-- by Stephanie


Disclaimer:  As always, this is just for fun!   I do not own the characters of Jessica Fletcher or George Sutherland.  Thank you to MCA/Universal and Donald Bain for creating these two wonderful characters.  And like everyone else who is participating in this Writer’s Challenge, my intent is not to infringe on anyone’s copyright, nor is it to make any money.


“Antique” is the sequel to “Merlot,” so I suggest you read that one before proceeding.    



As Jessica ran a dry towel over the countertop, she finally struck up the courage to ask George about a new cookbook that she had discovered in his kitchen earlier in the day.  “Who is ‘The Naked Chef?’”

            The look on George’s face was one of near astonishment.  “You don’t know?” he asked.

            Jessica was already beginning to blush when she shook her head and answered, “No.”

            Not one to pass up a golden opportunity such as this, George stepped closer and in a very intimate gesture, framed her face gently with his hands.  He looked down, smiled, and spoke in a very suggestive tone.  “Would you like to find out?” 

            Jessica sputtered and her face turned beet red.  George could no longer contain himself and burst into laughter.  “I’m sorry, love,” he said as he staggered back a step, “but the look on your face is priceless.”

            Unfortunately, that look was slowly changing from one of shocked surprise to one of impatient irritation.  Despite her slight resistance, he pulled her close and kissed her on the temple.  He slowly released before answering, “’The Naked Chef’ is one of Britain’s most popular chefs.  He’s become quite a celebrity really, like…ah, Wolfgang Puck or Emeril.”

            Jessica relaxed a little.  “Well, he doesn’t cook in the…”  She wrinkled her nose in disapproval as her words trailed off.

            George shook his head and smiled.  “…in the nude?”

            Jessica nodded affirmatively.   

            “No,” he assured her.  “That would be bloody dangerous, don’t you think?”

“I believe the title comes from the simplicity of his cooking.  The idea is to choose the best ingredients and to create an easy, flavorful, sociable meal without a great deal of fuss.  I think you’d enjoy his column in The Times on Sunday.”

            Feeling more comfortable now, Jessica leaned against the counter.  “What’s his real name?”

            “Oliver - Jamie, I believe.  He grew up cooking in his parents’ country pub in Clavering – great food there, I’m told, especially the steak and Guinness pie,” George added.

            Jessica nodded and despite having shrugged off most of her embarrassment, was still feeling a little bit silly.  “You know, someday I’m going to get you back for that,” she warned him playfully.

            George tilted his head to one side and raised his hands in a gesture of absolute innocence.  “What did you think would happen?” 

He placed his hands on her arms and slowly slid them down to take her hands in his and then looked at her adoringly.    

“Here you are, looking as beautiful and irresistible as ever and you dare mention the word ‘naked’ to me.  My response was nothing more than an act of self-defense.”

“Self-defense?” Jessica repeated in disbelief.

“Aye, the best defense is often a good offense.  Unless, of course, you were planning on showing me what you look like in nothing but an apron?  If that was the case, I was clearly in the wrong and I beg your forgiveness.”

            “George,” she scolded in mock reproach even though she would have to admit that she was enjoying his playful mood. 

            Just then, his phone rang.  He removed it from his belt, listened for a few moments and then excused himself to take the call in the den. 

            Work, Jessica thought as she turned out the kitchen lights.  She lifted his sport coat from the back of a dining room chair and carried it to the bedroom, turning off lights as she went.  They had agreed to a game of chess following dinner and Jessica decided that she would set up the board while waiting for him to finish his call.

            But first, she would dig out a sweater.  The kitchen had been warmer than the rest of the apartment and Jessica suddenly felt chilly.  She laid George’s jacket on the bed, found her cardigan and slipped into it.  Much better, she thought as she laid a sturdy wooden hanger on the bed next to George’s jacket.  She inserted the hangar and then ran her hand over the fabric to smooth it out.  As her fingers passed of the pocket, she felt an unexpected bulge. 

He had taken his pipe and cell phone with him to the den and he kept his money clip and identification in the jacket’s interior pocket. 

What could it be? she wondered as she slid her hand into the pocket where she found a small, square, blue velvet box.  Without thinking, she slowly lowered herself down to the bed, lifted back the lid, and then stared silently at the object held within - a spectacular diamond centered between two stunning sapphires. 

Her heart fluttered at first, but soon, panic set in and she snapped the lid closed.  After slowing her breathing, she opened it again and gazed at the stones in their platinum setting.  The ring was obviously an antique – a very well cared for, very expensive antique. 

When George found her sitting there, on the edge of the bed, all of the color had drained from her face.  “Jessica, what’s wrong?” he asked, trying to contain his sudden alarm.  He hadn’t noticed the box in her hands, just that she did not look well.

She looked up at him and then her eyes drifted back to the ring.  His followed.