The Playboy of Rome
Taming the Italian playboy…
Lizzie Addler’s dream of working in Italy is about to come true—that is if she can convince passionate Italian chef Dante DeFiore to keep his side of their bargain. Dante might be hotter than the Italian sun, but he’s as cool as ice toward Lizzie…
Dante hasn’t the time to pander to Lizzie’s dreams of culinary fame—he has a restaurant to run! But as Lizzie proves herself to be a spectacular addition to his kitchen—and to his life—Dante wonders…can he keep her forever?
“Can two chefs, with plenty of baggage, find the perfect recipe for love?… THE PLAYBOY OF ROME by Jennifer Faye is a delightful modern romance, that ticks all of the boxes for me. Although both Lizzie and Dante come from completely different backgrounds, both characters carry baggage from their childhoods, as they struggle with their feelings for each other. With just the right amount of heat, THE PLAYBOY OF ROME by Jennifer Faye has the recipe for the perfect romance.” Fresh Fiction
Read an Excerpt
Dante DeFiore stepped into the path of a young woman trying to skirt around the line at Ristorante Massimo. Her long blond hair swished over her shoulder as she turned to him. Her icy blue gaze met his. The impact of her piercing stare rocked him. He couldn’t turn away. Thick black eyeliner and sky-blue eye shadow that shimmered succeeded in making her stunning eyes even more extraordinary.
Dante cleared his throat. “Signorina, are you meeting someone?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Really?” He truly was surprised. “Someone as beautiful as you shouldn’t be alone.”
Her fine brows rose and a smile tugged at her tempting lips.
He smiled back. Any other time, he’d have been happy to ask her to be his personal guest but not tonight. Inwardly he groaned. Why did he have to have his hands full juggling both positions of maître d’ and head chef when the most delicious creature was standing in front of him?
He choked down his regret. It just wasn’t meant to be. Tonight there was no time for flirting—not even with this stunning woman who could easily turn heads on the runways of Milan.
He glanced away from her in order to clear his thoughts. Expectant looks from the people waiting to be seated reminded him of his duties. He turned back to those amazing blue eyes. “I hate to say this, but you’ll have to take your place at the end of the line.”
“It’s okay.” Her pink glossy lips lifted into a knowing smile. “You don’t have to worry. I work here.”
“Here?” Impossible. He’d certainly remember her. By the sounds of her speech, she was American.
“This is Mr. Bianco’s restaurant, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Then I’m in the right place.”
Suddenly the pieces fell into place. His staff had been cut in half because of a nasty virus running rampant throughout Rome. He’d called around to see if any business associates could loan him an employee or two. Apparently when Luigi said he might be able to track down a friend of one of his daughters, he’d gotten lucky.
Relief flooded through Dante. Help was here at last and by the looks of her, she’d certainly be able to draw in the crowds. Not so long ago, they hadn’t needed anyone to draw in customers; his grandfather’s cooking was renowned throughout Rome. But in recent months all of that had changed.
“And I’d be the luckiest man in the world to have such a beauty working here. You’ll have the men lined up down the street. Just give me a moment.” Dante turned and signaled to the waiter.
When Michael approached Dante, the man’s forehead was creased in confusion. “What do you need?”
In that moment, Dante’s mind drew a blank. All he could envision were those mesmerizing blue eyes. This was ridiculous. He had a business to run.
When he glanced over at the line of customers at the door, the anxious stares struck a chord in his mind. “Michael, could you seat that couple over there?” He pointed to an older couple. “Give them the corner table. It’s their fortieth anniversary, so make sure their meal is on us.”
Lines of exhaustion bracketed Michael’s mouth. Dante couldn’t blame the guy. Being shorthanded and having to see to the dining room himself was a lot of work.
Dante turned his attention back to his unexpected employee. She had her arms crossed and her slender hip hitched to the side. A slight smile pulled at the corners of her lush lips as though she knew she’d caught him off guard—something that rarely happened to him.
He started to smile back when a patron entered the door and called out a greeting, reminding Dante that work came first. Since his grandfather was no longer around to help shoulder the burden of running this place, Dante’s social life had been reduced to interaction with the guests of Ristorante Massimo.
After a brief ciao to a regular patron, Dante turned back to his temporary employee. “Thanks for coming. If you give me your coat, I can hang it up for you.”
“I’ve got it.” She clutched the lapels but made no attempt to take it off.
“You can hang it over there.” He pointed to the small cloakroom. “We can work out everything later.”
“You want me to start right now?”
That was the plan, but perhaps Luigi had failed to make that part clear. “Didn’t he tell you that you’d be starting right away?”
“Yes, but I thought I’d have a chance to look around. And I didn’t think I’d be a hostess.”
“Consider this an emergency. I promise you it’s not hard. I’m certain you’ll be fantastic…uh…” Did she give him her name? If she had, he couldn’t recall it. “What did you say your name is?”
“Lizzie. Lizzie Addler.” “Well, Lizzie, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m
Dante. And I really appreciate you pitching in during this stressful time.”
“Are you sure you want me out here? I’d be a lot more help in the kitchen.”
The kitchen? With her looks, who would hide such a gem behind closed doors? Perhaps she was just shy. Not that anything about her stunning appearance said that she was an introvert.
“I’d really appreciate it if you could help these people find a table.”
An assistant rushed out of the kitchen. “We need you.”
By the harried look on the young man’s face, Dante knew it couldn’t be good. He turned to his new employee. There would be time for introductions and formalities later. Right now, he just needed to keep the kitchen from falling behind and giving the patrons an excuse to look for food elsewhere.
“Sorry for this rush but I am very shorthanded.” When the girl sent him a puzzled look, he realized that Luigi might not have filled her in on the details of her duties. “If you could just get everyone seated and get their drinks, Michael can take their orders. Can you do that?”
She nodded before slipping off her long black coat to reveal a frilly white blouse that hinted at her willowy figure, a short black skirt that showed off her long legs and a pair of knee-high sleek black boots. He stifled a whistle. Definitely not the reaction a boss should give an employee, even if she was gorgeous enough to create a whirlwind of excitement on the cover of a fashion magazine.
Dante strode to the kitchen, hoping that nothing had caught fire and that no one had been injured. When was this evening going to end? And had his grandfather’s friend Luigi been trying to help by sending Lizzie? Or trying to drive him to distraction?
Once the kitchen was again humming along, he retraced his steps just far enough to catch a glimpse of the blonde bombshell. She moved about on those high-heeled boots as if they were a natural extension of her long legs. He swallowed hard as his eyes followed her around the dining room. He assured himself that he was just doing his duty by checking up on her.
When she smiled and chatted with a couple of older gentlemen, Dante’s gut tightened. She sure seemed far more at ease with those men than when he’d been talking with her. How strange. Usually he didn’t have a problem making conversation with the female gender. Lizzie was certainly different. Too bad she wouldn’t be around long enough to learn more about her. She intrigued him.
Obviously there was a misunderstanding.
Lizzie Addler frowned as she locked the front door of Ristorante Massimo. She hadn’t flown from New York to Italy to be a hostess. She was here to work in the kitchen—to learn from the legendary chef, Massimo Bianco. And to film a television segment to air on the culinary channel’s number-one-rated show. It was a dream come true.
The strange thing was she’d flown in two days early, hoping to get her bearings in this new country. How in the world did this Dante know she was going to show up this evening?
It was impossible. But then again, this smooth-talking man seemed to know who she was. So why put her on hostess duty when he knew that her true talents lay in the kitchen?
Her cheeks ached from smiling so much, but all it took was recalling Dante’s flattering words and the corners of her lips lifted once again. She’d heard rumors that Italian men were known to be charmers and now that she knew that it was true— at least in Dante’s case—she’d have to be careful around him. She couldn’t lose focus on her mission here.
She leaned her back against the door and sighed. She couldn’t remember the last time her feet ached this much. Why in the world had she decided to wear her new boots today of all days?
Oh, yes, to make a good impression. And technically the boots weren’t new—just new to her. They were secondhand, like all of Lizzie’s things. But in her defense, some of her things still had the tags on them when she’d found them at the gently used upscale boutique. And boy, was she thankful she’d splurged on the stylish clothes.
Her gaze strayed to the wall full of framed pictures of celebrities. There were black and whites as well as color photos through the years. Massimo was in a lot of them alongside movie stars, singers and politicians from around the world. As Lizzie scanned the many snapshots, she found Dante’s handsome face. In each photo of him, he was smiling broadly with his arm around a beautiful woman.
She knew without looking that it’d be Dante. “Very impressive.” She forced her gaze to linger on the army of photos instead of rushing to ogle the tall, dark and undeniably handsome man at her side. “Have all of these people eaten here?”
“Yes. And there are more photos back in the office. We ran out of space out here.” His voice was distinguishable with its heavy Italian accent. The rich tones flowed through her as seductively as crème brûlée. “We should add your photo.”
“Me.” She pressed a hand to her chest. “But I’m a nobody.”
“You, my dear, are definitely not a nobody.” His gaze met hers and heat rushed to her cheeks.
Dante shot her a puzzled look. “If this is about the money, this is the amount I told Luigi I was willing to pay—”
Lizzie shook her head. “It’s not that. I came here to meet with Chef Massimo.”
“You did? You mean Luigi didn’t send you?”
“I don’t know any Luigi.”
Dante reached in his pocket and pulled out his smartphone. A few keystrokes later, he glanced up. “My mistake. Luigi wasn’t able to find anyone to help out. Thank goodness you showed up.”
“And I was happy to help. Now if you could introduce me to Chef Massimo.”
Dante’s forehead creased. “That’s not going to happen.” His tone was firm and unbendable. “He’s not here. You’ll have to deal with me.”
“I don’t think so. I’ll wait for him.”
Dante rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. “You’ll be waiting a long time. Chef Massimo is out of town.”
“Listen, I know I’m here a couple of days ahead of time, but we do have an agreement to meet.”
“That’s impossible.” Dante’s shoulders straightened and his expression grew serious. “I would have known. I know about everything that has to do with this place.”
“Obviously not in this case.” Lizzie pressed her lips together, immediately regretting her outburst. She was tired after her long flight and then having to work all evening as a hostess.
“You’re obviously mixed up. You should be going.” He pulled open the front door, letting a cool evening breeze sweep inside and wrap around her.
She couldn’t leave. Her whole future was riding on this internship, and the money from participating in the upcoming cooking show would pay for her sister’s grad school. She couldn’t let her down. She’d promised Jules that if she got accepted to graduate school she’d make sure there was money for the tuition. Jules had already had so many setbacks in her life that Lizzie refused to fail her.