Robby is a self-employed barista with a busy co ee cart and a major crush on one of his customers. David is newly out and single, still grieving the loss of his longtime lover,
and unsure if he's ready to date again. Yet with every fresh latte, David and Robby go from simmering to steaming to piping hot. e question is: Will someone get burned?
Vic Degrassi is a baker on the rise, and it's all thanks to his exceptional ability to follow through. When he learns that Robin Dawson, the sweet-hearted hottie who volunteers with him at the local homeless shelter, is suddenly single, Vic is more than happy to o er a shoulder to cry on-or at least a fresh-baked pastry to bite into . . .
Sure, Chris O'Neal has problems. His restaurant is still co-owned by his ex. His anneland-
tattoos style is making him accidentally trendy. And the hot bakery delivery boy is blessed with a sweet set of buns. But Lance Degrassi keeps hanging around, lending a hand, charming Chris to distraction. Maybe some steaming hot no-strings indulgence won't hurt. Or maybe it will . . .
Praise for the Portland Heat series
"Tremendously charming and sexy."
-RT Book Reviews on Served Hot, TOP PICK
"A really enjoyable story."
-Joyfully Jay on Baked Fresh
"Sometimes an author just gets everything right...Absolutely perfect."
-Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews on Delivered Fast"
|Publisher:||Penguin Random House LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.81(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Annabeth Albert
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Annabeth Albert
All rights reserved.
My nooner was late. Well, technically, David was my 11:50. Without fail, ten minutes before twelve every work day, David P. Gregory bought a vanilla latte from my coffee cart in the Old Emerson building in Portland. I only knew his name because he used his debit card to pay, and I knew the time because of the old-fashioned, massive brass clock directly across the atrium from my cart.
I knew David banked at a local credit union, knew that he worked somewhere that required a tie, knew that he had a smile that made his mouth crinkle up at the edges when I handed him his coffee, and knew that he was an excellent tipper.
What I didn't know was whether or not he was straight. We'd had this weird dance for months now — he'd arrive for his coffee, stilted and uncomfortable, relax into a bit of small talk while I made his drink, and then he'd take his coffee to one of the metal tables out in the atrium to have with the lunch he packed in a blue bag. I liked watching him eat because he gave it his entire focus — no smart phone or gadget, no newspaper or book, no folder of work. A few times I'd caught him looking back in my direction. But his gaze never lingered and either my flirting while I served him was more subtle than I'd thought or he was simply immune.
Today David was late. Unexpected disappointment uncurled in my stomach, souring my caffeine buzz. It was a good day — a steady stream of customers at my cart and bustling business for the pizza place and the vegan sandwich bar on the other side of the atrium. The hundred-year-old office building had been renovated to include a few small eateries in the newly added skylit atrium. Plenty for me to look at, but my eyes kept returning to the double brass doors that opened onto Ninth.
David pushed through the heavy doors at 12:45 just as I was finishing up a caramel soy latte for one of the Goth girls who worked at the jewelry place across the street. I hid my smile behind my espresso machine. Eager for it to be his turn, I tapped my toes against the linoleum.
"The usual?" I figured it would freak him out if I mentioned I'd noticed his lateness.
"Hmmm." He studied my specials sign. I'd glued a chalkboard panel inside a silver frame from a secondhand place on Hawthorne and put the whole thing on a silver-painted easel. Classy on the cheap.
Today I had a half-price tuxedo mocha — white chocolate with dark chocolate swirls. David had never paid any attention to the sign before, but today he gave it a long stare, consideration tugging his mouth back and forth. God, I loved his mouth — full pink lips, a hint of stubble on his upper lip like he'd missed a spot shaving.
After a few seconds, he shrugged, broad shoulders rippling the fine cotton of his dress shirt. "Yeah. The usual."
"Sure thing." I grabbed the cup for his small vanilla latte.
"Wait." He held up a hand as I started to ring him up. "Iced. It's sweltering out." He'd rolled up the sleeves of his crisp white shirt, revealing muscular forearms and a heavy silver, antique-looking watch.
"Meaning it's eighty-five degrees in Portland and everyone is freaking out. You know ... it's good to try something different once in a while."
"I'll keep that in mind." His mouth quirked. While his brown eyes were often unreadable, his expressive mouth provided more of a window into his emotions. "But my day's had enough excitement. I'm not sure I can handle much new right now."
Darn. I wouldn't mind providing something new for him. "Rough morning?"
"Budget crisis." A sigh rolled through him, pushing his shoulders down and making his lower lip stick out. My arms tensed with the need to give him a hug. Of course, I wanted to do a lot more than hug. I wanted to nibble on his lip, lick my way into his mouth ...
"— so everything we did three months ago has to be undone."
Hell. He'd kept talking and I'd missed part of it while I was fantasizing.
"Sucks." In more than one way. I'd known he was a corporate type, but knowing he was a number-crunching guy in charge of big dollars pushed him further out of my league.
"Yeah. Wasn't even sure I'd get my coffee fix today."
I looked up from making his drink, hoping to see a telltale bloom of pink on his cheeks. Eagerness. Anything that would give me a teensy-tiny bit of hope. But his paler-than-usual face only showed exhaustion, revealing little lines around his mouth and eyes that I hadn't noticed before.
"At least you get the weekend to recover, right?"
"Hah." His forced exhalation ruffled the brown hair that tumbled across his forehead. "If I'm lucky."
Over the months, I'd watched his haircut go through several cycles — close-cropped enough to hide his natural curl, waves tamed with lots of product, and overgrown fluff that defied any attempts to restrain it. My favorite look was definitely the latter — my fingers ached with the need to grab hold and never let go — but I knew his hair would be shorter within the next few days. Fluffy and cuddly never lasted long with him.
"That's too bad. It's too pretty out to stay cooped up all weekend." Great. We were back to talking about the weather, but I was happy to grasp at anything to keep the conversation going. Sunlight flooded the atrium, lighting up the large planters in the center of the room and making the brass of the clock gleam.
"I know. I'll try to get out at some point." There it was: his rare half smile that on someone else might have been flirtatious. On him, it looked more like he'd surprised himself by letting a joke creep past his usual seriousness. "How about you? Big plans for the weekend?"
You. An invitation crept to the front of my tongue, only to retreat before I opened my mouth. I sucked at this. For all that I loved my customers and loved what I did, I wasn't good at taking banter beyond the superficial. I hadn't dated anyone for two years and my last boyfriend, Brian, had been the one to pursue me, slipping me his number with a tip and following it up with an invitation that felt more like a command.
"You could say that." I smiled nervously, not sure how much to reveal. Oh, what the hell. "It's Pride weekend."
"Didn't realize that was going on." Darn it, judging by how wide his eyes popped, he'd genuinely had no clue. Well, at least my question about him had an answer, even if it wasn't the one I wanted.
"Not like I'm going to have as much fun this year. Working one of the coffee stalls for my old boss a big chunk of the festival." I shrugged, like Pride was just another workday, but the motion came out as wooden as the conversation.
"Eh. Have fun." David's voice was weak. He coughed in that awkward rumble guys make when someone's over-shared.
"Here you go." I handed him his coffee, making sure my smile didn't seem forced.
Cursing myself with every salty putdown I'd learned from my Navy dad, I watched David walk away. It wasn't the first time I'd come out to a customer, but I didn't make a habit of it. Portland was one of the most accommodating cities I'd ever lived in, but my cart was right in the heart of the business district, and with all the suits running around being all professional, it seemed best to keep things ... professional.
David went right to his usual table and pulled out a sandwich and a Baggie of chips. Most of the suit-and-tie lunch crowd got coffees on their way over to one of the atrium's overpriced eateries. There was something endearing about a guy who got a four-dollar coffee to go with his daily PB&J on whole wheat and potato chips. Made my insides go all fuzzy. His Spartan lunch was the main reason I'd been optimistic he'd been coming around for more than coffee. Seeing him sitting there in his white shirts and boring ties, looking deep in thought over a lunch most people left behind in grade school — well, it made me want to be the thing on his mind. But of course it was highly unlikely it was me causing the furrow in his brow and the faraway look in his eyes. So what the heck was he thinking about? Numbers, probably. Budgets and columns and spreadsheets.
I got lost in deciding whether David was an accountant or a manager type and inventing a whole fantasy life for him. For long stretches of my day I had no customers and nothing to do but wait and people watch. Usually I kept half my brain on the cart, but this afternoon it took the distinctive snick of fingers snapping to break my daydream.
Sheila smiled broadly at me. She was another regular, a businesswoman with short eggplant-colored hair and a penchant for purple business suits and skinny mochas. "Big weekend, huh?"
"Yeah." My disappointment over David faded a little in the face of her excitement. Shelia occasionally brought her graphic designer girlfriend around. Said girlfriend had figured me out in under a minute. It was probably my glasses. They were a bit of a splurge, but hipster glasses seemed to yield higher tips, so they stayed.
"You and ..." I struggled to remember the girlfriend's name. "You going to any of the events?"
"Laura. Laura and I will be around to watch the parade, but we're getting too old for the rest of it." She winked at me, making me feel like a high schooler getting a free pass to stay out late. I wasn't that much younger than her — twenty-seven to her late thirties. And the lease I'd signed for the coffee cart space a year ago made me feel plenty adult.
"Hey! Someone left their wallet." Shelia held up a brown wallet.
David. "Heck." I jerked my hand, dribbling a bit of mocha on the side of the cup. I shot a glance toward his regular table. It was empty. Damn. I'd have to move fast to catch up with him. It was Friday, and I didn't want him to go the whole weekend without his wallet.
As soon as I handed Shelia her coffee, I opened the wallet to verify it was David's. My fingers itched to thumb through the contents, but I pinched the wallet shut as soon as I saw his debit card.
I stuck my BACK IN FIVE MINUTES sign on the counter and speedily navigated through the seating area. If I was lucky I could catch him before — I caught sight of him at the doors leading out onto Ninth.
"Hey! Wait up!" I sped after him, red apron flapping in front of me like I was trying to run down a bull. Actually, a bull wasn't a bad metaphor for him, what with his broad shoulders and wide chest and deep scowl.
"Yeah?" He said the word as if I might be about to toss a coffee on him. Or, worse, ask him out. Great. As I'd suspected, I'd totally mucked things up with my word vomit about Pride earlier.
"You left your wallet." I sounded breathless and way too unsure.
"Thanks for spotting it." His expression softened a little, mainly around his eyes, but it was enough to make him look more approachable. Our fingers brushed as he took the wallet from me. A deep sizzle ran from my hand all the way up to my mouth, forcing me to grin.
"I appreciate it — it's got my security card for work and my MAX Pass. I'd have had to hightail it back to try to catch you before you close." His smile made his soft brown eyes dance. And made my pulse race, but I'd keep that fact to myself.
"No problem. I'm usually around, even after five. Gotta clean up." The business traffic dictated our hours. I hadn't been able to justify evenings or weekends. The odd tourist or Saturday shopper wasn't enough to keep us afloat. We weren't in a residential area, and we were a fair hike from most of the touristy stuff.
"Good to know. Not the first time I've left something important behind." He looked sheepish, and my chest expanded. I liked knowing that little hint of a weakness about him; it made him more real, less of a fantasy dude.
A little idea niggled at my brain — like an evil elf had tapped me on the shoulder. "You know, if you give me your card, I could call you if you leave your wallet behind again."
There. His cheeks went dusky pink. I finally got a blush out of him, but hell if I could decipher what it meant. I could predict people's taste in coffee, down to preferred syrup flavor, but I still sucked at decoding anything as complex as human emotions.
"Ah. Um." He did the nervous cough thing again.
"Never mind." I wiped my hands on my apron. "I'd better get back."
"Wait." He opened the wallet, plucked out a white card with a blue logo, and offered it to me. His broad fingers brushed mine again as he handed it over. Another barely there touch, but I felt the charge all the way down my spine, like I'd chugged a triple shot.
My breath tripped with wishing he'd add a "call me anytime." Brian would have. But David just stood there silently. Straighter than the Fremont Bridge and denser than a concrete pylon.
"I'm Robby, by the way," I offered, mainly as a way to fill up the awkward silence.
"Thanks ... Robby." David said the name like it didn't quite fit. And I guess it didn't — people expect to hear an Asian name like Kim or Jae, not Robert Edwards Junior. I was Robby, Dad was Bob, and we hadn't spoken in weeks. Dad was actually cooler with the whole gay thing than my Korean mom, but it was an uneasy acceptance, punctuated by uncomfortable phone calls and infrequent visits.
The pink had returned to David's cheeks and I almost said something else, but then he pushed through the doors and was gone.
As I walked back to my cart, I glanced down at his card.
David Gregory, Finance Director Library Trust
Huh. Not so very corporate after all. And he'd been walking six blocks — past a Starbucks, a Tully's, and two other buildings with coffee carts — to my cart. Those two small facts made my stomach all quivery again.CHAPTER 2
Waterfront Park was ablaze with rainbows: banners, sidewalks, T-shirts, tattoos, wigs, face paint. I felt positively monochromatic as I brushed my hands across my black apron and peered around the balloons — rainbow-colored, of course — bobbing cheerfully from Chris's People's Coffee trailer. My old boss, Chris, had scored a primo spot in the park's food vending area for Pride weekend. Since he'd helped me get my current cart, I didn't really feel I could turn him down with "Gee, I'd rather watch the parade and find a willing stranger to make out with."
Not that making out was likely to happen. I could count on one hand with fingers left over the number of times I'd gotten laid in the last year. Purchasing my cart, recovering from Brian, and my general awkwardness with the dating and hookup scene kept my bed cold and my wrist sore.
The line for coffee was at least six deep. I got back to work, not sure if I should feel grateful I didn't have time to linger on my painfully single state. Even with five baristas, the line stayed long for the entire Saturday shift. By the six o'clock close of the festival, I was too beat even to enjoy the people watching. The night offered tons of parties and celebrations. But my feet ached and I could only manage going through the motions at Slaughters before giving into exhaustion and collapsing into my bed, in a quiet house.
My roommates rolled in around dawn, reminding me that I still had to get through one more day of Pride. So much for getting laid. My new goal was simply to endure. Something about being an employee again — albeit it a temporary one — made even my smallest bones ache. I'd stumbled into the coffee-cart business the same way I did everything else in my life, but it was mine. I'd come to Portland for college, stayed for Brian, and had a tiny inheritance land in my lap just in time to get in on the coffee-cart opportunity.
When I arrived for the Sunday shift, I was grateful to find the crowd was lighter and more hungover, which meant fewer fancy drinks and a lot more Americanos and triple shots. Lounging against the table with the blenders, I was about to let one of the younger baristas take the next customer when I caught sight of a familiar dark head.
The hair on the back of my neck perked up. David's appearance was far more energizing than the iced soy latte with two extra shots I'd been sipping. "I've got this one," I murmured to the blue-haired barista.
"Whatever," she muttered with a classic teenage eye roll.
I sidled up to the counter. "Didn't expect to see you here. What can I do you for?" Even though I'd already established that flirty didn't work with David, I went for it anyway. After all, he was here, right?
He studied the limited menu, scratching his smooth chin. He had the sort of complexion that could easily go scruffy, but even casual he still exuded a nerdy-prep look. His green polo shirt and khaki pants with a canvas belt and loafers made me think of fancy boat parties. And of things people could get up to on boats. But then, something about his too-serious eyes had always made me think of sex.
"Vanilla latte. Iced. Another hot one today." He made a vague gesture at the sunny skies.
"Gotta love June in Portland. I want to bottle up the sun and save it for January."
"June makes monsoon season totally worth it." He drummed his fingers against the metal shelf of the order window.
Excerpted from Bundled Up by Annabeth Albert. Copyright © 2016 Annabeth Albert. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PORTLAND HEAT - SERVED H T,
June: Vanilla Latte,
August: Turtle Mocha,
February: Mexican Mocha,
April: Coconut Frappé,
BAKED FRESH - PORTLAND HEAT,
DELIVERED FAST - Portland Heat,
About the Author,