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Copyright ©2013 Mychael Black
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"Thank you for calling Edible Decadence. This is Kris Baker. Can I help you?"
I glanced at the clock. "George? You were supposed to be here an hour ago. Where are you?"
"Dude, I gotta quit."
"What? You can't quit!"
"Hey, nothin' personal, y'know? Just time to find somethin' that pays more. Besides, it's just January. You can find a replacement before Valentine's."
"What? Do you have any idea --"
The line went dead, and I struggled to get the phone switched off without turning the handset into a truffle. "Shit. Shit, shit, shit!"
Someone cleared his throat, and I spun around, nearly dropping the phone in the process.
"Shit. I mean... Hi, uh..." I shook my head to clear the fog. "Welcome to Edible Decadence."
Too-kissable lips quirked in a half smile, and a brilliant green gaze raked over me. "Quite a fitting name."
"Edible Decadence?" he said. He smiled, sharp teeth catching my attention. "You most certainly are."
I swallowed convulsively and blinked. He was still there. In my doorway. A tall toned piece of prime Grade-A man-flesh wrapped tight in leather and a black T-shirt. Dark brown hair nearly touched his shirt collar and framed an angular masculine face. And those eyes... I resisted the urge to fan myself.
"C-can I help you?"
Mr. Tall, Dark and Utterly Delicious approached the counter, moving slow like a cat stalking a skittish mouse. I couldn't decide if the counter between us was a help... or a hindrance. "I'm looking for someone."
"Oh? Who?" I busied my hands, wiping them on the little towel I kept tucked into a belt loop. I hated aprons and my clothes attested to that fact.
"Um. You found him. What can I do for you?"
The stranger smiled and, once again, I found myself staring at fangs. What the hell did I do to gain the attention of a vampire? He pulled out a slip of paper from a pocket and placed it on the countertop. I forced my gaze away from long fingers and onto the paper.
"My coven leader is hosting an event and specifically requested you as the one she wants to make the desserts."
I picked up the paper and read the list: twenty pounds of truffles, even mix of dark, white, and milk chocolates; fifteen pounds of white chocolate and peppermint bark; and fifteen pounds of solid milk chocolate in bite-sized pieces. Nothing overtly fancy, but more than I'd made for a single customer in a few years. I nodded.
"I can do it. When does she need it by?"
"February first. She wanted to give you plenty of time and figured a month was enough."
"Oh, yeah." Then I remembered I'd just lost my only employee. My stomach plummeted. Then again, I'd been through worse, I supposed. "I'll find someone to replace the guy who just quit."
"How hard is it?"
I blinked up at the man. Did he just ask...? "Excuse me?"
He cocked a lean hip against the counter and crossed his arms. I wanted to lick his biceps. "How hard is it to do what you do?"
"Uh, well, not too hard. I do the intricate work and leave the basics to someone else. More efficient that way."
"I'm willing to give it a shot."
Oh, God. I wasn't sure how wise it was to let this man behind the counter, much less work for me. I wanted to climb up that body and ride him into the ground, but I was pretty damn sure that molesting the client -- or an employee of the client -- wasn't exactly a good business practice. But... I desperately needed help.
Convinced I was doing the dumbest thing of my life, I sighed and nodded. "All right. We can try it. What's your name?"
"Brett Malone." He extended a hand and I shook it.