Navy SEAL to the RescueBy: Tawny Weber
Costa Rica, baby.
The small beachside town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca was filled with character. The laid-back, mellow atmosphere was complemented by thatch-roofed buildings, colorful fabrics and hand-lettered signs.
Midstride down the deserted sidewalk, Lila Adrian stopped to close her eyes and take a deep breath of the rich, ocean-scented air. When she opened her big green eyes again, she was thrilled to see that yes, indeed, it was still gorgeous. What was it about the Caribbean that made everything just a little brighter?
God, she loved her job.
As the brains, brawn and chief headhunter of her own business, At Your Service, she was rocking it. She might be meeting clients in San Francisco one day, in London scouting for an art director the next, visiting a tiny village in Tuscany to woo a former prima ballerina the week after that. And now she was cruising Puerto Viejo for a chef.
Wherever the talent was, she went. And then, with charm, guile and a great deal of wit, she enticed that talent into the job of their dreams. Or into believing the job she wanted them to take was dream-worthy.
It’d all started with a few favors, helping a friend find an elite aromatherapy masseuse for her new spa, connecting a concierge doctor she’d once dated with an upscale hotel chain owned by a friend. But it had been introducing three of her father’s fired housekeepers to wealthy families who’d welcomed their services that made her realize she could turn it into a career.
Something she’d been desperate for. Not just to prove herself to family members who claimed she didn’t have any marketable skills, but to show herself that she was more than a pretty face. With the strings to her trust fund knotted tight, she’d spent most of At Your Service’s first three years living on ramen noodles and depending on the local coffeehouse’s free Wi-Fi.
But sheer stubbornness, a ton of charm and taking advantage of the varied connections she’d made over the years had finally done the trick.
That, and her family name.
Something she knew pissed her father off to no end.
Loving that small victory, Lila increased her pace to make her way around a pair of locals pedaling their bicycles, with baskets filled with produce.
Now she was in Costa Rica to add another feather to her cap. She didn’t figure it’d take an abundance of charm to convince Alberto Rodriguez, formerly of Miami, Florida, and currently the head chef of the aging Casa de Rico, that he’d like to travel the world as the personal chef to the Martins, a wealthy San Francisco banking family.
Mr. and Mrs. Martin—Joe and Mimi, respectively—had spent a week reveling in Rodriguez’s cuisine on their honeymoon. Food so delicious, they often claimed, that they could still taste it a decade later. Lila had followed up their praise with a little research, which assured her that Rodriguez had a great reputation as a chef who could handle upscale gourmet as well as fusion and regional cuisine. The man was wasted in a one-star restaurant that, from all accounts, was on the verge of bankruptcy. Since research turned up no reasons for him to want to stay, she figured he should be more than ready to make a move.
But just in case, Lila had the charm ready to pour on like syrup.
With that in mind, she pulled her cell phone from the front pocket of her capris and opened the web browser to the hotel’s website. She’d already committed the details to memory, but she was a believer in double-checking.
Before she could scroll through the page, the phone rang.
Corinne Douglass. Socialite, diva and the best friend Lila had ever met.
“How’d you know I was holding my phone?” Lila answered with a laugh instead of a greeting.
“You’re always holding your phone,” her sometimes assistant-slash-roommate answered. “Even if it’s not in your hand, you’re still holding it in some form or other.”
“You have a point. What’s up?”
“How’s Costa Rica?” Corinne asked instead of answering.
Lila frowned at the sidestep, but looked around anyway.
“Gorgeous. The air is just humid enough to be sultry. The sun shining hot enough to sink into the bones. The people are friendly, the locale colorful and, so far, the job is on track.”
“Have you met with the chef yet? Is he interested? Are you coming home soon?”