All That Matters

( 11 )

Overview

When a megastore grocery chain threatens to shut down the new boutique bakery Chloe Lawson's worked so hard to establish, she's furious. Her life may not be picture-perfect, but her custom cakes and pastries are becoming the talk of Boise, and she'd like to keep it that way.

Chloe needs a champion, and handsome, widowed John Moretti turns out to be it. A high-powered lawyer whose two rebellious teenagers are the only people he doesn't seem able to impress, John is shocked to ...

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Overview

When a megastore grocery chain threatens to shut down the new boutique bakery Chloe Lawson's worked so hard to establish, she's furious. Her life may not be picture-perfect, but her custom cakes and pastries are becoming the talk of Boise, and she'd like to keep it that way.

Chloe needs a champion, and handsome, widowed John Moretti turns out to be it. A high-powered lawyer whose two rebellious teenagers are the only people he doesn't seem able to impress, John is shocked to find himself fighting for Chloe's little cause, much less falling for her. But once he samples her home-baked charms, he's hooked--and determined to make her a permanent part of his family.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781602853683
  • Publisher: Center Point Large Print
  • Publication date: 1/1/2009
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 398
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Stef Ann Holm lives in Meridian Idaho, a small suburb of Boise. She has two beautiful daughters, and one space cadet dog who will stare for hours at any food substance. She loves hot summers, sunshine and floating in water—even if it's a plastic pool in her backyard. Visit her website at http://www.stefannholm.com to read more about her fascinating (hah hah) life. Or you can write her the old-fashioned way at P.O. Box 1206, Meridian, ID 83680-1206

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Read an Excerpt

A smile of approval lifted the corners of Chloe Lawson's mouth as she sampled her latest dessert creation. Rich chocolate from a bittersweet royale torte melted sinfully on her tongue. She'd gotten the cream glaze perfect. Not too thick and with just the right hint of cognac.

She loved being in the kitchen, working hands-on with the pastries and cakes she sold.

The sumptuous aromas of confectionaries floated in the oven-warmed air of her trendy bakery, Not Just Cakes. Having only opened five months ago, business had taken off in ways she'd only dreamed of. She sold a variety of desserts to local restaurants, and had been building a wedding-cake clientele with a steady stream of referrals. She'd had to hire extra help to keep up. Her instructions to Jenny and Candace were uttered succinctly and with time-tested methods that worked flawlessly.

"Chloe, do you want me to start frosting the cupcakes with the génoise?" Candace asked, standing at the worktable. Sandy-colored freckles dusted the bridge of her nose, her red hair pulled back into a loose ponytail.

Responding, Chloe said, "Thanks. That would be great."

Jenny filled piping bags with fresh white icing. "We have an order for six dozen of those cupcakes going to the Borah building later this afternoon. It's some official's birthday."

"Make sure we have the exact name, and I want you to put in a party praline as a special treat for them. In fact, when the stores open downtown, run up the street to the card shop and pick out a birthday card we can all sign."

"Sure, Chloe." Jenny set the piping bag down and jotted notes on a pad of paper.

That settled, Chloe refocused her attention on the torte and sampled anotherbite. Satisfied she'd done a perfect job, she smiled.

Cake-making was an exact process. Everything had to be calculated and balanced. For example, baking was only done in aluminum cookware. The shiny surface of stainless steel became too heat-reflective, causing the sides of the pan to cook the batter faster than the middle, creating a dry finished product.

Not only did Chloe like the intricacies of baking, but she also loved the variety of textures she created: the silkiness of butter creams and rich, thick mousses. Chocolate and vanilla sauces beneath fresh berries. The tart or sweet fruit fillings of a seasonal offering.

Baking drew out a blissful happiness from within her, linking her to the happy times of her adolescence, an otherwise blur in her young adult life. Decorating cakes had been the silver lining in her dark cloud when she turned fifteen, and the crazy-normal world as she knew it turned topsy-turvy.

Her aimless mother, Wanda, chose her boyfriend over Chloe, and left Chloe behind with Ethel Lumm— her mother's mother.

Chloe wouldn't have the confidence she had today without her grandmother's encouragement. Funny how being suspended from school in the ninth grade had been the catalyst for a new direction in her life. With a suggestion so simple, Ethel had been the driving force behind Chloe's change. Developing her skills in the kitchen had been the start of a fresh perspective during her teenage years.

Chloe had taken to being in the kitchen, rolling out her first fondant in junior high and landing first place in the Western Idaho Fair's junior division with a three-tiered rose cake.

Ethel, nothing like Wanda, had a giving heart, plus a savvy mind. She'd offered the encouragement needed to help Chloe figure out her talent. Today, Chloe was a long way away from that confused fifteen-year-old girl. Her baking skills were second to none and Not Just Cakes was proof of her talent. Chloe's future looked very rosy.

Due in large part to Ethel's suggestion, Not Just Cakes had located in the Grove Marketplace where Ethel had her own business. Ethel's Boutique, a clothing store, racked up sales from the full-figured woman who wanted to be stylish. Ethel wanted her customers to feel good about themselves and not to be identified as a plus-sized shopper. So Ethel was fond of saying that even when Oprah was at her largest, she always looked fabulous because she dressed with class. Given that, Ethel's Boutique marketed the clothing for the "voluptuous and sexy" woman.

Behind Chloe, the heat of the oven radiated next to her back. Sunrise hadn't shown its gingered hues yet, and already the kitchen was uncomfortably hot. She kept cooling fans running, but certain glazes and icings dried out as she applied them, so she took care to make sure the room stayed the proper temperature.

Chloe wore her blond hair in a ponytail. Beneath her kitchen whites, she had on a pair of capris and a thin tank top. Neither fit really well. She'd lost weight. Eleven pounds to be exact. It had taken her months to shed the results of too much sampling and not enough exercising. Now, with little time for shopping, she hadn't fully updated her wardrobe to the next size smaller.

Besides, she wasn't one to be overly concerned about fashion, something Ethel could not understand. If she could have, she would have worn rubber flip-flops from the discount store, but practicality, the desire not to smash her toes if she dropped a heavy pan on them, won out. Instead, she'd laced on a pair of white tennis shoes that already had fallen victim to pink coloring paste.

It was just another day as she began to decorate a cake.

The phone rang and Chloe's hand faltered just a little as she squeezed the piping bag to finish the reverse shell border. Her pulse skipped and she swallowed. The other bakers wouldn't have seen much of a change in her, if anything. But she felt her face flush from a momentary rush of heat.

Just as suddenly as it started, the phone stopped ringing.

Chloe glanced at the clock. 4:48 a.m.

The phone rang once more, startling her.

Setting the piping bag next to her cake turntable, Chloe ran her hands down the sides of her white smock, instead of using the damp cloth for this very purpose.

She grabbed the phone and, in almost an accusatory voice, she answered, "Hello!"

As had been the case from previous calls, nobody spoke into the receiver.

Chloe had had about enough of this. She had caller ID on her bakery phone, but the calls came in as "unknown." Originally, she'd assumed it was only a wrong number, or possibly a high-school prank at this odd hour. She no longer thought that.

An aching curl pooled in her belly, low and tight. She felt sick, as if she'd sampled too much frosting.

"Hello?" she said once more.

Nothing.

Finally, she dared to breathe into the receiver, "Bobby-Tom? I swear, if it's you—"

The line clicked dead and Chloe hung up with a twist of anger knitting her brows.

Attempting to compose herself, she didn't acknowledge either helper. But in her peripheral vision, she saw the women exchanging raised eyebrows. Chloe wouldn't make a big deal about this in case the girls thought there could be something sinister about the call. But she knew the truth. This was the sixth time in five days that someone had called her and hung up without saying a word.

And not just at the bakery. Last night, she'd answered her home phone and had had the same experience. This couldn't be a random incident. Someone knew who she was, but even more frightening, where she lived.

Looking through her reflection in the kitchen's row of narrow windows, all Chloe could see in the alleyway was the predawn gray, and the mellow light of a lamp illuminating the cook's entrance at the back of the Mexican restaurant.

There's nobody out there.

She blinked and her reflection came back into her view. Her appearance seemed unpolished this morning. Usually her ponytail didn't have a single strand out of place. Today, pale wisps framed her face, bracketing its oval shape. Her eyes looked a darker blue, almost a violet shade. The shape of her mouth didn't seem as wide, rather more narrow as she caught herself biting her lower lip again in thoughtful contemplation. She stopped the bad habit, reminding herself that she shouldn't worry.

The only person who'd pull a crappy stunt like this was Bobby-Tom Drake and she wanted to forget her ex-husband existed.

Bobby-Tom had called a handful of times since their divorce, all jacked up on liquor and blithering on about, "Baby, I made a big mistake letting you go." He didn't get drunk on a regular basis but, when he did, he spilled his guts like a roadkill rattlesnake.

He'd been making babies with his new wife since the day he married her, and the whole thought of his fertile procreation caused Chloe to wince as if she'd sliced her finger with a serrated blade.

Chloe had always been attracted to the bad-boy types, thanks to her mother's guiding light. When Wanda Lawson left, the seed had been planted in Chloe that a broken man is better than a good one, because a woman can fix a broken man and make him good if she loves him enough.

Yeah, right. Only if she can have six kids in just about as many years.

Squeezing her eyes shut for a moment to keep the unexpected sting at bay, Chloe remembered the day she'd first met Bobby-Tom out at the Firebird Raceway in Emmett. The racetrack was known for hard-partying boys who drove fast and liked their women thin and pretty. Bobby-Tom had been in between girlfriends and Chloe slid right in to take up the empty spot. Good old Bobby-Tom oozed more charm than a box of magically delicious cereal.

He had a swagger to his gait that showed off the leanness of his butt in his 501 Levi's. Just about perfect in every way, except he smoked a pack of Marlboros a day. She disliked the tobacco scent that clung to his shirts and skin, but forgot all about that the second he flashed her a straight white grin. He called her "baby" from the start because she looked younger than twenty-one, and it stuck for the nine years they'd been married.

"Baby, bring me another cold one."

"Baby, you sure look pretty today."

"Baby, let's go out and shoot some pool tonight."

"Baby, Bobby-Tom needs some loving."

Nine years was a long time for baby-calling. Long enough for her to try every fertility treatment known to man to try and have a real baby to take care of.

When they divorced, Bobby-Tom remained as broken as the day she'd met him. No amount of her loving could make him hold on to a steady job outside of racing, or not give in to his roaming eye—which he swore he never acted on. But those brown-eyed peeps had roamed just the same. He'd hooked up with another woman before their court date had declared them officially over, and he and Delilah had gotten married within three months.

Bobby-Tom hadn't called her in over a year, so the phone calls made her pause and wonder. The caller's silent approach wasn't her ex-husband's usual method.

Knowing that fact caused the hairs on the back of Chloe's nape to tingle.

Then again, maybe paradise with six kids wasn't such a paradise after all. Rather than blubbering in his beer, he was probably crying in it and was too ashamed to utter sincere words of remorse.

Chloe avoided the inclination to snort. Well, she sure wasn't going to be his life jacket. He could sink for all she cared.

"Jerk," she uttered beneath her breath, but loud enough for Jenny to respond.

"Yes, Chloe?"

"Sorry…it's nothing." Chloe shook the cobwebs from her mind, then looked at her surroundings.

The kitchen gleamed with cleanliness, her tools—from angled spatulas and cooling racks to brioche pans and pastry bags—formed an orderly lineup against the wall. The stainless countertops gleamed, and the large utility mixing bowls churned dough for the day. Bright yellow walls and skylights gave the room a cheerful appeal.

Chloe should have nothing to dwell on. She had wonderful things planned for a successful future. And being scared by a stupid hang-up caller wasn't on her list.

With that, she began her workday anew, revelling in the idea that she had become her own woman.

With an optimistic smile, she didn't even care that she'd be turning the big four-oh this year, or that she was a divorcée of ten years, with no current boyfriend or prospective boyfriend, or prior kids….

Oh, please. Let's not be a martyr.

Chloe staved off a heavy sigh. She had a great little dog to keep her company and make her laugh while she spent her evenings alone, then going to bed early. Boo-Bear, her two-year-old bichon frise, sometimes chewed up the mail when it slipped through the slot in her front door. She missed a few bills every now and then, but figuring out which ones were which added some spark to her otherwise staid single life.

As Chloe tasted the last of her bittersweet cake, she couldn't help feeling a little bittersweet herself until she remembered something her grandmother always told her.

"Honey-bee, sometimes in life, things jump out at you that you least expect."

Putting a bright spin on Ethel's words, Chloe hoped

that the something jumping out at her today would be a good thing and not an ex-husband looking to patch a hole in his torn life.

Fixing broken just wasn't in Chloe's cards these days. She liked to think of herself as a woman who could be content with a man just as he was—if she ever met one who piqued her interest enough.

But she really had no time to think about romance when her fledgling business was busting at the seams. With the way the speciality cakes had taken off, her kitchen space felt as if it had shrunk. She needed to hire an extra hand just to mix the batter and icing, and do some of the baking.

Chloe had more bakery ideas she wanted to try, but she hadn't expected she'd be contemplating them this soon. There was a party line of cakes she could do, hosting events, in-home baking for those who wanted fresh bakery items right out of the oven.

And she could expand. The unfinished building butting next to her dining area wall spanned one hundred and twenty thousand square feet. Directly in front of that were two individual spaces at two thousand square feet apiece. A vacancy sign in the window called for tenant improvements. She could lease one of the spaces. Of course, her rent would double. But so would her business.

Biting her lip, Chloe pondered the possibilities.

"At six-forty in the morning, this is no way to start the day." John Moretti gave his nineteen-year-old son, Zach, a hard stare. "Where were you last night?"

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 12 of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2012

    Sweet story

    I liked this story. Will read others by this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2012

    Stale and predictable.

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  • Posted September 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Another sweet story!

    This is the third book I've read by Ms. Holm and I've enjoyed each one! This is the second book in the Moretti series and it was another winner. It would probably help to read them in order- All The Right Angles is book #1 - but they do stand alone, too. I would definitely recommend downloading any of Ms. Holm's books!

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  • Posted July 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    My first book by Stef Ann Holm.

    I enjoyed reading this book.I don't really have any complaints.I felt bad for the kids when the father sat them down.He played an old videotape of when their mother was alive and they were just kids.It was so sad.I could of enjoyed it more without the cursing.

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  • Posted June 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Sweet Story

    As it is posted on the book, it is a family romance, with a nice array of complication and resolution. Sweet, predictable, fun and loving.

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  • Posted November 10, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Just wonderful

    All That Matters by Stef Ann Holm is another heart warming tale of family and finding that special someone.<BR/>-------------<BR/>Baker Chloe Lawson has built a successful business in the Grove Marketplace. When not only her plans to expand are shot down, her lease is soon to be terminated. Seems a mega chain grocery is moving into the Grove. Chloe is not going to go down without a fight.<BR/>___--------<BR/>Attorney John Moretti is having some problems of his own. Since his wife died several years ago he has had trouble connecting with his teenage children. He is not sure at first if he has the time to take on a new client as a favor to his brother. But Chloe strikes a chord in him that <BR/>he hasn't felt in a long time.<BR/>______________<BR/>John agrees to try to help Chloe save her business, They both knew it would be an uphill battle. Spending time together turns client and lawyer into more then friends.<BR/>---------------<BR/>Stef Ann Holm's All That Matters will make you believe in love again. Chloe and John's story is deeply moving and sensual. Their story grows and evolves as a true romance should. The secondary characters at another layer of feelings to enjoy. Ms. Holm's books are a must buy for me.

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  • Posted November 8, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    You can skip this one. Boring.

    I really liked her previous novels. Things got side tracked in this novel by too many unnecessary details, events, & other characters, which weakened the plot. Nothing eventful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2008

    fine second chance at love tale

    In Boise Not Just Cakes bakery owner Chloe Lawson feels her five month old business is making it. Not only are the local restaurants buying her confectionaries, she hired two helpers since business is booming. She owes it all to her maternal grandma Ethel Lumm, who raised her and encouraged her. Her bakery is next to Ethel¿s Boutique in the Grove Marketplace. Her only major mistake as an adult was marrying crappy Bobby-Tom Drake, whom she divorced though he still stalks her when he is drunk. --- However she is shocked when the leasing company informs her they are terminating her lease so that the Garretson grocery chain can take over the marketplace. One of her best customers Robert Moretti owner of Pomodoro Italian Restaurant asks his widow brother lawyer John to represent her. He agrees unaware that his firm represents Garretson. When they meet, both are stunned by the attraction as he has not enjoyed steeping out since his wife died in three years and she still is scarred by her failed marriage. Adding to the negatives is his two teen children who have not adjusted to life without mom. --- This is an entertaining contemporary romance with a touch of suspense that enhances the basic story line. All the key players seem genuine with flaws and doubts especially the lead couple. Fans will enjoy this fine second chance at love tale. ---- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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