The bell above the door rang. Coralee rolled her eyes. “What do you want to bet it’s the same group as last time, come back for seconds?”
“I’ll take care of it. Why don’t you get started on the dishes.” Maggie wiped her gloved hands on her apron and glanced at herself in the mirror next to the walk-in freezer. Her long dark hair was pulled back in a baker’s snood. Flour streaked her left cheek. She wiped it with the back of her wrist and then went out front where two men and a woman waited, looking wildly out of place in her cozy country bakery.
The taller of the two men wore a tux and the woman wore a full-length apricot silk Cubana dress. Maggie saw the clothes before she saw the faces. When she glanced up at the man, her heart nearly stopped.
Maggie realized suddenly that her apron had cake batter on it and she wasn’t wearing a speck of makeup. She couldn’t breathe properly because all the air had left the room. There was a fluttering in her chest she hadn’t felt in a long time, coupled with an insane desire to turn around and run back into the kitchen. But that was stupid. What was she—fifteen?
“I’m guessing you folks are here for the wedding,” she said with her best professional sparkle. “May I help you?”
The man frowned at her, which brought his piercing blue gaze off the menu on the wall above her head and directly to her flushed, perspiring face. God, how she hated her reaction to him, hated that while he assessed her coolly, everything inside her heated up like a thermometer plunged into boiling water.
“You have coffee here, right?” the second man asked. He wore an expensive-looking suit with a red power tie and a matching pocket square. His nails were spotless, which wasn’t something you saw all too often in farm country.
“We have coffee, espresso, cappuccino and iced coffees,” she said, wishing suddenly that she had a nice outfit on. And didn’t smell like a doughnut. And knew more people who dressed like this.
“Two coffees,” Power Tie replied. “Both black.” He turned to the blonde woman, who shrugged slightly. “Make that three coffees.”
Just being near the man in the tux made her nerve endings stir and tingle. Nobody that sexy had passed through Cuervo in a long time. She practically had to force herself to remember that good-looking men were bad news. If a man was handsome, you could count on him for two things: to screw you over and to break your heart.
She gave her tingly feelings a violent shove to the side.
It was hard not to feel sorry for the woman he was with. Poor thing. She’d never see it coming.
Maggie inserted a portafilter into her Italian espresso machine. She turned the portafilter to the right and locked it into place. The machine was a thing of beauty, all chrome and knobs and levers. Even with her back turned, she could study the guy in the tux in the machine’s reflective surfaces. Yet the longer she looked, the more annoyed she became with herself. Men were trouble. A lot of trouble. She knew that. So why keep torturing herself?
But there was something stern and mysteriously self-assured about him that drew her in. He struck her as a man used to giving orders and to getting his own way. His hair, sandy blond, was cut short on the sides and slightly longer on top. His face was broad across the jaw and cheekbones, which saved him from being merely pretty.
Maggie didn’t like pretty. She liked men who looked like men—who could wear work boots as well as tuxes.
Mostly, she liked men you could depend on not to cheat on you the minute some woman flashed them a smile.
She pressed the tamper down on top of the coffee grounds and squeezed hard, wishing she could do the same thing to her brain. It had taken her over three years to get her life back together again, and now it was exactly what a life was supposed to be: boring. The formula was simple, really. You worked. You spent time with your family. You knitted ridiculous sweaters for your pug. Rinse, lather and repeat. What you didn’t do was let yourself eyeball other women’s boyfriends.
Rule #1: Never look twice at a good looking man who had a woman of unspecified importance standing next to him.
Rule #2: Never look twice at a good looking man, period.
Maggie finished making the coffee and then turned around with the three coffees wedged inside a cardboard carrying tray. She was aware that his eyes were on her and felt an electric sizzle zinging beneath her skin. But he practically oozed the kind of alpha maleness that set her teeth on edge. And he clearly had money.
Men with good looks and money? You’d have to be certifiable to date someone like that.
“That’s quite a cake,” he said, surprising her.
He had a deep voice, like Sambucca mixed with cream and then set on fire.
Maggie made the mistake of gazing directly into his eyes and felt the hair raise up on her arms. His eyes were glacier blue and surrounded by dark bristly lashes. A woman could lose her religion drowning in those things. “I beg your pardon?”
He nodded toward the kitchen where the cake sat like a parade float. Coralee stood next to it, staring at him.
Maggie didn’t like what was happening to her. His intense gaze felt as though he could see through her somehow, past the bossy efficiency, the big mouth, and her tendency to keep all men at a distance. For a second, the world fell away and it was just the two of them. She felt his lazy, dangerous maleness like she felt her own heartbeat. Then she blinked and the moment was gone.
Title: Sweet Dreams
Author: Stacey Keith
In a little town in the heart of Texas, the same old story can turn into happily ever after . . .
On any given day, Maggie Roby has cake batter on her sleeve, flour where the blush supposedly goes, and sore feet from standing since dawn. For her sister’s wedding day, she’s added a side of heartache. Maggie’s failed marriage taught her that love is a lie and commitment a mistake, and it was an expensive lesson. But with her bakery thriving and her life simplified to work, family, and knitting for her pug, Maggie thinks she’s bought some peace. Until Jake Sutton walks in and she realizes she isn’t safe from desire at all . . .
Jake has model-perfect looks and about a billion dollars to throw around, but Maggie also sees the same never-say-die grit she prizes in herself. The attraction between them is hotter than her oven in July. But when Jake decides to restore the old Art Deco movie theater right around the corner from her bakery, she worries that temptation is a little too close for comfort. And the added ingredient of a man from her past only complicates the mix. This time nothing less than true love will do. If she can learn to listen to her heart, she just may be able to have her cake and eat it too.
Award-winning author Stacey Keith doesn’t own a television, but reads compulsively—and would, in fact, go stark raving bonkers without books, most of which are crammed into every corner of the house. She lives with her jazz musician boyfriend in Civita Castellana, a medieval village in Italy that sits atop a cliff, and she spends her days writing in a nearby abandoned 12th century church. But the two things she is most proud of are her ability to cook pasta alla matriciana without burning down the kitchen, and swearing volubly in Italian with all the appropriate hand gestures.
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