#SweetsForLove comes out in two days. TWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO DAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYS…
And the first reviews are definitely making this author smile.
A Hot Romance with Sweet Treats!Amazon reviewer
Full of sass and sizzle, she brings romance in a small town with reality TV twists and turns. I absolutely love the characters and all of the book boyfriend references. This is a holiday romance sprinkled with A LOT of sizzle.Goodreads reviewer
Are you ready for a preview of the book? (which is available on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, Apple Books, Scribd, Overdrive and more …)
Note to self: do not shove Marion Sinclair into the sparkling, heated pool—even if she crowned your bakery “Most Likely to Disappear in the Next Three Years” in her latest post.
“Aisling! Whoo-hoo!” Marion—the influencer of the wedding cakes world, newest Wedding Bells magazine contributor, and forever nemesis—waves my way. She takes a selfie with her Santa hat and the Vegas Christmas in July banner, screeching at an employee to smile in the background. Because, of course, she needs to manufacture every moment for her flawless-yet-flawed-but-happy brand.
At least that gives me a minute to find the perfect escape route.
I slide my glasses up my nose, and my eyes dart to the side. What if I dived under the cocktail table? Too dramatic. Plus, if the shrimp tumbled on me, I’d smell like shellfish for an eternity. Instead, I force my PRBF (Permanent Resting Bitch Face), as my sisters call it, to relax into a fake smile.
“Hi, Marion. I still need to check in.” I point to my small, battered suitcase and rush away before she can pepper me with pretend enthusiasm and backhanded compliments.
The full of temptation Las Vegas hotel Lily-of-the-Valley fragrance with a sultry note of musk blasts in my face as I swerve into a couple making out right next to the oversized Christmas tree.
“I’m so sorry.”
The woman’s wedding veil cascades to the floor, and the man’s hands travel down her back. Even though PDA isn’t my thing, and there are not enough hours in my days for a relationship, a familiar pang of longing resonates in my chest.
“Happily ever after in Sin City,” a deep and smooth voice chuckles next to me. His bergamot and old spicy wood cologne draw me to him.
I turn around and lift my chin up.
Smoldering dark eyes grab ahold of mine. I readjust my glasses.
If the eyes are the windows to the soul, this man offers exactly what I have been craving: a toe-curling passion that leaves you completely spent and satisfied.
And I’m in dire need of sleep.
So what if it feels like forever and a day since a man has looked at me this way? And an eternity since I’ve wanted to see what the night could bring.
Step away from the sinfully sexy stranger, Aisling.
After all, I’ve listened to enough true crime podcasts to know not to talk to strangers. Right?
My spine straightens. “Maybe ‘or a happily for now.’” At least my tone isn’t all breathy and needy. But there’s a tiny crack in my I’m-a-pro-at-hiding-what-I-feel façade as warmth sneaks up my neck, probably revealing a blush. I push my glasses up again and purse my lips in my usual Aisling way.
He raises an eyebrow. “Those can be good, too.”
Why does his rough voice make me want to tell him I’ve been naughty this year? My heart flutters. Wait… what? My heart doesn’t do flutters. Get away now! The alarm in my mind blares with urgency, but my feet must be anchored to the ground with the best sugar glue in town because I can’t move.
Instead, I take in every enticing detail: his angular chin covered with a three-day beard, his shit-eating grin like he knows and loves the thoughts bouncing around in my head, his slightly crooked nose that gives him a rugged look.
His polo shirt emphasizes his broad shoulders, and… is that a What Would Elle Woods Do? pin on his collar?
“You’re a Legally Blonde fan?”
I narrow my eyes, and his chuckle is a sound that should be recorded for ringtones.
“Yep.” His fingers brush over the pin. “Got it as a gift and always wear it,” he tells me. Whoever he’s here with maybe gave it to him. Reality-check meet Aisling. But as I’m about to step away, he adds, “My grandmother really knows me.”
My fingers play with the bracelet my own late grandmother gave me.
“It is a good movie,” I say after a few seconds.
He chuckles again as my gaze travels from the pin to his strong arms. How many tattoos does this man have? Am I salivating over his forearms and… his hands? They’re powerful hands. Capable. Full of promises. And carrying one of the Triple O Annual Naughty or Nice Conference promotional bags I’ve seen in the lobby.
I’ve got three of their toys, and they keep their promises.
“I’d love one of those,” I blurt out before my mind can even process what I’m saying.
His lips lift into a half-grin full of confidence. “An orgasm?”
Why does this sound like a promise?
Heat creeps up my neck, and I point to his hand. “The bag, I mean.”
He leans forward. “It’s yours.”
His breath is minty fresh, and I’m tempted to check mine. As he gently wraps the bag around my wrist, his fingers graze my skin, and Hi, desire, my old friend. Long time no see.
I clear my throat. “Thanks.”
The butterflies flapping their untrained wings in my stomach are demanding I throw caution and responsibilities to the wind and ask him for dinner, a kiss, a night. But I squash them.
Being “spontaneous” isn’t on my to-do list. Neither is he. As I whirl back around, a swarm of people cuts me off. They flock toward one giant sign that reads, Meet Grant Torre, Your Santa Claus for the Day.
“Grant! I’m coming!”
A woman steamrolls me, and the stranger’s muscular arms sneak around my waist to keep me steady. My body melts into his, and my suitcase slips out of my grasp, scattering to the ground. Another woman stomps on it.
“Watch out!” I reluctantly detach myself from the stranger.
As the crowd thins in their search for Grant Torre, I pick up my suitcase.
Dildos and butt plugs and cuffs tumble out.
My mouth gapes open. How? What? Why?
Without a word or even a chuckle, the man bends down to shove them back inside the suitcase.
“I-I got it,” I tell him with such a no-nonsense, this-happens-every-day voice that I’d high-five myself if my hands weren’t full with Triple O toys.
“You wanted my bag when you got all of those?”
“These aren’t mine.”
I drop the toys into the suitcase before rubbing the spot between my eyebrows, but that doesn’t prevent the splitting headache from thundering.
“I assumed not all of them were yours. Unless you’re a vendor. Or a model for…” His voice trails off as I struggle to take a deep breath, realizing my plans for tomorrow’s Spoon Up competition vanished with my way-too-generic suitcase.
“No, no, no,” I mutter.
A fist of dread sneaks up my throat, tightening around it. My suitcase was supposed to be safely tucked in the overhead bin, but due to space issues, the airline checked it in instead. At the baggage claim, there must have been three blue suitcases looking exactly as old as mine. I had tied one of Ava’s ribbons to the handle, but it was nowhere to be seen.
So, whoever grabbed my suitcase now has all my trusted baking utensils while I have their entire brand-new line of Triple O toys.
I’m not going to be able to whip up a three-layered wedding cake with a Christmas-inspiration gingerbread frosting with a butterfly clit vibrator.
One “spoon up” and your bakery is inundated with orders. We need those orders—especially as I’m trying to reinvent our bakery to become the holiday bakery of the Eastern shore.
“You okay?” the stranger who no longer feels like one asks as his hands settle on my shoulders.
The wave of panic recedes. Is he a magician headlining a magic show in Las Vegas? I could be his talking puppet. He could do whatever he wanted to me with those hands.
“I have to go.” Because if I don’t, I might either cry on his shoulder or ask him to go upstairs with me. Not happening.
Instead, I keep my chin up and stroll to check in as if everything is absolutely fine.
After all, I’m sure I’ll come up with the perfect cake—no matter what.
As Marion Sinclair always claims in her videos: It’s going to be the absolute best.
Fifth. I placed fifth in the competition.
Despite hiding my disappointment in the bar far away from the entrance, Marion settles next to me. Her Aisling is desperate radar to zero in on me when I least want to see her has been refined over the years. She touches my arm in one of those aww-poor-Aisling ways, and I should get extra points for not swatting it away.
“You’re a trooper for traveling to Vegas when so many people are canceling their orders.”
“The unpredictability of business.” Shoot. Did my voice go all high-pitch?
“Sure. But with what happened with your sister being jilted at the altar and with your croquembouche signature cake turning into a recipe for Disaster-Ever-After—”
“You called it that.”
“Oh, I did. Didn’t I?” She takes a sip of her bright pink cocktail. “That post got so many likes. I couldn’t keep up with the hundreds of comments.”
The glint in her eyes tells me she expects me to lose it any minute now. But my sisters didn’t nickname me “Miss Perfection” growing up for nothing. Aisling O’Connor doesn’t lose it—especially not in public.
“I don’t follow your account. I must have seen it because it’s one of those paid promoted posts you spend tons of money on. Didn’t you get in trouble for that before? Something about not being transparent about your reach?” Before she can reply, I continue. “I was so happy to be back this year.” Liar, liar, pants on fire, the voice in my head singsongs, sounding very much like my five-year-old daughter. “You all did an amazing job.” My voice is steadier, more self-assured. I’ve got everything under control except my auburn hair that’s all over the place and my glasses that keep on sliding down.
My phone vibrates in my pocket. “I have to take this.” I wave my phone in the air. “You have fun tonight. Sorry I can’t join.” More lies.
“Hope to see you soon.”
My bullshit sensor beeps so loudly I’m surprised it doesn’t set off the hotel alarm. I wait until she and the group are out of the bar, then check no one else is too close to me before clicking on Accept.
Mom’s face appears on my phone as the bartender slides the eggnog I ordered toward me. “How was everything?”
A waste of time and money and self-esteem.
But I can’t say that.
“Great.” Another lie.
“That’s wonderful. What did they think about your new layered cake recipe?”
“I had to change plans.” My suitcase never arrived. So not only did I have to change course, but I also spent money I don’t have on new clothes. “They loved the fondant cake demonstration.” They didn’t.
I sigh. “I’m coming home early tomorrow. I almost made it to the Spoon Up ultimate competition… but… you know… next time.”
“Of course.” Mom is using her You got this, baby girl! tone, even though I turned thirty last year. “Ava wanted to tell you goodnight again.” Mom hands the phone over to my daughter.
“I love you, Mommy. Have fun in Lost Vegas.”
“Hmm-hmmm. Goodnight, Mommy.”
“Goodnight, Ava, my lovie.” I force my voice to sound upbeat, but as I hang up, waves of crushing disappointment roll through me. The judges’ words echo in my mind: “Too careful. Too bland. Too predictable.”
The only reason people approached my booth was to inundate me with questions about my sister Sorcha getting jilted at the altar and going viral as #TheLeftoverBride.
A guy who must have bathed in his cologne invades my personal space. The bar isn’t crowded, and he doesn’t need to be this close to me. He’s wearing a Sit on my Lap shirt with a drunk Santa. Classy. The way he stares down my décolleté gives me major creepy vibes, and annoyance drips down my spine.
His hand settles on the back of my chair. “You look like you need another drink.”
Even his tone is sleazy. And dealing with him right now sounds as appealing as listening to Marion telling me again how she should have won that Wedding Cake competition ten years ago.
Squaring my shoulders, I stand up. “Actually, I’m meeting someone.”
And I rush toward the back of the bar, waving like I saw the person I had been waiting for.
A man with a three-day beard and dark smoldering eyes waves back.
My heart sprints before screeching to a halt.
He’s changed into dark pants and a gray dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. And he still has that small pink pin.
“Say the word, and I’ll escort him to the other side of the world.”
My first knee-jerk reaction is to square my shoulders. I don’t need to run away, and I don’t need help.
“I can take care of him.” But I sound as exhausted as I feel, and Smoldering Eyes isn’t patronizing. He looks at me like he understands me. And what am I doing? Stepping into my favorite romance novel? This day is clearly taking a toll.
Smoldering Eyes tilts his head. “One word, and he’s out of here.”
Creepy Guy clears his throat behind us. “Hey sweetie, are you one of Santa’s helpers? I have a few wishes you could help me with.”
“Uh. Word,” I reply.
He shoots Creepy Guy a get-the-fuck-away look and does a quick gesture with his hand. A man that could be security approaches Creepy Guy, who leaves without protesting.
“He won’t annoy you or anyone tonight.”
The way he says it is reassuring.
I raise an eyebrow, and he does the same in response—before tipping an imaginary hat to me with that confident half-grin I’ve noticed before. I’m noticing way too many things about him.
“I have a way.” He watches me in such a way that I might combust here and there. “At your service.” His deep voice does something to me. Is this what he says in bed, too? I imagine him rough and gentle, demanding and giving. I need to get ahold of myself.
I tilt my head. “Are you a serial killer?”
He raises one amused eyebrow. “Nope.”
“Married? Engaged? Seeing someone?”
“Nope. Nope. And nope.”
And because I’m arching my back, just thinking of how that three-day stubble might feel on my skin. And because no one ever has to know. And because I won’t see ever see him again…
I toss the last slice of caution to the wind full of need that envelops me. “Can I kiss you?”
“Can I kiss you back?”
His gaze drops to my mouth, and my breath hitches.
“Then, yes, please.”