Authors: Tori Carrington
Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance, #Fiction, #Adult, #Sensual, #Pastry Shop, #Secret Craving, #Dating, #Flavor, #Delight, #Affair, #Wild, #Steal, #Heart, #Convince, #Glamourous, #Attractive, #Offer, #Irresistible, #Decadent
He couldn’t have been more surprised. Before he could blink, Reilly had essentially ripped off his clothes, pulled her T-shirt over her head and shimmied out of her decadent jean cutoffs. Then she’d pushed him to the couch and straddled him, her lips full and pouty and her body primed and more than ready.
Now her hazel eyes twinkled, amusement and a hint of a challenge in them. “I’m a woman into extremes. When I do something, I go all the way.” She wore a determined expression. “What’s the matter, Ben? Afraid you can’t handle a woman like me?”
This Reilly was so different from the self-conscious woman he was coming to know that he had to take another look to make sure it was the same person.
And the contrast turned him on to no end.
“Not the case at all, Reilly. I just want to know where the fire is.”
She curved her fingers around his wrist, then tugged his hand down until his fingers rested against the front of her panties. She grinned wickedly. “Right here.”
Sugar ’n spice and everything naughty literally applies to the second heroine in our KISS & TELL miniseries. Not only does Reilly Chudowski own a pastry shop named Sugar ’n Spice, but the treats she offers to Ben Kane are impossible for him to resist!
Only a woman who spent her childhood known as Chubby Chuddy would grow up to own a sweets shop…and be stupid enough to date L.A. restaurateur Benjamin Kane, a man renowned for his good looks and never-ending series of model girlfriends. But oh, how he feeds Reilly’s growing appetites on every level. Only, when push comes to shove, can Ben convince her that there is life for them beyond dessert?
We hope you enjoy Reilly and Ben’s delicious journey to sexily-ever-after! We’d love to hear what you think. Write to us at P.O. Box 12271, Toledo, OH 43612 (we’ll respond with a signed bookplate, newsletter and bookmark), or visit us on the Web at www.BlazeAuthors.com and www.toricarrington.com for fun drawings.
Here’s wishing you love, romance and hot reading!
Lori & Tony Karayianni
aka Tori Carrington
15—YOU SEXY THING!
37—A STRANGER’S TOUCH
56—EVERY MOVE YOU MAKE
65—FIRE AND ICE
73—GOING TOO FAR
837—NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN
924—RED-HOT & RECKLESS
We warmly dedicate this book to our niece Elena:
One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life:
that word is love.
May you and Pantelis have love, always.
Hollywood Confidential—October 13, 2003
“…if you want this reporter’s informed opinion, the crème de la crème of Hollywood eateries are Benardo’s Hideaway and Sugar ’n’ Spice. If the owners of these two delectable hot spots were to combine their talents, we’d all be in for a treat….”
read and reread the piece in the daily paper her best friend, Layla, had left behind, gob-smacked by the unsolicited rave from the popular L.A. reporter. She sat back in the bar-style chair in her favorite corner of Sugar ’n’ Spice and glanced out the floor-to-ceiling windows onto Wilshire Boulevard, taking in the autumn sunrise and the cars cruising by. A deep breath filled her nose with the smell of yeasty sweet rolls baking and coffee brewing and a touch of cinnamon from yesterday’s cookies. Who would have guessed she’d be where she was now? Six months ago, she’d finally used the small amount of money her grandmother had left her and opened the doors to the pastry shop. Now, not only was she operating in the black, she was beginning to make a tidy profit. And with coverage like the
had just given her, things would likely get even better.
Yes, all was definitely right with the world….
Her smile slipped. Okay, maybe there was one little blemish. Her name had been linked with that of the owner of Benardo’s Hideaway, Ben Kane. She didn’t make a habit of buying the Hollywood hot sheets herself, but between her customers and her friends Layla and Mallory leaving the papers behind, she was kept pretty well informed when it came to L.A. social happenings and people of interest. Suffice it to say that dark-haired, sexy Ben Kane had enjoyed being the Hollywood Hunk of the Month for the past two years running. And while the
reporter had likely met
she probably had no idea who Reilly was, even though she’d obviously been in the shop. Because if she had, she’d never have linked Reilly and Ben Kane together in print, or in any other manner. Simply because people didn’t come any more different than her and Ben Kane.
He was the captain of the football team and she was the fat girl in the back of the class.
He was the star and she was the extra with no lines.
He was the president and she was the disposable intern.
She lived in the cramped apartment over her shop and her only mode of transportation was a white ten-year-old minivan with the shop’s logo painted on it. He likely had a sprawling mansion in the Hollywood Hills and drove a Ferrari.
Reilly absently folded the paper, the pad of her thumb catching on the edge.
“Ow.” She shook her hand then stuck her thumb into her mouth. The cowbell above the front door clanged. She turned to find one of her morning steadies squinting against the change in light.
She pulled her thumb from her mouth. “Morning, Johnnie.”
“And an awesome morning it is, too,” Johnnie aka Johnnie Thunder said, just like he did every morning.
Reilly wondered if she was the only one who didn’t operate under an alias in the greater L.A. area. She pushed from the stool, finding it amazing that she had steady customers. She took in Johnnie’s limp, shoulder-length brown hair, his thickset torso bearing a pea-green T-shirt with a white logo of some kind on it peeking from the open flaps of his thriftshop army jacket. Worn jeans and tennis shoes finished off the effect of urban unchic. On a teen it might have been okay. But Johnnie had to be in his thirties.
“Can I interest you in a cream puff this morning?” she asked, scooting behind the counter where her eighteen-year-old niece, Tina, was stocking the display.
“No. I’ll take a sweet roll and a small coffee.”
“In other words, the usual?”
Instead of immediately heading for his spot as he usually did after receiving his tray of items, Johnnie lingered awkwardly at the counter.
Reilly blinked at him as she rearranged the rolls for maximum effect. “Is there something more you wanted, Johnnie?”
Was it possible for a man his age to blush that deeply? Yes, she realized, it was.
“I was just wondering,” he said. “I have tickets for this great music festival this weekend and I was thinking maybe you and me…well, if you wanted to go with me…”
She smiled at him, genuinely flattered at the attention, even if unwanted. “Thanks for thinking of me, Johnnie, but right now Sugar ’n’ Spice is the whole of my professional and personal life. And it probably will be for the foreseeable future.”
“Oh. Okay.” He showed her the thin notebook computer tucked under his arm. “Mind if I hook up, then?”
“Actually, I’d probably tell anyone else who dared to sit there to get lost.” She took in his half grin. “The spot’s all yours.”
He nodded, his stringy hair momentarily hiding his ferretlike features as he headed with his order for the table in the opposite corner that featured an electrical outlet and a cable modem hookup. She’d thought offering the service would attract more people of Johnnie’s type, but so far he was the only one who logged on regularly. She wasn’t all that clear what he did, but she was pretty sure Johnnie Thunder was his Internet name.
Her niece finished up then stacked an empty tray near the door to the kitchen. She shrugged out of her apron. “I’ve got to get to my nine o’clock.”
“What’s on tap this morning? Psych?” Reilly asked.
“Social Sciences.” Tina—short for Constantina, and shorter yet for Constantina Kalopapodopoulos—blew dark brown bangs out of her darker eyes. She usually made it into the shop for an hour or two each day to help out and make deliveries, depending on her class schedule.
“You don’t sound very happy about it.”
Tina slanted a gaze at her. “Trying to juggle a full course load at UCLA while working two part-time jobs isn’t a picnic, Aunt Rei.”
“Well, if your motivation for wanting a degree in psychology was more than just about figuring out your dysfunctional family, maybe it wouldn’t seem so tough.” She rounded the counter again. “Besides, you forget that I’ve been there. The juggling part, I mean.”
“Yeah, but that was at least…forever ago. Things have changed since then.”
“Since four years ago?”
Tina rolled her eyes, looking more like her Greek-American father than her Polish mother—who was Reilly’s sister—with every day that passed. “Whatever.”
Reilly put a couple of cream puffs into a bag as Tina grabbed her backpack and jacket. She held out the bag as the eighteen-year-old passed.
Tina paused, her pretty face looking a little less harried. “Thanks.”
“Is Efi stopping by to help out tonight?”
Efi was Reilly’s secret favorite out of her nieces and nephews. She was Tina’s younger sister and much hated by the older girl. At fifteen-going-on-forty, Efi reminded Reilly of what she’d been like herself growing up. Not a day went by that Efi didn’t beg Reilly to hire her on full-time, though what she really wanted was to be a partner. But the only time Reilly gave in and let her help was when she had a large order to fill. And the catering gig for a charity event that weekend definitely qualified as a large order. More specifically, five thousand tiny éclairs.
“Yeah, she’ll be here.” Tina hurried for the door.
“Give ’em hell, kid!” Reilly called out after her.
While she couldn’t see Tina’s expression, she was pretty sure it involved an eye roll and a grimace.
Reilly shook her head as she picked up the empty baking trays and headed for the kitchen. The telephone on the wall next to the swinging door rang. She freed one of her hands and plucked it up. “Sugar ’n’ Spice.”
nice,” a familiar female voice said. “Have you gotten a load of this morning’s
A documentary producer and one of her three best friends, Mallory Woodruff rarely got excited about anything, so her enthusiasm warmed Reilly even further. “Why, yes, as a matter of fact, Layla brought by a copy earlier.”
“Earlier? What time is it? Oh.”
It was just after eight-thirty. Which made it much too early for Mallory although Reilly had been up since four-thirty getting ready to open her doors at six. When she’d first opened the shop, she’d posted her hours as seven. But that hadn’t stopped at least a dozen or so people from knocking on her glass door with their car keys, their noses practically pressed against the window as they eyed where she was stocking the display cabinet. So she’d moved back the opening time. Which meant she also had to get up an hour earlier. But, hey, one didn’t get mentioned in
by slacking off.
She caught herself smiling in the same goofy way she had been all morning.
“I think you should blow up the mention and post it in your front window,” Mallory was saying.
“Well, frame it,
hang it in your window.”
Reilly looked at the wall behind the counter. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea. She could put it next to where she displayed in a frame the first dollar the shop had made and where her business license hung.
The front door opened, letting in another customer. Reilly looked in his direction. Another man. It was a given that the majority of her customers were female, aside from the men who stopped for coffee before eight. After eight, men were pretty scarce.
The expensive shine of rich leather shoes caught her attention first. Then her gaze moved up crisply ironed tan slacks, a belt that matched the shoes and up over a crisp brown-and-white striped shirt rolled up to reveal wrists peppered with dark hair. Mmm…if the rest of him matched what she’d seen so far…
Ever hopeful, she looked up into the handsomely familiar face that bore a passing resemblance to Tom Cruise.
She nearly dropped the phone.
Reilly swung away so she was facing the wall. Deciding that wasn’t enough, she ducked through the swinging door leading to the kitchen, dropping the empty trays she held as she went.
She cringed at the earsplitting clanging that echoed through the kitchen and, undoubtedly, the rest of the shop.
“What was that?” Mallory asked as Reilly could do little more than stare at the noisy trays lying askew at her feet.
“You’ll never believe who just walked in here.”
“Are you whispering? You’re whispering. So it must mean it’s a star.”
Reilly waved her hand as she restlessly paced one way then the other. “No, he’s not a star.”
“At least we’ve established it’s a he.”
“I mean, he’s not a star in the conventional sense.” She caught her bottom lip briefly between her teeth and peeked out the round door window to find the man in question wearing an amused closed-mouth smile as he considered the goodies displayed behind the counter. He turned his head in her direction and she ducked out of the way again and flattened herself against the wall.
“Well, for God’s sake, Reilly, who is it?”
She cupped her hand over her mouth and the receiver, “None other than Ben Kane himself.”
Mallory’s sigh filled her ear. “Here I was ready to ask you to get Russell Crowe’s cell phone number for me. Ben Kane? He’s just a restaurant owner. And why are you whispering anyway?”
she whispering? She was in the kitchen. In her kitchen, in her shop, and there was certainly no one around to notice her, much less overhear her.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “Maybe it’s the piece.”
“What, mentioning you and Kane in the same sentence?”
That didn’t sound quite right, either. “Yeah.”
“I think you need a nap.”
Reilly dared another peek through the window to find Ben Kane staring pointedly at his watch.
“Oh, God, he’s expecting service.”
Mallory’s throaty laugh filled her ear. “Of course, he is, silly. He’s in a shop that sells stuff. Which means he’s probably interested in buying some of that stuff.” Reilly rolled her own eyes. “Now go sell him some of that stuff so, you know, you can make some more of that green stuff.”
“I am, aren’t I? Oh, and Reilly?”
“Lord forbid I ask, but what?”
“Triple your prices. He can afford it.”
“I can’t do that!”
“You don’t have your prices displayed, right?”
No, she didn’t. She figured her biggest sales point was her baking skills and display case.
“It wouldn’t be right.”
Mallory sighed. “Fine, then. Be a good girl.”
God, how she hated being called that.
“I’ll call you later,” Mall said. “You know, after you’ve served Mr. Hot-Pants Kane and after I get back from scouting that shoot site.”
“Okay.” Reilly told her friend goodbye then turned to hang up the phone. Only the base for the phone was on the other side of the door.
She closed her eyes wondering just how juvenile she looked. Even her fifteen-year-old niece, Efi, would probably shake her head in shame.
watched as the door to what he guessed was the kitchen opened a few inches. But rather than a person appearing, a slender hand snaked out holding a corded telephone receiver, blindly trying to hanging it up on the base.
He rubbed his chin. Odd. If he didn’t know better, he’d think the girl who’d disappeared into the kitchen upon his arrival was trying to avoid him. But that didn’t make any sense, because this was his first time inside the Art Deco-Style shop with its black and white floor tiles and pink and white color scheme.
He glanced at his watch. He hadn’t planned on this errand taking any more than a few minutes. Actually, he hadn’t planned on the errand at all until he’d arrived at the restaurant to find his pastry chef in a tizzy about someone having used his pastry knives to cut meat. He’d tried to calm the high-strung French immigrant, but instead he’d made things worse by referring to him as a cook and the chef had thrown his apron over Ben’s head and up and quit.