Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Morning's Menu: Cupcakes by Sean Michael


For nearly 2 years now I've been highlighting anthologies & box sets on my weekly Monday Morning Mantelpiece feature well now I'm starting Monday Morning's Menu which as you may guess, food will play a part in the story, be it actual food, occupation, or setting.  Some weeks I will still be posting the Mantelpiece and others I will be posting Menu.

Summary:
Allen Jameson had it all—the perfect house, the perfect partner, the perfect life—until his partner, Gary, died suddenly, leaving him alone in the real world, where life isn't so pretty and people make mistakes. Now Allen is the owner of Sweet ‘n’ Sassy Cupcake Shop, a cute boutique downtown, where he invents delicious flavors like strawberry and French meringue. Between working long hours and making special orders, Allen barely has time to think.

Then a hunky contractor walks into his shop looking for a treat. Allen and Byron Bannigan are total opposites, but they're perfect together—salty and sweet like Allen’s signature peanut butter and chocolate ganache cupcakes. But as Allen struggles to juggle his business and his boyfriend, he learns he can only handle so much. He may have to choose between the cupcakes in his store and the cupcake in his bed.




Chapter One
PEANUT BUTTER with chocolate ganache.

Carrot cake with cream cheese icing.

Mexican chocolate with cinnamon frosting.

Fresh strawberry with French meringue.

Allen put out the day’s cupcakes and started the cappuccino maker.

He checked the clock. Six fifty-five. Time to open. He made sure the day’s muffins were out on top of the four-foot counter, then turned the sign on Sweet ’n’ Sassy’s door to “open.” Time for work!

The first customers started coming in immediately—Steve and Daniel, Rick, Lowell, and Ron. Heidi and Leeane. He loved his regulars and they loved him, coming into the tiniest cupcake bakery in the whole world for a muffin, a cup of joe, a quick hug, and a smile. Some people might stay long enough for a small conversation, but with only two tables, most of his customers took their sweets to go.

By the time it was nine twenty, he was out of muffins; time to head to the back to start the cupcakes for the afternoon orders. Lord.

The bell over the door jangled just as he got there, and he returned to the front to find the most stunning man he’d ever seen standing at his counter. Big, buff, and with the prettiest hazel eyes. The jeans and tight T-shirt only served to accentuate the man’s muscles.

“Good morning.” You hot thing. “How can I help you?”

“I need fancy food for my secretary. She’s pregnant and it’s her last day, and I’m supposed to do something.” The man sounded harried.

“Okay. I don’t do savory things, really, but I can make cupcakes. Do you know what kind and how many and when?”

“Cupcakes. That sounds good.” The guy nodded and then scratched the back of his head. “Today’s her last day, so I have to have ’em for three. We’re doing a little party.”

“How many?” Three o’clock. Damn. Okay. Maybe.

“Uh… two dozen? Is that possible?”

Oh. Oh, that was totally doable. “Yes. Yes, I can. Does she know if she’s having a boy or a girl?”

“God no, she’s gone on and on about ruining the surprise.” The guy chuckled. “These need to be really good cupcakes, so she remembers to come back to work.”

“I can do a dozen pink strawberry and a dozen polenta cupcakes with a blueberry frosting.”

“As long as a lady would think they’re pretty, it sounds great.” The man had an amazing smile, eyes crinkling up, teeth white in his tanned face.

“Okay. Okay, I’ll have them ready at 2:00 p.m. It’ll be a twenty-dollar deposit, please.” God. Okay. He’d be here late this afternoon making that birthday order for Mark and Wade, but it was a nice little bonus order.

“Oh, you rock. Seriously, you’re a lifesaver.” The guy pulled out his wallet and handed over a twenty.

“Thanks for stopping in. I’ll have your order ready at two.” Busy was good, right?

“Cool. Do I get a slip or anything?”

“Absolutely. Give me two shakes.” Lord, the man was making him stupid. He really needed to focus. “What’s the name on the ticket?”

“B. Banigan.”

“B. Banigan. I got it.” He wrote the receipt, then handed over a copy.

B’s fingers slid against his as he took the paper. “Cool. I’ll be back at two.”

“I’ll be here.” Allen’s fingers tingled, and he actually felt his belly get tight. God, he missed the days when Gary had connected with him like that. So bad.

B’s smile was warm and made the tight feeling stronger. “Me too.”

Then the man was heading for the door, offering a very fine view.

Allen rolled his eyes at himself. Christ, he was a giant dork. Seriously. He wasn’t in a place to even admire. Hell, he was finally in a spot where fantasizing didn’t make him cry. Still, if he was going to fantasize, Mr. B. Banigan was a good place to start.

Allen sighed, shrugged. Whatever. It was time to get to work, right? Make cupcakes, make joy for people.

He pushed B out of his mind and began.


IT WAS nearly three before Bit was able to leave the office to go get Josine’s cupcakes. He’d spent the day with her as she went through where she kept everything, where stuff was filed, how she paid the bills, and a million and one other things that she usually took care of for him.

They hadn’t been able to find an adequate temp to fill in for her while she was on maternity leave. So he was going to have to deal with it on his own. He was pretty sure he wasn’t going to survive.

Arriving at Sweet ’n’ Sassy just after three, he went in, the bell on the door announcing his arrival.

“We’re closed for the day, I’m sorry!” that soft, charming little voice rang out. “I’m just waiting for a customer to pick up.”

“That would be me. And I’m really sorry I’m late.” Man, he hadn’t realized they closed so early, or he’d have worked harder to be here at two.

“Oh, yay. I was worried. They’re all ready for you.” The lean guy came over, flour and frosting on his apron. God, the man was a poster child for adorable.

Bit grinned. “I was worried I’d be too late. I swear I don’t know what I’m going to do when she’s gone having her baby.” He licked his lips, more interested in the man at the moment than the cupcakes.

“You should find a temp or an intern, maybe.” The man’s eyes were on his mouth.

“I’ve tried temps, but none of them lived up to Josine’s standards. An intern might work….” God knew he needed someone, or he really wasn’t going to make it.

The man was still watching him intently. “I have a friend who’s a professor at the business school. I can ask him to contact you….”

“Really? That would be… damn, I’d appreciate that a lot.” He dug out his wallet and handed over one of his cards. “Banigan Construction, that’s me. B. Banigan” He grabbed a couple of twenties out next. “How much more do I owe you for the cupcakes?”

“Twenty-eight fifty.” Two royal-purple boxes were placed on the counter. “I do hope she enjoys them.”

“She will, and so will the heathens eating with her—my guys’ll eat pretty much anything you set in front of them. Thanks again….” He didn’t know this adorable, sexy man’s name.

“Allen. Allen Jameson.” Allen offered him a hand.

He shook it, taking a deep breath at the way his skin seemed to tingle where they touched. He held on longer than was polite, loathe to let go. “Nice to meet you,” he finally said, voice thick, his fingers still lingering.

“Thank you. I hope you enjoy the cupcakes.” He got a smile, and Allen’s bright-blue eyes danced for him. “I love repeat customers.”

“I can guarantee you I will be.” Whether or not the cupcakes were any good. He wanted to see Allen again.

Allen beamed. “Oh. Oh! Do you want to see them before you go?”

“Sure.” Anything to delay leaving.

The first box was filled with pink cupcakes with lovely white frosting and tiny pink hearts sprinkled over them. The second box had blue icing with little sculpted puppies on them.

“Oh, damn, look at that.” He was honestly tickled and impressed.

“I hope they’ll do.”

Do? They were amazing. “I thought I was getting cupcakes with icing. Instead, I got artwork—they’ll do.”

“Excellent.” Allen handed over a business card, the little thing a bright, shocking purple.

“It suits you,” Bit told him, grinning.

“I would hope so. I’m the whole thing. Chief cook and bottle washer.”

“It’s always good to meet a fellow business owner.”

“What do you do? Your company, I mean.”

“I own a construction company.” He’d have thought that was obvious, but if Allen was as flustered as he was feeling, that might be a good thing.

“Oh, that’s neat. My partner, Gary, used to be an architect.”

Oh, Allen was taken. Bit tried very hard not to let his disappointment show.

“Used to be?” he asked, trying to be polite.

“Gary passed away eighteen months ago.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Damn it, now he felt like an asshole, being jealous where he had no right to be and then finding out the man was dead on top of that.

“It was fast. He didn’t suffer.”

“That’s good.” He patted Allen’s hand awkwardly.

“Yeah. You’d better take your boxes before you miss your party.”

“My secretary’s party,” he corrected softly, though Josine was more an assistant than a secretary, with all she did for him. “You could come if you like.” He had no idea why he’d said that—it just popped out.

“Oh, that would be awkward, but that’s a nice offer, thank you. I… I have a few more orders to get done tonight, and tomorrow morning’s muffins made.”

“Okay, sure.” He grinned. “You would love Josine, though. Or at least she’d love you.” He chuckled and grabbed the boxes of cupcakes. “Thanks again. I’ll be back.”

“Please do. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee next time.” Allen’s cheeks were pink, and Bit could eat the man up.

“I’m going to hold you to that.” He almost said “See you tomorrow,” but didn’t. That didn’t mean he couldn’t show up tomorrow anyway, right?

Allen walked him to the tiny door. This had to be the smallest, most charming little bakery on earth with its two little tables, and Bit had the oddest urge to close the distance between him and Allen and kiss the man.

“It was nice to meet you.” Allen’s fingers brushed his arm.

“You too. See you soon.” He lingered a moment longer, then went out, carrying his boxes of cupcakes. He would definitely be back soon.

Author Bio:
Often referred to as "Space Cowboy" and "Gangsta of Love" while still striving for the moniker of "Maurice," Sean Michael spends his days surfing, smutting, organizing his immense gourd collection and fantasizing about one day retiring on a small secluded island peopled entirely by horseshoe crabs. While collecting vast amounts of vintage gay pulp novels and mood rings, Sean whiles away the hours between dropping the f-bomb and persuing the kama sutra by channeling the long lost spirit of John Wayne and singing along with the soundtrack to "Chicago."

A long-time writer of complicated haiku, currently Sean is attempting to learn the advanced arts of plate spinning and soap carving sex toys.

Barring any of that? He'll stick with writing his stories, thanks, and rubbing pretty bodies together to see if they spark.


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Blogger Review: Rebels at Heart by Kate McMurray

Summary:
Charles Foxworth is among New York City’s most fashionable men, though he is only pretending to be a dashing British aristocrat. Still, he is content with his role and has little interest in the war. His companion, Isaac Ward, has more invested in the coming conflict; Isaac was born a slave, and though he is now free, that freedom could be guaranteed if he chose to pick up arms. Then war arrives on the shores of the city and Charles’s idyll is over. He quickly realizes that the war could take from him the very thing he holds most dear: Isaac.

Originally part of the For Love & Liberty Anthology

Rebels at Heart ticked all my historical and romance boxes.  On the surface Charles is the poster boy for those who benefited by supporting the continuation of living under British rule but as we all know its not all about what one lets people see.  Isaac is one who would benefit the most by serving with the rebels, his current freedom would be guaranteed.  Charles and Isaac are so much more than the aristocrat and servant they show to the world and I absolutely loved their connection, it was real and honest even though no one else could ever be allowed to see it.  Rebels at Heart is a lovely novella that makes a wonderful quick read, not because there is little substance or the number of pages but because Charles and Isaac touched my heart and I couldn't wait to find out where Kate McMurray took them.  Sometimes it takes the threat of losing something or someone to make one jump into action and realize where you were meant to be all along.  Rebels is one of those tales where the story is not in knowing where it ends in general but the journey the readers are taken on as the characters arrive at said ending. A great little addition to my historical shelf.

RATING: 


“Pink, Mr. Foxworth?”

Charles looked down at his frock coat, carefully chosen for its fine weave and the pattern of embroidered irises climbing the edges of the lapels. The color was bright, yes, but didn’t strike him as being especially noteworthy, particularly in comparison to the rest of his wardrobe. Besides, ‘pink’ was such a pedestrian descriptor. The color was more like that of a rose at twilight.

“What of it?” Charles asked.

Isaac raised an eyebrow. “This color is a bit ostentatious, even for you. Last week’s ruffles were one thing, but—”

“I’ll have you know, Monsieur du Rochelle ordered this fabric especially for me from a little shop in London.”

“Yes, but perhaps we could limit ourselves to one affectation at a time. The coat is lovely, but paired with those breeches and the striped stockings, it is all a bit much, no?”

“It is perfect.”

Isaac let out an exasperated breath. He tugged on the lapels of the coat, forcing it to fit tightly across Charles’s shoulders.

“You are perhaps the worst valet a man ever had,” Charles said. “I should punish you for such insubordination.”

Isaac smoothed his hands down the front of the coat. “But you won’t.”

“Perhaps not.”

Isaac smiled slowly. “You seem to forget sometimes that I am not actually your servant.”

Charles smiled back. “You will never let me forget.”

Isaac took a step back and ran his gaze up and down Charles, as if he were admiring his own artwork. “You seem to forget, too, that we are at war. Perhaps a bit of austerity is in order.”

Charles waved his hand. “Austerity? Bah. Nay, the toll of war is perhaps an even greater reason to celebrate life. Do you not agree?”

Isaac did look skeptical, although he’d always dressed modestly. Presently, he wore a faded red waistcoat and shirtsleeves, and Charles knew he’d don the dull blue frock coat before they went outside. His clothes were usually plain, woolen things in somber colors. Isaac’s long, dark hair was pulled back from his smooth, brown face and tied with a simple black ribbon at the base of his neck; he never wore wigs or hair powder. He never wore any sort of ornamentation, save occasionally buckles on his shoes. And even now, he stared at Charles with those startling blue eyes of his and that seemed ornamentation enough.

“Do you think me excessive?” Charles asked, turning toward the mirror. “’Tis merely a dinner party at Colonel Bradon’s house I’m forced to attend. I suppose I could wear the green coat. Or the dark red one.”

Isaac gave Charles a half-smile. “You look fine, Mr. Foxworth.”

“You do think me foolish, though, I suspect.” Charles waved his hand dismissively. “No matter. I shall go attend the soirรฉe as my old ridiculous self, and all the ladies will wonder why I have not yet succumbed to the charms of matrimony, because isn’t my new coat just dear, and oh, you know how it is, sweet lady, I merely have yet to find the right woman to warm my heart.”

Isaac looked on while Charles nattered on with a frown on his face. “Charles, I know—”

“Oh, pish, ’tis fine for you to stand there frowning. You do not have to converse with these people.”

Isaac rolled his eyes and stepped forward. He ran his hands over Charles’s shoulders one last time, smoothing out any stray wrinkles or imperfections in the new coat. Charles relished the touch, the warmth of Isaac’s palms, even through all the fancy fabric. Charles liked the affectations, the fine clothes, the carefully cultivated mannerisms, but he liked being naked with Isaac as well, perhaps more so.

He ducked his head and pressed his lips against Isaac’s. Isaac sighed into his mouth and snaked those warm hands up the back of his neck to the edge of his wig.

Isaac pulled back. “I wish to run my fingers through your hair. Without the wig.”

“I know, darling. I wish that, too, but Colonel Bradon and obligation call.”

“You look fine, as always. A bit like a peacock, perhaps, but devastating in your charms, and so very handsome.”

Charles smiled. “Thank you, dearest Isaac. I do appreciate a compliment. You are looking quite rugged today. Perhaps you are a mere beaver hat away from throwing that musket over your shoulder and marching off to war without me.”

“I swore I would not.”

“Yes. I am glad for it. I know not quite what I would do without you.”

Isaac stepped back and crossed his arms over his chest. “You would have to put on your peacock-colored clothes all on your own, I expect.”

“Where would the joy be in that?”

“Indeed.”

Charles tugged on his coat and examined himself in the mirror. He looked passable. A bit tired. Perhaps the rose-colored coat was making his skin look a bit sallow. It was too late to worry about that, however, because he would be late if he dallied any longer.

No matter that he would rather spend the evening with Isaac than with Colonel Bradon and his band of merry Loyalists, even with the new coat.

Author Bio:
Kate McMurray is a nonfiction editor. Also, she is crafty (mostly knitting and sewing, but she also wields power tools), she plays the violin, and she dabbles in various other pursuits. She’s maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with a presumptuous cat.


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Release Blitz: Return to Ecstasy by Tina Donahue

Title: Return to Ecstasy
Author: Tina Donahue
Series: Her Master's Pleasure #1
Genre: BDSM, Erotic Paranormal Romance
Release Date: August 18, 2017
Summary:
A willing slave to possession, punishment, pleasure…

Dreams of a manor where submission and dominance once ruled draw Faith to hypnotherapist Colin Danes. Potently virile, he looks remarkably like her most cherished master from a past life. Desire smolders in his eyes, proving he’s never forgotten her.

Their carnal dance continues in the present and leads to their past when she was known as Eve. Through hypnotherapy, Colin brings her back to the Victorian era, a hidden estate where she eagerly submits to whatever he and her other noble masters crave. The exquisite discipline of the strap. Being bid on and mounted each night. Displayed and used for the enjoyment of all.

Most will take her. One will try to imprison her. Only he will be her true master in that life and this.


Eve was still bathing when he came for her. A man whose presence she’d frequently felt. A stranger who’d often rode past this cottage, his steed magnificent, a sorrel with a startling white mane and tail.

At those times, the man’s well-defined features, noble bearing, and the way he focused on her alone stood out. His gaze had lingered and possessed, warming her skin, calling to everything female within her, demanding her submission. She’d given it, not moving, scarcely drawing a breath, her work forgotten.

Nothing except him had mattered.

Not once had he spoken or made a demand. During his increasingly prolonged observations, he’d been content, or obliged, to do no more than look at her.

Now he held a rope in one gloved hand. The frayed ends swayed.

Eve’s belly fluttered.

He stepped past the doorway, his height requiring him to stoop to avoid striking his head. He wore no top hat. Snow dusted his dark hair and shoulders. His ankle-length cloak was quite luxurious, fine black wool lined with fur. His eveningwear included a dark coat cinched at the waist and trousers bearing the same shade. In color and purity, fresh milk couldn’t compete with his flawless white vest and cravat, tied perfectly about his throat.

He closed the door.

She suspected he wanted no interruption in what he intended to do.

He threw the bolt.

At the metal’s sharp clack and what would come, her pulse pounded fiercely.

The candles Mrs. Trumble had lit stopped flickering. The wind departed. A few stray snowflakes floated in the air.

The chill he’d brought inside didn’t register with Eve. Intense heat spread from her chest to her belly and cunt then to her neck. Her throat tightened. Even if she’d wanted to make a sound, she couldn’t have.

He stopped short of the tub.

His lushly lashed eyes were pure blue, more glorious than any sky.

He regarded her naked breasts. “Pull back your arms and arch your back. Present yourself to me.”

He stated his wishes quietly yet still commanded, his cultured voice smooth but also rough from arousal.

Unsteady with desire, Eve did as he wanted. She had no choice. She wanted none. With her back arched and her arms drawn back, she lifted her breasts in offering.

At a leisurely pace, he stared at the ripe globes and her taut nipples. He wandered from side to side. No angle pleased him for long.

Eve remained a silent, obedient witness to his brazen perusal. She craved and enjoyed the attention. Desire pulsed through her.

Her quick breaths caused Eve’s breasts to quiver. A small smile touched his sculpted lips.

A small smile touched his sculpted lips. He peered at what her bath hid from him: her legs and sex. The violet-scented water reflected the candles’ flames, the fire tinting it gold and orange. Those warm colors hardly matched the heat blazing within Eve.

He cleared his throat. “You know what to expect?”

Eve liked how his voice caught, his arousal evident. She nodded.

“All of it?”

She suspected not and shook her head.

Author Bio:
Tina Donahue is an Amazon and international bestselling novelist in erotic, paranormal, contemporary and historical romance for traditional publishers and indie. Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Romantic Times and numerous online sites have praised her work. She's won Readers' Choice Awards, RWA awards - Holt Medallion and NEC, and won a Book of the Year award. She’s featured in the Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. Before penning romances, she worked in Story Direction for a Hollywood production company.

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