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.Five years down the drain.Ages twenty-four to twenty-nine had been all Duncan, all the time, and what did she have to show for it now? Not the position Chef Massey had begun offering a year ago that would give her the opportunity to travel around the world scouting new restaurant locations and overseeing openings—Duncan had begged her to keep her general manager position in New York so they could see each other more regularly.Certainly not an engagement ring.No, that would be reserved for the barely legal virgin cheerleader who would never, ever have to endure vivid nightmares involving her own shriveled ovaries.Emmy would just have to make do with the sterling silver Tiffany heart pendant Duncan had given her on her birthday, identical to the ones—she later discovered—he’d also bought for his sister and grandmother on their birthdays.Of course, were Emmy being really masochistic here, she might note that it was actually Duncan’s mother who had selected and purchased all three in order to save her busy son the time and effort such gift-giving required.When had she gotten so bitter? How had everything played out like this? It was no one’s fault but her own; of that she was absolutely certain.Sure, Duncan had been different when they first started dating—boyish, charming, and if not exactly attentive, then at least a bit more present—but then again, so had Emmy.She had just left a waitressing job in Los Angeles to go back to culinary school, her dream since girlhood.For the first time since college she was reunited with Leigh and Adriana, and exhilarated by Manhattan, and proud of herself for taking such decisive action.Granted, culinary school wasn’t exactly as she had envisioned it: The classes were often rigorous and tedious, and her classmates were shockingly competitive for externships and other restaurant opportunities.Since so many were temporary New Yorkers and knew no one but other students, the social life quickly became incestuous.Oh, and there was that small incident with the visiting Michelin-starred chef that had circulated in less time than it took to make a croque-monsieur.Emmy was still in love with cooking but disillusioned with culinary school when she scored an externship at Chef Massey’s New York restaurant, Willow.She’d met Duncan during that externship, a crazy, sleep-deprived time in her life when she was beginning to realize that she enjoyed the front of the house more than the kitchen and was working around the clock to figure out where, if anywhere, she belonged in the food-service industry.She hated the egos of the chefs and the lack of creativity it took to merely re-create carefully dictated recipes.She hated not being able to interact with the actual people who ate the food she was helping to prepare.She hated being stuck for eight, ten hours at a time in steaming-hot, windowless kitchens with only the shouts of expediters and the clanging of pots to remind her she wasn’t in hell.None of this had featured in her romantic notion of what her life would be like as a world-famous cook.What had surprised her even more was how much she loved waiting tables and tending bar, getting to chat with customers and other servers, and, later on, as assistant general manager, making sure everything was running smoothly.It was a time of turmoil for Emmy, of redefining what she really wanted from her career and her life, and she realized now that she had been ripe for picking by someone like Duncan.It was almost—almost—understandable why she’d fallen so immediately for Duncan that night at the after-party for the Young Friends of Something or Other benefit, one of the dozens that year Adriana dragged her to.Emmy had noticed him hours before he approached her, although she still couldn’t say why.It could have been his rumpled suit and loosened tie, both tastefully conservative and expertly matched, so different from the baggy polyester chef uniforms to which she’d grown so accustomed.Or maybe it was the way he seemed to know everyone and offered backslaps and cheek kisses and the occasional gallant bow to friends and friends-to-be.Who on earth was this confident? Who could move with such ease among that many people without appearing the least bit insecure? Emmy’s eyes tracked him around the room, subtly at first and then with an intensity she herself didn’t understand.It wasn’t until most of the young professional crowd had moved on to late dinners or early bedtimes and Adriana had flitted off with her man du jour that Duncan appeared next to her.“Hi, I’m Duncan.” He slid himself sideways between her stool and the empty one next to it, leaning on his right arm against the bar.“Oh, sorry.Here, I was just leaving.” Emmy scooted backward off the stool, placing it between them.He grinned.“I don’t want your seat.”“Oh, uh, sorry.”“I want to buy you a drink.”“Thanks, but I was just, uh—”“Leaving.Yeah, you said that.But I’m hoping I can convince you to stay just a little longer.”The bartender materialized with two martini glasses, petite compared to the fishbowl-sized ones most places served.Clear liquid in one, cloudy in the other, and both with a spear of mammoth green olives.Duncan slid the one in his left hand toward her by the very bottom of its stem, his fingers pressing into the flattened glass base.“They’re both vodka.This one’s regular and this one”—as he pushed his right hand she noticed how clean and white his nails were, how soft and groomed his cuticles looked—“is extra dirty.Which do you prefer?”Good lord! You’d think that would have been enough to activate anyone’s skeeve sensor, but noooo, not Emmy.She had found him positively captivating and, when invited moments later, had happily accompanied him home.Of course, Emmy didn’t sleep with Duncan that night, or the next weekend, or the one after that.She had, after all, been with only two men before him (the French chef didn’t count; she had planned to have sex with him until she’d tugged down his extra-tight white briefs and discovered what, exactly, Adriana meant when she insisted Emmy would “just know” when faced with an uncircumcised situation), and both were long-term boyfriends.She was nervous.Her prudishness—something Duncan had yet to encounter from a girl—increased his determination, and Emmy stumbled, quite unwittingly, onto the concept of hard to get.The longer she held out, the more he pursued her, and in this way their interactions came to resemble a relationship.There were romantic dinners out and candlelit dinners in and big, festive Sunday brunches at trendy downtown bistros.He called just to say hi, sent her Gummi Bears and peanut butter cups at school, asked her out days in advance to ensure she wouldn’t make other plans [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]