Watching Michael walk away, Jordan blew out another slow breath before focusing on the water and the disappearing speck, aka Key West, behind them. What was she thinking taking on this assignment as if she had a clue what she was doing? If her boss at the newspaper knew her tastes leaned toward takeout and fried bologna, she was pretty sure she'd no longer be the Globe's culinary expert with her own byline.
And she was positive he wouldn’t have agreed to send her on this cruise to judge food prepared with God-only-knew-what ingredients. Unless her seafood was battered and came with fries, she wanted nothing to do with it.
Feeling like a fraud, she tried to convince herself she wouldn’t be a complete ditz, and then decided, so what if she was? Tomorrow, she and her friends would board the Carnation Queen and cruise for seven days around the Caribbean. A week of fun in the sun, island tours, and frozen margaritas.
And everything was gratis. All she had to do was judge one stupid cooking competition. How hard could that be?
She gulped, remembering again how totally unqualified she was for the culinary gig. On her first assignment at the Globe, she'd critiqued a fancy steak restaurant and ended up shoving foie gras into her purse. Unable to make herself take one bite, she’d filled up on sourdough bread and Chocolate Decadence Cake instead.
So how did a tomboy from West Texas who talked sports better than most men end up as a celebrity judge for six up-and-coming chefs on a cruise ship? She couldn’t even cook macaroni and cheese from a box—at least not an edible version.
Asking her to judge fancy food was like soliciting a nun’s advice on the best sexual positions.
A hand touched her shoulder, and she nearly jumped overboard, pulling her from her thoughts. Turning, she came nose to nose with one of the contestants she'd noticed when they’d boarded the Sea Shark in Key West. Even in his playing-on-the-water clothes, Stefano Mancini had been hard to miss, looking more like an Italian playboy than a guy ready to spend all day fishing under the hot Florida sun. She remembered the frowning faces of a few of the other contestants when Stefano had walked aboard the Sea Shark. She wondered what that was about. Jealousy, maybe?
With a smile that could only be interpreted as a come-on, the budding chef slipped both arms around her from behind and grabbed onto the railing, basically imprisoning her.
And she’d thought being seasick was the worst thing that would happen to her today.
Close enough to give her a whiff of his citrusy cologne, he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a reefer. Arching one eyebrow and grinning like a cat that’d cornered a mouse, he showed her the rolled cigarette. After he dropped it back into his pocket, he slid his hand slowly down her arm with a feathery touch. Totally involuntarily, the fine hairs below her elbow stood at attention.
When he latched onto the railing again, he whispered into her ear, causing another flurry of goose bumps. “Let’s you and me go hide out and have a few puffs. I guarantee that will settle your stomach.”
Tilting her head to the left so his warm hot breath would quit causing tingles, she declined. “No, thanks. I’ll take my chances with the Gulf.” She twisted to get out of his clutches, but he was too strong.
Her eyes darted to the front of the boat, searching for Michael, but he was busy chatting with three other contestants and hadn't seen her distress signals.
“Don’t say I didn't try.”
She fell backward as the boat hit another rough spot, sending salty seawater splashing up at her over the railing. Instantly, she knew it was a bad move, and Stefano’s lower body pressing into her backside verified it. Wiggling, she tried to get out of his embrace, which seemed to only add to his enjoyment.
It’s official. I’m a bonafide perv magnet.