Sweet Stuff won the unpublished mid-length contemporary category of the 2019 Stiletto contest.


Description

No one is more surprised than Bethany Parker when movie star, Hank Haverill, hides in her café kitchen to escape a mob of fans. Bethany is busy preparing for a baking competition so she can repurchase her family’s historic building and restore her failing business. She can’t be distracted by the Hollywood hunk’s existential crisis. But when Bethany discovers Hank’s the new owner, she must find a way to convince him to sell her the building or she and the rest of the renters will be out of business.

He may play the god of light on television, but Hank’s real life is far from god-like. His series has been cancelled, his ex-girlfriend is suing him for millions, and his scheming agent and publicist are pressuring him to open a fitness chain. Trouble is, the building he’s purchased is occupied by a woman who isn’t impressed with money, looks or status. A woman who cares more about feeding the hungry than feeding his ego. A woman who forces Hank to consider the true meaning of love and what it means to be a superhero.


EXCERPT


Chapter One

Eating dessert for breakfast was a small but delicious perk of owning a bakery.

Bethany Parker stood behind Sweet Stuff’s worn wooden counter and forked a generous portion of Grandma Lou’s famous chocolate cake with buttercream frosting into her mouth. She closed her eyes and swirled the flavors on her tongue. Rich and creamy and buttery. And the flavorings—vanilla, espresso, and coconut milk—these in just the right quantity created an exciting zip that sent a chill through her small frame. But wait, had she used a smidge too much cocoa powder?

She had to get the recipe right. This was the one that could save her, or rather her struggling cafe, from certain doom. The one Bethany had been trying for more than a month to duplicate and had finally, finally in the last few weeks, mastered. The one that would single-handedly bring her store back from financial disaster to…

“That must be some chocolate cake.”

The drawling voice was deep and confident and familiar. A hint of laughter hid in its rich depths. How had she not heard the door chime?

She popped her eyes open and froze, her tongue still stuck to the silver fork.

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.

A man stood in front of her. An impossibly tall, drop-dead gorgeous hunk of a man. A larger-than-life, muscled blond Adonis who looked like he stepped out of a magazine cover because…well…he had stepped off a gazillion magazine covers. And a television to boot.

What the heck was Hank Haverill, TV star, fitness buff, and God’s glorious gift to every woman in the country, doing here—right now—in the middle of her little shop? What was he even doing in America? Wasn’t he overseas, making some new spy film or something?

She yanked the fork from her mouth and shoved it behind her back. “Uh, sorry. Did you uh, need something?” To use the phone or, or…a bathroom? Maybe he’d been in an accident or his car needed gas and his pregnant wife’s water burst on the way to the hospital? But Hank Haverill didn’t have a wife, did he? 

He smiled and his deep-set blue eyes seemed to carry a message of their own. “Hey, baby,” they whispered, “Take a walk on the wild side.”

“Wait, what did you say?”

He flashed his charming dimples, which she’d only ever seen, and drooled over, on a flat screen television. “I said, I need a place to hide.”

“Whatever for?” She straightened her shoulders and shoved the fork in the back pocket of her jeans.

His face fell, removing the dimples. His eyes no longer whispered anything. “I’ll explain later. Just let me hide…” He pointed to the kitchen, “…back there.”

She looked where he was pointing as if she didn’t know where her kitchen was. “You want to hide in my kitchen?”

Geez, she sounded like a parrot. But why would a television star need to hide in her kitchen? She scanned him from the top of his golden head to the bottom of his Italian leather loafers. Had he stolen something? But that was dumb. His shoes alone cost more than her monthly rent. He didn’t need to steal anything.

He gazed at her, one brow raised, like she was some sort of rare animal—one that was a little dense in the head. “I can’t risk the bathroom. They’ll check there.” He tapped his foot and turned in a circle. “Unless you have another good hiding place around here?”

Maybe he’d been accused of murder and was on the run? “What have you done?”

“Done?” He puckered his lips like he’d eaten a sour pickle. Hank Haverill didn’t seem quite as handsome as he’d looked earlier. “I haven’t done anything.”

A howling noise filtered through the door like the screech of a high wind. Bethany glanced through the window at a dozen women, maybe more, some distance away, running and yelling like the sky was falling on her shop. What were they carrying on about?

She zeroed in on her divinely sculpted customer, and like someone turned a lens on an out-of-focus camera, everything snapped into place. Hank Haverill, the television star, was in her shop, looking at her with growing desperation, for one reason and one reason only. To stop that gaggle of adoring idiots from finding him.

Bethany slapped a hand over her mouth. Had she spoken out loud?

“Not a gaggle. One woman. The rest of them are harmless.”

“Harmless?”

“Listen, I’d love to chat, but as you can see and hear—” He tipped his thumb toward the window and scrunched his face into a no-way-will-I-let-them-find-me-here-frown “—I don’t have the time. So, pardon my invasion, but I promise I’ll buy you dinner when things calm down if you don’t tell them I’m here. Please.”

Hank used both hands to boost himself over the countertop. She had just enough time to move the decorative cake stand filled with snickerdoodles out of the way before he slid across and onto the floor and dashed into her kitchen like a scene straight out of his television show.

Impressive move. But really? These Hollywood stars thought they owned the world.

She turned to lock the front door, the swift motion swinging the ‘no dogs allowed’ sign. It banged against the antique wood like an omen signaling she was a second too late. Pandemonium in the form of at least a dozen excited fans rushed by like a mini tornado.

“Where is he? Is he here?” Several women asked Bethany, going in and out of the bathroom. As Hank predicted. Others weaved in and around the tables and chairs. A few stragglers leaned over the counter to ogle the baked goods.

A tall woman in sleek brown trousers and a white silk top touched Bethany’s arm with cream-tipped nails that had to be fake. Her hair bounced around her head in blond ringlets. “Sorry for the intrusion, dear, but I’m looking for Hank Haverill—and I do mean the actor. Did he come into your store a moment ago?”

A crashing sound filled the room and the stand of snickerdoodles went flying to the floor. The ladies stepped back trying to get out of the way. Cookies crunched under their feet.

Bethany leaned forward and grimaced at the mess. She couldn’t change the sign on the door to read “no dogs or adoring Hank Haverill fans allowed.” Could she?


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