Turning Up the Heat: Chapter Two

The sun streamed through the window in the morning and the smell of coffee drifted up to my room. Ooooh, coffee. I rolled to the side and stared out the window for a few moments before throwing on a light robe and heading downstairs.


Talia was sitting at the kitchen table with a half-filled French press and some cinnamon rolls with frosting smeared all over the top.


She was wearing an evil smile. “Good morning, blondie.”


I grabbed a mug, plate and fork from the kitchen and sat down across from her. “Are those from Old West?”


“Yup.” She delicately licked what I now knew was a bit of cream-cheese frosting from her pinky finger.


“You’re really turning on the full-court press this weekend, aren’t you?”


“Yup.” She continued munching on the most delicious cinnamon rolls known to humankind.


“Any particular reason you’ve become nagging-sister-Talia?”


She paused mid-cinnamon roll and gave me her serious Talia look. Only she and my grandmother had ever given me that look and it meant that I had to be totally honest with her. Drat. “Tell me the truth: what’s keeping you up there?”


I poured coffee and grabbed a roll. “I love my house; I got it for a steal.”


“And you could sell it for ten times as much as you paid for it and buy an entire freaking ranch down here for cash.”


“I like living in the city.”


“You used to like living in the city. It filled a void after your grandparents died and kept you busy and distracted. But every time I talk to you recently, you say you’re sick of all the pretension and superficial bullshit.”


I mumbled, “Remind me to stop venting to you after a bad meal.”


She just sat quietly, looking at me with a serious expression.


“Christ, Talia, I work there, okay? My job is in Northern California and now is not exactly the time to be taking that for granted, all right?” I was frustrated, and I didn’t want to really face how lonely my life had gotten in the past couple of years.


She spoke softly and seriously. “Move back. The magazine would let you cover the Central Coast; it’s an up and coming area. Work remote. Get out of there. You could travel back north when you need to.”


I took a bite of cinnamon roll and savored the buttery sweetness. “Why is this so important to you all of a sudden? Why this weekend?”


She looked at me, and a slow smile spread across her face. She blushed a little and said in a quiet voice, “I’m pregnant.”


I gasped and a piece of cinnamon roll got caught in my throat.


I coughed as Talia smacked my back.


“Oh my God. Don’t die, Kelsey. You’re gonna be an aunt, don’t die.”


“Talia.” I exclaimed when I could breathe again. I grabbed her in a fierce hug, and we danced around the kitchen table for a little bit. “I’m gonna be an auntie.” I felt tears prick my eyes. “I’m so happy for you guys.” I hugged her tighter.


She squeezed me back. “It’s really early, just a couple of months, so you’re the first to know. Kurt’s gonna be mad that I told you already.”


I gasped and pulled away. “You were drinking last night.”


“I took one sip, and you might not have noticed Kurt finishing my glass. Don’t worry.” She shook my shoulder. “I just didn’t want any questions last night.”


“So this is why you want me to move home?”


She sighed heavily. “Listen to yourself. After five years, you’re still referring to this place as home. You hardly have any real friends up there that aren’t just work acquaintances. You haven’t found anyone that really interests you romantically. Just come home, already.”


I looked at her and raised an eyebrow.


“OK yes. Selfishly I want you to move home before I have this baby. You’re my family and I want you close. Your grandparents are gone. My parents are worthless. Kurt’s family is great, but they’re hundreds of miles away. I just… I want you to come home. We all miss you so much. It’s not the same.” She trailed off as her eyes got a little glassy and sat back down at the table to drink her coffee.


“I’ll think about it.”


Talia looked up in surprise and blinked away tears. “Seriously?”




“I love you.”


“I love you too, but you need to tell me the truth now.”


Talia frowned. “What?”


“This coffee is decaf, isn’t it?”


She burst into laughter, clutching her stomach before squeaking out, “Yes, I’m sorry for lying.”


“I don’t know how I can ever trust you again.”



Around noon, we headed down to the pier for a walk and to get some Splash Cafe clam chowder for lunch. The crush party wasn’t until that evening and even though there would be a ton of food there, I needed a fix of my favorite chowder.


After standing outside in the world’s longest line—the summer crowd had gone, but it was Saturday—we grabbed two servings of Pismo’s finest, creamy clam chowder heavily scented with salt and butter and served in sourdough bread bowls. We headed for some picnic benches that were by the sidewalk and sat.


“You know, they say San Francisco sourdough is the best, but I have yet to go to a bakery that can get it as really sour as San Luis Sourdough.” I munched thoughtfully on the chewy bread and Talia nodded.


She mumbled, “Can’t talk, eating.”


I smiled and decided to concentrate on my lunch.


After we had mostly finished and were just nibbling on the bread bowls I decided to casually mine Talia for any information she had on Oskar Olson.


“So tell me more about this chef that Josh’s going into partnership with. His name’s Oskar Olson, right? Where’s his restaurant?”


She raised an evil eyebrow at me. Shit. She knew me too well.


“Don’t tell me you haven’t googled him, Kelsey Rankin. Why’re you trying to be all secret squirrel about it?”


“What? I mean, I did a search on him, but I’m assuming you’ve met him. It’s not really the same thing, right? I mean, I don’t really know him and he’s getting involved with the winery.”


She stared at me. “Mmhm.”


“I’m just trying to look out for my brother. You know how trusting Josh…” I trailed off. I was talking too much. Shit.


She wiggled her eyebrows. “Seen his picture?”


“Uh, yes, I saw one in an article. Why?”


“For the love of God, Kelsey, you should never play poker.” Her smile grew into a laugh. “And in case you were wondering, that man is even better-looking in person. If I wasn’t married to the love of my life, I would be gobbling that up. He looks tasty.”


“Ok yes, he’s… handsome.”


She raised an eyebrow.


“Really fucking hot,” I mumbled.


“Smoke. Ing. Smoking hot.” She snickered. “I have not actually talked to him. Kurt is the one who connected him and Josh as a favor to a friend in New York. He says Chef Olson seems pretty cool. Hmmmm.” She tried to suppress an evil smile, but it was impossible.




She winked at me. “You should take a bite this weekend.”


“Oh you’re…” I cleared my throat. “That’s so me, right? I’ve never even met the man. He’s a chef. I know the type. He’s probably an asshole.”


Talia shrugged. “Kurt didn’t call him an asshole and you know he’s got zero patience for shit like that.”


“I’m just saying he looked really arrogant in pictures.”


“Pictures? Plural? So you’ve seen more than one?”


I narrowed my eyes and flipped her off. “Culinary assholes are not my type. Besides I just left that whole Austin mess behind. I need some alone time.”


“No you don’t.” She put her her hand around her mouth and turned to the boardwalk. “Kelsey Rankin needs to get laid. This is a community announcement.”


“Oh my god, shut up,” I hissed. “Sam, shut up. People know me here.”


She leaned toward me and whispered, “You said the sex with Austin was nothing special, which means you haven’t gotten properly laid in, like, eight months or longer. I would recommend a delicious serving of Chef Hottie. The man’s gorgeous. You’ll meet him tonight. He might be just what the doctor fucking ordered.”


“Or just what the fucking doctor ordered.”


She snorted. “Do it. I dare you.”


“I’m not having sex on a dare.”


“Trust me, from his pictures, this dare is not going to be a hardship.”


We sat awhile longer and stared at the ocean. The morning mist had cleared off and the sun was out and glittering on the waves. The seagulls squawked and swooped down on anyone throwing bread at them and the breeze whipped our hair around our faces.


Yes, it was peaceful, but I was feeling a bit hot and bothered at this point. “Hey, Talia.”




“I don’t do one-night stands.” I wrinkled my nose. “No judgement or anything, it’s just not me. I get attached.”


“Oh, come on.” She slapped my leg. “I’m joking around. Relax. Just meet the man. He could be great. Maybe it’ll end up being more than a one night stand.”


“Hey, Talia?”


“Yes, Kelsey?”


I narrowed my eyes and watched the seagulls dip and dive. “If I wanna get laid, does that mean I have to hold off making all the Swedish Chef jokes that my brain’s coming up with?”


“He’s Danish.”


“Might be close enough.”