Chloe Nelson and professional hockey player Griffin Lange get along like chocolate and pickles. But Chloe needs the famous (and infamously unattached) Griffin to attract people to her struggling bakery, and Griffin needs the curvaceous and fiery Chloe to keep him out of trouble. A fake relationship for the media to focus on seems like the perfect plan.
But when temptation throws them into bed together, a new plan arises. Why not make the most of things? Griffin's winning every home game, and Chloe's business has never been better. Both know it's only physical-and only temporary-so why is it starting to feel like more? And can they drop their defenses long enough to find out if what started out as playing pretend can rise into something sinfully good?
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Some Like It Sinful
A Perfect Recipe Novel
By Robbie Terman, Stacy Abrams
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Robbie Terman
All rights reserved.
When life handed Chloe Nelson lemons, she made lemon sponge cake drizzled with lemon icing and garnished with lemon zest. But today, life had decided to throw a set of knives directly at her heart, and Chloe simply didn't have a recipe for that.
The day had started well. She'd arrived at her bakery at seven that morning. Even though Happy Endings Bakery didn't officially open for five days, she'd already gotten in the habit of arriving early and testing recipes.
Just walking into the place sent Chloe into a giddy dance. This wasn't the first kitchen she'd worked in, but the sight of the commercial refrigerator and freezer, the double convection ovens, even the Hobart made her feel like doing a gleeful cartwheel. This kitchen was hers. She'd paid for every appliance, every tile, every cookie sheet. All her hard work had finally paid off.
In anticipation of the opening, she'd decided to pass out free dessert on the sidewalk around lunchtime. The morning flew by — it always did when she was baking. Everything slipped away — her fears, worries, the endless list of things she needed to do before the opening. The repetition of measuring ingredients, the sound of the large mixing blade scraping the sides of the metal bowl, the sweet scent of chemistry creating perfection soothed her. By noon, she stood in front of her store, wearing a turquoise T-shirt that read, How Do You Like Your Happy Ending? and holding a tray of free toffee-fudge ripple cookies.
And then she saw it. The storefront across the street from hers, the one that only yesterday had been vacant, now sported a large sign in the window, with red letters as bright as the blood draining from her face.
COMING SOON! GOODY LUV BAKERY!
"Dude! Are those free cookies?"
Chloe turned her head, the world too fuzzy to see the face that matched the voice. She thrust the tray into what she hoped were his hands. "Here. Take them."
"Thanks, Cookie Lady," he shouted as she blindly pushed through the door of Happy Endings.
With shaking hands, she twisted the lock and lowered the blinds, then sank into one of the brightly colored plastic chairs she'd purchased because they reminded her of sprinkles on a cupcake.
How could this have happened? When she'd rented the space three months earlier, the vacant one across the street had been that way for six months. She certainly had never imagined it would be rented to another bakery. And a chain bakery. Goody Luv had begun opening all around the Midwest a few years back, their largest shop being their flagship on Michigan Avenue. Now, they'd apparently decided to expand all over Chicago.
Hot tears stung her eyes. Taking a chance at opening a new business was scary enough without having to worry about competing against a huge corporation. She'd sunk all of her money into renovating this space; she couldn't just move to another location.
And she couldn't just give up. Opening a bakery had been her dream since the first baking class she'd taken at the age of twelve. She'd worked her curvy butt off to get where she was, and she wasn't going to let some multimillion-dollar corporation run her out of business.
She needed a plan. And someone rational to keep her from flipping out. After grabbing the phone off the counter, she dialed her sister. After eight agonizing rings, Sylvia finally answered.
"What is it?" Sylvia barked. "I'm heading into court."
Her sister's gruff tone didn't bother her. Sylvia had more on her plate then an all-you-can-eat buffet. Not only did she have a husband and a terrific son, she was also an assistant district attorney.
"I need your help."
"Legal, financial, or emotional?"
"At the moment, emotional. Possibly financial. And if I give into baser urges, legal."
There was a pause. "Sweetie, I love you, but I need the Cliff's Notes version, or I'm going to have to call you back after court."
"Syl," Chloe wailed. "I can't believe this is happening." Dammit! She wiped away a tear that had gotten loose. She wouldn't let herself fall apart. She couldn't come up with a solution if she became hysterical.
But although Sylvia was the most levelheaded person she knew, she was also more a mother to her than sister, and she brought out the child in Chloe that just wanted to be rescued.
"Are you hurt?"
Sylvia's mothering tone made Chloe choke back another sob, but she cleared her throat and forced herself to take a few deep, calming breaths. When she could speak without her voice cracking, she told Sylvia about Goody Luv.
"Wow." Sylvia paused. "Their store is down the street from my office. They have amazing scones. Yours are better," she was quick to add.
"I don't know what to do," Chloe admitted. "I can compete on product, but I can't compete with their advertising."
"There's a solution," Sylvia promised. "Shoot. I'm late. Seriously, Chloe, don't panic. I'll help any way I can. We can talk more later."
"Okay. Thanks, Syl." She hung up the phone, feeling better even though nothing had changed. She might have a hometown advantage, but the enemy was still invading her turf.
* * *
Exhaustion gripped Griffin Lange.
He hadn't slept well last night. His bed was too soft, for one thing. Over the last few years, he'd begun to prefer hard mattresses, which helped with the aches in his lower back. But when he'd gone to the store, the salesman recommended a mattress endorsed by the Organization of Geriatric Americans. He'd walked out of the store without the mattress, damned if he'd let anyone think he was ready to apply for his AARP card. Jesus, he was thirty-five, not eighty-five.
But the real reason he'd stared at the ceiling half the night was the impeding start of the season. As captain of the Chicago Brawlers, the NHL's greatest team ever (not just his opinion — Sports Illustrated had said it too, in 2003), it was his job to lead his team to the Stanley Cup finals. Something that hadn't happened in the last seven years.
This year would be different, he vowed. This year, not only would they make it to the finals, they would win. Then, the city's faith in him would be restored. They would realize the title the town had bestowed upon him after his third Stanley Cup, "Prince of the Puck," still meant something.
"Yo, Cap!" Riley Brock, the team's new twenty-three-year-old golden boy, sauntered over to him looking like a baby playing dress-up in a black tuxedo, holding a glass of champagne in each hand.
"Got this for you," Riley said, handing one of the glasses to him.
"Thanks," Griffin said. The last thing he wanted was champagne, which would make him even sleepier than he was now. If he didn't take it, though, he'd probably see hurt in Riley's puppy-dog brown eyes. The kid was totally in love with him. Not in love in love with him, but more like he wanted to be him. Riley had actually tacked Griffin's poster up on his bedroom wall as a child.
"This party is great, isn't it?" Riley commented, bobbing with enthusiasm.
Every year, Trinity Bank, the corporation that owned the Brawlers, threw a black-tie fund-raiser to kick off the season. The event was held at Trinity Arena — or the Tri, as most Chicagoans called it.
The wealthiest fans in the city (who else could afford the ten-thousand-dollar-a-plate sticker?) filled the arena, along with anorexic models the Trinity bigwigs had hired to make the room a little prettier. The dishes were china, the stemware crystal, and "goody bags" contained real diamond watches. This year's festivities included an auction, for which three hot little sport cars were on display. He'd probably bid on at least one of the cars; putting down a promise of a hundred K usually impressed the hell out of the rookies. He'd just need to make sure someone was around to bid higher. Last thing he needed was another sports car.
"You never finished telling me about that game against Vancouver," Riley reminded. His fawning eyes were lit up like a Christmas tree.
Griffin propped an elbow on a high-top bistro table. "It was 2006, game seven of the finals. We were tied with one minute on the clock. I'm in the penalty box, some bullshit about high sticking that pansy LaFleur."
Riley leaned closer as Charlie Hoffler and Nils Maguire, both of whom had been drafted last year, joined the group. Blood rushed through Griffin's veins with the force of Niagara Falls as he continued, "There's ten seconds left on the clock when I jump outta the box and steal the puck right out from under LaFleur's nose. He's still trying to figure out what the hell happened while I'm plowing the puck right between the goalie's legs."
"Wow, Cap," Hoffler said, his eyes glazed over. "I think I just wet myself."
Griffin grinned. "The crowd stormed the ice and carried me on their shoulders for an hour before the cops broke it up."
"I want the Cup," Riley said fiercely. "We're going to get it this year, right, Cap?"
He swallowed past the uncomfortable lump in his throat. "Absolutely."
Their smiles were bright enough to blind him. He looked around, hoping just for a moment he could find one of his longtime teammates, someone who didn't stare at him all the time, doe-eyed and hopeful. But most of them had already left with their wives to relieve the babysitters. Only bachelors hoping to score with one of the models remained.
"How come we haven't won a Cup in seven years?" Nils, the little punk, asked.
"I have a better question," Griffin countered. He didn't want to analyze the team's failures, especially if that meant studying his own shortcomings. "How come this party sucks? We've got gorgeous women and all the alcohol we want. We need to do something to liven things up."
"What I'd really like to do," Riley said, his gaze drifting toward a sweet cherry-red Porsche, "is drive that."
Hoffler snickered. "While getting a BJ from her." He pointed to a Gisele Bündchen look-alike.
Griffin stared at the kids in front of him, none of whom had had hair on their pricks when he'd started in the NHL. "Watch this, boys."
He strolled over to the red Porsche, opened the door, and slid into the driver's seat. The cars were meant to be open for inspection by prospective bidders, so no one batted an eyelash. He opened the glove compartment, then the center console. Since the cars had to be moved out of the arena tonight, he knew it had to be somewhere ... Bingo. The keys fell off the sun visor as he lowered it.
The Three Musketeers gathered around the car's open window. "What are you doing?" Riley asked.
Griffin waved the key in the air. "Wanna ride?"
Hoffler and Nils hooted with laughter while Riley's Adam's apple bounced. "Very funny, Cap." The squeak in his voice betrayed his unease.
Griffin tilted his head. "No? Maybe next time." He slid the key in the ignition and turned. The rev of the engine echoed through the room and over conversations.
He revved the engine a few more times for good measure. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a man in a horrendous navy-blue security guard jacket and black pants rush in his direction with a walkie-talkie in hand.
"See you later, boys." Griffin stepped on the clutch and shifted into first gear.
A collective gasp rose in the crowd as people began jumping out of his way. He took it slow, weaving through the throngs of people.
He'd do a couple laps around the arena, he decided, to amuse his young teammates, and then abandon the car.
As Griffin waved to his teammates on his right, a hand grabbed at the doorframe through the open driver's window, kicking Griffin's pulse into high gear. He jerked, laying his foot hard on the gas pedal. The car jolted forward, followed by a scream two octaves too high to be considered masculine.
As his heart beat furiously, he stuck his head out of the window and looked back at the security guard, writhing on the floor, holding his foot.
Holy shit! He'd run over the guy! Time to stop —
A shout of terror brought his attention forward. A scantily dressed woman who'd clearly had too much to drink stood directly in his path. He slammed on the brakes and wrenched the wheel to the left.
The car screeched to a stop, narrowly missing the woman. But not, unfortunately, missing the dessert buffet or one of the enormous ice sculptures, this one carved to his likeness.
Which fell directly through the windshield of the car.
* * *
He could imagine tomorrow's headlines. "Prince of the Puck Crowned By Ice Sculpture of Himself."
Griffin let himself laugh at the irony for a moment before sobering. Laughing hysterically probably wouldn't impress the overweight, scowling policeman who'd led him into the interrogation room a half hour earlier.
He heaved himself out of the rickety metal chair and paced the dingy room, working out nerves that gathered in his stomach. Yes, Officer, he practiced to himself. It was a stupid stunt. I'll pay for the damages and it will never happen again. Then, he'd provide the man and his family tickets to the season opener and they'd all put this incident behind them.
He'd apologize again tomorrow to Trinity, the guests at the party, and his fans he had let down. It was a standard spiel the team's publicist had written up for whenever the players did something stupid. The speech was used regularly — although never before by him. Until now, his antics had never ended in handcuffs.
As the police had led him from the party, Hoffler and Nils had laughed their asses off, but Riley stood rigid, and Griffin felt like he saw a speck of respect vanish from the rookie's eyes. It had been a dumb move, he admitted to himself. Now he just wanted to pay for the damages and forget tonight had ever happened.
He glanced at his reflection in the large mirror. Damn, he looked like hell. His tuxedo was wrinkled. The crisp white shirt he'd worn under his tuxedo jacket was stained with contents of the dessert table that had flown through the window. He combed a hand through his dark hair, raking out pieces of food. A few grays strands peeked out and he quickly smoothed his hair to cover them. Tomorrow he'd have his housekeeper pick up a box of dye.
Footsteps and voices reached the door. Griffin made one last attempt at looking presentable, smoothing his tux and adjusting his stained shirt. As the door opened, he dove into a chair, leaning against the table as if completely relaxed.
It wasn't the officer who entered, as he'd expected, but a woman.
She was older than him; he could tell by the lines next to her eyes and lips. But she was dressed for success in a well-fitted suit, and her brown hair was cut in a smart crop.
"Mr. Lange," she said, "I hear you had some fun tonight."
"It started out that way," he replied.
"I'm Sylvia Nelson, the assistant district attorney."
He swallowed back a gulp. "Assistant district attorney?"
A condescending smile curved her lips. "That's right. Normally we would have left you in a cell overnight until a judge could see you in the morning, but with a celebrity such as yourself, I get called in."
"So ..." He leaned forward. "You're a fan?" He sent her what he hoped was a dazzling smile. She had a ring on her finger, but in his experience, a ring didn't always mean much.
"Isn't the whole city?" she countered. "Despite the fact that you haven't brought us the Cup since 2006."
"Ouch." He winced. "You really know how to hit where it hurts."
She took a seat across from him and crossed a pair of dynamite legs. "I could say the same about you. That was quite the escapade you pulled tonight. Damage to private property, reckless driving, public endangerment."
"It was an accident."
She ticked her pen against the paper in front of her. "Oh, and let's not forget how this all started — auto theft."
"Borrowed," he corrected. "I didn't steal the car."
Her eyes rolled. "In order to borrow, someone needs to give you permission to use it. Did the owner of the vehicle give you permission to drive the car?"
"The keys were inside. I was thinking about buying the car and wanted to see how it ran before I put any money down."
"Really? And how did it run?"
He shrugged. "I've driven better."
Her response was cut off by a knock on the door. She rolled her eyes as she bit out an annoyed, "Yes?"
The policeman who'd brought him into the room stuck his head in. "Sorry to bother you, Mizz Nelson, but Mr. Lange's attorney is here."
Relief pulsed through Griffin as Noah Rosen, head of Trinity Bank's legal team, swept into the room. The man's perpetually confident smile and easy gait exuded a calming influence and Griffin felt the tension in his shoulders diminish.
"Ms. Nelson, you know better than to speak with my client without me present."
Sylvia shrugged. "We were just having a conversation while we waited for you."
"Why don't you catch me up on your 'conversation'?"
She stared at Griffin instead of his attorney. "Mr. Lange was just explaining how he accidently stole a car."
"Borrowed," Griffin corrected. He turned to Noah, who'd taken the seat next to him. "I was just about to offer to pay for the damages."
Excerpted from Some Like It Sinful by Robbie Terman, Stacy Abrams. Copyright © 2013 Robbie Terman. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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