Five minutes until their arrival. The camera crews, the executive producers, the prop masters.
Five minutes until her world changed. Goodbye to the solitude of the Cease and Sekkle Inn, to the relative obscurity of her restaurant Dolce, to her peaceful little resort island off the coast of Grenada. Diana Radford could deal with change. She just didn't know if she could deal with fame, even if only for fifteen minutes.
Too late for second thoughts. Any moment they would speed in on motorboats, silhouetted against the fiery glow of a Grenadian sunset as they unpacked their equipment.
Focus, Diana. You've got a first impression to make.
She smiled. Now there was an idea she could wrap her thoughts around. She had planned a feast that would knock the socks off of any off-islander. The resort's regulars might have come to expect her dazzling creations, but the impending visitors would not.
Tonight's feast was all about casual elegance. The kitchen staff already ran at full speed to keep up with the demands of Dolce's regular guests, but Diana had retreated to her private kitchen to prepare the welcome meal. Since she flew solo in the kitchen tonight, Diana had made sure to select a menu that would allow for early prep work, refrigeration, and fast cooking time.
Dolce would offer shrimp and mango pizza bites for the appetizer, as well as tostones with pineapple salsa. The entrée would be simple, but jaw-dropping delicious, jerked chicken in brown-sugar peanut rub laid over a bed of angel hair pasta. For dessert, the piece de resistance ... island spice cheesecake.
The oven-ready pizzas waited in the refrigerator along with the marinated chicken breasts and the cheesecake. For the moment, she diced ingredients for the pineapple salsa. A few minutes from now, Diana would pop the pizzas into one of Dolce's industrial ovens, load up the broiler with the chicken, and boil the pasta to al dente perfection. These thoughts calmed her racing mind for a moment, taking her focus away from the impending doom.
Some group of friends she had. All of her gal pals had visited her on the island for a post-divorce check-up a few months back, and as usual, Diana had done all of the cooking. Her repayment? Robin, Freesia, and Raleigh had all conspired against her. They had brought along an innocent video camera, presumably to capture their vacation moments for posterity. Three months later, it turned into a tool of evil, used against Diana to submit her kitchen antics to the producers of Fighting Chance, the reality cooking show.
Ever since she'd been selected as the next contestant, Diana had done her homework, religiously watching repeat episodes to get an idea of what she would face. Each season, a new opponent squared off against Chance Kohler, a celebrity chef of epic proportions. Owner of several five-star restaurants and author of a dozen wildly popular cookbooks, Kohler had easily knocked off every contestant. Perhaps "knocked up" more aptly suited the situation.
Diana threw back her head and laughed.
Okay, okay. That rumor was disproved.
Still the nasty scandal gave one pause. A supposedly wholesome host who just can't keep his hands off the guests, a sexy female opponent and her subsequent paternity suit all added up to bad news for a man whose chief demographic was grandmothers and housewives.
"What are you cackling about in here, Lady Di?" Trinique Sebastien stood in the doorway of Dolce's kitchen, a hand on her hip and a smirk on her face. "It's too early for these television people to have driven you mad."
Diana threw a smile over her shoulder to the woman. "No, not yet. I was just thinking about my adversary. I wonder if he'll be shocked to have a female contestant who isn't dumbstruck by his charming ways."
Trinique chuckled. She took a seat on the stool next to the large stainless steel kitchen island as Diana went back to dicing pineapples. Thank God for Trinique. It had been nerve-wracking enough to take over the restaurant, but she wouldn't have been able to handle running Cease and Sekkle Inn all by herself.
Trinique was the epitome of strength and efficiency. She did her job with seemingly effortless competence and wouldn't stand for a thing out of place. The inn sparkled as a result of her efforts and Diana couldn't express how deeply she appreciated the woman's talents, friendship and counseling. An American with little knowledge of Caribbean culture or restaurant management needed a sounding board and Trinique filled the role perfectly.
Her employees loved her for the maternal care she showed them and she loved them in return for their loyalty and hard work. Trinique had managed the place ever since before Will Simmons took over the island's ownership. During the divorce settlement proceedings, Will at least had the decency to request Trinique stay on as innkeeper of Cease and Sekkle. Diana had been more than happy to oblige.
The thought of her ex-husband made her dice faster and more accurately. Something about him crawled under her skin and refused to leave. Something beyond the fact he had cheated on her...
Or the poor and infrequent sex...
Or that he had never loved her...
To be honest, Diana couldn't be too upset about that. She'd never loved him either.