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Luke did not enjoy the burning sensation in his chest as he watched Lexi and James make a love connection, although he knew it was the best course of action for her. Lexi deserved a man who could stick around longer than an extended weekend. Someone to adore her and nurture her unique gifts.

Luke also knew Lexi would not have become the unspoiled beauty she was today if her parents had allowed her to date sooner. By now, she would have her pick of men, quite possibly snubbing Luke's interest for a more practical choice. This thought provoked the burn.

Luke excused himself when Nora reached the end of her rant on the trials of constructing lyrics without sounding pretentious, a subject she took more seriously than he did. But, truth be told, his focus had not been on Nora's sermon. He needed a drink, and he detoured past Lexi and her new admirer as he made for the bar. Lexi offered him a wave and a half shrug, which looked a lot like an apology. Did she feel guilty for enjoying the company of another man? Luke cursed himself for his impatience. Then he cursed himself for cursing himself. Damn. Where was his head tonight?

"Gin and tonic, two limes, no ice," he told the bartender.

Leah, according to her name tag, was a lovely young woman in a blouse that left almost nothing to the imagination. No doubt, her intent was to enhance gratuities, or attract a man to an alcove. He had spied several around the estate. When she handed Luke his drink, he considered making conversation with her to give Lexi and James more time, but Lexi walked up just as he slipped a bill into the tip jar.

"Thanks for being so patient, Luke. Are you ready for that tour?"

Lexi's intoxicating fragrance and enchanting smile had Luke blinking over his glass, and he drank deeply, giving his body the blast of alcohol it was craving. "Only if you are. Don't cut your conversation short on my account."

"Oh, James and I are done. He's attending the university that I'm applying to, so we ended up having more in common than I thought. Let's go see what Chef Pastille is up to."

Lexi threaded her arm through Luke's elbow and guided him toward the kitchen, filling him in on Chef Pastille's illustrious career in France before he'd accepted the position with the Maxwells. Luke tried hard to focus on Lexi's enthusiastic retelling of a Frenchman with a passion for foraging, but her touch had his pulse racing. How much would her resolve be tested when she learned his true identity? Would it destroy her feelings for him? Would she tell him to go to hell and stay there?

When they arrived at the kitchen door, Chef Pastille was hovering over a cookbook, commanding his staff of white-aprons as they hustled around him. "Are the potatoes fresh? We need two dozen for the hash browns."

"Oui, Chef," came a reply from the depths of a walk-in pantry.

Chef Pastille glanced up when he noticed newcomers in his kitchen, and a broad smile replaced the serious creases he wore for his staff. "Ah, Mademoiselle Lexi. Avez-vous apprécié le repas?"

"Oui, beaucoup, Chef. The meal was excellent, as usual. I would like to introduce you to my new friend, Luke Carrington."

Luke greeted the man with a polite nod, trying not to stare at the blotch of flour on the chef's cheek. "I want to offer my compliments on a superb meal. Trés délicieux."

"Merci. Do not hesitate to compliment my fine apprentices. One man cannot accomplish such greatness alone." He waved his arm toward the bodies flying around the kitchen then barked again. "Tomas, what of the eggs? Can we make six quiches?"

A man with his head stuffed inside a refrigerator called back, "Oui, Chef."

"I can see you're busy with tomorrow's preparations," Lexi said. "We will leave you to it." She leaned into the chef's face and kissed both cheeks. Then she wiped the smudge of flour off with her thumb.

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