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Hot buttered rum standal.., p.9
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       Hot Buttered Rum: Standalone Romance (Silk Stocking Inn Book 4), p.9

           Tess Oliver
 

  I straightened up the room a bit and gathered my things, hoping that I’d find Turner down in the bakery. I headed downstairs and listened hard for the deep, mellow voice that I’d already memorized. I heard a few unfamiliar voices coming from the bakery along with the aroma of buttered rum cupcakes. I planned to buy a dozen to take to work in the morning. If nothing else, I’d have Coco’s unbelievable baked goods to add some credence to my otherwise outlandishly wonderful tale.

  Deep down I hoped that Turner and I would exchange information so that I would see him again. Rory would have no choice but to believe me if she met the romantic hero I’d found for my happy ending.

  As I walked past the front windows, a burst of pink color caught my eye. I gazed out and gasped in surprise. There were even more pink roses on the once skeletal rose vines, enough of them that their heavy perfume penetrated the leaded glass windows. Another impossibility and yet I was looking at the pink flowers and they were as real as the house I was standing in.

  I headed down the narrow hallway to the bakery. I heard the bell on the front door ring. My heart picked up speed along with my pace. I stepped into the bakery just as two people were leaving with a pink bakery box. I’d hoped the bell would be Turner, but with the two customers leaving, the bakery was empty.

  I walked to the window and looked out. The bakery window afforded a fairly clear view of the cove. There were a few pleasure boats anchored in the middle of the quiet blue water, but I couldn’t see the Pickled Pepper. At least not from where I was standing.

  “There you are, Ginger.” Coco was wearing a bright blue apron that contrasted nicely with her dark hair and olive complexion. She held up a pink bakery box. “I’ve packed you up some buttered rum cupcakes for the road.”

  I forced a smile. “Thank you so much. You’ve been so wonderful.” I walked to the counter. “Coco, have you, by any chance, seen Turner?” I tried my hardest to sound nonchalant as if I didn’t care either way if she’d seen him.

  “Oh yes, he came by about twenty minutes ago with three lobsters. I think you were in the shower.”

  My heart raced ahead just at the thought of him being here at the inn. “Great. I’ll just head outside to see him then. I needed to—uh—ask him something.” I had no idea just how much Coco had figured out, but she seemed to know my thoughts long before they even popped into my head. I knew my casual act wasn’t fooling her.

  Her eyes rounded. “Oh, but he’s gone now. Got called away. A friend’s fishing boat called in a mayday. Some kind of engine trouble. Turner headed out to help the stranded boat. I don’t expect to see him again today.”

  As hard as I’d worked at the nonchalance, I couldn’t hide my disappointment.

  Coco reached over and took my hand. “Are you all right? You look pale. I’ll get you a cup of tea.” She released my hand to leave.

  “No, Coco, I’m fine. No tea. I’m fine,” I repeated again, more for my own self-assurance than hers. My hand trembled slightly as I reached for the string on the pink box. “Again, I can’t thank you enough.”

  “You’re so welcome, and come again.”

  I walked toward the door.

  “Oh, and don’t forget, Ginger, love and romance keeps us all young and happy.”

  I looked back at her and caught another glimpse of creases around her eyes and mouth just before they disappeared. She inclined her head toward the window where a long vine of pink roses crept along a trellis. “I’ve heard it makes flowers bloom too.”

  I nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind.” I headed out the door and glanced about on the slight chance that Turner had stuck around just long enough to say good-bye. But he was gone. Right along with my happy ending.

  Chapter 16

  To say I lacked enthusiasm for the new work week would have been a severe understatement. I had to check my feet more than once on the walk from the parking lot to the building just to make sure I hadn’t accidentally tied cinderblocks to my ankles.

  I dragged myself into my office and was relieved to see that Rory was away from her desk. She had a tendency to want to spend the first five minutes of the morning catching up on our weekend activities. Of course, the ratio was always four minutes to one minute, her weekend to mine, because she had a glowing life and mine was always lackluster. For a change, I had enough adventure to fill the four minute slot, only my heart wasn’t in it. Mostly because I’d left it behind, tattered and torn, at the Silk Stocking Inn.

  Once I’d gotten over the initial sting of having Turner leave the inn without so much as a good-bye, I’d driven away with a heavy head and heart. The moment I’d turned away from the coast and headed in the direction of the freeway, I’d lost sight of the inn and Barbary Cove completely. Everything began to look familiar again, and I easily found my way back home where I promptly sat down at the computer to search online for more information about the Silk Stocking Inn and Barbary Cove. I couldn’t find a darn thing. It was as if they’d never existed. The only real proof I had was the pink bakery box with the Silk Stocking Inn label and the sublime cupcakes packed inside. Of course, in my sullen state of mind, I’d left the box sitting on the kitchen counter.

  I circled around to my chair. I turned on my computer and watched anxiously for it to start up. I sat back with disappointment as my regular desktop popped up. I had no idea why I thought the Silk Stocking Inn website would appear or how seeing it would help my mood. It seemed, more than anything, I just wanted to know that it had all been real, that I hadn’t just slept through the weekend and participated in a really long dream.

  I picked up the files I’d left on my desk for Monday morning. The best way for me to shake off the dark mood was to throw myself into my work. I reminded myself more than once that the weekend had been just a fantasy filled few days of great food and amazing sex. I’d deserved it. And if I could just get Turner out of my head, I could tuck away my unusual weekend as a really fond memory.

  I clicked on my digital day planner and groaned at the pop-up reminder about the ten o’clock meeting. It was definitely one of those days where I’d have preferred to sit alone with my ideas and thoughts, working on designs.

  Rory knocked and entered with a cup of steaming coffee. “It’s extra strong today,” she started and then stopped when she reached my desk and got a good look at me. “And from the looks of it, this won’t be the only cup of the morning. What’s wrong? Bad weekend?”

  As she spoke, some of the other staff members hurried past my office, talking in excited voices.

  I turned my focus back to Rory. “Actually, I had the best weekend of my life.”

  Rory’s face lit up as she plopped into the chair in front of my desk. “I only have five minutes, but don’t leave out one sweet detail.”

  I shook my head. “It’ll take longer than five and I just can’t. Not now, anyhow. I’m sort of trying to piece it all together first.”

  She leaned forward. “Ginger? What on earth? You look almost stricken as if you’ve lost your best friend or something. Which I know can’t be the case because your BFF is sitting right here in front of you. We’re going to need to talk. I’ll order lunch to be delivered so we can eat here at your desk.” She hopped up. “Oh, and some of the board members are going to have a tour of the design center today. Just to let you know.”

  My shoulders sank right along with the rest of me. “I wish they’d just stay in their penthouses and on their yachts and leave us alone to do our work.”

  Two of the assistants from the mail room went rushing past my door.

  “Where the hell is everyone running to?”

  “Huh?” Rory turned around just as another group scurried past. “Oh, they’re all heading down to the first floor to watch.”

  “Watch what?”

  Rory’s eyes rounded. “You haven’t heard? A bird flew in through the gla
ss doors and it’s flying around the lobby.”

  “Big deal. That’s happened before.”

  “Yes, but this time it’s not just a pigeon. It’s a parrot and apparently it keeps calling out ‘pretty girl’.”

  I sat there so stunned I couldn’t find my tongue.

  Rory blinked down at me. “Are you all right?”

  “Did you say a parrot?”

  “I think so. But then I’m no bird expert. It’s green and it can talk.”

  I shot out of my seat before she could ask where I was going. I headed for the elevator. I heard Rory’s heels clicking over the floor as she hurried to catch up to me.

  “I had no idea you were so interested in birds,” she said as the elevator doors opened. Several of our coworkers were inside.

  “Is the parrot still flying around?” I asked, out of breath from anticipation.

  “No, the bird has been caught,” Patty from the mailroom blurted as she stepped off the elevator.

  My heart sank, and I wondered if it was just a bizarre coincidence.

  “But you should see the dark haired hunk who caught the bird, or I guess maybe he owned the parrot because it flew right to his shoulder.”

  “Turner.” I dashed into the open elevator. Rory followed with a look of concern.

  I smacked the lobby button and the doors slid shut.

  “Ginger, what the heck is going on? You’ve got me worried sick.”

  “I’m sorry, Rory, but this weekend I met a man—” The doors slid open cutting short my rushed attempt at an explanation. I stepped out. Only a few of the early spectators were lingering. Most had returned to their offices and their desks. The one face I wanted to see was not anywhere to be seen.

  I looked frantically around but there was no parrot and no Turner. I headed toward the glass doors wondering if he was asked to leave the building. It would make sense.

  I raced outside and turned instinctively toward the parking lot.

  “Awk! Pretty girl!” Dexter screeched from behind.

  I spun around. Turner looked completely out of place on a busy city sidewalk with his long hair and slight swagger.

  “I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye,” Turner said.

  I shook my head. “Coco said you had gone out to help another fishing boat.” I walked toward him. Rory and a few of our coworkers had stepped outside to see where I’d run off to. She shot me a questioning look as I passed her.

  I reached Turner and realized my heart was pounding so hard I could almost hear it.

  “So, is that all you’re here for?” I asked. “A good-bye?”

  “Yes.” He took hold of my hand and pulled me closer. “But I was hoping it wasn’t a permanent good-bye.”

  “I’m hoping that too.”

  “Good. Then, I guess this is hello too.” He kissed me to a round of applause from my coworkers and encouraging squawks from the parrot on his shoulder.

  Hot Buttered Rum Cupcakes

  Download a printable recipe card

  Ingredients:

  Cake

  •1½ cup all-purpose flour

  •¾ tsp baking powder

  •½ tsp salt

  •¼ tsp cinnamon

  •¼ nutmeg

  •2 eggs

  •¼ cup milk

  •¼ cup dark spiced rum

  •½ cup butter

  •¼ cup granulated sugar

  •¾ cup dark brown sugar

  •1½ tsp vanilla

  Frosting

  •½ cup butter (softened)

  •¼ cup cocoa powder

  •1 tsp vanilla

  •⅛ tsp salt

  •1½ cup powdered sugar

  •2 Tbsp heavy cream

  •1 Tbsp dark spiced rum

  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, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

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

  4. In a large bowl cream together ½ c softened butter, ¼ c granulated sugar and ¾ c dark brown sugar.

  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 until just combined.

  7. Spoon batter into muffin cups until ⅔ full.

  8. Bake for 20-24 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

  9. Prepare frosting. With an electric mixer, cream ½ c butter with ¼ c cocoa powder . Add 1 tsp vanilla and slowly add the powdered sugar. Mix until a thick “frosting” forms. Add 2 Tbsp heavy cream and 1 Tbsp rum and mix again until the frosting is shiny and well combined.

  10. Wait for cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

  Enjoy!

  Red Velvet

  Silk Stocking Inn

  Tess Oliver & Anna Hart

  Red Velvet

  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

  I nibbled absently on the rubbery pizza and made the firm decision to stay away from frozen, gluten-free pizza in the future. I dropped the slice back onto the microwaveable dish. The pizza bounced like one of those elementary school pink erasers.

  Squeaky wheels and a towering stack of sodas rolled into the break room as I sat back with my bottle of green tea. A handsome face peered around the tower of boxes to check for obstacles in the path leading to the vending machines.

  With a disappointing lunch in front of me and a long, dull board meeting to follow, I let myself have the luxury of watching the unexpectedly hot delivery man load up the drink machine. He dragged out an impressive collection of keys from his faded jeans, a pair of nicely worn denims that wrapped perfectly around his tight ass.

  He flashed a pearly white smile over his shoulder. “How’s it going?” His voice was even deeper than I’d expected.

  “Well, lunch was a bust, but the entertainment is looking up.”

  The man spun around and leaned casually against the machine. He leaned his dark head to the side to gaze boldly beneath the table. “Nice legs. I bet they’d look even better wrapped around me.”

  I pushed the chair back, stood confidently and sashayed over to him. His scent was a mix of aftershave, man and cola. “What are you suggesting, sir?”

  “Sir? I like that.” Again, he lowered his head to the side to drag his hungry stare down my body. “Lose the panties, beautiful, and let’s see if we can shake up the sodas in this machine.”

  A breath caught in my throat, and a delicious ache pulsed between my legs.

  “What’s your name, baby?”

  “Jessi,” I said on the breath I’d been holding.

  “Jessi” he repeated, but his voice was no longer deep. “Uh, Earth to Jessi.” Long, well-manicured fingers snapped in front of my face. I shook myself out of the daydream.

  The delivery man was bent down into the machine filling it with cans. I wasn’t standing in front of him, breathlessly waiting for him to relieve me of my panties. About the only thing that hadn’t been my imagination was his very fine ass.


  Cara, my assistant, blinked at me. “Jeez, Jess, your face is blushed pink. Something tells me I just interrupted one hell of a daydream.” Her eyes followed my sightline. “Oh my. Well that explains a lot. And it tells me that we have to find you a new man and fast. The last thing we need is the vice president of the company taking her lunch break up against the vending machines with the good looking delivery man between her legs.”

  Cara, whose voice tended to carry as far and wide as dandelion seeds in a brisk wind, caught the attention of the man. He shot me a crooked, conspiratorial smile as if he’d actually taken part in my erotic musings.

  I picked up the pizza and stood from the table. Cara skittered close behind, her heels clacking the slick tile floor of the break room.

  “So, my all powerful and excellent boss, do you think we’ll get to move to that big corner office?”

  I tossed my underwhelming lunch in the trash. “Why would we be moving offices?”

  Cara huffed. “Because of the whole vice president promotion.”

  I’d been so flustered by my sensual daydream, I’d forgotten all about her inane comment. “Vice President? Have you been sniffing the permanent markers again, Cara?”

  We headed down the hallway toward my office.

  “One time,” she protested, “and I thought it would get rid of my headache. Everyone says you’re a shoe in for V.P.. If you’d stick your head out of your office once in awhile, you’d hear the rumors that are making their way around the building and circling the water cooler.”

  We reached my office, and rather than taking a seat at her desk outside, Cara followed me in, sticking to me like a koala on a eucalyptus branch.

  I sat in my chair and pulled my computer monitor toward me. “Rumors? Oh well, why didn’t you say so? I mean everyone knows that rumors around the water cooler are as good as set in stone.”

 
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