Synopsis: When Claire, a young and ambitious cook, decides to audition for Extreme Cuisine, she has no idea just how much her life will change in just nine weeks. Having just gotten out of a long term relationship, she is ready for a new chapter, and maybe even a hot fling or two. Though she’s never been formally trained as a chef, Claire holds her own in the competition which pairs amateurs and professional chefs side by side. Her biggest surprise comes when her celebrity chef crush, Scott Maxim, becomes a fellow competitor. Sparks fly between the two both on and off the screen, and her crush quickly grows for the kitchen bad boy.
As the competition continues, everything seems to be going well for Claire. She holds her own in the competition and gets along with the other chefs, including Shep Thompson, Extreme Cuisine’s host and chef to the stars. As Claire’s relationship with Scott grows, however, her other cast mates begin to get jealous, especially Shep. Shep is quiet and kind, and Claire hardly notices his advances until he takes out his jealousy on Scott in the competition. Tension between the three grows, and the drama it creates angers the other competitors who think Claire is receiving special treatment.
Claire is pulled away from the competition when she gets news that her pregnant friend, Kennedy, has been hospitalized. Claire joins her friends in Boston, but is shocked to learn that Shep has followed her there out of concern that she may not return to the show. The two get even closer over one steamy night.
Claire decides to return to the competition, but with only a few weeks left, secrets and betrayal begin to surface. She realizes that nothing is what it originally seemed. With all revealed, Claire faces her biggest challenge yet: beating the professional chefs at their own game.
Alice Ward is an Amazon Bestselling author who loves to write hot & steamy contemporary romances.
Reading and Writing romance is her passion and she writes with her true heart.
Living in Miami, the beach is her favorite place to relax with her laptop and write her next spicy romance.
However, when she is not reading or writing romance, she also enjoys being with her beautiful family.
Amazon Author Page
Excerpt from Recipe for Lust by Alice Ward:
“Welcome to United Airlines.” A woman with a tight blonde ponytail and a name tag that read ‘Sara’ greeted me at the counter.
She took my ticket and waved to another employee who quickly jumped to her side. “Please escort Miss Walker to her terminal,” she ordered and gave me a warm smile.
The boy — his name was Thomas according to his name tag — was friendly and eager to help me through the security counter. The line was long, and I was worried that I’d spent too much time saying goodbye to Lauren, but he quickly ushered me through to the side where there was no wait.
Wow, I could get used to first class.
We approached the terminal riding a gold cart, which Thomas had commandeered at the security station. He handed me my purse and carry-on and moved quickly to the counter where another blonde with a tight ponytail stood. Her face looked sour, and she seemed unimpressed that I had arrived in such style. “You’re free to board whenever you like,” she said, her tone clipped and efficient.
Thomas, on the other hand, was still eager to please and extremely friendly. “There are refreshments available onboard, or if you like, the first class waiting area is just down that way.” He pointed down the long corridor.
Other passengers who had obviously been waiting for their turn to board looked at me with resentment. I wasn’t prepared to come across so pompous and just wanted to board. “I’ll go ahead and board now. Thank you, Thomas.” I shot the sour blonde a fake smile.
She took my ticket and motioned for me to pass. I held the stub in my hand and walked down the long tube that was supposed to resemble a hallway. I felt my nerves rattle as I took each step. I hated flying, especially alone. What was I doing?
“Right this way, ma’am.” A perky brunette with a bob hairstyle greeted me at the entrance of the plane. I followed her as she guided me to the left, a section I’d never seen before. It was magnificent, better than I ever imagined. The seats were slick black leather and were equipped with massage options and had the ability to stretch out into a bed. I was in my own cubicle-like area, no other passenger to sit next to and listen to stories about their family, or their illness, or God forbid, their cats.
“Can I get you a drink?” the woman asked.
“A mimosa?” I asked, uncertain if that was an option.
She smiled and nodded before disappearing. On her return, a tall glass topped with an orange slice was quickly handed to me. Yes, I could get used to this.
The flight was amazing, even taking off and landing seemed easier in first class. I wasn’t sure if it was the feeling of being packed in like sardines in a flying can that usually stressed me out, but this was easy and made me want to travel more. I was ready to see the world.
The first class passengers were allowed to exit the plane first, giving the coach passengers their first glimpse of the pretentious asses that enjoyed hot towels, fruity drinks, and enough space to stretch out during the flight. I felt bad as I walked past the couple with two small children, both of which were puffy eyed from crying and out of their seats begging to be let off the plane. “I’m hungry!” one screamed, while the other sucked vigorously on his thumb with tears still wet on his face. No, I didn’t feel bad for them, at least not as badly as I felt for the ones around them who endured that endless chaos.
I ducked into the nearest restroom and rinsed my hands under the water. Even in first class, I still felt clammy from being on the metal deathtrap. My face looked refreshed, a slight glow shining on my skin from the excitement, or fear. Either way, it suited me well.
The crowds of people pushed me through the airport towards the luggage claim. The conveyor belt started, and suitcases rolled towards the waiting crowd. The woman who had the two children on my flight smiled as she leaned in and grabbed a torn suitcase that looked like it came from Goodwill. Her two kids were climbing on the belt, trying their best to take a turn on what must have looked like a fun ride. I watched as the dad effortlessly pulled each one down and showed no expression on his face as he repeated the procedure each time they climbed back up.
Finally, my suitcases appeared. I grabbed them and walked towards the front of the airport. A woman with thick rimmed cat eye glasses and short black hair stood holding a sign with my name. I walked towards her. “Hi, I’m Claire Walker.”
She extended her hand and smiled. Her hair style and glasses made her look older from afar, but now up close she couldn’t have been more than twenty-five; no older than me. Her tone was perky and her demeanor bubbly as she shook my hand. “I’m Gretchen, the production assistant for the show. Welcome.”
It took no time for her to take one of my bags and start walking towards the exit. “These are your only bags?” she asked without stopping to hear my answer.
“Yes,” I said as I almost ran to keep up with her.
“I’ll be taking you directly to the hotel. From there, you’ll be checked in where you can settle in your room, freshen up if you wish, and then promptly return to the lobby where you’ll be introduced to the other contestants and be briefed on the show.” Her lips moved as quickly as her feet.
“That sounds great. Anything I should know beforehand?”
She stopped at the sidewalk, let a tall man with gray hair take the bag from her hand, then motioned for him to take the one I’d been lugging around as well. Her glasses pushed down from her eyes to her nose, and she looked me up and down. “Like what, dear?”
I had no response. I didn’t know what. That was basically what I was asking, wasn’t it?
“Anyway, everything you need to know will be clear at the briefing,” she said.
Gretchen climbed into the back seat as the driver held the door open and then looked to me as if I were holding her up. “You coming, dear?”
Dear? I didn’t like that. She was the same age as me, maybe younger. The dear seemed to be condescending.
I climbed into the back of the black Lincoln and looked ahead as the driver pulled away from the airport.
Gretchen shuffled through papers and ignored the fact that I was sitting right next to her, eagerly waiting for information on the show, on the procedures, on anything really. It was obvious she wasn’t into small talk, and she was too busy to worry herself with my concerns, so I slouched down into the leather seat and stared out the window as we drove through the large city.
“We’re here,” she announced.
I opened my eyes, not realizing I’d fallen asleep and hoped I hadn’t snored, or drooled. I wiped my mouth. It was dry, thank God.
Gretchen was already out of the car and the driver had my suitcases pulled from the trunk as I stood for the first time on Austin’s soil. Well, maybe not soil. It was a beautiful cobblestone drive, but soil sounded so much more poetic and soothed my frazzled nerves.
The bellhop took my bags and rolled them on a gold metal cart inside the hotel. The lobby was impressive with its marble columns and large white plush sofas and dark wood furniture. Gretchen was already at the check-in desk and filling out paperwork for my room. “She needs your identification,” she said quickly and returned to the forms.
I pulled my driver’s license from my wallet and handed it to the woman behind the counter. “Here’s your key, ma’am,” the woman said with a strong southern accent.
Ma’am. I wasn’t sure I liked that any better than dear.
I took the key and felt my stomach ache with anxiety. Gretchen’s bubbly but to-the-point personality quickly pulled me out of my attack and brought me to a place of order.
“Your room is on the fifth floor. There’s a vending machine right outside your door, and you have exactly thirty minutes before you’re to meet back here,” Gretchen ordered as she pointed to the large sectional sofa in the corner of the lobby.
My room was equipped with a large king-sized bed, marble countertops in the bathroom, and a view of the city’s skyline. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
After wasting several minutes scoping the place out, I realized I’d better get myself freshened up and back down to the lobby. I pressed my clothes with my hands and ran a brush through my hair before exiting the hotel room I’d been assigned. A large man with a bald head was bent over at the vending machine outside my door. His pants were falling down to show the crack of his ass, and as he stood to apologize for being in my way, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was one of the contestants.
I smiled graciously and moved towards the elevator where a hand reached out and slapped the side to keep it from closing. “Thank you,” I said without seeing who I was thanking just yet.
“Not a problem,” a voice replied. A familiar voice.
I turned towards the stranger who sounded so familiar, and my heart fluttered in my chest. I knew I must be staring, and there was no doubt that my mouth was hanging open at the sight of one of my favorite chefs.
“I’m Aiden Maxim, nice to meet you,” he said with a charming smile.
I wanted to scream. Jump up and down. Fangirl him for hours on end. “Yes, I know who you are,” I admitted, proud that my voice sounded clear and professional.
He smiled, and his eyes roved down my body. They felt like snakes slithering against my skin as I pressed myself hard against the elevator wall. He had been a regular on my favorite cooking show for a couple years at least, and his bad boy persona was what kept many women tuning in when he was a guest. Now, here he was, in the flesh — tattooed and muscle-bound flesh — introducing himself to me, like I wouldn’t know who he was. Aiden Maxim. Wow!
“But yet, I don’t have any idea who you are,” he said with a crooked smile that did interesting things to my lower belly.
His eyes were still on me, smothering me, caressing me, causing me to become more and more anxious.
“I’m Claire,” I said, my voice becoming shakier the longer I was in his presence.
My palms were sweating as I rubbed them together in front of me. “Are you part of the show?” I asked, figuring he may be a host or a guest chef.
“Yes, one of the contestants,” he said proudly.
“C-contestants?” I stuttered, my shakiness now replaced with pure fear in my voice.
“Yes,” he confirmed.
“I thought this was an amateur cooking competition?” I asked, hoping I had misunderstood him.
“They decided to switch things up and add some professionals, semi-professionals, and amateurs together,” he said. “Better ratings, ya know.”
Yeah, better ratings, my ass. This would be a televised slaughter. And great, I get to be a part of it all!
The elevator door opened, and Aiden motioned for me to exit first. A gentleman was underneath that onslaught of tattoos and wolfish grin. Nice.
Even though it was a few minutes early, people were already gathering near the large sectional sofa that Gretchen had designated as the meeting spot in one of the private conference rooms. Some of the faces were familiar, some not. My stomach flopped as I moved towards the group, wondering if I should just run back to my room and call Lauren and Asher to send me another first class ticket home. I enjoyed that part of the trip. The rest of this production I’d gotten myself into, I wasn’t so sure would be as enjoyable.
Gretchen appeared with a clipboard and wasted no time getting right to it. She went around the room to each contestant and read a short bio. I was relieved when I realized that there were more amateurs than professionals, but some of the names that were read off gave me chills. This was the real deal. No more playing in the kitchen, it was time to get to work.
“We’ll have you each create an intro for the show. Just be yourself and tell us a little about why you’re here, what you do for a living, why you love cooking, why you want to win, whatever comes to mind.”
Panic set in at the thought of being pushed in front of the camera so suddenly. As each person took their turn, I realized they were all as nervous as I was, or at least many of them were.
“Aiden Maxim,” Gretchen called out.
Aiden had been behind me, something I wasn’t aware of until he placed his hand on my hip as he passed by. He winked, smiled in that sexy crooked smile of his and whispered, “Wish me luck, sweetheart.”
Even his swagger was cool. He stepped up to his spot and looked completely at ease in front of the four cameras aimed at his face. He spoke without any sign of pressure or nervousness. I listened, soaking up every last word — how he used to help his grandma in the kitchen, how he’d dedicated his life to feeding the poor, and how he planned on opening his own culinary school for underprivileged children with the winnings from this show.
Adrenaline rushed through my veins as I watched him make love to the camera. “That was perfect,” Gretchen said with a smile. It was obvious as her eyes lingered on his chest that she found him attractive. How could anyone not find Aiden Maxim attractive? He was hot, a bad boy with a big heart, and he could cook.
My name was called, and my fingers went numb. My throat felt tight, and my heart raced. Oh God, I don’t know if I can do this!