“Is this restaurant a step down for you?” Allison asked sweetly. She twirled the tip of the cleaver in a circle. “Is my kitchen not up to your usual standards?”
Luke appeared to have more balls than brains. He stood firm. “A kitchen can always be improved. Yours is no exception.”
He was giving her an ulcer. Allison’s stomach grumbled in complaint, and she knew just how it felt. There were some things that just weren’t done, and criticizing your boss’s kitchen was one of them. “Hasn’t anyone ever taught you not to piss off a woman holding an eight-inch blade?”
“That’s a solid piece of advice,” Delilah said in agreement.
Luke threw his hands in the air. “Fine. I think you’re making a mistake, but it’s your restaurant.”
“I’m glad you remember that,” Allison said.
Luke’s lips twitched, and he rocked back onto his heels. “I’d heard your nickname was the Tyrant, but I couldn’t see it till now.”
“I mean it as a compliment,” Luke said. “You don’t let anyone push you around. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.”
Luke traced a finger along the slick metal surface of the counter, his eyes hot, and Allison felt it as though his finger danced along her spine. She could see in his expression that he meant it. He did find her take-charge attitude a turn-on. And damn if that didn’t make her go a little weak in the knees. Still, she couldn’t let that claim go unchallenged.
“My name is n—”
“No?” Delilah jumped in.
Allison’s jaw grew stiff. If she could incinerate people with the heat of her glare, her restaurant would be down two cooks. They’d be nothing but little piles of dust. “Not no. And not Tyrant. My employees love me.”
Peals of laughter rang through the kitchen.
Allison wagged the knife in the air. “Delilah, that advice about being nice to the woman holding a knife? It goes for you, too.” Spinning, she hammered the cleaver into her cutting board, the blade plunging a quarter inch into the wood. She stepped back, and the cleaver stood upright, quivering in its new slot. With a pointed look at her cooks, she stormed to her office.
The hoots of amusement behind her back rather diminished the effect of her exit.
Flexing her fingers, Allison tried to remember all the reasons why she needed to keep Luke. She was down a cook, but Allison didn’t mind working overtime. It was Sadie’s wedding that was the roadblock. No way could she cater it and keep her kitchen going while down a man.
So, she’d deal with the nuisance until after the wedding. Luke was like poison ivy, an irritating rash that kept spreading the more she handled him. But she’d survived the itchiness and inflammation before. She was tough. She could take it.
What was harder to take was the sick feeling that she was slowly losing control of her kitchen.