Rose Finlay let out a grunt of frustration as she flung open the kitchen door. It crashed against the side of the tall store cupboard, and her two assistants jumped.
‘Uh-oh,’ Cait said. ‘What’s up, Rose?’
‘He’s going to use a catering company,’ she snapped, tugging on her white jacket and pushing her fair hair into the cotton beanie cap.
Cait held up her hands. ‘Whoa, hold on. Rewind, will you? Who’s he?’
‘An American friend of Guy’s.’
Amy, the nineteen-year-old kitchen assistant, widened her eyes. ‘You mean Brad Pitt?’
Cait did a double-take. ‘Huh?’
Despite her annoyance, Rose couldn’t help but laugh at Cait’s astounded expression. ‘He came in here this afternoon, asking where Guy’s office was, and Amy thought he looked like Brad Pitt, but I don’t think he looks anything like him. I suppose he has the same shape of face, but his hair’s much darker, for one thing, and—’
And he was better looking than any man had a right to be. Blue eyes, wide forehead, high cheekbones, strong jawline – and a hint of dimples when he smiled.
Picturing him caused an odd fluttering in her stomach, the same fluttering as when he’d appeared earlier at the kitchen door, and when she saw him again at the meeting in the staffroom. She dismissed it as a normal female reaction to a good-looking man, and went on, ‘Anyhow, his name’s Liam McKenna, and it seems he’s some whiz-kid organiser who’s done events all over the world. He’s here to organise a big celebration in May for Mist Na Mara’s fifth anniversary.’
‘And he’s using a catering company?’ Cait frowned. ‘Why can’t we do the catering?’
Rose lifted the lid of the pan in which the tomato soup was simmering, gave it a stir, and dipped a teaspoon in to check the taste and texture. ‘Obviously he doesn’t think we’re capable of large-scale catering.’
‘Huh!’ Cait’s huff mirrored her own displeasure at the apparent snub. ‘Didn’t you tell him we cater for large numbers almost every weekend?’
Rose thought for a few moments and sighed. ‘I didn’t, because he was talking about hundreds of visitors, not the thirty-odd we cater for when we have art and drama workshops. Besides, I’m not exactly tried and tested, am I? I’ve only been here for three weeks.’
‘But everyone’s raving about your meals, Rose. Joyce Daly said the sauce you served with the sea bass last Sunday was the best she’d ever tasted – and believe me, Joyce doesn’t hand out compliments unless she means them.’
Rose nodded. She’d already learned that the buxom, middle-aged housekeeper was a no-nonsense, say-what-you-think type of woman. ‘Aye, she asked me for the recipe.’
‘You should get her to have a word with this Liam Wotsit fella, and tell him he should be using in-house catering.’
‘McKenna. Liam McKenna.’
‘That’s a very Irish name. Wonder if his ancestors were Irish?’
Rose shrugged. ‘Possibly, but I doubt we’ll have much contact with him.’
Which, if she were being honest with herself, was perhaps as well. She didn’t want to think about this American who provoked the same tingling of nerve endings she used to feel every time she saw Harry Taylor.
She pushed the memory back into the dark recess of her mind. Maybe all men weren’t like Harry, as Marina, her one-time landlady in Dublin, had repeatedly told her, but nothing had changed her determination to stay well clear of them.
‘Forty-five minutes, girls,’ she said, eyeing the clock. ‘Cait, are the pies ready for the oven?’
‘Yes, and I just put the potatoes in.’
‘I’ve nearly finished prepping the veggies,’ Amy added. After tossing another handful of cubed carrots into the pan, she went on, ‘Rose, please may I serve in the dining room tonight?’
Cait laughed. ‘She wants to see her Brad Pitt lookalike again. Come to think of it, so do I.’
Rose forced a smile. She and Cait usually took the heated food carts to the dining room, but tonight she was quite happy to let Amy take her place. She wasn’t sure why Liam McKenna had unsettled her. It could simply be because she was angry at being overlooked as a caterer for the anniversary event, but whatever it was, the less she saw of him, the better.