Have you visited the Lovebird Cafe yet? Lemon Tarts & Stolen Hearts released yesterday and I’ve got an exclusive excerpt for you right here!
“Oh, hell no.” I ducked into the open doorway of my co-worker Haney’s office. Either my eyes were playing some nasty tricks on me or I’d just caught a glimpse of Misty Greene chatting up the admin at the front desk.
“Can I help you with something?” Haney shuffled some papers into a pile and set it on the corner of his desk.
“Yeah, um…” As I racked my brain, trying to come up with a plausible reason for darting into his office, I peered around the edge of the doorway.
Haney cleared his throat. “Everything okay?”
“Of course.” I straightened, turning to face him. “I wanted to make sure everything was on target for the fundraiser this weekend.”
“Nothing’s changed since you asked me about it an hour ago.” The old chair squeaked as he leaned back and clasped his hands behind his head. His office could have been lifted right out of the 60s. That was probably the last time the city had updated any of the furnishings.
“Great. Just making sure.” The sound of footsteps click-clacked on the tile in the hall, heading our way. I ducked behind the doorway.
“Jake?” A frown creased the middle of Haney’s forehead. “You sure you’re okay?”
“Shh. Don’t say my name.” My pulse thundered through my veins. I wasn’t prepared to see Misty. Not yet. Probably not ever. The last time I’d seen her she’d cut out my heart and left me sitting in our favorite booth at the Lovebird Café.
“What the heck is going on?” Haney leaned across his desk, craning his neck to look through the doorway.
I waved my arm, motioning him to sit down. “It’s Misty. She’s back.”
“Shh. She’ll hear you.”
“Haney, is that you?” Misty stepped into Haney’s office. She only stood about five-foot-five, even in heels, but her presence filled the doorway. Sucked all of the life out of the room and all of the breath right out of my lungs.
“Well hi, Misty. What brings you back to town?” Haney stepped around the desk and offered her an awkward half-hug.
She hugged him back. “Just back for a quick visit.”
I tried to disappear, fade into the peach-colored cinderblock wall. My feet wouldn’t move. I knew I’d run into her eventually. Her parents still lived in town. Of course she’d come back at some point. But I figured by then I’d have moved on, started a life with someone else. Someone who looked nothing like the woman who’d shot me down and hulled out my chest cavity.
She pulled back first. “It’s nice to see you, Haney.”
“Nice to see you, too.”
Then she turned her gaze on me. “Jake.”
“Misty.” As I forced her name through my lips my voice cracked.
The edges of her eyes softened, just like they had the last time we’d been together. When she thought she was letting me down easy.
“So…” Haney rocked back on his heels.
Heavy silence shrouded the room. I wouldn’t speak first. Didn’t want to give her the satisfaction.
“How have you been?” Misty asked.
“Fine. I mean, great. Yeah, I’ve been doing fantastic.” The lie spun out before I had a chance to consider my response.
“Good. I’m really happy to hear that.”
Damn, why did she have to look so good? Her long, dark hair fell around her face in waves. Bright-blue eyes peered up at me through those thick, dark lashes. And her lips. Rosy red, and plump as a ripe strawberry, just begging to be kissed.
“How about you? What have you been up to?” I didn’t want to know. Didn’t want to hear about her new life in Omaha—the life she had to have.
“Things have been, well, good. I got a promotion.”
“Uh, congratulations,” Haney offered.
I’d forgotten he was even in the room. Misty had that effect on me. Or at least she used to. Those days were over though. Like hell I’d let her see how she still made my heart rev.
“I brought you something.” She held out a plate wrapped in cellophane, tied up with a sparkly red bow.
My mouth watered at the sight of the platter she held in her hands. I hadn’t had a taste of her mama’s lemon tarts since Misty moved away. But it would take more than a plate of sweets to make up for the way she left things. “No thanks.”
She looked down at the platter, her tentative smile turning into a frown. “They used to be your favorite.”
“Yeah, well, things have changed around here since you left.” My heart seized. I couldn’t believe those words had come out of my mouth. She might have broken my heart, wrenched it right out of my chest, but I couldn’t stand to be the reason for her frown.
“I was hoping we could talk.” She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, suddenly not so sure of herself.
Haney prodded me with his eyes, glancing back and forth from me to Misty. I shook my head.
“Thanks for stopping by, but I’m really busy.” I slid my hands into the pockets of my jeans, doing my best to appear unaffected by her sudden appearance.
“Maybe tonight then?” The way her lower lip caught on her teeth, making her look so unsure, so vulnerable, made me want to pull her into my arms. But she’d played me before like a fucking fiddle, and I wasn’t about to let her get to me again.
“Wish I could, but Haney and I have plans.”
“We do?” Haney asked.
“Yeah, happy hour at the Dive Inn, right?” He’d been asking me to join him for the weekly Wednesday night happy hour for weeks. Karaoke had never been my style, so up until now I’d declined.
“Oh, right.” Haney nodded, apparently catching on.
Misty tilted her head, assessing me with those blue eyes that could go from warm and welcoming to frosty as an Alaskan iceberg. Right now they lingered somewhere in between. “Maybe I’ll see you there.”
“Oh, it’s guys’ night,” I said.
“Not really.” Haney shrugged. “We’d love to have you stop by.”
My jaw clenched. Why did I get stuck with such a moron for a friend?
“Great. I’ll see you later on tonight.” Misty made a move toward the doorway. Before she reached it, she turned back. “Say, Haney, do you want some lemon tarts?”
I tried to catch his eye before he reached for the platter. “Thanks, Misty.”
“You’re welcome. I sure hope you enjoy them as much as Jake used to.”
My mouth watered, anticipating the tang of lemon nestled into the perfect shortbread crust as she made her way down the hall. Her hips swayed from side to side in the clingy dress she had on. Reminded me of days gone by when the sight of her sashaying away would drive me to catch up to her, dip her into a deep, slow kiss, and run my hands all over those soft curves. No more. I waited until she disappeared through the double glass doors, wanting to make sure she was really gone.
“Give me one of those.” I reached for the platter as Haney snatched it away. He’d already slipped one of the tiny tarts into his mouth.
“These are really good,” he said, trying to talk around a mouthful of what should have been my lemon tart.
“I know they’re good. Give me one.”
“You didn’t want them. She gave them to me.” He stepped behind his desk and set the platter on the credenza behind him.
“Fine. I didn’t want one anyway.”
I could tell he didn’t believe me, but I didn’t care. As long as I’d made it clear to Misty that her tarts had no hold over me anymore, that’s all that mattered.
Except they did.
So did she.
And she knew it.
“See you later, Haney.” I had work to do. Work that went beyond stuffing down any lingering feelings I might harbor for Misty Greene.
“Want to head over to the Dive Inn around six?” Haney asked.
The Dive Inn. Dammit. I had no intention of wallowing in my beer tonight while I tried to figure out what brought Misty back to town. Haney would have to handle the wild karaoke crowd on his own. “Maybe next time. I feel a headache coming on.”
A headache that stood about five-foot-two with pouty red lips and curves that went on forever.
Copyright 2019 – Dylann Crush, Tickled Pinkest Publishing
Lemon Tarts & Stolen Hearts is only available in e-book as part of the Sweetest Obsessions box set. It’s on sale through Sunday for only $.99 and you’ll get 20+ other stories from some fabulous authors! Snag it from your favorite retailer right here!
To learn more about the Lovebird Cafe series, click here.