Set to Simmer


Life is too short to live on the back burner.

Sawyer Dumont is made of sarcasm and steel. Successful, rich and easy on the eyes, it’s not his fault women don’t stay around long. They should really try to be more interesting. Despite his career as a cardiovascular surgeon, Sawyer knows very little about matters of the heart. So what if his longest lasting relationship is with his father and his quirky aunt who stepped up to raise him? If he could just find them a personal chef to help them through their golden years, then life would be perfect.

Slinging drinks and lighting shots on fire is a far cry from the dream Dakota Brightling had when she moved to California to attend culinary school. At work she watches others live her dream just twelve feet away in the resort restaurant. Story of her life: Close but not close enough. Finding an ad for an in-home chef, she knows she’s the perfect candidate. She’s only missing one thing, a culinary degree. But isn’t chasing your dream worth a little lie or two? It isn’t exactly the path she wanted, but Dakota knows that some of the best recipes are often improvised.

Instantly taken with Henri Dumont, and his sister, Eloise, two eccentric French seniors, Dakota feels like she’s found where she was meant to be all along. With Sawyer’s cynicism undermining her every move, she knows she has a lot to prove. Between her lack of schooling, her overbearing mother who thinks she’s been abducted, and Sawyer breathing down her neck, things are getting hot in the kitchen. Can she pull it all together, or will her culinary career end as just another flash in the pan?


It’s not hard to recognize Sawyer’s voice, especially when he sounds annoyed. That’s the voice I’m most used to hearing after all.

“We went to cut down a tree.”

“I know,” the annoyance only grows, “but where are you?”

“Oh, we’re at the one off—”

“No, Kota,” he tries again, and his patience is gone, “I’m wandering between the cedars and the blue spruce and I don’t see you. Where are you?”

I push up on my tip toes because I think I can see him. I wave an arm above my head. The line goes dead, and then I’m sure he saw me.

“This one is fuller.” Eloise is still arguing.

“But this one will let the ornaments dangle between the branches,” Hank retorts, as if it is that much more important.

She yells something in French, and Hank throws his hands over his head in frustration as Sawyer steps through the wall of trees.

“Of course, all I had to do was listen for angry French and I’d find my family. What are we getting?” He pulls at a tree leaning against another and says, “This seems fine.”

“It’s all scraggly.”

“It looks like a tree to me, Dakota.”

“It’s too short.”

“It’s our house, not Rockerfeller.”

I groan. “Oh, who invited you anyway?”

“You did,” he says with a smirk. “Let’s get this done.”

Henri, which one do you prefer?”

“The one Dakota found.”

I shoot a smug look at Sawyer to drive my victory home.

“Fine, Dad, I’ll drag it up front.”

“No, I’ll take it. You weren’t even supposed to be here.”

“Tell you what, Dad, I was worried about you exerting yourself, so I rearranged my day. But you grab the tree since you’re so healthy.”

“Gladly.” Hank snags the trunk from my grasp. He drags it through the leaves until Eloise grabs the other half and lightens his load.

“You’d think a doctor would insist on carrying it himself.” I let an eyebrow jut upward. “I don’t see you carrying anything, Doctor.”

Sawyer’s head tilts for a moment. “Sure I am. I’m taking you.” He ducks low and plants his shoulder into my stomach while wrapping his arm around the back of my knees. I’m squealing and giggling but trying not to kick him as he has me slung over his shoulder like a sack of laundry.