HE TAKES THE CAKE
by J. Lynn Rowan
GENRE: Contemporary romance
Life is good for Tess Gardiner: Her Savannah, Georgia, bakery and cafe is thriving. She’s earned Master Pastry Chef status from the American Culinary Federation. And she’s attending a regional culinary convention in Charleston, where she’s been invited to sit on a small business panel discussion. The opportunity to tout her success will, hopefully, lead to bigger and better things in her professional life. As for her personal life? The relative contentedness she’s enjoyed for years receives a sudden jolt when she comes face to face with Tyler Brinks, the ex-boyfriend she summarily dismissed from her life eight years ago.
Tyler’s success as a highly-trained chef has launched him into the stratosphere. He already owns one ridiculously successful restaurant, and he’s aggressively working on plans for a second. But he’s never quite gotten over Tess, and he’s never really been sure what actually went wrong between them. So when a pastry and baking competition is announced for the week following the culinary convention in Charleston, Ty jumps at the chance to tempt Tess with the challenge of being his partner, giving him the perfect opportunity to remind her how good they once were together.
As the competition heats up in the kitchen, it soon becomes clear to Tess that Ty has more than cream puffs and cupcakes on his mind. And she can’t deny that her feelings for Ty never truly cooled, but have been simmering all these years, despite the way their relationship ended. Now Ty’s attention has her wondering—is this just the path to final closure? Or could this be a second chance at true love?
If Ty’s thinking about the same incidents that lead to our breakup, he doesn’t let on. “Only about a year or so. It . . . wasn’t what I thought it would be.”
“I see.” Though I don’t, especially given his own slight stumble for words. “Where’d you go in the interim?”
He relaxes a bit and takes a sip of espresso. “New York for a little while, working as a sous chef in a Midtown restaurant. That let me save up for Le Cordon Bleu.”
I smile, sincerely happy he’d made it come true. “Were you able to go to Paris?”
“No,” he says with a short laugh. “But Ottawa was close enough. My mom wanted me to try and get into the program in Atlanta, but I wanted the international experience. So Canada it was.”
I make a noncommittal sound and lift my cup again. “Then you settled on Charleston to open your first restaurant.”
“Well, it wasn’t a direct route from getting my Grand Diploma to opening On the Brink.”
“Nice name, by the way,” I quip, arching a brow at him.
He leans forward. “Says the woman who named her own business after herself.”
I give into the impulse to stick my tongue out at him. “At least mine rhymes. And we’re not talking about me.”
“Not yet, anyway.”
“But you’re opening a place in Hilton Head. Does that mean you’re moving there, too?”
Ty shrugs. “I’ll probably have to do a little back and forth for a while. Can’t exactly be the head chef at two restaurants at the same time.”
There’s the opening I need to hint at the topic I’m really curious about. “Won’t the back and forth thing make it hard for . . . your girlfriend?”
For a moment, he freezes, recognizing by my tone that I’m fishing for information. “I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“Really?” I force nonchalant surprise, if that’s even a thing, into my voice. “Guy like you, I’d think you’d have women falling all over themselves to be with you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asks, brows lowering and a look of hurt defensiveness playing in his eyes.
I wasn’t expecting that sort of reaction from him. Again, I fumble for words. “Smart, successful, funny, sexy—”
My hand flies up to cover my mouth, but it’s too late. Ty stares at me for a few seconds before he busts out laughing.
“I didn’t mean that I think you’re sexy,” I insist, dropping my hand.
His laughter subsides to internal chuckles. “It’s okay, Tess. I know I’m irresistible, even to you.”
“For the record, I still think the same of you.” He sounds like he’s teasing, but a flash of something serious passes between us as his gaze softens.
My retort dies in my throat, coming out as a choked snort instead.
Lynn Rowan started writing stories as a small child, usually starring her favorite cartoon characters. Most of her work through middle and high school was filled with typical teenage angst and melodrama, and usually mirrored the books she loved to read. But eventually she found her own author’s voice and decided to seriously pursue a writing career.
Historical fiction remains J. Lynn’s “first love”, but she has enjoyed the journey to becoming an author of romance and chick lit. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Central New York Romance Writers, and the Historical Novel Society. She is also a teacher who tries to instill a love of learning, reading, and writing in her students.
When she’s not writing, J. Lynn enjoys travelling, gardening poorly but enthusiastically, studying various topics in American history for her own expertise, and channeling Julia Child every time she steps into the kitchen.
A native of Oswego, NY, she now lives in Charlotte, NC, with her own Romantic Hero of a husband and their little rainbow, affectionately known as Babycakes.
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