Imperfectly Delicious (Imperfect Series #6) - Mary Frame

Chapter One

If anything is good for pounding humility into you permanently, it’s the restaurant business.

–Anthony Bourdain


Fred steps over me to reach the order window, an exaggerated motion that makes her dark ponytail swish behind her. “Confrontation is your kryptonite,” she says over her shoulder.

“Do not tell him I’m here or you’re fired.” It’s a threat that would carry more weight if I weren’t a grown woman cowering on the floor of my own food truck in unequivocal terror.

She’s not wrong. I like dealing with conflict as much as I enjoy public speaking while scorpions crawl all over my face.

It’s not that I’m a total doormat. I deal with a variety of challenges and complications with ease. After all, I started my own food truck, I hired an employee—one who isn’t very respectful or deferential, but who’s counting? —and I run my own successful catering business as a side hustle.

I can totally adult. But talking to people who have a problem with me? Not my strongest suit.

And there is one person in particular who has many problems with me.

“Where is she?”

Guy Chapman.

His voice is as powerful as lightning in a summer storm—as if the air molecules themselves divided in terror at his words.

“She’s hiding,” Fred says.

I pinch her ankle and she kicks me with the top of her foot, bumping into my side with more force than necessary. I scowl up at her but it’s a wasted effort, my glare striking the underside of her chin as she leans on the counter toward my nemesis.

This isn’t the first time he’s been here, and it’s not the first time I’ve avoided him. We’re parked in a narrow lot adjacent to his restaurant. I have the perfect view of his door when it swings open, an intricately carved, thick wood piece. It probably cost more than my life is worth.

He sighs like he can’t believe he has to listen to such drivel, then says in a flat voice, “She’s hiding. Why would she be hiding?”

“Because you’re very scary,” Fred stage whispers.

There’s a small pause. “I am not.” Is that a thread of dismay lacing his voice?

Can’t be. He doesn’t care if he’s scary. That was basically the theme of his reality TV show, Devil’s Kitchen. It was all about him being a handsome devil and behaving like one, too. It only lasted a season, despite its popularity.

“Yeah, I don’t think so either,” she murmurs, tapping her fingers on the counter. She’s getting anxious, probably at the line of customers forming behind my sworn adversary.

Even though we’re parked too close to the devil for comfort, there’s no denying this is the best place I’ve found to park in the city. Situated on the south side of Gramercy Park, it’s close enough to where the Wall Street gurus call home to make it absolutely worthwhile for them to stop by when they’re heading home and need something sweet along the way.

He owns the block, but not this tiny little slice. And much to my satisfaction, he never will.

“When will she be available?” he asks.

Fred thinks about an answer while I examine her shoes. There’s a small hole in one seam at the top of her low-top black and white Vans, right next to a Ravenclaw patch.

“If I had to guess,” she says finally. “I’d say never. She doesn’t want to talk to you. I also can’t tell her what to do, since she’s my boss. You know how it is. I mean, you don’t know how it is, but you have people who know how it is.”

Laughter bubbles in my chest. But Guy Chapman isn’t laughing. Oh no, I can’t see him, but I can imagine the glower. His scowl can be felt within a three-mile radius.

I haven’t seen him up close in over a year, but I have watched him from a distance over the past few weeks, coming and going to his restaurant while they get it up and running. Everything about him screams efficiency, from his neatly trimmed dark hair to his perfectly tailored business casual suits. His features are strong and severe: sharp nose, sculpted jawline—always impeccably shaved, facial hair wouldn’t dare appear before five P.M.—and a thin slash of a mouth that would sooner crack into the earth than into a smile.

His features, on their own, are too much on the other side of harsh to be considered conventionally handsome. But it’s his confidence when he moves, the forcefulness of his speech, the way his presence demands attention and obedience…. He