by J. Lynn Rowan
GENRE: Contemporary romance
Life is good for Tess Gardiner: Her Savannah, Georgia, bakery and cafe is thriving. She’s earned Master Pastry Chef status from the American Culinary Federation. And she’s attending a regional culinary convention in Charleston, where she’s been invited to sit on a small business panel discussion. The opportunity to tout her success will, hopefully, lead to bigger and better things in her professional life. As for her personal life? The relative contentedness she’s enjoyed for years receives a sudden jolt when she comes face to face with Tyler Brinks, the ex-boyfriend she summarily dismissed from her life eight years ago.
Tyler’s success as a highly-trained chef has launched him into the stratosphere. He already owns one ridiculously successful restaurant, and he’s aggressively working on plans for a second. But he’s never quite gotten over Tess, and he’s never really been sure what actually went wrong between them. So when a pastry and baking competition is announced for the week following the culinary convention in Charleston, Ty jumps at the chance to tempt Tess with the challenge of being his partner, giving him the perfect opportunity to remind her how good they once were together.
As the competition heats up in the kitchen, it soon becomes clear to Tess that Ty has more than cream puffs and cupcakes on his mind. And she can’t deny that her feelings for Ty never truly cooled, but have been simmering all these years, despite the way their relationship ended. Now Ty’s attention has her wondering—is this just the path to final closure? Or could this be a second chance at true love?
Ty comes to a stop a couple paces away and settles his hands on his hips. “Hey, Tess. Long time, no see.”
“Yeah, well . . .”
That’s got to be the lamest opener ever. I clear my throat, relieved that my voice is working at all, and muster up my pride.
But before I can come up with a real comment, Ty says, “I saw you listed on the small business panel discussion. Must be exciting.”
“This from a featured presenter.” Squaring my shoulders, I tilt my head slightly and jerk my chin at him. “You always walk around in your chef’s coat?”
“Only when I’m hoping to run into my ex-girlfriends at culinary conventions.”
The teasing note in his deep voice has my eyes narrowing. “Tyler—”
He holds up his hands, palms out, and chuckles. “Geez, I’m kidding. Calm down, Contessa.”
“Do. Not. Call. Me. That.” I grind the words out from between my teeth.
“Wow. Still touchy, are we?” He crosses his arms again and tips his head back while he surveys me. We don’t have a big difference between us in height, but whenever he does that, it makes me feel about five inches tall. “I was actually prepping for a demonstration, and was just taking a little break.”
Irritation slides through me, both at Ty as well as myself. I shouldn’t be letting the old hurts bubble up like this. I haven’t seen him in eight years. Even if we parted on the worst terms possible, he deserves the benefit of the doubt, as a fellow culinary professional if nothing else.
“Sorry.” I make a show of folding up the pamphlet, forgotten until now, and sliding it into my bag. The move allows me to break eye contact and re-center myself. By the time I look up again, Ty’s smirk is back in place. Hoisting my bag into a more secure position on my shoulder, I fold my arms in a mirror of his posture. “You’ve probably got a busy few days ahead. Odds of us running into each other again are slim, so . . .”
A knowing light flashes in his eyes, even as he offers a handshake. Against my better judgment and with only the barest hesitation, I accept.
Fires start popping up all along my nerves the instant our palms touch. By the time I realize my mistake, it’s too late to pull away.
Ty gives my hand a gentle squeeze. “Maybe I’ll see you around.”
He releases me, takes a couple steps backward, and gives me a wink before turning to walk away. I stand there, my hand still hanging in the air like a limp fish.
Maybe I’ll see you around?
Coming from Ty, that’s not a possibility.
It’s a promise.
J. Lynn Rowan started writing stories as a small child, usually starring her favorite cartoon characters. Most of her work through middle and high school was filled with typical teenage angst and melodrama, and usually mirrored the books she loved to read. But eventually she found her own author’s voice and decided to seriously pursue a writing career.
Historical fiction remains J. Lynn’s “first love”, but she has enjoyed the journey to becoming an author of romance and chick lit. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Central New York Romance Writers, and the Historical Novel Society. She is also a teacher who tries to instill a love of learning, reading, and writing in her students.
When she’s not writing, J. Lynn enjoys travelling, gardening poorly but enthusiastically, studying various topics in American history for her own expertise, and channeling Julia Child every time she steps into the kitchen.
A native of Oswego, NY, she now lives in Charlotte, NC, with her own Romantic Hero of a husband and their little rainbow, affectionately known as Babycakes.
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