Book 2 in the Camos and Cupcakes Series
Part of the Camos and Cupcakes World
When by the book Harry Bradley gets thrown together with his sister’s best friend EJ, opposites don’t just attract, they explode.
She’s my sister’s best friend. A woman who calls to me on every level, but she can’t stand me. Our one date ended when she deemed it over and left–before we even ordered food. So I shouldn’t want her.
But I do.
Still, I’ve mastered controlling my emotions and my lusting…well, mostly. Of course, when she suggests we work together to promote both of our businesses, I jump at the chance. That chance leads to a kiss…and so much more.
Now, if I can just restrain my control freak ways, all will be well.
Warning: This book includes more cupcakes (of course), meddling friends, romance book references, a gun-toting Grandma, a trip out of state, wine, more cupcakes, and a dirty talking hero who not only surprised the heroine, but also this author. I’m not embarrassed…not really. Okay, maybe a little…a lot. Never mind. Just know that you have been warned and I will not be held responsible for any blushing in public. Also…CUPCAKES.
Reader Interests in
The fine hairs on the back of my neck tingle and need clenches my gut. Without turning around, I know she has just stepped into our bakery. The woman I shouldn’t be hung up on but dream about on a regular basis.
Elliana. She hates her first name, opting to go by her initials. It’s odd because the name fits her. I’ve never met a woman who is so utterly feminine just like her name. From the long maxi dresses she wears, or the fact that she looks like the twenty-first century version of a bombshell, Elliana fits her to a “T”. Still, I would never use the name again. I learned that lesson the hard way. The one time I did use it, she’d threatened to kill me. Not directly. Instead, she offered me a sweet, beautiful smile, and her eyes twinkled. Then she said, “It’d be a shame if Ed and Fritz have to run the shop without you. And your poor mama would miss you.”
Her deep southern accent had dripped with honeysuckle sweetness, but there was no doubt in my mind that she had just threatened my life.
Was that why my dick stood at attention every time she appeared? Probably. Mainly because I haven’t been interested in a woman in the last six months—longer really. She’s the only woman who drew my attention and made my blood beat with desire. I think if I could avoid her, I might be able to get over her. Unfortunately, she’s my sister’s best friend. Add in the fact that her shop is right across the hall from our cupcake shop, it is absolutely impossible to avoid her.
I roll my eyes. Jesus, now I sound like an idiot. Either way, the fact that a woman threatened me with bodily injury, and I sported a hard-on whenever I was around her made me one sick fuck. I blame my parents. Just don’t tell my mother.
I brace myself and turn around. She’s smiling at me over the heads of some of the women in the shop. She’s tall, so tall that when she wears heels, I wouldn’t have to bend down to kiss her. For a guy who’s over six three, that’s a tantalizing idea. I can just imagine pressing my mouth to hers, both of us standing there as I thrust into her…
Dammit. There I go again. I need to stop fantasizing about her. But, of course, my dick doesn’t agree.
I wait until she makes her way to the side of the counter through the bevy of women hanging out in line. One woman, a petite blond with a permanent resting bitch face and the personality to match it, tosses EJ a nasty look. EJ seemingly ignores her, except for the slight smile curving one side of her mouth. I know all her smiles and that’s the one where she knows she’s in charge.
Fuck, that’s sexy.
“Harry,” she says with that deep, sultry accent. I try not to fall down at her feet and beg her for a pet.
Her smile fades and I know I irritated her. It isn’t that I want to irritate her. My flirting with EJ is part eight-year-old boy. I don’t know what it is about her, but she makes me want to pull on her pigtails. Definitely immature and cliché, but I can’t seem to control myself. Which, for me, is saying something.
“What do you need?”
“I was wondering if we could chat about working out an idea that would be beneficial to each of us.”
“I don’t know. Do you think we can?”
Her eyes narrow and I bite back my own smile. She might exude honey when she speaks, but there is nothing as sexy as EJ when she’s mad at me.
Remember, I said I was a sick fuck. I am. Mainly when I’m thinking of EJ or in her presence or dreaming about her. Okay, anything to do with EJ leaves me frustrated and, dammit, my dick has a mind of his own, at least when it comes to her.
She’s my sister’s best friend—well one of her two best friends—and she’s come to me about business. EJ is one of the most formidable businesswomen I know. She’s built Magnolia Books into one of the best stores in the south. That means something in this day and age, so I relent because while I might be that sick fuck, I respect women.
“Come on back to the office and we can chat.”
She hesitates. I have to fight the need to demand she follow me. No one ordered EJ to do anything, but I always want to. She constantly disagrees with me. If I walked outside and said it was raining, she would disagree with me.
With a sigh, she steps in my direction, so I know she’s following. As we walk back to the small office we keep at the back of the bakery, I stamp down on my nerves. Or at least I try to. Doesn’t always work. I step into the office, which is more like a glorified closet, and wait for her to walk through the door. The sweet scent of jasmine leaves my head spinning. After I close the door, I settle behind my desk as she sits in one of the two chairs in front of it.
EJ isn’t a woman who asks for attention. She demands it with her way of dressing—the long maxi dress clings to her many curves—and her personality. The fact that she’s a looker with her long red hair—I really want to know if she’s a natural ginger—luminous greenish blue eyes, and those plump, pink lips, always sends my head spinning. She’s wearing just a sheen of pink lipstick and I want to smear it by kissing her. On top of that, she reminds me of a very tall Marilyn Monroe. I like the fact that she’s curvy. Not that she cares, but, ya know—just for reference.
“So, what can I do for you?”
She hesitates, and that’s not like EJ at all. I’ve always thought she would go into any situation full steam ahead and damn the consequences.
“I have a proposition for you.”
I let one eyebrow rise up while I thank God that there’s a desk between us. Otherwise, she’d know just how excited I am about her wording. I know better than to think she wants me in bed. We had one disastrous date that I know she calls The Date from Hell. She fidgets and, again, I note just how out of character that is for her.
“Go on,” I say when the silence stretches out.
She sighs. “I have an idea about doing a few after hours events at the store.”
EJ isn’t just a beautiful face. She’s a sharp businesswoman who runs one of the most popular indie bookstores in San Antonio…if not the entire south. She’s only been in business for three years, so I figure she’ll dominate much of the US someday.
“A number of them will be themed, and I was thinking that I could work with Ed for some of them. Not all of them, but I know women and I know my clientele.”
There was no doubt in that. She had built partnerships with publishers and indie authors, focusing on romance and women’s issues in her store. There was rarely a day that the store wasn’t busy.
“Have you talked to Ed about this?”
She rolled her eyes. “You know what he’s like. I can work out the food with him, but I need to make sure it’s financially feasible for me to do. His head is always in powdered sugar clouds.”
I chuckle. “Yeah, you’re right about that.”
Ed Cooper, my sister’s fiancé, is a kick ass baker. He’s the reason all three of us—Fritz being the third—started Camos and Cupcakes. Ed is good with the cupcakes but crappy with the business side of things. That’s okay, though, that’s my job.
“I was wondering if we could chat about this to see if we can work out something that’s beneficial to both of our businesses.”
“I know that Ed hired another part-timer because he wants to branch out, yes?”
Of course she knew that. Ed couldn’t keep a secret from my sister Allison, and Allison would blab it to her friends.
She smiles and, all of a sudden, I feel like I’ve won some award. Simply because a woman smiled at me. A woman who said I gave her the worst date of her life…and EJ dates a lot.
“I thought if we worked together, we could help Ed branch out. My clientele is mainly women, and they tend to be in charge of things. In the home and in the office. They keep track of anniversaries, birthdays, and those kinds of things. I have a few more ideas that would be beneficial to both of us.”
I see where she was going with this, and it’s kind of brilliant. Low cost and hitting a market that might come into the shop to buy cupcakes or coffee, but they might not otherwise find out about our move into cakes.
“What?” Her voice is guarded.
“It’s a fantastic idea, EJ.”
For a second, something close to relief floods her expression, but she soon banks it. “Great. So, I thought you could come over tonight.”
“After you close?”
That’s actually a good thing because I have last week’s books to work on.
“Yeah, I thought I’d cook us dinner, and we could chat about it.”
I blink. “You mean at your apartment?”
“Yeah. I work better with food in me and away from the store. I don’t like eating too many of my meals there. It’s a bad habit.”
I nod because I understand that thought. Being self-employed wasn’t as exciting when you had to handle all the business side of things. For EJ, it’s harder because she’s on her own.
“Not at a restaurant?”
She shakes her head. “I don’t want people listening in. And I want us to be able to be honest. If we’re out, there’s always a chance we will be too polite.”
I feel one side of my mouth kick up. “You’ve never been polite where I’m concerned.”
She has the good grace to blush. “True, but this is business, and you know I don’t mess around about that.”
That’s probably the one thing we agree on.
“Okay. Sounds like a plan.”
Her face lightens and the smile she gives me is glorious. It’s always hard for me to remember just how much she hates me when she smiles at me. She focuses all her happiness on me. Another wave of lightheadedness hits me. From a simple smile.
What would it be like to make her come?
Fuck me. I clear my throat, trying to push that idea out of my head.
“So, around seven?” she asks. I normally work out on Wednesday nights, but since she’s offering me dinner, I’m happy to move things around to accommodate her.
“That’ll give me enough time to drop off the deposit and close out receipts.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” she says as she rises out of her chair. I do the same as my throat closes up. It’s always like this when she leaves. I panic, for no reason whatsoever. Like if she walks through the door, I’ll never see her again. It’s insane, but…well, you know. I’m a complete nutter when it comes to EJ.
“Are you okay, Harry?”
Her Carolina accent dances over my name, and I have to bite back a groan. Again.
I nod as I try to swallow. “Yeah, just a little tired.”
“Wednesdays are the worst, aren’t they? Everything slows down, people are kind of cranky because the weekend is so far away.”
“You remember where I live?”
I nod again, my gaze locked on her.
“Well, back to work,” she says. “See ya at seven.”
Then she slips out the door. I drop into my seat and try to get my dick back under control. I know my friends, and they will be back here in about a second or two. And…they do not disappoint.
“What was that about?” Ed asks.
“She’s interested in doing some cross-promotion event together.”
Ed nods. “She mentioned it this weekend.”
“You saw her this weekend? When?”
Okay, so I sound like a possessive jerk and, worse, there is no reason for me to feel that way. He stares at me for a long time and I know he picked up on my misstep. Fritz might not have, but Ed definitely pays attention. As my sister has always said, Ed is one of the guys who pays attention to every detail. He doesn’t let you know what he’s thinking, but he picks up on little things other people miss.
“She was over Sunday for breakfast.”
“Is there something I should know about, Harry?” Ed asks as he sits in the chair EJ just vacated.
“No. What do you mean?”
One of his eyebrows rises up. The moment I met Ed in basic, I knew we would be friends. He’d told me I looked like an asshole. He’s not far off. I’ve been lusting after a woman who wants nothing to do with me for ages. Kind of makes me an asshole.
“You’re kind of jumpy,” Ed says studying me. I hate when he does that. He might be one of my best friends and my soon-to-be-brother-in-law, but he’s also a busybody. Or he’s become that way since he and my sister got involved.
“No, just that she caught me off guard and that wouldn’t have happened if you had given me a heads up after you had breakfast with her.”
“I didn’t have breakfast with her. She came over to our house and had breakfast.”
Our house. I’m mostly okay with it, especially now that he asked my sister to marry him last month. But it’s left me feeling a little…out of sorts. Not because they are involved. It’s more that I envy them. My best friend and my sister. I know that it makes me more of a jerk. Shut up.
“Still, you didn’t tell me about the idea.”
“She didn’t say much about it. Something about featuring our treats at her nighttime events. Authors like to have their book covers on a cake when they come in. Easy to do and then we get all kinds of social media hits.”
Ed nods. “She’s a sharp one. I mean, she did dump your ass.”
I grind my teeth. “She didn’t dump me. We both hated every minute of that date.”
Ed snorts. “Sure.”
I push that aside because the more I disagree with him, the guiltier I look. “Either way, we’re going to do a little chatting about it tonight over dinner.”
“Dinner? As in a date?” His eyebrows climb up.
“No.” Not really. Okay, maybe, there is a small part of my mind that is going to pretend this is a date because I’m slightly obsessed with her.
“Don’t mess this up.”
I blink. “What?”
“Hey, what’s going on?” Fritz O’Conner says as he steps into the office. “Harry and EJ are having another date,” Ed says, his mouth kicking up on one side.
“We are not. We’re going to talk about an idea she has for us to work together.”
“You and EJ?” Fritz asks. “Bad idea.”
I roll my shoulders even though I know it’s one of my tells. It’s a sure sign that I’m irritated.
“No. Our store and Magnolia.”
Fritz frowns. “She has an idea for us to work together? What?”
I roll my eyes. “That’s why I’m getting together with her tonight to cover the details. Apparently, she talked to Ginger Jesus and he forgot to mention it.”
Ed frowns at me. He doesn’t like it when we use Allison’s nickname for him. Fritz and I use it on a regular basis just to irritate him.
“What kind of ideas?” Fritz asks as he takes the last remaining seat. He’s the face of the business. The pretty boy who can handle interviews and appearances without a problem. In fact, he gets off on it. Everyone loves him.
“She’s starting to do some nighttime events, and she wanted to have me do sweets for some of them. She also wants to coordinate social media or something like that.”
Ed says it in a way that has both Fritz and I sharing a look. Ed was a first-rate soldier. The only other man I would want at my back would be Fritz. But once Ed got into baking, he became obsessed. Granted, when they served together, it had saved their asses more than once. Now, though, he gets lost in ideas about new cupcakes.
“I was thinking we needed someone to manage our social media,” Fritz says. He handles it now but, in reality, none of them are very good at it. It takes someone who knows what to do to gain interest, and that is just not something any of them excel at.
“I’m not sure if we have that in the budget.”
“I can get Avery to handle social media. She’s been doing that for a few businesses back in the Poteet area. At least, she can work with both of us to get it all squared away.” Fritz’s younger sister was kind of a social media know-it-all. She might just be perfect for teaching them the ins and outs.
“Great. Now, can both of you go fuck off because I have to get some work done since I’m meeting up with EJ tonight.”
“Fine,” Fritz says. “Just don’t fuck it up.”
“Yeah, what he said,” Ed says. “I’ll box up some cupcakes for you to take over. She likes those margarita cupcakes.”
After they both leave, I should get right back to work. But I don’t. Instead, I sit there and think about EJ, our meeting, and just why I can’t get the woman out of my mind. I am not that kind of guy who obsesses over women. Business first, yes, but it’s more of a respect. If a woman doesn’t want anything to do with me, then walking away is a sign of respect. And I do have huge amounts of respect for EJ. So, being a total asshole and having fantasies about her is just out of order.
I sigh and scrub a hand over my face. The sooner I get this all squared away, the sooner things get back in order.
End of Excerpt
by Melissa Schroeder
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Harry is butter cream icing on red velvet cake yummy. I love a dirty talking man. Harry and EJ were exactly what each other need and I enjoyed every bit of their story. It provided everything I want in a romantic comedy. It was full of laughter, great sex, loyal friends, and great characters.
OMG, I absolutely loved this book! Harry seemed so straitlaced that when the dirty words came out of his mouth it was shocking but in a yummy way.
A fast paced and steamy, sorta of second chance romance. Great epilogue.
This is a deliciously charming friends to lovers tale which you really don’t want to miss.
A wonderful mix of timidness and hotness - who knew that Harry would have such panty-melting qualities!
This is a sexy, fun read that will leave you with a smile on your face and in your heart.
sexy, sweet and fun to read.
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