Authors: Marie Rochelle
Published by Phaze Books
By Marie Rochelle
Alpha Male Incorporated: Under Your Protection
Alpha Male Incorporated: Access Granted
A Taste of Love: Richard
Closer to You: Lee
My Deepest Love: Zack
More Than Friends: Brad
Caught 2: Ajana’s Return
All the Fixin’
Crossing the Railroad
A Rancher’s Promise
The Men of CCD: Slow Seduction
The Men of CCD: Loving True
The Men of CCD: Help Wanted
Hunks: Too Hot to Touch
Hunks: Opposite Attraction
Hunks: Pulled Over
Me & Mrs. Jones
Taken by Storm
Roped Into You
So Much Better
Bikers & Bars: Dante’s Way
This is an explicit and erotic novel
intended for the enjoyment
of adult readers. Please keep
out of the hands of children.
Copyright © 2013 by Marie Rochelle
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Edited by Judy Bagshaw
Cover Art © 2013 by Skyla Dawn Cameron
First Edition August 2013
An imprint of Celeritas Unlimited LLC
6457 Glenway Ave., #109
Cincinnati, OH 45211
All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher, Celeritas Unlimited LLC, 6457 Glenway Avenue, #109, Cincinnati, Ohio 45211, [email protected]
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
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Production by Phaze Books
Phaze Books is a division of Celeritas Unlimited LLC
To Jonathan W.,
Thank for you making Saturday mornings so
magical for me.
“I can’t believe that woman actually moved next door to my business,” Jensen Lowe complained, glaring out of his office window at the dark blue car parked on the street. “It has taken me years to build up my client list. I’m not about to have everything ruined because of her.”
“Don’t you think that you’re overacting just a little? Do you really believe her small business is going to take away all of our clients?” his brother argued. “Neither one of you are doing the same thing so neither one should interfere with the other. Just leave it alone.”
Turning away from the window, Jensen gave his baby brother, Casper, a disapproving glance. “Why aren’t you more upset about Sinful? Don’t you know what she is going to do to us or don’t you care?”
Casper propped his feet on the edge of his desk because he knew how much his brother hated it. Sometimes, Jensen wondered how he and his brother were even related because they were so dissimilar from each other. He planned for the future while Casper didn’t see past the moment he was living in each and every day.
“Yes, I care about Fitness 24 but I highly doubt anyone here will get sidetracked by our new neighbor’s bakery. So why don’t you calm down and just let her do her thing?” Casper sighed. “I mean it’s a little shop. I actually think it’s pretty cute. I noticed some treats through the window and they did look enticing.”
Coming across the room, Jensen knocked his brother’s feet off his clean desk. “How about you let me handle this? You need to get downstairs to your next class before you’re late again. I’ve gotten several complaints from clients last week about you.”
Sighing, Casper got up from his seat. “No one in my class should have run and told you anything about me. I know how to do my job and if I didn’t they wouldn’t keep coming back three days a week,” he complained. “It wasn’t like I was an hour late; I mean it was only like five minutes late. Why were they acting like the world is coming to an end or something?”
“Your regulars aren’t paying to stand there and stare at the walls while you take your sweet time doing whatever you were doing. They want to spend the entire hour learning kickboxing and nothing else,” Jensen replied. “You keep asking for a bigger place to teach them, but how can I trust you with it? You aren’t the most responsible person in the world.”
Jensen pondered how much longer he could put up with his brother’s immature attitude about life and their family business. He truly had about enough dealing with Casper’s constant mistakes and screw ups over the last several weeks. He could hardly count on his sibling to be there for him anymore. It was like he was going solo with Fitness 24 instead of it being a partnership.
“God Jensen, take a breath and calm down. You’re making life way too hard on yourself. Get out of this office more and live a little. Why don’t you start teaching another class to burn off all of that energy? Because I know you aren’t about to get a girlfriend since you haven’t been out on a real date in over two years,” Casper said, watching him. “I thought Chloe was a snot and bitch, but she got you out of this office. You need to get a woman or at least a female with benefits. You are way too tense to be so young.”
He didn’t need or want any kind of advice from his lack of commitment brother. It wasn’t any of Casper’s concern when he decided to start dating again. So, it would be for the best if he stayed out of his personal life and stuck to what he knew the best which was muchnothing.
“Casper, you need to go and I do mean right this second before I say something I will regret later,” Jensen warned.
“Alright, I’m gone but don’t bother our new neighbor. She had a right to move next door. There isn’t a law against it even if you think there should be. Please don’t make it out to be more than it is.” Turning around, Casper walked out of the room, but left his unwanted advice lingering behind.
Jensen blew off what his brother told him and then strolled back over to the huge bay window. He caught his neighbor as she went back to the trunk of her car. She grabbed more and more boxes from the trunk and carried them into the bakery next door. He still couldn’t comprehend why the asshole property owner wouldn’t sell the empty space to him, but sold it to someone like her.
What was this guy’s deal anyway? Did the guy have a problem with him or something?
How would anyone at Fitness 24 succeed with this woman next door selling those high calorie treats? So many people would be too tempted not to break the rules.
His new neighbor had been open for almost six months, but he might be able to ‘convince’ her into finding a new location. Hell, he would even offer to buy the rest of the lease from her. He was planning to offer her so much money that she wouldn’t be able to turn him down for any reason.
Knowing he wasn’t going to get anything done unless he confronted Little Miss Sugar and Spice, Jensen eased away from the window and then walked out of his office door praying luck would be on his side.
Dipping the spoon into the batter, Maymi Monroe tasted her grandmother’s recipe for red velvet cupcakes one last time to make sure it gave her memories from her childhood. She wasn’t about to bake and put anything in the display case if it wasn’t totally satisfying for her customers.
The flavors were beyond perfection. She knew her grandmother would be so proud of her. Maymi laid the spoon to the side and picked up the ice cream scoop which belonged to her late grandmother. She wanted to do everything she could to keep the memory of her alive in her heart and mind.
She started filling up the paper-lined cupcake pans and was halfway through when the bell chimed above the entrance door. More and more, she was beginning to realize that she really needed to hire a morning person to work the counter. A majority of her money went right back into the business and supplies so much that all she could afford was a part-time woman student to work in the afternoons.
“Hello, is anyone here?” a voice called out.
“I’m coming,” Maymi hollered, wiping her hands on her apron. She hurried out of the kitchen door and literally stopped in her tracks when her eyes landed on the man standing there waiting for her.
Tall, darkandhandsome...those three well-known words couldn’t begin to even describe the hunk staring at her.
Short, jet-black hair covered his head, showing off his strong face along with his chiseled jaw line. The slight shadow of his beard gave him an even more striking look, but it didn’t take away from the hint of a dimple in his chin.
He stood there as if he prided himself on his good looks. She couldn’t deny how acutely aware she was of this guy’s beautifully proportioned body. He had an innately captivating presence that seemed to fill her entire bakery.
Maymi was surprised to find a guy like him inside of her shop. He didn’t look like he did anything but work out and eat protein bars. Why would he step out of the gym and walk inside here? However, if he had a sweet tooth, she wasn’t about to turn away a sale, not with the mortgage she had to pay on this place.
His tawny brown eyes raked over her body then came back up to study her face. Maymi couldn’t help but wonder why he was staring at her so intently. He was coming off as a little defensive and for the life of her she couldn’t figure out the reason why. This was the first time she had even laid eyes on him. She hadn’t done anything to him.
“Hi, I’m Maymi Monroe. May I help you with something, sir?” She smiled, walking closer to the glass display counter.
“I own the gym next door and I came over here to see how you got this place instead of me,” the guy questioned, his tone harsh. “I offered the realtor a huge sum of money and I constantly got shot down. How did someone like you get a yes from that jerk?”
At first, Maymi glanced around looking for a hidden camera because she sure in the hell better be getting punk’d since this guy better not be seriously asking how someone ‘like her’ got this shop.
Was he out of his damn mind?
“Excuse me. Did I hear you correctly?” Maymi asked, hoping she truly had misunderstood him. No one could actually be this damn disrespectful intentionally.
“I believe I spoke quite clearly, but I can repeat myself if you need me to,” he said, staring at her.
Maymi’s eyebrows shot up as she tried to tamp down her anger. How dare this man come inside her place of business and speak to her like this! She had worked too damn hard to get here to get slighted by him or anyone else for that matter.
“Listen, sir,” she replied. “You better leave now before I lose my temper. If you can’t find your way out, I’ll be more than happy to show you the door.”
“My name is Jensen Lowe...not sir, and you didn’t answer my question,” he tossed back at her. “What person in their right mind would open a bakery next door to a twenty-four hour fitness club? It doesn’t make any sense. I think you need to pack up your things and move.”
Maymi was so taken back by Jensen’s startling suggestion that she was at a loss for words, but they came rushing back to her. “Either you are stupid or the most self-centered man I’ve had the misfortune to ever meet, but I don’t care about what you think or say. All I want you to do is get the hell out of my bakery.”
Storming around the corner of the display case, Maymi stood in front of Jensen. She tried not to notice how good he smelled up close or how his eyes seemed to be staring straight through her. His ass was going to leave her building one way or another, the choice was up to him.
“Get out,” she demanded, again.
Surprise etched across his handsome face as he stared down at her from his towering six feet five inch frame. “I’m not done speaking with you yet. I need to say a few more things,” Jensen told her.
“Oh, you are done whether you know it or not, Mr. Lowe.”
Storming past him, Maymi went over to the bakery’s door, flinging it wide open. “You can leave now,” she said, waving him out. “Be sure not to come back here again because I won’t be so nice the next time I see you.”
Jensen stared at her a few seconds before he sauntered towards the door. He paused in front of her and waited like he thought she might change her mind about kicking him out of her store. Well, it would be a cold day in hell before that happened.
“You only need to walk about five more feet and you will be outside where I want you, Mr. Lowe.” Maymi glanced at the sidewalk then back at him.
“This conversation isn’t over, Ms. Monroe,” he promised before turning around and storming out the door.
“Oh, that is your misconception but not mine. I’m not ever going to be in a room alone with you again,” Maymi snapped before letting go of the door watching as it slowly closed in Jensen Lowe’s face.
Turning on her heel, she marched back into her kitchen, wondering how such a rude and disrespectful man had the ability to run a gym in the first place. Shouldn’t a person over a people driven business like his have a better personality?
How could someone like him show empathy towards a struggling client who might not be able to lose weight fast enough?
Well, he wasn’t any of her concern anymore.
Thank God she belonged to a gym way on the other side of town. If not, she might not be responsible for her actions if she was inside the same work out facility that Mr. Lowe owned.
“How dare she kick me out of her bakery like I wasn’t worth her time,” Jensen snapped minutes later, storming into his office as the door slammed behind him. He had gone over to Sinfulhoping to talk with that woman like two adults, but instead Ms. Monroe had acted like a spoiled brat and then tossed him out on the sidewalk.
If she believed he was done with her then she was out of her mind. He wasn’t going to let her treat him like his concerns weren’t important. She could deny the truth all she wanted, but her bakery, with its fattening goodies, would ruin the progress his members were trying to make.
For the time being, he wouldn’t go back over there and confront Ms. Monroe again, but he wasn’t going to back down. One thing was for sure, she hadn’t let him intimidate her. She might have been barely five feet three inches, but for what his neighbor lacked in height she sure made up for it in backbone.
Walking around his office, Jensen thought about another way to approach her. From the way Maymi acted towards him at Sinful, she wasn’t going to box up her mixing bowls and go anywhere which wasn’t going to work for him. She had to leave and he didn’t care how it happened, just as long as it did.
“Fuck,” he cursed, storming over to his desk and taking a seat behind it. He still couldn’t figure out how she ended up with that prime piece of property.
The money amount he had offered the real estate agent was three times what it was worth and his expansion depended on that building. He couldn’t move forward without it. He owed it to the people who paid his membership fee to see that Ms. Monroe wasn’t around much longer to cause them any kind of setback.
Who in their right mind wanted a bakery shop in the neighborhood anyway?
All of those calories and of course fat was horrible for anyone’s body. Casper might think it was fine she moved next to them, but he didn’t and never would. All of her tempting, delicious smelling products were going to be a bad temptation to his clients.
Reaching for his phone on the desk, Jensen dialed his real estate broker’s phone number because he was going to get down to the bottom of this situation.
“Jensen, what can I do for you?” Paul Williams answered on the second ring.
“Paul, can you tell me how in this hell this woman Maymi Monroe got the building next door to Fitness 24?I offered a huge amount of money for it but the agent shot me down. I don’t think he even took five minutes to even think about it.”
“We’ve been over this before.” Paul sighed. “Mr. Banks didn’t want the walls knocked down from your business and have it expanding over into his space. I knew as soon as you saw the new owner you would call me.”
Jensen swallowed hard, attempting to control his anger.Nothingwas going his way today and now he had to deal with this nonsense. He couldn’t wrap his head around the stupidity of it.
“Do you know what the new owner turned the empty space into?” he demanded harshly.
“No, I don’t but I bet you’re going to tell me,” Paul replied with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“A bakery,” Jensen snapped. “How in the hell does that make any sense? One of my members will work on losing calories and then can go right next door and regain them in a matter of minutes after eating a red velvet cupcake.”
Paul’s deep voice laughed in his ear, making him pull it away. He glared at it, not finding one thing funny about this at all. Something had to be done, he just didn’t know what it was, but he would figure it out.
“It isn’t funny,” he snapped, placing the phone back against his ear.
“Sorry Jensen.” Paul coughed, clearing his voice. “But you have to admit there is some humor in the situation. You need to loosen up. Fitness 24 is not going to lose any of it members nor will they gain twenty pounds because of Ms. Monroe’s bakery. Let her know the feeling of success like you did when your gym first took off.
“Listen, if you’re so determined to expand your business, have you thought about looking into that old Armory over on Griffith Avenue? It’s been abandoned for months. I can probably get the keys to it for a walk through.”
The idea of opening a second work-out club in the area hadn’t crossed his mind, but he didn’t have the time to make a list of the pros and cons right now. There were more pressing matters needing his attention and until he had that taken care of, the second health club would have to be put on hold.
“Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you,” Jensen answered.
“Don’t wait too long. It’s the perfect space for what you want done and it will give you the extra space for the karate class you talked about starting,” Paul told him and then hung up.
Jensen placed the phone back into its cradle. He leaned back into his leather chair and spun around so he could look out the window of his office.
He wasn’t going to need to think about buying a second building because he wasn’t going to need it. He never lost a battle and a five feet three inch brown beauty wasn’t going to be his first defeat either.
“I can’t believe the nerve of that man,” Maymi mumbled to herself, tossing the spatula into the soapy sink water.
Jensen Lowe had walked into her place of business making demands like he owned the building instead of her. How in the hell could she have gotten sidetracked by his attractive face?
Well, his shitty attitude made his good looks go downhill quite fast. He actually implied she wasn’t good enough to be an entrepreneur like him. What in the fuck was he thinking? She could do anything he could and probably ten times better.
Walking over to the table, Maymi opened the drawer searching through it until she found her favorite plastic spatula. She liked using this one when she did her red velvet cupcakes since the icing seemed to go on smoother.
Thankfully, the display case out front was almost completely full since she had come in three hours early today. All of her delicious treats were out there looking tempting and mouth watering.
She could start working on getting all of her cookies and pies together for the extra display case she had placed on the other side of her bakery. A variety of items to choose from would bring in more money for her.
She wasn’t going to allow Sinful to fail for any reason. For almost six years, she worked at a variety of diverse jobs that she hated to save up money for her dream bakery in the city.Sinfulwas her heart and soul. Nothing or no one wasevergoing to take this away from her.
Heading back over to the tray of cupcakes, Maymi opened the white container of homemade cream cheese frosting before picking up a cool cupcake off the rack next to her. Slowly, she started icing the delectable treat, making sure not to get any crumbs into the frosting.
These were her bestsellers anytime she made them back in her hometown. They usually sold out in an hour or less, so she didn’t doubt they would do well for her here as well.
Maymi continued working while she thought about the triple chocolate fudge cupcakes she had been working on as well. Something was keeping them from getting moist like she wanted and for some odd reason she couldn’t figure out what it was. It was out of her reach, taunting her to keep fixing the recipe until she got it perfect enough to put out there to sell.
If her grandmother was still alive, her nana would be able to just take a small bite and instantly know what was wrong with them. Her bakery couldn’t be successful if only one of her cupcakes sold like hot cakes. She needed everything to come together like a dessert lovers’ naughty fantasy.
Finishing off the last cupcakes, Maymi laid the utensil down and picked up the tray carrying it back through the swinging door. She worked on filling up the second shelf on her case, hoping customers would come in and buy everything out.
Since her grand opening six months ago, she had noticed a steady flow of customers coming through the door, but she wanted more than she was getting. She needed at least a twelve to fifteen percent increase or she wouldn’t survive on those kinds of sales; however, she was positive once word got out about how scrumptious her baked goods were, she wouldn’t be able to keep the cases filled.
Placing the tray down near the cash register, Maymi walked around the front of the case to get a better look at everything. All of them looked very enticing, but the counter itself was unappealing.
Tonight, when she was at home, she would sketch out a design for the front window and the counter as well. Sinfulwas missing a logo to set it above the rest of the businesses on this block. She needed something more than good smelling desserts to make an individual stop and come inside. She had to make something eye catching enough from the outside to draw them into her world of goodies.
If she accomplished that one huge thing then her business was finally going to make her father respect her decision to drop out of medical school and pursue her own dreams not his personal visions for her.
After her mother’s sudden suicide when she was a little girl, she worked hard to constantly prove herself to her father since he expected so much from his youngest child. He might own a successful medical practice, but she could be equally successful if he only had more belief in her skills as a baker.
However, nothing she did ever seemed good enough for Doctor Raymond Monroe. She could have earned two medical degrees and he would have still found something to criticize her about over and over again.
More than anything she wanted to gain her father’s love and respect. Yet, all of his titles hanging up on his office wall meant more to him than her or anything she had accomplished over the past several years.
He would rather do something with her older brothers because they shared the same interests and circle of friends. They could never do anything wrong in his eyes. Her brothers always treated her with love and respect; they even came to help her pack up her things to move out here. Yet, they didn’t seem to understand how their father loved them more than her and sadly they probably never world.
None of the cooking awards she won over the past two years would hold a candle to hearing those words. Yet, her father cared more about prestige and status to ever come to any of the cooking shows she participated in.
Blinking back sudden tears, Maymi took one last look at the cupcake case before going back around the counter and picking up the tray she had left there.
Damn Jensen Lowe for coming into her business and making her think about her failed relationship with her father. She hadn’t heard from him since she packed up and left Savannah, Georgia to move out here.
Of course, he wouldn’t call to check on her because she had broken his heart by not wanting to take over his medical business. Her older brother, Broderick, finally agreed to step up and do it. Once he did, Dr. Monroe disowned her with a snap of his fingers and never looked back at his only daughter.
Going back into the other room, Maymi walked over to the sink and added the dirty trays to the dishes already soaking there and started washing them to ease her mind. All of the manual labor would have to be done by her but she didn’t care. Whatever she had to do to help accomplish her ultimate goal would be done because she relished in creating something that was all hers.
Her father thought she hadn’t inherited anything from him, but he was wrong. She got a very important quality—discipline. She made a plan a long time ago to own her own bakery and had stuck to it no matter what obstacles had been tossed in her way.
Why he couldn’t understand this, she would never know.
However, Jensen wasn’t something she had been expecting but she wasn’t going to let him get her off track proving a point to her father. She was good enough...no great enough...to make Sinfulone of the top bakeries in the city.
After she finished with the dishes, Maymi placed the last utensil in the sink to dry. Since the cupcakes were done, it was time for her to start working on the crust for her pecan, apple and cherry pies. All three had won first place at different baking shows and contests. Therefore why wouldn’t she have them at her own shop?
Who didn’t want a sweet treat when something happened like a bad breakup or loss?
She wanted to lure all of those customers through her door with a cupcake or a hot slice of pie. Both of them always took the blues away for her during those times. Which is probably why she had the curves she did instead of being slimmer like Tatum was, but she didn’t let that bother her much anymore.
Regardless of what her cranky neighbor thought of her being so ‘close’ to his personal space, she wasn’t going anywhere and she would love to see him try to make her.
“Jensen, what’s wrong with you? You haven’t spoken three words to me since you picked me up for our date.”
Looking across the table at his favorite Chinese restaurant, he stared at his on and off girlfriend Chloe glaring at him. He hadn’t wanted to stay at home tonight because he didn’t want to think about Maymi ruining his business, so he called her up without thinking it through.
Her whiny personality was one of the top reasons he stopped dating her before. She had a very bad habit of always making things so much bigger than they were. Furthermore, if all of the attention wasn’t directed at her, she felt like something was wrong and complained like a little girl. His life was filled with too much conflict to be stroking her shallow ego.
“Chloe, I have a lot on my mind,” he finally answered, cursing his spilt second decision to call her.
“Please don’t tell me it’s about that gym of yours. I think you worry about that place way too much. You’re doing well with it. My friends are always bragging about how amazing your instructors are there. What else do you want?” she complained. “Aren’t you satisfied with what you have?”
“Fitness 24 is more than a business to me, Chloe. It’s my blood, sweat and tears. I’ve been working for years to get it where it is today. Besides my brother Casper, you’re the next person who should know how much it means to me. Why do you still have such a problem with it?” he demanded.
Sighing, Chloe flipped her curly brown hair over her shoulder before reaching across the table and grabbing his hand, brushing her thumb over the top.
“I’m sorry, baby. Can I do something to make it up to you?” She leaned forward showing off the huge amount of cleavage displayed by the deep opening in the front of her shirt.
In the past, his cock would have already been rock hard just from her touch, but he figured out Chloe’s game a while ago. She flirted with men when she figured out she was on the losing end of the argument. She loved getting her way and she used anything, including sex, to get it.
Jensen eased his hand away from her. Shit, he would make sure not to make this error in his thinking again. Being lonely was a way lot better than fighting off Chloe’s high sexual needs. He was surprised she wasn’t dating someone with the way she loved sex.
“No, that’s alright.” He sighed. “How about we just finish up our meal and then I can take you back home? I need to get up early to teach a class for Casper.”
Snatching her hand back from him, Chloe fell back against her chair and crossed her toned, tanned arms over her surgically enhanced breasts. She narrowed her hazel eyes at him, but he didn’t flinch under her cold stare.
“If you weren’t interested in going back to my place after dinner why did you invite me here? We never stayed together because we had long, meaningful conversations.”
He wanted to deny with Chloe was telling him but he couldn’t. The only reason he asked her out was because of her killer body when he saw her working out at Fitness 24 for a body building competition. His first thought only consisted of how good she was going to look on his arm because she wasn’t overly muscular but she was perfectly in shape like one of the female diva wrestlers from WWE.
“You’re right,” he admitted. “We both loved the hot sex and being the best looking couple in the room. However, I thought maybe you might have matured a little since we last were a couple. I know I’ve grown up a lot.”
Rolling her eyes, she unfolded her arms and picked up her purse from the side of the table. “Well, good for you, Jensen,” she snapped. “I’m going to the bathroom so I can freshen up and instead of dropping me off at home you can take me to Raven’s. I heard the live band there tonight is incredible.”
Are you sure about that?” he asked. “Raven’s is a tougher part of town.”
Chloe shot him a disgusted look before getting up from her seat. “I will be fine, Dad. I know a couple of bouncers there. So, I’ll be okay. Just be ready to leave when I get back.”
Storming away from the table, Chloe made her way through the semi-crowded restaurant without looking back at him. Jensen quickly prayed for the guy that would get hooked by her tonight. She was in one of her moods and she wouldn’t stop until she got what she wanted from the poor soul.
The only good thing that came out of tonight was Chloe’s selfish personality got his mind temporarily off her. Maymi wasn’t going to get underneath his skin anymore. If he could control his temper with his unmotivated brother Casper then there was no way Ms. Monroe shouldn’t be a lot easier for him to handle.
All he had to do was find a way to make her understand that her bakery business Sinful might be a lot more profitable away from his gym.
If Sinful stayed located next door to Fitness 24, it wouldn’t be good marriage between the two of them. Maymi might act like there was something unfair about his demands, but he had enough sense to know there wasn’t a damn thing wrong with them.
She would feel the same way he did if a doughnut franchise suddenly moved in next door to her and slowly stole her customers away. She might not be strong enough to confront her competition, but he was he would keep doing it until she got the hint.
Taking a deep breath, Jensen blew it out through his nose, trying to get himself back under control. Usually, he wasn’t bothered by small stuff, however after dealing with Maymi and then his mistake of adding Chloe into the mix he was about at the end of his rope. Nothing else could happen to make his night any worse, because all he wanted to do was get home and forget the events of today even happened.
The sounds of female laughter coming from his left drew Jensen’s attention. After his horrible day, he wondered who in the hell could be having such a good time and if they would be able to share their secret with him.
Because he would give almost anything to have a good careful laugh right now to block out all of the craziness going in his world. It was almost enough to make him regret opening up Fitness 24 in the first place.
Spinning around in his chair, Jensen’s gaze searched the room until he stopped at a table of three African American women sitting off towards the corner. One of the women was a little bit on the curvier side and her dark black hair tumbled carelessly to her shoulders in a mass of natural curls showing off her dark mahogany skin.
The second was just as attractive with her lighter caramel complexion, but her straighter hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail that stopped right above her shoulder blades.
But the last female seated at the table held his attention the most. She made his earlier anger resurface with record speed. However, before he could glance away Maymi’s big brown eyes looked up from her plate and found him watching her.
Her eyebrows shot up in surprise before they slanted down into a frown as she glared at him. She looked just as stunned to see him here as he was to see her.
Wonderful, he thought.
Jensen didn’t think anything else could happen to piss him off before leaving the restaurant, but he was wrong. Little Miss Bakery had to show up at his favorite restaurant and completely ruin what little he had left of his already horrible day. Hell! He was beginning to wonder if he could go anywhere without her showing up.
“I swear I hate that asshole,” Maymi mumbled underneath her breath, tossing her fork back down on her half-eaten plate of food.
She came out with her two best friends to finally celebrate the opening of her bakery. Tatum had been out of town on business so she and Jazmaine decided to wait until tonight so they could all have a good time together.
“Who are you talking about?” Jazmaine Ramey said, turning around to look over her shoulder.
“Don’t look,” she whispered, grabbing her friend’s arm. “I don’t want him to think we’re talking about him. He already has a big enough ego as it is.”
Spinning back around, Jazmaine eased her arm away from her. “God, what has crawled up your ass and died? I thought this dinner tonight was supposed to be fun and relaxing, but you’ve been on edge ever since we picked you up at your house.”
“I agree with Jazmaine,” Tatum Barnes agreed, cutting in. “Who has rubbed you the wrong way?”
Looking past Jazmaine, Maymi tried not to roll her eyes as Jensen got up from his seat and left with a leggy brunette. Of course, he would be with someone as perfect as him. They probably ran in the same circle as other flawless people who never step foot in her bakery.
“Turn around and look at the tall guy leaving the dark-haired woman,” she said, knowing she would regret telling her friends anything about Jensen.
Maymi hoped he would hurry up and leave so she wouldn’t have to look at him anymore but he stopped at the door then stared at her one last time before going out of the door. Slowly, her best friends faced her again after Jensen was finally gone.
“Who in the hell was he?” Tatum gushed. “Did you see how gorgeous he was? I mean his face was perfect in every sense of the word. How could you call someone like him an asshole?”
“Maymi, you can’t keep your connection to that sexy man a secret from us,” Jazmaine complained. “You know that we will keep asking you until we break you down. Why go through all of that with us?”
Why did she ever open her mouth?
Maymi knew she should have kept quiet when she spotted Jensen staring in her direction. She had actually seen him right after the waitress seated them, but just kept her mouth shut.
“Maymi, are you paying any attention to us?”
“Yes, I hear you Jazmaine.” She sighed. “I just don’t want to talk about Jensen Lowe any more tonight. I’ve dealt with him enough today.”
“He’s the guy you told us about on the drive over here?” Tatum asked, shocked. “I can’t believe it. How could you leave out how good he looked? I mean, I would love to do some baking with him and it wouldn’t occur inside of the kitchen.”
“You’re supposed to be on my side, not drooling over my enemy,” Maymi snapped, wondering how the conversation had gotten so sidetracked.
Tatum’s light brown eyes lit up with mischief as her hand reached for her drink and then she took a sip. “What can I say?” she said. “You know I have a weakness for tall, handsome, physically fit white guys. Why do you think I work out at our local gym four days a week?”
“I thought it was to stay in shape because you love wearing those short skirts and high heels.” Maymi grinned. “I don’t have a clue how you keep up with all of the men you date. You seem to have them falling over their feet to ask you out on a date.”
“I tell you it’s the ponytail. Men have fantasies about pulling long hair while making love.” Tatum grinned. “Why shouldn’t I give them a little visual stimulation? It doesn’t mean I’m going to let them get any.”
“Okay, you two, enough of that,” Jazmaine cut in. “I want to know how a guy who looks like that can be such a jerk? Is he serious about you moving your bakery away from his workout gym? He can’t force you to do anything. I hope he knows that and takes a step back.”
Maymi was positive that Jensen knew the law, but none of that meant he wasn’t going to make her life a living hell. He was without a doubt going to be a pain in her side. No matter how gorgeous he might be on the outside, he was nasty and not worth another moment of her time. She was supposed to be having a good time, not plotting ways to get rid of him.
“How about we forget about Mr. Lowe and enjoy the rest of our dinner?” she suggested. “I have to be at work early to finish up three cupcake orders plus finish decorating a Hello Kitty special order cake for a five-year-old’s birthday party.”
“Can I ask you one more thing about him?” Tatum asked.
“No, you can’t,” she answered, tired of talking about Jensen. “I want to know what’s going on with you two.”
“Nothing as exciting as you have going on,” Jazmaine answered then glanced down at her watch. “Damn, I have to go. I’m supposed to be back at work in twenty minutes for another board meeting.”
“Are you serious?” Maymi asked, staring at her friend. “I thought you would at least be able to finish having dinner with us.”
Jazmaine glanced away from her with a guilty expression on her face. “I know. I was hoping I could put off telling you until later, but I couldn’t,” she said, looking back at her. “You know we are merging the company I work for with another business that specializes in graphic novels. I swear this venture has lasted way too long. I want it to be done and over with.”
“How much long will it take?” Maymi inquired. “It seems like it has been going on for months now.”
Sighing, Jazmaine nodded her head. “It has been about four months now, but my boss keeps telling me the guy only has a few more requests before he’ll sign the papers. God, I hope everything will be done in the next couple of weeks, but who knows. I think he’s holding up things on purpose. I’ve heard he’s a real hard ass when he doesn’t get every single thing he wants. However, Mr. Akito Mashiro will learn very quickly that I don’t like to play games. My time istooprecious for him to be jerking me around for dumb stuff.”
Maymi was glad she wasn’t the only one dealing with a difficult man at the moment, but Jazmaine was luckier than her. The man causing her all of these problems wasn’t in her face.
“I would gladly trade places with you because your headache isn’t right next door and threatening to make you move out of a building he has absolutely no control over.”
“Maymi, you’re right but this guy is making me work way too much overtime because he can. I think my problem is a lot worse than yours,” Jazmaine disagreed.
“Why don’t you two stop complaining so we can have fun with what little time we have left before Jazmaine has to leave.” Tatum sighed. “I know those comic books can wait another ten or fifteen minutes”.
“Tatum, I’ve told you before that graphic novels aren’t the same thing as comic books. They are longer and have a complete story from start to finish, instead of ending with a traditional cliffhanger regular comic books are known for.
“In addition, some graphic novels are unsuitable for young kids because they have more detailed illustrations with their sex and violence. If Mr. Mashiro signs with my boss, it would skyrocket Mr. Kent’s name in the industry since this guy is known for his Manga style of novels.”
“Okay, I get it,” Tatum sighed, rolling her eyes making Maymi laugh. “Graphic novels are like the Nip/Tuck of the fiction world. So, I’m also guessing I couldn’t walk by a newsstand and just pick one up.”
“No, you can’t,” Jazmaine said. “Now can you stop picking on me and pretending that you don’t know how important this deal is to me?”
“Sorry,” Tatum apologized. “I only wanted to finish my meal and maybe talk one of you into going out with me for a little dancing tonight.”
“How do you still have so much energy to do all of that?” Maymi complained. “I barely have enough get up and go to crawl out of bed now since opening up the bakery.”
Taking a sip of her drink, Tatum eyed her a few minutes then shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. Maybe it comes from being a yoga instructor on the weekends. I’ve all kinds of boundless energy nowadays. I told you that you should sign up for one of my classes at the gym.”
For the past week, she had missed her lower abs workout classes. She better get back before she got too far behind and couldn’t be able to do anything anymore. “Where would I fit in the time for an extra class? I already take two now and I can barely make those two on most days,” Maymi answered.
“Do you really think the rumors are true and Jack is going to sell to another fitness place in town? I mean I’ve been going to the same place for six years,” Tatum complained. “I’m not good with change. The thought of finding another place doesn’t sit well with me. I like my gym being only a thirty minute drive from my back door.”
Maymi was worried about losing their favorite workout spot as well. It held special memories for her since it was the place all of them had become friends. Meeting up there was a part of their routine. Even when one of them couldn’t make it, the other two always found a way to show up. Now that Jazmaine was working as hard as her, it was harder for them to come together like they used to do in the past.
Everything around them seemed to be changing at such a rapid pace, but she couldn’t let any of that take her focus away from the most important accomplishment she had going on. She was the proud owner of her own business. She had to keep that front and center in her mind or all of her hard work would have been for nothing.
“Ladies, let’s not worry about any of this right now. Jack loves owning a gym and I doubt he’ll let it go unless the money wasn’t there to keep it open,” she pointed out.
“You’re right,” Jazmaine agreed a second before her cell phone went off. She pulled it out of her purse and then cursed, tossing it back inside. “God, I really do hate Mr. Mashiro’s assistant. She calls me like twenty times a day and I believe it’s on purpose.”
Maymi already guessed what Jazmaine was going to tell them before the words even left her mouth. “You have to leave, don’t you?” she asked her girlfriend.
“Of course, I do. The assistant from hell just summons me back to the office. I swear if he wasn’t the most sought after graphic novelist for our competitor, I would tell him to shove his pen where the sun doesn’t shine.”
“Don’t lose your temper. You’ve worked too long to get this far with this guy. All you have to do is get him to sign the contract and you’re done with him. At least, he’s still in London and sending the message through his assistant.”
“I know, but dealing with his demands is wearing on my one last nerve. I swear when I do finally lay eyes on him he might not like what comes out of my mouth.”
“Since dinner didn’t turn out good for any of us, how about we reschedule another one for next week,” Tatum suggested. “I hate that you guys are having such a trying week when mine has been stress free. I can pay for this one since I got a little extra in my paycheck this week.”
Maymi would love to do it, but she was booked solid for the next two weeks with orders for weddings, graduations and retirement parties. She wouldn’t have any free time for anymore dinners for a while. Most of hers would be eaten at Sinfulwhile icing a cake or while doing the baking for the next day.
“I’m sorry. I won’t have any more free time for another dinner anytime soon. I’m swamped with orders for the next several weeks,” she said, watching Tatum roll her eyes.
“Don’t even say it, Tatum. I know I need to get out more but you know how much it means to me to make this a success. I have so much to prove.”
She had taken out a huge loan to secure this bakery and she couldn’t afford to miss one payment to the bank or owner of the property. Every single order that she got in had to be given the same amount of attention.
She couldn’t get behind on any payments because not only would the bank give her problems, but also the property owner, who wouldn’t think twice about taking his building back from her. Mr. Sajack only wanted the check placed inside of his hand and definitely allowed no excuses for a late payment.
“Don’t worry about it,” Maymi said. “I can pay for all of us. Why don’t you give Tatum a ride back to work? I can get a cab. I’m going back to the bakery to finish up this cake order anyway.”
Both Tatum and Jazmaine’s eyes grew wide as saucers as they stared at her like she was out of her mind. “You can’t go back to work at eight o’clock at night, are you crazy?” Tatum asked. “Just go back home and go to work early tomorrow morning. Nothing you have to do at Sinful is so important you have to be inside that building at night all alone.”
Sighing, Maymi knew she wouldn’t be able to change her girlfriend’s mind about her going back to work. When Tatum spoke, she expected everyone to follow her rules without any kind of argument.
“Fine, I’ll go home instead and work on putting my cake boxes together, but I’ll have to be back there at five o’clock because I’ve two cakes that will go out within four hours of each other.”
Tatum smiled at her, but didn’t say a word. God, she hated when her bossy girlfriend got her way so easily. This was going to be the first and last time either one of her friends talked her out of going back to work no matter how late it might be.
“Great, I’m glad we’re done with that,” Jazmaine cut in. “Now, can let’s pay the bill so I can get back to my ball and chain.”
“You’re right about that,” Maymi teased, raising her hand for the waiter. “You are married to that job. All of us need to go on a long vacation.”
“Do you really have time for fun in the sun on a tropical beach?” Jazmaine questioned, watching her as the waiter came back with their check.
Laughing, Maymi shook her head. “No, but a girl can dream,” she answered, handing the waiter her credit card. “It’s what keeps me going every night when I drag myself to bed after a long hard day at work.”
“Hmmm...the only thing I would want to dream about is that delicious Jensen Lowe. You should think of a dessert and then name it after him.” Tatum cut in, grinning at her.
Maymi caught herself before she literally fell out of her seat. There was no way anything named after that man would be placed on the inside of any of her bakery cases. Every treat was made with tender, loving care and nothing about him was tender or loving.
“How about you keep your baking ideas to yourself and let me handle the dessert world?” she suggested as the waiter came back with her credit card.
“Fine, but I think if you had him standing outside your bakery holding a tray of your famous red velvet cupcakes, you would have so many female customers that you wouldn’t be able to handle the rush,” Tatum tossed back at her.
“Alright, I hear you.” She sighed, sliding her credit card back into her wallet. “How about we get out of here? I don’t want Jazmaine’s client’s assistant calling her again.”
Standing up, Maymi grabbed her coat off the back of her chair, watching as Tatum and Jazmaine did the same thing. She loved the closeness of their relationship because growing up with two older brothers she always wanted a sister to share her secrets with at night. She never doubted her girlfriends wouldn’t be there with her through thick and thin no matter what the problem was.
“He isn’t my client yet,” Jazmaine corrected as they walked away from the table heading for the front door. “I still need to stroke his assistant’s ego along with his which is a tough thing to do since I’ve never laid eyes on the man.”
“You’re the best person for the job and when you win both of them over they will apologize for making you work so hard to get them to see what we already do. I’m so confident you will get Mr. Mashiro to sign those papers, I will have a party for you at my house,” Maymi said.
Linking her arm hers, Jazmaine glanced down at her. “I will only celebrate if you promise to make me your famous triple layer carrot cake. I haven’t eaten one in forever.”
“Alright, I can do that for you,” Maymi agreed.
She was the kind of friend that would be there for her friends no matter what they were experiencing. So if Jazmaine wanted her grandmother’s blue ribbon triple layer carrot cake then she would have it.
Early the following morning, Maymi grabbed the stack of bakery boxes out of the back of her car she had placed there last night after her dinner with Jazmaine and Tatum. They had Sinfulacross the top along with a cute design of a bakery in the background. She had them specially made to showcase her business and they weren’t cheap, so she had to be very careful with them.
She tried working on little things like this at home, so she could spend more of her time working on new recipes for the bakery. The more she could work on improving would be one step closer to proving this career wasn’t a mistake.
Holding the boxes against her chest, she stepped on the sidewalk trying to look around the side to make sure no one was coming. She prayed that she would make it to the front door before any of them accidentally hit the ground. She was about five steps away when a voice yelled.
“Ma’am, watch out!” a second before a hard body crashed into her sending her flying to the ground in one direction and the hot pink boxes in the other.
She didn’t have time to brace herself before she fell on her ass. Thankfully, she had enough back there to protect her body, but she wasn’t so sure her boxes were that lucky. She didn’t even have to look at them to know they were damaged.
“God, are you alright? I’m so sorry. I was running and you stepped out in front of me so fast before I could stop,” the guy apologized.
Brushing her hair out of her face, Maymi gasped as she stared into the bluest eyes she had ever seen. She couldn’t even answer his question because she was so taken back by how good-looking he was.
“Here let me help you up,” he said, grabbing her by the hand as people walked around them.
“Thanks,” Maymi answered as a person kicked one of her boxes and kept on walking. She took a step back and wiped her hands down the front of her jeans. She looked around at the crushed boxes and cursed underneath her breath.
“Damn, they are all ruined. What in the hell am I going to do? I only have a few left inside the bakery”
“I’m so sorry about the boxes.” He apologized again as he bent down and picked them up holding them out to her. “Is there anything I can do to help you? I feel so bad about this. I should have been paying better attention to where I was going.”
“It’s okay,” she sighed. “I might have a few extra ones in the storage room that I can put together before my customers come in to pick up their cakes. My cupcakes orders aren’t due until later in the afternoon and that is what these boxes are for.”
“Show me what to do and I can put them together for you. I don’t have to be at work for another hour and it’s the least I can do since I ruined them.”
Maymi looked at the gorgeous guy standing next to her and he looked so sincere but she knew nothing about him. How could she invite him into her bakery? He could be a killer for all that she knew.
“Hmmm...that’s okay. I can get them done myself while the cupcakes are baking in the oven. I’m very good at multitasking.”
Smiling, the guy stared at her for a few minutes. “I’m not a serial killer if that’s what you’re thinking. My brother would kill me if I embarrassed him anymore than I usually do. I swear I only want to help you out for messing up your gorgeous boxes. I’m really good with my hands. I’d have them done in no time. By the way, my name is Casper Lowe.”
Maymi paused and did a double take. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. There was no way this guy and Jensen were brothers. They were like day and night even in the looks department.
“Is your brother the same Jensen Lowe, the man who owns the gym next door?” she asked.
“Yes, he is,” Casper answered. “I can tell you’ve already met him.”
“I wish I could say that I hadn’t but it would be a lie.” Maymi’d rather put the memory in the back of her mind and never revisit it again.”
“Let me guess what Jensen did to you. He came over here to see you and he demanded that you pack up and move away because your bakery was going to ruin the weight loss of his clients.” He laughed.
She didn’t find her unpleasant conversation with Casper’s brother funny at all. He was insulting and very belittling. She wished she had tossed his ass out sooner than she had done.
“I don’t think anything that happened with your brother yesterday was funny,” she said, walking around Casper. She guessed rudeness ran in their family.
Today wasn’t the time Casper needed to be getting on her bad side. Not with everything she had on her schedule that she needed to get done before leaving work.
“Thank you, Mr. Lowe for your offer but I think I’ll pass on it. I don’t need your help because this isn’t a joke to me. It’s my livelihood and I want Sinful to be as successful as it can.”
Maymi continued walking to her front door, but stopped when Casper suddenly stepped in her path. “Look, I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I wasn’t trying to be insensitive about what my brother did to you, but Jensen is always so worried about the big picture that he doesn’t take the time to take pleasure in the journey of getting there.”
She glared at Casper. “Okay, thanks for telling me but I really don’t care about your brother’s problems. I’ve enough of my own to deal with.”
“Well, you would have one less if you let me do the boxes. I swear I won’t mess the new ones up at all,” he promised, holding up two fingers.
A tiny grin pulled at the corners of Maymi’s mouth. “I find it hard to believe you were a boy scout,” she said, trying not to laugh.
“Oh, I wasn’t,” Casper admitted, dropping his hand. “But I got you to smile which is even better. I swear to you that I’m not as bad as my big brother. So will you let me help you out or not?”
She might be making a mistake but Casper was justsocute that she couldn’t turn him down. Besides, what would it hurt if all he wanted to do was put some boxes together for her and he was the reason most of the ones she worked on last night got ruined.
“Okay, I’ll let you help me,” she finally agreed. “But I better not hear a word about it from your brother. He’ll probably die if he knew you were helping the enemy.”
“Jensen’s problems are his not mine,” Casper said, taking the destroyed boxes from her arms. “Come on; let’s get this show on the road.”
Moving to the side, he got out of the way while she opened the door for him. Maymi watched as Casper carried the boxes through the door. She wondered just how upset Jensen would get over this. He wanted her gone. Yet his brother was over here helping her out.
God, she would love to be a fly on the wall when Casper told Jensen what he spent his morning doing. Without a doubt, the loud screams of Jensen’s voice would be echoing through the streets when he found out about this.
“Ms. Monroe, I want to say thank you again for allowing me to do this for you,” Casper said, placing the boxes down on the table right in front of them.
“Not a problem. You offered your help and I took it after a little persuasion on your part. I think I was just being stubborn. I knew I needed the help, but I just didn’t want to admit to it.”
“I can’t blame you for turning me down, especially after the way Jensen treated you.”
Feeling bad about her earlier attitude, Maymi touched Casper on the arm, giving it a slight squeeze. “You aren’t your brother. I shouldn’t have judged you like you were. Let me get the other boxes and you can get started putting them together.”
Letting go of Casper’s arm, she moved away going over to the boxes and wondered where the extra money would come from to replace the other boxes. Money was still very tight. She didn’t have a pile of it hidden; however, she wasn’t going to allow this small setback to stop her from moving forward.
“What smellsogood?” a male voice asked behind her. “I could smell it all the way out there while I was working on those boxes.”
Spinning around, Maymi found Casper standing behind her with a stack of bakery boxes lined up on the table.
“Where did you get those extra boxes?” she questioned, coming up to him. “I know that I didn’t give you that many to put together before I came into the kitchen.”
“Some of the ones that fell on the ground after our run-in weren’t that damaged as we first thought,” he told her. “I was able to fix them and they look brand new again. So now are you going to answer my question?”
“I’ve a couple of pies cooling on the rack. I sold out of them yesterday so I made some more for today. A few customers told me that they would be back today for some more,” Maymi answered.
“They look amazing, Casper told her. “You better get ready to sell out again because they will all be gone in a matter of minutes.”
She was beginning to like him more and more. He might be a little bit more on the laid back side, but there wasn’t anything wrong with that. At least they weren’t at each other’s throats every time their paths crossed.
“Thank you. I need all of the encouragement I can get,” she admitted. Maymi suddenly remembered Casper’s deadline and took a glance at the clock on the wall behind him.
“You should be heading to your job. It’s almost been an hour. I don’t want you to get into any trouble with your brother because of me.”
“If Jensen didn’t have it in his radar to complain about what I did to ruin his day then he would find something else to lecture me about. It’s what makes our relationship run so smoothly.
“However, you’re right. I need to go since I need to get set up for my kickboxing class. Good luck with your sales today, but I don’t think you will need it,” Casper said then smiled at her before walking out the swinging kitchen door.
Hurrying out the door behind Casper, Maymi called out his name and he spun back around. “Thank you again for helping me. I couldn’t have made the pies without it,” she told him.
“Not a problem. I loved doing it,” Casper told her. He waved goodbye before going out her front door and then walking past her bay window.
She wouldn’t have made a bet on Jensen’s brother running into her this morning and then spending the next hour at her bakery putting boxes together. Her day already started off with a surprise, so she couldn’t wait to see where it would go after this. Things only had to be on the up and up; no negative thoughts were even going to enter her mind. They wouldn’t do her any good if they did anyway.
Turning away from the window, Maymi headed back to the back to finish boxing up the cupcake order. She had about another forty-five minutes before the customer showed up for them and she wanted to make each second count.
“I’m surprised to see you here early. I thought you loved coming in the last minute and making a mad dash to get everything together. What has gotten into you? Did you not stay out last night and party?”
Casper stopped working on one of the boxing gloves and looked up at his brother who was standing next to him.
“Jensen, why are you constantly in such a bad mood? I mean can’t you ever say good morning or ask how I’m doing?” he questioned. “I do have feelings and I don’t like the way you just seem to forget that sometimes.”
Groaning, Jensen ran his fingers through his hair and then sat down on the bench next to him. “Sorry Casper. I’ve had a hard night and I woke up in a bad mood. I shouldn’t have jumped down your throat like I just did. You haven’t done anything to me.”
“You have too much on your shoulders. I told you that you need to relax more. Get away from the gym and have a little fun. I promise you, it will still be standing when you get back.”
Jensen wondered where his brother came up with some of his crazy ideas. Who was going to run the business if he took a break? He had workedtoohard getting here to let it all go to hell now.
“Like I’ve told you before, I want to expand the gym, so I need to get that accomplished before I can even think about taking a break. I might have had it done by now, if Ms. Monroe hadn’t stolen the building next door from me. I almost had it until she came out of nowhere and snatched it out of my hands.”
“Are you seriously still complaining about her,” Casper said, tossing the boxing glove down on the floor. “You’re giving Maymi too much credit. Besides, I don’t think she that’s bad. She seems like a very nice person to me.”
He turned his head slowly staring at his brother. “How do you know anything about her?” Jensen questioned. “Have you been talking to her or something?”
Casper glanced away from him then a few minutes later made eye contact again. He got a sneaky suspicion that he already knew the answer before his brother said one word.
“Answer me,” he demanded.
“Yeah, I literally ran into her this morning and I had a nice conversation with her before I came into work. Man, she’s even more gorgeous up close than she is from a distance. In addition, Sinful isn’t too bad looking on the inside either. Some of those homemade pies smelled amazing. It reminded me of the ones we used to eat at grandmother’s house every Sunday after church.”
“Tell me why you went inside of her bakery?” Jensen asked. “I thought you knew to stay away from the competition.”
Jumping up from the bench, Casper shook his head at him. “Jensen, Maymi isn’t your competition. Her bakery has nothing to do with Fitness 24 and you know that she isn’t the reason you didn’t get the building either. Two different businesses can be right next door and work together without any issues. She told me that you came to see her and from her tone I can tell that things didn’t end well between the two of you.”
Jensen took a quick sharp breath so he wouldn’t yell at Casper. He didn’t want to put anymore tension between them. “I think it would be for the best if we both stayed away from Ms. Monroe. I don’t want any more animosity than there already is between us.”
Picking up the gloves off the floor, Casper stood up and looked down at him. “She only has a problem with you. We got along pretty good this morning at her bakery. So, maybe you’re the one who needs to stay away from her,” his brother said before stalking away.
He jumped up from the bench and started to follow after his brother but stopped when he spotted some members coming into class. Now wasn’t the time to continue this conversation, he would get into it later on after work. They weren’t done and he hoped that Casper didn’t think they were.
Walking to the door, he took one last look over his shoulder, pleased to see Casper at least interacting with everyone inside the room instead of only the pretty women. Casper might actually be listening to his advice more than he thought; however, only time would tell with his younger sibling.
Jensen took one final glance before going out the door and he was on his way back upstairs to his office when he caught a figure from the corner of his eye standing at the front desk.
What in the world was she doing inside his gym? Had she lost her mind or was she trying to push his buttons?
He never told her that she couldn’t step foot in here, but why would she want to when she knew where they stood with each other? He had drawn a line in the sand and she purposely crossed it to send his blood pressure up another notch.
Storming towards Maymi, Jensen didn’t stop until he was standing right next to her. He glanced down at the two boxes in her hand hoping she hadn’t brought any of her desserts inside of his business.
“Krissy, what’s going on here?” he asked his receptionist then looked back at Maymi who was glaring at him. “Is she trying to sell you some of her fattening foods?”
“Jensen, this lady wanted to leave something for Casper, but I told her you didn’t allow desserts inside the gym,” Krissy answered, glancing away from Maymi over to him.
“I’m not trying to cause any problems. All I wanted to do was leave a thank you gift for Casper. He helped me out this morning and then had to leave before the pies and cupcakes were done.”
“Ms. Monroe, my receptionist told you correctly. I think you should take your sweets and leave. I’ll tell my brother about them after he has finished with his classes. If Casper wants them, he can come over to your bakery and pick them up there.”
Why did she always have to draw his attention with her fresh yet tempting looks?
He tried not to notice how attractive Maymi looked in her black apron withSinfulwritten across the top in hot pink. Casper wasn’t lying about her being a good-looking woman; it was just too bad they both were on opposite ends.
“You can’t be serious about not taking these,” she questioned, shoving the delicious smelling boxes underneath his nose making him get another whiff of cinnamon and apples.
“Yes, I’m very serious,” Jensen answered, moving the boxes away from his face. “If you’re looking for a taster of your treats, you came to the wrong place. No one here wants any piece of any of your over-iced cupcakes.”
Chocolate eyes narrowed at him before Maymi laid the boxes on the desk in front of Krissy. She was still standing there watching the argument between them with an amused look on her face.
Jensen didn’t back down, but took a step closer to her curvy body. If she wanted to fight then a fight is what she would get. He wasn’t about to back down from a five feet something pastry chef.
“How dare you insult my grandmother’s cupcakes,” she hissed. “I would never over-ice them. My red velvet cupcakes are even better than my pecan pie. Don’t talk about something you know nothing about, Mr. Lowe.”
“I wasn’t insulting your grandmother. I was talking about you, princess.”
Maymi stopped talking and just stared at him with a vacant look in her eyes. Now, what was her problem with him? She was looking at him like she couldn’t believe he just called her that.
“Don’t call me princess,” she said in a low voice.
“Why not?” he asked. “You’re acting like a spoiled little princess.”
“I won’t tell you again not to call me that name.”
He thought he saw her eyes grow a little sadder, but Maymi blinked and then turned away so he couldn’t be sure if he hadn’t imagined the entire thing or not.
“Don’t forget to give those treats to Casper as soon as his class ends. I’ll know if you tossed them in the trash and I’ll be back over to get you if you do it.”
Jensen stood next to the desk and watched in utter disbelief as Maymi ignored his comment and continued on out the front door like she hadn’t heard him talking to her. Why did he ever bother dealing with that woman?
“Can you believe she did that to me?” He spun back around in time to catch Krissy biting into one of the red velvet cupcakes Maymi had left for his brother.
“What are you doing?” Had everyone just lost their minds since Sinful moved next door or was Krissy trying to make him fire her on the spot.
“Sorry boss,” she mumbled around the treat in her mouth. “I love red velvet cupcakes and these are outstanding. I swear you need to try one and you will change your mind about Ms. Monroe. She has a true gift. After tasting one, I’m going to buy some and take them to my son’s class tomorrow for his teacher’s retirement party.”
“No, thank you.” He closed the cupcake box and grabbed it along with the other one off the counter. “When Casper finishes with his last class tell him that I need to see him in my office.”
Jensen could already see where this was going and it wouldn’t be good for their bottom dollar. He was going to tell Casper he didn’t need to see or talk to her anymore
“I sure will,” Krissy said before taking another huge bit out of the fluffy cupcake and moaning softly.
Swallowing down his criticism, Jensen turned away from the reception desk and made his way towards the staircase leading upstairs to his office. How was he supposed to get Maymi away from next door if Casper was trying to befriend her just to spite him?
God, it was days like this than he wished he was an only child!
Pausing in front of the trash can by the side of his desk, Jensen thought about tossing Maymi’s gifts for his brother right on inside, but stopped himself at the very last minute. They weren’t his to toss. He would keep his word and give them to Casper when he came to see him.
Going across the room, Jensen laid the two boxes down on a table where he usually ate his lunch. Today wasn’t the day he wanted to run into Maymi again. Normally, he tried to avoid confrontations whenever it was possible, but something about her pushed him to do battle with her anytime they were within five feet of each other.
It is desire...his mind snickered.You want her. Stop denying it. He shook his head getting rid of the nonsense floating around up there.
Working and running Fitness 24 was more important to him that it seemed to be to his brother and ex-girlfriend. Most of his friends had found ways to avoid him so they wouldn’t get caught up in listening to his ideas for this place, but he couldn’t help it.
He was continually trying to live up to his potential and achieve recognition as the top gym owner in town. Nothing was going to stand in his way of getting that item crossed off his list before moving on to the next one.
Was it really wrong for him to be confident in his abilities to make it happen? Carrying out all of his projects with purpose and passion is what made him jump up out of bed every morning.
Fitness 24 was his life.
He had worked too many odd jobs over the years to make this place a reality. He wasn’t about to lose his dream now because of ‘Little Miss Bakery’.
Unquestionably, she had to be the most difficult and trying woman he had ever run across. Even during the five years he spent as a male stripper to save up money to start this place, none of those women in the night clubs had gotten under his skin the way Maymi did.
Shelovedpulling his strings. He saw the pleasure in her eyes earlier when she stood there holding her boxes of devilish treats. She purposely came over there to rub him the wrong way and not to see Casper. She was getting him back for when he barged into her business and made all of those demands.
However, he doubted Maymi hadn’t counted on her visit only fueling his fire even more. He had a very difficult time not picking up her enticing body and carrying her right back out the front door. She wasn’t ready to deal with that tougher side of him.
So he allowed her to believe that she had won this round, but he always had something else up his sleeve. When the right time presented itself, he would show her.
As much as he wanted to keep his mind focused on his dealings with Maymi, Jensen had to get more done on the new projects he had on his outline. Fitness 24 still wasn’t the premier gym he knew it could be. Everything he had written down on paper had worked out amazingly, but only a few things were left to get accomplished and time was running out to get them done.
Glancing down at his wrist, he noticed his watch showed he only had a few minutes to leave and head over to his appointment with Jack Metz. He was surprised to find a message on his phone from his toughest competition in town.
Everyone around town had heard the rumors blowing around town that Jack was interested in selling his privately owned establishment. His curiosity was piqued by why his nemesis wanted to sell his grandfather’s business to him.
Were the rumors he heard actually true about the high-end workout center? Could Jack’s members be leaving because of the lack of professionalism shown their by his trainers? Could they really be hitting on their female clients and nothing had happened to the guys?
If Jack had allowed all of this to happen and turned a blind eye to keep his employees then he needed to lose his reputation and his business along with it. He didn’t and wouldn’t tolerate any of his trainers, employees male or female, to disrespect anyone before or during their workout sessions.
Turning around, he hurried for the door knowing that Jack might not like the price he wanted to offer him, but it would be a good offer since Health Pro, Inc. wasn’t up to the standards it use to have for people previously. A bad name attached to a building for a year and a half, it was going to take time to rebuild it back up but he could do it for the right price along with the help of Casper.
Finally being able to give Casper a place of his own would give him the opportunity to make his sibling prove himself. It was a great opportunity to show him that he could run the huge kickboxing classes he kept bragging about.
For months now, he had been complaining about wanting a bigger space to expand his classes to include more than fifteen people. Health Pro, Inc. was a lot smaller than Fitness 24 in some ways, but there was one huge spot that could be perfect for what Casper was craving to do with his talent.
He prayed everything would run smoothly with Jack and he could be signing the paperwork in the next few weeks. Maybe having something else to give his attention to would get Casper’s mind off of the pretty Maymi.
Opening his office door, Jensen stepped out then stumbled back to avoid running into his brother standing on the other side. “Shit, I almost ran right into you.”
Casper held up his hands and took his own step back. “Sorry, I didn’t know you were about to leave.” He apologized, dropping his hands. “Krissy told me that Maymi dropped off two delicious thank you gifts for me and that you had brought them up here.”
“Yes, she did. They’re over there on the table by the window,” Jensen said, pointing a finger over his shoulder. “I’m running late to see Jack Metz. So we’ll have to talk about her visit later on when I get the time.”
“I know you won’t forget,” Casper mumbled under his breath but he still heard him.
“Of course I won’t.” Jensen brushed past his brother and continued down the hallway towards the staircase.
He was running late, so he had to make it worth Jack’s time to wait for him. Health Pro. Inc, was almost in the palm of his hand and he wasn’t about to have it snatched away for no good reason.
“Come on and tell me what has put that horrible look on your face,” Jazmaine complained, waving a potato chip in her face.
Twenty minutes ago, Jazmaine surprised her with her favorite Subway sandwich for lunch. She was even nice enough to eat in the back of the bakery while she worked on patty cakes and then cookies. Now she was acting like a first class bitch by not answering her questions.
Honestly, food was the last thing on her mind until Jazmaine showed up with sandwiches and that friendly smile of hers she loved so much. After eating several bites, Maymi had to admit her headache was better and she could think a lot clearer than before. “I had a run-in with Jensen again,” Maymi finally answered, dropping her food down on the Subway paper in front of her. “I swear that man must wake up on the wrong side of the bed every single morning. He never has a kind word for anyone.”
“Tell me what happened this time. Did he come back over here again and throw another tantrum demanding you move away from him or else?”
Shaking her head, Maymi pushed a potato around with her finger. “No, this time I was at Fitness 24. He just happened to see me and he threw a major fit. I thought he was literally going to pick me up and toss me out on the sidewalk,” she admitted.
She tried glancing away from her friend, but Jazmaine’s eyes caught and held hers. “Sweetie, I think you and Jensen just need to stay away from each other as much as possible. Why you decided to make an appearance at his gym, I will never know. Usually, you are so reasonable and practical when dealing with people. So why does he seem to get underneath your skin so badly?”
“I believe our personalities clashed so hard the first time because I made a decision then not to let him intimidate me again.
“Jensen seems to believe that he is the only one who has worked their ass off to make their business where it is today. Well, he hasn’t and I’m still angry he came over here and got in my face almost telling me I was too worthless to handle running this place.
“I won’t let him, or anyone else, take this away from me. I've worked too hard to get this far. My pastry arts degree means the world to me and it will help me attain a profitable business doing something I love.”
“Oh, I see what the problem is now. It has become a lot clearer to me,” Jazmaine told her.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Maymi said. She started clearing away the trash off the table leftover from her lunch.
“Has your father called you at all since the grand opening? I know you called and told him about it; despite the fact, he hasn’t been all of that supportive of your career choice.”
Getting up from her seat, she tossed the remains of her sandwich into her trashcan. Why did Jazmaine have to bring up her father? She wasn’t in the mood to discuss her father.
“Maymi, are you going to answer me?” her girlfriend asked from right behind her.
She spun around and took Jazmaine’s trash from her. “No, I haven’t heard from him, but you know that he isn’t big on giving words of encouragement to the only girl in the family.”
“I can’t believe your father treats you so differently from your brothers. Surely, he’s still not mad because you decided to go after you own dream and not the one he had picked out for you.”
She understood that Jazmaine was trying to be a good friend to her, but this conversation was going nowhere. They had been talking about Jensen and somehow it had turned down a side street and gotten onto her father.
“Look, I know—”
The beeping sound of the timer cut Maymi off signaling to her that it was time to take the cookies out of the oven. Walking away from her girlfriend, she grabbed a potholder off the counter then went over to the oven and removed the cookies. Maymi moved around Jazmaine and sat the cookie sheet down before she worked on removing the warm cookies to a rack.
“Maymi, you need to talk about this. I know you’re upset with your dad, but you need to fix things with him.”
“Aren’t you going to be late getting back to work?” she asked, hoping Jazmaine took the blatant hint and left it alone.
“Alright, I got it. You want me to leave but I do have one more thing to tell you. You aren’t going anywhere and I doubt Jensen is going to uproot his gym to a new location either. So the two of you need to get along or find a better way to avoid each other.”
Angry at the advice which came across more like an attack on her, Maymi twirled around giving Jazmaine a look. “Why do I have to be the one getting a lecture? He started the feud with me. I was minding my own business working away and he came over to my bakery...it wasn’t the other way around. I only went over to Fitness 24 so I could see Casper. I had no interest in looking at his face or hearing his voice for that matter.”
“I’m not giving you a lecture. I’m only pointing out the facts. The more you stay away from him the more productive your day will go.” Jazmaine looked her directly in the eye. “If you see him coming go the other way, it will keep down the arguments. You want to use all of that energy to draw more customers through the doors.Fitness 24 had been around a while and already has a name in the community. Sinfulhas only been here months. You can’t let him detour you anymore than he already has.”
“Honey, just try it my way for a few days and see how it works out for you. Ignore anything he might toss your way and direct those emotions towards a different goal. Didn’t you mention you need to design some extra promotional materials for the bakery? Have you given any more thought to getting a website up and running?”
Maymi knew Jazmaine was right and admitting it was a little painful but she couldn’t lie. “Yes, I’m running the idea through my head, but I’ve been working on this life-sized customized Hello Kitty cake that I’m getting close to ten thousand dollars for. I mean it’s my first huge order for Sinful. I just can’t get into getting a website set up right now.”
Jazmaine grinned at her. “See, that is what I’m talking about, focusing your attention on your gifts and not some guy who came out of nowhere to be a thorn in your side. I know you’re feisty and don’t back down from a battle, but just take a step back from Jensen. Unless there’s another reason you like the tension brewing between the two of you.”
The memory of how she used to be burned in her mind. Jazmaine was right. She had lost some of that woman and the thought of becoming her again was exciting.
“I’ll see what I can do about getting the old me back, but I need to finish baking and taking things out of the oven before my help comes back here screaming for more sweets I don’t have.”
“Don’t you have anything else to say to me?”
“Like what,” she said, walking up to Jazmaine.
“Maybe you’re sexually attracted to Jensen and that is one of the motivations for arguing with him. I mean I can’t blame you if it’s true. Who wouldn’t want the guy? He oozes that let’s have a one night stand kind of allure about him.”
Laughing, Maymi hugged her crazy friend. She always thought it was Tatum she had to be worried about because of her crazy ideas, but now Jazmaine was giving her a run for her money with that comment.
“No, I don’t see him as a sexy one night stand. Isn’t the purpose of a one night stand to sleep with the hot stranger and never see him again? Jensen is right next door to me, so that wouldn’t work for me. Not that I was thinking about doing it,” she quickly added. “But thanks again for coming to see me. Our talk really helped me a lot, I see things more differently now than before.”
“Honey, after the way you left the restaurant two weeks ago I had no choice but to come and see about you as soon as I could. Listen I know I’m busy with the Mashiro deal, but if you need help with anything let me know and I’ll make the time for you.”
Spinning around, Jazmaine grabbed her purse off the table and walked over to the kitchen door as the second buzzer went off for the cupcakes behind Maymi. She gave her friend one more look before going over to the oven and taking out her double chocolate treats. The mint frosting was already done and waiting at the side for the cupcakes once they were cool enough to ice.
As she removed the cupcakes out of the oven, Maymi couldn’t get Jazmaine’s words out of her head. She was here to stay for the long haul and he better get used to it. Sinful was hers after years of working hard and nothing Jensen threatened her with was going to frighten her away.
“Ms. Monroe, are you sure that you don’t need me to stay here with you? It already eight-thirty and it’s pretty dark outside.”
Glancing up from the dinosaur cake she was working on, Maymi spotted her assistant Olivia standing in the open doorway of the kitchen. She thought Olivia had already left and gone home for the night.
“No, I’m fine. You can go ahead and leave to pick your daughter up from dance practice. I only need to finish up a few more things on him then I’m out of here too. How does the case look out there?”
“It looks really good. You’re out of fresh pies and those little chocolate cream filled snacks,” Olivia answered.
“Great, thanks for reminding me about those. I’ll work on them tomorrow morning when I get here at six o’clock.”
“Are you sure about me leaving? I know it’s a pretty safe neighborhood, but you did park across the street near the basketball court because it was street cleaning day. I don’t feel right leaving you here alone. I can call my husband and he can pick up Meagan instead of me.”
Wiping her hands on the towel, Maymi came around the counter and stopped in front of Olivia. She was touched her assistant was concerned about her safety, but there wasn’t any need for her to be.
“I’ll be perfectly safe. This won’t be the first time I left Sinful at night and it won’t be the last time I do it either. Now, get out of here and pick up your little girl. Remember, I need you to come in at ten o’clock tomorrow. I have to finish up this dinosaur cake along with the hundred count cupcake order.”
“Have you thought about hiring a few more people to help you out?” Olivia asked. “I know my sister- in-law is an amazing cake decorator and she was looking for part-time work.”
“Right now, I don’t have the extra money so I can’t do it. Besides, I’ve a good system that keeps things easy for me. However, if I start getting more customized cakes orders, I will have to hire two more people. Now, enough worrying about me. You can’t have your daughter waiting for you at the dance studio.”
“Okay, if you’re sure,” Olivia hedged. “I just don’t feel right leaving you here to walk across the street alone while my car is parked right out front.”
“Don’t, I should have moved mine back after they finished cleaning the street, but I didn’t do it. Besides, I’m pretty sure nothing is going to happen to me. I’m honestly not scared to walk the short distance to my car.”
Olivia gave her another doubtful look before spinning around and walking away. Maymi followed behind her and waited while her assistant got her things, so she could lock up and turn over the sign on the front door to closed.
She would be out of here early for once on a Friday night. She might even stay up late and read for an hour or two which was something she hadn’t done in a while.
“I want you to be safe and check everything before you leave,” Olivia told her, heading for the exit.
“Okay, Mom. I’ll do that,” she teased, standing at the door watching as Olivia got inside of her vehicle, waved at her then drove off.
She closed the door, locked it and then turned over the sign before spinning around and hurrying back to the kitchen. She wanted to keep up with the time so she could out of here exactly on time for once.
Today’s sales turned out to be more profitable than she thought after the slower than usual start. If every day became a regular day with a steady flow of customers, she would be able to hire two more assistants in the back and another one to work up the front with Olivia.
Humming to herself, Maymi went back through the door and sat back down on her stool. She picked up the carving tool and began working on the fine details on the mouth and eyes for the dinosaur.
When she first took the order and the boy’s father had told her what he wanted done, she turned him down until he offered to pay extra for the background on the cake. Every extra dollar earned went right back into Sinful, so she agreed to have it ready for him by late Saturday afternoon.
Good thing she didn’t open up until ten o’clock on Saturdays. She could come in and have the entire place to herself for hours until Olivia showed up to open the doors.
Maymi continued working on the tiny details on the nose, mouth and teeth until everything looked exactly like the picture on the table given to her by the customer. She laid down the tool then glanced up at the clock. She had the last part of the cake with an extra ten minutes to spare. All she had to do tomorrow was add the last of the finishing touches and the little guy would be ready to pick up.
Picking up the dinosaur, Maymi took it over to the cooler, placed it inside making sure to block the door so it wouldn’t slam closed and lock her on the inside since it had been acting crazy for the past couple of days.
She had been meaning to call someone to check on it, but with not having the extra money she was dealing with it the best way she could and nothing had gone wrong so far. Leaving the ice box, she made her way back over to her work area and she spent the next ten minutes cleaning up her tools then wiped off the counter.
She folded the rag and laid it across the sink as she took one final look around her work space. Every piece of equipment was in the correct spot before leaving the kitchen so she could finally go home and get lost inside the new mystery book she bought at the mall a week ago. Walking through the bakery, she stopped at the wall long enough to flick off the lights before going outside.
The warm night air brushed against her bare arms while she locked the front door. Maymi spun around and just as she was about to walk across the street a loud sound of voices coming from around the side of her bakery caught her attention.
“Listen asshole. We aren’t about to tell you again. Do as we tell you and you won’t get hurt,” a man’s angry voice snapped.
Easing closer to the side of the building, she stood there wondering if she should peek around the corner to see what was going on or hurry to her car instead and speed off leaving whoever might need her help alone.
“I’m not giving you a damn thing,” a voice she immediately recognized hollered.
Jensen.She would know his cocky voice anywhere.
“Why don’t we give this pretty boy a lesson in manners?”
Maymi heard someone snicker before the sound of fist hitting bone sounded out around her and then Jensen’s deep, rich voice screaming out in pain. She started to take a look then stopped herself. She needed a plan before she just jumped into something she didn’t know anything about.
“Hit him again. Kick him harder. Show this cocky asshole what happens when guys like him don’t give us what we want,” another guy yelled as Jensen hollered out in agony again.
Digging into her purse, Maymi grabbed her cell phone before going around the corner. She gasped at the sight of a battered and bruised Jensen lying on the ground bleeding by the side of his white truck.
“Leave him alone,” she screamed, making the two guy jump away from his prone body. “I’ve called the cops and they are on the way.”
God, she hoped they believe her bluff because her cell phone battery died on the way to work this morning and she had forgotten to charge it. She didn’t know what else she could do if they decided to test her.
“Hey, look here. The little bakery lady is trying to get tough.” A tall red haired guy laughed and moved towards her. “I don’t believe you called anyone pretty lady. You’re just trying to scare us. I’m pretty sure I can take you. I mean you aren’t that big.”
“Leave her alone,” Jensen yelled behind her before the guy standing next to him kicked him in the ribs. “She has nothing to do with any of this.”
“Are you sure?” Maymi bluffed as her heart pounded away inside of her chest.
Why had she even opened her mouth or showed her face? It wasn’t like Jensen was her favorite person in the world to begin with. She could have walked away, gotten inside of her car and driven away and no one would have been the wiser.
Because you are a good person and you would have remembered leaving someone screaming out in pain, her mind whispered, softly.
“I’m positive, pretty lady,” the guy said coming even closer as the sound of police sirens suddenly echoed in the distance out of nowhere.
Maymi tried to keep the surprise off her face as he took a step back from her. “See, I told you I had called the police. You better get out of here before they get here and arrest your sorry asses.”
“Hell, I’m out of here. I’m not about to go back to jail. I’m already on probation,” the younger guy said, standing next to Jensen. He spun around and ran back towards the car parked at the far end of Fitness 24 near some trees.
“Aren’t you going to follow your buddy?” she asked, staring at the other man.
“I won’t forget this, bitch,” he warned her. “You’ll get yours.” He glared at her for only a few more seconds before taking off after his friend.
Slowly, some of her fear eased away as he hopped into the car at the corner and it took off in the opposite direction of the sirens. Holding the phone against her chest, she took several deep breaths as her heart continued to pound away against her ribs.
She sent up a silent prayer of thanks to whoever called the cops just at the right time. They weren’t coming here, but it was enough to scare those two thugs into running away leaving her alone to give Jensen some help.
Tossing her cell phone back into her purse, Maymi rushed over to Jensen who was holding his side struggling to get up off the pavement as blood slid from the corner of his mouth.
“Here, let me help you,” she said, wrapping her arm around his waist.
“No, I got it,” Jensen, said, his dark brown eyes clashing with hers.
She tried not to stare at how beautiful they looked up close with their faces only being inches apart. He might get on her last nerve, but he wasfineas hell and the sad thing was he knew it too.
“Well, it’s a good thing you do because I’m going to need your help getting you back to the bakery,” she told him, blowing off the glare he was giving her.
“No, you can help me back to my business,” Jensen told her as he started leaning some of his weight on her as he slowly stood up. “I’ll call Casper from there to help me.”
“No, Sinful is closer and you can call your brother after we call the cops. Now, will you stop fighting with me so I can get you there? You aren’t the lightest man in the world.”
Jensen’s eyes flashed for a second like he was going to get all macho on her, but he only shook his head and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. She tried to move as fast as she could with his muscular frame leaning against her.
Despite the fact, he was beat up, bloody and his clothing was tattered, the scent of his cologne was making her very aware of him as a man.
What was wrong with her body? How could it be drawn to someone like Jensen?
This guy hated her and wanted her off his block like tomorrow, but here she was helping him to the place he hated more than anything in the world. She might be too kind-hearted for her own good or something was truly mentally wrong with her.
“Can you stand while I unlock the door for us?” she asked, moving his arm off her shoulder.
“Yeah, I think so,” Jensen hissed, holding his side. “Damn, those SOB’s really did a number on me. I think they might have bruised some of my ribs.”
Maymi quickly snatched her keys out of her purse, unlocked the door and helped Jensen inside and sat him down in a chair next to the display case.
“God, let me get something to clean up your face,” she said, touching his jaw.
Jensen touched her hand and the warmth of his calloused fingers made her panties instantly wet. “No, I’m fine. All I need is something to drink and I’ll get out of your hair. I can call the cops and Casper from my house.”
Men. Why did they always try to pretend nothing was wrong when everything was?
“I don’t think so. I’m going to grab the first aid kit out of the kitchen. You can get in touch with your brother and law enforcement while I’m gone,” she said, walking over to the cordless phone by the cash register. She picked it up and brought it back over to Jensen.
“Here, I’ll bring you something back to drink too.”
Jensen stared at the phone for a few minutes before taking it from her. She didn’t feel like she needed to stay to make sure he actually made the phone calls. She turned away and went the short distance into the kitchen.
Once Maymi was alone she held out her hands and noticed how badly they were shaking. Shit! She could have gotten herself hurt or Jensen beaten up more than he already was if those police sirens hadn’t saved her lying ass at exactly the perfect moment.
Who in the hell were those guys and why were they beating up Jensen? Sure, she had dreamt about punching him since their first disastrous encounter, but she wouldn’t really do it no matter how far he pushed her.
The dull ache of fear still clung to her body at the memories of the guy’s hate filled eyes as he stared at her. His face might be burned into her mind for a while, if she let it, but she wouldn’t allow him to have the kind of power over her.
Yet, the warmth of Jensen’s body brushing against hers would still be with her after she went to bed tonight alone. He was bothering her in so many ways. Some of them were good of course, some of them weren’t. She hated to admit he left a burning imprint on her body anytime he was around her.
Damn him for being so good-looking!
Pushing her body away from the door, Maymi got everything she needed from the kitchen and then headed back to the front of the bakery. She walked in on Jensen, catching the tail end of his conversation.
“Casper, I’m fine. No, I don’t have a head injury,” Jensen shouted. “You did hear me correctly when I told you to pick me up at Sinful. Yes, Maymi really helped me and brought me over here. Alright, I promise I won’t be an asshole before you show up. Just get your ass over here.” He pushed the end button and then his eyes suddenly darted over in her direction.
“I guess you heard that,” he said.
“Yes, I did,” Maymi answered. She walked up to Jensen and handed him the bottled water. She waited while he undid the lid and took a long swallow before sitting it down next to him on the table.
“I guess Casper couldn’t believe I lifted a finger to help you after the way you’ve been treating me,” she said, placing the first aid kit down on the table.
“He thought I’d gotten hit too hard in the head. It took me a minute to make him believe what I was telling him was the truth,” Jensen admitted.
Opening it, she took out a few things so she could get started cleaning up his cuts and wounds. She hadn’t done anything like this since her last boyfriend took a tumble off his motorcycle.
Hudson had loved that bike so much that he didn’t even think about wearing a helmet. No matter how much she pushed for him to do it, he constantly told her no and if he had only listened to her that one day... Maymi quickly shook the thought from her head when Jensen’s voice caught her attention.
“What did you say?” she asked dipping the cotton ball into the small alcohol container.
“I asked if you were okay,” he said, staring at her. “You had this faraway look in your eyes. Are you still thinking about those two guys?”
“No,” Maymi answered. Honestly, the attackers from earlier were the last two people on her mind. Taking the cotton ball, she touched it to the small cut on Jensen’s forehead. She doubted the scratch would even leave a scar, so he would still be as handsome as ever.
“Fuck,” he cursed, moving back from her. “That shit stinks. Are you trying to cause me more pain on purpose?”
“Of course not,” she uttered, placing the cotton ball there again and this time Jensen didn’t move.
Maymi continued working on getting what cuts and bruises she could get cleaned out while ignoring how intensely Jensen was watching her. She was so close to him that she could feel his breath brushing against her face.
Her senses were spun by the scent of him; the warmth of his soft flesh was intoxicating. She was fully aware of the hardness of his thighs brushing over her legs. The old saying there was a thin line between love and hate was a lie because right now she was having a hard time with the thin line between lust and hate. There was no way she was in love with Jensen, but herlustfor him was off the scales.
“Hey,” Jensen said, touching her hand. He moved it from the side of his face.
“What?” she asked, blinking before looking at him directly in the eyes. She removed her hand from his light grasp and her skin tingled from the heat of his touch.
“Why did you help me? I haven’t been the nicest guy to you. You could have left me out there and it might have been hours before anyone found me back there.”
She felt his breath on her cheek as he studied her waiting for an answer from her. “I thought about it, but I’m not that kind of person. I would have been thinking about what happened to you all night. No matter how badly we don’t get along or hate each other, I wouldn’t leave my worst enemy or even you lying out there alone in pain. It wouldn’t sit well on my conscience,” she said, turning way and starting to clean up the mess next to her.
“Thank you,” Jensen said, touching her on the arm.
Maymi glanced down at Jensen’s long, tanned fingers before moving away. “You’re welcome,” she said, just as someone knocked on the door.
Turning, she saw two police officers standing there. She didn’t even remember locking the door, but she could have done it in the frenzy of everything that had been going on. Going over to it, she unlocked it and moved back so they could come inside.
“Ma’am, we got a call about someone getting attacked,” the older officer said to her.
“Yes, it was Mr. Lowe,” she said, pointing over to Jensen. She watched as the officer left her and walked over to him, leaving her alone with the second younger and cuter officer.
“Did you witness this assault as well?” he asked her.
“Yes, I saw the end of the attack.” Maymi wondered how much of this she would be dragged into. It was getting late and she needed to get home because she had to be back here so early.
“I need to get your statement as well,” the officer informed her.
“It should only take a few minutes and then you can be on your way.”
After answering several questions and giving a description of both men, the cops finally left twenty minutes later. Once they were gone, Maymi finished cleaning up everything while Jensen drank the cup of coffee she fixed for him while still waiting for Casper to show up.
“I swear my brother doesn’t know how to be punctual if it bit him on the ass,” Jensen complained, sitting his hot coffee cup down on the table. “I know you hate spending all of this extra time with me.”
“You’re making too much out of it,” Maymi replied. She really didn’t mind Jensen begin this close to her. “It hasn’t been that long since you called him and I’m sure Casper is on his way. You can stay here while you wait for him. I’ll be back after I throw all of this into the trash.”
Leaving the room, she prayed Casper showed up because she didn’t know how much longer she could handle being around Jensen and seeing this side of his personality. He was acting differently towards her, but she wasn’t taking it seriously. He would be back to his nasty and sarcastic self tomorrow.
He was the man who hated her, so why was she feeling the tiniest bit sorry for him?
Reaching for the cup of coffee Maymi had fixed for him, Jensen watched her as she left him to go back into the other room. He couldn’t help but notice the way her jeans hugged her full ass. He had always been a butt man and hers was near perfect. It was such a shame they were on different ends of the scale, because she was a gorgeous looking female. He wouldn’t mind asking her out on a date.
However, he wouldn’t ever let that happen because Maymi didn’t know how to listen. He wasn’t asking a lot of her but she acted like her world was over if she found a new location for her bakery of devilish treats. Tonight, she might have gone out of her way to help him but he seriously doubted if the two of them would ever be friends...or lovers.
His slight attraction to her luscious body would go away, it only occurred because they had been so close to each other while she worked on fixing up his cuts. Maymi never noticed how his gaze was riveted on her face then moved over her body, slowly coming to stop at the deep opening in her hot pink t-shirt.
Most of the time, he never took a second glance at a woman with curves, but Maymi’s body was perfectly proportioned in all of the right places. He would be crazy not to find her attractive, but he wouldn’t be sidetracked by a pretty face and seductive body.
“You do know if you are planning something against Maymi, it will come to bite you in the ass?”
Turning his head, Jensen found Casper standing not five feet from him.Was he so lost in thought that he didn’t hear the bell chime?
“How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough to know that look on your face, your mind was working overtime which is never a good thing. Care to share your thoughts, big brother?”
“Yeah, why are you so late?” he demanded, placing his cup down on the table. He stood up wincing as a pain shot through his left side. He was beginning to rethink turning down medical treatment because he didn’t have any broken ribs, but they were killing the hell out of him now.
“Man, I live way across town and there was an accident. So the cops had two of the streets blocked off. I couldn’t go the way I usually do. How about a thank you for showing up here to pick up your ungrateful ass; besides, why aren’t you driving your truck home instead of demanding I come to pick you up?”
“One of the guys flattened the tires,” Jensen answered. “I think they were the two guys I tossed out of Fitness 24 last week for harassing two female members.”
“I remember them,” his brother said. “They were a piece of work. The red headed one did promise to come back and kick your ass. I guess he kept his word.”
Enough already! He was tired of the shit!
“Can’t we just—”
“Casper, I didn’t know you were out here,” Maymi’s soft voice said as she walked right past him over to his brother.
“If I could have backed out of picking up Mr. Ungrateful, I would have done it but no one else wants to deal with him,” Casper said, smiling at Maymi. “I need to thank you for the treats. I ate a piece of the pie and it was delicious. I’m going to need to run an extra mile in the morning to work it off.”
“As long as you don’t collide with any more innocent bakery owners, I think you should be fine,” she teased back.
Jealousy ate at Jensen while he watched the scene play out in front of him. Both Maymi and his brother teased around each other like he wasn’t even in the room. How did they become so friendly with each other after only one meeting?
Well, Casper could flirt with Maymi on his own time and that wasn’t tonight! He called him here to pick him up and not to find a way to get Maymi out on a date. His body was craving a hot shower, and a stiff drink before he went to bed and neither one would happen if he stayed here staring at this nonsense.
“Casper, are you ready to go?” he demanded roughly. “I need to get home.”
Pivoting, Maymi stared at him with confusion on her face while his brother shot him a disbelieving look above her head. Shit! He hadn’t meant to sound so rude, but his body was killing him.
No...it’s your surprise jealousy that has you acting like a bear with a thorn in his paw.
“Casper, your brother is right. You should get him home. As fast as possible, I mean if he spends another moment in my bakery he might break out in hives and we couldn’t have that, could we?” she said, looking in his direction not his brother’s.
“Fine, we can go. Grab your stuff, Maymi, and you can walk out with us. I’m not going to leave you here alone.”
Dragging her eyes way from him, she glanced at Casper. “Thank you. All I need to do is grab my purse and I’m ready to go.” Maymi walked back across the room and picked it up off the table where he was still standing beside the chair.
“Well, come on Mr. Lowe. I don’t want to keep you from getting your beauty sleep. I can only imagine how someone like you loves getting his full eight hours of sleep.”
He took a step into her personal space. Jensen watched how Maymi’s big brown bedroom eyes widened in surprise. He lowered his voice, so only she could hear him.
“You like pushing me, Ms. Monroe. Keep it up and see what happens when I decide to give it back to you. I’m not my brother. I don’t find a way to turn everything into a joke.”
“Oh, I know you aren’t Casper. He’s the nice one and you’re not,” Maymi tossed back before spinning away and going over to his brother.
Jensen had seen Casper with a lot of women but for some reason he didn’t like how fast he found a way to make Maymi like him. He wasn’t fond of it at all. Jensen continued watching the two of them as he walked behind them as his brother opened the door for Maymi then went out behind her.
Impatiently, he stood outside next to Casper’s sports car waiting while his brother told her goodbye at her car and then actually waited until she drove off before jogging back over to him.
Where in the hell had that chivalrous quality come from with him?
He wasn’t used to seeing his baby brother caring about anyone but himself. For some reason, seeing him be concerned enough to do something like that for Maymi angered him.
“You need to stay away from her,” Jensen warned Casper right before he got into the car.
“Are you jealous she likes me better than you?” he asked, getting inside the car and closing the door.
“Of course not,” he answered just a little too quickly hating how Casper smirked at him.
“So why are you acting like you are?” Casper questioned before tearing away from the curb in his Mustang.
I’m not jealous.I could care less about the two of them doing anything together. Keep lying to yourself,his mind taunted.
His baby brother was a ladies’ man and maybe Maymi was just too naïve or dumb to see it, but she better smarten up or she would end up in the graveyard of failed relationships that seemed to follow Casper everywhere he went.
Standing in front of his bedroom window, Jensen took a sip of his beer as he looked out over his property. Casper had left him about an hour ago to do God knows what for the rest of the night to only show up late for work tomorrow morning.
At first, he only had to worry about Casper flirting with the females at Fitness 24; however, now his brother had a pretty distraction not a hundred feet away from their job. Maymi would keep him so unfocused if he allowed it to happen, but he wouldn’t do it.
Yet tonight she really surprised him by stepping up to help him against the two men attacking him. She didn’t back down or show an ounce of fear. She showed him a different side of her tonight and he was impressed by it.
A tinge of guilt suddenly hit him. He shouldn’t have left the bakery without telling Maymi thanks again for helping him out, but he was beyond ready to leave when Casper showed up with his practiced smile and smooth words. Besides, he wouldn’t want Maymi to think they were becoming friends or anything.
She had helped him out of a difficult situation but neither one of them have forgotten why they would always be at odds. She had something he wanted...and Maymi wasn’t about to give it up.
Walking away from the window, Jensen went back over to his bed and got in, resting his back against two pillows hoping to ease some of the ache in his side. His ribs still hurt, but not as badly as earlier. Wrapping them up helped out a lot. He took another swig of his beer, trying to figure out what kind of game Maymi was playing with Casper.
Was she actually interested in his brother?
There was no way in hell that his pesky neighbor could want his brother Casper. He could tell from the way she was looking at him tonight at Sinful. So she must be trying to get to him through Casper and his brother was too arrogant to figure it out on his own.
Maymi was up to something and he would figure out what it was and put a stop to it before it went any further. He wasn’t about to give either one of them any power to ruin his future. He wouldn’t let her pretty eyes, sweet smile and delicious scent get under his skin any more than her curvy body had already done tonight.
Earlier tonight, he had been seconds away from kissing when she had been cleaning up his face. The touch of her soft hands against his skin was near intoxicating. A couple of times he almost had to tell her to stop because she was turning him on.
The light scent of vanilla that touched her skin filled his nose, making his cock take notice but he quickly shoved down his urges. Maymi wouldn’t turn into Chloe for him...an unwanted distraction that would cloud his better judgment with her seductive young body and arresting looks.
Jensen remembered the days before he became a serious business owner. He wasn’t ashamed to admit that he let his passions and desires take over for the years he worked as a male stripper. He was always safe and used a condom, but he loved the company of a beautiful woman when the desire had struck him.
Yet now, he wasn’t a twenty-something year old boy anymore. He was no longer trying to get with all of the women he could because they were there for the taking. He had gotten a lot smarter and decided he needed to make a change in his life.
Back in the day, Jensen would have taken care of his Maymi problem in so many more pleasurable ways for the both of them. Since he was older and wiser, he learned to only take a woman to bed he cared about.
Only seeking a moment of hot, steamy, screaming orgasms was on the back burner. It took a lot of inner strength on his part, but he taught himself to resolve his temper and recklessness in other ways which had been a big help for him throughout the years.
Placing the empty beer bottle on the nightstand next to him, Jensen lay down on his bed and looked up through his skylight in his ceiling. He had always been fascinated by the stars even as a little boy when his father would show him the Big Dipper from their backyard.
Nothing relaxed him more than looking up and removing everything else from his thoughts especially after the day he had gone through. Dealing with Maymi’s personality along with the two attackers would take down any other man even one as strong as him. Everybody had their breaking point.
Thank God he was off from work tomorrow and he could spend the day taking care of some personal matters. He hated the thought of leaving Casper in charge of his business, but he had to get some time off for himself before he worked himself into exhaustion and he had to be on his toes.
He wasn’t sure what Maymi’s next move might be but he would be ready for it, Jensen thought as he closed his eyes and tried relaxing to relieve some of the stiffness from his battered body
Four days later...
Walking down the health store food aisle, Maymi searched for the ingredients for her gluten free muffin and cupcakes. Sinful had been opened almost seven months tomorrow and she was getting requests now for these kinds of muffins which were understandable.
Researching how to correctly make them had taken her some time on the internet before she was able to find some basic recipes, then she added the Nana Monroe ‘special touch’to come up with two fantastic recipes. She had already been to three different stores until one of the cashiers told her about this place.
It was an hour drive from her house, but she was willing to make it for the benefit of her business. Luckily, if she could make these specialty treats as well as her non-gluten ones, more customers would come through the door.
Maymi pushed her cart further down the baking goods aisle and stopped in front of the gluten free items. She almost gasped out loud at some of the prices staring back at her in big black numbers.
Were these people out of their minds? Who in the hell would pay almost seven dollars for one bag of flour?
These prices were going to cut into her small budget fast, plus she still had about ten more items on her list and they were only for the muffins. The cupcakes needed four extra components that were on another sheet of paper in her back pocket.
The mere thought of digging into her already near empty pockets made Maymi’s stomach drop to the bottom of her feet. Nevertheless, she was up to the challenge, so she grabbed the items off the shelf placing them inside of the cart.
She was more than confident that she would be able to think of a kick ass recipe for the healthy customers who had been coming into her store. She decided to start Sinful to draw all kinds of clientele and it was up to her to draw Jensen’s health club clients into her bakery.
If she could make a low-fat, low calorie muffin, cupcake or cookie, they would flock to her bakery for an after work-out treat or maybe stop by for a snack during any day of the week. It was left up to her and no one else to make this happen.
Glancing down at the list in her hand, Maymi checked it to make sure that she wasn’t forgetting anything in this aisle before moving on to the next item. She didn’t want to drive way back out here for something simple.
“I know I must be seeing things because I know you aren’t in a health food store. I didn’t think you even knew any of these products existed.”
Why did he have to be here today out of all days?
She hadn’t laid eyes on him since the attack which was about three or four days ago. Jensen seemed to have the ability to ruin her good mood in the matter of seconds. God, how was it possible he was here with her?
Placing her list down in the cart, Maymi spun around trying not to stare at the muscles straining against the dark red t-shirt. Hell, she really hated howhotJensen was. Usually guys who looked like him never got a second look from her, but for some stupid reason she couldn’t stop noticing how good-looking he was all of the time.
Didn’t this jerk know how to have an off day when it came to his looks?
“I hate to shock you, but yes I do know about this place. I’m working on some new baked goods for Sinful. I do know how to do more than one thing.”
“Are you sure you’re able to handle making healthy cookies, cakes and pies?” Jensen asked, his eyes watching her closely from underneath his baseball cap.
He had a way of making her uncomfortable from only a look. How was it possible for her to dislike him and then be drawn to his sorry ass a split second later? She was destined to be a guest of the Dr. Phil show.
“Yes, I can handle it if you must know,” she snapped back. “God, you’re getting on my last nerves with the way you’re talking to me. I’m really kicking myself for helping you that night. My act of kindness sure hasn’t made you think about being any nicer to me.”
Maymi sighed and then spun around from Jensen. “Look, I have to go. Have a nice day. Mr. Lowe.” She reached for her cart so she could leave, but a hand suddenly wrapped around her upper arm preventing her from moving anywhere.
“Don’t go.” Jensen sighed behind her. “I shouldn’t have attacked you like that; it was wrong and thank you again for helping me. After the way I’ve been treating you I would have understood if you just drove away.”
He let go of her arm and moved back from her personal space.
Don’t accept his apology. Just keep walking and leave him standing there. Yet, she didn’t do it because her father raised her not to be outright rude to anyone...not even Jensen.
Sighing, Maymi slowly pivoted and stared right back at him.I can do this...Don’t let him beat you, she repeated to herself.
“You’re welcome. I’m glad that I could help you. You seem like you’re doing a lot better than the last time I saw you at Sinful.”
“Yes, I am. I guess having you next door worked out for me that particular night,” he said.
“Yeah, I guess it did. So now that means you are in my debt and will be until you do something life and death for me,” she replied before turning around, then grabbed her cart walking away leaving Jensen staring after her with his mouth open.
Jensen tried not to smile, but the corners of his mouth turned up anyway. Maymi was so full of fight and determination. Her will to beat him was almost as attractive as her beautiful face, but not quite.
Today, she had pulled her hair back into a messy ponytail, tossed on a pair of black jeans that hugged her full ass way too good for his eyes not to stare as she sauntered away from him. Even her creamy, chocolate skin had a glow to it like she has just rolled out of bed after a good night of mind-fulfilling sex.
He couldn’t help but wonder what guy put that look of satisfaction on her face he noticed when he was walking up on her before she noticed him there.
He would be lying to himself if he didn’t admit that he noticed instantly how stunning Maymi was when she first came out of the kitchen door at Sinful. However, he shoved his instant attraction to her down because his visit had been based on business and getting a date with her hadn’t been in his plans.
Foolishly he believed, after he laid out all of his concerns, Maymi would see reason and agree with him. Yet, she did the total opposite which only kicked up his competitive streak even more.
He wanted to get his way with her, but now he had something else to contend with because Maymi’s unbending will had his cock hard. She turned him on more and more every time he was within hearing distance of her voice.
To make matter even worst for him, instead of being on his side, Casper decided to become her newest buddy.So much for blood being thicker than water,he thought.
Dealing with Maymi digging her tiny heels in was bad enough without his brother whispering encouraging words into her cute little ear.
Groaning, Jensen ran his hand down his face as something hit him.Fuck!Maymi had sidetracked him again.
Why was it every time he got around her she had the ability to make him lose track of time. He had to find a way to keep himself a step ahead of her ‘sweet’ personality with a hint of sin mixed in to distract him. Which would have to start with him not being too obvious about what he still wanted from her.
Hurrying around the corner, Jensen searched the aisles, hoping he would spot Maymi still inside of the store. He was about to give up until he saw her at the very end of the spice aisle. He kept walking until he was only standing a few inches behind her delectable body.
“Maymi, can I talk to you again?”
“Are you kidding me?”
He heard her mumble under her breath before she spun around and looked at him. “I thought we were finished. We both know where we stand with each other so why can’t you just leave me alone?”
She started to turn away, but he caught her by the elbow spinning her back around. He wasn’t fond of people turning their backs on him. She had already done it to him more than a few times, but it was going to stop today.
“Are you always so disagreeable?” Jensen asked, removing his hand when Maymi glared at him. “Or do I just bring that side of you out more?”
“No, I’m a pretty happy person but that is only to people who like me,” she answered.
“I don’t dislike you. I just think you need to take my advice.”
“Oh, you don’t have to say the words, it’s written across your face every time you look at me.”
Taking a step closer, Jensen blocked Maymi’s body between the cart and his body. Her eyes blazed with sudden anger, but she didn’t tell him to move away from her.
“How do you know I’m not thinking something else besides dislike when I’m looking at you?” he asked, lowering his voice. “You are a very good-looking woman. I would be fool not to notice.”
Maymi blinked at him a second before she tossed her head back and her soft laughter filled the space around them.
“Are you kidding me?” She chuckled. “We both know you haven’t paid attention to my looks once in all of the occasions our paths have crossed.”
For a long moment, she looked back him while he stared back in waiting silence wondering what he was going to do with her. Maymi had a mouth on her and someone should have taught her a long time ago how to think more and talk less.
She needed to be tamed...she was a littletoo wildwith her words for him.
“What’s wrong? Have I shocked you speechless with my com—”
Jensen kissed Maymi, stealing the rest of the words from her mouth. He captured her moist lips with his, demanding a response. He was tired of her pretending she knew what his next move was going to be, it was time to show Maymi who was in the driver’s seat and it sure wasn’ther.
His tongue licked at the corner of her mouth before she acknowledged his request and opened her lips giving him entrance to her hidden treasure. Slowly, he traced his tongue along the recesses of her mouth as his cock hardened against the zipper of his suddenly too tight jeans. He gave her a few more nibbling kisses then raised his mouth before things got out of hand.
Usually, he wasn’t fond of PDA, but Maymi brought out sides of him he never knew existed until he stared in her chocolate eyes. He noticed the confusion mingled with unleashed desire simmering there.
“Wh...Wh...What do you think you are doing?” she demanded her lips swollen from his kisses.
“Showing you that you can never figure out what is going on inside of my head, so don’t even try. I will prove you wrong every time, Brown Eyes.” He brushed another kiss across her surprised mouth before spinning around and walking away first this time, leaving as flabbergasted Maymi watching him leave.
“Tatum, it took everything in my power not to slap his smug face,” Maymi complained as she pulled another tray of low fat cookies out of the oven and closed the door with her elbow. “I swear that man acts like every woman with a pulse should fall at his feet.”
“I think you’re complaining way too much,” Tatum said from behind her as she transferred the oatmeal raisin cookies to a cooling rack.
“I mean, are you really upset a guy hotter than most Hollywood actors kissed you in the middle of a store? Come on, it’s me you’re talking to, not Jazmaine. I saw how you were checking Jensen out at the restaurant. I can understand why because he’s super hot!”
Walking over to the table, Maymi worked on mixing up the last batch of cookie batter. She used a small ice cream scoop and placed the balls of dough on a sheet tray before taking it over to the oven. Opening it, she slid them inside, closed the door and set the timer.
She opened her mouth and then snapped it closed. She wanted to lie, but she couldn’t.
Jensen’s shocking kiss was so good it almost had her moaning and begging him not to stop. Why was it the guy who a woman wanted to hate? Somehow, he was the one who constantly made her panties wet.
“Alright, I was checking out Jensen,” Maymi admitted as she looked back over at Tatum. “However, it doesn’t give him the right to think he can kiss me to prove a point or stroke his already over swollen ego.”
Leaning across the work counter, Tatum picked up a no bake cookie and waved it at her. “Did his kiss take your breath away? Do you even know what that is? I don’t ever recall you talking about a man since Hudson.”
She wasn’t going to talk about Hudson or compare him to Jensen. Hudson had been the most loving, caring and supportive man she ever had in her life. Maymi blinked away sudden tears. She couldn’t let herself get dragged back into the memories.
“Yes, his kiss stole my breath away. I’ve had time to date and even to get kissed but none of their kisses compared to his. It was shocking and I hate to admit a small part of me wanted it to continue. Yet, I think... No, I know he kissed me for another reason besides wanting to prove a point.”
“Honey, don’t care about why Jensen’s gorgeous mouth touched yours. All I would do is pray every night for it to happen again.”
Maymi rolled her eyes wondering what she was going to do with Tatum. Her best friend always went for what was in her face instead of going for the bigger picture.
“What am I doing to do with you?” she asked.
“Listen to my wonderful advice,” Tatum suggested then took a bite of the cookie in her hand. “Mmmm. This is so good. Can I have another one for the road? You make these to tempt my willpower, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do, along with everyone else who has a sweet tooth,” Maymi answered.
Walking across the kitchen, she grabbed a small hot pink cookie box off the shelf and then added a few extra cookies inside for Tatum. “Here you go. Don’t eat them all in one day. Save some for tomorrow,” she teased, handing her friend the box.
Tatum took the box from her. “Girl, these are adorable,” she said, running her hand over the lettering on the top. “I love the look of them, very eye-catching.”
“Thank you. I’m almost out of them because business has been so red hot,” Maymi gushed. “Honestly, since the last time we had dinner together, Sinful has improved even more.”
“Sweetheart, you deserve all of this success. I told you not to listen to your father. He doesn’t have a clue what a talented pastry chef you are. Didn’t you come in second place onIncredible Dessertsand then took first place onMonster Cookies? You’re very gifted and the best friend I could ask for.”
“We have been through a lot together, haven’t we?” Walking up to Tatum, she gave her a hug then stepped back. ‘Thank you for always being my sounding board. I can tell you anything.”
“Honey, you know I have been keeping your dirty secrets for years, so I’m not about to stop this late in our lives.”
“You better not.” Maymi laughed, linking her arms through Tatum’s. “Let me walk you out before I need to start working on these low-fat cupcakes.”
Maymi walked through the door, hoping this new recipe worked for her. She wanted them to be a hot seller like her grandmother’s other desserts, but she was a concerned the taste might not be up to par with the rich old school ones.
“Make some extra ones so Jazmaine and I can be your tasters. You know your girls will tell you the truth. Just like I did about you liking the spontaneous kiss Jensen planted on you. All I have to say is, if it happens again, kiss his handsome butt back,” Tatum encouraged before turning around and going out of the door.
She loved Tatum even with her over-giving advice side, but she wasn’t going to listen to one word that came from her mouth about Jensen. The kiss he gave her was good...no exceptional...one of the best she had in a verylongtime, but she couldn’t let him seduce her emotions again especially not out in a public or alone.
They just shared a momentary lapse in judgment which neither one of them probably wanted to experience again. Yeah, Jensen better watch his step because the next time he tried something like his kiss again, he might get a surprise from her he wasn’t expecting.
Maymi took a minute to flip the ‘Gone to lunch’sign back over to‘Yes, we’re Open.’She needed to spend more time actually sitting down to eat lunch instead of sneaking a bite here and there in the back while she was baking. She moved away from the door and was halfway across the room when the bell chimed above the door, making her turn back around.
“Great, you’re open,” a tall, gray haired man said. He wore an expensive dark blue suit, and hurried over to the cupcake display case. “How many cupcakes are in there?”
“I have a little over two dozen,” Maymi answered, going behind the counter.
“I’ll take all of them along with all of your chocolate chip cookies. “I need them for a retirement party at my office. My assistant was praising your goodies and she’s the pickiest sweets eater in the world. So I know if she loves the things here they must be first-rate.”
“Thank you. I make them myself,” Maymi said as she boxed up everything and rang it up for the man. She gave him the price then took the platinum credit card he handed her.
“I hope you enjoy everything and please come again.” She gave the gentleman his four boxes along with his receipt and card back.
“Oh, I don’t have a doubt I won’t and you have a nice day,” he told her then left as quickly as he came in.
For the next several hours, Maymi worked on the steady flow of customers that came through the doors of Sinful with a bounce to her step. The rush of customers is what she wished for during her grand opening and finally weeks later, it was here. Her day couldn’t possibly get any better if she wrote the script of it herself.
Taking a towel from the waistband of her apron, she began wiping the few crumbs off the counter that came from handing out free cookies to the kids. She bent down and pulled out all of the empty trays placing them behind her on the counter just as the bell above the door chimed again.
“Give me a minute and I’ll be right with you,” Maymi called out as she finished stacking up the last of the trays.
“Should I feel insulted that my kiss was so lackluster that it didn’t have you next door warning me to stay away from you or else?” a familiar voice questioned behind her. “Maybe I should give it another try to get the reaction I wanted.”
Maymi felt her pulse jump as Tatum’s words rushed back to haunt her, but she shoved them down just as fast.
“I believe I told you before if you showed up here again uninvited, I would toss you out without thinking twice about it,” she countered, twirling to find Jensen standing on the other side of her dessert counter.
“I’ve been in here since then and you were very nice to me,” Jensen reminded her in his rich, deep voice that she was starting to hear in her dreams. “So your threats don’t scare me anymore. Besides, I believe I could take you.”
“Don’t let my size fool you. I’m tougher than I look.” Coming around the edge of the counter, Maymi stopped in front of Jensen, trying not to get lost in his masculinity, but it was extremely hard since it seemed to surround everything about him.
“I know you didn’t come over here to exchange small talk with me so what can I do for you?” she asked, hoping Jensen couldn’t see how excited she was to see him.
Damn Tatum and Jazmaine for giving her all of that stupid advice now she couldn’t keep it out of her head with Jensen standing right within touching distance of her fingers.
Jensen’s eyes sparkled at her as he crossed his arms over his wide, muscular chest. “You’re always brewing for a fight, aren’t you? Did you ever think I might just have come over here to see your pretty face?” he asked, shocking her, but Maymi quickly recovered.
“I’m betting Fitness 24 has several pretty women for you to find appealing so why don’t you tell me the truth?”
Numerous ideas raced through her head as to why Jensen was standing in front of her. One thing was for sure: this guy was full of surprises and she hated surprises, especially when they didn’t benefit her but him.
“You’re right. My gym does have a lot of gorgeous women over there, but I think you are a lot more interesting than they are. I never know what’s going to come out of your mouth and a part of me likes that about you.”
Something clicked in Maymi’s head and she was beginning to see where Jensen was going with this. Did he think she was so gullible that she would fall for his new tactic? She was a little disappointed he thought so little of her to do this.
“You have a lot of nerve, don’t you,” she said. “I mean your threats didn’t work on me because I was too strong. You saw another chance to manipulate me at the health food store with an unwanted kiss that wasn’t anything to write home about.”
God, she hoped he believed that huge lie! She noticed how Jensen uncrossed his arms and took a small step in her direction. Maybe he did because he looked pissed as hell with her.
“I didn’t hear you complaining at the store about my kissing abilities or the lack of them,” he tossed back. “Brown eyes, I saw your face and you liked it. You wanted me to continue.”
“How could I? You kissed me so quickly I couldn’t shove you away and tell you how bad it was. It would have torn down your fragile ego. Guys like you work out because you can’t do anything else with your life.”
Jensen’s rich hazel’s eyes grew a shade darker as soon as the words left her mouth and Maymi wondered if she should have kept her mouth shut and just walked away.
“I believe you are denying our kiss way too much, Ms. Monroe. I think you got into it more than you want to admit to me and more importantly yourself,” Jensen taunted, softly.
His arrogance was going to be his downfall with me, Maymi thought.
No matter what Jensen did, she wasn’t ever going to give him the inch he was trying to get out of her. “You’ll be waiting forever if you think I’m going to admit I like you.”
“I don’t need you to admit anything to me. You might be denying it now, but you kissed me back. Sure, we might be arguing but we both know our arguing is—”
The bell chimed above the door and Maymi quickly slipped around Jensen as the tension began to get a little too thick between them. She would be extra nice to whoever the person was who just showed up and stopped her from kissing Jensen first this time.
“Good morning, can I help—?” Her eyes widened at the sight of Casper standing there holding two boxes.
“Casper, what are you doing here? I wasn’t expecting to see you today.”
What in the hell was going on this morning? She couldn’t figure out why Jensen was even here because seeing him was a total surprise.
His eyes darted over to Jensen then back over to her. “Am I interrupting something?” Casper asked, staring at her.
She didn’t like the confused look on his face. It looked like he was reading more into the situation than there really was. She wasn’t doing anything with Jensen. They had only been talking and nothing else.
“Actually your timing is perfect since your brother and I were about to get into another useless argument over nothing.” Maymi glanced over her shoulder making eye contact with Jensen. “Was there anything else you wanted from me?”
Jensen cocked one eyebrow at her. “No, I guess there wasn’t since you aren’t capable of having an adult conversation with me. I’ll leave so you can talk to my brother instead of me since the two of you seem to have grownsoclose.”
He brushed past her and then paused in front of Casper. She could tell from his body language Jensen wasn’t pleased his conversation with her had gotten taken over by his brother’s surprise appearance.
“Don’t waste too much time over here. We need to have a staff meeting in twenty minutes and I want you to be there,” Jensen said then literally stormed away, went out the door without looking back at either one of them.
“I swear he’s constantly in a bad mood,” Maymi complained. “I think he hates seeing me every day.”
“I think the problem is bigger than you. Jensen is a great guy, but he takes on too much sometimes. He needs to cut loose more, but I didn’t come here to discuss him. I’ve a present for you.”
Excitement raced through Maymi’s veins as she took the boxes from Casper. She couldn’t image what was on the inside. She hadn’t known him long enough to be getting gifts from him.
“What’s in here? Should I be getting presents from you?” she asked, walking over to a small table.
“Why don’t you open them up and find out?” Casper suggested.
Not wasting another minute, she opened the large box gasping at the bakery boxes on the inside with Sinful designed across the top in beautiful black lettering. She was speechless. Maymi swallowed a few times trying to regain her composure.
“Do you like them?” Casper asked, leaning over her shoulder. “I still felt bad for ruining the other ones, so I had these made to take care of the ones I couldn’t fix.”
“My God...these are beautiful but they’re too expensive. I mean the lettering alone would put me back two months. I can’t accept them. It wouldn’t be right.” Maymi tried reclosing the lid, but Casper’s hand shot out and stopped her.
“I won’t take them back. Besides, my buddy who did them owed me a favor and I got them at a discount. There’s also another reason I got these made for you,” he admitted, softly.
Taken back by the sudden change in Casper’s usually carefree voice, Maymi turned around and was caught off guard by the serious look in his eyes.
“If you hadn’t helped my brother that night something could have happened to him. I know Jensen has been a pain in your ass about your bakery. You could have ignored his situation and walked away and not one person would have known about it.
“He can be a hard man to like, even love, when he’s trying to get his point across, but I love my brother. I don’t tell him that enough and I probably won’t ever confess it unless I’m really pushed. However, I still have him here trying to dictate my every move and I’ve you to thank for that. Thank you.”
She opened her mouth to say something but no words came out. How was she supposed to tell him something after that little confession? Who knew Casper could be so deep?
“Hey, I made you speechless and that usually only happens after a woman sees me naked,” he joked.
Snap. Maymi was suddenly jerked out of her world of silence. Only Casper could bring up sex inside of a bakery.
“Alright, I think you need to leave,” she said, giving him a small shove in the shoulder. “You are preventing me from finishing up the last of my orders. I can’t have your crazy humor side-tracking me.”
“Oh, you’ll be thinking about me all day,” Casper teased, wiggling his eyebrows. “Unless, it’s my brooding brother who has captured your attention; I noticed how the two of you were awful close before I came through the door. It was so hot I almost walked away.”
“If there’s anything hot in Sinful, it’s the oven and nothing else,” Maymi denied as she opened the door and shoved Casper outside to the sidewalk.
“Come on, sweetness. I know my brother can be a complete jerk; but he was blessed in the looks department. Of course, not as much as me but certain woman find that dark, tortured soul look of his sexy.”
Maymi honestly didn’t know what to say. Casper was either out of his mind or loved pushing her to the edge when it came to Jensen. Either way, she wasn’t going to take the bait because he was seeing something that wasn’t there.
“Okay, time for you to leave for real now,” she told him. Maymi tried to closing the front door but a huge size thirteen shoe wedged its shelf inside the door.
“Alright, I apologize for teasing you about my brother. I can’t get the best baker in Wyoming mad at me. Can you forgive me?” Big, blue eyes stared at her followed by a crooked, boyish grin.
“God, you are incorrigible.” Maymi laughed, rolling her eyes. “How can I stay mad at you? I forgive you.”
“I knew you would,” Casper bragged then removed his foot and turned, going down the sidewalk towards his job.
Maymi watched her new buddy walk away until his back rounded the corner. Thankfully, Casper hadn’t seen through her lie when she told him she wasn’t attracted to his brother.
She’d wanted him since the first day she laid eyes on him. She just had to make sure she kept a tight rein on her desire. She couldn’t have it go anywhere not what was at stake. Maymi knew exactly how to deal with Jensen and the sooner she dealt with him the better. The only way to make sure he understood was to tell Jensen to his face.
Slamming his office door behind him, Jensen’s pulse pounded away inside of his ears as he recalled how Maymi’s face had lit up once she saw Casper saunter through the door. He wasn’t used to this feeling eating at him. Not once in his life had he and Casper been drawn to the same woman.
He could still taste her mouth on his and he was seconds away from another sample, but Casper had to pick that moment to barge in on them.
Hell, what was going on with him?
How could one kiss have him turned inside out like this? He had kissed plenty of women before, but something about the short time he had tasted Maymi was different. He hadn’t wanted to stop; if they hadn’t been out in public he would have continued kissing that pretty mouth of hers for hours.
What was it about her that had him twisted up in such knots? One minute all he could think about was making her disappear from his life entirely. However, after the kiss he planted on her he couldn’t help wondering how it would be to have her in his bed.
Jensen stopped cold in his tracks. No! The thought entered his head before he could stop it, just like the kiss, but he wasn’t going to act on it. He had control over his weak willpower. He spent years getting his body in top shape. Yet, he wasn’t able to control hiscravingfor her.
Why she sparked this side of him was something he couldn’t understand. Truthfully, he actually liked how the flame came into her brown eyes when they fought. The sound of her raised voice made his cock hard. So much that he couldn’t think of anything else but taking her to the nearest bed and having his way with her.
His cock grew ever harder and thicker thinking about Maymi’s tight, spunky body as he made love to her for hours until she forgot all about his brother. Being jealous of another man wasn’t in his DNA.
Yet, when he saw how happy Casper made Maymi, the woman who literally hated the sound of his voice, something changed inside of him. For some stupid reason, he couldn’t figure out why he wanted Maymi to look at him the same way. The reaction had to be a sibling rivalry thing. He and Casper were always competitive. Why should this be any different?
Fuck, what kind of body snatchers had taken over his body in the middle of the night? He hated Maymi...Well, hate wastoostrong of a word, but he was worried about her abilities not to steal his clients away over to her world of delectable pleasures.
He hated he wanted her physically, but he couldn’t control the erection that appeared anytime her tempting body was hovering near his. Taking her wasn’t part of anything he wanted and his mind knew it, but his dick had other plans that his head couldn’t override.
A sudden knock on his office door jarred Jensen from another, unwanted ridiculous thought about Maymi. He walked over to the door wondering who was bothering him this early. He thought he had got everything answered in the staff meeting twenty minutes ago.
“Yeah, what can I do for you,” he asked, opening the door.
His eyes widened from shock when they landed onMaymi standing there.Why did she have to show up now? Smelling like vanilla, cinnamon, sugar and everything sexy to push his sexual drive up another dangerous notch without her even knowing what she was doing.
“Is there something I can do for you?” Jensen asked, placing his hand against the doorframe. He had to do something with his hand or he might break down and give in to his urge to take over her senses with another kiss.
“Yes, we need to talk and I’m not leaving until we get everything out in the open,” Maymi said. She slipped underneath his arm and strolled into his personal space like she owned it.
Jensen moved away from the door and slowly closed it and then locked it for good measure. He couldn’t let anyone walk in on them. Casper had already done it once today and a repeat performance wasn’t about to happen.
He and Maymi needed to hash everything out because this back and forth between them was getting old very fast. She might not realize it but he was a grown man. Jensen had ever been fond of playing games with women. So he wasn’t about to start it now with the package of dynamite standing in front of him waiting to explode.
Slowly, Jensen made his way to Maymi, crossing the distance between them. He liked how he was taller than her five feet two inches. His height gave him some advantage that her sharp tongue couldn’t take away from him. She might be able to fight back with her words, but this one battle she would never win over him.
“Okay, princess. Why did you grace me with your presence again so soon?” he asked, watching how her big chocolate eyes shot up to his. Jensen crossed his arms over his chest and waited for an answer.
“I came to tell you to stop trying all of your head games on me, because they aren’t going to work. I’m a lot tougher than I look and you aren’t man enough to handle me, big boy.”
Uncrossing his arms, he leaned down until he was face to face with Maymi. He wasn’t a man to back down from such a blatant invitation tossed in his face. He had to give her credit for having enough nerve to do it right in his office without batting an eye.
“Princess, I’m all man and if youeverneed proof I’ll be more than pleased to give it to you,” he promised, softly.
“Take your ego down a notch, Jensen,” she said, patting him in the middle of his chest.
The soft touch of her hand made his dick throb to the point of being painful. Grabbing her wrist, he jerked Maymi against his chest. The feel of her full breasts against his chest almost made him growl with pleasure, but he caught the sound seconds before it betrayed him. He made a mental note to stay in control when it came to this spitfire.
“Let go of me,” Maymi snapped, tugging at her wrist. “I came over here to have a conversation, not get into another fight.”
“I never said I wanted to fight with you. I thought we were talking about our kiss. You were going to tell me how much you loved it.”
She snickered. “How could I have loved something that was so dull? I swear after it was over I had forgotten it ever happened. I’ve had better kisses from—
Before Maymi had a chance to insult him again, Jensen spun her around and pressed her back against the closet wall capturing her mouth with his. He realized this seemed to be the only way to stop that tongue of her from mouthing off to him. Running his tongue along the corner of her mouth, he took advantage of her surprise gasp by slipping his tongue inside.
Good God, she tasted so good.
He let go of her wrist and spread her thighs with his knees stepping between them. Heneverhad a sweet tooth before but the honeyed taste of Maymi’s mouth was giving him a bad one!
“You taste like honey,” he breathed against her swollen lips. He couldn’t help but take some pride in her body’s reaction to his kisses.
“It’s from my tea,” Maymi whispered, easing back from him and staring into his eyes.
Jensen’s cock jerked at the smoky desire he saw there. He shouldn’t be enjoying this tugging attraction his body felt towards her, but hell he did. So what was he going to do about it?
“Don’t move,” he said, placing his hands on either side of her hips, blocking her against the wall. He liked the feel of her curves. They were a lot different than Chloe’s rail thin figure.
“What are we going? What are you trying to prove?” Maymi asked. “None of this is making any sense.”
“I’m only trying to show you I can handle anything you toss in my direction. Don’t you have anything to say? No sharp comeback...This isn’t like you. Ms. Maymi Monroe is never speechless in my company.” Jensen moved back from her so he wouldn’t give in to the urge to start kissing her luscious mouth again.
He wondered what she was thinking. The air around them was sizzling with white hot temptation, but Maymi was silent as a church mouse. He didn’t know if he should be thrilled he finally got her to stop talking or be pissed as hell his kiss made her completely mute.
How could she let Jensen kiss her again?
The second time was even better than the first, but it didn’t matter. Both had caught her completely off guard shattering her self-control. Pressing her fingers against her swollen lips, Maymi gazed at Jensen in a daze of confusion. She couldn’t find the words to discuss how his mouth made her feel.
So yes... She guessed the ‘cat’ did have her tongue and now she was trying to figure out how to get it back from his master—the smug devil standing in front of her with a huge hard-on pressed against the front of his tight jeans.
None of this...Shit!
She couldn’t even form a complete thought because of him. Panic set in...she had to get out of here. She was twenty-eight years too old to be experiencing sexual frustration from a guy she thought about slapping most of the time.
Every time they were together Jensen took over their meeting like he owned it and her. She came over here to best him and the devil ended up getting the better of her. The realization of that didn’t please her at all. She had to get away from him unless she wanted to give up what tiny bit of willpower she had left in order to regroup. That was the only reason she was leaving... the only one.
Yeah, keep telling yourself that, girl.
“Mmmm...I need to go. Olivia is probably wondering what happened to me. I only came over here to give the cakes time to cool.”
Maymi eased away from the wall and around Jensen. She stumbled and would have fallen if Jensen’s large hands hadn’t reached out and caught her in time.
“Watch yourself. I can’t have anything happening to you now because if you’re hurt I won’t have anyone to argue with at least twice a week,” he teased.
She shook off Jensen’s touch and then took a step away from him. He was purposely trying to sneak under her defenses and trick her with his hot kisses, roaming hands and deep hypnotic voice but she would continue to fight him.
“Mr. Lowe, you would love for something to happen to me because Sinful’s space would be yours for the taking.”
Sliding his hand behind her neck, Jensen eased her body closer to his. Her breath caught in the back of her throat as Jensen’s gorgeous eyes never left hers for an instant.
“Have you realized since you walked through my office door, I haven’t brought up either one of our businesses? I’ve better things I would rather be doing with you and discussing them isn’t even in the same realm.”
She ran her tongue over her suddenly dry lips as Jensen’s thumb stroked her jaw igniting her awareness of his sexuality even more. Instantly, his bedroom brown eyes grew a shade darker as he cupped her chin inside his warm palm.
Her hand moved of its own volition, touching Jensen’s cheek down to his strong jaw line. “This is so crazy,” she whispered. “I can’t explain it, but I’m drawn to you. As much as we fight, our arguments haven’t made it any less intense.”
Jensen’s gaze was riveted on her face, and then moved over her body slowly before his eyes recaptured hers. She tried to push down the racing current pounding through her body, but couldn’t. He was stroking a gently growing flame and knew it.
“Have dinner with me tonight.”
Maymi knew her desire for Jensen had nothing to do with reason. It was too easy to get lost in the way he was looking at her; however, some of the things he had spoken to her were still in the back of her mind which made it hard for her to just forgive and forget so easily.
Touching Jensen’s wrist, she removed it away from her face and stepped round his tempting, rippling body again. The power radiating from him was very intoxicating to her weakening senses. Accepting a dinner invitation from him would only muddy her thoughts concerning them even more. She wasn’t ready to stare into his amazing eyes across a candlelight dinner.
“I can’t go out on a date with you,” she answered. “That isn’t a part of the game we play with each other.”
He frowned at her. “I wasn’t aware we were playing any sort of games with each other. I asked you out on a date and I want to know the truth why you won’t accept it. Are you frightened you wouldn’t be able to handle something that wasn’t here or Sinful? I promise to be gentle and walk you through it unless there’s another reason for your backtracking.”
“Like what?” Maymi asked, staring at Jensen with a clueless expression.
“Casper,” Jensen replied wondering if Maymi would deny it. He was more than enough man to push his brother or any other man out of her mind today or any other day of the week.
“No, your brother wasn’t even on my mind,” she said. “Which means he can’t be the reason I’m turning you down.”
“Are you still trying to make me believe my kisses do nothing for you, baby?” he asked, lowering his voice.
He watched how Maymi’s eyes darted over to the door like she was thinking about making a run for it which wasn’t something he was used to seeing from her. She usually stood toe to toe with him.
“After the way I responded to your kiss again wouldn’t it be stupid of me to lie to you a second time?” she answered.
“Fine, if neither one of those are the reasons, tell me what is. I can’t read your mind. I need something to work with here and only you can give it to me.”
“You hate me,” Maymi blurted out. “We both know it’s true. Unlike you, I can’t allow a few exceptional kisses blind me to the truth right in front of me. We know how to push each other’s buttons because the attraction we experienced the first time our eyes connected at Sinful.”
“Maymi, I don’t hate you,” he instantly disagreed.
Jensen knew he hadn’t been the nicest guy to her, but he didn’t hate her. He wouldn’t admit it to her, but her toughness was very impressive. No matter what he had thrown at her she had given it right back to him. She was proving to him that she was more than a pretty face.
Maymi’s quick wit kept him on his toes and looking forward to what would come out of her pretty mouth next.
Her comments had them in a war of words which Jensen found to be a complete turn-on from his end of things, but it seemed like Maymi’s interruption of the events was totally different than his. She thought he hated her, but hate was too strong of a word to use in trying to figure out their relationship.
Sometimes when she wouldn’t listen he felt like shaking some sense into her or kissing her senseless, but he didn’t hate her at all. She was probably the most intoxicating distraction that he had met in a very long time.
“Maymi, you have misunderstood me,” Jensen said. “We may fight, but I don’t hate you.”
“I know you aren’t fond of me, and if you had three wishes, you would use one of those to send me and Sinful far away from you way across town. Don’t deny it,” she said.
Without warning, Jensen’s hand wrapped around Maymi’s waist gently tugging her to him until they were only inches apart. He noticed a strange, faintly eager look flash in her eyes as she watched him and waited.
“You’re right. I would use one of the wishes but not like you’re thinking. I would wish for you to stop being so inflexible with me and agree to a date. I mean, if you can handle my brother’s nonsense, going out with me should be a piece of cake. Just think how it could be if we found out we might actually become friends.”
Maymi shook her head. “The problem isn’t Casper, it’s you. The two of you are like on totally different ends of the scale when it comes to how you treat me. When your brother first met me and told me his last name, I thought I had misheard.”
Enough was enough!
He was done wasting his time with Maymi talking about his charming little brother. He wasn’t blessed with that characteristic and he was done wishing that he had been. He had his own traits that were equally or more attractive to draw Maymi over to his side.
“I know my brother isn’t me and I’m proud of that fact. Casper is still a boy while I’m a full grown man. You look like a woman who likes having a man around her, so what is your answer. Are you ready to test our ability to have a date?”
Maymi tilted her head to the side and Jensen could read the interest in her eyes. He saw that she wanted to take him up on it, but wasn’t sure. He had to make her agree or he wasn’t using this golden opportunity to the fullest.
“How about I promise not to talk about either one of our businesses on the entire date? We just can try to have a good time with each other. I’m game if you are unless you’re scared that you might actually have a good time with your enemy. What’s your answer, princess?” he asked.
Jensen smiled when Maymi’s chin went up and her eyes glared at him.Finally...the determined, feisty look he had actually liked getting from her. The meek Maymi wasn’t his favorite. She had too much fire inside of her to be backing off from one date with him. He wasn’t afraid to pursue their intense reaction to each other.
“I’m still not sure if we could handle being around each other on an actual date,” she admitted. “You know how we are with each other. Sparks just seem to fly when we least expect it.”
Leaning closer, he got right in her face. “I can’t deny I like our fireworks, so why not take it out on the road. I’m more than up for it, but if you’re nervous I’ll understand and let it go.”
Maymi laughed. A soft, sexy sound that made him hornier than he already was. “Fine, I’ll go out on a date with you.”
“How about tonight?” Jensen asked. He wasn’t going to give her any time to think about it more and have another chance to change her mind.
“I can’t tonight,” she said, placing her hand in the center of his chest pushing him back. “I already have plans after work. How about Friday? I’m closing the bakery early, probably around noon.”
He wanted to push for tonight since everything was going so well between them, but he wouldn’t. This date was a test to see if he could get a second date with her. Maymi possessed a lot more substance than any other woman who had been in his life.
Jensen knew the only way to get her to let her ‘keep Jensen away’ barriers down was to do it in a neutral environment like a date or walk through the park. He was hungry to discover more about what made her tick.
She had already given him hints about what treasures lay deep within her. It fascinated him even more when he watched how open she was around other people but him.
“Friday is good for me. I can wait until I get to see you in something besides jeans and a Sinful t-shirt,” he admitted, staring into Maymi’s eyes almost getting lost in the beauty of them.
“I could tell you the same thing,” she flirted back. The tension in the room started getting thicker and hotter the more they continued staring at each other. “I’m wondering how your body is going to look all dressed up for our date.”
Taking a step closer and then another one until he could feel Maymi’s chest touching his, he stared at her without breaking eye contact. “If you weren’t so stubborn and decided to make me wait until Friday you would get to see how good I look in a suit.”
“I think I’ll be able to handle the wait. Patience is a virtue, so it will give me something to look forward to this weekend,” she said, running her finger down the center of his chest.
Grabbing her by the hips, he yanked Maymi completely against him. “Keep tempting me and I won’t be able to keep from doing what I want to do.”
There was an eagerness in her eyes he hadn’t noticed before when she looked at him, but he wouldn’t mind seeing again. Yet, he had to get her out of his office before things went too far, more than he allowed in the work place.
“You better go before I forget I’m a gentleman and kiss the hell out of that beautiful mouth of yours,” Jensen admitted. He was losing control fast and Maymi was the only reason for his lack of concentration.
“Alright, I do need to get out of here. I need to call Tatum to recheck out plans for tonight,” she said, touching the side of his cheek.
“Who is Tatum?” How many men did she have falling around her? First, his brother and now some guy named Tatum. Was he ever going to get a chance to get her alone and away from everyone else?
“Tatum is one of my best friends. We try to get together at least twice a month. So I’m not canceling my plans with her.”
Tatum was a female...he couldn’t believe it, but he wasn’t about to let Maymi know he thought she was a he. He didn’t want to admit he might have been jealous of someone else. It was bad enough he had gotten the green eyed monster with Casper.
“I guess I can let you go out with Tatum, but you have to do one thing for me before you leave.”
Her left eyebrow raised a fraction as she continued watching him. “I’m afraid to ask what you might want, Mr. Lowe,” she teased.
“It’s nothing that will hurt,” Jensen whispered, lowering his head until their lips were a breath apart. “All I want is this.”
Reclaiming her mouth, he slid his hand through her hair holding, Maymi still while he got lost in the sweetness of her mouth. God! He never got this disoriented in kissing any other woman like he did with her. He could kiss Maymi for hours and never get tired.
Jensen wanted to continue but the moan of ecstasy that slipped for Maymi’s lips brought him back. Shit! He hadn’t made out with a female like this since college and Sarah Willis was his steady girlfriend until she dumped him for her professor.
“Why are you making it so hard on me to let you leave?” he whispered against her cheek.
“I want to give you something to keep you on your toes until our date,” Maymi said before pushing him away from her. “Now I really need to go now. I’ve been gone way too long. I know I’ve baked goodies I need to make. I can drop my address off after work.” She started to walk away from him, but he grabbed her by the arm.
“No, wait. Let me give you my phone number and you can text me your information.” Moving away from Maymi, Jensen grabbed a small piece of paper off his desk and wrote down his number. “Here you go.” He spun back around and handed her the sheet of paper.
“Thank you,” Maymi said. She took the paper from his hand and slipped it into the front pocket of her jeans. “I hope you’re ready to blow me away on Friday. I haven’t been impressed in a long time.”
“You didn’t go out with me, so anything I do Friday will be better than everything any other man has done for you,” Jensen replied with confidence.
“Let me be the judge of that,” Maymi tossed back. Turning away from him, she walked over to his office door and went out without looking back.
Leaning against his desk, Jensen looked at the open door, oblivious to the smile of his face. Maymi intrigued him since he laid eyes on her. He was finally ready to admit that he might see a tiny bit of himself in her.
It could be one of the reasons they went at it so well with each other. Each one knew actually what button to push on the other one, but he wouldn’t be sure until their date on Friday. Today was only Wednesday. Could he make it through another day until he finally got Maymi alone?
Well, he agreed to wait and that is what he would do as much as he didn’t want to do it. Moving away from his desk, Jensen walked around and took a seat behind it. He couldn’t let his entire day consist of thinking about his upcoming date with her. Friday would be here soon enough.
Besides, the pile of please call slips on his desk weren’t going to answer themselves. However, he had to make one call before the rest. He knew he hadn’t heard from Jack, so he would have to contact him. His business goals still had to keep moving forward until he finally got all of his ducks in a row, and gaining the Health Pro’s building was now at the top of his list.
Picking up the telephone at his left, Jensen started calling Jack’s phone number when suddenly a knock on his office door stopped him. Turning his head, he was surprised to see Jack standing there in the doorway.
“Do you have a minute?” he asked. “I need to talk to you.”
Wondering what was going on, Jensen placed the phone back down and he waved Jack into his office. He hoped he wasn’t going to ask for more money because Health Pro wasn’t worth more than he offered him. If he did then this deal would be over.
“Sure, I was just about to call you. Come on in and shut the door,” Jensen said secretly hoping this guy was ready to sign on the dotted line.
“I’ve a few things I want to go over first,” Jack said, closing the door.
“Have a seat and I’ll see what I can do for you.”
Whatever the reason Jack showed up here at Fitness 24, he wasn’t about to let on how much he wanted his failing business. He would let him talk and see what his terms were before he completely shut anything down.
As she drove home from Sinful after spending the past ten hours working on getting out two surprise cupcakes orders, Maymi finally allowed her mind to wander back to her kissing session with Jensen. She wondered if the heat from her ovens had finally caused her to lose her mind.
Something had to be wrong up there in that brain of hers to make her agree to a date withhim. She should have turned Jensen down flat, but once she gazed into those brown eyes of his she got lost and then once he kissed her again she was a goner and they both knew it.
Damn...why hadn’t she listened to her first instinct and kept from going over to Fitness 24 in the first place? Why was she even bothering thinking about this when she already knew the answer? She wanted to have the last word.
The way Jensen had demanded for Casper not to waste a lot of time with her hadn’t sat right, so after he left instead of letting it go and moving on with her day she had to take her butt over there thinking she would get the upper hand.
However, Jensen kissed that idea out of her head and seduced her into agreeing to a date with him. Thank God, she was quick enough to at least think of a lie and get it pushed back into Friday. She didn’t have plans with Tatum because her girlfriend was out of town of business. She might be able to think of an excuse not to go by then.
Are you scared of what you might do? The question entered her head and left just as fast.
No! Maymi wasn’t afraid of going out on one little date with Jensen Lowe. She would be able to handle this like anything else he tried tossing her way. She was unbreakable, but hell, she still needed one of her girlfriends to vent with about this new situation.
Why wasn’t Jazmaine answering her stupid phone? She had already called her twice and got her voice mail. She had even left two text messages for her. She needed her other best friend right now to unload on and she wasn’t anywhere around. What was going on with Jazmaine?
Jazmaine read Maymi’s text message while she waited for Mr. Akito Mashiro’s assistant to show up to finalize the last of the paperwork to hire him. Mr. Kent wanted him as the graphic novel writer/artist for their upcoming series, but this was getting on her nerves.
For the past five months they had been going back and forth trying to please Mr. Mashiro’s every demand, but if she had one more complaint from him. She would take herself off this deal and someone else at the office could handle it from this point on.
Working all of these long hours just to stroke this guy’s ego was getting way out of hand for her liking. She hadn’t been able to do anything else with her free time but take care of this man’s every whim. Especially when it came to tiny details in the multi-million dollar contracts Mr. Kent needed signed, yet she wouldn’t actually quit because her boss was counting on her to get everything done.
Getting Mr. Mashiro to even agree to think about doing a four book graphic novel deal with them was huge. So she understood why her boss was bending over backwards to give him everything he wanted but bending to all of his demands was a little crazy!
Yeah, he might be the hottest graphic artist out there but no one was worth all of the hassle she was going through. She deserved a life outside of these four walls. Taking another glance at her watch, Jazmaine noticed she had been waiting almost forty-five minutes for Mr. Mashiro’s assistant to show up and she was done.
If Mr. Kent wanted these contracts finalized it would be done by someone else at the office, but it wouldn’t be here. She was finished waiting on these people while they did as they pleased and kept her here for no good reason. She did have other things that had to be dealt with besides this nonsense.
Jazmaine grabbed the two files off the conference room table, along with her cell phone and purse. She was out of here and nothing was going to stop her from leaving this time. If Julie Kim wanted to blow up her cell phone complaining about how she left, she would get the answering machine until tomorrow morning.
Shoving the files inside her purse, Jazmaine dialed Maymi’s cell phone number as she stormed around the table. Hopefully, her girlfriend was still up for a couple of drinks and girl’s talk. Tatum was out of town of business, so she couldn’t call her up and drag her out for nachos and beer. She cursed under her breath when Maymi’s voice mail picked up on the other end and she waited to leave a message.
“Hey. Leave me a message and I’ll get back to you.”
“Maymi, it’s me Jazmaine. I’m headed home. Call me if you still want to go out for drinks or you can just come over to my place. I’ll fix up some snacks and we can gossip. I got stood up by Mr. Mashiro’s assistant, so I’m done waiting for her and dealing with that jerk for the night,” She opened the conference room door and then ran into a hard chest on the other side.
“Oh my God,” Jazmaine screamed catching her phone before it hit the floor. “You scared the hell out of me.” She looked up and her heart literally stopped in her chest at the sight of the man staring down at her.
Her eyes froze on his long, lean form because he was absolutely handsome with his captivating dark eyes. She had never seen anyone who looked like him before in her life. His smooth olive skin stretched over high cheekbones as he smiled at her showing off strikingly white teeth.
She noticed his hair was black and thick styled with a few spiked hairs on the top just enough to give him a bad boy look. She had never looked at a Japanese man before but she couldn’t take her eyes off of him. She was completely fascinated by the aura surrounding him.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t expecting you to open the door,” he apologized in a slight British accent.
“No, I should have been paying attention to where I was going. I’m Jazmaine Ramey. Can I help you with something Mr.—”
“Mr. Akito Mashiro,” he said, shocking her. “I’m sorry I’m late but my plane just arrived about twenty minutes ago from London. I made it here as fast as my driver could get me.”
She blinked a couple of times trying to get her thoughts together. Jazmaine crossed her fingers that he hadn’t heard the tail end of her conversation on the phone. If Mr. Mashiro had, then all of the hard work she’d put in up to now was ruined and Mr. Kent would lose all of his investments he put into this deal.
“Mr. Mashiro, I wasn’t expecting to see you. I thought your assistant Ms. Kim was coming to take care of the final paperwork for our deal,” she admitted.
Mr. Mashiro gave her a long, searching look and she started to believe he might have heard her call him a jerk on the phone. “Ms. Kim did her job up to now but I wanted to look at the final paperwork myself. I’m the one who’s making this agreement with your boss. I’m the graphic artist, not her. Can you stay and go over it with me?” he asked. “I’ve a few questions about a couple of things.”
The word no was on the tip of her tongue. This guy may behotbut he still hadn’t done anything but make her life a living hell for the past several months. Jazmaine wanted to tell him where he could go, yet she swallowed it down and smiled instead.
“I’ll be glad to help you,” she said, stepping back into the conference room. “Mr. Kent and I want to make this transition as easy as possible for you.”
Following her inside, Mr. Mashiro flashed her a grin that made her stomach flip flop, but she held it together like a professional. “Please all me Akito. My father is Mr. Mashiro.”
“I think I should keep it professional, don’t you?”
“So, does that mean I can’t call you Jazmaine,” he asked in his perfect accent. “It’s such a beautiful name.”
Baby, you can call me anything you want with that sexy voice of yours.
“Ms. Ramey will be better,” Jazmaine answered ignoring the compliment Mr. Mashiro gave her. She took a seat at the table and then pulled the files out of her purse placing them in front of her.
“I’ll have to work on getting rid of all of this proper manner for you,” Akito said, joining her.
Without commenting to Mr. Mashiro, she watched as he laid a briefcase down and opened it up. He pulled out several files along with one of his graphic novels that he placed on top. Jazmaine was surprised she hadn’t noticed the briefcase until now. She had gotten taken by surprise finding him on the other side of the door but she still should have seen a gray metal briefcase in his hand. It wasn’t like her to ignore something in plain sight.
Jazmaine got her drifting thoughts under better control as her eyes landed on one of his famous graphic novels. She had seen them before but never had the chance to hold one in her hand.
“Do you mind if I look at your work?” she asked, pointing towards the book..
“Please do,” Akito replied, watching as she picked it up.
The novel had a much sturdier feel in her hands than the comic books she was used to holding. No wonder they lasted longer and could be re-read without getting ruined as easily. The colorful designed artwork on the cover stood out to her as well. Akito Mashiro did amazingly beautiful work. No wonder his gifted hands and mind were in such a high demand overseas as well as in the United States.
His work with Manga characters was brilliant with his detail to their distinctive features with large oversized eyes, small noses and a line for a mouth. Some Japanese artists didn’t follow this style, but he did and that’s what drew her boss to the man sitting across from her.
Jazmaine flipped through the pages before sliding it back across the table. “Your work is really outstanding, the best I have ever seen,” she praised. “Mr. Kent is very excited about making you a part of his team over here.”
“Ms. Ramey, thank you for the compliment,” he told her. Picking up the novel, he placed it back into his briefcase. “I was very impressed by the way you handled my assistant Julie. She can be a bit of a headache to some people, but she informed me how you always kept your cool.”
She listened to Mr. Mashiro talk while trying not to get lost in the darkness of his eyes. A man with a good-looking face and a killer accent was always her down fall when it came to dating. Her pickiness could be one of the causes she was thirty-four years old and still single. She’d made up her mind four years ago to stop dating guys who weren’t worthy of her.
“Ms. Kim was demanding at times, but I can understand she did it because she only wanted the best for her boss, Mr. Mashiro.”
“I really hate being called Mr. Mashiro. I might be a little older than you, but not enough for you to address me so respectfully,” he said. “How can we work together with all of this going on? It will make it hard for me to concentrate on my work.”
Sitting up straighter in her seat, Jazmaine tried to calm down her racing heart.Did she actually hear what she thought she just heard? Was Akito Mashiro just acknowledged that he was going to sign with Kent Publications? What happened to the concerns he wanted to discuss with her less than twenty minutes ago?