Alphas & Millionaires Starter Set

By: Brooke Cumberland

I continued staring nervously at him as he stood, looking completely flawless, with both hands in his front pants pockets. He’s dressed in a sleek, black suit and tie.

His intense stare knocked me out of my trance enough to finally answer him. “I was engaged a long time ago,” was the only explanation I could give him. I swallowed and turned back around, grabbing the pot and utensils I needed to finish my cooking assignment.

I turned back around, his stance even more rigid than before. “Then why do you still wear it?” he asked, keeping his eyes glued on me as I moved throughout the kitchen.

“As a reminder,” I said seriously, keeping my eyes down as I avoid his. “And to keep danger away,” I added, grinning to myself as I walked back to my counter.

“Danger, huh?” I heard him ask as he followed me.

“Keeps men away.” I shrugged, trying to keep a straight face. “Usually,” I drew out slowly. He wasn’t the first man since Liam to hit on me.

“That’s quite misleading, Miss Woods.” I brought my eyes up to his finally, his face as tense and serious as his tone. How’d he know my name? “Why not wear it on your right hand then?”

God, he’s intrusive.

“Molly,” I corrected. “I haven’t taken it off since—” My mind flashed to the moment Liam bent down on his knee, his palms sweaty and clammy, asking me to marry him. Of course, I cried and immediately agreed. We were expecting our first child together, and I was four months along already but only eighteen years old. We were young and in love and just starting our family. It was everything I had dreamed it would be. Until he died. “—the day it was put on,” I managed to finish.

“What happened?” he asked with a look of concern. It was nice of him to sound sympathetic, but I don’t know him, and I don’t open up to just anyone.

This was also the last place I wanted to talk about Liam. The kitchen was my safe place and cooking kept my mind free of pain. I could lose myself with detailed tasks and creating new ideas. I loved cooking in high school, and after I had Stella, I immediately started looking into culinary schools. I wanted to be a chef and make food appealing and desirable. Being in the kitchen was the one place where my mind felt free.

“I have to get back to my work if you don’t mind, Mr. Stagliano. I’m quite busy today,” I remarked, stammering over my own words. Heat rose up my neck and cheeks as he studied me longer. Mr. Stagliano wasn’t just Chicago’s most eligible and richest bachelor, he was my boss at the Riverside Hotel and Restaurant where I was currently doing my chef internship.

Today was the first day of my last semester, and the home stretch to graduation was in only four months.

I moved here almost three years ago, when Stella was only one year old. Chicago offered the best culinary schools in the country and when Kendall College granted me a scholarship, I jumped at the opportunity.

In addition to interning three times a week, I also attend classes twice a week. My best friend, Michael, moved here with me to help with Stella while he focused on his writing career.

On campus, we worked in professional-grade kitchens, learning different techniques about the science of food. In our last semester, we were given a choice of where to complete our internship. The Riverside Restaurant was one of the options this year, and since I’d hoped to work there someday, I applied for their program immediately.

“Sure, sorry to have imposed.” He nodded and flashed a genuine smile. “Have a pleasant day.” I felt my cheeks redden by the unexpected attention from him. I’d done my research before I accepted the internship and knew of the Stagliano family. I also knew Drake was a womanizer and a well-known name in Chicago.

But also, he was incredibly intimidating. And sexy-as-sin.

I wasn’t one to get this nervous around attractive guys, but Drake was so much more than that. He’s not just any guy off the street with good looks and charm. He’s every women’s wet fantasy and dangerously tempting rolled into one recipe for disaster.

I was lost in my thoughts until the pot dropped from my hand with a loud clatter to the floor. I realized I was watching him walk away, appreciating his solid body. A few of the other students glared over at me, annoyed that I disrupted them. I offered a small smile in a silent apology as I grabbed the pot off the floor and placed it back on the counter as quietly as I could.

I’m relieved that Mr. Cooper gave us an easy assignment for our first lesson. We were to create a new sauce for a dish the restaurant developed—Shrimp Pesto Fettuccini.

For the next three hours, I focused on my sauce. We had to follow the standard restaurant recipe but add in our own ingredients to taste.

Happy with my new creation, I packed up and headed to the freezer. I placed the containers of my sauce on the shelf toward the back when I heard the door slam shut behind me. Startled, I jumped and quickly spun around. My heart slammed into my chest as I saw who was in the freezer with me.


“Hello…” I drew out softly, holding his intense stare.

Why is he even in the kitchen? Doesn’t he work in the finance and business offices? Better yet, why is he in the freezer? I think to myself as I continue staring blankly at him.

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