Five Alarm Alphas Author – Shelli Stevens

finalalpha-300x450

kobo_buylink

Into the Fire ~ Shelli Stevens: Shannon has always prided herself on holding her own in the male dominated field of firefighting. She likes to be in control. Until she strikes a bargain with a sexy man from her past who makes her give it all up in the bedroom.

I met Shelli very briefly at Authors After Dark in New Orleans a few years ago. It was the first time we’d met, though I’d known about her for several years. She’s cute, funny yet serious, and her stories are very fun. After all, who couldn’t be fun with a book titled Good Girl Gone Plaid? (more…)

New Release and a Two Book Giveaway!

Happy Wednesday and Happy Release Day, y’all! It took quite a while to get Slide Down On Me from submission to published, but it’s finally here and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I had a wonderful time working with a new-to-me editor but who is well known in the industry, Kelli Collins. She taught me so much and I can’t thank her enough.

slidedownonme_msrSmall-town mechanic and tattooed bad boy Travis keeps his profile low, his needs satisfied outside the city limits, and his business running smoothly. He doesn’t cause trouble and he certainly doesn’t want any.

Trouble finds him one scorching afternoon, however, in the form of the equally scorching Arabella Drake. The former heiress owes Travis for car repairs, money she can’t readily pay.

Their situation requires a creative solution, and while most of the town rejects Bella, Travis wants to ravish her. He offers a proposal, one that will soften the repair costs—and satisfy Travis’ longstanding wish to have Bella Drake naked, writhing and sliding down on every inch of him.

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | All Romance eBooks | Ellora’s Cave

Excerpt:

“Twenty-five hundred dollars?” Bella’s lips barely moved over the words. Her throat closed and nausea rolled through her belly. If she said anything more, her breakfast of toast and coffee from several hours earlier were going to be all over the garage floor. They probably wouldn’t even notice, given the stains of oil, gasoline and what she could only hope were other car fluids dotting the concrete.

She supposed it could be the fumes making her lightheaded. She wasn’t used to such strong, bitter smells.

“Close,” he said, looking down at his clipboard. “Twenty-five hundred, sixty-seven dollars…” He looked up again, giving a benign smile. “And thirty-nine cents.”

Bella met his gaze. Travis. He was as gorgeous as ever. His cobalt eyes held no hint of emotion, no matter the sarcasm that dripped from his lips.

Tattoos covered his arms and disappeared under his short-sleeve shirt and drifted up the sides of his neck. Black hair brushed his collar and was so dark that in the right light, one could swear it shown blue. He was tall, broad yet lean-hipped, and she’d wondered for years what his rough mechanic’s hands would feel like on her skin.

She’d had a secret crush on him when she was growing up. She’d see him around town and out on the lake, but they were from two different worlds and though their paths rarely crossed, when he was near, she was always acutely aware of him.

“I…I don’t have access to that kind of money anymore, Travis,” she said quietly. No thanks to my brother. Humility seemed to be her new best friend, but in front of Travis? That was a new level she wasn’t exactly comfortable with.

Heat bloomed in her cheeks, but she was just stubborn enough not to look away. She wanted to get out of here, run as far as she could, but there was nowhere to go, no place for her to hide. And now, thanks to the transmission in her car, no way for her to get anywhere. She squared her shoulders and swallowed past the queasiness.

“That’s as low as I can go, Bella.”

Bella sighed. “That low or going lower or raising the number doesn’t matter. Not even the sixty-seven thirty-nine. At least not until payday.” Her voice didn’t shake and she was proud of that. He was sexier than a man ought to be, but she wouldn’t let that distract her. “Can you hold the car for a little while? At least a couple of days?”

“I take credit cards.”

“Really?” She didn’t roll her eyes, but the sarcasm in her tone couldn’t be mistaken. “Travis…”  This wasn’t the first time she’d come up against this argument. “I don’t use credit cards anymore.”

“And I don’t generally hold cars for anyone other than friends. The lot is pretty small, you see,” he observed, looking over her shoulder out the bay door. “I don’t want legit customers thinking I can’t take care of them because there’s a fancy piece sittin’ out front.”

She ignored his emphasis on the word “piece” and fought the suddenly strong urge to kick him. She turned her head and followed his line of sight.

The front of the garage had a small parking area, but there was also room out back he used. “It’s a Cadillac. People drive them all the time. Please, Travis. Just a couple of days until I get paid on Friday.”

“Please” had become the most-used word in her vocabulary. She’d always used it, along with thank you, excuse me, yes ma’am and no sir among, other courteous terms, but they had all taken on whole new meanings since she was no longer the heiress who lived in a mansion.

Their gazes locked again and he didn’t seem moved by her plea.

“It was all I could do to get it here this morning. It kept dying anytime I got it over forty. I don’t have any way to get it back to the lake or anywhere else to keep it.”

He heaved a sigh. “Until Friday. Not a day later.”

Relief swamped her and she smiled. “Friday. Yes. Th-thank you, Travis. Thank you.” It was a small battle but she’d won. “I have to get back to the flower shop, but I’ll be in touch Friday when I get off work.” She spun on her heel, heart thumping wildly in her chest at the victory. Of course, her mind whirled with the fact that it would take longer than two days to get the money, but one step at a time.

His voice from behind abruptly stopped her forward progress. She was thankful that she didn’t stumble over herself.

“Do you need a ride?”

Lust flooded her, but Bella masked her surface reaction before facing him again. Oh yes, she’d love a ride. A long, hard, naked ride. On him. He hadn’t moved closer but heat flared between them. Maybe he wasn’t as indifferent as he’d have her believe. “N-no. I walked here. I can walk back. I don’t want to owe you any more than I already do.”

Travis shrugged. “Suit yourself. Have a good day then.”

I hope you will enjoy reading more about Travis and Bella… And please, whether or not you like and enjoy it, I would appreciate if you’d leave a review at the e-tailer of your purchase.

Now, as a little bit of a special treat, my friend Sabrina York also has an Ellora’s Cave release today. Dark Duke. What an intriguing and sexy title. I’m currently reading the first book in this series, Dark Fancy.

If you’re new to the series, download Sabrina’s free teaser book at http://sabrinayork.com/home-2/sabrina-yorks-teaser-book/ to read blurbs and excerpts for this popular series. Each book in the series is a stand-alone story.

darkduke_9781419947384_msrNoble Passions, Book Three

Edward Wyeth, the Dark Duke of Moncrieff’s life has been turned on its end. His well-ordered home has been invaded. By destitute relatives. From Scotland. How on earth can he write Lord Hedon’s salacious novels with hellions battling in the garden and starting fires in the library? But with the onslaught has come a delicious diversion. His cousin’s companion, the surprisingly intriguing Kaitlin MacAllister. He is determined to seduce her. Using her desperate need for funds and her talents as an artist, he convinces her to draw naughty pictures for his naughtier books…and he draws her into his decadent web.

But Kaitlin has a secret. She’s fled Scotland—and a very determined betrothed. When Edward’s cousin is kidnapped and held in her stead, Kaitlin is honor-bound to return to her homeland and rescue her—much to Edward’s chagrin.
Because suddenly he can’t bear the thought of Kaitlin marrying another man. He can’t bear the thought of losing her at all.

A Romantica® Regency historical erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave

Buy Links: Amazon | Ellora’s Cave

Excerpt:

Edward skirted the mêlée in the garden and made his way to the far end of the estate, where there was nothing but flowers and trees and a placid little pond. Nothing to attract diminutive fiends bent on mischief. He would sit in the folly until his temperature returned to normal.

Perhaps until spring.

Dear God. He’d had no idea having the Wyeths of Perth take over his house would be such a nightmare. If he had suspected as much, he would have turned them away at the start. They would probably have crawled in under the door. Through the cracks in the flue. Vermin had a way of finding entrance.

But now. Now they were here.

Entrenched.

He had to get rid of them.

Perhaps he could send them back to Scotland.

Scotland would revile him for it, but he had little use for rocky tors, lochs and sheep.

Then he thought of Violet and his heart lurched. It would crush her to be trundled back to what she referred to as “the bleak wilderness.” She was looking forward to a glittering season in London. She was seventeen. She needed a husband. A husband of quality. That might be difficult to find in the wilds of Scotland.

And Ned. Ned was twenty. He was just starting to find his way with the ton. He’d made some friends—decent fellows. He’d even been receiving invitations to game at White’s.

The two of them—the normal two—deserved better than being lumped in with the rest.

He whacked at a rosebud as he passed. It exploded into a flutter of petals. He refused to feel any sympathy.

He couldn’t send them packing.

Then what?

Hell. He was a duke of the realm. He had six houses spread throughout the empire. Why hadn’t he thought to purchase a spare in London?

Aha!

That was brilliant.

He would. He’d buy them their own house. Move them all, lock stock and—well, maybe not the barrels, as the older boys did like to drink. He’d move them all into their own domicile.

With Aunt Hortense. Let her manage them.

His life would once again be orderly. He would be the master of his own abode. Free to pursue the life of a wealthy dilettante.

Perfect.

He rounded the bend with a satisfied smile on his face. The trickle of the fountain in the pond was a balm to his tormented soul. Birds sang in the trees. The sun—well, it almost shone. It was a beautiful day.

Soon, the world would be right again.

Soon, they would all be gone.

He skipped up the steps of the folly with a lightness of heart he hadn’t felt in ages. A book on the bench snagged his attention and his mood dipped, but only a bit. Someone had been here. But they were gone.

He picked it up and flipped through it and stilled.

Good God.

It was a sketch book.

The first page was an attempt at this scene. The flowers and trees, the pond and the little fountain. Not very good. But the second arrested his attention. It was a simple line drawing of Violet. And it was stunning. The artist had managed to depict her beauty, but also captured that glint in her eye, the particular quirk of her lips. Her soul.

The next sketch was one of Ned, showing a brash young man, standing insouciantly with his hands shoved into his pockets, whistling a silent tune. The next was of the twins—whatever their names were—dark heads together plotting some manner of mayhem.

It was so realistic Edward expected them to leap from the page and whack him with a cricket bat.

But it was the last sketch in the book that stole his breath. It was a portrait, in profile. His own face. But not an Edward he would ever recognize. This man was heroic, tragic, a solitary soldier. It was only a few lines drawn in charcoal, but it revealed so much about him. Things he didn’t want anyone to ever know.

It was horrifying. And remarkable.

“Your Grace.”

He snapped the book shut and spun around.

Of course. What’s her name. The girl. The owl. From last night.

“Oh, you found it.” She stepped into the folly and took the book from his hands. He did not know why he let it go.

“You left it here.” An accusation. Really? He hadn’t intended for it to come out like that.

She chuckled. “I had to go rescue Hamish. I was coming back.”

“What…why did you have to rescue Hamish?” This was her work? She saw him like that? And hell, she was a damn fine hand. How he would love to turn such talent to…darker purposes. What a pity she was such a prude. The kind of work he could offer her would make her rich—rich enough to quit serving as Violet’s companion.

But she would never do it. No decent woman would.

He must be crazed, truly crazed, to even think on it.

The gripping sketch of his wounded countenance lingered in his brain. If she could do that, if she could see through to his soul and bring it to life on paper—

“And then he got stuck. In the tree. So I had to rescue him.”

Lord. She’d been talking. He’d missed the entire explanation. No matter. The question had been purely rhetorical.

“How long have you been drawing?”

She winced, clutched the book to her breast. He recalled what fine breasts they were. “I… What?”

“How long have you been drawing? You’re quite good.”

“You looked at my book?” She squawked as though he’d just admitted to peering up her skirts. The lemony face returned. A beetled brow and pursed lips. It was, upon reflection, rather adorable.

“It was lying here.”

“You shouldn’t look at someone’s sketchbook.”

“You shouldn’t leave it where it can be found.” He crossed his arms over his chest and grinned at her. Damn, he loved her accent.

She sputtered. “I told you. Hamish and Tay—”

“Tay?”

“Taylor. Hamish and Taylor were building a fort in a tree—”

“Yes. Yes. I know. You had to rescue him. Tell me, have they always been this much trouble?”

She blew out a breath. “You have no idea.”

They both laughed. It was a nice moment, because it seemed, for that brief flash of time, they were friends, bound in mutual misery.

And then he went and ruined it by letting his lust intrude. “So tell me, what did you think of that book?”

She tipped her head. “What book?”

“The one I gave you last night.”

She blinked several times, as though she had to try very hard to remember. “Oh. That book. I didn’t read it.”

He stepped closer. “Ah. You like to look at the pictures, then?” He knew the sort.

“Look at the… What? No, your Grace—”

“Edward.” He infused his voice with a low thrum.

“Your Grace. I didn’t have a chance to open it.”

Why petulance curled within him, he had no clue. “What do you mean you didn’t have a chance to open it?” She was supposed to have read it. Or at least looked at the pictures. She was supposed to be gazing at him, right now, with a dewy look.

She brushed an invisible speck from her skirt. “There was…a distraction.”

Well hell. “What kind of distraction?”

Her lips pursed. The look she shot him was not dewy in the slightest.

Still, he wanted to kiss her.

He wasn’t sure why. She was certainly not the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. But her face had character and charm—especially when she smiled. Her figure was full—the way he liked them—but she didn’t show it off to its best effect. In fact, if he hadn’t known what lay beneath the thick layers of crinoline and bombazine, he would have been fooled. She was prickly as a hedgehog and smacked him down at every turn.

So why did he want to pull her into his arms and smother her mouth with his?

Perhaps because of all those things.

Then again, perhaps just because.

So he did.

He took the girl—whose name he could not remember, whose face he could not forget—into his arms and kissed her. It was a gentle buss, as kisses went, but extremely sublime. Because he’d surprised her.

Her lips were open, as though poised to speak. He took full advantage, sweeping in his tongue to dab at hers, nibbling and licking and tasting her sweet breath.

The prick at his side was not a surprise. He’d expected it.

He lifted his head and stared down into her eyes. Her expression was dazed and determined and perhaps a little dewy. “Not this time, darling,” he murmured. He took the knife from her hand and tossed it aside and then pulled her more fully against him.

And ah. She was soft. Sweet. Her breasts pressed against his chest. Her hips molded the cradle of his groin. Of course, he was the one doing the molding, but she didn’t fight him.

No. She sighed and tipped her head to the side so he could deepen the kiss. She tasted like ambrosia. A tantalizing flavor of cinnamon and woman and surrender. His ardor rose, and with it, his cock. He rubbed it against her belly.

She stiffened and tried to push away, muttering something into his mouth that sounded like “No.”

He changed his tack, running his lips down her cheek and along the line of her jaw to nestle in the crook of her neck. She shuddered. Some groan-like sound emanated from her throat. She clutched at his hair.

Thusly encouraged, he sucked at the tender skin of her neck. Nipped.

“Oh! Saints preserve us,” she whispered.

“The saints don’t care,” he responded, switching to the other side of her neck. He found a spot that delighted her even more and feasted there. In her distraction, she didn’t stop the palm skimming over her ribs to cup a breast.

He encased her. Ah. Exquisite. Full and round and pliable. He thumbed a nipple, testing its rigidity. She dipped as her knees gave way. He caught her. Swung her up in his arms and carried her to the bench.

From long experience, he knew better than to give a woman a moment to think. So as soon as he had her settled across his lap and firmly braced against the wall of the folly, he kissed her again. With one hand, he stroked her nipples while with the other, he slowly drew up her skirts.

About Sabrina York

Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York is the award winning author of over 20 hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers. Her titles range from sweet & sexy erotic romance to scorching BDSM. Connect with her on twitter @sabrina_york, on Facebook or on Pintrest. Check out Sabrina’s books and read an excerpt on Amazon or wherever e-books are sold. Visit her webpage at www.sabrinayork.com to check out her books, excerpts and contests. Free Teaser Book: http://sabrinayork.com/home-2/sabrina-yorks-teaser-book/ And don’t forget to enter to win the royal tiara!

For one commentor, I’m going to be giving away a copy of Slide Down On Me, and Sabrina’s Dark Duke… Mine is contemporary, her’s is historical, both are scorching hot!

What was the first romance you can remember reading?

 

New Release – The Cupcake Cowboy

CupcakeCowboy200x300IT’S HERE and I’m so excited!

I had a wonderful time when I was in San Antonio earlier this year and though I had the idea for the story long before my visit, being there was more than enough to really get me all kinds of giddy to work more on this series.

There are going to be four books coming out over the next 6-7 months having to do with Lone Star Sweets. Each one will deal with it’s own issues and heros and heroines, but they will also build on one another and the characters will intertwine. I hope you’ll like The Cupcake Cowboy. However, whether you do or not, I would appreciate any reviews you’d like to leave on bookseller sites.

Blurb:

Dear Readers,

My name is Jackson and I am The Cupcake Cowboy. I own and operate a cupcake truck in downtown San Antonio, Texas.

Born and raised on a cattle ranch a few miles outside San Antonio, I can rope, tie, ride, drive, and wrangle with the best of ‘em. It’s what my father does and what his father did before him. It’s what I was supposed to do too, only… I didn’t want it.

One thing you should know up front, is that I’m more stubborn than a mule and when I get something in my head, I don’t let go until I get it done.

You see, when I realized my little sister had a way off the ranch by way of making people happy with our grandma’s sticky buns, well, I figured I could learn a thing or two about food myself. I liked eating and I knew my way around cooking meals so, how hard could baking be?

I soon found out.

I wasn’t cut out for sticky buns. In fact, I was a downright disaster at it. Sam suggested I go to culinary school, see what I might be good at. Turns out it was cakes and cupcakes.

Culinary school is also where I met Cass. She taught a few of my pastry classes and honestly, I wouldn’t have cared what she taught so long as I got to be around her. I was head over heels the second she smiled. Her enthusiasm was a sight to behold and it drew me in like a moth to a flame.

You’ll like her. Cass is a good woman, smart as a whip, knows what she’s talking about, and I didn’t want to listen. Remember? More stubborn than a mule… She deserves a second chance, in more ways than one.

That’s where this book begins. So, take a load off and grab a cool drink. You’re gonna need it.

Jackson

Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance eBooks | Barnes and Noble

I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend.

~lissa

New Release – Love & Tattoos

LissaLogoYellow_reasonably_smallIt’s Halloween. And I’m being a bit of a scrooge, I’m afraid. I have candy, which my daughter made me buy (yes, made. have YOU ever dealt with a teenage girl? if so, you know what i’m talking about…). But, I’m not feeling much in the answer the door, hand out candy, answer the door, hand out candy… Rinse, and repeat.

Told ya, Scrooge.

I do, on the other hand, have something I am willing to share with you. A new release. Some of you know about it. Some of you don’t. Either way, here’s the blurb, the cover, an excerpt, and buy links…

 

Love&Tattoos_wlogo_200x300_300dpiOnce Brax traded in his suit and law degree for part ownership in his best friend’s tattoo parlor, Love and Tattoos, he never looked back. Inked from head to toe, full of business smarts, and an affinity for classical music and hard sex, he’s got life right where he wants it.

Until the woman he can’t stop craving comes home. She’s full of luscious curves, looks a little unsure of herself, and has taken to acting a little odd around him. Brax can’t help but wonder why.

The corporate advertising firm in Philadelphia that Annie buttoned up her carefree personality for has laid her off. Now, back in North Carolina, she’s trying to find her sparks again. Her career is changing direction, her sex life is nearly dead, and the one thing worth having in the midst of it all is supposedly off limits.

Brax’s cockiness and Annie’s own desire to for the tattoo artist, dares her to believe he might know her better than she thinks he does. And when he promises that he can help her find what’s missing in her life, she agrees to his little after-hours game.

The challenge he lays out comes with a few strings, the suggestion of stripping, confessions, and the temptation of ink. But, they’ve never been that close, so how could she possibly lose?

Excerpt:

“You really should’ve let me take you back to my place tonight.” Brax leaned heavily on the refrigerator door in their closet sized break room. Not the walk-in size either. No, this was nothing more than a bi-fold closet with a fridge, a microwave, and a set of free standing cabinets

“Why’s that?”

“There’s nothing to eat in here.”

“Nothing at all?” she asked, peering under his arm.

“Nope.”

Annie backed up and opened the cabinet doors “Nothing in here, either. This is sad. Who’s the designated stock person in the shop?”

“We don’t have one.” He slammed the refrigerator shut and braced his back against it. “Jamie’s is closed too.”

“Wait.” Annie bounced on the balls of her feet and clapped her hands together in rapid succession. “Do we have more water bottles?”

“Yes.” Brax’s tone was wary at best. Annie understood. She did seem a little too excited.

“Grab a couple. Do you know how to pick a lock?”

“Breaking and entering? Okay. Who are you and what have you done with my staid and stand-offish Annie?”

“Yep. Joe’s desk.” Annie fairly skipped into the office. “Joe always keeps a package of cookies in the back of the bottom draw.” She stopped and faced him. “What do you mean staid and stand-offish? I have not been that way with you tonight.”

“Not since you had to get naked. And what do you mean by Joe always keeps cookies in his desk drawer? I’ve never seen them.”

“I know. They’re behind the hanging files. He about killed me the first time I found them.”

“What if he ate them all?”

Annie shook her head. “He never does that. He always makes sure there’s a full package.”

“Okay.” Brax wagged his finger in her face, but pulled it back when she made to bite it. “If we get in trouble for it…”

“I know. I know. I’ll blame it on you.” She barely made it out of swatting range.

She had her shirt and panties back on and he had his pants on and for some reason they hadn’t left. He hadn’t pushed about taking her to his place and she hadn’t invited him to hers. It was fun in the tattoo shop in the middle of the night. It was familiar, but not. It was like being somewhere they shouldn’t be, but not for any reason she could think of.

He knelt on the floor at her feet, with two metal files; one that looked like a pick, and one that looked like it had a flat blade at the end. She wasn’t paying as much attention to the illegal activity of lock picking as she was to the man committing the act. She stared to her heart’s content at his body. “Did Joe do the wings on your shoulders?” she asked, tracing the edges with her fingertips. He was warm to the touch and small freckles dotted his skin.

One wing was white, spread over his right shoulder. The other was black with red tips, spread over his left shoulder. Annie had admired them all night, since he first took his shirt off, she’d just been distracted by other pieces of his ink, other parts of him.

His hands stilled and he lowered his head to let her explore. Ink stood out and he had so much of it. He wasn’t afraid to be who he was. He never had been. His bosses told him to keep his tattoos covered, her bosses never had that chance. She never let her guard down long enough for them to see her. Maybe that had been a good thing. Maybe not.

“They’re beautiful. Who designed them?”

“I did. Joe did the ink.”

Annie opened her palm over the black wing and spread her fingers, the ends just touching the edge of the red tips. Her hand looked small and fragile against the dark shading. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I hadn’t either. Angel’s wings didn’t seem to fit me. I looked through hundreds of drawings and images and photos of other tattoos. When I couldn’t find what I wanted, I drew it. Took me several weeks to get it right. Good, and evil.”

“Which side were you listening to tonight?”

“Both.”

“They were in agreement?”

Brax looked up and captured her gaze. “The good side said go with my heart. The evil side said go with my baser instincts. I did both.”

If she could’ve melted into the floor, she would have. Brax would be her undoing before the sun rose. “Cookies,” she said. “My evil side is saying cookies.”

Brax shook his head. “My evil side is saying forget the cookies and eat the girl.”

“After cookies,” she promised.

“After cookies,” he grudgingly repeated.

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | All Romance eBooks

If you’ve picked it up already, thank you. If you haven’t, I hope you’ll be tempted enough to do so… I would appreciate any reviews you care to leave. 

 

The Cupcake Cowboy will be available in November… There’s a Facebook page that has been created for the series. If you haven’t yet, please give it a Like!

 

And, if you are in the Charlotte, NC area, author Selena Blake and I will be meeting up and would love it if you could join us:

ls_gettogether

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And one more thing… Starting tomorrow, I will be participating in the following blog hop! It’s going to be loads of fun…

hungryhearts badge (STATIC300x250)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~lissa

Temptation Tuesday – The Cupcake Cowboy

LissaLogoYellow_reasonably_smallI’ve been working on this book for a long time. It’s the first in a new series set in San Antonio, Texas, called Lone Star Sweets. I have proofs for the covers for the first two books and will set up a cover reveal for the them when I have the finals. I will also then let you know the release schedule for the books. In the meantime, I thought though I’d give you a little taste…

Cassandra Jamieson checked her watch again. Another ten minutes had passed. Really? She sighed and fanned herself with her hand because she didn’t have anything else with her. It didn’t do her any good. She’d had no idea the line for cupcakes would be so long in front of her, or, she turned to look, behind her for that matter. She’d had no idea it would take to so long to order a cupcake either. It was a little cake and dollop of frosting. It wasn’t rocket science and it wasn’t something one’s life depended upon if they didn’t get one.

Yet, it would appear many people took their cupcake selection pretty seriously. Her free period would be over soon and though the truck was parked somewhere in the downtown area during the same hours every day, too many of those days had passed without her doing anything about him. Or the feelings still resonating within her.

The mid-day sun streamed bright and scorching. She’d be too hot to eat a cupcake by the time she got to the front of the line, but she’d be willing to pony up every dollar she was carrying for every bottle of water the vendor might have. Chef’s jackets weren’t exactly made of the most lightweight, breathable material. Oh, she knew she could have changed, but she only thought she’d been in line for a few minutes and the few blocks she’d had to walk were fine, what with a little cloud cover and a slight breeze. Those two things had gone away the second she’d spotted the line to side of the cupcake truck.

Karma was laughing at her.

Three more people to get through and she’d be in a little shade under the retractable black and white striped awning.

Another step forward and only two customers in front of her.

Cass got a good look at the menu from where she stood. There were very simple cake flavors; chocolate fudge, vanilla bean, red velvet, spice, lemon, and coconut. Nothing fancy, nothing earth shattering. What was fancy and earth shattering was the variety of frostings and fillings. From a basic buttercream to a triple chocolate ganache to a lemon chiffon cream cheese with blueberry preserve swirl, the frostings filled up two chalkboards. Two other chalkboards listed the fillings. One could choose from peanut butter, Bavarian cream, strawberry jam, pureed cherries jubilee, or homemade marshmallow cream made with local, micro-brewed dark beer. Beer and marshmallows? In a cupcake filling?

At the same time, there were an array of fun cupcake flavors such as S’mores, Blue Velvet, and Cotton Candy.

She suddenly had more of an appreciation of the decision making ability of anyone who was stood in front of the menus of the nearly overnight sensation that was the Cupcake Cowboy’s mobile bakery.

Cupcake Cowboy. Jackson. Cass sighed and smoothed her hair back. Not that she could see if it looked decent or not. She’d been sweating enough that all her make-up was probably collecting in a pool on the sidewalk somewhere ten feet back. She knew she looked a sight and not a pretty one, but then the reason she was standing in line wasn’t a pretty reason and had nothing to do with cupcakes, either.

“Next up?”

Now or never, girl. Cass stepped forward, straightened her jacket and looked up, waiting for his eyes to meet hers, waiting for him to realize who was standing in front of him. The longer it took him to see her, the more her nerves kicked in and nausea settled in her gut. What if he yelled? No, he wouldn’t make a scene in public like that. What if he completely ignored her? That might happen. What if he walked away again and refused to talk to her? That was the most likely.

This was all teenage behavior too. Cass was well aware of how it would appear. Older woman chasing younger man after being spurned months before. His attitude had left a lot to be desired in the heat of the moment that afternoon in her office, but she was the one still pining for the jerk, still trying to reach out, still trying to capitalize on that spark between them, especially since he was no longer her student.

She was forced to admit, even if just to herself, that the simple fact of the matter was, she missed him. His grudge holding irked her. The memory of his kiss made her yearn.

And, Cass had learned, ‘What if’ questions were never a good thing. They usually happened in the form of the negative rather than the positive and wreaked havoc. Those questions had been plaguing her ever since she made the decision to force his hand, to put an end to the silent treatment he’d been giving her.

If he chose to keep this separation between them, she’d have to accept that the feelings she’d developed for him weren’t reciprocated, but she had to try first. Didn’t she?

Cass cleared her throat but Jackson continued writing on his little order pad. His fingers, stained with icing gels and fresh fruit juices, tightly gripped a green pencil. She’d dreamed about those fingers for months, longer than that if she were honest with herself. It started, this fascination with him and his hands the first day he walked into her dough class. He’d had the most beautiful hands, with long, strong fingers. There were some calluses on the pads and outer edges of his palms, which she guessed were from when he worked his family’s ranch, but that didn’t detract from the reality that he had a gentle and steady, yet forceful and insistent touch with pastry. He’d had such a knack for ingredients, an incredible palate and ability to blend tastes, but he lacked the patience dough making took.

As he tried to progress through his classes, she and his other instructors realized one thing about his ability. He sucked at all things pastry, except cakes, frostings, and fillings.

“Sorry ‘bout that, ma’am. What can I get ya?” he asked as he tore the page he’d been writing on and handed it off to someone just out of sight.

“Hello Jackson.”

He’d looked up just as she spoke. A surprised, wide blue gaze whipped over her face before narrowing until she could barely see the irises. He schooled his features quickly and plastered on a tolerant smile. He was all business now. “Ms. Jamieson. I didn’t expect to see you. What’ll you have?”

“You talking to me again and to offer an apology.”

“Unnecessary, but accepted. As you can see,” he said with a sweeping gesture of his arm to encompass both the truck and growing line behind her, “you were wrong in your assessment of me and my plans for a cupcake business.”

Cass didn’t consider herself a proud or boastful person, but this humiliating and humbling experience was not one she wished to prolong or repeat. “Yes. It does seem that way, which is why I’m here trying to apologize.”

Jackson waved off her comments. “Appreciated, but again, unnecessary. Now, as we are rather busy, unless you’re gonna order somethin’, I’m gonna have to ask you to step aside.”

And just like that, the infuriating, hot as a Texas summer cowboy dismissed her. He motioned the woman standing behind Cass to move forward and for a moment, Cass was unable to move. Should she stand her ground or move out of the way? He’d made it clear he didn’t want to talk to her so maybe that was all she was going to get from him. Maybe he was going to keep up this immature slight forever. Maybe there was nothing more she could or should do. He made the choice to shut her out, to forget the heat that radiated between them, and perhaps it was Cass’s turn to do the same.

Decision made, she turned away only to immediately turn back. She tapped the shoulder of the woman who’d taken her place in front of Jackson. “Excuse me. I wasn’t done.” Cass slipped in and let the woman’s huff roll right off her back. This thing with him was more important than some cupcake order and he was just going to have to deal with it.

He sighed. “Ms. Jamieson, I told you I?”

“Yes, I know what you said. You also told me I needed to order something or move, but you didn’t give me the chance place my order for what I want.” Of course, she didn’t want a cupcake. It was too damn hot out for a cupcake. But it wasn’t too damn hot to want Jackson. Naked. Pressed against the back of his truck. Audience or not.

As I said, I’ll be letting you know more about the plans for this book and the others in the series soon…

~lissa