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Hot buttered rum standal.., p.27
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       Hot Buttered Rum: Standalone Romance (Silk Stocking Inn Book 4), p.27

           Tess Oliver
 

  “I’m sorry about what happened tonight,” he said. “When I said that—” he hesitated. “That thing about what you’d done to me—”

  “Three times. I’ve heard you say it three times.” His voice had sounded so familiar, but mine sounded completely foreign to my ears. There was a touch of despair, heartbreak in my tone, and I’d never heard it there before.

  He scrubbed his fingers through his hair and reached up to lean his arm against the door jamb. I knew he did it inadvertently, but it immediately made my knees weak. “Right. I’ve said it three times. And I’ve never said it to anyone before.”

  I sniffled once. “If this little chat is supposed to make me feel better—”

  “I’ve never said it because I’ve never felt like this about anyone before. When that guy put his hands on you, all I could think was that I was going to pound him into pulp. Just like the night before with that fool you played pool with. Can’t stop thinking about you, Emmie.”

  I stood there in the doorway, my heart telling me to jump into his arms but my head telling me to walk away from this. This wasn’t what I needed. A man like Beck, as I’d already proved to myself, would be nothing but heartbreak.

  My chest felt as if it had been filled with sand. “I’m tired, Beck. I’m going back to bed.” I closed the door, and the sand in my chest turned to solid rock. Tears flowed again as I crawled back onto the bed and buried myself with the quilt.

  Chapter 21

  A knock on the door drew me, once and for all, out of a restless sleep. I sat up. My heart. I’d ignored it again. My hard and fast rule of remaining sensible had once again snatched true happiness away from me. I jumped out of bed. I needed to let Beck know how I felt.

  I yanked open the door with every intention of throwing myself into his arms, but Coco was standing on the other side. She had a basket of croissants and a cup of coffee in her hands.

  Her green eyes rounded as she glanced down at the dress. “You must have been tired last night. I have good news. Your car is ready.” She winked and held up the croissants. “Mitch, the mechanic’s favorite. He said he’ll bring the car by this morning.”

  I fussed with my tangled mass of hair, but it was futile. “Thank you so much. If you don’t mind, I just need to go across the hall and talk to Beck.”

  “Beck?” She walked into the room with the breakfast. “He left early this morning.”

  I spun around. “Is he coming back? Did he say anything?”

  “He won’t be coming back here. He’s probably heading to work.” She looked at me, and it seemed some of those mysterious age lines had made their way back. “I thought it was rather strange he left without saying anything. Still, men are like that,” she said flippantly. “Enjoy your breakfast.”

  I nodded but was too distraught to reply. I closed the door and headed to the bathroom. A long, hot shower and climbing back into my own clothes and shoes would prepare me to head back to reality. This had all just been a bizarre dream, a dream that had left me feeling bereft and unhappy. It had started out so beautifully, but I’d strayed from my usual life. I’d never take a wrong turn like that again.

  Chapter 22

  I was sure being back at work, back in the library where I always felt happy and peaceful, would take away some of the ache. But it hadn’t. At least not yet. It was going to take time, it seemed.

  Two calls from David, trying to figure out how we could work this out hadn’t helped. I couldn’t even pinpoint what this was anymore. All I knew for certain was that David was not what I was looking for.

  I was moving slow, as if bricks had been attached to my feet. I could still feel the effects of the weekend with Beck. I could still hear his voice and feel his touch on my skin. I wondered just how long it would take to forget a man like Beck.

  Not in the mood to do the usual exchange of weekend stories, even though I had a hell of a unique one to tell, I slipped quickly into my office with just a few morning nods and hellos. I turned on my computer and was instantly reminded of the mysterious website for the Silk Stocking Inn. I still hadn’t figured out any answers to the flurry of questions I had about the place and the owner and all the unusual coincidences. But if I wanted to push Beck from my mind, I was going to have to let all those questions go.

  Lois, the reference desk librarian, shot by the window of my office and knocked seconds later.

  “Come in,” I called.

  Lois stepped inside, looking flustered, but that was certainly not out of the ordinary for her. She looked back in the general direction of the reference area as if something sinister had followed her to my office.

  “What is it, Lois?”

  She picked up her necklace, a giant colorful string of beads and baubles, and fiddled nervously with it. “Well, there’s been another incident with David and his favorite table.”

  I rolled my eyes. “I sure wish he’d find a different library to work in. I’ve only just diffused the trouble from the last time. What’s happened now?”

  She moved closer as if the walls could hear. “This time the person didn’t move. Well, he wasn’t exactly the type of person you ask to do anything. Big, rough guy. Downright rowdy looking.” She pulled her lips to the side in thought. “Striking though. Handsome, if you like the bearded, tattooed type.”

  I shot up from my chair. It startled Lois so much, she yanked on her necklace. The beads bounced across my office floor.

  I walked to the front of my desk and stooped down to help her retrieve her necklace pieces. “Did he say his name or what he was doing in the reference area?”

  “Nope. I’ve never seen him before.” Lois reached under my bookshelf and swept out several beads. “He certainly isn’t the type of person I normally get over in reference. Not exactly the academic type, if you know what I mean.”

  “I know exactly what you mean.” I handed Lois the beads I’d collected and pushed to my feet, taking a few seconds to dust off my knees. “When you left, what was David doing?”

  “He skulked away with his books to the table near the children’s library. Boy, what a pout that man was wearing. I was about to tell him to just go ahead and sit with the children, with the way he was scowling.”

  “I’ll go check on things right now.” I hurried out of the office and practically flew toward the back corner of the library where the reference books were housed. My heart was close to leaping from my chest at the thought of seeing Beck. Maybe the weekend hadn’t been a waste and bad mistake. The truth was, I badly wanted to see him again, to tell him how I felt about him.

  I reached the reference area and the table that David always sat at. My heart sank like a stone in thin air.

  David looked up over the top of his glasses and smiled. “Emmie,” he said. “I was hoping you’d come back here this morning so we could talk.”

  I hardly heard a word he said as I glanced quickly around. There was no one out of the ordinary and certainly no dangerous looking biker. Had I missed him or had Lois been over-exaggerating, a skill she had down to an art.

  “The man who was sitting here earlier—” I started.

  “I took care of him. Told him to move on.” A derisive laugh shot from his mouth. “It was obvious he wasn’t going to actually do any reading. Probably just hiding from the police or something.”

  I shook my head and turned around.

  “Emmie, don’t leave.”

  “I’ve got work to do, David.” I walked back through the library. As I passed one of the shelves, a book came flying off and landed at my feet. I leaned down to pick it up and glanced at the title. “Illustrative History of American Pool Halls.”

  “A guy could get used to those sensible shoes.”

  I swung around and looked down the book aisle. He was wearing a tight white t-shirt and his massive motorcycle boots and tha
t smile that made my pulse race.

  Beck’s dark brown eyes dropped. “Especially on a hot pair of library lady legs.”

  I stepped right in front of him. He grabbed my hand and pulled me around to the back side of the stacks, where no one could see us.

  “You left without saying good-bye,” I said, working hard to keep the tremble from my bottom lip.

  “Stupidly, I convinced myself that you didn’t want to see me again. Only, then I got home, and I thought—” He reached up and brushed his finger over my lip to stop the trembling that I could no longer control. “And I thought—how the hell am I going to spend the rest of my life without kissing this mouth.” He leaned forward and kissed me. “No way I would ever be happy again without you, Emmie.”

  I threw my arms around his neck. “Only your heart can lead you to a happy ending. That’s something a napkin told me once. Turns out it was a very smart piece of linen.” I pressed my lips against his, and he tightened his massive arms around me.

  Salted Caramel Cupcakes

  Download a printable recipe card

  Ingredients:

  Cake

  •1½ cup all-purpose flour

  •¾ tsp baking powder

  •½ tsp salt

  •2 eggs

  •½ cup + 1Tbsp milk

  (2% or whole)

  •½ cup butter (softened)

  •½ cup granulated sugar

  •½ brown sugar

  •1½ tsp vanilla

  Frosting:

  Frosting

  •14 caramels

  •½ cup butter (softened)

  •1 tsp vanilla

  •¼ tsp salt

  •1½ cup powdered sugar

  •3 Tbsp + 2 tsp heavy cream

  Yields 12 cupcakes.

  Yields 12 cupcakes.

  Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare muffin pan with paper muffin cups.

  2. In a medium bowl, stir together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt.

  3. In a separate bowl whisk wet cake ingredients: eggs and milk together.

  4. In a large bowl cream together ½c butter, ½c granulated sugar, ½c brown sugar and

  1½ tsp vanilla.

  5. Add half of the dry mixture and half of the wet mixture to the large bowl and mix to combine.

  6. Add remaining dry and wet mixture to the large bowl and mix just until combined.

  7. Spoon batter into muffin cups until ⅔ full.

  8. Bake for 23-25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

  9. Prepare frosting: Melt 14 caramels and 3 Tbsp heavy cream in microwave or over double boiler, stirring often until mixture is smooth. Do not overheat.

  In the meantime, with an electric mixer, cream ½c butter, 1 tsp vanilla and ¼ tsp salt. Add in 3 Tbsp of the caramel cream mixture, save the rest for drizzling on top of the frosting. Mix in powdered sugar and add the remaining 2 tsp of heavy cream. Beat until frosting consistency. Add more cream if needed.

  10. Frost cool cupcakes and drizzle with leftover caramel cream mixture. Sprinkle on a dash of sea salt.

  Enjoy!

  Mocha Latte

  Silk Stocking Inn

  Tess Oliver & Anna Hart

  Mocha Latte

  Copyright© 2016 by Tess Oliver & Anna Hart

  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.

  Chapter 1

  Some mornings rolled smoothly, starting with my first cup of coffee on the way to my car to the fifth or sixth cup at my lunch break, when I’d already dealt with all the major complaints and problems of the day. Other mornings took a decidedly more bumpy path. Then there were the, thankfully, rare mornings with catastrophic, or, at the very least, life changing potholes thrown into the mix. But this morning’s wasn’t a detour I’d seen coming, and I could only blame myself for not paying better attention.

  I skimmed through the day’s script to the two highlighted lines. Skippy the Dinosaur or Ted, a middle aged man whose grumpy demeanor outside of the big, green felt costume would have scared even the bravest kid, had complained that two of his lines didn’t sound like something Skippy would say. He’d insisted, as producer, I needed to look into it.

  A knock pulled me from the script. Jimmy, the head puppeteer, poked his head inside. “Becca, we’ve got a problem.”

  “Come in, Jim. I can’t hear you over the clatter in the hallway. Why is there clatter in the hallway?”

  He stepped inside. “Everyone is running around looking for Spike.”

  “Spike? The puppet, or Vic, the voice of Spike?”

  “Spike, the puppet.” Jimmy, who could descend easily into a panic attack, fidgeted with the keys on his belt.

  I stood up from the desk. “Take a deep breath, Jimmy. I don’t have time for one of your breathing into a paper bag sessions today. Then, tell me just how a dinosaur puppet managed to walk off set.”

  Jimmy’s thin shoulders rose and fell with a deep breath, but it didn’t seem to help. He continued to finger the keys, a large collection that were the center of his day because each one belonged to a trunk that housed one of the famous dinosaur puppets, the artfully crafted characters of the Skippy the Dinosaur morning show.

  “That’s just it,” Jimmy huffed, “I thought I’d carried him out to the set. He has a part in the first scene, so I made sure to take him out right away.” He took a few short, frantic breaths. I raised my brow at him in a silent warning not to hyperventilate.

  “Then I’m sure he’s somewhere on the set. I’ve got to go over the script, Jimmy. I’m sure you’ll find Spike. Or just pull out the replacement puppet for today until the original trots back onto the set.” I sat down and took hold of the script again, satisfied that I’d solved the problem.

  Jimmy stood over me, still fidgeting with the keys and now adding a shuffle to his feet. “The replacement is out for repairs. One of his horns ripped off when I was taking him out of the trunk.”

  I lifted my eyes to him. “Then, I guess you need to find Spike.”

  He swallowed hard. “We’ve been looking for at least an hour. Filming is at a standstill until he shows up.”

  “Well, shit, Jimmy,” I started to go off on a rant but stopped when it seemed that was all it was going to take to push him over the edge into a full scale anxiety meltdown.

  I skimmed the script for Spike’s part. “There are only a few lines, and they sound like something that Percy could say. I don’t see Percy in this scene at all. Tell Kelly to switch the lines to Percy.”

  Jimmy remained frozen to the spot.

  “What?” I asked, trying to keep the impatience out of my voice.

  He fingered the keys. “It’s just that—well, Percy is sort of mild mannered and Spike, well, he’s kind of badass. I don’t think the two are interchangeable.”

  I blinked at him.

  Jimmy took a few steps back. “I’ll go get Percy.”

  “Good idea. And find Spike. He couldn’t have gotten too far, his feet are made of felt for fucksake.”

  Isabel, my assistant, pushed past Jimmy as he scurried out. “One of the advertisers, Gardener’s Insurance, is on line one. He’s not too happy about the fact that his ad got cut off two seconds early.”

  I was still perusing the script as I spoke. “Did you explain to him t
hat it’s the network’s fault and not the show’s?”

  “Tried to, but he rudely told me that he didn’t need to be lectured by an assistant.”

  My face shot up. Isabel had changed her hair color, yet again, and the constant quest for just the right color was slowly turning her hair into a ball of frizz. “What an ass. I’ll talk to him.”

  She turned to leave but stopped. “Oh, and the florist is on line two. Something about the bridesmaids’ bouquets. My dress still needs to be altered,” she added. “Makes me look like I have no boobs. Which, of course, I don’t, but your wedding guests don’t need to know that.”

  It was moments like these when I wished Nate and I had just run off to Vegas to get married. “Anything else?”

  “Nope. Oh, except Nate wants you to call him the second you have a chance.”

  “Great.” I waved her out as I took a deep breath and picked up the phone to deal with the angry sponsor.

  Chapter 2

  Morning fires doused, dinosaur puppet found and production finally running smoothly, I took the lid off my coffee cup and downed the rest of it. I glanced at my phone. During the rush of the morning, I’d forgotten to call Nate. He was more than likely in a meeting, so I decided to put the call off until lunch.

  Nate and I had been dating for six years. We’d both been so busy with our careers, we hadn’t given marriage much thought until the relationship seemed to be growing stale. We’d decided a wedding and a home together were what we needed to bring it back to life. Wedding plans had put some excitement back into our lives, but I wasn’t completely convinced that same spark would last once the vows were said and the massive wedding bills rolled in.

 
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