Recipe for Satisfaction
Mixing business with pleasure has never been so sexy.
Being the financial caretaker for her deadbeat parents isn’t the life professional organizer Sterling Andrews dreamed of. Tired of being the dependable—and boring—daughter, Sterling decides to have a little fun. And what could be more fun than seducing rich bad boy chef, Jack Vaughn? Except, after one scintillating night together, Sterling’s not only lusting for Jack, she’s working for him. And remaining professional becomes harder every day.
Already a major success thanks to his exclusive restaurants, Jack Vaughn is looking for something more. Ultra responsible Sterling is unlike anyone Jack has met…but she’s his employee. Unwilling to give her up, Jack makes Sterling an offer she can’t refuse—for four sexy weekends, he’ll indulge her most wicked fantasies with no professional strings attached. But will mixing business with pleasure spell disaster? Or will they find the recipe for satisfaction?
Was this ridiculous ship ever going to dock?
Sterling Andrews crept to the lower level of the boat, bumping into the walls of the narrow staircase. Her stomach lurched—it’d been in a suspended state of animation for the past hour, and she swiped at the light film of sweat across her brow. So much for finding a man tonight. She needed a restroom. Pronto.
It wasn’t until she’d boarded the luxury yacht with the insane plan to find a man to break her out of her boring, predictable—responsible—rut that she’d figured out she was prone to seasickness. Were you supposed to feel such a large boat sway from side to side? Somehow, she didn’t think so.
Reaching the end of the staircase, she rested her hand on the wall to catch her breath. This was officially the most hideous night of her life. She was sick as a dog on a boat full of strangers, and to top it all off, what seemed like a great fashion choice when she left the house now left her feeling ridiculous.
The strappy four-inch stilettos, combined with vertigo from seasickness, wreaked havoc with Sterling’s balance. Her legs were cold under the shitload of crinoline that only just covered her ass, and she could barely breathe from the bodice that fit snugly around her torso.
Her best friend, Penn Foster—the brains behind the swanky charity event on the yacht and consequently this insane plan—had chosen the outfit, which was totally inappropriate for a professional organizer. Penn was in big trouble.
Sterling gathered her bag close and took a deep breath before heading down to the most interior quarters. Maybe down here the sway of the boat wouldn’t be so noticeable. Just then her stomach decided to do the rumba and she lost her balance. Luckily, the wall was courteous enough to break her fall. A breeze whipped up the stairway, taking with it the hem of her skirt, and the cool air whooshed across her bare backside like a chilly, lecherous hand.
Penn was so dead.
Forcing herself to forge on, she wobbled down the hallway with one hand on the wall for support, but she stopped short at the sound of male voices around a sharp corner.
“It’s time you got back on the horse, brother.” The sound was deep and coarse, like gravel against concrete. “Treat this as your coming-out party.”
“You’re an ass.” The second voice was lighter, but no less potent—a strong caress against her skin.
The first man chuckled. “You have your pick of the litter on this boat. Don’t tell me you haven’t seen any prospects.”
Sterling hugged the wall and wiped her brow with the back of her hand. If she didn’t get farther inside she was going to retch all over this deck.
“Picking up women is like riding a bike,” the first man continued. “Granted, it’s been a while and you might fall off the first time, but it’s not something you forget.”
Sterling bent forward, trying to poke her head around the corner to catch a glimpse of who was in need of riding lessons. Two men stood in the doorway, their profiles to her. The first man she recognized right away—Neil Harrison, the oldest of the Madewood brothers, and Penn’s employer. They’d met when she first stepped on the boat. His white chef’s coat, crisp and clean, accentuated his tall, broad frame. Black ink peeked out from under the collar of his jacket, making her wonder what kind of tattoo he had hidden beneath his clothes.
The second man was stunning. Instead of a white jacket, he wore a black dress shirt—untucked—and dark jeans with the perfect amount of fading. He was definitely underdressed for the swanky event going on above deck. If he were wearing a suit, she would have thought his shaggy black hair was in definite need of a haircut, but dressed as he was, the long strands jutting haphazardly from his head only sharpened his edge.
She recognized him from the pictures she’d seen in the newspapers—none other than bad boy Jack Vaughn, the youngest Madewood brother. Even though they were all known to society as the Madewoods, their foster mother had insisted each son keep his own family name.
The entire city of Toronto knew the Madewood family’s business. Being the foster sons of a prominent socialite and business owner meant the four brothers were big news on the local circuit. And the younger son had quite the reputation. Not a week would go by without a mention of Jack Vaughn in Hello Canada magazine, partying with the super-elite around the world. Well, at least until two months ago when their mother, Vivian Madewood, passed away.
The charity event on the yacht was in support of Cooking for the Future, a program their mother had started when she realized how the culinary arts helped her own foster children. Vivian wanted to continue that passion and help more than just four lucky boys. She’d been an inspiration for the entire city, and Sterling was sad to hear she’d passed.
“You’ve had it rough the last few months.” Neil clapped him on the shoulder. “I’m just trying to help.”
“I can pick up women on my own time,” Jack said. “I don’t need you to hold my hand.”
The ship pitched and nausea rose in her stomach. It traveled north like a warning bell, alerting her to seek out a toilet or the railing of the boat—whichever was closer. She turned quickly and ran into a wall. Or rather, a boy carrying two trays of dirty glasses. Glasses that decided they no longer liked their position on the trays. They crashed to the floor, a loud, obnoxious taunt. Just one more reminder of how bad her luck had been the last twelve months.
She raised her hand to her mouth and mumbled through her fingers, “I’m so sorry.” With glass crunching under her feet, she crouched to pick up the pieces. At least the mess distracted her from her stomach.
“No, Miss,” the young man pleaded. “Leave that for me.” He bent down beside her and picked up his own share of glass. “Please, Miss, don’t—”
“What’s going on here?”
A shiver ran up her spine at the sound of the deep voice behind her. It was even sexier in closer proximity. She tilted her head and confirmed her suspicion. Jack Vaughn.
Beside him, Neil asked, “Sterling, are you all right?”
“I’m sorry, Chef.” The boy tensed and stood steel-rod straight. She was waiting for him to salute. “I’ll clean everything up right away.”
“Nonsense.” She stood, too, and turned to face the two men. “This was all my fault. I’ll clean it up.”
Jack’s intense stare sent a wave of heat inching up her neck, and when he spoke, he held her gaze steady. “George, would you mind heading back to the kitchen to get something to clean this up?”
“Of course, Chef.” George turned on his heel with precision and headed off to follow orders.
She swallowed and tried to break from Jack’s hypnotic stare by darting her gaze to Neil.
“This is Penn’s friend Sterling,” Neil said to Jack with a grin. “I think she was roped into coming so Penn could utilize her super organization skills.”
She smiled. So not the case. She was here to meet a man. But she’d go with it. “You’d be right.”
Jack held out his hand, a wide grin stretching across his face, revealing even, white teeth and a sexy dimple. “Jack Vaughn.”
“I know who you are,” Sterling said softly and fit her hand in his.
“My reputation precedes me.” His flirty grin was no longer so flirty.
“You do have quite the reputation.” She squeezed his hand trying to let him know she was cool with his “reputation.” In fact, he was exactly what she was looking for tonight—as long as her stomach didn’t mess it up for her.
His gaze was definitely serious now. His demeanor had changed within a matter of seconds with one mention of his reputation. Well, hell. Flirting was so much harder than it looked on TV. She would have thought a man like Jack Vaughn would be proud of his reputation. Someone who took pride in the fact that he was infamous. But maybe not. She knew all too well that people’s assumptions were way off base most of the time.
“You’ve got a reputation and I’m uptight. We’ve all got our quirks,” she said. Perfect. Verbal diarrhea. Someone gag me. “I’m Sterling Andrews.”
“Sterling.” Her name came out in a whisper, and for the first time she noticed the silver ball piercing in his tongue. Her stomach clenched at the thought of that hard ball against her—
“I’m going to check on things in the kitchen. If you need anything, Sterling, my brother would be more than happy to help.” Neil patted
Jack on the shoulder, and they exchanged a curious look as he walked away.
“Really, I should be the one cleaning up,” she said.
He ignored her offer to pitch in. “What are you doing down here, anyway? The party’s upstairs.”
Because she was a queasy mess. “I was just looking for the bathroom.”
“There’s a bathroom upstairs.” He pointed toward the ceiling, his eyes gliding over her body, from eyes to toes and back again. She smoothed her hands down the front of her skirt, the coarse crinoline rough against her sweaty palms, her heart beating faster as he stepped closer, the glass crunch-crunch-crunching under his feet with every step.
He stopped in front of her—too close—and cocked his head to the side. “Not your scene?”
Could he read her mind? She let out a breath of relief. “So not my scene.”
He grinned. “I know exactly how you feel. I was hiding out down here myself.” He crouched and balanced on the balls of his feet, rolling up the sleeves of his black shirt. His left forearm was inked, and thick black designs crawled up his skin. She wondered just how far up they went. On his right forearm, what looked like two paws peeked out from under the fabric.
He reached for the glass and she dropped beside him, grabbing his hands. “You don’t have to—”
“Shit!” He dropped the piece of glass. A thick, red stain slashed brightly across the surface.
“Oh, God. You’re cut. I’m such a klutz tonight. Let me…” She reached into her purse, thankful she had decided to go against Penn’s advice and brought her oversized bag. He sucked on his palm as she withdrew a purple makeup case. She rummaged inside, finding a Band-Aid and an antiseptic wipe. She went above and beyond the motto of always being prepared. Sterling Andrews: perpetual Girl Guide. More like wannabe Girl Guide. She’d never had the opportunity to be a real one but if she had, she’d be the one with the most badges.
He chuckled. “You’re either a mom or a nurse.”
“Neither. I’m a professional organizer.” Sterling grabbed his hand, calloused and coarse. A man’s hand. She held the wipe between her teeth, ripped open the wrapper, and cleaned his cut. “It’s not too deep.”
She rearranged her balance, making sure her legs remained tightly together. She may be on the hunt, but she wasn’t tacky. In this position, her stomach had settled some.
When she was done, she glanced up. Her eyes caught in deep pools of chocolate brown sparkling back at her.
George returned and quickly got to work, sweeping around them. “Chef, I’ll take care of this now.”
Jack smiled and gestured with his chin to the kid. “George is a master baker.”
“A master baker?” She looked up at the young boy and he smiled, a satisfied grin spreading across his face. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen. “At such a young age?”
“He has a future in pastry arts,” Jack said. “A very bright future.”
Jack stood and offered his uninjured hand. Impressed by the gentlemanly gesture, she slid her hand in his and let him draw her up.
“Thank you, George.” Jack nodded before leading her toward the railing, so they could look out into the night. The moon glistened, reflecting off the walls of the boat around them with every ripple of water.
A shiver zinged through her when he slid his hand down her spine, letting it settle at the small of her back. “Do you always carry a first aid kit in your purse, Sterling?”
God, the way he said her name. It was like he was pouring warm honey across her belly…which she sincerely hoped he’d be licking up later.
“Actually, yes.” She laughed. “You never know when you’re going to need antiseptic wipes or a Band-Aid or—” she fiddled inside the makeup case “—a sewing kit.”
“Well, next time I bust a button on my shirt while simultaneously cutting my finger on a dirty knife, I know who to call.”
His sexy smile set the butterflies in her stomach aflutter. Exactly the reaction she was looking for. It was time to put a little fun in her life. Experience things she’d never had the chance to because she was too busy taking care of everyone else, including a two-timing fiancé.
The boat dipped. At least it felt like it dipped. The nausea she had forgotten came back with a vengeance.
“Are you all right?” he asked. “You just turned green.”
“Oh, God…” She latched her hand over her mouth and bent over the railing.
“Sterling?” he called.
But she didn’t have time to acknowledge him.
She braced both hands on the railing and lurched forward. What had been designated as the most hideous night of her life had just been upgraded to the most humiliating. She heaved—and heaved again—fully aware of the man who stalked closer to where she stood puking her guts out into the glistening water.
So much for luring a sexy man. Served her right for thinking she could have fun. She just proved that even her attempt at spontaneity had to be well thought out.
Rough hands caressed her shoulders, then gripped her hair, gathering it at the nape of her neck. Jack held her hair with one hand while the other circled her back. His fingers, soothing against her exposed skin, rubbed tenderly. A wave of warmth surged through her body. She was unsure of its origin—the sickness that now eased inside her stomach or the simple touch of this stranger.
“Feel better?” He was so close, the heat of his body turning up her temperature from hot to stifling. “Take this.”
He offered her a Kleenex, one he must have found in the travel package inside her purse. What was a little fishing expedition inside her purse when he’d seen the inner contents of her stomach fly over the metal railing of a boat? She wiped the tissue across her mouth.
“You’re good at this,” she whispered, then swallowed hard around the soreness in her throat.
He cocked his head, his eyes questioning.
“Taking care of people,” she clarified.
He shrugged. “Let’s just say I have experience with women skilled in stomach pyrotechnics.”
No doubt he’d held many a drunk girl’s hair in a hotel bathroom during his wild antics. But then he smiled, a casual grin that tingled all the way down to her toes. As their eyes met, time seemed to stand still.
Sterling shook off the dazed feeling as George crept toward them, biting his lip between his teeth. When Jack turned to face him, he immediately straightened. “Chef Neil said you need to get upstairs. He’s going to make his speech.”
Jack shot Sterling a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry.”
“Go.” She waved him off. “This is your party. Please, don’t let me keep you.”
“I’ll be fine.” She reached forward and touched his forearm, which rested along the rail.
Sure she would. As soon as the boat docked.
Jack looked between the two of them. That same heat wasn’t reflected in his gaze. He looked on with kindness, concern. Not with the fire he had five minutes earlier, before she’d retched up the contents of her stomach.
“It was nice to meet you, Sterling Andrews.”
She frowned and her shoulders slumped forward when he backed away. “Thanks for…everything.”
He winked. “Glad I could be here.”
Gone was the nausea. Gone was the urge to heave. In its place was the realization that she was most definitely not getting honey licked off of anything tonight.
She rested her body against the rail, the metal bar snug against her armpit, and sighed. What an epic humiliation. But on the bright side, at least only one person was witness to her embarrassment and not a yacht full.
“Why didn’t you tell me you got sick on boats?”
Sterling turned and smiled. Penn sidled up to her, brushing her hair away from her forehead.
“I didn’t know. I’ve never been on a big boat before.”
Penn was the most beautiful woman Sterling knew, and stylish in that glam-goth way. Her porcelain skin was luminescent any day of the week, and her black hair hung just past her shoulders, styled with a roll to the side, and secured away from her face with a white barrette. Tonight, she wore a black dress with white polka dots, the bodice a V-neck with thin straps, and a black belt around her trim waist. And as always, her outfit was not complete without four-inch stilettos. She didn’t go anywhere without high heels.
“How did you know I was down here?”
“Jack sent me.” She held on to Sterling’s biceps. “Do you think you can handle a trip to the ladies’ room?”
Sterling nodded and by the time they arrived at the bathroom, the need to upchuck had finally dissipated.
Slumping forward over the sink, she grabbed on with both hands. The reflection staring back at her from the mirror was horrifying. Her eyes were watery, her cheeks were flushed, and her hair frizzed from her sweat-soaked scalp. “I’m a mess.”
“Shush. He still looked interested and after I get you cleaned up, we’ll hunt him down again.” Penn winked and then dug around inside Sterling’s bag. She held out the travel toothbrush and toothpaste. “What exactly were you doing down here?”
“I…” Sterling straightened and tamed the strands of her dark hair. “I was feeling sick and I was trying to…”
Sterling laughed. “That’s exactly what Jack said.” She scrubbed her teeth, a little uncomfortable at the way Penn stared at her in the mirror. “What?” she mumbled with the toothbrush still in her mouth.
Penn cocked her head and rested her hand on her hip. “I feel like a proud mama. I tell you to find a man and you waste no time picking the most infamous bachelor on the boat.”
She rinsed her mouth and placed the travel toothbrush into its holder. “You mean Jack Vaughn?”
“Duh.” Penn reached into her own purse and pulled out a travel-sized bottle of mouthwash. When she noticed Sterling’s curious stare, she shrugged. “You think you’re the only one who’s prepared? This comes in handy many a morning when I find myself waking up in a gorgeous man’s bed.” She smiled and thrust the bottle into Sterling’s hand.
After rinsing her mouth with the green, minty liquid, Sterling took a deep breath. Much better. She should probably find a new man to kiss now—one who hadn’t seen her inglorious upchucking. But her introduction to Jack Vaughn had just narrowed the playing field.
Not too many were going to compete with that much sex on a stick.
“So, you and Jack?” Penn asked, as she slipped the mouthwash back into her purse, coaxing Sterling for more information.
“It’s not like I sought him out on purpose.” Definitely not. Sterling was way out of her element on this boat. Hobnobbing with fancy, rich people was not a typical evening of fun. However, she had promised Penn she’d try her best to leave stick-in-the-mud Sterling at home and let loose. So much for that plan. And now that she’d met Jack Vaughn, her own self-doubt needled its way back into her brain.
“Maybe not, but the fates have decided something else entirely.” Penn wiggled her eyebrows. She’d been coaxing Sterling to date for months and finally, Sterling felt ready to get back in the game. Granted, she had a lot of baggage, but she wasn’t looking for Mr. Right.
She was looking for Mr. One-Night Stand. That was about all she could handle right now. But was Jack Vaughn the best candidate?
“Don’t you think it’s a little awkward?” she asked.
Penn stared at her. “How so?”
“Considering he’s your boss.”
Relief washed over Penn’s face. “When have I ever suggested anything appropriate when it comes to men?” She grabbed a handful of paper towels and held them under the tap, drenching them in cold water. “He doesn’t seem to be as involved in the family business as Cole, Finn, and Neil.” She patted the wet paper towel against Sterling’s face and neck. “He does his own thing.”
Everyone knew that Jack Vaughn partied as hard as he worked. And it was easy to do when you owned five of the hottest restaurants in the world. He flitted across the globe, tending to his businesses, keeping girlfriends in every city. If she was honest, the man she read about in the magazines and the man who held her hair while she heaved just didn’t jibe. But she’d promised Penn, and herself, that she’d break out of her shell. And tonight was supposed to be the first night of a new and improved, sexually enticing Sterling Andrews.
How many years had she spent compartmentalizing her life—organizing, planning, being prepared? Her plans should’ve led to a successful, drama-free existence. Which so far hadn’t worked out. Every moment of her life was spent doing things for other people.
She was tired of being used. Now was her time to do something for fun, something strictly for herself. Maybe Jack could be her “something fun.”
“Is it just me or is Jack the hottest thing you’ve ever seen?”
“Honey, try working with three of them every day. I’m constantly wiping drool from my mouth.”
They laughed and walked back to the scene of the crime. George was no longer there sweeping up glass. Sterling glanced at the spot where she’d first seen Jack, remembering his utter gorgeousness.
Penn was right. Those men were drool-worthy. Especially Jack. Who cares if he was the type to take what he wanted and leave her in the dust? That’s exactly what she was looking for. This time, she was going to be the one to take what she wanted and never look back.
And what better man to practice with than the King of Flings, Jack Vaughn?
“So…” She bit her bottom lip. “How exactly do I go about seducing a man like Jack Vaughn?”