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The Cowboy's Baby

By:Cristina Grenier

The Cowboy's Baby_ A BWWM Billionaire Cowboy Pregnancy Romance, - Cristina Grenier
Chapter One: Selfless

It was perfect

Absolutely perfect.

Her lips curving upward in a wide smile, Esme placed an artful sprinkle of grated dark chocolate on top of the dessert she had spent the last week formulating. She had, of course, had to do it in her spare time. At La Reina, sous chefs were kept busy with the most menial of tasks – chopping veggies, preparing spices, even washing dishes.

Every time she was relegated to scrubbing frying pans, the young woman tried to tell herself it was all worth it. If she worked hard enough and kept her head down, one day she’d have her own kitchen to run. No one started from the top – that she knew. It just seemed like she’d been at the bottom for so long…

But after a week of finding ten minutes here, and twenty there to work on her project, she had finally concocted something she could be proud of. The desert was three tiered with a strawberry cream cake base. It was set into a gleaming glass bowl with layers of sweetened cream and pieces of fresh strawberry. Chocolate wafers were stuck into the edges of the dish to provide some color contrast and the fresh grated chocolate on top finished it with a bite of bitter flavor.

She couldn’t wait to try it.

Esme sidled through the kitchen to find a dessert spoon. Humming softly, she sifted carefully through the silverware until she found what she was looking for. When she returned to the prep table, however, her heart sank. The head sous chef, Laurent, was standing over her creation, spoon in hand. A huge portion was missing from Esme’s dish, and when she stepped toward the table, the dark-haired man turned to her with a perfectly manicured brow arched.

Laurent ruled the kitchen with an iron fist. It was he who directed all below him to menial tasks so he could take credit for everything that went right in the kitchen. A blue-eyed French transplant with a thick accent, the man looked down on everyone who worked beneath him– despite his paltry five foot six height. Now, he gave Esme a once over that made her distinctly uncomfortable.

“What is this, Esme?” The man’s inquiry was sharp and clipped. Esme’s face flushed and she looked away. She’d been hoping to present the dish discreetly to the head chef. It figured that Laurent would come upon it first.

“It’s just…something I’ve been working on. When I haven’t been busy, of course.” She hurried to add the last portion so that the man couldn’t accuse her of being idle. He practically lived to imply that no one but him ever did any sort of work – when in fact, the opposite was true.

“It’s shit.”

He tossed the spoon onto the table with a sneer. “The dark chocolate is completely overwhelming. And this plating? An abomination. Aren’t you supposed to be grating carrots for garnish?”

Esme swallowed her shame and rage, resisting the urge to give the man a piece of her mind. How would he know what real food tasted like? He never seemed to be making any of it himself. As he strode away, leaving her defiled dessert on the table, she frowned. Raising her own spoon, she dipped it into the confection to taste herself.

It was absolute heaven. The chocolate added just enough bite to keep the cream from being too sweet, and the texture of the cake was divine. She glanced after Laurent, who would make sure her recipe never saw the light of day, and then back to the dessert before her. Then, with a low sigh, she dumped the entire thing in the garbage.

She managed to keep her cool for the rest of the night and into the next day’s shift. It wasn’t until the head chef added a new item to the menu – the very one Laurent had told her was absolute shit – and gave the head sous chef credit for creating it that she resigned from the position.

It was her fourth restaurant job in a year, and quite frankly, Esme was exhausted. The moment she returned to her tiny apartment, she dropped her bag on the couch and collapsed, burying her face in the cushions.

Why the hell had she gotten into this business again? To be taken advantage of and ridiculed? To be told that she had no talent by people who had gotten to where they were on the backs of those far more gifted them themselves? The young woman groaned, turning onto her back to stare up at the cracked ceiling above her.

Of course not. She’d gone to culinary school because she loved food. The four year degree had taken up nearly all of her savings, but she’d never regretted it because she’d never doubted that, one day, she’d be running someone’s kitchen.

Seven years later, suffice it to say she was getting to be slightly disillusioned with her own optimism. She hadn’t had a decent kitchen job yet, and she was coming up on her thirties. For as long as she could remember, she’d lived paycheck to paycheck, and now, she was out of another job.