After a rocky year, life is once again sweet for brothers Troy and Quentin Elliot, and Quentin's new wife, Harper. Their bakery, Just Desserts, is thriving, with Quentin as pastry chef, and attorney Troy handling the books. In fact, Troy is ready to pursue his next big goal: to run for Mayor of Memphis, Tennessee. The competition is tough, but there's one challenge Troy doesn't anticipatehis opponent's distractingly beautiful campaign manager and daughter, Amina Salman. . .
A fellow attorney, Amina hopes to reconnect with her estranged father. But a chance meeting with Troy quickly complicates her task. Not only is her passionate spirit at odds with her father's conservative values, her attraction to his rival leaves her even more conflicted. Soon, Amina and Troy are falling in lovebut when they surrender to sweet temptation, they find themselves with more at stake than a campaign victory. . .
Praise for Deborah Fletcher Mello
"An author who consistently delivers a strong story, complex characters and scorching love scenes." RT Book Reviews
About the Author
Writing since she was thirteen years old, Deborah Fletcher Mello can't imagine herself doing anything else. Her first romance novel earned her a 2004 Romance Slam Jam nomination for Best New Author. In 2005, she received Book of the Year and Favorite Heroine nominations, and won a Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award in 2009. In 2014, Craving Temptation was selected as one of the Best Romance Books by Publishers Weekly. Born and raised in Connecticut, Deborah now maintains base camp in North Carolina, but considers home to be wherever the moment moves her. Feel free to reach Deborah on deborahmello.blogspot.com, or on Twitter @DebbMelloWrites.
Read an Excerpt
By Deborah Fletcher Mello
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Deborah Fletcher Mello
All rights reserved.
Troy Elliott was not expecting the chaos that greeted him when he came through the doors of Just Desserts, the thriving Beale Street bakery that he co-owned with his brother, Quentin, and Quentin's new wife, Harper. But chaos reigned as Quentin and Harper stood staring into a massive hole that had been cut through the wall that bordered the building next door.
Troy moved to stand between them, staring where they stared. "Hey," he chimed cheerily. "What's going on?"
Quentin shook his head from side to side, tossing a nod toward Harper.
She responded excitedly. "They broke through the walls today! This expansion is going to be so perfect. The contractors promised me they'll be able to frame out this entrance by Wednesday, then we'll be able to take down this dust sheet and be right back to business."
"They still have some work to do in the new building. We won't be taking down the dust sheet. I can just hear the list of violations the health department would have for us if we did," Quentin stated. "We're losing money being closed, Harper!"
Harper rolled her eyes. "It's only two days, Quentin. Maybe three."
Troy laughed. "You know they say a renovation can kill a marriage. You two sure you want to do this so soon after saying your vows?"
Harper waved a dismissive hand at her brother-in-law. "This renovation won't challenge our marriage one bit," she said.
The two brothers locked gazes, Quentin's eyes stretched wide as he stared at his sibling. The two men suddenly burst out laughing.
"You two are not funny," Harper chided as she tossed a look at one brother and then the other. "I'm not talking to either one of you now." She pushed past the plastic wall sheet into the other space, gesturing for the building contractor's attention.
Quentin moved behind the bakery's large counter, toward the coffeepot. He poured a cup for himself and one for his brother. Troy crossed to the other side of the room, dropping down into a seat at the corner table.
"So what's on your agenda today?" Quentin asked, moving to take a seat across from his brother.
Troy took a sip of his morning brew. "I have to close out my last cases this morning. Then I have a meeting with my election committee."
"Mayor Elliott! That's going to be something. Pop would have been proud," Quentin said, referring to their mentor and surrogate parent. Pop had also been Harper's biological father.
The late Everett "Pop" Donovan had been the brain trust behind the bakery, dedicating his life to his business and his two foster sons. His death a year earlier had taken all three of them by surprise and had cemented their familial bond in ways none of them could have anticipated. Both men enjoyed telling people how Quentin had married their sister, the reactions always priceless. It made for a good laugh-out-loud moment.
Troy couldn't have been happier for Quentin and Harper. The love the two shared was the sweetest thing. And with the two of them happy and content, both focused on the growth and success of their family business, it was now Troy's chance to do something he'd wanted for himself. To follow one of his dreams.
Running for political office was the next step to what had already been a successful legal career and Troy was excited for the new challenge. He saw putting in a bid for mayor of the city of Memphis as the beginning of a trek that would eventually lead him to a gubernatorial run or maybe even a senate seat in Washington. With no one and nothing to distract him, Troy imagined his political ambitions were limitless.
He smiled warmly. "Yeah," he said. "Pop would have been proud of both of us."
"What are you wearing?" Basil Salman asked, his gaze shooting from the top of his sister's head to the bottom of her low-heeled pumps.
Amina Salman cut an annoyed eye at her older brother. "I'm wearing clothes. What are you wearing?" she asked, her tone curt.
Basil's jaw tightened, his eyes narrowing. "Your attire is inappropriate, Amina. Father will not be happy."
Amina looked down to the conservative Ann Taylor suit that fit her petite frame nicely. She blew a deep sigh. She'd barely been in Memphis one month and her family's criticisms were already starting.
Her younger sister, Rasheeda, giggled softly. The girl was covered from head to toe in a traditional Islamic niqab, befitting their strict Muslim upbringing. No one ever criticized what Rasheeda wore. Amina shook her head, unable to see her sister's smile beneath the veil that covered her face. She turned back to eye her brother.
"I appreciate the fashion advice, Basil, but after earning two college degrees and procuring my law license in three states, I think I'm more than qualified to pick out my own wardrobe."
Basil skewed his mouth to give her a terse retort when their father, Nasser Salman, entered the room. All three of his children stopped speaking as he slowly crossed the room to take a seat behind his oak-toned desk. He looked from one to the other, his gaze pausing on Amina.
"Daughter, we have had this conversation before. I cannot control what you do in your mother's home, but you will respect my rules in my house."
Amina took a deep breath. "Yes, Father."
"So what are your plans today?"
"I've rented space to house your campaign headquarters. I need to pick up the keys and make sure all the utilities are turned on. By tomorrow I want to have most of the computers and equipment in place. The phones will all be connected by the end of the week."
Nasser nodded as he leaned forward, resting his chin on his hands. "I'm glad that you agreed to come run my campaign, Amina. It's good to have all my children here working with me."
Amina smiled. "So am I, Father." She tossed a quick look to her brother and sister. There was a hint of hostility in her brother's hazel eyes, a smile shining in her sister's. She turned back to her father. "I actually need to get going. We need to have a press conference next week to announce your candidacy so I want to contact the local newspaper and the television stations to get that scheduled. I have a lot of work to do."
As she headed to the door Basil called after her. "You should change clothes before you leave, Amina."
Turning back around, she gave her brother a wide smile. "Whatever you say, Basil," she answered as she met her father's stern stare. As the door closed behind her that smile dropped to a deep frown. "In another lifetime maybe," she muttered under her breath as she exited the home and headed to her car.
Maneuvering her way toward downtown Memphis, Amina shook her head from side to side. Working for her father was going to be a bigger challenge than she'd fathomed, she thought. Despite her proven track record with grassroots fundraising and success as a political game changer in Atlanta, running her father's mayoral campaign was starting to feel like she'd bitten off more than she could chew.
Her mother had warned her and Amina had chosen not to listen. It had been some sixteen years since her parents' divorce. Amina had been twelve years old when she'd packed her belongings and gone with the matriarch. In Atlanta her mother had chosen to leave their Muslim faith behind, returning to her Baptist roots. Between summers with her father and the school year with her mom, Amina had been raised in both religions and was only now finding any level of comfort with her own faith and beliefs. Amina was slowly realizing that battling her father's political agenda was not going to be the only fight she would have on her hands as she wrestled with his strict values and her own moral code.
She blew a deep sigh. It was starting to feel like a chocolate doughnut kind of moment, she thought. Maybe even two! She suddenly smiled, a bright lift to her face as her full lips bent upward. Paused at a stoplight, she thought back to the Beale Street bakery she and her sister had found on one of their recent jaunts. There'd been a wedding reception taking place and the bakery storefront had been closed. The bride and groom had been beautiful as they'd danced together inside.
There'd been a very nice-looking man who'd spoken to them as they stood outside watching, kindly inviting them inside to share the wedding cake. He'd had the most inviting eyes and the most welcoming smile. Amina had wanted to take him up on his invitation but Rasheeda's pulling on her arm to leave had killed the mood. He'd invited them to come back the next day and had her father's plans not interfered, she would have. That had been three weeks ago and she still hadn't found her way back.
Amina pointed her car in the direction of Beale Street and Just Desserts, that chocolate doughnut calling her name loudly. As she did, she found herself hoping that she might run into that handsome stranger one more time.
"I'm sorry, but the bakery's closed for the next few days," Harper said, her gaze resting on the young woman who'd found her way inside. Under her breath she cursed whichever brother had neglected to lock the door when he'd left.
"Oh, darn!" Amina responded. "I was really hoping to get a doughnut."
Harper moved from where she stood to the other woman's side. "We're just doing some renovations but we hope to be open again by the end of the week."
Amina smiled as she extended her hand. "My name's Amina. Amina Salman. I just moved to Memphis a few weeks ago and people keep telling me about your bakery. Every time I've come though you've been closed!"
Harper winced ever so slightly. "Ouch, that's not good! I appreciate that you keep coming back though," she said with a warm smile. She shook Amina's extended hand. "I'm Harper. Harper Elliott. Welcome to Memphis!"
"Thank you. It's taking some getting used to."
"Where did you come from?"
"I grew up in Atlanta."
Harper nodded. "I'm originally from Louisiana. I moved here one year ago so I know exactly what you mean."
Amina smiled brightly. "I guess I'll try back next week."
Harper held up an index finger. "Give me a quick minute," she said as she turned and rushed to the back of the bakery. She returned minutes later with a cellophane bag in hand. "We don't have any doughnuts but I dug into my personal stash of chocolate cookies. I don't share these with just anybody but I can't have you walk out empty-handed. Especially since this wasn't the first time we were closed on you!"
"Thank you," Amina said with a warm chuckle as she took a quick peek into the bag. "You have just made my entire day. I have a weakness for anything chocolate!"
Harper laughed with her. "Actually my motives are purely selfish. I know once you taste those cookies you'll definitely come back and I'm looking forward to becoming really good friends."
Amina nodded. "We already are," she said as she headed toward the door and waved good-bye.
Trailing after her, Harper waved back, her gaze following the woman as she moved back to her car. As he moved from behind the counter Troy called her name.
"Is everything okay?" he questioned, moving to stare where she stared.
Harper nodded. "It is," she said as she watched Amina pull out of the parking space into traffic. She waved one last time.
"Who was that?" he asked, not recognizing the vehicle.
"My new friend," Harper answered. "And she's very pretty!"
Troy cut an eye at her. "You're telling me this why?"
Harper shrugged her narrow shoulders. "You never seem to notice any of the pretty women who come into the bakery."
Troy laughed. "I notice them, Harper. I choose to ignore them. I don't have time for a woman in my life right now."
Harper cut her eyes back at him, a sly smile on her face. "Whatever you say, Big Brother."
Troy was still laughing. "I mean it, Harper! So please don't try to play matchmaker with me and your new friend. I am not interested."
Harper moved back to her seat at the table. "Don't be interested," she said nonchalantly. "You're probably not her type anyway. I get the impression she has very discerning tastes when it comes to men."
"And how would you know that?"
Harper laughed. "She has a weakness for chocolate."CHAPTER 2
Harper eased herself down the stairs into the commercial kitchen. The smell of cinnamon and vanilla assaulted her nostrils. Quentin was putting the final touches on a wedding cake, the elegant six-tier confection certain to be a showstopper at the wedding of Westley and Denise Woody. He lifted his gaze as she leaned against the stainless-steel counter, resting on her elbows as she stared in his direction.
"It's beautiful!" she exclaimed.
Quentin's gaze danced over her curvaceous frame. She was wearing one of his dress shirts, the garment closed with one button. Simple leather flip-flops adorned her manicured toes. Her hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail and her natural complexion glowed. "It pales in comparison to how beautiful you are, gorgeous!"
Harper smiled. "You are such a silver-tongued devil. You make a girl blush."
Quentin laughed. "Why are you still awake, baby?"
"I was missing you. The bed's cold."
"I guess I need to do something about that," Quentin said as he lifted the cake from the counter and transferred it to a metal moving cart.
He rolled the cake into the cooler for keeping. When it was safely tucked away he dropped his work utensils into the commercial dishwasher. He washed his hands and reached for a dish towel. With one last check of the yeast rolls rising on the countertops and all the timers he turned toward his wife, a sly smile on his face.
"What are you wearing under that shirt?" he asked as he leaned back against the freezer door, his arms crossed over his chest.
Harper gave him a sultry look with the hint of a smile as she toyed with the one button on her shirt. Undoing it slowly the shirt opened just a smidgen, the barest hint of warm mocha skin peeking through.
Quentin smiled widely, a wave of heat shifting through his groin. Harper grabbed the front of the shirt with both hands and flashed him a quick look at her goodies. Beneath the shirt she wore nothing. Her nipples stood at attention and she sported a perfectly manicured landing strip between her legs.
Quentin lifted his eyes back to her face as Harper bit down against her bottom lip, beckoning him to her with a sultry, come hither look. As he moved in her direction Harper turned and began her own slow stroll toward the back stairwell. Quentin was right on her heels.
Harper was midway up the steps when Quentin eased an arm around her waist, causing her shirt to rise up on her body. He pulled her back against himself as he leaned to place one kiss on her right cheek and another on her left. Harper giggled as he followed each kiss with a gentle slap. She turned in his arms as he moved to stand on the riser beside her, dropping his mouth to hers. The kiss had her dizzy with wanting, everything about her new husband teasing her senses.
Quentin moved her against the wall, lifting her up as her legs wrapped tightly around his waist. His rising member was hard, the length of him tapping eagerly at the door to her most private place. He purred, the guttural moan rising from someplace deep in his chest.
Their kisses were fervent as their hands danced a slow drag across each other's bodies, fingers tap-dancing over warm skin. Harper whispered sweet nothings and dirty somethings into her man's ear. His eagerness rising with a vengeance, Quentin chuckled softly. Their intimate moment was suddenly interrupted when Troy swung the lower-level door open. The couple turned abruptly to stare at him just as he caught sight of them on the stairwell.
With his eyes wide Troy quickly slammed the door closed between them. He stood on the other side, the moment awkward as he fought not to laugh out loud.
"Sorry!" he said, calling out to his family. "But you two might want to consider getting a hotel room!"
The door swung open as Quentin moved back into the kitchen, his clothes readjusted. His cheeks were heated, a crimson red tint coloring his complexion. Troy could hear Harper's loud giggling fading off in the distance.
Excerpted from Craving Temptation by Deborah Fletcher Mello. Copyright © 2014 Deborah Fletcher Mello. 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In second installment of Just Desserts series Ms. Mello tells the love story of Troy Elliot and Amina Salman. Troy Elliott makes his run for Mayor of Memphis, Tennessee and meets his opponent daughter who takes his breath away. Neither Troy nor Amina wasn’t looking for love but it found them in a BIG way. Three weeks prior to Troy putting his bid in to run for Mayor he is standing on the outside of Just Desserts for some fresh air and this woman and her sister just happen to be passing by where they speak briefly. That brief encountered leaves them both wondering if they would ever see each other again. Amina Salman come back home to Memphis to run her father campaign and to also repair her estranged relationship with her father and siblings. Once Troy and Amina meet again the chemistry between these two characters is hot, there is this undeniable attraction between that they can’t get stay away from each other. Although the attraction between was so strong they took the time to really get to know each other. As with any couple there are obstacles that they will have to overcome. With Troy the obstacle is that he is her father opponent and with Amina while living under her father roof she has to balance her Muslim faith and her father’s expectations. As Troy and Amina begins to follow their heart they fall more deeply in love with each other. Ms. Mello leaves you with such emotions, wonderful characters and family loyalty. There is some twist and turn that will keep you turning the pages to find out what will happen. I have to say that I love the secondary characters in the book. Ms. Mello also touches on sensitive religious and cultural issues with grace. You will see the love between the main characters how they handle their obstacle in front of them, the bottom line is Ms. Mello told a story that has the elements of diversity, politics, family drama but most of all Ms. Mello told the story that TRUE LOVE, UNCONDTIONAL LOVE WILL WIN ALL THE TIME. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK, YOU WILL NOT BE DISSPPOINTED. You will laugh, cry and you will want to slap some of the characters in the book, but that just mean that Ms. Mello told a good story. REVIEWED BY Louise Brown Urban Divaz Reviews
Kudos to Deborah Fletcher Mello for allowing love to be the universal language in a cross-cultural story of both obvious and unseen challenges. Mello does a wonderful job of demystifying a culture not normally associated with romance and sexuality in popular culture. She approaches this sensitive material with human and realistic emotions and interactions. She uses love to topple all barriers, by appealing to the reader with the most common denominator. Her prose is sharp and intellectual with an enjoyable voice that doesn't get lost in the religious/cultural enlightenment. She makes the story exciting through a varied cast of characters that combines elements of small town life with diversity, politics, family drama, suspense and steamy hot sex! Mello has done a wonderful job with Craving Temptation. It is well- written with memorable characters that make you crave along with them.
An absolutely beautifully written story. Loved it and it is my favorite of all the books written by Deborah Fletcher Mello, she is a master story teller. In this book the characters become real and the reader is engaged in Troy and Amina's story from start to finish.
I was not familiar with this author and decided to take a chance. This story was beautifully told and I could hardly wait to turn the pages!
Very nice love story