Made With Love

an excerpt



Chapter One

Pushing open the door, Jake peered inside. This wasn't the normal designer, ultra-modern environment that he preferred. There was no doubt that the place was clean and well-maintained--although Jake fully intended to check out the toilet at the first opportunity. I've always gone by the premise that if they're scrupulous at keeping the restroom facilities spotless, then they'll probably be equally diligent in the kitchen area. Not changing that opinion today.

Whitewashed walls decorated with Greek scenery and the occasional vase on a small plinth greeted his curious gaze. The tables weren't too closely crowded together, which had his approval. Nothing worse than rows like you're still at school, or sitting so close to your neighbor you might as well invite them to join in the conversation.

Movement caught his eye and Jake glowered in Scott's direction who waved from the far end of the restaurant. "A huge fucking order." Jake muttered the vow under his breath as he stalked toward his friend

The place was busier than he imagined, most tables taken even though this was lunchtime, not dinner. I guess that has to say something about the place. Quite a few business-types, too.

"Jake, good to see you." Scott pulled Jake into a hard hug, slapping his back enthusiastically. "I'm glad you could make it. This is such a great place."

Making a show of looking around, Jake fixed his friend with a level stare. "Looks fine. A Greek taverna? Not your normal style. Certainly not mine."

"Trust me, Jake. This restaurant is a positively Hellenic jewel. Zeus himself would eat here and Dionysus provides the wine."

"Someone does and it isn't me." Finally smiling as Scott laughed out loud, Jake sat opposite his friend. "Can you imagine the flack I'd take for drinking wine my business didn't supply? I could be blackballed."

"So long as you're not blue balled." Scott leaned forward and winked, adding a leer that finally made Jake laugh.

"My love life--"

"Or lack thereof." Scott chimed in waving his wine glass.

"My love life is not open for discussion. Fuck, Scott, if I thought you needed to put in a big order before making me come here, it's just upped a dozen cases."

"Now, now." Scott wagged a finger at him. "As a matter of fact, one of the owners is a second cousin. So be nice."

Blinking, Jake stared at Scott temporarily lost for words. "I didn't know you were Greek."

"I'm not. I'm Kiwi. But there's some Greek in my father's family." Scott gestured vaguely. "Dad's pretty stoked to have found a connection. Quite frankly, I am too. This is a good restaurant. It makes a nice, refreshing change to have good, clean food without any artsy-fartiness. Plus it's good Greek food."

"Fine. So where's the menu?" His curiosity piqued, Jake looked around.

"You can look at it later. I've already ordered. We're having meze."

"Oh, for fuck's sake." Jake rolled his eyes. Visions of insipid dips and dishes of dead things in jelly flashed through his mind.

"Jake, behave now. You know I'm every bit the foodie you are. No matter what Dad found out about the owners of this place, if the food was crap we wouldn't be here."

A guilty flush heated Jake's cheeks. I do know Scott well enough to realize that if the food wasn't excellent, Scott wouldn't have brought me here. He held up his hands. "Okay. My bad. What are we getting in the meze?"

Scott's expression relaxed and his smile became smug. "You'll see."

"Scott, how good to see you again. And this must be the friend you told me about."

The newcomer beamed down at Jake. He was deeply tanned, even looking closely at the man's face, Jake was sure it came from swimming, surfing, or fishing. Jake rose and shook the proffered hand. His own was easily enveloped in the shovel-like mitt and pumped vigorously.

"Jake, allow me to introduce you to the restaurant owner, Ilias." Scott indicated the newcomer.

"Good to meet you. Scott said only good things about you." Ilias looked Jake over with an appraising gaze.

"I'm very flattered." Jake nodded.

"So you should be." Scott laughed at Jake's narrow-eyed look.

"You ready for the meze? Andreas is the chef today. It will be a very special meal."

"Andreas? Is he your head chef?" Jake resumed his seat.

"Andreas is my son." Ilias glanced around and indicated for a waiter to come over. "I understand you're a wine supplier, so I won't insult your intelligence or taste by suggesting a wine. The meze has a mix of meat, chicken and seafood."

Turning his attention to the wine list, Jake had to admit, the selection was good. There was a small European selection, including French and Italian as well as Greek wine, plus a decent selection of New Zealand wines. Looking up at Scott, Jake nodded slowly. "Not bad."

"From you, that's as good as an excellent."

"Let's start with some Retsina shall we?"

"Sounds good to me."

The wine was brought out with a selection of traditional dips. They were good enough, and the homemade bread a nice touch. Some loukanika were brought through along with grilled haloumi. The spiciness of the sausage and the saltiness of the cheese paired well with the dips. Relaxing, Jake scooped up a large dollop of the very creamy hummus on the bread and glanced at Scott whose smile had the perfect cat got the cream expression.

"Okay. It's actually quite good. Happy?"

The rest of the meal was as delicious as the appetizers. There were excellent chicken and lamb kebabs, large succulent prawns grilled and drenched in garlic butter, and a beef stifado. The mains were accompanied by dishes of rice and Greek salad as well as some more of the tzatziki. Jake finally sat back in his chair, a glass of red wine in his hand, and looked across the table at Scott.

"Okay. I admit it. It was delicious."

"Good. I'm glad. They make everything here. But I hope you've left a little room for dessert."

Jake held up his hand. "Not for me. You know I don't like desserts."

"But this is different. This is Ilias's son's Andreas galaktoboureko. That's why we're here today. Ilias has three sons who take turns doing the desserts, but Andreas has his grandmother's touch, so they tell me. His galaktoboureko is the best."

"We'll share a piece." I might as well try a mouthful. The rest's been a revelation.

The dessert was the crowning glory of the meal. The custardy filling wasn't dense or cloying, the filo pastry either melted in the mouth soft or was satisfyingly crispy and the rose syrup offered a hint of pure decadence. It was only as he sat back, having cleared the plate set before him that Jake noticed that Scott had ordered a dessert for himself.

Scott paused, his spoon almost at his lips. "I knew once you tasted it, you wouldn't be leaving any. And there was no way I was going to miss one of these prepared by Andreas." A look of bliss passed over his friend's face as he took a mouthful of the dessert.

"Will we have the honor of meeting the chef?" Jake was keen to meet the man who'd cooked so well. Many of his friends were in the hospitality trade either as owners, chefs, or staff. But there was an added something about the food he'd just enjoyed.

"Hey, Ilias." Scott waved at his friend.

"What can I do for you? More galaktoboureko, coffee?"

"Does Andreas have time to take a bow before his appreciative audience?"

Chuckling warmly, Ilias indicated for a waiter to come over. "Are either of you driving?"

"I got a cab here." Jake leaned back. "Why?"

"Metaxa for my guests." Ilias indicated Jake and Scott. "Bring the bottle."

Leaving the waiter to pour four brandies, Ilias strode through the restaurant toward the kitchen. Jake tried not to look, but found his gaze repeatedly flitting to the swinging door Ilias had vanished behind. Then he sat up straight.

There'd been no doubting Ilias's Mediterranean heritage, but the Adonis who walked out with him looked as if he'd stepped from Olympus itself. At least to Jake. No one else stared as Ilias and his son came toward their table, and Jake was almost tempted to check he wasn't openly drooling.

"Scott, Jake, this is my son Andreas." Ilias indicated them to his son in turn. "You have a new admirer. I'll be in the kitchen." As Ilias left, Scott simply nodded at him, but Jake took the opportunity presented, stood up, and extended his hand.

"The meal was amazing. Especially the dessert and I'm not normally a dessert man. It's a pleasure to meet you." Jake was pleased to find they were a similar height, allowing him to gaze easily into Andreas's dark eyes.

"Scott talked about you, I'm pleased to meet you."

A tingle zipped down Jake's spine and his groin tightened. Andreas's gaze locked with his and he held onto Jake's hand a fraction too long. "The pleasure's mine." Jake dropped the timbre of his voice and Andreas's smile widened.

"So, you liked my food. That's good. Nona would be pleased to hear I was such a good pupil."

"Nona?"

"My grandmother, well, Dad's grandmother. I started learning to cook with her almost before staring school. She didn't bother with written down recipes. She learned from her mother and grandmother and so on." Andreas gestured with his hand and Jake nodded.

"I wondered if you might have a business card, you know, maybe I could call you about catering for one of my corporate events."

"How about we just exchange cell phone numbers?" Andreas snickered softly. "Somehow I can't see a good serving of moussaka going down well at anything corporate. Wouldn't they all be afraid of food that was dairy laden, full of gluten, and, non-Paleo?"

A vision of some of the women and men, he knew looking at a large plate of moussaka popped into Jake's mind and he laughed out loud. "Maybe you're right. Here." Pulling out his phone, Jake tapped in the numbers as Andreas rattled them off. The moment he'd hit save, Jake sent Andreas a text.

"Got it," Andreas murmured. He glanced up at Jake and flashed a mischievous smile. "I'll be in touch."

"Soon, I hope." Jake didn't even bother trying to censure his eagerness.

"I have a day off coming up. Maybe we could meet up?" Jake's smile turned feral and he winked.

"I'm sure I'm not doing anything that day." Jake resisted the urge to adjust his cock.

"Even though he doesn't know what day it is yet." Scott's smug tone cut through Jake's lust-laden haze and he shot his friend his best withering look. The result was a burst of laughter from Scott who wasn't fazed in the least.

"Well, then I'm sure we'll be seeing one another very soon." Andreas winked again before sauntering back toward the kitchen.

Despite Scott's presence, Jake stared after him, his gaze riveted to Andreas's swaying hips. Fuck. Is he doing that on purpose? Damn! I sure hope so.