Bakin’ Up A Storm
Available as an ebook:
Shane Conner learned a few things when he was locked up; He never wanted to go back to jail, loyalty is everything, and he liked baking and decorating cakes.
Now that he’s out and running his own high-end shop, Construct Cakery, the shots he calls are legal, the work he does with his hands is honest, and he’s focused on becoming the best wedding cake designer in the country.
But then he meets a green-eyed pastry chef named Bethany, and suddenly nothing seems quite as important as making her his.
Bethany Carter’s comfortable world was rocked by a chance sighting of dark tattoos on muscled arms moving through the bakery she worked in. Now, almost two years later, her obsessive fascination with the ex-con turned self-taught baker and owner of the hottest cake shop in the state hasn’t diminished.
So, with questions and feelings she needed answers to, she did what any level-headed, professional woman would do; Quit her job, packed up her life, and showed up at Shane’s place in Savannah asking for a spot in his exclusive kitchen.
What follows is the stuff of fantasy… Instant lust. Instant love. Instant gratification. And everything blueberry lemon…
Read An Excerpt
Shane Conner shed the suit jacket, followed by the tie, and flipped open the top two buttons of his white dress shirt before he was outside the building. Why did ties always feel like they were going to choke him? He hated the fuckers.
His meeting with his parole officer always took place after his meeting with his therapist. He’d wondered in the time he’d been meeting with both of them, if the order was wrong. Perhaps the therapist should come first so his parole officer would know if he needed to revoke Shane’s freedom because maybe he’d snapped and choked the mind doc for asking the same questions over and over again.
Savannah’s Bay Street was light on traffic at this hour. He liked the lazy walk to his cakery before the tourists and businesses really opened for the day. He took his time getting there in order to mentally prepare himself. For him, creativity was one of those things that needed space, that needed to wander around in his mind and body before making an appearance, but once it showed up? Once it whispered inside him? He was on like that, non-stop at a hundred miles a minute. He didn’t know any other way to be. Not now, anyway.
Before jail? Sure. He’d have sworn he didn’t have a creative bone in his body. After jail? He needed it like he needed air to breathe. That’s what boosting cars had been like for him, too. It wasn’t the cars that he’d been interested in, it was always the challenge of them. The more sophisticated, the better. One night, the wrong car picked him and he paid for it in a jail cell.
Now, though, he was no longer just skilled in boosting cars, in getting around security systems, in crime. He was skilled in something better, something that challenged him and drove him and gave him control of his own destiny again. Baking.
Shane crossed the street at a light and took a side road that was barely bigger than an alleyway and came out on the other side and continued making his way toward the unassuming strip mall where his business was located.
He could’ve opened it in a nicer part of town, but he didn’t and he wouldn’t.
He could’ve done it to make it more appealing to his clientele, but he didn’t and he wouldn’t.
He could’ve made it an all-purpose bakery, with wedding cakes making up only a part of his business rather than all of his business, but he didn’t and he wouldn’t.
He had a plan and deviating from it wasn’t of interest to him. It drove him.
But so did the challenges of owning a business and mastering every decorating technique and skill needed to be the best in his field, not only in Savannah, not only in Georgia, or the Southeast. No, he wanted to be the best in the country and judging by the reviews, the backlog of orders, and the money rolling in, he was well on his way.
The doughnut shop, Hole in the Wall, was his favorite place to stop on these mornings and he pushed the door open. The smell of frying dough assaulted his senses and he moaned with pleasure.
Martin and his son, MJ, were the only people Shane cared to talk to most days. They were no nonsense. They didn’t ask stupid questions. They were his kind of people.
“Shane! I was wondering if you were going to stop in.”
“As if I wouldn’t. Anything new I should try?” The glass cases were filled to the brim with every kind of doughnut a man could want.
“Everything new and everything regular. Plus a few more.”
Shane laughed. “I wouldn’t be able to do my work if I followed that advice.”
“But you would be happy.”
“No doubt about it. I’ll take a dozen of the usual and a dozen of whatever you decided to try out.”
“So, I’ve been told. Been told I’m a stupid one, too.”
“We are all stupid sometimes.”
Some more than others, Shane thought. “Has business been good?”
“It has. It is growing more and more every day. MJ has been posting pictures morning, noon, and night on social media, and with tourist season picking up, I’m hoping to have more and more business. The sooner we can pay off this loan, the better.”
“I hear you.” His loan was shared with his business partner and friend, Shelley and the sooner they could pay it off, the happier he’d be.
Business had picked up in the last three or four months for the cakery, too. It was officially wedding season, though, wedding season had really become a year-round thing especially with the weather staying warmer longer.
There were always a few cancellations here and there, but never more than one every couple weeks because people would get cold feet and not go through with weddings. They had one just recently and Shane would be glad for the rare weekend off to sleep in, to run errands, to catch up on some reading.
It was cliché, he supposed, an ex-con reading rather than watching television. It was a habit he’d picked up in jail. He couldn’t stand daytime talk shows and he didn’t have the attention span for movies, though, how he had it for reading was a bit of a mystery, but nothing he ever really gave a lot of thought to.
Martin set two boxes on the counter and rang the order up. Shane lifted a brow at the price. “Are you forgetting something?” he asked.
“That’s two dozen, not one. You forget how to count?”
“Nah. But if you don’t like the new ones, I don’t want to be giving money back. Just easier to leave it off up front.”
Shane pulled the money out of his wallet and set it down. “This is to cover all of them. My people will eat them, or I’ll be having doughnuts for breakfast every day.”
He grabbed the boxes and was out the door as Martin started to argue. Shane knew how hard the man worked and wasn’t interested in taking anything from him. The food business was too hard to make a profit in. Every little bit helped.
The rest of the walk to Construct Cakery passed in relative silence, save for the errant car horn. The scent of coffee roasting wafted through the air as Shane neared the bakery. A small coffee roaster had opened up in one of the old houses that lined the other side of the street from the strip mall Shane rented space in. A lot of those old houses were being turned into small businesses. He’d thought about looking into one of them when his lease was up, but he hadn’t been sure if that’s what he wanted.
And then he saw her, and all other thoughts vanished.
She didn’t look familiar and she wasn’t one of his employees. She didn’t look like one of the brides they currently had a contract with, not that he’d met many of them, and she didn’t look like she was native to the neighborhood.
She had dark hair pulled up in a messy bun on top of her head. Her hips filled out a pair of dark pants in ways that made his mouth water. She had pink earbuds in and was tapping her foot to some beat he wished he could hear.
Who was she and why was she standing outside his shop?
There was only one way to find out.
He jiggled the keys out of his pocket and stepped up on the walkway. She looked up at the same moment. The most brilliant green eyes met his blue ones and he almost forgot how to breathe.
She gave him a small smile and pulled the earbuds from her ears, then fumbled in her pocket for her phone, presumably to turn whatever it was she was listening to, off.
“Can I help you?” he asked, pleased that he was able to form the words.
“Are you Shane Conner?”
“Depends.” He shoved the key in the lock a little more forcefully than he’d intended. “Who’s asking?”
“My name is Bethany Carter.”
Shane pushed the door open, holding it with the force of his body. “You comin’ in?” And if you do, can I come in you?
“Oh, yes. Thank you.”
He let the door close behind them. The bakery was dark on the best of days without the lights on and today was no different. Setting the boxes down on the counter usually manned by Shelley, he reached over for the out of sight switch that turned on the over-the-top chandelier in the lobby.
Bethany gasped and looked up, pure joy etched on her face at the prismatic effect the antique had on the glass and mirrors at the front of the shop. Shane would like to stand and look at her, watch her, trace the curves of her body with his eyes for the rest of the morning, but he had things to do and she wasn’t on his list, more’s the pity.
“So… What can I do for you, Bethany Carter?”
After a second, she lowered her gaze back to his and he was once again struck by the brilliance of her eyes. He steeled himself against them and folded his arms over his chest.
“Right. Um… I’ve been trying to get an appointment with you for a couple of weeks.”
“If you’re here about a cake, you need to wait until we open up.”
“I’m not here about a cake. Well, I am, but not to order one.”
“Are you a former client?”
“Then I’m a little confused. It’s not even eight in the morning and you look as though you’d been waiting for a bit.” She nodded and pink tinged her cheeks. He liked making her blush, no matter how innocent the circumstance. He liked her. He didn’t know her, but he liked her. His gut was always on high alert, especially around women he didn’t know. Shelley was his oldest friend and the one who’d been tasked with answering the phone because otherwise, no one would ever answer it, least of all him. She hadn’t told him anyone had been trying to see him and she always told him when people called looking for work or an interview. Did she know something? Why wouldn’t she mention it?
“I got here a little after seven. It was a pretty morning for a walk.”
“It is.” Even though he didn’t care much for mornings. He preferred nighttime. Afternoons. Mornings were nothing more than a necessity.
“I’m not a former client or a current one. I’m not a bride looking to be a client. I’m a cake decorator and I’m looking for a job.”
“You’re here about a job?” No. No way. He’d never be able to work around her. He’d be all over her every single day. Neither of them would ever get any work done.
“Yes. The girl who answers the phone kept telling me no and hanging up. All I wanted was a chance to meet you, to talk to you.”
“And you don’t like the word no?”
“Well, no. I don’t. A place like yours, that is fully booked with a waiting list could use someone like me.”
Did he think she was shy before? “How do you know that we have a waiting list?”
“A lot of the other bakeries in the area aren’t hiring because they don’t have the volume of work that you do and a couple mentioned that brides are willing to delay their weddings to fit into your calendar.”
“You know a lot about us.”
“You gave an interview to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.”
“I did, but no matter how full our schedule or how long our wait list, I’m not hiring.”
“Even though I said you could use someone like me?”
Shane bit back a smile. There was definitely something about Bethany Carter, something he wanted to know more about, something screaming with excitement inside him. And that fucking confidence she had? Tenacious, bordering on pushy. He hadn’t met many women like her. “Even though.”
She nodded and gave a casual shrug. “Okay. I won’t take more of your time. Have a good day.” Her smile was kind and the look in her eyes was, too, but there was more lurking in the green depths.
“Just like that? You’re giving up?”
“You said you’re not hiring.”
“I’m not, but I think I expected you to put up more of an argument after you called so much and stood outside waiting at dawn.”
“I wanted a chance to meet you, to ask you. I did both. Thank you.”
She took two, three steps toward the door. He wasn’t ready for her to go. “What will you do?”
She stopped and faced him again, those green eyes like a beacon in the dark. “I’ll find a job. I had some savings before I moved and I’ll be okay. I can work in a grocery store bakery if I have to. I—”
“Before you moved?” Surely, she didn’t mean… “Please tell me you didn’t move down here from Atlanta.” When she didn’t respond, Shane shook his head. “You did, didn’t you? Damn.” He had to admit, to himself, that he was… Fuck. What was he? Surprised? Yes. Flattered? Yeah, sure. If he was the kind of guy who could be flattered. “Why would you do that?”
She shrugged, but didn’t stop looking at him. “I’m single. I have no ties anywhere. Savannah’s a charming city. And I’m talented. It was a long shot, I knew that, but I took a chance.” Her hopefulness hardened is cock in a way he couldn’t remember anyone doing in… Well, ever.
“And you didn’t have a back-up plan?”
“Only that I’d get another job somewhere else.”
Shane shook his head and stood from the edge of the table where he’d settled when they began talking. “I see.” He didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t ready for her to walk out just yet, but there wasn’t any reason for her to stay. “It was nice meeting you, Bethany. I’m sorry you didn’t get what you came for.” He nudged the donut boxes on the counter. “Help yourself to a doughnut before you leave. They’re fresh and from a local place down the street. The best you’ll ever have.” He nodded once and walked to the back of the shop before she said another word. He hadn’t realized it would be so hard to walk away and not just because of the erection in his pants, but something about her pretty face and eagerness to work for him tempted him and temptation wasn’t anything he had time for. He couldn’t afford to get distracted from the plan. Another time, sure, he’d have told her whatever she wanted to hear as long as it got her bent over his worktable, but now wasn’t that time.