Amara Maria Robles is a good girl. So good that she gave up her dreams of becoming a renowned pastry chef to help her parents with their struggling Mexican bakery. Yet her parents reject any changes she suggests, and refuse to sell her mouth-watering confections. Clearly being a good girl isn't paying off. So when her brother's sexy ex-best friend walks into the bakery, Amara's tempted to be very bad indeed...
After a scandal twelve years ago, resident bad boy Eric Valencia has returned to make things right with his family and friends. One glance at Amara and her wicked curves, however, and Eric finds himself thinking about how she'd feel beneath him-something he promised Amara's brother he would never think about, let alone do.
But this bad boy is in deep trouble...because Amara's determined to have her cake, and Eric, too.
Each book in the Delicious Desires series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 Delicious Temptation
Book #2 Delicious Complication
Book #3 Delicious Satisfaction
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A Delicious Desires Novel
By Sabrina Sol, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Sabrina Sol
All rights reserved.
Death by cupcake.
In the grand scheme of things, Amara could think of worse ways to go. Although technically it would be "death by watching someone else eat a cupcake." Not as exciting. And probably not even possible.
While watching her parents carefully nibble at the tres leches cupcake she'd baked might not kill her, it could definitely drive her to the brink of insanity. How long did it take to eat a cupcake, anyway? Her dad could gobble up an entire lemon meringue pie in the blink of an eye—if her mother wasn't around to stop him.
No, she knew them too well. Their slow and deliberate chewing was a delay tactic — a trick to prevent them from having to deliver bad news for as long as possible. She'd gotten wise to their ways over the twenty-six years of her life.
She couldn't take it anymore. "Well? What do you think?"
Her parents looked at each other and then at the half-eaten cupcake in her dad's hand.
He cleared his throat. "It's mois—"
"Don't say it. You know I hate that word," her mom warned.
He popped the last of the cupcake into his mouth and mumbled, "Que? Moist?"
"Aaaah! You said it!" Her mom threw her hands up in the air. "Ricardo, why did you say it when I told you not to say it?"
Amara winced. Her dad was in for it now. No one called her mom an old woman. No one.
If she weren't so irritated by their evasive tactics, Amara might have laughed. Her parents' bickering escalated into full-blown Spanish, complete with her mom's usual dramatic gesturing. She sighed, picked up a cupcake, and took a huge bite. It was moist. The airy sponge cake texture had beautifully absorbed the combination of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and coconut milk, filling each nook and cranny with little bubbles of sweetness. She licked the coconut cream frosting from her fingers. Decadent and smooth, with a hint of vanilla and rum. Not bad. But something was missing.
Amara reviewed the recipe in her head, searching for something she might have done wrong. Too much coconut milk or not enough? Maybe she should have baked them a minute more. Or maybe it was the frosting—was the rum too overpowering?
She forced herself to stop dissecting the dessert. Deep down she knew more or less rum wasn't going to make a difference. No one but her parents and she would ever taste these cupcakes anyway. She picked up the last two from the tray and readied herself for the speech she'd heard a million times before.
That is, if they ever stopped arguing with each other.
"Hello?" she tried. When that didn't quiet them, she yelled, "Mom! Dad! Enough!"
Silence. Her parents turned to look at her. "Amara Maria Robles, there is no need to scream at me," her mother huffed.
"I'm sorry, Mom. I was trying to get you two to stop arguing."
"Aye, mija, we weren't arguing. We were. ... how you say? Discussing," her father said.
"Fine, then can you stop discussing for a second, and tell me what you think of my cupcakes?"
"Well, I think they are very ..." He stole a glance at her mother. "... good. Yes, very good. But. ..."
And here it comes.
Her mother walked over and hooked her arm around Amara's waist. "It's just that cupcakes are usually for children, but children don't always like tres leches. You know this. Our orders for tres leches cakes are usually for weddings or anniversaries. Los chiquillos, they like chocolate or strawberry with pictures of that weird sponge boy or Dora the Explorer on the tops. That's what the children like." She emphasized the last part by squeezing Amara's waist a little tighter. "Even you had to go all the way to Chicago before you would try a tres leches cake, remember?"
Of course she remembered. She remembered everything about Chicago, especially the day she found out that she'd made the short list to become the next head pastry chef at the posh Lakeside Resort & Spa. It was the same day her mother had called, begging Amara through tears to come back to East Los Angeles and help run the bakery. So, like a good daughter, she'd given her notice at the resort and moved back home within a matter of weeks.
"Besides," her mother added, raising an eyebrow. "I thought you were done with the silly cupcake ideas? Or did you already forget what happened the last time?"
She unhooked herself from her mother's grip and walked toward the silver trashcan in the corner. She'd rather sacrifice her cupcakes than have another conversation about the last time. Her mother knew very well that Amara hadn't forgotten. How could she, when they brought it up whenever they wanted to prove, yet again, that her parents knew what was best?
"Hey, hey, hey, don't throw them away." Her father plucked the cupcakes from her hands before Amara could toss them. "I said I liked them."
Just as he was about to take a bite into one, her mother stole them both right out of his hands. "Uh, uh. You already had one. No more today, Mr. Diabetes." Then she dumped them into the garbage.
Even though Amara had planned to throw them away herself, it hurt to see her mother do it without a second thought.
Her father walked over to her and kissed her forehead. "They were good cupcakes, very good. They were just too, how you say? Gourmet."
Her mother gestured around the small space, as if the chipped Formica counter, worn linoleum floor, and display cases that were older than Amara were the answer to everything. "East L.A. isn't Chicago, and the Robles Panaderia isn't like the fancy hotel where you used to work. Our customers expect the same simple and traditional recipes we've been selling for almost thirty years. Deep down, I think you know that it's best just to give people what they expect." She poked through her purse, looking for God knows what, then produced their pharmacy card. "Don't forget to pull the next batch of orejas out of the oven while we pick up your father's medicines. If you leave them in too long the sugar burns the puff pastry. Okay?"
Amara nodded, even though it wasn't okay. They'd insisted she come home to help save the bakery, but in the end, they hadn't wanted help at all. How many times had they shot down her ideas for how to freshen up the menu to bring in new customers?
She sighed. Their unyielding grip on "simple and traditional" would probably be the end of the business they had worked so hard to build.
But rather than tell them that, Amara picked at the sprinkle of crumbs left behind on the counter—the only edible reminder of her "too gourmet" tres leches cupcakes with coconut cream frosting.
As her parents walked through the bakery's kitchen toward the back exit, she heard her father tell her mother, "Consuelo, why are you always so hard on her? She wants to help. She's a good daughter, a good—" The thick wooden door slammed on the rest of his sentence, but it didn't matter. They were the words she'd heard all her life.
She's a good girl.
Amara grabbed the Windex and the roll of paper towels from underneath the cash register and wiped down the display case. Again. Dome-shaped sweet breads with a chocolate crumbly checkerboard topping, nut-covered pound cakes, cinnamon and sugar dusted churros, pink shortbread cookies, and custard-filled pastries looked back at her through the clean glass. "That's me, all right. Good, nice, sweet. I might as well be one of these freaking cream puffs," she announced to the empty store.
A low buzzing sound answered her back, reminding her that the orejas were still in the oven.
She turned to head into the kitchen, but the jingle of the front door opening made her turn back again.
At first she only saw a black L.A. Dodgers baseball cap entering the bakery. It cast a shadow over a squared jaw covered with dark stubble. A black T-shirt clung to broad shoulders and a flat chest. Her eyes dropped to formfitting, faded blue jeans with an unmistakable bulge in the center.
Amara inhaled sharply and coughed. "Can I help you?" she managed to sputter out after a few seconds.
The mystery man took off his baseball cap and walked up to the counter. "I sure hope so," he said, and flashed a smile made for sinning. "I'm looking for Miguel Robles."
Familiar brown eyes stared into hers. Even after twelve years, she recognized those lush, thick eyelashes in an instant.
Her chest tightened. Her fingers gripped the counter. Her voice caught in her throat. Typical reaction when you've seen a ghost. Especially a ghost who'd just zapped every part of your body back to life. She still didn't make a sound. Couldn't.
He continued, "My name is Eric Valencia. Miguel and I are, well, we used to be ... we went to high school together." He squinted at her with those beautiful, dark eyes. "His family still owns this bakery, right?"
"Okay. Good. Can I leave something for him?"
Again, a nod.
He dug into his back pocket and pulled out a folded white envelope and handed it to her. "This is a letter for Miguel. Please make sure he gets it. If he decides he wants to reach me, you can tell him I'm staying at my abuela's house. My cell number's on the letter, too."
She reached for the envelope, and her fingers brushed his as she took it from him. The contact warmed her from the inside out. After shoving the letter into the top center pocket of her full apron, she tried to nonchalantly wipe her sweaty palms on the sides of her jeans. Amara expected her surprise visitor to leave at that point, but he didn't budge. And the longer he stood there staring at her, the warmer she got, especially, in one particular area of her body.
Then he unleashed his infamous roguish smirk. The one that let you know he was the sort who regularly thought wicked things and was now thinking them about you. "So, I've told you my name. Are you going to tell me yours?"
The fact that he didn't recognize her shouldn't have wounded her, but it did. She'd known him since he was nine years old and became her brother Miguel's best friend in the fourth grade. Maybe she should be happy he didn't automatically see the chubby little girl who used to beg to borrow his CDs, or bake him special batches of chocolate chip cookies. She was fourteen the last time she'd seen him. But had twelve years really changed her that much?
She wondered how she must look to him now and followed his flirty gaze. It moved from her eyes to her lips to below her neck and she swore she felt it. His eyes continued downward and lingered there longer than appropriate. Amara looked down and saw her D-cup cleavage now prominently on display, like the bakery's selection of treats. Warmth spread to her cheeks and neck as she realized she'd accidentally pushed down the front of her pink V-neck T-shirt when she'd shoved his letter into her apron. Even more embarrassing? The tops of her breasts looked as if they were being squeezed from the clutches of her cheeky-turned-ironic "I Like It Spicy" black apron.
Ah. No wonder he didn't recognize her right away. She didn't have those at fourteen. Adjusting her position against the counter, Amara pulled up her apron. That did the trick and his trance broke.
Eric's smoldering, yet also appreciative, stare found its way back to her face. "You look familiar. Did you go to Roosevelt?"
"I did. But I wasn't in your class." She'd been a lowly freshman when Eric and Miguel had been seniors.
"Maybe we passed each other in the halls, then? Although, I'm sure I would've stopped to talk to someone as pretty as you."
Before she could rein it in, a silly giggle escaped her throat but it stopped as soon as he took one of her hands and said, "I would say it was very nice to meet you. But I still don't know your name." His touch ignited a backdraft of arousal that swooshed through her body, and a heat exploded between them, which he acknowledged with a slow, confident smile. Her body was so turned on, so hot that she thought she smelled smoke.
That's because you're playing with fire.
Eric Valencia had been Roosevelt High's resident bad boy. Trouble followed him wherever he went. And so did the girls. It frustrated her parents to no end that Miguel insisted on staying friends with him, especially when they were seniors and that trouble started to involve drinking and run-ins with the police. Back then, even Amara knew that Eric wasn't the type of guy you ended up marrying. No, he was the one you ended up screwing just to piss off your boyfriend or parents.
Her mom had made her pretty mad this morning ...
Despite this burning need to know what it felt like to be just a little bit bad with a bad boy like Eric, Amara decided to tell him her name, even if meant dousing the sparks between them. "You probably won't believe me, but my name is. ..."
Wait. She really did smell smoke. The orejas!
Amara snatched her hand away, ran to the kitchen, and discovered it engulfed in a sooty gray cloud. She turned off the oven. On cue, the smoke detector began wailing. She yanked open the oven door. Even more smoke poured out. "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh." Frantically, she searched for her potholders but couldn't find them fast enough.
"Stand back." A deep voice cut through the haze. Eric grabbed a dishtowel from the counter and reached for the baking sheet filled with blackened ear-shaped pastries. Before she could tell him the dishtowel was way too thin to protect his fingers, he pulled the orejas out of the oven.
"Son of a bitch!" The tray crashed to the ground. The pieces that weren't stuck to the bottom of the pan scattered across the tile floor like charred pebbles. Eric continued swearing as he waved his injured hand.
Amara rushed over. "Oh my gosh! Is it bad? Let me see." She pulled his arm down to examine the damage. Red blisters were starting to form on the pads of his right index finger and thumb. "Come over here so I can run some cold water over your fingers," she said while pulling him by his non-burned hand in the direction of the stainless steel sink. "Hopefully that will take some of the sting away."
He let her guide him through the kitchen, and she flipped on the faucet and gently pulled his hand under the water. "Okay, stay here and I'll be right back." Amara went to the pantry and grabbed a broom. After positioning herself directly underneath the smoke detector on the ceiling, she lifted the broom's handle and maneuvered it until she could push the "off" button. The incessant beeping stopped.
"Thank God," Eric shouted as she put the broom away. "My poor ears. I think they hurt more than the burns on my fingers."
When he laughed, Amara smiled in her heart. She used to live to make him laugh.
Stop it. You're not fourteen, and he's not your brother's best friend anymore. He's basically a stranger.
Time to get him out of there and clean up the mess before her parents came back. "Any better? Is the water helping?"
He showed her his fingers. "The pain is better, but I bet these blisters won't go away anytime soon." He faced her now, his back against the sink.
"I've got just the cure for that." She reached over his shoulder to grab the plant sitting on the windowsill behind him.
"Are you going to kiss it and make it better?" he asked, his voice low and husky.
She made a note that he'd gotten more forward since he'd been away. Or maybe it was because she'd never been on the receiving end of his flirtation? Either way, she wasn't sure how to handle this dangerous dance. His breath fanned her hair and she willed herself not to turn her head. Because one look into those dark, sexy eyes would surely cause her lady parts to burst into flames and set the smoke detector off all over again.
"What? No. I meant I have this." She showed him the plant. "It's aloe vera. It'll help with the blisters."
"If you say so. But I still may need that kiss. You know, just in case," he said with a wink.
The fact that he could flirt despite his obvious pain both surprised and flattered her. She brushed it off. She didn't practice the art of flirting on a regular basis. She had no sexy comeback. No feminine wiles to bring him to his knees. Not that she wanted him on his knees or in any other suggestive position. Maybe. So she focused on doing what she did know—fixing what needed to be fixed.
Excerpted from Delicious Temptation by Sabrina Sol, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2015 Sabrina Sol. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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