In the kitchen, pastry chef Melinda Edgeworth creates pure magic. Too bad that magic doesn't translate into her personal life. And that has never been more obvious than at her brother's wedding. Lucky for her, one very eligible groomsman, Pete Dale, has her in his sights. The sizzle between them is almost too intense and Melinda walks away with a definite smile on her face.
But their one night won't stay that way. Because suddenly they're working together at Pete's hotel. All that chemistry is interfering with their jobs. Maybe the only way to fix this is to get this attraction out of their systems. And never has a solution been so delicious!
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Karen Kendall is the author of more than twenty novels and novellas for several publishers. She is a recipient of awards such as the Maggie, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Write Touch and RT Book Reviews Magazine Top Pick, among others. She grew up on Austin, Texas and has lived in Georgia, New York and Connecticut. She now resides in south Florida with her husband, two greyhounds and a cat. Visit her online at www.KarenKendall.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
What a Monday. The clock said it was only 9:45 a.m., and Pete Dale, senior account manager for Miami's Playa Bella Hotel, had already put out three customer-relations fires by the time his office phone rang ominously for the fourth time.
He squinted at the phone suspiciously, rubbed his temples and sighed. Who was calling now? The cantankerous, octogenarian charity-ball chairwoman? The pain-in-the-butt, preppy pro-golfer's rep? Or the charming, chin-wagging Chilean who loved to chat for hours about every detail of his upcoming fiftieth anniversary dinner for two hundred?
Pete had jumped at the job with Playa Bella two years ago because it enabled him to return to the sun, sand and sea of Miami. But paradise had its price.
He picked up the receiver and held it to his still-burning ear—Playa Bella's spa had managed to offend a Latin American dictator's wife, and her secretary had just given him what-for. "Pete Dale. May I help you?"
"Pete!" A voice boomed like a cannon into his brain. But he didn't mind, because it was the voice of a friend. His oldest friend, to be exact. He'd known Mark since junior high.
"Mark, my man," Pete said with relief. "How are you?" He grinned and leaned back in his leather chair, letting his head loll to the side. "You ready for this weekend?"
Mark was getting married in five days, and Pete and the rest of the groomsmen had wild plans for him first. There was no bachelor party like a Miami-based bachelor party—they planned to put The Hangover to shame, though without actually losing their groom in the process.
"I'm ready—the question is, is Kendra?" Mark laughed.
"nobody could be prepared to take you on for life," Pete ribbed him.
"True. Very true. Listen, I called for a couple of reasons. One, to say hi. Two, er...you remember my sister Melinda, right?"
"Of course I remember Melinda." Pete shifted in his chair.
He'd gotten a real shock when he'd run into her at a Dolphins game a couple of years back. Hadn't recognized her. Though she'd looked familiar, he couldn't place her. A tumble of dark hair, a sunburned nose, big blue eyes, and a curvaceous body made for a man's pleasure.
She'd glanced at him, then turned to walk away with her friends. He'd been openly admiring her rounded ass and wondering what it would feel like in his hands, when she'd turned back toward him and stared, hard.
Busted, Pete pretended that he'd been searching for something.
Then she'd put a hand on his arm and said, in tones of disbelief, "Pete? Pete Dale, is that really you?"
He'd raised his ogling eyes and looked at her face again, puzzled. Where had he seen her before?
"Pete, I'm Melinda. Melinda Edgeworth. Mark's sister."
Shame flared in his gut as heat climbed his neck. "Mel? No way...oh, my God, it is you."
He registered with surprise that she was blushing, too. Of course she was! He'd been fixated on her ass, pervert that he was, and she knew it. Oh, hell. "You're all grown up," he added, instantly wishing that he could take back the lame words.
She shrugged. "How are you?"
"Uh, great. You?"
And then her friends had hustled her away, before he could think to get her number. Not that he should have. Mel was Mark's little sister, which put her strictly off-limits.
Mark's next words brought Pete back to the present with a jolt.
"Melinda doesn't have a date for the wedding, and I wanted to ask you if you'd, well, make sure she has a good time."
"Sure, no problem," Pete said easily.
"You're the only nice guy of my acquaintance, and you know how it is with Mel," Mark said.
No, How was it?
"If she'd just lose that baby fat of hers, her life would be different."
Baby fat? Pete frowned, sat up straight in his chair and settled his elbows on his desk. "Oh, come on. Mel's a very pretty girl."
"Uh, huh," Mark said, in dismissive tones. "You know, Kendra tried to give her some advice on how to eat, but it didn't go over too well."
Pete felt a quick wave of sympathy for Mel. Kendra was so thin that he wasn't sure she even qualified for a size at all. He was pretty sure he'd heard of women who were actually size zero. Kendra's legs looked like chopsticks, if you asked him, and her arms were toothpicks. She looked downright brittle; as if she'd break in half if she so much as stubbed a toe. Mark was lucky that she hadn't punctured his kidneys in the night, with one of her elbows.
Put them side by side, Kendra and Melinda, and Pete'd take Mel any day of the week. She had beautiful skin, bright eyes, shiny dark hair that was always escaping the clip she wore to hold it back. And oh yeah, there were those abundant curves of hers.
Pete personally had never been a fan of the South Beach Swizzle Sticks that Mark had collected in college. And they tended to be lowenergy and moody, since they were malnourished.
"Well, anyway. The family's been a little worried about Mel lately. Something happened with a big account at the bakery last week—she won't talk about it—and she's been holed up in her shell, doing nothing but work. So if you'd just—I don't know—get her out on the dance floor for a few numbers...well, I'd really appreciate it."
"No problem," Pete said again. "Mel is a very cool girl and I'd be delighted."
"You don't have a date to the wedding either, right, bud?"
Pete gritted his teeth. "No, Mark, I don't."
"That's what Mom and Kendra said—that you were coming stag."
Thanks, Mom and Kendra. Appreciate it. No need to rehash why he was coming alone—that he'd been unceremoniously dumped by his wine-distributor girlfriend a month before. For the hotel manager of an entire cruise line.
Yes, Maribel mixed business and pleasure very well indeed, and he'd just been too stupid to realize that she'd move on when she found a guy a few pay grades and career notches above him.
"So that's perfect, then," continued Mark.
"Yep. Perfect." Pete was nothing if not agreeable. It was part of his job, part of his personality. It sucked sometimes, being a Certified People Pleaser, but placating various warring family members had set him on that course long ago.
So when Pete felt like telling people to take a flying leap, he generally stuffed his emotions and smiled instead. He offered to give them a courtesy discount, no matter how discourteous they'd been to him. He jollied them into a better mood. He sent them complimentary champagne and fruit baskets.
Pete hotly denied, though, that he was a member of the subspecies Doormaticus. Nor was he a butt-kisser or a toady. He was simply a customer-relations expert. He kept the peace, and there was nothing wrong with that, was there?
Pete handled situations with his trademark easy smile, a professional grade eye-twinkle and a voice carefully modulated to Soothe/Empathize on his Internal Customer Service Dial.
Everybody loved Pete...with the evident exception of his ex, Maribel.
Mark had called her a witch. Their fraternity brother Adam, a medical student, had said Pete was well-rid of her. And Dev, another fraternity brother, had offered to love-her-and-leave-her in a one-night-stand of revenge on his friend's behalf.
Pete had politely declined this generous offer of male solidarity and explained to Dev that even he, as a former rock 'n' roll stud who still owned leather pants, couldn't compete with the hotel manager of a cruise line—at least not in terms of business opportunities for Maribel.
"I don't hold anything against her," Pete told him. "It's just her nature."
Dev had coughed. "I don't hold anything against scorpions, either, dude—but I still step on 'em."
Pete couldn't help a snort of amusement at that, but he quickly banished it in favor of feeling magnanimous towards Maribel, and therefore superior. That really helped with the whole lovelorn depression thing.
"So," Mark boomed, "I'll see you guys Thursday night, then!"
"Yes, you will...though you probably won't see us in focus for very long, my man. After a few shots, you'll be seeing two of everyone."
"I'm not sure I can handle seeing two of Dev," Mark said, sounding a little alarmed.
"And don't hurt me too bad, or Kendra will be pissed."
"Why don't we manage that possibility from the get-go," Pete suggested. "Do not make any lunch plans with your bride for the next day."
The morning was not receding, no matter how much Melinda Edgeworth wished it to. In fact, the Miami sun was rising into the sky as cheerfully as it always did; defying her and shining down upon her lazy, moping self.
She wanted it to immolate her like a vampire so that she wouldn't have to face her bakery and work. Tomorrow she had to deliver three hundred fresh chocolate croissants and three hundred vanilla raspberry scones to a medical convention, which meant that she and Scottie, her assistant, had to make them today.
That, in addition to a groom's cake, an elaborate baby-shower cake, and a large order of petits fours for high tea at a ladies' club.
Noooooo! Melinda closed her eyes again and groaned. She felt the small, warm body against hers stir. Mami, her little Schipperke mix, got to her tiny, fuzzy feet and yawned, sending a wave of hot dog-breath up Mel's protesting nostrils.
Melinda opened one eye. "You have the breath of a camel, sweetheart."
Mami yipped, climbed onto Mel's chest and licked her face with gusto.
"That wasn't an invitation to make me smell like a camel, too." But Mami was irresistible, and knew it. Mel scooped her up, kissed her...
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Book Description Harlequin, 2012. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110373796900
Book Description Harlequin, 2012. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0373796900