Hello romance readers!
It’s finally September and the weather is starting to cool down a tad in Atlanta. I’m a Florida girl and while I love the hot sun on me, I’m ready for a few breezy days so I can sit outside with my coffee (or wine) and read. Of course I’ve been in the writing cave working on the fourth book in the Chasing Love series, His Loving Caress. However, I wanted to share an excerpt from the third book in the series, The Sweetest Kiss which will be released on November 1st. I think this is by far my favorite in the series. If you read the first two books (Her Perfect Candidate and Journey to Seduction) then you met Tiffani Chase-Lake. She’s a widow plus a single mom to her eight year-old son, KJ and has finally opened her cupcake shop that was discussed in the second book. Below is a sneak peek of the second half of chapter two. Happy reading!
Luscious, tantalizing, delectable…and that’s just Tiffani Chase-Lake’s cupcakes. The moment Broderick Hollingsworth sets eyes on the sexy baker herself, he’s truly intrigued. For the first time, the wary real estate developer is ready to open up to someone. Then he realizes that his next business deal is going to leave Tiffani and her cozy bakery high and dry…
Just as hardworking single mom Tiffani is falling for Broderick’s easy charm, she learns about the property deal that will destroy her business. Even her most decadent dessert can’t eclipse the bitter taste of betrayal. Tiffani’s livelihood and her independence are on the line. Walking away from their sensual chemistry won’t be easy—but is trusting him a recipe for heartache?
The ringing of Tiffani’s cell phone in her apron pocket disrupted her concentration in icing the tops of the German chocolate cupcakes for an order later on that day. Placing the icing bag on the prep station counter, she hurriedly answered the phone before it went to voice mail.
“Hello, Sweet Treats. This is Tiffani. How may I assist you?” she asked in a fake chipper voice. It was eight o’clock on a Monday morning and she really needed coffee. A pot was brewing and she’d been waiting impatiently for the beep to signify it was ready.
“Good morning, Tiffani. This is Broderick Hollingsworth. How are you?”
The sexy, baritone voice in her ear rippled a warm shiver through her veins. Breath escaped her windpipes and floated out into the kitchen of her bakery. He was the last person she was expecting a call from.
She cleared her throat and hoped when she opened her mouth, her words didn’t sound like gibberish.
“Hi, Mr. Hollingsworth. I’m well. What can I do for you?” she asked calmly even though butterflies swirled in her stomach.
“I wanted to place an order for a few dozen cupcakes. Is this a good time?”
Didn’t Megan say that isn’t his type of thing to do?
“Of course. Just give me a moment to grab my laptop.” And to grab some ice water. No matter what he said, his deep seductive tone was present. She knew it wasn’t on purpose. That was just how he spoke. Nonetheless, a scorching current rushed through every cell of her body every time he uttered a word. She didn’t know how she was going to concentrate on placing his order with his voice so close, as if he were really present in her shop.
“Is it okay if I stop by instead?”
Stop by? Her face flushed with heat at the notion of him striding in wearing a custom-made suit similar to the one he’d worn to the wedding—one that enhanced his manly physique. Her heart hammered rapidly against her chest and her skin crawled with anticipation. She wasn’t sure if she could handle being graced with his overbearing presence in her cozy bakery.Alone.
“Um…sure you can stop by.” She picked up the icing bag once more to finish the last cupcake from that batch. There were two dozen more cooling on an adjacent prep station that needed to be done by noon.
“I’ll be there soon.”
“Okay…” She stopped abruptly as the chime of the doorbell sounded and her pulse raced. “Um…oh you meant really soon.”
“I just rang the bell,” he stated matter-of-factly in a low, deep tone that was becoming nerve-racking in her ear.
“I’ll be out front in a moment.” She pressed the end button on her phone just as the coffeemaker beeped. However, she no longer needed it. The fact that Broderick was there had awakened her and also flustered her more than she cared to admit to herself.
Untying the apron from around her waist, she glanced down at her black velour jogging suit that had flour on the front of the jacket. She wiped it off with her hand but ended up making more of a mess. She took it off and flung it over a bar stool at the prep counter. Then she pushed the kitchen door open and stared straight into the eyes of Broderick, who stood on the other side of the glass door on the sidewalk about a hundred feet away. She’d been correct in her assumption that he would be strikingly dashing in a suit that did nothing to hide his fine, muscular body. The waves of his low cut, jet-black hair and freshly shaven beard gave him a ready-for-the-camera edge.
As Tiffani neared the front door, she noticed her reflection in the glass and panicked. In her haste to let him in from the October morning chill, she’d forgotten she was wearing a hairnet over a messy ponytail. A scrumptious man stood outside her shop and she looked a hot mess. Dang, she could have at least appeared somewhat presentable. Not only that, she wasn’t wearing a bra under her pink tank top.
Taking a deep breath, she unlocked the door and hoped the cool air wouldn’t place her nipples on display.
“Good morning,” he said, passing through as she stood to the side and out of the way of the wind that rushed in along with his enticing scent.
I was right, Tiffani thought as she closed and locked the door. His presence in her little bakery was indeed overpowering and commanding. This man belonged in a boardroom on the top floor of a skyscraper conducting meetings on how to make more millions, not ordering cupcakes from a place probably smaller than his bathroom.
His eyes perused the shop for a moment before settling back on her. “Beautiful. Very beautiful, indeed. Reminds me of you.” He gazed around again, this time nodding his head as if he were an inspector.
Tiffani barely stammered out a meek “thank you” while glancing around as well, as if for the first time. Hot pink walls that displayed blown-up pictures of desserts she’d made and turquoise drapes flanked either side of the glass wall at the front of the shop. On one side of the door was a booth decorated with an array of pastel toss pillows and on the other side, a window seat. A bookshelf on the adjoining wall housed classic children’s books and some of her favorite Harlequin romance novels. On the same wall was a long counter with a glass display that was empty at the moment, but it usually contained cupcakes, pastries and other treats. On the opposite side, eight wrought-iron bistro tables with three chairs each lined the wall. She’d wanted the atmosphere classy and inviting and thanks to Megan it was.
“Did I catch you at a bad time?” he asked, glimpsing at her hairnet.
Geez. He looked at the hairnet. “No. Just baking as usual. You can have a seat, and I’ll grab my laptop.”
She hurried into the kitchen and straight back to her office as her heart raced. Men never made her nervous, so she didn’t know why Broderick’s presence was driving her insane. Who was she kidding? She knew why. He was gorgeous, intriguing and downright sexy. Plus, she’d daydreamed about him so much yesterday that she’d burned a batch of chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookies that KJ had requested for his teacher’s birthday.
Tossing the hairnet on her desk, she removed the hairband and shook her curls loose around her shoulders. Exhaling, she grabbed her laptop and headed out to rejoin Broderick. When she returned, his eyes caught hers and an amused smile crossed his face as she sat in the chair in front of him.
“So how many people are going to be at your party and when is it?” she asked in her most professional tone while opening her laptop to begin filling out the form.
“About twenty to thirty and it’s Thursday at 7:00 in the evening at my home.”
“So you need about three dozen cupcakes or was there another dessert you wanted?”
A cocky grin inched up his right jawline, and he met her eyes in a heated gaze. She gulped as her breath caught in her throat. His hazy, seductive expression admitted he’d heard her words in a completely different way. She froze, waiting for an answer.
He leaned in toward her. “As a matter fact there is something else I want,” he paused as his stare turned serious.
“What?” she asked barely above a whisper. She held her body as still as possible to suppress possible shudders that resulted from the fear of him replying “you” as a response to what he wanted.
“Your sweet potato pie.”
Surely she’d misheard him.
“I read over the list of other desserts you make, and I’d love to taste your sweet potato pie.”
“Oh…sure…of course. How many?” she asked, attempting to keep her voice steady.
“Just one. It’s for me.”
Relieved that he wasn’t referring to her, Tiffani’s heartbeat slowed to a normal pace—or as normal as possible with him sitting there eyeing her like a hungry animal. “Okay, I’ll add that to your order.” She kept her eyes downcast on the computer screen. She could no longer meet his penetrating gaze. However, she had kind of hoped he was going to say “you.” “You want a variety like at the wedding?”
“Yes, that’s fine. I saw on your website that you also deliver for an extra fee.”
“Yes, one of my employees can deliver and set up around six o’clock. Does that time work for you?”
“Um…sure,” he shrugged.
They spent the next few minutes finishing up his order. She suddenly felt disappointed because she figured he’d soon be leaving. Closing her laptop, she folded her hands on the table. He seemed to be a really nice guy, and he wasn’t standoffish at all. Perhaps Megan had been wrong.
“Thank you so much for ordering cupcakes for your get-together.”
“You’re welcome. I like to help out small business owners…especially ones as beautiful as you.”
“Mr. Hollingsworth…” Her face flushed with heat.
“No, call me Broderick. And I meant what I said. You’re a beautiful woman. Can I share something with you?”
“I don’t usually order food and whatnot for my events. My secretary or my housekeeper takes care of such things, but I wanted to see you and your sweet smile again.”
She couldn’t help but smile wide followed by a giggle.
“Yep, that’s the one.”
Oh my goodness. I’m acting like a silly teenager with her first crush.
She cleared her throat. “Thank you. You’re very sweet.”
Broderick snickered. “Sweet? I’ve been called a lot of things, my dear, but sweet isn’t one of them.”
Tiffani managed to stifle a gulp as his piercing stare raked over her bare neck and shoulders and down to the top of her cleavage. Heat rose in her cheeks at his perusal of her, and she felt her nipples hardening and pushing on her shirt. She realized she needed to change the subject and quick, especially when he bit his lower lip before resting his mesmerizing eyes back on her face.
Running her fingers through her hair, they landed on both sides of her shoulders and down her shirt in an attempt to cover her breasts. She caught him raise a wicked eyebrow at her gesture. She sensed he was about to speak but she cut him off.
“So why did you decide on sweet potato pie? Is that something your mother or grandmother makes?”
The seductive expression he’d worn changed into a sullen frown. He looked away from her for a moment, and when he rested his eyes on her again she noticed sadness.
“No, nothing like that. Just wanted to try it since it’s listed as being a seasonal item because of the upcoming holidays,” he stated as upbeat as possible. He stood and swiped his cell phone off of the table. “I have a meeting at my office soon.”
She stood as well, feeling guilty that he’d shut down when she’d asked about his family. Maybe his mother or grandmother or even both had died. Maybe it was recent.
“Before you go, I have something for you.” She rushed back into the kitchen and placed half a dozen pecan apple bear claws she’d made for the next day into a box for him. Tiffani felt awful and wanted to make it up to him somehow. She closed the yellow-and-white striped box that matched the awning on the bakery and headed to the front. He was standing next to the door scrolling through his cell phone with a strained expression.
Handing him the box, she smiled warmly, hoping it would take him out of whatever mood he was now in. The mood she’d caused. “I hope you like bear claws. Freshly made this morning.”
His pleasant demeanor from earlier returned as his face softened. “Thank you,” he said in a sincere tone. “I love sweet things, but you already know that, don’t you?” He winked and reached for the door. “I’ll eat one on the way to work.”
“I’d prefer you drive safely instead.”
“I’m not driving,” he answered, pushing the door open and nodding his head toward a black Bentley and a man dressed in a black suit, who opened the back door as Broderick approached. Glancing over his shoulder, his eyes briefly traveled over her. “Have a great day, beautiful.”
Once Tiffani settled back in the kitchen, she finally exhaled.
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