to the edge; the thicker dish would likely scorch if it warmed too quickly. He busied himself then by lighting the oil lamp, illuminating the interior of his home with weak yellow light. Night would fall soon, shrouding the young princess’ whereabouts in darkness, likely as she’d intended. “Do you not want to know why I’m here, Ara?”

He shook his head. Ara was incapable of focusing on more than one task at a time, and for now his task was getting hot food inside Jamila, erasing that sad hungry look from her face. Questions would wait; he would not be able to focus on anything she said anyway. He knew that his oddly, stubbornly fixed single-mindedness had frustrated as well as amused her when he made his suit, years ago. It was also why she’d left him. He had made his peace with it, however. The gods had crafted his mind as well as his slim narrow body, so proficient in fishing, in the ways of the sea. It was as they intended, and he was at peace with it, even if it had cost him a bride.

“What’s that smell?”

Lorna jumped at the deep voice coming from the doorway behind her. She turned, and the heat inside the community center kitchen flowed over and settled inside her. Words drifted away, melding with the smell permeating the room. Ky Ryker, the director of the center and, as a lot of women proclaimed, a hot single dad. Lorna agreed.

He entered the large space, peeking over her shoulder at the tray on the counter. “Ah. Mystery solved.” He looked at her, a smile tugging his mouth, humor lighting his chocolate brown eyes. “Want some help?”

Lorna tore her gaze away from his to the tray and the dozen burnt pumpkin-shaped cookies. She sighed. Baking wasn’t her forte. Honestly, she managed to singe frozen food that only required twenty minutes in the oven. But beneath the burnt aroma, she smelled something else. Something masculine, something that made her want to rest her head on a broad shoulder and settle in for the long haul. Something…someone…who made her wish for things she gave up wishing for years ago. “I’m sure your cookies are as perfect as you.” She sucked in a breath as her thoughts tumbled out of her mouth. She risked a look at him.

He was looking at her, the humor gone, replaced with seriousness. “No. I’m far from perfect.” His voice dipped low as did his gaze to her mouth. “But you make me feel like I could be.”

Rachel slipped her leg from under the thick, fleece comforter her toe touching the smooth wooden floor. She quickly recoiled her leg back to the warmth and safety of her den as she scanned the room for her wool socks, she had discarded last night. She spied one sock lying on the arm of the chair and quickly located the other one nearby on the floor. She once again attempted her escape, but this time grabbing both wool socks and her robe before glancing over her shoulder to see if her bear was still hibernating. She couldn’t help but smile as she watched Blake sleeping, his hair sticking up like an avalanche had pushed it all to one side and the slight scruffiness across his face that resembled her real-life version of Smokey the bear. As she twisted her hair into a messy bun, she could feel warmth begin to radiate throughout her body.
Nothing but the best for her sleeping bear. Her grandma’s famous French toast was just perfect for a frosty winter morning she thought, but first she needed some java and a little music to get the blood flowing in her fingers and toes. The rich coffee aroma filled the room as Rachel shimmied and swayed to the music gathering the ingredients. Eggs, cream, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon all went into the bowl as Rachel whisked the ingredients into a frothy foam.
“Now for the secret ingredient” she said as she smiled and twirled around. She felt the mixing bowl tilt toward her as she collided with Blake, the frothy concoction painting her white robe in rays of sunny yellow. They both laughed.
“Well it could be worse”, Rachel exclaimed with a bit of sassiness in her voice. “At least you don’t have to put out another fire!”
Blake smiled, “I’m sorry mouse”, as he endearingly referred to Rachel, “I’ll get a towel so we can clean you right up”.
Grabbing a towel and running it under some warm water he then turned to meet her gaze. Rachel slipped the painted robe from her shoulders and it fell to the floor. He took her all in with one gaze noticing how her breasts glistened like gold, suddenly realizing that her chest was coated with the same sunny yellow color that adorned her robe. He stepped toward her and was immediately enveloped by the warm smell of vanilla.
“You smell like a scrumptious sugar cookie”, he exclaimed as he slowly began washing the sticky, golden goo from her breasts. Her nipples immediately responded as if an alarm had sounded. Their lips softly brushed together. He placed his hands on her hips pulling her close he felt her shiver once, and then twice.
“Oh my! You must be freezing!” Blake said coming out of the sugar trance. He quickly unbuttoned his shirt and held it out as Rachel placed her arms into the oversized sleeves. The shirt was clearly no match for her tiny frame, but no matter he quickly got to work rolling up each sleeve. Rachel wrapped her arms around Blakes neck and he embraced her allowing the heat between them to warm them both. As if in unison their bellies both rumbled.

“I need to get some French toast in that grumbly belly”, Rachel replied as she planted a quick kiss on his cheek and went through the same motions frothing together the ingredients once again.
“So, what is this secret ingredient?” Blake asked.
“Ahh”, Rachel reached for the bourbon. “My grandma swore her bourbon French toast is what made my papaw fall in love with her,” she laughed.
He smirked with his signature grin, “Is that your ulterior motive?”
“Why, a Kentucky girl never gives up her secrets!” she whimsically said. “If you can’t stand the heat then you should get out of the kitchen!”
Blake wrapped his arms around Rachel, his eyes locked on hers, “I’m afraid your embers have already set my heart on fire. This is one blaze I don’t ever intend on putting out.”

[[Looks long, but it’s mostly dialogue!]]
“Can I help you?”
I almost fell off the footstool at the sound of the sonorous, baritone voice coming from the entrance to the kitchen.
“Oh, no, I was just checking to see what spices you have and these cabinets are a bit…”
He nodded. “High, I know. Old building, high ceilings.”
“Or I’m just short.”
He laughed. “No, you’re .
He stepped forward and offered me a hand to help me down off the stool, and I got my first good look at Sam Park. Tall, lean like a swimmer, thick dark hair, black eyes behind glasses. Everything I’d seen in the pictures, but much better in person. He had a good six inches on me, but if necessary I could take him down. That was part of my training.
“So, you’re Victoria? The chef? Thank you so much for coming to help out tonight.”
“Oh, no problem. I hope you enjoy my work.”
The touch of his hand was electric, and though it was supposed to steady me as I stepped down, it made me a little dizzy instead. I took a deep breath and rubbed left thumb across my forefinger, a calming gesture I’d been taught.
Sam smiled. “I’m sure I will. Your agency said you had rave reviews.”
“Why, thank you. I hope to live up to them.”
Of course, six months ago, I couldn’t cook anything that didn’t involve a microwave, buy my “agency” had trained me to cook one or two five-star meals so I could pass as a personal chef. I’d been trained to do many things, one of them being to be able to quickly plant a listening device in a target’s home, and that’s what I was here to do tonight. Sam was the target and his conversation with his dinner partner was of great interest to my employers.
“But seriously,” he said, leaning against the counter. “I would love to help. I worked in a restaurant during college, and I have to say, my knife skills are still pretty good.”
“You go to the trouble of hiring a personal chef and you want to do the cooking?”
He shrugged. “I wasn’t sure how much time I had. And I really need to impress my…special guest.”
I smiled. “Okay. Why don’t you julienne those apples and that fennel over there and let me see those knife skills?”
“Yes, chef.”
I felt my face warm up and leaned over the pot of boiling water to hide the giveaway crimson flush that might show the effect his voice was having on me. Focus on the recipe.
I turned around and switched on the oven.
He noticed. “It’s going to get hot in here with that on too, so I’m sorry about that.”
I watched as he quickly peeled an apple, his long, strong fingers firmly holding onto the bright green fruit.
“Yes, well…I’m used to heat.” Usually not this kind.
When I got this assignment, I’d been expecting the usual. Most people working in government didn’t set the world on fire, and I had assumed that Sam would be more of the same. Grumpy, cynical guy in his fifties or sixties who’d maybe spent too much time sitting at a desk in airless federal buildings, drank a little too much, smoked a little too much. But as I did background, I’d realized that Sam was different. Only thirty-six, he was considered somewhat of a rising star in the NSA, a techno-whiz who could handle the diplomatic side of things. And as the son of a billionaire, he couldn’t be bought or sold either. Too good to be true, it had seemed, except that maybe it was.
“Could you come over here and see if this is what you want?” He smiled, adding “Chef?”
I walked over and looked at the expertly sliced matchsticks of apple and nodded. “They’re perfect.”
We were close now and I knew I was in dangerous territory. I needed to get him out of here so that I could plant the bug in that lighting fixture above the cabinets. But I didn’t want him to leave.

(Apologies, I did a terrible job proofing this. And please note the main character is NOT really a chef!)

Alex woke to the sound of sizzling coming from his kitchen. Following the smell of sausage, he came into the kitchen to see Joelle hovering over the stove where she was shaking a skillet back and forth.
“What ya doin?” Alex asked.
“Cooking breakfast, silly guy,” Joelle responded.
“You don’t need to cook for me. I was only hit in the head with a parking lot. I feel much better now.”
“Of course, I do. You’re recovering from a concussion.”
“At least let me cook some waffles. I have some strawberry syrup and whipped cream in the refrigerator.”
Joelle’s face contorted in pleasure. “I live strawberries!”
“I thought you would. Don’t think I didn’t notice all those cups of strawberry cheesecake in the break room refrigerator.” Alex said as he took out some eggs.
As he poured some batter into the waffle iron, he noticed Joelle trying to slyly glance at him. When she noticed he noticed, she gave a quick smile then returned her attention to the skillet in front of her. Alex pictured what it would be like to have this happen every morning, seeing them cooking for each other, caring for each other, like any other couple out there. But this is something he could not let himself enjoy. He was taught to be as independent as possible. No one needed to care for him. He was capable of taking care of himself, thank you very much. The timer on his watch beeped bringing him out of his fantasy and back to the waffle iron, where he deftly put the now-golden brown waffle on a plate.
“There’s a strawberry festival in town next week,” Joelle said as she put some sausage links on his plate.
“I noticed the signs over Grand Avenue,” Alex said, just before enjoying a bite of his breakfast. He took a bite of the waffle and enjoyed the sweet and tangy taste of the strawberry syrup contrasted with the spicy and savory flavors of the sausage. “Do you want to go?”
“Yes, I’d love to take you. It will help you get settled into town.”
Great. He just talked himself into a date with someone he knew he could have no future with.

Hi Tom, I don’t know why, but it looks like our spam filter has been snagging your writing contest submissions! I am so sorry this has been happening, and I think I’ve fixed the problem. Sorry again about this.

“Don’t worry my housekeeper left everything, including instructions” Dmitri tried to reassure.

“I can honestly burn a pot of boiling water though,” shaking her head Saskia replied. Grabbing the plate of marinated beef kebabs she reasoned to herself, how hard can it be to stick them on a skewer with some veggies in between?

Watching her concentration focus on each ingredient being stuck on the stick made her unaware of his intent focus. She wrinkled her nose and drew his attention even more. He found himself moving closer.

“Before you know it, dinner will be over,” Saskia picked her head up with a smile looking towards the other counter where he was. He wasn’t there though, feeling his gaze upon her she looked to her left. Startled to see him so close without her realizing it she stuck the last chuck of food on the skewer and attempted to add her finger to the kebab.

“Oof!” she yelped. Dmitri took immediate control, removing the food from her grasp and holding her hand as he reached towards the sink next to her and turned the water on and washed her hands. Grabbing a towel from the drawer he was grateful to see no puncture wound.

“See! I should never be allowed in a kitchen!” backing up she actually moved into his embrace. It certainly worked to distract her from the mishap. Dmitri took the injured finger towards his lips to kiss the pain away. Liking the feel of his tall muscular body around hers she could feel he was attracted too and it encouraged her to guide her finger towards her own lips hoping to catch his. Their lips met and his other hand moved around her waist, encouraging her closer if that was possible.

When he got back to the kitchen, Talia had pulled out the ingredients he’d need and set them on the island, with the vegetables for salad on her end. She knew exactly what he wanted. They’d made this together at least a dozen times. His breath caught, remembering what it had been like. When they’d been newlyweds, so deeply in love. It hurt, those memories, but that’s what happened when you did something as horrendous as he had. You paid. He pulled back his shoulders, game face on.
Royd wasn’t sure exactly how to begin. The talk, that was. The lasagna sauce he was good for. He reached for an onion, tossed it in his hand, and set it on the cutting board, picking up the knife she’d left him. He trimmed the ends, peeled it, and started chopping, deftly.
“You’ve improved your kitchen skills.” Talia said from across the island. She was separating lettuce for the salad.
“I took some classes in the off season.” Royd said.
“Really?” she asked, skeptically.
“It was a way to meet women.” he said offhandedly, then closed his eyes as the realization of what he’d said struck home.
“I didn’t think meeting women was a problem.” she said, icily.
Royd put the knife down and leaned on the counter. This was it. Time to apologize.

Since his deployment overseas, Simon struggled to keep his wife, Abbi, from succumbing to homesickness. One night, Simon was struck by inspiration. He stopped by the commissary, picking up the ingredients for hamburgers and fries. When he got home he announced, “I’m cooking tonight.”

With a clatter of pots and pans, Simon rolled up his sleeves and started slicing potatoes. Abbi took a seat on the bar stool, eagerly watching her husband destroy their kitchen. “I feel like I’m watching an episode of Chopped,” she teased. Simon was undeterred as he filled a pot with oil and turned on the stove.

Simon pulled the beef from its packaging and studied it, like a mad scientist about to perform an experiment. “I won’t lie to you, babe. I might poison us before the night is through.”

Joining her husband, Abbi chuckled. “Between the two of us, I’m sure we’ll figure it out.” She pulled her husband to her, gently kissing his cheek. “Thank you for doing this,” she whispered. Simon felt his heart swell at her touch, at the familiar way she caressed his skin. “You focus on the fries, I’m on meat duty.”

“Oh really?” They both laughed at her double entendre. Dinner all but forgotten, Simon braced his hands on the counter, trapping Abbi in front of him. “What if I want to start with dessert?” he asked, nibbling the tender skin of her neck. She smelled like heaven and tasted like home; Simon couldn’t get enough. Abbi moaned, jumping up on the counter and wrapping her legs around Simon’s waist. He started to unbutton her shirt but was interrupted by a shrill beeping. The pair turned in time to see a splatter of oil catch fire. Simon threw a towel over the flames and doused the fire. “Looks like we’re starting with dessert, after all,” he laughed.

Oh my god! You made my day. Thank you very much, this is the first thing I’ve won.

. Thank you so much. You’ve made my day!

Thank you so much for your submission! As I said, this was a really tough challenge to judge, so it was a well-deserved win!

“Like this,” his voice caressed my ear sending shivers down my spine He slid his arms around me and grasped my wrist in his. He gently manipulated my hand, showing me how to fold the eggwhites into the cake mixture, his firm body against mine.

I could feel his strong bicep against my upper arm as his scent wrapped enticingly around me distracting me and making me perspire.
“Much better,” he approved, his lips on my ear. I tried to concentrate on mixing the cake, but it was hard with my stomach doing backflips.
“Do you mind?” I asked tartly, “The way you are going we are going to end up with a chocolate hockey puck rather than a cake!”

He let go of me and continue slicing the onions for the main course. Out the corner of my eye, I watched him. He hands were fast and sure, and I could see his bicep flexing as he worked.

“You’ve got flour on your nose,” he commented, looking up at me. I quickly moved to brush it off, upsetting the bowl with the cake mix in it. Chocolate batter covered me and the bench. Matthew burst into hysterical laughter, as I stood there feeling foolish.
Matthew sauntered towards me, a grin on that beautiful mouth of his.
“I think we need to clean you up,” he “Then this bit here,” he added as his mouth settled on my neck, cleaning the large dab on batter there. I took a deep breath.
“Yep, I definitely need to clean you up!” he muttered.

Thank you for organizing this challenge 🙂 It was great writing practice and I’m thrilled to have placed second. What a great confidence boost!

Our goal is to help people keep their writing muscles in shape while enjoying themselves, so I’m glad we seem to be accomplishing that!

I found myself standing on his door step ringing the bell. It was nearly six, and I didn’t smell anything cooking yet.
The door swung open and I was greeted with the most sincere smile and a pair of blue shiney eyes that enhanced his looks. His sandy hair flopped on his forehead and he grinned.
“Hey! Come in, I would hug you but the flour and I didn’t agree with each other. I know my apron says kiss the cook buuuuut….” He scooted around the wine I was holding out to him, and pecked me and the cheek. Great start to my eve, not even on the lips, but I promised I would keep my sarcasm under control. “I’m guessing the four won?” I plonked the bottle of red on the counter pointing to his flour covered apron.
“So what culinary feast are you preparing?” Paul swung from the kitchen clutching a wrapper with two steaks. “Blue cheese steak in a port wine reduction, with a medley of summer veg on the side.”
“Sounds terribly posh Mr Finch.” I said wondering how he would get on with the steak, if the flour had done a game, set and match with him earlier.
“Bloody should sounds posh, I got it off some fancy cooking site, I had to Google what a shallot was!” he said and laughed.
“The best thing is….you are my assistant.” He turned from a cupboard and whipped out an apron for me.
I laughed at him. “What’s my position?”
“Naughty girl…I’m not revealing that position this early in the evening.”
Face palm moment right there! I blushed to the roots of my hair.
“I meant cheif, cook and bottle washer? Or can I slap some cow in that pan?” I walked over and turned for him to put the apron over my head and tie it. He brushed my hips gently as he tied it. I tried to concentrate on not loosing it and having him take me right there in the kitchen! This was our fifth date and I couldn’t go home looked untouched….again.
He turned and his blue gaze met mine with intenesity, “Firstly, I do the spanking, aaaaaand….” he leaned over me, pinning me between him and the counter,” Can you cut the cheese?” He asked producing a neat block of blue cheese. At a moment when I thought a passionate kitchen kiss was about to happen, to be asked instead to cut the cheese was too ridiculous for words, and we both ended up screaming with laughing. With the cheese cut, the pan was hot and sizzling waiting for the steak. “I have a confession….” He looked serious. “I have never cooked steak before.”
“Well Mr I do the spanking, slap it into the pan and lets see what happens. We can always drown it in the red I bought.”
He picked up the bottle and nodded. “Now I know why I liked you, steak and red wine for a red blooded women.” I almost dropped the knife I was slicing sweet potato with. My head snapped up to look at him, but he continued as if nothing had happened. Our summer medley of veggies was ready and we popped it into the oven. “What was the flour for by the way?” I asked. “I made a beer bread. From scratch, well that is what I was told to do if I wanted to impress a women.” He grinned again, with an armful of ingredients from the fridge, he looked so honest and charming. “And now we make blue cheese sauce…….from scratch.” I had made it once or twice before so I tried to remember the process, not too well it turned out. The biggest distraction had been Paul. The muscles in his forearm as he stirred the butter, flour and milk, the smell of Armani code heated on his body as he passed me, leant over, and tried to tease me. He looked innocent but he was guilty as hell. Something was missing…..what the hell was it….THE STEAK! We both ran for the oven, bent and whipped it open. Even with covering it somehow it had managed to dry out. ” Well you couldn’t slap that anywhere, but you could knock someone the hell out with it!” The steak made a clung, clung sound as he tapped the bottom of the pan with it. I could hardly contain my laughter, “Lets check this veg.” I pulled out the tray only to find our medley of summer veg was still wonderfully winter, as most of the veggies were still hard. “We didn’t turn it up!” We looked at each other, hot, sweaty, floured and admittedly hungry by now and burst out laughing again.
“Well thank God for KFC.”
A short while later, our kitchen antics behind us, we sat together picnic style on the floor on a blanket, eating our meal. The only thing that was edible was the blue cheese sauce, which we dipped our chicken into. Waist not i suppose. “You called me a red blooded women earlier, how do you I am.” I was trying to be flirty. He leaned towards me and rose up onto his knees, making himself much taller than I was. Suddenly the air was thick, and the room seemed to heat up, the music he put on became a hum. He hung over me and lifted my chin with a gentle touch. He was going to kiss me! All those weeks of waiting and wondering and imagining and it was finally going to happen! I let him left my chin and gripped me serviette tight to control my sudden on set of nerves. His look was sultry, a sleepy sexy look that had gotten me since we first met. I tried to control my breathing, as he came down close to my lips. “I know your a red blooded women….” He whispered the words over my lips, slightly grazing mine with his. I was ready for it, i closed my eyes and gave into the insatiable feeling of it all. “because you fall for my teasing everytime.” He booped the tip of my nose, like you would with a cat, and my eyes pooped open in indignation. “Excuse me I do not…..” but my words were swept away as he clasped the back of my neck with one hand and brushed my lips with his and sunk me into the deepest kiss of my life. PS……the beer bread never got that night!

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