Home > Forked (Frenched #2)(8)

Forked (Frenched #2)(8)
Author: Melanie Harlow

He still likes Johnny Cash.

The place was crowded, every booth full and every seat at the bar taken. The vibe was young and fun, unfussy but authentic. Somehow it felt both urban and country—the kind of place where you knew you’d get real food and have a good time, see and be seen,

feel both hip and virtuous since the chalkboard nearest the door boasted about Nick’s farm-to-table philosophy. The one right next to it said If you are racist, sexist, homophobic, or an asshole, don’t come in. Otherwise, welcome.

At least it didn’t say “or my ex-wife.”

Servers moved quickly, carrying trays laden with baskets lined with blue and white striped tissue paper, on which rested thick, delectable hamburgers and piles of thick, seasoned fries, making my mouth water. Despite everything, pride bloomed in my chest. Lick My Plate was a ridiculous show—who really cares if chefs are hot as long as they know what they’re doing?—but it had given Nick a huge boost. He’d always wanted this, his own place, things done his way. Looking around, I could see that he’d put himself into every detail here, from the design to the menu to the music. When I heard the door open behind me, I took a few tentative steps forward so I wouldn’t be in the way of entering customers.

“Coco Thomas. I’d know that ass anywhere.”

I spun around to find Nick Lupo just inches from me, so close I could see the tiny crescent moon scar above his left eyebrow, a remnant of his scrappy childhood. He looked the same—thick dark hair, although threaded with a few surprising strands of gray at the temples, light brown eyes framed by ungodly long lashes, that wide mouth hooking into a grin at my expense.

I wanted to say something, but at the sight of him my lungs had ceased functioning, holding on to the breath trapped inside them as if it were the last one they’d ever get.

Damn. Why’d he have to look so good?

Nick was dimple-cute when he smiled and sexy-as-sin when he pinned you with that stare, the one that said Fuck Dinner, The Only Thing I Want To Eat Is You And I’m Starving. He could go from boyishly charming to hot and demanding in a heartbeat, and right then I wanted that heartbeat to be mine.

His dark, expressive brows rose. “Speechless, cupcake? That’s a first. Or have you run out of names to call me?”

“Hi,” I managed. One word, but it felt like a huge victory.

“Hi.”

When I couldn’t get another word out, he laughed. “OK, come on.” Taking my arm, he steered me over to the bar, every eyeball in the place trained on us. “It’s about time you came in here. Let’s find you a seat.”

He’s touching me. He’s touching me. He’s touching me. Inside my head, a voice repeated the phrase over and over again. I’d seriously underestimated the impact his physical presence would have on me after all this time. My skin prickled with awareness of him, as if my body remembered the insane chemistry we had and it was just waking up from a seven-year sleep.

Nick led me around the far end of the bar, where there was an empty stool I hadn’t been able to see from the door. “Sit down right there and let me look at you.”

I slid onto the seat and crossed my legs, placing my purse on the bar. I kept my movements slow and deliberate, so as not to betray how flustered I felt. “Thank you.” There, two more words. Hallelujah.

Planting his feet wide, Nick crossed his muscular, tattooed arms and shook his head. “Damn if I don’t have the hottest ex-wife on the planet.” He spoke loud enough to attract the attention of other patrons, on purpose, of course. Nick loved a good show. Immediately I noticed more heads turning in my direction. Cell phone cameras aimed. Whispers and stares. I imagined the headlines on TMZ: Hot Chef’s Secret Past Revealed, Ex-Wife Disappointing. I patted my hair self-consciously.

“Ex wife?” said the guy on the stool next to me, a hipster type with a receding ginger hairline and huge, bushy Abe Lincoln sideburns. He swiveled his stool to face us and lifted his thick glass beer mug toward Nick. “I didn’t know you were married.”

“I was, Lou. I was. To this vision right here.” Nick gestured to my face. “Tell me, do I not have the most beautiful ex-wife in existence? I mean, how many guys can say that? Wait.” He put a hand on my shoulder. “Wait. Are there more of us? How many husbands have you collected so far?”

I smiled with tight lips. I would not let him provoke me. “Just one.”

He touched his chest, which was hugged by a tight black Burger Bar t-shirt, sleeves tight around his biceps. I noticed he wore a silver Shinola watch, which momentarily distracted me because I’d always been really turned on by Nick’s thick strong wrists and forearms. “Whew. For a moment there, I didn’t feel special. I mean, since you left me, you’ve had time for…” He checked the watch. “At least thirty more marriages as long as ours.”

Fuck it, I was provoked. “Left you! You left me, remember? In a hotel room in Vegas? On our wedding night?”

Lou’s eyebrows rose above the rim of his mug, and he looked at Nick as if waiting for an explanation. But I wasn’t about to give him a chance to defend himself. Fuck calm, cool, and unemotional—he wasn’t pinning this on me. “Or have you forgotten the note you left me on the nightstand, right next to your ring? ‘This was a mistake.’ That ring a bell?”

“I apologized, didn’t I? You’re the one who filed for divorce and left for Europe without talking to me, like a stubborn teenager.”

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