HE TAKES THE CAKE
by J. Lynn Rowan
Life is good for Tess Gardiner: Her Savannah, Georgia, bakery and cafe is thriving. She’s earned Master Pastry Chef status from the American Culinary Federation. And she’s attending a regional culinary convention in Charleston, where she’s been invited to sit on a small business panel discussion. The opportunity to tout her success will, hopefully, lead to bigger and better things in her professional life. As for her personal life? The relative contentedness she’s enjoyed for years receives a sudden jolt when she comes face to face with Tyler Brinks, the ex-boyfriend she summarily dismissed from her life eight years ago.
Tyler’s success as a highly-trained chef has launched him into the stratosphere. He already owns one ridiculously successful restaurant, and he’s aggressively working on plans for a second. But he’s never quite gotten over Tess, and he’s never really been sure what actually went wrong between them. So when a pastry and baking competition is announced for the week following the culinary convention in Charleston, Ty jumps at the chance to tempt Tess with the challenge of being his partner, giving him the perfect opportunity to remind her how good they once were together.
As the competition heats up in the kitchen, it soon becomes clear to Tess that Ty has more than cream puffs and cupcakes on his mind. And she can’t deny that her feelings for Ty never truly cooled, but have been simmering all these years, despite the way their relationship ended. Now Ty’s attention has her wondering—is this just the path to final closure? Or could this be a second chance at true love?
“Before we go in there, I have something for you,” Ty says, reaching out but stopping just short of actually touching me.
I stare at his extended hand for a second, then flick my gaze up to his eyes. “Okay.”
Smiling, Ty crosses to a chair on the other side of the kitchen, where he’d draped his chef’s jacket so it would be out of the way. He grabs it and shrugs into it, but then picks up something from the seat of the chair. Folded fabric, the same bright white as his chef’s jacket.
My breath catches in my throat. “Is that . . .?”
“I picked it up for you on my way home yesterday.” He shakes out another chef’s jacket, cut and tailored for a woman’s build. “Hope I guessed the size right.”
I take the chef’s jacket, holding it by the shoulders and studying every seam, stitch, and button. “It’s gorgeous, Ty. Thank you!”
He shrugs in that nonchalant way of his, but his eyes twinkle with joy at my pleasure. “I figured we ought to match. And it’s a gift. Whether or not we continue to round two or beyond, it’s yours to keep.”
“You didn’t need to do this,” I murmur, lowering the garment. “I already owe you for the entry fee, and—”
“I would’ve had to pay the entry fee whether you were working with me or not, so forget it.”
Ty fastens the buttons on his jacket. Then he takes mine back and circles around me, holding the chef’s jacket open so I can slide my arms in. The starched fabric crinkles a little, coaxing a giggle from me.
But the feel of Ty’s hands on my shoulders, the sense of them reaching around to fasten the buttons, makes me freeze. When he notices, he pauses, too. Then his hands drop away, and he clears his throat as he turns and grabs the handle of the serving cart.
“We should get this down to the judges.” His voice sounds choked.
Nodding, I finish with my buttons and follow him out.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
J. Lynn Rowan started writing stories as a small child, usually starring her favorite cartoon characters. Most of her work through middle and high school was filled with typical teenage angst and melodrama, and usually mirrored the books she loved to read. But eventually she found her own author’s voice and decided to seriously pursue a writing career.
Historical fiction remains J. Lynn’s “first love”, but she has enjoyed the journey to becoming an author of romance and chick lit. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Central New York Romance Writers, and the Historical Novel Society. She is also a teacher who tries to instill a love of learning, reading, and writing in her students.
When she’s not writing, J. Lynn enjoys travelling, gardening poorly but enthusiastically, studying various topics in American history for her own expertise, and channeling Julia Child every time she steps into the kitchen.
A native of Oswego, NY, she now lives in Charlotte, NC, with her own Romantic Hero of a husband and their little rainbow, affectionately known as Babycakes.
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