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Hard No

Hazel Parker

Copyright 2021 by Hazel Parker - All rights reserved.

In no way is it legal to reproduce, duplicate, or transmit any part of this document in either electronic means or in printed format. Recording of this publication is strictly prohibited and any storage of this document is not allowed unless with written permission from the publisher.

All rights reserved.

Respective authors own all copyrights not held by the publisher.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Steph

Chapter 2 - Trent

Chapter 3 - Steph

Chapter 4 - Trent

Chapter 5 - Steph

Chapter 6 - Trent

Chapter 7 - Steph

Chapter 8 - Trent

Chapter 9 - Steph

Chapter 10 - Trent

Chapter 11 - Steph

Chapter 12 - Trent

Chapter 13 - Steph

Chapter 14 - Trent

Chapter 15 - Steph

Chapter 16 - Trent

Chapter 17 - Steph

Chapter 18 - Trent

Chapter 19 - Steph

Chapter 20 - Trent

Chapter 21 - Steph

Chapter 22 - Trent

Chapter 23 - Steph

Chapter 24 - Trent

Chapter 25 - Steph

Chapter 26 - Trent

Chapter 27 - Steph

Chapter 28 - Trent

Chapter 29 - Steph

Chapter 30 - Trent


Chapter 1 - Steph

Every chef has burned food at some point in their careers, but causing a client’s entire kitchen to go up in flames?

It’s funny how sometimes I can’t seem to cross a room without stumbling but put a knife in my hands and I become a virtuoso. I smile at the irony as the blade comes down in a series of rapid motions, almost a blur, so sure I am in what I am doing.

Strange kitchen in a strange house in a strange part of town? These details barely register with me at the moment. I’m in my element. I’m in the zone.

I glance up from the cutting board at the strange kitchen in question. It’s undoubtedly the nicest private kitchen I have ever been in. And how could it have been anything otherwise? I’ve seen my share of money come through the door of each of my three restaurants, but this was my first interaction with an honest-to-god billionaire.

I didn’t know Trent Stone, not personally, not even by word from around the campfire of the Chicago culinary world. My attention began and ended in the kitchen, not the society columns.

Stone had distinguished himself from the first, though, by throwing increasingly dizzying offers of money my way to get me to come to his home and cook a private meal for two. It wasn’t the only such request I had gotten since my third restaurant had received three Michelin stars. My services had been highly sought after even before I had scored that particular touchdown.

This instance was different, though. Most times when I declined an offer because of my workload, the client made an effort at swaying me before grudgingly going with someone else. Not so with Stone. He had pursued me for weeks now with daily phone calls and emails. It didn’t matter how much I insisted I didn’t have time for private functions; he kept calling, each time upping the ante.

It had almost been funny at first, his persistence. It had stopped seeming that way when the monetary offer had made the jump from enticing to ludicrous.

Still, I had declined. Not that I was holding out for more money, no. It was time that I didn’t think could be bought, time away from my restaurants, my own kitchens.

Or so I had thought. Ludicrous eventually morphed yet again and became absurd. It had all built up to one late-night phone call.

He had led by offering me even more for the job. My reservations against it remained the same, and I told him so.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Stone,” I’d said. “I have three businesses to run. Every spare moment I have is spent planning and prepping.”

“Don’t you have an assistant chef at each of them?” he wanted to know.

“I do, but I prefer to be on-site, working alongside my staff.”

“How do you manage to be in three kitchens at once?”

I shrugged, even though this was a phone conversation. “I manage. That’s the restaurant business for you.”

“I understand that you’re going to be renovating one of your establishments,” he had said, as though he had sensed an opening. “I’m prepared to offer you enough to completely cover the renovation expenses. Think about that for a moment.”

I did. I was hardened but not immune to the siren song of money. No negotiating with the bank, no loan to repay, just one glorious, all-encompassing check.

“You can sacrifice one evening for that, can’t you?” he had pressed.

Yes, indeed, I think, as the dried chili peppers fall into perfectly diced slices.

I had been both amused and a little exasperated after I had finally broken down and taken the job, when it came to settling on the menu. It seemed like once Stone had me at his beck and call, he lost a lot of interest in the particulars. When I had questioned him about what exactly he wanted, I invariably got a short and vague, “Surprise me,” “Sky’s the limit,” or, worst of all, “Whatever you think.” That last one was, I was convinced, rich-person code for “I’m not investing any more thought into this; that’s your job.”

I had been pretty frustrated by Stone’s lack of input, and he must have picked up on that, because he tossed even more money onto the sizeable stack that he was already paying me so that I could buy whatever ingredients I chose.

And so, armed with no restrictions and basically a blank check for ingredients, I had decided to pull out all the stops: Kobe beef, almas beluga caviar, and black truffle brie cheese, all served on—god save us all—a gold flake-infused corn tortilla. It’s the kind of dish that you have to make

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