tagRomanceA Chef For All Seasons

A Chef For All Seasons


I could feel the sweat trickling slowly down my back; snaking its way between my shoulder blades as we worked. It had gotten so hot that even the waiting staff had noticed, pulling at their tight collars as they waited by the hotplates. We were an hour into service and the only thing keeping me going was the knowledge that Alex was having an equally hard time, and, for the second time that evening I heard his muttered curses as he caught the side of his hand against one of the stoves' back burners.

Our boss, resplendent in full highland dress was dividing his time between the resident's lounge and the kitchen, making sure that everything was running smoothly, and to all intents and purposes, it was, but only because we committed ourselves one hundred percent to our work.

From my worktable at the back of the kitchen, I had a clear view of the raised area in the kitchen where the stoves and hotplates sat; but my attention was not on the many skillets and stockpots that filled the area. I had been harbouring a massive crush on our head chef for months, but since I had been given no reason to think that my feelings would be reciprocated in any way, I kept my silence. He barely spared me a glance as I took the starter orders I had completed over to where he was working, instead, focusing all his attention on the plates sitting under the lights that were waiting to be garnished before going out to the restaurant. As I walked back to my station, I could see pots overflowing from the massive double sinks where our kitchen porter was working hard to look inconspicuous.

For the next two hours it seemed as though we were feeding the entire population of the west coast of Scotland; Donald, the porter had been dragged away from the sinks and promoted for the evening to help with garnishing starters and main-courses under Alex's watchful eyes. Pride filled his young face as Alex thanked him for his help when the orders slowed down and afterwards, he went back to washing his pots with a smile. When the last order for the evening came off the boards, I heaved a sigh of relief and went outside to sit on the steps that led up to the cabin that I shared with Alex. The cool late evening breeze washed over my heated face and I closed my eyes to it and let my head drop back slightly. The clatter of pots in the kitchen was almost soothing and I shivered as the coldness of the concrete step began to seep into me.

"Would you care to join us in the kitchen, Kate?" Alex's voice whispered near my ear and I gave a start, I hadn't even heard him come out of the kitchen.

"Here was me thinking that you two strapping guys could handle cleaning up a little kitchen between you." I teased, giving up any notions of rest now that I had been caught out.

"Ah, maybe we could, but as you well know, that kitchen needs a woman's touch to make it really sparkle, the way Mr Adamson likes it." He stuck his tongue out as I opened my eyes and I tried my best to look grumpy but failed miserably and aimed my service towel at his head as he ducked back into the kitchen.

While Alex busied himself in his small office with the menus for the next day, Donald and I set to work on the kitchen, while he cleared the sink area, I washed down the worktables and swept and mopped the walkways. It was nearly ten o'clock when I waved goodbye to Donald and Alex was still scribbling away when I left the kitchen.

I hurried up to my bedroom to strip out of the whites that had acted like a magnet for every available kind of stain that evening, showering quickly before setting my hair in a French braid. Less than twenty minutes after leaving the kitchen I was pulling on my jeans and thrusting my feet into my hiking boots. My skin was still slightly damp as I tugged on a t-shirt but it was too late to worry; I had arranged to meet some of the dayshift staff in the local pub and I was already late. Alex had declined the invitation to join us earlier and disappointment had cut into me, but I had bitten my lip and said nothing, hoping in a corner of my mind that he would change his mind at some point. After getting dropped off outside the pub by one of the waiting staff, I joined my friends, who, by the looks of them had been enjoying the Landlord's hospitality for more than a couple of hours.

Tourists crowded the main bar area, but from where we were sitting we had an excellent vantage point, and were able to watch the comings and goings with ease. I couldn't help but watch the main entrance, half hoping that Alex would pop his head round the door, but as the hands of the clock moved round I knew that it was an unlikely possibility. As I looked down, I realised that if he had turned up, then I was hardly dressed in any manner that would have had him drooling. I wore my faded Levi jeans and favourite Linkin Park t-shirt like a uniform when I wasn't working, hardly the epitome of femininity, it had to be said. An hour later, I had completely given up on watching the door and was trying to focus on my friends, who were caught up in a quiet debate about one of the hotel guests.

To say that I was drunk was probably a slight understatement; I had reached the point of feeling sober again so I knew I was far from it. As the evening had progressed I had been sliding further and further down in my seat and was beginning to view the world from an odd angle, but with the beer goggles firmly in place, there was nothing on earth that could shift the inane smile from my face, even if, on the inside I was less than happy. I was away in my own melancholy little world, numbed by my friend's chatter, which had been drifting over my head for at least an hour or so. I hoped, that I was nodding and laughing falsely in the right places, and, if I wasn't, then they gave no indication that they had noticed, for good friends overlook that kind of thing.

My lungs were slowly choking on the smoke that hung thickly in the air and the babble of excited chatter from the other patrons kept drifting in and out, almost like someone was tuning an invisible radio; but, most of the time I realised that I was stuck in between channels, none of them interesting enough to enjoy and I knew then that it was time to move. Despite my their protestations I made my unsteady way to the main door and lurched through it and into the cold night air. For a minute, I just stood there, breathing deeply, trying to rid my head of the heavy cotton wool feeling. At that moment I should have dug my mobile out of my jacket pocket and made a quick call to the local taxi office but I did not, deciding instead to walk the two miles back to the hotel.

The road to the hotel was little more than a forestry track, large enough for the occasional delivery vans and the cars of the hotel guests. In early summertime the trees either side of the road would almost touch, creating a tunnel which the sun would pierce through in places, giving the ground a dappled appearance, but now that the summer had drawn to an end, the leaves had changed into their autumn colours, drifting down in a strange butterfly dance to blanket the ground. I enjoyed the walk in the daytime but at night when each small sound seemed to be magnified a hundredfold, then it was another matter entirely and something I wouldn't do unless I had company, but this evening I was made braver by several tequilas and one very fat and juicy tequila worm.

I left the last house of the village behind me, turned left and started walking up the short incline and into the trees, feeling the road level off as I walked into the darkness where the streetlights couldn't penetrate. So that I wouldn't spend too much time thinking about what might be hiding in among the trees I thought about Alex.

I had met him for the first time at the beginning of April, the start of our season. Even thinking about our first meeting was enough to have my stomach muscles clenching and my blood pumping a little faster than normal. I would loved to have said that his warm laughing brown eyes were the first thing that peaked my interest, but I would have been lying, or maybe the way his faded, ragged-looking jeans hugged his long powerful thighs but that too would have been a lie. It wasn't even the way his teeth bit down on his bottom lip as he looked uncertainly at me for the first time. It was simply that he was bald, not even a shadow of stubble darkened his smooth, slightly tanned head and my hands just itched to stroke him. As I stuttered my hellos and thrust my sweaty hand into his large one, his look of uncertainty only increased as he withdrew his hand quickly.

I found out later as we both scrubbed down the kitchen, in readiness for the arrival of the first guests the next day, that he was twenty-eight, single, and much to his mother's chagrin and mine, intended to stay that way. He was a New Zealander by birth but had spent the last three years staying with Scottish relatives and working in the kitchen of a large hotel chain in the nations capital, Edinburgh. After working for a faceless boss with no sign of promotion from his post as second chef for three years, he had grown bored and decided to try out seasonal work. The vacancy at the King's Arms had come at an opportune time for him and he had been over the moon when instead of getting the second chef's job, the position of head chef had been offered.

I loved the softness of his voice, his beautiful accent, and as he spoke, my eyes were irresistibly drawn to his mouth; it left me wondering what it might be like to be kissed by him, to have him whispering in my ear. I knew almost immediately that it would take a major effort on my part to keep my wayward thoughts in check if I was to get any work done. I also knew that I had fallen for him completely.

Slowly as the weeks passed by we relaxed into an easy going friendship, but I only gave free reign to my thoughts when I was in my bed at night, where I used my fingers and my vibrator to tease my body as my mind conjured up images of both Alex and myself in most wicked of compromising positions. Often I wondered if my moans could be heard in the next bedroom but if they were then Alex gave no indication and I made no effort to stifle them. Just the idea that he might have been listening to me as I climaxed seemed to heighten the sensations that coursed through me but as I let myself go and his name fell from my lips, it emerged as no more than a whisper in between ragged breaths.

This was my second season at the Hotel; I had spent the previous year as a kitchen porter, eager and naïve, learning all I could about cooking for service while keeping on top of the mountain of pots the demonic head chef kept piling up at the sinks. By the time October came and the season came to a close I was able to cover the second chef's nights off, much to the annoyance of the head chef who thought that women had no place in working kitchens. Luckily, Mr Adamson had taken a shine to me and the chef realised half way through the season that there was no easy way to get rid of me. That winter I had wandered round Ireland, staying briefly with a few people that I had known from college, only leaving when I was contacted by Mr Adamson who wanted me to come back for a second season.

David was new to the kitchen this year, my replacement and a local from the village. His mother was our head housekeeper so he was always on his best behaviour, this was his first job and I was doing my level best to make sure that it was a better experience for him that it had been for me the previous year and so far, he was coping pretty well. The majority of the house and waiting staff were also local, working for the large part of the season on a part time basis, a couple of the oldest ones had adopted me and it was with them that I went to the pub with, once or twice a week.

Between us, we catered for a maximum of one hundred covers each evening, but more often than not, the numbers only reached their limit midway through the season. No matter what they were, we always did our level best to make sure that their stays were as comfortable as possible and the meals we cooked each night were of the highest standard. So far, there had been no complaints and the visitor's book was full of glowing compliments and many promises of return visits for the following year, which pleased our boss no end. If I was being honest, the compliments for the meals were down to Alex and no one else, he had a flair for cooking outstanding meals and compiling menus that the previous chef couldn't quite match.

My feet crunched over the gravel-strewn road and I increased the speed of my gait, sighing with relief as I saw the lights of the hotel twinkling in the distance. It was unlikely that Alex would still be up, most nights he only stayed around long enough to make sure that the kitchen was left in a clean state and that the menus for the next day were drawn up and sent through to reception to get printed up. This meant that each night we would both know what we would be preparing the following morning. Aside from that, we rotated the breakfast shifts between us, and as the season progressed whoever was acting as kitchen porter was trained to cover the breakfast shift if they felt able to cope. Even if there were any problems, the cabin where we stayed was within shouting distance of the kitchen.

As I walked into the car park beside the resident's lounge, I could see the kilted figure of Mr Adamson picking up the marble slab we normally used to lay out the after-dinner petit fours from the bar, sneaking one of the treats into his mouth before leaving the room. Each night he saw to it that the leftover sweets were put into the waiter's fridge for the morning staff to finish off with their mid-morning cup of tea. Even if there had been none left, I always made sure there were some spare in the dessert fridge.

I thought better of going into the hotel and instead, walked round the outside and on towards the back where the cabin sat, nestled among tall trees. The walk had certainly cleared my head, the cold air, making short work of the cobwebs. Although the curtains of Alex's room were drawn, I could see his lamplight filtering through the thin material, creating a warm glow. I had never been into his room, only ever managing to catch a glimpse of what it looked like through the window in the passing, and as far as I could make out, he was a very tidy person.

The main door was open and I let myself in as quietly as possible but my boots sounded very loud on the bare wooden floor in the small porch. It was as I bent down to untie the laces that I realised that I wasn't completely sober and I suddenly felt the ground rushing up to meet my face and seconds later I found myself sprawled on the floor. For a moment I was too stunned to move and I couldn't figure out whether I was hurt enough to cry out or just to laugh at myself, but as I tried to move it was decided for me and I winced as my nose and cheek began to throb.

The sharp bang of Alex's bedroom door being flung open had me bringing my head up sharply and I realised I wasn't alone, I prayed that the ground would open up underneath me, but my wish wasn't about to be granted. Heat flooded my cheeks and to compound my embarrassment I felt my nose start to run, quickly I swiped the back of my hand across my face and sniffed loudly.

"Jesus honey, what did that floor ever do to you?" He said laughing softly as he crouched down beside me.

"It's been giving me mean looks for days now, what can I say?" I tried laughing but it hurt too much.

I could feel the trickle from my nose again and wiped again with my hand, gasping with shock as I saw a streak of red. Here I was collapsed at the feet of the man that I loved, with a bloody nose and probably a black eye.

"I think we'd better get some ice on that quickly or you're going to be bruised to hell." He brought his arms around me and gently helped me up and into the small bathroom that we shared.

"Christ alone knows what I look like now, I'm really sorry I got you out of bed, I was trying to take my boots off so I wouldn't disturb you."

"Ah well, best laid plans and all that. Listen, hold this flannel against your nose and tilt your head back while I go down to the kitchen for some ice and please for gods sake don't pick any more fights while I'm gone." I accepted the cloth and sat down on the edge of the bath, trying to avoid looking in the mirror; that would only serve to depress me further.

It didn't take long for him to find the ice and he sat down beside me, holding the ice pack against my cheek while we waited for my nose to stop bleeding. He put his free arm around my back and I realised with a little surprise that this was the closest that I had ever physically been to him; I let out a little sigh and nestled in a little closer, not caring what his reaction would be.

"Maybe you shouldn't work tomorrow, you're going to have one helluva sore head, as well as a nasty hangover." He clicked his tongue loudly and lifted the flannel out of my hand.

"Thanks for reminding Alex but I should be fine, I'll just take some painkillers and hope the bruising isn't too bad. I don't think my nose is broken though." I reached up and ran the tip of a finger down the bridge of my nose; not feeling any unusual bumps or breaks.

"It might not be broken but it's going to be a very interesting colour in the morning." He had stood back up and threw the bloodied flannel into the wastepaper basket before retrieving a fresh one from the shelf above the sink. After rinsing it in warm water, he started to wipe my face gently and it was all that I could do to stop from sighing under his gentle ministrations.

All too soon he was done and his hand wrapped around mine as he led me from the bathroom and through to my own bedroom. After seeing me into my room, I fully expected him to retreat to his own but he didn't, instead he followed me quietly into the darkness and felt around for the light switch, flooding the room with a bright light that my eyes did not appreciate. Quickly I went to the bedside lamp and motioned for him to switch off the main light, sighing as my eyes stopped hurting.

"You don't have to watch over me you know Alex, I'm a big girl now." I gave him a smile and sank down thankfully onto the edge of the mattress.

"Don't I know it, but I want to make sure you get yourself into bed before I go, Mr Adamson would have my hide if I didn't take care of you properly." I conceded the point with a faint inclination of my head and pushed my boots off wearily.

If it had been any other time, then I would have taken more time to appreciate the picture he presented, barefoot and bare-chested, legs deliciously bare, and naked save for the pair of shorts that I had to assume he wore for sleeping. As my eyes roamed, they were drawn sharply back to his crotch and I noticed for the first time just how lovingly the jersey material hugged his hips and emphasized the outline of his manhood, I swallowed deeply and swung my legs up onto the bed.

"You can't sleep in your clothes Kate, get them off now!"

"I'm not taking my clothes off in front of you and besides I can't be bothered." I felt a wave of sleep wash over me and all I wanted to do at that moment was to shut my eyes and let nature take its course.

"If you don't then I will, don't think that I won't." He warned.

"You just want to see my panties, don't you?" I couldn't believe what I had just said, but at least I could blame it on being drunk if he mentioned it again.

"Sure Kate, whatever you think." He sighed loudly and crossed the short distance to the bed, kneeling on the edge, his fingers swiftly unbuttoning the fly of my jeans. Sober, I might have raised a few half-hearted objections, but mellowed and tired, I couldn't find the energy and lay limply as he yanked my jeans over my hips.

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