If you can't stand the heat...
Sherry Stratton has kept her heart on ice for years. Between her pediatric practice and her seven-year-old daughter, the accomplished physician believes she has no time for romance. But every time she's around Lucas Van Buren, her temperature starts rising. So why does she keep resisting the sexy chef?
stay out of the bedroom!
From the moment they meet at his brother's wedding, Lucas has eyes only for Sherry. The polished restaurateur has tried everything he can think of to become more than a friend. Now, after months of effort, Lucas and Sherry are finally heating up between the sheets, and the lovemaking is oh-so-sweet. Lucas thinks they're solid, but when someone from Sherry's past suddenly resurfaces, their delicious relationship is put to the test....
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Melanie Schuster started reading when she was four and believes that’s why she’s a writer today. She believes in love and romance with all her heart. She finds fulfillment in writing stories about compelling couples who find true, lasting love in the face of all the obstacles out there. She hopes all of her readers find their true love. If they’ve already been lucky enough to find love, she hopes that they never forget what it felt like to fall in love.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Sherri Stratton yawned as she stretched lazily on the comfortable chaise lounge. "This is the best Mother's Day I've had since the day Sydney was born," she said with a happy little sigh.
She was relaxing on the deck of the new home of the VanBurens, the in-laws of her BFF, Alexis Sharp VanBuren. Alexis was next to her on another chaise and she agreed wholeheartedly. "I'm not a mom yet, but it's not for lacking of trying. I still can't believe that the VanBuren men thought up this weekend of pampering all by themselves, but if this is the treatment I can look forward to as a mommy, I can't wait to have a baby of my own."
"There's no rush, is there? You and Jared have only been married since February and you're already trying for a little one?" Sherri adjusted the sunny yellow tank top that matched the bright floral shorts and reached for the iced tea that was on a small table between the two chaises.
Alexis took a sip of tea before answering. "I'm not racing to the maternity ward or anything, but we both want children. And, honey, the process of baby making is so much fun that it's a win-win situation for me," she said with a sexy laugh.
Sherri almost choked on her sweet tea as she sat up and lifted her oversize sunglasses to stare at her friend. "Alexis! You act like we're alone out here. Too much information, girl."
Her new mother-in-law, Vanessa Lomax VanBuren, was also on the deck with Vanessa's mother, Delilah Peters, and Alexis's mother, Aretha Sharp. All the women laughed at Sherri's embarrassment.
"Remember, I'm married to Jared's father so I know what she's talking about. How do you think I ended up with all those children?" Vanessa's smile was identical to the one on Alexis's face. Vanessa's mother, Delilah, chimed in.
"There's nothing wrong with appreciating the romantic aspects of marriage. It's been a long time since Vanessa's father passed away, but I have a lifetime of wonderful memories to recall," she said.
Sherri's face was still pink when Aretha had her say. "Sherri, darlin', you're a doctor. A pediatrician, at that.
You know how babies get here, and you're blushing like a schoolgirl. You know what I think?"
Alexis rolled her eyes as she took another sip of tea. "I'm sure you're going to tell us, Mama. It's not like you can keep anything to yourself."
Aretha ignored her daughter's little barb and kept on rolling. "I think that it's way past time for you to get married. Or at least take a lover. You haven't dated anyone since Sydney was born, and she's about to turn seven. You're beautiful, smart, accomplished and it's a crying shame that you're keeping all that wonderfulness to yourself. What in the world are you waiting for?"
A healthy spray of tea from her mouth was Sherri's reaction to Aretha's remark. She was closer to Aretha than to her own mother and she was used to the older woman speaking her mind on any and every topic, but she was surprised by her frankness in front of the other ladies. They didn't seem to think anything was amiss. Delilah was more than happy to join in the conversation.
"You don't have a young man? Honey, that doesn't make any sense at all. Do you prefer women, dear? I'm not judging—I'm just curious," she admitted.
"Mother! That's rather personal, don't you think?" Vanessa shook her head as she chided her outspoken mother.
Aretha and Alexis were trying hard not to laugh while Sherri blotted the tea off her face and chest. She was totally accustomed to being around older women who spoke their minds, so she wasn't insulted, but she did feel the need to explain herself.
"Well, Ms. Delilah, it's not that I prefer the company of women or anything like that. It's just that being a single mother is something I take very seriously. I made a decision not to date until Sydney is out of high school. I don't think it's a good idea to have a bunch of random men parading in and out of her life."
Delilah raised a delicately arched eyebrow. "Well, honey, nobody wants you to be a hoochie. There's no need for a whole parade. If you get the right soloist, you'll have all the music you need," she said with a wicked grin.
Sherri had to laugh. Ms. Delilah had a point, even if it didn't really apply to Sherri's situation.
The sounds of laughter floated into the kitchen, where Lucas VanBuren was making more iced tea for the ladies while Sydney, his self-appointed sous chef, was seated at the work island arranging his freshly baked tea cakes in a flat wicker basket lined with a big cloth napkin. She looked completely absorbed in her task, but her mind was focused on something else. She looked just like her mother; she was tall for her age, slender and fair-skinned with a light dusting of freckles across her nose. Her hair was the same reddish-brown as her mother's, but unlike Sherri's, it wasn't in a short, fashionable bob. Sydney wore her hair parted in the middle with two long braids that were currently covered with a bandanna so she could look like Lucas, her idol. Her round glasses didn't disguise her big, bright eyes; they just made her look even cuter.
As she carefully placed the last tea cake in the basket, she dusted the light coating of sugar off her fingertips and looked intently at Lucas. He was so tall and so handsome that it was easy to overlook the things she really liked about him. He was funny and nice and kind and he was the best cook in the world, even better than his brother Jared, in Sydney's opinion. She'd had several months to observe him, and she was more convinced than ever that he'd be the perfect husband for her mother. Now was the perfect time to launch her plan.
"Uncle Lucas, do you like my mommy?" she asked innocently.
He smiled down at her as he stirred simple syrup into the tea. "Of course I do, sweetie. I like you, too."
Sydney smiled back, flashing her deep dimples. "I like you, too. A whole lot," she confided. "But do you really, really like my mommy?"
Lucas finished stirring the tea and added slices of lemons and pineapple to the pitcher. He sat on the stool next to Sydney and crossed his arms as he met her intelligent gaze.
"Yes, I really, really like your mommy. She's very pretty and smart and she has a lovely personality. Why are you so curious about this all of a sudden?"
Sydney crossed her legs and linked her hands around one knee. "Because I think you should marry her."
A year ago, even six months ago, Lucas would have had a different reaction to her words. He was far too busy dating a wide variety of women to even think about settling down with one. Many ladies had tried and failed to slip a matrimonial noose around his neck, and he had evaded them all with ease. But that had all changed when his brother married Alexis and Lucas met Dr. Sherri Stratton. The first time he saw her smile, he was captured. Her smooth skin, those dimples, and the intelligence and humor that sparkled in her eyes all got to him in an instant. When he finally got around to observing the rest of her, he was even more impressed. Sherri was brainy and accomplished, in addition to being a real beauty.
In his younger years the brains and accomplishments wouldn't have meant as much as the fact that she was a certified dime piece, but now they did. However, one of the things that made Sherri superlative in Lucas's eyes was sitting next to him with her eyes locked on his. Anyone who could raise a child as sweet and engaging as Sydney had to be an amazing person.
"So are you going to do it, Uncle Lucas?"
He had to focus quickly in order to give her an intelligent response. "Why do you think I should marry your mom, sweetie?"
"Because she should have a really nice husband like Uncle Todd and Uncle Jared. She should have someone to be sweet to her. My auntie Emily is really happy now that she has Uncle Todd, and Auntie Alexis is really happy with Uncle Jared, and I want my mommy to be happy, too."
Lucas was bemused by her astute analysis of the situation. "Why do you think I'd make her happy?"
Sydney pushed her glasses up and started counting off reasons on her fingers. "Because you're very nice. You talk to everybody and you treat everybody like they're important. You make her laugh. You're very handsome, but that's just a bonus. You have a nice family and they like me. And you're very nice to me."
"You've given this a lot of thought, Sydney. Are you sure I'm the right guy? You realize that if I was to marry your mom I'd be your stepfather," he said carefully. "Did you think about that?"
"Of course I did. I think you'd be good at it. Do you think I'd be a good little girl to have around?"
"You'd be the best in the world, sweetie. But what would your own daddy think about someone else in your life?" he asked gently.
"I don't think he thinks about me at all," she replied with a shrug. "I've never met him. He and my mommy weren't married and he went away when he found out about me."
Lucas felt his throat tighten at the idea of a man walking away from a woman like Sherri and ignoring an adorable child like Sydney. He'd often wondered if Sherri was divorced or widowed—because there clearly was no husband in the current picture—but he'd never asked Alexis about her marital status. Alexis was his sister-in-law, but he figured she wouldn't appreciate being interrogated about her best friend. He didn't have a chance to dwell on the information he'd just received because Sydney wanted an answer. Right now.
"So are you going to do it, Uncle Lucas?"
She was totally serious—Lucas could see that. He wasn't about to promise her something he couldn't deliver, but he was totally on board with the idea. He'd asked Sherri out a few times, and so far she'd turned him down.
"It's not just up to me, darlin'. What makes you think your mommy likes me? I might not be her type. What kind of guys does she usually date?" Wow, that was kind of sleazy. It was just wrong of him to use this situation to pump a six-year-old for information about her mother. But Sydney didn't see it like that at all.
"She doesn't go out, Uncle Lucas. Not with guys. She takes care of me and she takes care of her patients and we go to church and we visit with people and we have picnics and things, but she doesn't have boyfriends."
"Well, maybe she doesn't want one. Have you thought about that? Maybe she's happy with her life the way it is."
Sydney nodded her head. "She says that all the time when Aunt Emily and Aunt Alexis try to get her to go on a date. She says she's happy and she's not going out with anybody until I'm in high school. That's a long time, Uncle Lucas! I don't think she should wait that long, do you?"
The word no came out of his mouth before he could stop it. No, he surely didn't think that Sherri should deny herself the pleasure of having a mate for years to come. "I can see that this means a lot to you, and you're really sweet to think about your mommy's happiness, but I can't just walk up to her and ask her to marry me," he said.
"No, you can't. That's why you have to start slow. You have to take baby steps first, Uncle Lucas."
She sounded so wise and worldly that Lucas had to smother a laugh. "Sydney, you're pretty sure of yourself. This is a big enterprise you're talking about. I like your mom a lot, but it's going to take more than that for the two of us to start dating. I think this is something that you need to leave up to your mom. It has to be her decision, and you and I have to respect her wishes."
"Uncle Lucas, don't be a chicken baby. No pain, no gain, no gain, no glory."
"Where in the world did you get that from?"
Sydney looked thoughtful as she told him she'd heard it on the Food Network. "I was watching Iron Chef America and Alton Brown said it. It made sense to me."
This time Lucas laughed out loud. "Sydney, are you sure you're only six? That's some mighty grown-up thinking for a little girl."
"I'll be seven in a little while. And I'm precocious—my teacher said so. So, what are you going to do first? We have to have a plan. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. That's on Mommy's quote-of-the-day calendar," she informed him.
"The first thing we need to do is take these refreshments to the ladies. Next I need to go to the store for some more provisions. Do you want to come with me?"
Her face lit up and she agreed. "That's a good idea. We can make our plans on the way."
He scooped her up off the high stool and placed her on the floor. Lucas covered the basket of tea cakes with another cloth napkin and handed it to Sydney along with a stack of smaller napkins. After filling a clear ice bucket, he grabbed the pitcher of tea and they went out on the deck to replenish the drinks. They were greeted with joy when the plump, golden pastries were revealed. Sydney took her job as server quite seriously, making sure that each woman had a fresh napkin and a fragrant, vanilla-scented cake. Lucas refilled each glass with fresh ice and sweet tea, making sure that everyone was comfortable as he did so. He was complimentary and attentive to all the ladies, but he had a private remark for Sherri. He refilled her glass and handed it to her with a smile.
"Sherri, as you know, we're making a special Mother's Day dinner today and I need to go to the market for a few things. Would it be okay if Sydney went with me? We won't be gone very long."
Sherri slipped her sunglasses off and gave him the brilliant smile that never failed to warm his heart. "Sure, if you promise not to let her talk you into buying crazy things. Everything she sees on the Food Network she wants to try, so watch out or you'll end up with a basket full of durian fruit and oxtails, or something equally odd."
Lucas gave her a smile of pleasure. Not many people could reference the famously smelly tropical fruit like that. It was just one more thing he liked about her—the fact that she knew about food. He was about to answer her when his grandmother spoke up.
Delilah looked at her grandson and then at Sherri. "Now this is what I was talking about. Sherri, you and Lucas make a lovely couple. He's a perfect choice for you," she said warmly.
Sherri's eyes grew wide but before she could get really embarrassed, Jared and his father returned from walking the dogs on the beach. There were four pups; two belonged to the elder VanBurens and two belonged to Alexis and Jared. Lucas took advantage of the happy commotion created by the dogs to suggest that Sherri should make her escape.
"Hey, if you want to hide out, come with us to the market. My gran means no harm but she has no problem getting into other people's business," he said with a rueful grin.
"You know what? That sounds like a great idea," Sherri agreed, and in minutes they'd made their getaway.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Harlequin Kimani, 2013. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0373862970
Book Description Harlequin Kimani, 2013. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110373862970
Book Description Harlequin Kimani. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0373862970 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1049421