Spotlight & Giveaway - Just Desserts by Mary Calmes
Tales of the Curious Cookbook
It’s called comfort food for a reason.
is known about the cookbook, except that years ago, the mysterious Granny B
collected a set of magical recipes and wrote them down. Over the years, each
book has been modified, corrected, added to, and passed down through the
generations to accumulate its own unique history. The secrets behind these very
special recipes are about to find their way into new hands and new lives, just
when they’re needed the most.
created out of love casts a spell all its own, but Granny B’s recipes add a
little something extra. This curious cookbook holds not only delicious food,
but also the secrets of love, trust, and healing, and it’s about to work its
magic once again.
Book in Tales of The Curious Cookbook Can Be Read As a Standalone
Tales of the Curious Cookbook, Book 5
by Mary Calmes
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date of Publication: April 29, 2015
Number of pages: 87
Word Count: 29k
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Walton has tried hard to create some distance between himself and his past.
He's invested in his new life, his New Orleans art gallery, and in his
friendship with Scott Wren. Things finally seem to be settling down to normal,
and Boone couldn’t be happier.
Scott Wren wants much more than normal with Boone. He wants to raise things to
the next level, but Boone is terrified—and not because of the ghost in Scott’s
apartment or Scott’s relatives. No, Boone's past is about to pay him a visit,
and the only thing that can get between Boone, Scott, and a hinky recipe for
chocolate mousse found in a curious cookbook is the river of pain Boone had to
swim to get to this side of The Big Easy. There’s a secret behind the
ingredients, though—one that might reveal the trust and love that have been
missing from Boone’s life.
Excerpt from Just Desserts:
IT SMELLED like jasmine.
In the whole city of New Orleans, jasmine was the
scent hanging heavy in the air, and no one could tell me any different. When I
first moved to NOLA five years ago, I would walk around sniffing, asking people
what it was, and after answers of crawfish or gumbo, dogwood or honeysuckle,
the river or the rain, it always came back to that one underlying current:
jasmine. It wafted through the Garden District or came in on a faint breeze off
Dumaine, and when I walked the uneven, broken sidewalks in the quarter early in
the morning or very late at night, it’s what I inhaled deep in my lungs. My
friends thought I was nuts, especially my closest one, my best one, the guy I’d
not gone a day without talking to since I met him two years ago. Scott Wren.
When he’d walked into my gallery to give me the flyer
touting that he was moving into the French Quarter and bringing his
semitraditional Spanish cuisine with him, I noted the gray eyes first, then the
thick dirty-blond hair swept up, longer on top, short on the sides and in back,
his graceful artist hands, long legs, and lastly his perfect, tight round ass.
I was planning to lay a line on him when his mouth dropped open as he glanced
around the main room.
It wasn’t my art—I was an interior design guy, not an
artist, but I ran a very successful gallery that had my name, Boone Walton, on
it, and the fact that he was gazing around in awe gave me pause, made me
“Holy crap,” he whispered. “I’ve been to ten or so galleries
today, but this one is amazing. No wonder everyone said to skip it.”
I instantly bristled. “People told you to not come in
He nodded, still taking in everything, not giving me
much attention. “They said you didn’t need anything, that you never had local
food at your openings, that you had a catering company that came in from New
It was all true.
“They said I would be wasting my time.”
And he would have been, had he not noticed the art,
had he not appreciated it and thus opened my eyes to the possibility of what he
had to offer.
“But I figure, we’re both transplants, yeah?” he
asked, turning to regard me. “And you probably just haven’t found someone you
trust. You’ve had no one to believe in who had the same things to lose as well
“Am I right?”
He was, and the wink I got was adorable, so of course
I glowered back. “What?”
“Would it kill you to smile?”
“I promise you can stop scowling. We’re gonna be
There were no guarantees.
“Does the glare thing usually work? Do people normally
They did. Yes.
I could be as enthralling as the next guy, or just
plain old menacing. My height combined with the way my clothes fit, hugging
hard, heavy muscle, made people wary. If they’d been aware of the tattoos under
my clothes, most of my patrons would probably run, but as it was, I could dial
down the scary and turn up the charming to make a sale. And at that moment,
even though I very much wanted to sell Scott Wren on me—because I really wanted
to discover what he tasted like—more than that, I wanted him to go. I could
already tell he could get under my skin and make me care about him. He wasn’t
scared of me, and that could be bad.
“I hate to burst your bubble,” he informed me, “but
I’m not going anywhere. I can already tell you need me.”
“I don’t—” I began, growling. “I have more than enough
friends, thank you.”
“Nobody ever has enough of those.”
I couldn’t dispute him with any real authority. I’d
made, up to this point, one friend in California and one in New Orleans, and
all the rest of them from my childhood were dead or worse.
“So whaddya say? You want to take a chance on me?”
Did I? More importantly, could I? Because if my first
instinct had been to want to sleep with him, could we be just friends?
“I think we
could help each other out. Maybe you’d like to hang some pictures in my
restaurant, and in return, I could cater for you. What do you think?”
It was a gamble. “Is your place nice?”
“Not yet,” he sighed, gazing wistfully around my
gallery. “It’s not really anything yet. I wish it could look like this, though.
God, it’s just gorgeous in here.”
Reluctantly, I was interested, wanted to take a peek
at his space.
His focus returned to me. “This is the beginning of my
dream; you want to take a ride with me?”
He wanted to be partners of a kind, and anything that
included my business, I was serious about. So I had to make a decision right
there on the spot. Were we going to be friends or simply a hot one-night stand?
“Come eat at my place,” he offered, moving close to
me, into my personal space, touching my veined forearm. “Just see what you
I was deciding, and then he took hold of my hand.
“Please. Let me cook for you.”
So I did. I allowed him into my home over the gallery.
And everything I had from the Shrimp Azafrán to the Paella Valenciana to the
roast pork was amazing. I had him cater my next opening, and the tapas and red
wine were a huge hit. My patrons were thrilled; the referrals Scott got made
him delirious, so all in all, we were great together. It removed him
permanently from the conquest column and firmly into the colleague one, but
that was better for me. The men I slept with were a dime a dozen, utterly
forgettable. A collaborator, and then friend, was much harder to come by.
At the moment, my best friend was squinting at me from
across a table at Café du Monde. We never came here; it was too loud, too
crowded, but sometimes he just had to have beignets, and since he’d vowed never
to make them at his own restaurant, we schlepped over to the packed tourist
trap and ordered some.
“You should break down and make these,” I offered
before shoving one in my mouth, using my fingers to cram the doughy morsel in.
He chuckled. “Wow.”
I flashed him a powdered-sugar smile.
I gestured for him to listen.
“No, babe, not
a chance. I am never making beignets. I don’t ever want to be compared to the
“I ha beyah,” I said through the food in my mouth.
“We’ve all had better, and worse,” he agreed,
translating me even with my mouth full. “But frankly, why bother? I need
something else, some kind of fabulous dessert. I need some kind of wow factor
that will make people remember the restaurant.”
I arched one eyebrow.
“You know what I mean. Everyone needs a signature
He’d been trying out lots of different desserts in his
search for what would be that “one thing” people ordered when they visited his
place. So far he’d been unsuccessful.
“They have this coffee down to a science,” he said as
we got up, leaving a ridiculous tip, something we always did. “You gotta
It was café au lait, and yes, it was good, but his
café con leche was better because he swapped out the chicory I wasn’t crazy
about for cinnamon. Before I tried it, I would have thought it would be too
sweet for me, but really, it was soothing, like chamomile before bed. “I like
He snorted out a laugh. “Don’t placate me, I can take
“Oh no, g’head, assume I’m lying to you, that’s
His grin was huge and changed his face so much that a
few people around us did a quick double take. When Scott Wren smiled, he went
from being just another guy you’d pass on the street to a movie star. He stood
shorter than me, five nine to my six two, leaner with long sleek muscles under
golden skin. His eyes glittered a gorgeous shade of silver-flecked gray, his
lips curled wickedly, his dimples popped, his nose scrunched up—and you noticed
not only that he was adorable, but breathtaking as well. All the beauty was
topped off with a husky chuckle that made everyone who ever heard it want to
follow him home.
Normally he was too dog-tired to care. Scott worked
really hard every week, so when he was finally done on that sixth night, I
would get a call to come get him since higher brain function was over and he
needed me to feed and water him, then tuck him into bed.
Tonight was his Friday, even though it was actually
Sunday, just after close. His place, the bungalow—all the signage in lowercase
letters, dark brown on lighter tan—was closed every Monday. So when he walked
out at midnight, two hours after closing, he’d stroll over to my place. It
wasn’t far from his restaurant down on St. Peter to my gallery three doors down
from the corner of Bienville and Royal close to the Hotel Monteleone.
Sometimes, like tonight, he’d call and tell me to meet
him at his place, and I’d always warn him that since the bungalow was closed,
I’d be tempted to stop at The Gumbo Shop on my way to meet him.
“I’ll cook at your place,” he promised. “The shrimp
He left the shrimp intact so I had to pull it apart
and suck the juices out of the head, and served it in an almost-soup I had to
dig into to get at. It was heaven in a bowl.
“Yeah, okay,” I said, salivating.
He chuckled. “Come get me. I need coffee and beignets
to wake up, and I wanna walk through Jackson Square on the way home and check
if that guy is there.”
Always there was a guy.
No one trusted faster, fell harder, or jumped into the
deep end with more abandon than Scott. He wore his heart on his sleeve and he
would give it to anyone. It made me absolutely crazy how easily someone became
“the one”—but even worse was the inevitable pain when he was disappointed. Each
and every time, he was surprised when people either walked out of his life,
disappearing as though they were never there, or screwed him over big time. The
last guy, Jason Daly, had actually emptied Scott’s bank account. Luckily, Scott
had put my name on his business account six months ago so no one could take a
cent, not even him, without my approval unless the funds were being transferred
to a vendor. So while Jason got about two hundred dollars and change, the
nineteen grand—there right after Scott did payroll and paid everyone else on
the first of the month, from his webmaster to the cleaning crew, laundry service,
produce, meat and fish, etc.—was safe. Scott hadn’t wanted to report it to the
police, feeling ten kinds of lame, but I’d pushed and he’d filed a report.
Jason was long gone when the police went by his place, which turned out to be
another friend’s, but at least if he ever showed up again, I could call and
have him arrested after I beat the shit out of him.
“I’m swearing off men,” Scott had promised me.
And yet, here we were, on our way to check out another
guy. I had no idea where he got either the interest or the energy.
Crossing the street from Café du Monde, we walked
along St. Ann, in Jackson Square, toward St. Louis Cathedral.
“So,” I began,
“if your tarot card reader is out tonight, does that mean I’m not getting fed?”
“No,” he said quickly. “I’m going to invite him out
another day. This is the time he’s at work, for crissakes.”
I nodded sagely, brows furrowed.
“Don’t be an ass.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
We passed many tarot card readers along the way, but
he had no interest in them, instead searching for the one he’d made a so-called
connection with. I couldn’t have cared less, instead focused on the warm spring
air, not quite hot yet, only a bit sticky, the slight breeze making the walk
with my friend truly enjoyable.
“God, he almost killed himself.”
“I’m sorry?” I asked after a moment, realizing he was
talking to me.
Scott was grinning crazily. “Did you even notice that
guy who nearly walked into a pillar because he was staring at you?”
He shook his head. “Man, if I looked like you, I’d
I glowered at him.
“You know it’s true. That’s why you run every morning
and why you lift weights and don’t own a car because you walk everywhere. Your
body is important to you.”
“I own a motorcycle,” I corrected. “And I don’t own it
because it’s good for cardio, as clearly it’s not, but because there’s room for
me to park it in the alley on the side of my building. I can’t fit a car in
there no matter how small it is.”
“Don’t get me started on the frickin’ cafe racer
“It’s a Norton Commando 961 Cafe Racer and I saved up
years to get it,” I stated flatly. “And don’t make me out to be some douche bag
who only rides a bike to get laid.”
“I wasn’t,” he said, chuckling. “What I was trying to
insinuate was that you’re a rich douche bag trying to get laid.”
“Oh fuck you.”
“You do own a whole building on the 300 block of Royal
“Which I bought with what little savings my mom had,
and my own,” I reminded him. “I didn’t inherit it or come by it any way that
He had no idea how I’d gotten the money needed to run
away from Japan. After Haru died, I’d taken what was given to me and run.
“Yeah, but not only did you buy it, you had to
renovate it, as well. The cost had to be astronomical.”
It had been. “What’s your point?”
“I don’t remember,” he teased.
“And as you recall, no one else wanted that building
anyway. It was empty for years.”
“Because it’s expensive,” he retorted. “Which brings
me back to my rich comment.”
“Yes and no,” I said, responding to the first part of
his reply but not the last. “Buying it was one thing, but that place was a
mess. It needed to be completely renovated.”
“Plus, it’s haunted,” he told me.
“Every building in New Orleans is haunted.”
“Something you wanna say?”
“Just the fact of the matter is that you had the money
to make a go of your dream.”
I’d needed to get a new one after the old one died
with the guy who had been my whole world. “If you want something bad enough to
work only for it, anything is obtainable.”
“That’s true, I believe that.”
“And I saved a lot of money because I didn’t have to
pay anyone else to fix up my place. I did it all myself.”
“I know,” he said, bumping me with his shoulder. “It
took you three years to get it how you wanted. You did most of the work
yourself. That’s why it’s so gorgeous. Everything you do is stunning. Look at
I had renovated the entire interior of his restaurant
from installing the Spanish colonial revival tiled entryway to hanging the
Turkish mosaic lamps. Both bathrooms were redone in vibrant Mexican tile with
Talavera sinks; I removed an ugly drop ceiling and fake paneling to reveal
vaulted wood-beamed ceilings and exposed brick walls, along with finding
farmhouse-style reclaimed wood dining tables. The wall behind the bar—lit with
soft blue to give off a dreamy glow at night—was now stacked to the ceiling
with liquor bottles, a rolling ladder like in an old library hung to reach
everything. I treated the concrete floor to look like Tuscan slate, which added
to the overall feeling of warmth and a depth to the room.
It was cozy but not stifling—you could breathe in his
restaurant and familiarity settled around you even if it was your first time
through the door. Every review he got said the same thing: it was simply a
place where you wanted to be. People loved being in his restaurant, and eating
there was even better.
“Your place was easy to do,” I yawned.
“Oh? How so?”
I shrugged. “I just made it like you.”
He stepped in front of me so that I had to stop moving
or walk into him.
“What?” I asked, stilling as I frowned slightly.
“How do you mean, you made it like me?”
“Bright, cheerful, warm,” I explained. “Like you.”
His smile was brilliant. “You say the nicest things,
I groaned, stepping around him.
“And for the record, if I had your dimples or your
ridiculous jawline or your gorgeous shoulders, I would get all the pretty
I processed his words. “Ridiculous?” I asked, not sure
if I should take offense.
“Only superheroes have your bone structure, buddy.”
I nodded, patting his shoulder, placating him.
“Oh, there he is,” Scott announced, darting away from
me, intent on the tarot card reader sitting close to the wrought iron fence, in
one of two chairs normally deployed only at soccer games by parents cheering on
eight-year-olds, a small table in front of him. The twenty-four-ounce Pabst
Blue Ribbon can beside his chair was a nice touch.
I had no doubt some of the fortune-tellers were
actually legitimate, and I had great respect for those few who had a gift. But
come on… how gullible did Scott have to be?
As he flopped down into the chair in front of the guy,
I walked down to the corner of St. Ann and Chartres, glancing over at Muriel’s
for a moment.
It made sense to me why Anne Rice put her vampires in
New Orleans; if I was one, the dark streets, deep shadows, and lonely alleyways
were where I would hide out. I meandered, no clear destination in mind, just
walking, stopping at one of the jewelry stores and peering in the window. All
the sparkling things were there to catch my eye, but even though it appeared
expensive, it couldn’t be. If they were real diamonds and rubies, they would be
locked up in a vault for the evening. It occurred to me then that my best
friend should be safe behind closed doors as well. Flirting with some guy he
barely knew was not smart.
Jogging back to the corner, worried for some strange
reason, I made it in time to find Scott standing now, talking to some new guy
while the tarot card reader, still seated, was checking out his ass and giving
the new arrival a thumbs-up behind Scott’s back. It was crass and obnoxious and
right there, it sealed his fate. No one disrespected my boy in front of me.
“Scott!” I barked across the space, using my Tokyo
subway voice, the one that used to carry over the noises from the trains and
the milling crowds.
He jolted and spun around, searching for me.
“I’m hungry now.”
He lifted one finger to get me to wait.
“Fuck that!” I snarled as I charged over to the three
men, brows furrowed, reaching them and grabbing his bicep, my hand closing
around it as I jerked him up against me. “I waited, I did what you wanted, now
He smiled sheepishly at the two men, muttered some
half-assed apology and a promise to catch them later, and then yanked his arm
out of my grip and stalked away.
I pivoted to face the fortune-teller. “You see him
coming again, you walk the other way or I’ll hire some guy to stand behind you
all night, every night, and warn off anyone that comes near your table.”
“Aww man, you don’t hafta—”
“I do,” I assured him darkly. “And I will.”
He put up both hands. “Hey, I’m sorry, all right, I
had no idea the sweet little chef was spoken for.”
My eyes flicked to his friend who took a step back,
shoving his hands down hard into the pockets of his jeans.
“Come on, man, just go already. I promise not to say
another word to him.”
I returned my attention to the fortune-teller.
“Neither one of us,” he said flatly. “I swear. You
don’t hafta tell me twice.”
I waited, like I always did, like I’d been taught,
letting the silence stretch so they both understood beyond a shadow of a doubt
that I was capable of more than they knew. Before I went legitimate and became
first a construction contractor and then a gallery owner, I had moved and
fenced all kinds of merchandise, starting in Tokyo when I was still in my
teens. I wasn’t proud of it, but at the time, right after my mother died when I
was all alone, I’d had two choices, and the other one was moving drugs. I
didn’t want to do that; I’d already lost too many friends to a variety of illegal
substances, so I went the other way. It was no more aboveboard, but as
shatei—little brother—my options were to work or be an enforcer. The
prostitution was just as hard to deal with as the drugs, so I put myself
directly in the line of fire instead of in the shadows behind someone else. I
wasn’t proud of it, but it had been, for me, the least of all evils.
Now, with those days long behind me except for the
tattoos on my body, I no longer needed to carry a gun. The most important part
for the two losers in front of me was that I still walked like I was packing,
and that combined with my height and build gave them the message loud and
“We get it, man, hands off your boy. He’s invisible
from here on out.”
Excellent. “Okay,” I growled, then turned and strode
I caught up with Scott after he passed the Court of
the Two Sisters, and I was glad that even though he was moving really fast,
very obviously pissed, he was walking toward my place and not his.
“Sorry,” I said as I slipped into step beside him and
threw my arm around his shoulders, “but they were assholes.”
“They’re just guys, Boone, and I need to get laid,” he
explained as we crossed Toulouse.
I would take care of that for him whenever he wanted.
“And I know you don’t need it like I do.”
How could one person be so wrong?
“But me—I need it.”
Taking a breath, calming my pounding heart, I
tightened my hold to bring him in closer so I could smell his cologne, the
lavender and burnt wood, and then the spices from his restaurant, nutmeg,
pepper, all swirled together with the musk that was him alone.
“So the next time I meet a guy—”
“He’s gotta be nice,” I insisted, leaning into him and
nuzzling my face into his thick, silky blond hair.
“Fine,” he grumbled, giving up any and all irritation,
content as he always was once we were alone.
I shoved him away gently before I was tempted to veer
off the street and down an alley to take him right there up against the side of
a building. There was no doubt in my mind that we would fit together perfectly;
already his head notched easily under my chin. I was sure his legs would feel
amazing wrapped around my hips. It was really a terrible waste that he didn’t
notice me at all and that I couldn’t make him see me without the worry of
losing him. He was in and out of relationships at the drop of a hat, and by the
time he broke it off with one and I had talked myself into going for it, there
was a new guy to wait out. The end was inevitable, but my timing was crappy.
“I’m sorry I got pissed. I know you’re just being a
good guy and watching out for me. I don’t know what I’d do without you as my
“You’re the only one who’s always on my side.”
With Scott, it was better to keep him as my best
friend than to try and turn him into the dream in my head. A couple of weeks of
having him in my bed wasn’t worth missing him for a lifetime after he bailed.
At least, that was what I told myself.
“Okay,” he sighed, as we fell into step again, side by
side. “Since I apparently can’t pick for crap, you need to find a good guy for
me, all right?”
“I certainly will,” I promised.
About the Author:
Calmes lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband and two children and
loves all the seasons except summer. She graduated from the University of the
Pacific in Stockton, California, with a bachelor's degree in English
literature. Due to the fact that it is English lit and not English grammar, do
not ask her to point out a clause for you, as it will so not happen. She loves
writing, becoming immersed in the process, and falling into the work.