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A Taste of the Forbidden

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«A Taste of the Forbidden» - Кэрол Мортимер

On her boss’s orders… For her entire life, pastry chef Grace Blake has been the pinnacle of politeness. Yet less than a day into her contract with enigmatic Argentinian boss Cesar Navarro all of her good manners – and her good sense! – have flown out of the window. Cesar’s got his sexy little spitfire of a chef right where he wants her – in his penthouse, at his command!He knows his staff should be off-limits, but Grace has tantalised his jaded palate, and Cesar finds himself ordering something new from the menu – a taste of the forbidden…‘It is always a pleasure to read a Carole Mortimer novel with her spunky heroines and macho heroes. Very humorous and always great fun!’ – Victoria, Retired, Belfast
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Grace shifted uncomfortably. ‘I believe you’ve more than proved your point.’

Cesar continued to look down at her for several long, tense seconds as his usual reserve warred with the increasing need he felt to taste the fullness of Grace Blake’s mouth.

She was his employee, damn it—a young woman who had simply accompanied her employer to Buenos Aires for the sole purpose of cooking and serving dinner this evening. A beautiful and desirable young woman, but Cesar’s employee nonetheless.

‘So I have,’ he rasped, his jaw tight, and he pushed away from the wall to step back as the lift came to a halt. The doors opened to allow them to step out into the cool entrance hall of his apartment.

Grace followed him slowly on legs that felt decidedly shaky, sure that she must have been mistaken about that brief flare of hunger she thought she’d seen in Cesar Navarro’s eyes a few seconds ago as he looked down at her mouth with those jet-black eyes; it was more likely to have been displeasure rather than hunger.


After dark with Argentina’s most infamous billionaires!

Cesar Navarro and Raphael Cordoba—

two Argentinians with the wealth, magnetism and

ruthlessness to break many a woman’s heart …

Grace and Beth—

two ordinary British women about to make their

first foray into the sultry heat of Buenos Aires nights …

Read all about Grace and her boss Cesar in:


April 2013

Read Beth and bodyguard Raphael’s story,


May 2013

About the Author

CAROLE MORTIMER was born in England, the youngest of three children. She began writing in 1978, and has now written over one hundred and fifty books for Harlequin Mills & Boon®. Carole has six sons: Matthew, Joshua, Timothy, Michael, David and Peter. She says, ‘I’m happily married to Peter senior; we’re best friends as well as lovers, which is probably the best recipe for a successful relationship. We live in a lovely part of England.’

Recent titles by the same author:


(The Lyonedes Legacy)


(The Lyonedes Legacy)


Did you know these are also available as eBooks? Visit www.millsandboon.co.uk

A Taste of the Forbidden

Carole Mortimer


For my beautiful and loving mum—

I admire you so much—and for my wonderful dad, my own first and forever hero.

I love you both so very much.


‘NOW, YOU’RE SURE you’re going to be okay here on your own?’

‘Grace, will you stop worrying and just get in your car and drive!’ Her sister, Beth, shot her an affectionate but impatient glance. ‘I’m twenty-three years old, not three, and perfectly capable of living on my own. Besides, we need the money …’

Yes, they did, Grace acknowledged, only too well aware that the bills, which had accumulated during the last six months of their mother’s illness—when Grace had had to give up her job as pastry chef in one of London’s leading hotels so that she might stay with their mother constantly, and so allowing Beth to finish her Master’s degree at Oxford University—were still waiting to be paid.

Admittedly Beth had now moved back to the family home, and had a job in London working at a reputable publishing company, but there was no way that her wage alone could support the two of them and pay those accumulated bills.

Which was why Grace was now on her way to the wilds of Hampshire for the trial period of one month, with a view to becoming the permanent cook/housekeeper at the English home of a mega-rich Argentinian businessman. Presumably, as Grace would be based in Hampshire, Cesar Navarro employed other permanent cook/housekeepers in the properties he owned in so many other parts of the world …? Although goodness knew what they were supposed to do with themselves when he wasn’t in residence!

‘I wonder what Cesar Navarro is like in the flesh?’ Beth added speculatively, echoing some of Grace’s own thoughts.

Grace gave a snort as she looked up from checking the contents of her cavernous shoulder bag. ‘I very much doubt I’m going to get the chance to meet the man himself any time soon!’

Her younger sister gave a frown. ‘What do you mean?’

Anyone looking at the two of them, Beth, tall, blonde and dark-eyed, and Grace just a little over five feet tall with long dark hair and blue-green eyes, would probably have no problem realising that the two women weren’t actually biological sisters.

Grace had been adopted when she was only six weeks old, and had remained an only child until she was eight years old, when her adoptive parents had brought five-year-old Beth home and introduced her as her new sister. It had been love at first sight for the two little girls, and thankfully it had been that love and affection that had supported the two of them after their adoptive father died in a car crash four years ago, which had left their mother paralysed and in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. It had been chest complications brought on by that immobility that had finally killed her two months ago.

Grace gave a rueful grimace. ‘According to his London PA, who, as you know, interviewed and employed me—once I had passed the stringent security check, apparently!—I am to make sure breakfast is ready for his man, Raphael, to take up to the dining-room at seven o’clock each morning. Remain out of the main part of the house until after Mr Navarro has left for the day, after which time I’m allowed to clear away and tidy the house—though not his study, apparently, which is totally out of bounds—ready for his return that evening.

‘Evenings will follow the same routine—unless Raphael informs me otherwise, dinner is to be ready for serving promptly at eight o’clock. And finally I have to be out of the house by nine o’clock each evening—after which time it’s no doubt, party, party, party!’

‘Do you really think so?’

‘No.’ Grace grimaced. ‘What I think is that the arrogant Mr Navarro doesn’t want to accidentally catch sight or sound of anyone as lowly as the domestic staff! ’

Beth gave a chuckle. ‘He does sound a little … over the top in regard to his privacy.’

‘With his billions he’s probably used to getting exactly what he wants when he wants it.’ And beggars couldn’t be choosers; despite having excellent references from her last employer, Grace had found it difficult to secure another job as a pastry chef in London this past six weeks of looking, most places put off by the fact that she hadn’t worked for almost eight months. Out of desperation Grace had finally signed on with an agency, and been offered this month’s trial employment—very well-paid trial employment!—at Cesar Navarro’s estate in Hampshire.

‘Mmm.’ Her sister grinned. ‘But you do get your own cottage in the grounds of the estate to live in.

‘Just another way of ensuring Mr Navarro’s privacy, I expect,’ Grace dismissed ruefully.

‘Never mind, sis, I’ll pop down one weekend and keep you company for a couple of days,’ Beth consoled.

‘I have a feeling I’m going to need company by that time!’ She gave a husky laugh as she gave Beth a final hug before leaving. ‘In the meantime, you’ll call me on my mobile if you need me …?’

‘By the sounds of it you might be the one who needs to call me—often!’ Beth gave a rueful shake of her head.

Grace thought over those unusual demands of her future employer as she made the drive down to Hampshire. She had heard of Cesar Navarro, of course—who hadn’t heard of the multibillionaire Argentinian businessman, aged in his early thirties, who not only had homes in most of the capitals of the world, but also seemed to own half the businesses in that world? Well … maybe half the world was a slight exaggeration—a quarter was probably more realistic!

His empire included high-tech businesses, extensive media, airlines, property, hotels, vineyards—the man seemed to have a finger in so many pies Grace wondered how he ever found the time to do anything but work.

Maybe he didn’t?

Having had to wait a couple of days to hear whether or not she was being offered a second interview—while that security check was being carried out, no doubt!—Grace had gone online and looked up information on the elusive Mr Navarro.

Reclusive probably better described him, she had realised after reading the little information there was available on him; aged thirty-three, the eldest of the two children born to his wealthy and now separated American mother and Argentinian father, he had grown up in his father’s country, then gone on to Harvard University before establishing his own business at the age of twenty-three.

A business empire that had now grown to such mega proportions it necessitated Navarro travelling extensively in his private jet or helicopter, and staying exclusively in those private homes he owned all over the world when he did so.

There had been several photographs on the website of when he was younger, revealing him as being a strikingly handsome youth. Even then his face had been all harsh aristocratic angles—piercing dark eyes, high cheekbones, and sculpted lips, with a square jaw and determined chin. But, without exception, every one of those photographs had shown his swarthy face as being grim and unsmiling.

There had been two photographs available of him as an adult, one obviously a posed photograph, and the other taken from a distance as he was stepping from his jet onto a helicopter at some private airfield—and in both he had looked just as strikingly handsome but even grimmer!

He had appeared an inch or two taller than the equally dark-haired man walking beside him across the tarmac, the darkness of his suit emphasising the width of muscled shoulders and a lean body, with overlong and slightly tousled very dark hair—from the wind of the rotor blades of the helicopter?—the harshness of his aristocratically handsome features still dominated by those piercing dark eyes beneath equally dark brows.

Considering his incredible wealth, and those harshly hewn good looks, Grace couldn’t understand why her future boss wasn’t also the biggest playboy on the planet, photographed with a different beautiful woman on his arm every evening—a woman who would share the privacy of his bed later that night—rather than guarding his private life to the point of obsession in the way that he did.

Unless …

Maybe there was a reason Cesar Navarro had never been photographed with a beautiful woman on his arm? The same reason he kept his private life very private? And maybe that dark-haired man stepping onto the helicopter with him wasn’t simply another one of his PAs, as Grace had assumed he must be?

Now wouldn’t that be a crying shame: mega-rich, still single in his early thirties, with arrogant good looks enough to make any woman’s heart flutter—and all for the private edification of another man!

Grace gave a chuckle at her wayward thoughts, only for that chuckle to slowly fade and be replaced by a frown as, having followed Kevin Maddox’s instructions, she now found herself approaching the entrance to the estate where she was to live and work for at least the next month.

Huge wrought-iron gates were set in a surrounding wall that was at least twelve feet high, with two huge men dressed in matching black suits standing either side of them, their hair military-style short, their stances watchful, the expression in their eyes hidden by black reflective sunglasses—and the sun wasn’t even shining on this overcast September day!

One of the men approached Grace’s car as she braked in the driveway and wound down the window.

‘Grace Blake?’

‘Er—yes,’ she answered uncertainly, relieved that she was expected, considering the level of security, but a little concerned as to the reason for that high security; she had been led to believe, in the telephone conversation she’d had with Kevin Maddox yesterday, that his Argentinian employer wasn’t due to arrive in England until some time tomorrow …

The burly security guard gave a terse nod after checking out the back seat behind her. ‘If I could just take a look in the boot of your car …?’

‘The boot of my car …?’

‘If you wouldn’t mind.’ He stood to one side as Grace got out of the car and opened the boot for him. He insisted on checking the contents of her suitcase, too, before stepping aside to speak softly into the small radio attached to the lapel of his jacket, and seconds later the huge iron gates began to slowly open.

‘The first turning to the right will take you to your cottage,’ he instructed Grace abruptly before resuming his post beside the now open gates, his stance once again alert and watchful.

Grace edged the car forward until she was on a level with him. ‘Er—I was told Mr Navarro wasn’t arriving until some time tomorrow?’ It would be just her luck to have arrived after her new employer!

His mouth tightened. ‘No.’

‘Oh.’ She gave a puzzled frown. ‘Is there usually this much security even when he isn’t in residence?’


‘Oh,’ Grace murmured again; she couldn’t see it but she felt the coolness of the assessing gaze now levelled on her from behind those dark sunglasses. ‘Okay. Thanks.’

‘First turning on the right,’ he repeated tersely, once again facing forward.

Grace’s stomach gave a definite dip as she accelerated the car onto the driveway and saw the gates slowly closing behind her in the driving mirror. She felt, if she didn’t see, the security cameras she was sure were now levelled on her as she drove slowly down the tree-lined driveway and turned to the right to approach the cottage Kevin had told her was to be her home for the next month, at least.

And Grace, totally used to doing what she wanted when she wanted, was already starting to have serious doubts that she would be able to live in this security prison for longer than that month’s trial period …

‘I will accept no excuses, Kevin,’ Cesar rasped impatiently as he strode forcefully into the cavernous hallway of his English home the next day, a little tired after having worked for the whole of the flight over from Buenos Aires, and in no mood to deal with any setbacks in the deal he had flown to England especially to complete. ‘If Drey-fuss does not—What are these?’ He came to an abrupt halt beside the table standing in the middle of the hallway.

Kevin winced as he looked at the decorative vase of flowers. ‘Er—lilies?’

Cesar’s jaw tightened. ‘The minute we finish our conversation I want them removed,’ he snapped before continuing on down the hallway to his study.

‘Of course.’ Wisely, the other man didn’t so much as question why as he trailed behind him.

Cesar waited until he was seated behind the huge mahogany desk in his study before pinning the younger man with the darkness of his gaze. ‘I am sure I have made it more than clear that there are never to be flowers inside the house?’

Kevin grimaced. ‘I apologise. I must have omitted to mention that to Miss Blake …’

Cesar arched a dark brow. ‘The new housekeeper?’

‘Mrs Davis retired—’

‘I am well aware of that. I believe I gave her a cheque on her retirement.’ The firmness of his mouth quirked derisively.

‘Yes, you did,’ Kevin confirmed, having been responsible for the delivery of that cheque. ‘I obviously sent Miss Blake’s file to Raphael for his approval.’


’ Cesar nodded tersely. ‘You have a copy of that file with you now?’

‘Of course.’ Kevin opened his briefcase and removed the appropriate file before handing it to him. ‘She’s a little young but her references were excellent, and as I said, the security check on her panned out.’

Cesar opened the file, his brows rising as he immediately saw Grace Blake’s date of birth placing her as being only twenty-six years old. ‘A little young …?’ He eyed Kevin speculatively.

Kevin looked uncomfortable. ‘Her references were excellent.’

‘So you said …’ Cesar sat back in his chair and regarded the younger man with narrowed eyes. ‘Is she also beautiful?’

Kevin flushed. ‘If you think for one moment I would let the way she looks influence me—’

‘So she is beautiful,’ Cesar drawled mockingly. ‘She also does not appear to have been employed for the past eight months …?’ he added after another glance at the file.

‘No. Well. Her mother was very ill, and so she gave up her job to nurse her—’

‘I do not believe I asked for details of her private life, Kevin.’ A nerve pulsed in the tightness of his jaw.

‘I was merely trying to explain—No, of course you didn’t.’ The other man nodded as Cesar simply continued to look up at him. ‘I’ll talk to her about the flowers as soon as we’ve finished here.’

‘See that you do.’ Cesar’s jaw was still tight as he closed the file on Miss Blake with a firm snap before putting it to one side to be read more thoroughly later.

Raphael was still outside bringing himself up to date in regards to the security here, but Cesar had no doubts that when the other man returned he would very quickly ensure that the young and beautiful Miss Blake knew exactly what Cesar would and would not accept from his employees.

Grace was putting the finishing touches to the dessert she was preparing for Cesar Navarro’s dinner when Kevin Maddox strolled into the kitchen. ‘How nice to see you again, Kevin,’ she greeted him warmly.

She had heard the helicopter arrive about fifteen minutes ago, and had hoped that Kevin would have accompanied Mr Navarro. He was someone she considered as being relatively normal, after the past two days of feeling as if her every move were being watched, either from behind those reflective black sunglasses worn by the numerous security guards that constantly seemed to be on duty, or the cameras she had discovered both in the house and the grounds, and no doubt watched over intently by even more security guards in that room full of monitors she had discovered in the basement of the house when she went exploring earlier today!

The cottage she had been given to stay in was more than adequate, luxurious in fact, but the inside of the main house was breathtaking, with its elegant antique furniture and statuary, ornate ceilings and gleaming glass chandeliers, beautiful paintings—all originals, no doubt!—adorning the pale silk-covered walls.

As for the kitchen …!

If she ignored the two security cameras placed strategically in two corners of the room, and the fact that she had to key in a code to get in and out of the back door, then it was possible to appreciate that the mellow oak units gave the room an old-fashioned appeal, at the same time as it was a chef’s delight, with every conceivable appliance necessary to produce the sumptuous cordon bleu meals she was expected to cook for its owner.

But getting in and out of the estate was every bit as much of a nightmare as Grace had thought it might be. As she had learnt when she went to shop for food in the nearest town this morning. Security out, security in, with all of the shopping bags being checked before the same guard from yesterday—Rodney, he had deigned to tell her was his name when she made a point of asking—would allow her and her car back inside the grounds.

Either Navarro was completely paranoid, or he had some really serious enemies. Neither of which possibility particularly appealed to Grace.

Kevin Maddox’s homely good looks, short blond hair and deep blue eyes were like a breath of fresh air after only twenty-four hours of living in this goldfish bowl!

‘Something smells good.’ He nodded approvingly.

Grace nodded back, wearing her usual ‘uniform’ for working in: a crisp white blouse and pencil knee-length black skirt, with her long dark hair brushed back and secured in a ponytail so that it was out of the way as she prepared the food. ‘Carrot soup, followed by grilled sea bass, minted new potatoes, with sautéed Mediterranean vegetables. And for dessert—’

‘Ah.’ Kevin gave a grimace as he looked down at the rich chocolate mousse Grace had been decorating with dark and white chocolate swirls when he entered the kitchen.

Her expression turned to dismay as she saw Kevin’s expression. ‘Mr Navarro doesn’t like chocolate?’

‘Mr Navarro doesn’t eat dessert.’

Her eyes widened. ‘What, none at all?’


‘But I specialised as a pastry chef!’

‘I realise that.’ Kevin shrugged. ‘But you also did a cordon bleu cookery course in Paris before you specialised.’

‘That isn’t—’ Grace broke off her impatient protest as she realised it was pointless; for the moment she needed this job, and if Cesar Navarro didn’t eat dessert then he didn’t eat dessert. ‘Is there anything else Mr Navarro doesn’t like to eat?’ She picked up the glass dish of chocolate mousse and placed it in the refrigerator.

‘I didn’t say he doesn’t like dessert, only that he doesn’t eat it,’ Kevin drawled ruefully.

‘No doubt he’s afraid of middle-aged spread—Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.’ Grace sighed.

‘No, you shouldn’t,’ Kevin agreed evenly. ‘But while we’re on the subject, he doesn’t like the flowers in the entrance hall, either. Although, again, that’s my mistake.’ He grimaced. ‘Mrs Davis was here long before I started working for Mr Navarro, and so knew of all his personal quir—preferences. I should have told you about them at our second interview,’ he corrected his lapse briskly.

Grace frowned at Kevin Maddox. ‘He doesn’t like the lilies?’


‘Then what flowers does he like in the house?’

‘He doesn’t.’

She blinked. ‘Does he have an allergy? Hay fever, something like that?’ She knew how awful that could be—depending on the pollen count, her sister, Beth, could suffer dreadfully with hay fever during late spring and early summer, and then again in the autumn at harvest time.

‘Not that I’m aware, no.’

Grace gave a frustrated shake of her head. ‘Then what’s not to like about having flowers in the house?’ The long-stemmed pink lilies were absolutely beautiful, and they had smelt divine when she was arranging them in the vase earlier today.

Kevin shrugged broad shoulders. ‘Experience has shown me that it’s best never to question Mr Navarro’s instructions.’

‘When he says jump people just ask how high, hmm?’ Grace guessed shrewdly.

Kevin gave a wry chuckle. ‘That pretty much sums it up, yes.’

‘And on this occasion he wants me to remove the flowers from the entrance hall?’


‘Okay.’ She shrugged.

Kevin gave a sigh of relief. ‘Apart from these few minor hiccups, how are you settling in?’

She wasn’t. And now that Cesar Navarro had actually arrived, bringing yet more restrictions with him, she wasn’t sure she wanted to, either …

The set of rules she had been given before she arrived, and the level of security once she had got here, were all alien enough, but Grace could actually feel Cesar Navarro’s presence in the house now. A dark and arrogantly brooding presence that seemed to pervade the entire estate. Kevin Maddox certainly wasn’t as relaxed and congenial as he had seemed at their two interviews, or during their telephone conversation yesterday, and no doubt Rodney, and his group of security cronies, were on even higher alert now that their boss was in residence.

How did people live in this way? How did Cesar Navarro live this way? Constantly shielded, in a protective bubble, set apart from the real world? Grace had no idea, but it certainly wasn’t a lifestyle she would ever want for herself. Not that she would ever be rich enough, or important enough, to need to bother!

She gave Kevin a bright, noncommittal smile. ‘The cottage is lovely, and this kitchen is amazing.’ She looked about her appreciatively.

‘That’s good.’ He nodded, obviously pleased with her answer. ‘Raphael will be down shortly to check on Mr Navarro’s dinner.’ He gave a glance at his wristwatch as he straightened. ‘Time I was leaving.’

‘You don’t stay here when Mr Navarro is in residence?’ It was impossible for Grace to keep the disappointment from her tone.

Kevin shrugged. ‘No one ever stays in the main house but Mr Navarro and Raphael.’

Mr Navarro and Raphael?

‘Is Raphael just over six feet tall, with a masculine build, probably aged in his late twenties or early thirties, with dark hair and blue eyes?’ she prompted, describing the man she had seen with Navarro in that photo.

‘That pretty much describes him, yes,’ Kevin confirmed cheerfully. ‘How did you—? Ah, here he is now …’ He turned as the other man entered the kitchen.

Yes, it was indeed that same dark-haired man.

Mr Navarro and Raphael.

Maybe Grace’s previous thoughts on that subject weren’t too far off the mark, after all?

Oh, well, live and let live had always been Grace’s motto; two of her closest female friends in Paris had been a couple. In fact, they still were, the three of them having kept in regular contact since Grace had returned to England four years ago.

Not that Grace had chance to learn anything more about Raphael, or their employer, once Kevin had introduced the two of them and then taken his leave.

Raphael was kept busy going efficiently to and fro between the kitchen and the dining-room during the next hour as he served Cesar Navarro himself, the sternness of his expression not encouraging after the first couple of times Grace had tried to engage him in conversation and received only a grunt in reply.

Consequently, by the time Raphael gathered up the silver tray on which Grace had put the pot of strong black coffee—Navarro’s personal brew, brought with him from Argentina, of course!—she was feeling more than a little exhausted, from all of her work today, as well as the strain of trying to engage the taciturn Raphael in conversation. So much so that she didn’t even demur when Raphael curtly told her she was dismissed for the evening as he left the kitchen with the coffee tray.

Grace felt too weary to leave immediately, instead sinking down onto one of the four stools about the cream marble-topped breakfast bar. If this evening’s tension, along with that restrictive security, was an example of how the next month was going to be, then she didn’t think she was going to make it through the trial period. No matter how good—or welcome—the pay was!


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