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Authors: Kate Perry

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Sweet on You

BOOK: Sweet on You
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Kate Perry

 

 

Sweet On You

Praise for Kate Perry’s Novels

 

 

 

"Perry's storytelling skills just keep getting better and better!" –
Romantic Times Book Reviews

 

"Can't wait for the next in this series...simply great reading. Another winner by this amazing author."
–Romance Reviews Magazine

 

"Hot! Recommended!" –
Bookpleasures

 

"Exciting and simply terrific."
–Romancereviews.com

 

"Kate Perry is on my auto buy list."
–Night Owl Romance

 

"A winning and entertaining combination of humor and pathos."
–Booklist

Other Titles by Kate Perry

 

 

Dream of You

Looking for You

Return to You

Close to You

Perfect for You

 

Playing for Keeps

Playing Doctor

Project Date

Project Daddy

 

Marked by Passion

Chosen by Desire

Tempted by Fate

 

 

www.kateperry.com

www.twitter.com/KatePerry

www.facebook.com/TutuKate

[email protected]

Sweet On You

 

 

Kate Perry

 

 

© 2012 by Phoenix Rising Enterprises, Inc.

Cover Graphic ©
Corbis Photography - Veer

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Shout Outs To…

 

 

... the places that cheerfully gave me a place to sit while I worked on this book:

- Contraband,

- The Brew,

- Rapha,

- The Grove (on Chestnut),

- and, most especially, Nectar.

 

... my posse, Martha White and Parisa Zolfaghari. They helped make this book a reality instead of a vague notion about cake and Batman.

 

... YOU. Without your love and support, I'd be scooping French fries at McDonald's. I'm thankful for you every day.

 

... and, lastly, my Magic Man, because he tells me how great I am every day, and he means it. I'm sweet on you, baby, in case you couldn't tell.

Chapter One

 

 

Daniela lay on the cold tile of Ground for Thought's kitchen and contemplated her life. It was, in short, a mess.

Her grandmother used to tell her there was a recipe for everything. If her grandmother were still alive, she'd say this was no different. Nonna would tell her she needed to taste the ingredients of her life and figure out the right balance of flavors.

In this case, the ingredients were one slight Italian woman, a full serving of hot blood, a dash of stubbornness, all spiced with a talent for cooking—plus a liberal dose of unhappiness.

It just added up to a bitter dish.

The kitchen's swinging door creaked open. "Daniela? Are you still in here?"

Caught
. She sighed. She'd hoped for more alone time. "Yes."

The confident clacking of heels sounded on the tiles, and then her friend Eve was standing over her, peering down. "I thought you came back here to make a private phone call. What are you doing lying on the floor?"

"Thinking."

"My kitchen floor is better for thinking than yours?"

"Your kitchen is nicer." It was smaller than hers, but it was finished and homey. There was the lingering scent of vanilla and sugar, and it reminded her of baking with Nonna. It also didn't have construction going on, a nosy assistant hovering close by, or telephones ringing nonstop. "It's peaceful here."

Eve stared down at her, hands on her hips. Then she kicked off her shoes and sat cross-legged next to Daniela. "Want to talk about it?"

"No." She shook her head. It should have been uncomfortable on the stone tile, but her mass of curly hair provided good cushioning.

"Do you want to bake something? Baking always makes me feel better, especially when I do it with a friend."

"
Hell no
." Unable to stay stationary, she popped up to sitting and faced Eve. "Can I make a confession?"

"Of course."

"I haven't baked in months."

Eve's pretty face scrunched up. "You baked the cake for my wedding a few weeks ago."

"That's the only thing I've baked since the summer." It'd been a labor of love, because Eve was the only one who'd treated her like a person instead of a commodity.

Daniela frowned at her new friend. "Why is that, anyway?"

"Why is what?"

"That you treat me like I'm a real person."

"Have you been sniffing powdered sugar?" She put a hand on Daniela's forehead. "You feel warm. Maybe you're feverish. Maybe I should call Marley."

"Don't threaten me. I don't want to talk about my traitor-of-an-assistant." She pursed her lips. "Or the man formerly known as my brother. Tony is dead to me."

Grinning, Eve shook her head. "You're so Italian sometimes."

"I know. I'm a walking stereotype."

"But you own it and make it work for you." Eve tucked her hair behind her ear. "So tell me about your brother."

"I told you already. He's dead to me. If my grandmother were still alive, I'd ask her how to curse him. Nonna had the evil eye."

"He must have seriously upset you to make you want to put the evil eye on him."

Seriously upset
didn't begin to cover it. "For my birthday, he had his secretary send me flowers."

"That's nice, isn't it?" Eve asked carefully.

"No, it's not. The card read
Best Regards for Another Year
." She paused meaningfully. "That was it. It wasn't signed or anything."

"Oh."

"And it was my thirty-fifth birthday." Eyes narrowed, she pointed a finger at Eve. "Everyone says thirty is awful, but it's thirty-five that smacks you upside the head."

"Should I worry that you just cursed me?"

"It's nature's curse." She slumped. "It hit me hard, and Tony didn't even have the decency to call me to see how I was doing. I ate take-out Chinese food at my coffee table in the living room as I watched TV. It was pathetic.
I
was pathetic."

"There wasn't anyone else you could have spent the day with?"

"No. These days, people like me for what I do, not who I am. I've become all fame and no substance." She threw her hands in the air. "What have I done with my life? I bake cookies for spoiled, rich people."

"But you love to bake." Eve frowned. "Don't you?"

"I used to. Now I'm not sure. I've become a brand instead of a person. Even my own brother sees me as a dollar sign." That was what upset her most, because Tony had once been her best friend.

Eve touched her arm. "Have you told him you're upset?"

"No. I'm sulking at the moment." Daniela stuck her lip out just a little more to show her pique.

"Yes, you are."

"It's very satisfying."

Eve laughed. "In the long run, you should say something to your brother. Otherwise, he won't know he did something wrong."

"That's the problem. I'm afraid I'll tell him and he still won't realize he did something wrong." She shook her head sadly and stood up, brushing off the back of her jeans. "I appreciate the talk though. And the use of your kitchen floor."

Laughing, Eve stood up and hugged her. "My kitchen wouldn't exist if it weren't for you. You're welcome to use the floor, and anything else, whenever you like."

That thing in her chest that had been tight for so many months loosened a tiny bit in the warmth of Eve's friendship, and she squeezed her new friend tighter. "Maybe moving to San Francisco wasn't complete insanity."

"San Francisco is never a bad idea, and moving to Laurel Heights was serendipity." Eve linked an arm through hers and walked her out. "We take care of our own."

The community was why she'd impulsively decided to move. She'd done a booksigning at Grounds for Thought and had fallen in love with the neighborhood. Eve had introduced her to her women friends, all professionals but, more importantly, all welcoming and nice. Plus, Laurel Heights had seemed like the ideal place to open a West Coast flagship kitchen.

Though finishing the remodel hadn't been high on her priority list lately.

"Want a biscotti for the road?" Eve asked.

"No." Turning down biscotti was a true testament to her state of mind. She loved biscotti, especially Eve's. They weren't like her nonna's, but they were a close second. "I think I'm going to go for a walk."

"Good decision." Eve gave her another hug. "I'm having a girls' night at my place next week. Will you come?"

She hesitated. She'd never been the kind of woman to have many girlfriends. She'd had her brother growing up, and then she'd been focused on her career. Women chefs were few and far between, and the few she knew were more competitive than friendly. "I'll think about it."

"Let me rephrase my statement," she said, holding Daniela's arm. "You
are
coming. Bring champagne."

Shaking her head, Daniela walked out of the café, marveling at how smart Eve was to make going to her girls' night so easy. Maybe she'd actually go.

Thinking about it, about her brother, and about the career she was beginning to hate, she walked up Sacramento, past Fillmore, not caring that the hill was steep. People complained about San Francisco's hills, but she loved them. Walking up one made her feel like she'd accomplished something.

God knew she hadn't done much lately. She'd been avoiding making decisions on everything and, consequently, everything was on hold—catering gigs, interviews, appearances... And then there was the remodel on her new boutique outlet in San Francisco. She'd managed to convince Tony that it was a good idea to open a West Coast office, but the construction wasn't done yet.

It was her fault. She'd been dragging her feet on making decisions. Now, the wolves were closing in.

Well—
wolf,
singular. Her brother. He'd been pressing her to get off her butt and make things happen.

Antonio Rossi wasn't her favorite person right now. How could you be too busy to wish your beloved younger sister happy birthday? Granted, her parents hadn't called either that day, but they'd had an excuse: they'd been somewhere in India and had called as soon as they could.

Daniela looked around and realized she'd walked all the way downtown. With a shrug, she kept walking, all the way to the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building.

She loved the Ferry Building. It was a place to indulge all your senses. She walked through the vendors slowly, watching the people, smelling the spices in the air, looking at all the food. Normally she'd have spent hours milling about through the shops. Today she walked through the building to the piers outside.

A movement by one of the Dumpsters caught her attention. Too vigorous to be a rat, she blinked in surprise when she saw it was a boy.

His hair was scraggly and sticking up in various places. He wore jeans that were too big, bunched a little at the waist. His T-shirt stuck out from the bottom of his oversized hoodie. In his hand, he held half a baguette that he'd obviously scrounged out of the Dumpster.

Her heart sank. She reached for her purse to pull out some money to give him for food but realized she hadn't brought a purse.

Then he pulled out a ragged stuffed animal. Tucking it in his sweatshirt, he picked up the small store of food he'd harvested from the garbage and walked away, furtively looking around like he was worried about being caught.

The food she understood—he was obviously hungry—but the stuffed animal perplexed her. She guessed he was twelve or thirteen. He was in that gangly, awkward phase that happened right before adolescence. The last thing a boy going through puberty would want was a pink teddy bear.

So she did the obvious: she followed him.

She took care not to alert him that she was on his tail. She bet he'd lose her in the blink of an eye.

Clinging to shadows, she followed him all the way to a dilapidated building South of Market.

It was condemned, based on the heavy chains and padlock on the front doors. Just in case there was doubt, there were signs posted all over in addition to the yellow Do Not Enter tape.

She studied the building. It looked like an old motel, boarded up and forbidding, with broken windows, graffiti, and padlocks on the doors. The only spot of lightness was the east side, which was covered in Dali-esque murals spanning from the ground all the way to the roof. Close to the sidewalk, there was a
For Sale
sign, as if someone would willingly buy this dump.

BOOK: Sweet on You
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