When the owner of Memphis's most mouthwatering bakery, Just Desserts, suddenly dies, pastry chef Quentin Elliott and his brother, office manager Troy Elliott, are distraught. Everett "Pop" Donovan was more than their boss, he was a beloved mentor. So they're shocked to learn that Pop left the business to his beautiful, estranged daughter--a woman they know nothing about--and who knows nothing about running a bakery. . .
Harper Donovan intends to sell off Just Desserts as quickly as possible. She has no interest in Memphis, much less sweets. However, handsome Quentin has definitely sparked her appetite--and business aside, the feeling is irresistibly mutual. But soon a powerful, smooth-talking rival appears, vying for Harper's heart and her bakery. Harper might have a taste for Memphis after all--and Quentin might have to prove he's exactly what she craves. . .
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The Sweetest Thing
By Deborah Fletcher Mello
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Deborah Fletcher Mello
All rights reserved.
Quentin Elliott suddenly grabbed the pastry dough he'd been kneading and flung it across the room, watching as it slammed harshly against the brick wall. On the other side of the space Troy Elliott paused, his own gaze moving from the wet dough sliding toward the polished concrete floor to his baby brother's face. Tears misted Quentin's eyes, stealing past his forest-thick lashes to roll down his cheeks.
"Do you feel better?" Troy asked casually.
Quentin shrugged his broad shoulders as he swiped at his eyes with his forearm. "Who is she? And why didn't Pop ever talk about her?"
Staring at his computer screen and the document he'd been working on, Troy paused momentarily before answering. "You know exactly what I know, Quentin. Maybe she'll be able to tell us why her father never told us anything about her."
"I just want to know why he'd leave her in control of the bakery. Didn't he trust us?"
"I don't think this has anything to do with trust, baby brother. Harper Donovan was his blood."
Quentin bristled. "But we were his family," he said defiantly, meeting his brother's intense stare. "Where was she when he was sick?"
Troy sighed deeply. "We may never know, Quentin. We can only hope and pray that everything works out when it's all said and done."
Quentin paused, his own stare moving back to the pastry that had puddled in a thick lump on the floor. "I miss him already," the man whispered loudly.
Troy nodded. "I miss Pop, too," he answered. "Now, clean up your mess and get back to work. Until she gets here we still have a business to run."
"He left you a sweatshop?"
Harper Donovan rolled her eyes skyward, meeting her best friend's gaze. Jasmine Holt's dubious expression almost made her laugh out loud. Almost. She shook her head and frowned instead. "A sweet shop!" Harper exclaimed. "Sweet! It's a pastry, bakery thing."
Jasmine's eyes widened with understanding. "Ohhh! Okay, that makes so much more sense." She paused for a split second. "So, what are you going to do with a sweet shop? And, one in Memphis, Tennessee, of all places?"
Harper shrugged her narrow shoulders, feigning indifference. "I don't want it. I don't want anything from him." She stared down at the certified letter that rested in her lap.
News of her father's death had come three days earlier, that letter detailing the date and time of his homegoing service. A telephone call from his attorney earlier that afternoon had confirmed her attendance and informed her of her inheritance. Since learning of her father's passing Harper hadn't been able to focus on much of anything. And now all she wanted was to ignore it all until it went away.
"You might not want it but you still have to deal with settling his estate," Jasmine reasoned, dropping down onto the sofa beside her.
Harper shook her head as she pulled her manicured fingers through the length of her short pixie haircut. "No, I don't. I really don't have to do anything I don't want to do. And right now I'm not interested in dealing with anything Everett Donovan had to do with."
The conversation was interrupted by Harper's maternal grandmother, the matriarch clearing her throat as she moved into the room and took a seat in her favorite chair. She tapped her cane harshly against the hardwood floors.
"You will not disrespect your father," the old woman admonished. "The man's dead and you owe him better than that."
"Mama Pearl, I'm not disrespecting him," Harper countered. "I didn't know him well enough to disrespect him."
"That wasn't all his fault," Pearl Townes answered. "Your mama had a lot to do with that."
"Maybe, but what was his excuse after my mama died?" Harper questioned.
The matriarch met her granddaughter's gaze. "Good question. It's one you need to ask yourself."
"You say that like it was my fault!"
"Harper, I imagine between your mama and all her evilness, and you just being ugly for no good reason, refusing to meet him halfway every time he reached out, that you two put that poor man through some things."
Harper rolled her eyes. "I didn't put him through anything," she said defiantly.
Mama Pearl scoffed. "Okay," she said, her head bobbing up and down.
"I didn't!" Harper insisted.
"Maybe not," Mama Pearl countered as she wagged her index finger in Harper's direction, "but I done told you time and time again that you and your mama both were wrong. When you had the chance to do better you should have. Now it's too late."
"I cannot believe you're blaming me!"
The old woman blew a deep sigh, her head waving from side to side. "No one is blaming anyone, Harper. I'm just saying that now is not the time to disrespect your daddy's memory with your foolishness."
Harper threw herself back against the sofa cushions, her lips pushed into a full pout. She crossed her arms over her chest.
Jasmine laughed softly. "So, when do you leave for Tennessee?"
Harper shrugged her shoulders a second time. "I don't know. I really don't want to go but ..." She hesitated as she cut an eye in her grandmother's direction.
Mama Pearl interjected. "She's leaving tomorrow morning 'cause her daddy's funeral is on Thursday. And you will not miss your daddy's funeral," she said firmly, leaning forward in her seat to meet Harper's stare.
"But I don't want —" Harper started, her voice rising.
Mama Pearl cut her off midsentence. "You don't get to say this time, Harper. I'm saying. You will honor your father by going to his funeral. Are we clear?"
Harper stared back, both women knowing just how much Harper hated the thought of attending any funeral. Something out of turn always happened when her family was sending off a dearly departed. If it wasn't some relative's bad behavior, it was a family secret being spilled because some cousin or uncle talked out of turn. Family weddings weren't much better.
At the last family gathering it was Harper's cousin Tuck whose tongue got to flapping around before anyone could stop him. The occasion had been Harper's mother's funeral where her aunt Bernice's third child found out Tyrone Taylor wasn't his daddy. Tyrone had only fathered Bernice's first two children, before Bernice had gotten into the bad habit of hopping from bed to bed across the great state of Louisiana. And although everyone knew Ullman James was the little boy's daddy, no one had ever dared to speak it out loud. No one until Tuck said something while they'd all been standing together in Hyco Zion Baptist Church's fellowship hall and Bernice's little boy just happened to be standing by her side. The ensuing drama still had family not talking to one another. Harper didn't want to begin to think about the secrets that might come out at her father's funeral.
"Tch!" The young woman sucked her teeth, her eyes spinning skyward as she threw her torso back against the couch for the second time.
"Girl, if you roll your eyes at me one more time," Mama Pearl admonished, shaking her cane in Harper's direction. "You will never be that grown!"
Her eyes wide with amusement, Jasmine repeated her question. "So, when will you be leaving?"
Harper sighed, blowing warm breath past her full lips. She looked over at her friend and tossed up her hands in frustration. "I guess I'm leaving tomorrow morning."CHAPTER 2
From the back of the church sanctuary Harper studied the two men who stood together in front of the stainless-steel casket. Emotion seemed to walk a tightrope between them as they both paused to reflect on the history that they had shared with Everett Donovan. Their grief was cutting, the depths of it seeming to move everyone in the sanctuary to tears.
She hesitated, wanting to change her mind and run, when one of the funeral-home directors gestured for her to step forward for her turn at viewing the body. Harper inhaled deeply, wanting instead to drop down onto a back pew and pretend she wasn't there.
As the two men stepped off to the side, Harper instead took another deep breath and moved to stand in their place. Having no expectations, Harper was not prepared to see her reflection on the body that rested in the satin-lined casket. But there was no mistaking the resemblance between her and her father. She was suddenly overcome with emotion, her knees beginning to quiver harshly as her body suddenly swayed from side to side.
She was grateful for the large hand that suddenly supported her elbow, an arm wrapping warmly around her thin waist. When she lifted her eyes to thank the person who'd come to her aid, saving her from crashing to the floor, she was immediately comforted by the compassion that shimmered in the man's deep gaze.
Troy Elliott smiled warmly, his hand gently caressing her lower back. He smiled and introduced himself as he guided her to the front pew to sit down.
"You must be Everett's daughter. You look just like him," the handsome man said warmly.
She nodded her head. "Harper Donovan and you are ...?"
"Troy, Troy Elliott and this is my brother, Quentin." He gestured toward the man who sat on her other side.
She recognized Troy's name from the letter. With his magnanimous smile he seemed very approachable. Quentin, on the other hand, was tight-lipped, his facial muscles strained, his demeanor unwelcoming. He was staring as he gave her a quick nod of his head. "I'm very sorry for your loss," he whispered loudly just before averting his eyes from hers.
Harper nodded back as she settled down on the pew between them. The line to view the body was still lengthy and she imagined that it would probably take forever for the service to start, let alone be finished. As she sat waiting she scanned the funeral program.
Her father's beaming reflection decorated the cover, his sunrise and sunset dates printed boldly beneath his full name. The inside pages included the order of service, the man's biography, and select images that someone thought reflected the best of his life. She was suddenly surprised by the notation that Everett Donovan had not only been survived by his only daughter, but that he had also been survived by two sons.
The statement caught her off guard and her eyes skated from one man to the other as she tried not to let her surprise show. If she knew nothing else about her father, she did know he had never had any other biological children; yet the two men who sat with her were considered his family. Harper was suddenly curious to know more about them.
She turned back toward Quentin whose face was buried in his own copy of the funeral program. Although she sensed that he was acutely aware of everyone and everything around him he pretended to be oblivious. She couldn't help but wonder if her being there had something to do with that.
Once the service started it passed quickly. Harper was in awe of the number of people who had come to pay their last respects to her father, each stopping to shake her hand and offer their condolences. She was also in awe of the two brothers who felt more like Everett's family than she ever had. Knowing the reasons that had kept her and her father apart for so many years broke her heart and facilitated the tears that everyone else mistook for grief.
She was grateful when they finally closed the casket for the last time, the congregation parading behind it toward the cemetery. Making a quick escape, Harper disappeared into the ladies' room to splash cold water on her face and to regain her composure.
Quentin was standing outside the bathroom door when she made her exit. Leaning against the wall, his stance was tense and it was clear that he wanted to be somewhere other than where he was. She came to an abrupt halt when she saw him and he met her curious gaze. The look he gave her was startling, the depths of it so intense that Harper felt her breath catch somewhere deep in her chest. As she dropped her eyes to the tiled floor, struggling to catch her breath, Quentin made his way to her side. The nearness of him was suddenly disconcerting.
"We're having the repast at the bakery," Quentin said softly. "I didn't know if you had a car or not, or if you even knew where the bakery is located."
She eyed the man warily as he towered above her. Her gaze swept from the top of his curly head down to the tips of his highly polished leather shoes and back. The two brothers were both tall, standing somewhere in the vicinity of six feet plus a few inches. Beneath the dark suits they wore it was clear that neither was lacking muscle, their frames solid. Quentin's complexion was a light café au lait; a robust coffee with much, much cream. Troy's was classic caramel, like the Werther's candy her grandmother favored. Both had full heads of dark, honey-brown waves, smoldering chestnut-colored eyes, and full, plush lips. There was no denying that he and his brother were both quite attractive.
Quentin seemed to bristle beneath her stare, annoyance suddenly painting his expression. He crossed his arms over his chest, his muscles tightening his stance as he waited for her to respond. She took a deep inhalation of air before answering.
"I came by taxi. To be honest with you I hadn't thought about the repast. I was just thinking that I would just go back to my hotel."
"Have you ever seen the bakery?"
She shook her head no.
Quentin gestured with his head. "My car's outside. I'll take you."
As he spun on the toes of his leather shoes the deep timbre of his voice was commanding, offering her no way out of the commitment. Harper was taken even further aback by her willingness to comply as readily as she followed on his heels. Something about Quentin Elliott was off-putting and made her uncomfortable. But there was something equally intriguing about him. So although she'd already convinced herself that she liked his brother much more than she would ever like him, she was still interested in knowing him better. She looked around, curious to know where his brother Troy had disappeared to. Quentin seemed to read her mind.
"Troy rode to the cemetery. I figured I would go help get the food ready for the repast." He opened the passenger-side door to a Ford transit van. Harper paused to admire the paintwork. The vehicle was painted a delicate shade of celadon green with the bakery's logo affixed to the side. The name JUST DESSERTS gleaned in chocolate brown, the font simple and elegant. There was something endearing about its presentation and it made her smile, her lips lifting ever so slightly.
Quentin gestured for her to get into the vehicle. When she was seated comfortably inside, the seat belt secured around her torso, he closed the door and sauntered to the driver's side.
An awkward silence fell over the inside of the car as he pulled out of the parking space into traffic. Harper closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. The delicate scent of vanilla teased her nostrils. When she reopened her eyes she caught Quentin watching her, his gaze flitting between her and the road.
She drew her left hand over her chest, nervously clutching the collar of her blouse between her fingers.
"Sorry," Quentin muttered. "I didn't mean to stare. You just look so much like Pop."
"Pop?" Confusion washed over her expression.
"Our father. Troy and I called him Pop."
Harper nodded her head. "Interesting," she said, taking another deep breath.
Quentin cut another eye at her, his gaze narrowing ever so slightly.
"Are you expecting a large crowd?" she asked, trying to make conversation.
He nodded. "Pop was a community fixture. He was well loved and respected down here on Beale Street."
Harper rolled her eyes. "Not by everyone, I'm sure," she muttered between clenched teeth. There was no missing the hint of hostility in her tone.
"How come you two weren't close?" Quentin dared to ask as they sat idle at a stoplight.
"He never told you?"
"He never told us that he even had a daughter."
"I guess that answers your question. We weren't close because Everett Donovan didn't care that he had a daughter. He didn't care enough to even mention that one existed," she hissed through clenched teeth. Tears suddenly clouded her view, moisture rising in her eyes.
Quentin turned to stare at her. There was another awkward silence before he responded. "Pop wasn't that kind of man," he said matter-of-factly.
Harper stared back, meeting his gaze evenly. And then she turned to stare out of the window, suddenly hating that strangers knew more about her father than she ever had.
The first hints of a Tennessee winter adorned the city streets. The trees that lined the neighborhood blocks were bare, the last remnants of fall lying on the ground. The air was crisp and cold, the smell of new snow in the midday air. The weatherman on the radio was predicting a light dusting, enough to make the morning commute an annoying inconvenience. Quentin predicted more.
Excerpted from The Sweetest Thing 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
The charaters and plot grabbed me from the beginning and I couldn't help but hang on for the emotional rollercoaster ride. This is because the characters were well developed and the storyline was beliveable. I found myself switching from sadness to anger, laughter and joy from one moment to the next. The sex scenes were scorching hot and ranged from sweet and sexy to others giving 50 shades of grey a run for the money. In my opinion this has all the makings of a perfect romance novel!
Deborah Fletcher Mello did a superb job of injecting a minefield of tension with juicy pockets of goodness. The conflict between the main characters was heartfelt, realistic and palpable. Experiencing that push and pull of attraction vs. resentment along with Quentin and Harper then having attraction win out was an exhilarating experience. The Sweetest Thing just happens to be one of those edge of your seat reads simply because of the sexual chemistry but the story itself is more than enough to support that fire - alternating between ignoring the smoke and feeding the flames. The side characters and back story added the perfect amount of intrigue and realness. This is a great introduction to the Just Desserts series because it is dripping with hot sweetness. I can't wait to read the next installment.
Good read !!!
This is the first installment of Just Desserts and I have to say that Ms. Mello is starting off just right………..imagine a tall, handsome and FINE man along with all of the delicious sweet in one place. Well at Just Desserts that is exactly what you get. Harper Donovan arrives in Memphis, TN to attend her father service and to settle his estate. When Quentin and Troy learned of Everett (who they call POP) had a daughter, it was a shock to them to say the least. Quentin is the pastry chef of Just Desserts and Harper is an event planner what a great combination…………..picture them coming together to create something special…………hummmm Quentin and Harper first impression toward each other was a little guarded because they didn’t know where the other was coming from. Everett had left the pastry shop to Harper and along with having to deal with her father death she is now the owner of Just Desserts where she doesn’t know what to do or feel at this point. The death of their adopted father is still a shock to Quentin and Troy but especially Quentin. The one thing Harper is learning about her father is a shock to her because she didn’t get the chance to know her father like the customer and the people of Memphis did. Harper is harboring some guilt for letting so much time passed without getting to know her father. While in Memphis Harper begin to work behind the scene in the pastry shop and getting to know Quentin and Troy but she also realizes the attraction between her and Quentin. The Sweetest Thing is the perfect title for Quentin and Harper because the way she weave the words on the pages of this book took you on a journey, although the attraction between Quentin and Harper strong Ms. Mello delivers such strong characters, and oh yeah she brought the HEAT with Quentin and Harper. The secondary characters in the book help move the story along. Oh and as a bonus you get two story in one in this book…………….If you want to know who the other story is about PUCHASE THE BOOK IT IS WORTH IT. Can’t wait for Troy story which will come out later this year…………………… Reviewed by Louise Brown
Helped support owlheart
She helps support him and slowly helps him back to camp.
Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite Deborah Mello offers up her latest steamy romance in The Sweetest Thing. Mello's stories are consistently strong in plot and in romance. Quentin and Troy are brothers who are preparing to put their foster father to rest when they receive word that their father "Pop" has a daughter they knew nothing about. Furthermore, the daughter Harper has inherited the lucrative neighborhood bakery which is being run by brothers Troy and Quentin Elliott. When Harper goes to Memphis to her father's funeral, she is confused and angry. Her father had seemingly abandoned her when she was a young child and she grew up with bitter memories of the man. After meeting Troy and Quentin, she becomes so confused that she elects to remain in Memphis to try to understand the motives of her deceased father. Instead, she ends up learning about the sons he raised as his own. Harper is a highly believable and resourceful young woman. The reader is able to understand her confusion as well as her willingness to learn another side of the family story. Quentin is charming in his understanding of Harper's needs and he is willing to allow her the time to search for answers to her questions. The romance scenes are graphically but tastefully done, leaving the reader to cheer on young love in all its glory! The supporting characters in The Sweetest Thing are lovable and they also endear themselves to the hearts of readers. Mello has given her reading audience another heartfelt story with just enough plot and just enough sizzling romance to keep the pages turning!