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       Hot Buttered Rum: Standalone Romance (Silk Stocking Inn Book 4), p.1

           Tess Oliver
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Hot Buttered Rum: Standalone Romance (Silk Stocking Inn Book 4)


  Hot Buttered Rum

  Silk Stocking Inn

  Tess Oliver & Anna Hart

  Hot Buttered Rum

  Copyright© 2016 by Tess Oliver & Anna Hart

  Photo by: Sara Eirew Photographer

  This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

  All Rights are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  Table of Contents

  Hot Buttered Rum

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Recipe

  Red Velvet

  Salted Caramel

  Mocha Latte

  Chapter 1

  I should have felt terror and disgust as his dark eyes surveyed me from head to toe, lingering overlong on the swell of my breasts. That’s what a decent woman would have been feeling.

  The deck of the ship rose and fell violently as the rest of the pirates boarded, each one more menacing than the last and still my body did not shudder with fear. In fact the opposite. My body shook as a thrill pulsed through me.

  The captain and his crew watched helplessly as the galleon was plundered and stripped of its cargo. Not one sailor had the courage to draw his sword or pistol against the cold-hearted thieves who had swarmed the deck.

  I lifted my chin and took a deep breath for courage as I stared back at the rogue. Thick black hair waved in the breeze, much like the black jolly roger flying high above the mast of his vessel. Beneath the shade of his hat, the pirate captain’s smile flashed pearl white in stark contrast to his sun darkened skin. I could almost have imagined a thin dagger clenched between his teeth.

  He knew. He knew I wasn’t repelled. I should have looked away or screamed or thrown myself into the waves. He stuck out his hand and again raked his dark, lascivious gaze over my body. “Come on now, wench, take my hand. You’ll be my greatest treasure this round.”

  “What will you do with me?” I asked weakly.

  “I will keep you captive in my quarters so that I may have the pleasure of your silken skin and warm, tight pussy any hour I choose.”

  Rory knocked on the office door, erasing the next sentence from my head. No doubt it was going to be another golden nugget of literary wisdom but it was gone. I minimized the document. Romance writing was my guilty pleasure, my chili cheese fries for lunch, a diversion from the logical and precise world of automotive engineering where I spent most of my day.

  “Come in, Rory,” I called.

  My assistant’s slim, well-manicured hand curled around the edge of the door, giving me a good long look at the massive diamond engagement ring on her finger. Not only had she managed to land a rich guy, but Edward was charming and likable to boot. I had to work hard at hiding my envy. I didn’t even need the rich part. I was doing fine on my own. I just wanted to find that person who was the perfect mix of lover and friend and soul mate. Like every character I created in my stories, but preferably not fictional.

  Rory flounced into the office. She was the only person I knew who could flounce on four inch heels, and she did it with all the grace of a ballerina. She stopped at my desk and put her hands on her hips as she stared down at my half eaten sandwich. “Did the deli mess up and put mustard on it?”

  “Huh? Oh no, the sandwich was fine.” I folded it up in its wrapper and walked over to the mini fridge in my office. It had taken me five years, three promotions and four awards for automotive design to land the corner office with the view and wet bar, but I’d discovered, once they’d hauled my grandfather’s antique desk, a family heirloom, although one that was truly only valuable to me, up to the top floor that the corner office just wasn’t that exciting.

  “Ahh,” Rory said with a confident nod, “you’ve been spending your lunchtime with one of your many book heroes, haven’t you? I swear, Ginger, you need to publish those stories.”

  “I would if I ever actually finished one. Happily ever after endings are kind of unchartered territory for me. I’ve only had relationships that either went badly south or just faded away. I don’t know how to end my romances because I don’t know what it’s like to end up deliriously happy and wrapped in the hero’s arms. Like you, my friend.” I sighed. “You are so lucky.”

  Rory stared down at the gleaming stone on her finger. “Trust me, I wake up every morning wondering if it’s all real. Well, anyhow, I came in to let you know that the meeting has been moved an hour later to three o’clock. The boy’s club,” she said with an eye roll, “is still out at lunch. How come you didn’t join your team today? They went to that posh seafood restaurant that just opened on the wharf.”

  “Because, and to use your words and your special pronunciation, the boy’s club has been on my nerves lately.” I was part of a five member design team for the luxury sedan division, and I was the only woman. It had taken me a good long year and an impressive show of designs to earn my team’s respect, but when I’d also earned the respect and high praise from the president of the company, I’d lost some of the good will it had taken me so long to earn. Occasionally, they banded together, like a pack of wolves, to give me a hard time. Lately, they’d all found reasons to nitpick at my designs. I’d happily turned down their lunch invite. “I’m glad the meeting has been postponed. I’ve still got so much work to do.”

  “Well, I’ll let you get to it then. And, Ginger, I think your happy ending is just around the corner. I can feel it,” she said as she walked out of the office.

  I moved the mouse and clicked on my latest project. For a brief, unexplained second, the air around my desk smelled like a fresh ocean breeze, as if I’d somehow been transported onto the deck of a ship in the middle of the sea. I took a strong second whiff, but the scent vanished. I swiveled around in my chair to see if Rory had stuck an air freshener into the plug. The outlet was empty. Obviously, my head was still in my pirate story.

  As I turned back toward my computer an odd website popped up with a banner that read, “I hear you are looking for a happily ever after.”

  I blinked at the words and wondered if I was actually seeing them. “What are the odds of that?” I muttered to myself and clicked the X. The banner rolled away, but a new one replaced it. It was an advertisement for a place called the Silk Stocking Inn. An early century house draped with rose vines and dotted with leaded glass appeared below the banner. It was as if the advertisement had just appeared out of thin air. “Someone has a great marketing team. And a clairvoyant one too,” I thought wryly.

  I clicked my mouse feverishly moving it all around the screen trying to get rid of the website, but the gifted marketers were apparently even more genius with programming. The stately old inn, with its shawl of pink roses, stuck like glue to my monitor.

  “Now that
I’ve got your attention,” a text box appeared. “In one sentence, tell me what you want from a man so you can catch that elusive happy ending.”

  I stared at the monitor. The glare from the afternoon sun shining in through the big window cast my own wobbly reflection in the glass. I had no idea who was on the other side asking me questions, but then they had no idea who I was either. And the question had gotten me thinking.

  My fingers hovered over the keyboard a moment. My pirate story was still fresh in my mind, and I decided to have some fun with it. “I want a man who makes me his captive and at the same time treats me like his greatest treasure. And, if he’s wearing silver hoops in his ears and says things like ‘aar’ and ‘shiver me timbers’ all the better.”

  “That’s two sentences. You don’t seem to be taking this too seriously. But that will change.”

  It seemed I’d just been scolded by a spam marketer. The cryptic last sentence made me do a double take.

  “O.K., fun is officially over.” My fingers hit the keys harder than necessary.

  “No, it’s just begun. Even though you broke the one sentence rule, you took the time to answer the question, so congratulations! You have won a free weekend at the Silk Stocking Inn where every heart’s desire is filled . . . and then some.”

  “No thanks.”

  “Did I mention every heart’s desire?”

  “You did.”

  “In that case, did I mention a cozy room, deep soaking tub and an ocean view?”

  “Now they’ve been mentioned, but it’s still a no. I have plans this weekend.” Of course helping my aunt pick out a new refrigerator could hardly be classified as plans, but knowing my Aunt Frida, it could take all weekend. I smiled thinking how ridiculous it was having a conversation with a complete stranger, yet I continued typing. Something about the whole exchange intrigued me. It might just have been the impossibly tenacious website that I couldn’t seem to make vanish. Or it might have been that it was a fun diversion from my usual work day.

  “Then I suppose the lobster pot pies and hot buttered rum cupcakes will have to go to another guest then.”

  My mouth watered just reading the words. “You should have started with lobster and cupcakes.” I sat back and stared at the screen. This was crazy. Why was I even considering this? It was obviously just a marketing ploy.

  A short laugh shot from my mouth as I metaphorically patted myself on the back for not falling for it. “I’d love to keep chatting with you, but I’m a busy woman. So I’m signing off now.” Then it occurred to me I’d never actually signed on, and I had no real idea how to sign off. I reached for the power button, the last resort button as I liked to call it.

  One more message flashed on the screen. “Oh come on, Ginger. Take a little risk. Your aunt’s refrigerator can wait. See you soon.”

  I stared at the screen and went through a flurry of emotions, ranging from shock to terror to complete disbelief. Before I could catch my breath or figure out what the hell was going on the website disappeared.

  I needed to stop spending my lunchtime writing fiction. My imagination seemed to be working overtime.

  Chapter 2

  Pathetic was a good word for my social life, but I couldn’t think of a strong enough word for a social life where the weekend highlight of refrigerator shopping with an elderly aunt was cancelled because of a senior’s bingo game.

  I closed the door to my office. Rory was just shutting down her computer. “I’ll walk out with you, Ginger.” She plucked her purse out of the desk drawer and scurried on her heels to catch up to me. “So where does this weekend’s big refrigerator hunt begin? Home Depot? Appliances R Us?”

  I pressed the down button. “Sorry I even mentioned it. Besides, there’s no hunt. No Home Depot. Aunt Frida stood me up for bingo with her church buddies. Can’t really blame her. I mean they hand out free pretzels and honey lemon tea. Can’t beat that.”

  Rory clapped her hands sharply. “Perfect. You can come to dinner with Edward and me. His cousin Paul is in town and—”

  The elevator rumbled as it drew closer to our floor. “Do you mean the infamous cousin Paul, who, when he’s not picking his teeth with his fork, is staring at his reflection in the back of his spoon? No thanks. I prefer to wallow in the humiliation of being stood up by Aunt Frida.”

  We stepped inside the elevator, and the doors slid shut. “You over-exaggerate. Paul is a little vain, I’ll give you that. But he’s rich.”

  “Not rich enough for me to ignore his inflated head.” We walked through the lobby. It was Friday and most everyone had cleared out for the night, heading off in different directions to start their weekends after a long work week. “Where did you park?”

  “Edward is picking me up.” She peered up at me with a smidgen of pity.

  “Don’t give me that look, Rory. I’ll be fine. And thank you for the invite. I’m going to take my laptop down to the coast. I’m in the middle of a story that involves the ocean and I need the salt and sea ambience to move it along.”

  “If you’re sure.”

  “I’m sure. I’ve decided it’s time for me to finish one of these damn stories. That way, I can live vicariously through my female lead. At least one of us can manage a happy ending.”

  Rory gave me a quick hug. “I’ll be rooting for you—her, your female lead, that is, to have a really spectacular one. See you Monday.”

  Chapter 3

  I pulled off the main freeway and onto the coastal highway. The sun had just set and the orange glow of dusk had finally been erased from the horizon. I drove past the marina, where the Friday night frivolities were just starting. Toby’s Bar and Grill, one of the hot spots along the wharf, had turned on the strings of lights and orange lanterns. People were already gathering around one of the blazing fire pits with their drinks.

  I’d ducked in and out of the singles dating scene for the last few years, but lately I’d been more out than in. I’d grown weary of the forced smiles and feigned interest in strangers’ life stories. It was always such a game, such an awkward human courtship ritual, hooking up in a bar or restaurant. I was tired of it.

  I reached over and patted my laptop, my best friend lately. I had design work to finish, but tonight was strictly for my pirate and his beautiful and slightly wanton treasure.

  I turned my car off along the small road that led to Northam’s Cove, a quiet bay that was surrounded mostly by cliffs. I was in luck. It was a clear night, no dreary fog to dampen my mood. The eastside of the cove was dotted with multi-million dollar beach houses, but the west side had proven too rocky and steep for even the most daring developer. My plan was to park on the street and hike with my computer, blanket and a small bottle of wine to my secret place, a small flat section of rock that overlooked the entire inlet.

  I drove along the quiet stretch of road looking for the Northam Cove sign, the marker that told me I was close to the turnout where I could park my car and hike to my secret spot.

  But as I drove along for a few minutes, it occurred to me that nothing looked familiar. Even the stretch of beach below had changed. A long, dimly lit fishing pier, that I’d never seen before, jutted out over the water.

  The road began to bend in a curve, and I found myself heading downhill. None of it was familiar. Somewhere along the way, a way I’d traveled dozens of times, I’d taken a wrong turn.

  I continued along the curved path, hoping I would eventually meet back up with the road to the cove. Instead, the paved stretch turned into a long driveway that led to a stately looking home overlooking the ocean and pier.

  I rolled up next to a sign that read “Baker’s special today- Hot Buttered Rum cupcakes”. My mind shot straight back to the unusual website. I looked frantically ahead at the house. With a gasp, I sat back against the car seat and squeezed the steering wheel in my hands to
see if it was real. The only rational explanation for ending up in front of the inn that had been advertised on the site was that I was sleeping. These unexplained kinds of things only happened in novels and movies and vivid dreams. But the steering wheel was solid in my grip. I was awake, wide awake. Unfortunately.

  I drove ahead, deciding that it was best to confront these masterful marketers face to face. Somehow they’d managed to find out details of my private life, and I needed to find out just what the hell was going on.

  I parked the car and climbed out. The picture on the website had obviously been photoshopped because the cascading blooms of pink roses were no more than an ugly tangle of dead vines. The house itself wasn’t exactly ready for a magazine cover. It was in need of paint, and the porch railing looked like a set of teeth in bad need of a toothbrush.

  I marched up the questionable front steps with my fists tight as rocks, ready to knock firmly on the front door. Something sketchy was going on, and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. But once I reached the large mahogany door, some of my anger was appeased by the incredible aromas floating through the cracks in the windows and doors. Mouth watering didn’t even cover it. I was nearly lightheaded from the delicious fragrance, a mix of butter, brown sugar and spicy rum.

  My first planned firm, confident knock turned into a polite rap on the door. It was almost as if once I’d crossed the splintery planks of the front porch, my indignation had been replaced with the feeling that I’d just found a little slice of heaven in the middle of nowhere. I was instantly transported back to my grandmother’s cute little cottage in the mountains where we would all meet for holidays to eat mounds of incredible mashed potatoes and gravy and hot apple pie heaped with cinnamon ice cream.

 

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