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Sexy book excerpt: A disgraced chef finds romance with a local farmer

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A sneak peek at romance novel Nuts by Alice Clayton

When a whipped cream disaster ruins the career of Roxie Callahan, private chef to some of Hollywood’s wealthiest — and meanest — calorie-counting wives, she finds herself back home in New York’s Hudson Valley, helping her mom by running the family diner. But when delicious-looking local farmer Leo Maxwell delivers her an equally delicious-looking bunch of walnuts, Roxie wonders if a summer home isn’t so bad after all.

Read the excerpt from Nuts by Alice Clayton:

Now I had a quest: to make a perfect steak fry, fast. I shut out the noise and the clatter and bent my head to the task. Hands flew, pruney fingers danced, and the pan filled with starchy, pointy art. Time flew by as I filled pan after pan, the sacks dwindling.

When one of the other waitresses patted my shoulder in greeting it startled me, and my knife slipped from my hand, landing in the back of the water pan. Leaning across the pan to retrieve it, I overbalanced and managed to submerge my front in cold potato water. “Bleagh,” I said, feeling the cold water running down the inside of my shirt and across my belly. Paused from my fry frenzy, I looked around. There were pans of fries on every work surface in my corner. Huh. Might have gone a little overboard.

“Land’s sake, Roxie, how many fries did you think we need?” my mother asked as she came around the corner.

“They’ll keep until tomorrow — the next day, even,” I replied, a little sheepish.

“It’s fine, I’ll make some room in the walk-in. How about cleaning some sugar snap peas?” she asked, thunking down a big pan of pea pods. “Cut off the end, strip out the stringy part.”

“I know how to clean a sugar snap,” I grumbled. “Cut off the end...” I filled the pan with water, huffing, “Strip out the stringy part. No shit, strip out the stringy part.”

“You start talking to yourself out there in Hollywood?” my mother teased, sticking her head around the corner and very nearly getting hit in the face with the snap pea I threw at her. She laughed and disappeared back into the kitchen.

I sighed, stretched and went to work again. After this, I was taking a nap.

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After a while I became aware of a tingling on the back of my neck, and I looked over my shoulder to find the source. Then several things happened within mere seconds, though I saw them in super slo-mo:

1. A man was standing right behind me.

2. He was holding a basket.

3. The basket contained some lovely walnuts.

4. I shrieked, because he was standing right behind me.

5. I dropped my pan.

6. Snap peas shot out in all directions.

7. Some of the peas landed on his work boots.

8. I looked above the boots. Jeans.

9. I looked above the jeans. Vintage Fugazi concert tee. Green flannel shirt.

10. I looked above the flannel. Two weeks’ worth of shaggy blond beard. Mmm. Country hipster.

11. I looked above the beard. Lips.

12. I looked at the lips.

13. I looked at the lips.

14. I looked at the lips.

15. COME ON.

16. I looked above the lips.

17. I was glad I looked above the lips.

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18. The eyes and the hair were a package deal, the hair was falling across his eyes in a careless way that said “Hey, girl. I’ve got peas on my shoes, but who cares, because I’ve got these eyes and this hair, and it’s pretty fucking great.”

19. The hair was the color of tabbouleh.

20. His eyes were the color of . . .

21. Pickles?

22. Green beans?

23. No. Broccoli that had been steamed for exactly sixty seconds. Vibrant. Piercing.

24. I stood — and slipped on the snap peas.

25. At his feet, I stared up at him.

26. One corner of his mouth lifted for the tiniest moment.

27. He looked at my nearly transparent wet T-shirt for the tiniest moment before decency dictated that he not do that.

28. He set down his basket of nuts and extended a hand to me. Callused. Rough. Both corners of his mouth now lifted.

29. I took his hand to stand. Slipped again on a snap. Worlds collided when my skin met his. Heads collided when my forehead conked his.

30. One of my pea pods wedged under his boot

31. He fell down too.

32. His nuts went everywhere.

33. Our legs tangled.

34. His head fell into my... lap.

35. Sugar snap peas were my new favorite vegetable.

About the author:  Alice Clayton worked in the cosmetics industry for over a decade before picking up a pen (read: laptop). She enjoys gardening but not weeding, baking but not cleaning up and finally convinced her longtime boyfriend to marry her. Now, about that Bernese Mountain dog....

More: What Alice Clayton is reading

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