Baked With Love 3 (The Boardwalk Bakery Romance) - Excerpt


Chapter 1


Beep. Beep. Beeeep.
The high-pitched, constant noise emanating from the monitors and other various machines hooked up to Gemma was enough to send a sane person over the edge.
Beep. Beep. Beeeep.
Gianna sat in the room alone with her for well over two hours now, absorbing this earsplitting noise but not getting used to it. At least Gemma was stable again – much better than she’d been on Ramsey’s living room couch – and while she was grateful for that, she wasn’t happy about the inability to get any of her questions answered by the hospital staff. Why was Gemma’s temperature so elevated in the first place? It was a hundred and three degrees. Did she have an infection? Was this cancer-related? And when was her sister actually going to get a more comfortable patient room? They were still in the ER Department – in a tiny, matchbox room with a small patient bed and one raggedy, uncomfortable chair. It may as well have been a prison cell. But, at least Gemma was stable, right?
Gianna stood up from the uncomfortable black chair, stretched and popped her achy joints. She leaned over her sister leaving a gentle kiss on her forehead.
“I love you, babygirl,” she said, proud of herself for being able to say it without falling to pieces. She’d done that enough on the ambulance ride over while watching the paramedics work quickly to stabilize Gemma and bring her fever down.
Seemed like everything had happened in the blink of an eye…
One minute she was having the time of her life baking cupcakes with Ramsey, followed by a delightful morning of enjoying breakfast with him and his brothers. The next minute, Gemma had fainted. And Gianna found herself in the back of an ambulance with Gemma on the way to the hospital.
Now, they were held up in this tiny room, listening to torturous beeps of machines and whatnot that did nothing to ease a person’s nerves.
Gianna sighed. She wondered where Ramsey was. He was downright furious that the emergency medical technicians wouldn’t allow him to ride in the ambulance.
Allow him…
Knowing him the way she did, people didn’t allow him to do anything. He just did it, but the medical technicians had put their foot down and told him he couldn’t make the ride with her. She’d never seen him so angry, but she’d seen it this morning. He even threatened to hijack the ambulance and drive it to the hospital himself and he probably would have if his brothers had not restrained him, and it had taken all three of them to do so. Gianna had even assured him that she would be fine, but that still wasn’t enough to calm him down. Now, she had no way of contacting him to let him know she was okay. She was sure he was in the waiting room, probably fuming. In the haste to get to the hospital, she left her purse, cell phone – she left everything behind – and this excuse for a room didn’t come with a phone.
Gianna sighed and blew a frustrating breath. She could walk down to the waiting room and give Ramsey an update, but she didn’t want to leave Gemma’s side. She couldn’t. She’d just have to see him whenever Gemma was assigned to a patient room and could actually have visitors. For now, it was all about Gemma and getting her better.
She left another kiss on Gemma’s cheek then was going to sit down when she heard a disturbance in the hallway. That ruckus was Ramsey’s voice in an uproar yelling, “Fine! I’ll tear this whole hospital apart, brick-by-brick to find my wife! You don’t have to tell me where she is. I’ll find her myself. Gianna!”
One of the nurses tried to calm him down by saying mildly, “You’ll need to wait in the waiting area and then—”
“I’m done waiting! Done! I’ve been waiting, and I haven’t received an update on anything,” he said roaming the halls, taking it upon himself to find Gianna by glancing into every patient room as he walked by them, one-by-one. “Gianna! Where are you, baby?”
“Sir, if you do not return to the waiting room, I’m going to have to call security.”
“Call security!” Ramsey urged, “Because you gon’ need security if I can’t locate my wife. Gianna!” He took a few more steps and saw Gianna step out into the hallway.
“Ramsey?” Gianna saw the anguish, the disturbance, the panic in his stormy gaze when he caught sight of her. He walked quickly to get to her – to embrace her and hold her tight to his chest.
“Oh, Gianna, baby,” he uttered in a sigh of relief as he cradled her head into his palms. “I was going to tear this place apart looking for you.”
And then after the thunderous pounding of his heartbeats eased up a little, he looked at her analyzing her face, the puffiness beneath her eyes and the worry that had stolen her happiness. “Talk to me. What’s going on? How is Gemma?”
Gianna stared into his eyes when she replied, “They stabilized her and gave her some pain medicine.”
“Do you know what kind?”
“Morphine for now.”
“Okay. How are you?” he asked with concern in his eyes.
“I’m okay,” she said nasally. “I’m all cried out, Ramsey. I’m trying my best to be strong for her.”
Ramsey kissed her gently on the forehead. “Yes. You need to be strong for her.”
“But they’re not telling me anything, Ramsey. We’ve been here for over two hours and I still don’t know why Gemma’s temperature was so high.”
Ramsey’s eyebrows raised. “Have you even seen a doctor in here yet?”
“No, just a nurse and she’s not saying much of anything.”
“Okay. Don’t worry. I’ll get some answers for you. Go sit with Gemma,” Ramsey said peeping in the room to see Gemma lying in bed. “I’ma go down here and shake some things up. Be right back.”
Ramsey, already fuming from his first interaction with the hospital staff, grew even more irritated as he approached the nurse’s station. It was around the same time that he saw a security guard heading his way. Unfazed, he asked the first nurse who caught his gaze, “Who’s assigned to Gemma Jacobson?”
“Sir, we’ve already informed Gemma’s sister, Gianna, that the nurse assigned to Gemma has a heavy patient load at this time.”
“That sounds like an administrative problem. Why does my sister-in-law have to suffer because of this hospital inadequacies?”
The nurse seemed to be growing irritated. “Well, that’s the best we can do at the moment, unfortunately.”
“That’s unacceptable,” Ramsey scowled. “I need to speak with someone in charge. Now.”
“I’m the charge nurse on this floor,” that same nurse said.
Angrily, Ramsey hissed off her assertion. “You can’t be the charge nurse because you’re not doing anything but standing here throwing out a title but no one is taking care of my sister-in-law. If you’re a charge nurse, how about you take charge and do your job!”
“Is there a problem here?” the security officer asked.
Ramsey sized the guy up, and that didn’t take long at all. The man looked like someone’s grandpa and he couldn’t even stand up straight. He looked about five-feet-five. Maybe he’d appear taller if he wasn’t bent over. And that’s who they hired to be a security officer…
 “Yes, there is a problem,” Ramsey told him, “And I have no desire to relate it, yet again, to another person incapable of doing anything about it! Where’s the floor manager? Director? Get me somebody who can yield some results and answer my questions!”
“Sir, you need to lower your voice,” the security officer said.
“And you need to step back off of me,” Ramsey said, looking down at the man. “Don’t walk up on me like that, man.”
Palms out, the security officer said, “I’m not, but you need to calm down or I’ll have to call the police down here.”
“Well, you do what you have to do, and I’ll do what I need to do for my sister-in-law.” Ramsey stepped away from the nurse’s station hissing, “This subpar hospital should be shut down, anyway.” He called Carson as he headed down the hallway, defiant to the nurse’s and the security officer’s instructions.
“How is she, Sir?” Carson asked as soon as he answered the phone.
“She’ll be a lot better once I get her out of this dump. I need you to find the nearest hospital that’s four stars or better.”
“Okay, Sir. I’m on it.”
Ramsey glanced up at the nurse’s station, shook his head and turned to continue down the hallway to Gemma’s room. That’s when he saw a doctor walk into her room prompting him to pick up his pace to get there. Maybe now, he could finally get some answers.
As soon as he entered the room, he interrupted what the doctor was saying, making his presence known. “Hi. I’m Ramsey St. Claire.”
“And you are...?” the doctor asked Ramsey, peeping up from the top of his glasses.
“He’s my husband,” Gianna answered before Ramsey could say a word.
Ramsey looked at her. He’d never heard her refer to him as her husband before. Their gazes held for a moment as they silently reflected on this collectively, but their stares were quickly interrupted by the doctor introducing himself to Ramsey by saying, “I’m Dr. Tolbert, attending emergency room physician this morning.” He extended his hand to shake Ramsey’s.
After accepting the brief handshake, Ramsey said, “Dr. Tolbert, I had to commandeer my way back here after sitting in the waiting room for two hours. My wife said Gemma is supposed to be admitted, yet she’s still down here in the ER Department. We need some answers and we need them now.”
“Okay,” Dr. Tolbert said. “I’m the man with the answers, Mr. St. Claire.”
“Do you know the cause of Gemma’s temperature spike?” Gianna asked.
Ramsey took a few steps to stand next to Gianna, taking her hand inside of his.
The doctor blew a breath of frustration looked at the papers on the clipboard he was holding and said, “Gemma has pneumonia.
“Pneumonia?” Ramsey asked, frowning.
“Yes, Sir.”
“But Gianna just took her to the doctor. Nobody said anything about pneumonia, right Gianna?”
“Right. I mean, I did notice she had a cough but shouldn’t the doctor have known she had something as serious and as deadly as pneumonia?”
“In my professional opinion, yes, but let me be honest with you—pneumonia is difficult to detect with lung cancer patients. I’m not defending her doctor. I’m just stating facts here.”
“It’s difficult to detect, but yet, you detected it,” Ramsey said.
“Yes. Because of her elevated temperature, I performed a chest X-ray.”
Ramsey looked at Gianna and asked, “Did Gemma’s regular doctor not do a chest X-ray?”
“No, he didn’t. I guess I should’ve known to ask—”
“No, you’re not blaming yourself for this, baby,” Ramsey told her. “You’re not a doctor.”
“Who does Gemma normally see?” Dr. Tolbert asked.
“Dr. Willoughby,” Gianna answered.
Ramsey’s brows nearly snapped together when he recalled the name from prior conversations he’d had with Gianna about Gemma’s condition.  Dr. Willoughby was the same doctor who failed to mention anything about surgery and other treatment options for Gemma, further confirmation that he only offered her what he thought she could afford – not what he knew could save her life. Leandra’s doctor followed the same protocol.
“So, what now Dr. Tolbert?” Ramsey asked.
“Well, we can treat the pneumonia with intravenous antibiotics. The nurse will be in here shortly to switch out IV bags. As for the cancer—”
“She has an appointment a week from today at the cancer center in Atlanta,” Gianna said. “She needs to be there, doctor.”
“Yes,” Ramsey said. “Those appointments are hard to come by as I’m sure you’re already aware.”
The doctor nodded in agreement. “In that case, we’ll treat her here for a week and I will personally coordinate efforts with her doctor at the cancer center. Has she had an initial consultation yet or will this visit be the actual intake?”
“The visit is for the consultation,” Ramsey answered. “According to their website, they will not admit any patients who haven’t had an initial consultation.”
“Okay. I know a few of the staff there. I’ll put in a word for her to get admitted right away, only with your permission, of course.”
Gianna’s eyes brightened. “You can do that?”
“I can, and I will,” Dr. Tolbert answered. “I heard you out there talking to those nurses, Mr. St. Claire, and honestly, Sir, things could and should be more efficient around here. I can’t go too much above the norm without getting ‘red flagged’, but I will make sure Gemma’s transition to the cancer center is a smooth one. Also, I’ll see to it that she’s assigned a room here for the short term. Give me fifteen minutes, okay?”
“Okay. I appreciate it, Dr. Tolbert,” Ramsey said then shook the doctor’s hand again before he left the room. Ramsey pulled Gianna into his arms once more and breathed a sigh of relief. “Everything’s going to be okay now, baby. It has to be.”
“I know. I’m just so scared, Ramsey.”
“Don’t be, baby. I got you,” he said, brushing his thumbs across her soft cheeks. “I got you.”



* * *

Read the Book Description.

Buy The Book: Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble Nook | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Kobo | Scribd | Smashwords

Paperback: Amazon Paperback


*The Boardwalk Bakery Series is a three-part continuation series. You must read these books in order.

Book 1 - Baked With Love
Book 2 - Baked With Love 2
Book 3 - Baked With Love 3

Baked With Love 3 (The Boardwalk Bakery Romance) - Book Description

Baked With Love 3
The Boardwalk Bakery Romance
Finale

Setting: Lake Norman, North Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia

Description:

What do you do when you like someone...like REALLY like someone, but the timing is all wrong...?

Gemma has always been Gianna's chief priority, but now Gianna feels guilty for allowing her involvement with Ramsey to come between her close bond with her sister. Drowning amidst her own internal conflicts with her mother whom she resents so much while continuously caring for her ill sister, Gianna doesn't know what happiness is anymore. Scratch that. She does! She's found happiness with Ramsey. She likes being with him, and he seems to enjoy being with her. But how on earth is she supposed to give her heart to, and fall in love with, a man whom she knows can't love her back? She knew he was looking for companionship from the beginning - not love. Why would a man who can have anything he wants, any woman he wants, tie himself down to her? Yeah, definitely not love.

But what if...

What if Ramsey St. Claire can finally face his past and come to terms with losing Leandra? Will that free up his heart for endless possibilities with Leandra? He can't very well move on into a new relationship with Gianna when he's still holding on to the past, can he? If he's still harboring deep-rooted pain? Still grieving after fifteen years? He's a man - a smart, alpha. He realizes that he must let go of Leandra if his relationship with Gianna has any chance of survival. But knowing and doing are two completely different things. Besides, maybe he can string Gianna along long enough for her to accept their relationship for what it is - mere companionship.

Nah, he couldn't do that to the sweet, cupcake lady, could he?


* * *
Amazon Top 100 Bestseller in Literature & Fiction/African-American Romance Category

Read the Chapter One.

Buy The Book: Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble Nook | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Kobo | Scribd | Smashwords

Paperback: Amazon Paperback

International:

*The Boardwalk Bakery Series is a three-part continuation series. You must read these books in order.

Book 1 - Baked With Love

Baked With Love 2 (The Boardwalk Bakery Romance) - Excerpt


Chapter 1


“Why aren’t you answering your phone, Gianna?” Ramsey asked the question as he sat in his Range in the parking lot of the building that housed Wedded Bliss. While still in Charlotte, he wanted to see Gianna before he drove back home to Lake Norman, but she wasn’t answering her phone and he was growing more anxious. More worried. Why? Because she had the appointment with Gemma’s doctor today that would determine if Gemma’s first round of chemotherapy had worked. He wanted to know if it did or didn’t. Hopefully, it did. Then he’d at least know she was on the path to beating this thing and if she came out a winner, then so would Gianna. But what if it hadn’t worked?
He sighed heavily and tapped his thumbs on the steering wheel. Should he drive to her house and wait there? No. Gianna wouldn’t like that. What about call every oncology doctor in Charlotte until he found the office where she’d taken Gemma? That was absurd, but he was giving it serious consideration. He had to find Gianna somehow.
He blew a breath, leaned forward and rested his forehead on the car’s steering wheel.   He could shut off the engine, get out of the car and go back to Felicity’s office. She would know the name of Gemma’s doctor. But he’d rattled Felicity’s nerves so bad, she probably couldn’t take much more of him today. He came at her pretty strong with his proposal – with his insistence that she do her best to get Gianna to sign the papers. He could see the smoke coming out of her ears now if he stepped a foot back into her office.
He sat up and reclined in his seat. Maybe Gianna just didn’t want to talk right now. She was in big sister mode, taking care of Gemma. She needed to concentrate, right? Needed to focus. To pay attention to the doctor’s every word so she would know how to properly take care of Gemma when they returned home. But he needed to know that everything was okay. He was so desperate, he even considered sending a text message. Everyone who knew Ramsey knew he abhorred texting. He’d rather read an email than a text. He was an in-your-face kinda guy, and if for some reason you couldn’t be in his face, a phone call would suffice. But text messages? No way. But maybe texting was her thing – the way introverts preferred to communicate. He wondered if she would reply to a message if he’d sent one. Then again, if he sent her a message and she didn’t reply, he’d feel even more anxious.
He was stuck, but while he was waiting in limbo, he decided to make the best use of his time. So, he turned up the air conditioning a little, pulled in a few breaths and pressed the phone button on the steering wheel and said, “Call Judy Keffer.”
Ramsey listened to the phone ring, then heard Judy’s voice. “Good afternoon, Mr. St. Claire.”
“Judy, hi. How are you?”
“Good, Sir.”
Her voice was clear and professional. That’s what he liked about having Judy as his secretary. She was efficient and did her job the way he liked it done. But sometimes he didn’t like the way she shied away from telling him certain things, like if an email needed to be answered immediately, or if she had to be out of the office for a few hours to deal with some personal issues.
“How is everything at the office?” he asked.
“It’s going okay,” she said. “I flagged you on a few key emails that need your immediate attention.”
“Good. I’ll check into those when I get home. Right now, I need you to do something for me.”
“Of course, Sir.”
Looking at the photos he’d taken of Gianna’s bills on his phone, he said, “I need a good contact for a company called Queen City Properties, and by good contact, I mean the head person in charge.”
“Sure, thing. I’ll see what I can find. Do you want me to email it to you later today?”
“No. Actually, I need it right now.”
“Oh,” she said, sounding surprised. “O-kay, Mr. St. Claire. Just give me a moment. Would you like for me to place you on hold while I type?”
“No,” Ramsey said, listening as her fingers worked the keyboard.
“Ah…here we go,” Judy said. “The owner’s name is Dustin Claiborne. His number is 704-555-2009.”
“Can you repeat that?” he asked, taking a silver pen from his suit jacket. As she repeated the number, he scribbled it on the back of the most recent copy of Architectural Digest that he’d taken from the passenger seat.
“Perfect. Also, I need a number for Pinnacle Funding?”
Judy quickly looked it up, then called out that number as well.
“Thank you. I appreciate it, Judy.”
“You’re welcome, Sir. And—”
Ramsey was about to hang up when he heard her say and. “Was there anything further, Judy?”
“Yes. Actually, there is. I have a question.”
“Okay. What is it?”
“You’re off this month,” she said.
“That’s not a question, but yes, I am.”
“And I’m your secretary.”
“Judy, get to the point. What’s your question?”
“I was wondering if—if I could work from home a few days a week until you’re back. It would be nice to have some flexibility with the kids and—”
“You can work at home as much as you like, Judy, but if I have the slightest feeling that the quality of your work is diminished by your not being present in the office, I will ask you to work from the office.”
“No worries, Sir. I’ll stay on top of everything.”
“See to it that you do. Now, is there anything else?”
“No, Sir.”
“Alright. Enjoy the rest of your day.”
“You do the same, Sir.”
Ramsey ended the call then immediately dialed Dustin Claiborne of Queen City Properties.
“Queen City Properties. This is Dustin.”
The man had the heaviest, countriest accent Ramsey had ever heard. It always baffled him how big city people – and Charlotte was a big city – had the accent of someone from a country backwoods town – town people have never heard of before like Colerain, North Carolina. “Good morning, Dustin. This is Ramsey St. Claire.”
“Oh. What can I do for you, Mr. St. Claire?”
Ramsey could hear the recognition in the man’s voice. While he was sure Dustin didn’t know him personally, it was apparent to him that Dustin had heard of St. Claire Architects. Maybe he’d read about them. St. Claire Architects was a big deal in Charlotte.
“I want to inquire about a property you’ve leased out at the Shoppes at University Place. The—”
“You mean out there at the boardwalk?” Dustin interrupted to ask.
“Yes. That area.”
“I got a slew of properties out there. Which one are you interested in?”
If you would allow me to finish talking, I’d tell you. “The Boardwalk Bakery.”
After a slight chuckle, Dustin responded, “Well, ain’t that a co-inky-dinky. If you’re interested in that space, it’ll be up for grabs real soon, partner. I’m putting the owner out on her tush as soon as the thirty-first rolls around. She’s late on the lease. Apparently, she ain’t selling enough cupcakes.” Dustin chuckled.
Ramsey’s jaw hardened. It’s a good thing he was talking to country Dustin over the phone because if this was a face-to-face meeting, he’d put hands on the man. Even now, he tried to let the comment roll off of his back and if the comment was made about him, he probably would have. But Dustin was talking about his Cupcake and he couldn’t let that ride. “Any, what’s so funny, man?”
“Oh, just a little humor. I didn’t mean nothing by it.”
“You’re actually laughing at someone else’s misfortune?”
“Whoa, Mr. St. Claire…I think we’re getting off on the wrong foot here, buddy.”
“I’m not your buddy and my feet are fine. It’s your feet that are crossing over into territory where it doesn’t belong.”
“My apologies, Sir. Sometimes I go off on a tangent. I get that way when tenants don’t pay their rent on time.”
Ramsey didn’t want to give him a cent. Not one copper penny. But he knew how much Gianna liked this location and besides that, the boardwalk was prime real estate for businesses. So, swallowing his irritation, he asked, “When does the lease expire?”
“Well, it’s supposed to expire at the end of the year, but I’m not sure if it’ll go that far seeing as how the property is two months behind on the lease.
“Two months behind…” Ramsey repeated.
“Yes, Sir.”
“Okay, here’s what I want.”
“Yes, Sir. I’m listening.”
“I want to pay off the current balance and renew the contract for the next ten years.”
“You say what now?”
Ramsey frowned so hard, his forehead tightened. “I said, I want to pay off the current balance and renew the contract for the next ten years.”
The man chuckled. “I admire your ambition, Mr. St. Claire, but we only offer five-year leases. Not ten, and I’m sure you know why. In ten years, the lease could increase on a property by ten percent. Maybe even fifteen.”
“Yeah, it could, but that’s no guarantee.”
“Well, I don’t know if I’m willing to take that gamble. I’d be short changing myself if I locked this property in for ten years. Five years is all I can offer you.”
“Maybe I didn’t make myself clear,” Ramsey said. “I want to lock in the lease for ten years. I’ll pay you the $120,000 today, in addition to the past due amount of $2,100.”
Dustin chuckled. “Ten years it is, then!”
That’s what I thought. “Have the new lease dropped off at St. Claire Architects.”
“Over there on IBM drive?”
“Yes. I won’t be there, so ask for Regal St. Claire when you get to the receptionist’s desk.”
“Sounds good to me. I’ll be there before five, Sir.”
I bet you will. “And there’s no need to notify the owner of the lease update. I’ve already taken care of that.” Actually, he hadn’t but he would.
“Alright, Mr. St. Claire. Nice doing business with you, Sir.”
Whatever, moron. “Yep.” Ramsey hung up the phone and immediately voice-called Regal.
“What’s up, Ram?”
“Hey, FYI. Dustin Claiborne from Queen City Properties is going to stop by there today.”
“Why?” Regal asked. The name didn’t ring a bell.
“To pick up a check for $122,100.”
“What business do we have with Queen City Properties?”
We don’t. I do. It’s for Gianna’s bakery.”
“Whoa. You’re investing in this chick now?”
Ramsey smiled. “I am. I need you to cut the check for me since I’m not coming over there today.”
“No problem. I got it handled, but dang, Ram. You’re going all-in for this girl, huh?”
“It’s only money, Regal. It’s not like it’ll set me back any. Even if it did, I’d still do it. For her, anyway. She’s worth it. She’s worth a lot more.”
“What’s the latest with that Wedded Bliss situation? Did you talk to Gianna’s friend yet? What’s her name? Felicity, was it?”
“Yes, and I did talk to her but I didn’t go your route of trying to juice her for information. I told her to convince Gianna to sign the marriage agreement.”
“What!”
Ramsey grinned. He thought his brother would find that interesting. He didn’t expect that he’d pop a blood vessel. “You want to marry her?”
“Yes. I want to marry her. It’s the perfect arrangement, don’t you think? You can’t tell me that these individual happenings are coincidences. On a whim, I sign up for Wedded Bliss. Without even knowing why I walk into The Boardwalk Bakery. The owner of Wedded Bliss and the owner of The Boardwalk Bakery are best friends. These occurrences all came together for me and Gianna, and I was going to marry someone anyway. I had given up hope of meeting anyone who could actually mean something to me. Then she comes along…”
“I hear you man, but you’re forgetting the reason you joined Wedded Bliss in the first place. You were looking for a woman who would fulfill the roles of a wife in your life, yet remain distant enough that you could never love her. Is that what Gianna is?”
Ramsey closed his eyes briefly. “I can’t tell you what Gianna is right now.”
“Then why do you want to marry her? I get it—you have this weird fascination with her, but you’re taking it a step further with marriage, especially if you don’t think you could fall in love with her. Be real with yourself, Ram. Does she have a chance? And ask yourself if you’re willing to break her heart all because you need to fill a void.”
“I know what I’m doing, Regal.”
Regal sighed. For once, he doubted that statement. There’s no way he would fall head over heels in love with Gianna when he’d been insistent that he would never fall in love again. Now, he was making plans to marry a woman whom he really didn’t know and he knew what he was doing? “What if Gianna declines your request? What will you do then? Go back to Wedded Bliss and handpick some other woman?”
“No, I won’t handpick another woman. I just have to make sure Gianna doesn’t decline my offer. I’ll talk more about it with you later. I have to make another call right now, Regal.”
“Okay, Ram. I’ll catch up with you later.”


Ramsey pressed the button to end the call, thinking about what Regal had said. What if Gianna didn’t go along with his plan? He told Felicity to lay out the details to her on Friday which meant he had all day today, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to make Gianna realize how much she needed him. He was fully aware of his need for her.

* * *

Read the Book Description.

Buy The Book: Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble Nook | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Kobo | Scribd | Smashwords

Paperback: Amazon Paperback

International:


*The Boardwalk Bakery Series is a three-part continuation series. You must read these books in order.

Book 1 - Baked With Love
Book 2 - Baked With Love 2 

Baked With Love 2 (The Boardwalk Bakery Romance) - Book Description


Baked With Love 2
The Boardwalk Bakery Romance

Setting: Charlotte, North Carolina; Lake Norman, North Carolina

Book Description:

Ramsey knows what he wants. He wants the cupcake lady…

Ramsey does his best to condition Gianna before Felicity, owner of Wedded Bliss, presents Gianna with his offer of marriage. Ramsey wants Gianna more than he wants his next million. He can’t see himself without her and would do whatever it takes to make sure she’s eventually his. But is he moving too fast for a woman who likes to take things slow? She has no experience with relationships. He’s hoping to change all that.

Gianna is still confused as to why a man like Ramsey St. Claire has set his sights on her. Whatever the case, she doesn’t have time to devote to him – no, not when she has Gemma to worry about. Still, she can’t help but love the way her stomach flutters whenever Ramsey is within a few feet of her. Whenever their eyes connect. Whenever she sees that brilliant, sexy smile of his. For the first time in her life, she actually likes a man and is experiencing all the tingly, pulse-racing sensations that come along with it. But is she ready for a permanent attachment to a man she hardly knows?



*The Boardwalk Bakery Series is a three-part continuation series. You must read these books in order.

Book 1 - Baked With Love
Book 2 - Baked With Love 2 

Baked With Love (The Boardwalk Bakery Romance) - Excerpt


Chapter 1


Gianna removed a fresh batch of vanilla cupcakes from the oven and placed them next to the others to cool in preparation for the next step – frosting. In the meantime, she slid in another batch. Lemon this time, her tenth batch of the morning.
“Shrew,” she said as the oven’s heat slapped her in the face. She closed the oven door and fanned flour dust away from her immediate space. It was a useless gesture. The kitchen in her bakery looked like flour-mageddon. A disaster. The equivalent of a man who couldn’t cook tearing up his wife’s kitchen. She grinned to herself thinking of how brutal men were in the kitchen – in anyone’s kitchen – but today, she was no better than a non-cooking male. Her black apron was covered with the dusty, white stuff as well as her black, no-slip, off-brand shoes. And why on earth did she buy black aprons over white ones? She couldn’t recall a specific reason. Maybe they were on sale or something. Most likely, that was the reason. With her budget, all she could afford was sale items. Whatever the case, black aprons in a bakery just didn’t make much sense. Maybe in some upscale, fancy restaurant, but definitely not a bakery. At least not her bakery.
Gianna coughed. Fanning, again. The Boardwalk Bakery – with its pastel pink walls and ten black, tables with four chairs to each – didn’t see much action in the mornings. It wasn’t until noon that the place started jumping with customers looking to fulfill their cravings for early afternoon sugar – something to help them make it through the rest of the day on their stuffy, corporate jobs. Gianna was accustomed to the routine. It gave her time in the mornings to prepare for the midday rush, especially since the early risers who wandered through her doors only wanted coffee. Did people not eat cupcakes in the morning? Probably not since they were considered a dessert and not morning breakfast pastries. With that being the case why was she consistently opening at 9:00 a.m.? Just to sell ten cups of coffee? It was hardly worth the effort.
Maybe I should only open in the afternoons, she considered, chewing on her bottom lip as she did so. But that still meant she’d have to come to the bakery early to prepare, so—
When her cell phone rang, she ran to the back office – the only office in the bakery – to retrieve it, recognizing her sister Gemma’s upbeat ringtone. Gemma was the only contact in her phone with an assigned ringtone. That was one way to ensure that she’d never miss a call from Gemma.
“Hey, Gem. I’ve been waiting for your call. How’d it go?” Gianna asked, heaving. Coughing.
“Gianna, why do you sound like you’re out of breath?” Gemma asked.
“Because I am out of breath. When I heard the phone, I ran to the office to get it. Plus, there’s so much flour floating around in the air, I feel like I’m trapped in a snow globe. It’s all up in my lungs,” she said, fanning.
“Why don’t you crack open a door or something?”
Gianna chuckled. “It’s flour, Gemma. Not smoke.”
“Laugh now, die of flour inhalation later.”
Gianna laughed again. “Anyway, silly, tell me how it went. Was it bad?”
“No. Well, it’s bad that I have to get chemo, but—” Gemma blew a breath. “I just hope it works. I want to be around to bug you for a very long time.”
“And I want you to bug me,” Gianna said with the cell phone pinched between her left ear and shoulder while she carried a tray of her best-selling butter pecan cupcakes to the front. She would put them in the display case when she got off the phone.
Leaning against the counter with her back towards the entrance, she crossed her legs at the ankles and held the phone with her left hand again. “So, you can’t give me any more details about the procedure?”
“No, and we don’t have to talk about cancer every time we speak, Gianna.”
“I know. I know. I’m just concerned. That’s all. Can’t I be concerned for my whittle sister?”
“Oh, jeez,” Gemma said. “Not the baby talk.”
“Can’t I?” Gianna asked again, this time dropping the whittle, but still amused by it.
“You can, but be adult-concerned. You’re all, goo-goo ga-ga, concerned. If I was there, you’d pinch my cheeks, wouldn’t you?”
Doing her best baby talk impression, Gianna said, “I sure would pinch those chubby whittle cheeks of yours.”
The sound of a man clearing his throat made Gianna spin around quickly to see who it was that had apparently snuck up in her shop. Snuck up on her. Her heart drummed in her chest when her eyes beheld the tall, six-foot-something of a man clad in a black suit standing there.
“Oh my God!” she screamed, throwing her right hand over her chest like the gesture would help to soothe her pounding heart. “You scared the crap out of me!”
With a deep, sophisticated voice, he said, “I was standing here, waiting for you to turn around. I apologize if—”
She threw up a twitchy index finger. “Hold that thought.”
She turned around again, back facing him and returned her attention to her phone. “Hello?” she said to make sure Gemma was still on the line.
“I’m here. What’s wrong, Gianna?” Gemma asked. “I heard you scream.”
“Gemma, I’ll call you later. I have to go.”
“What’s wrong?”
Gianna glanced back at the man again, feeling her breaths quicken. Men always made her uneasy especially since she didn’t have much experience with them. Honestly, she didn’t have any experience with them. And this one in particular – sweet mercy. He looked milk chocolate, like the icing she was going to put on her Devil’s food cupcakes.
Returning her attention to the phone again, she whispered to Gemma, “There’s a giant of a man in here and he looks hungry—no, not hungry. Hangry…a combination of hungry and angry.”
The man frowned slightly and smirked. Did she really think she was whispering?
“Ooh,” Gemma replied. “Is he hangry and cute?”
“Gem, I have to go.”
“Just answer the question, Gianna.”
“Okay, yes. He’s cute, now I have to go.”
“Wait, wait, wait…how tall is he?”
“What does that matter?”
“Ugh…just tell me.”
Gianna turned around again, her eyes doing a full sweep of the distinguished gentleman. Then she told her sister, “Yes, he’s tall. He’s so tall, his head will touch the ceiling if he jumps.”
The man looked up at the ceiling, cracked a half smile and shook his head. This was actually happening. What kind of bakery had he walked into?
Gemma laughed. “He ain’t that tall, Gianna.”
“Well, he’s tall enough to make me feel short.”
“That’s because you are short, shorty,” Gemma quipped.
“Okay, I gotta go, sis. This guy’s getting antsy.”
“Alright,” Gemma said. “Talk to you later.”
“Love ya. Bye.” Gianna slid her phone into one of the pockets on her dusty apron, looked at the gentleman and with her eyes narrowed to slits, she asked, “What the freak was that about?”
“Excuse me?” he asked, amused.
“You snuck up on me.”
“I did no such thing,” he said, his voice smooth and deep. “I walked into a place of business.”
Gianna felt a wave of heat rush through her body. The pure gorgeousness of this man had instantly given her hot flashes – those big ol’ broad shoulders on a lean body, lips that looked like they’d latch right on to anything and eyes darker than his suit. He was clean shaven. Mustache trimmed. Haircut fresh and neat. The base notes of his cologne snatched the smell of cupcakes right out of her nose.
She got ahold of herself, somewhat, crossed her arms over chest and said, “Well, I didn’t hear the bell ding-a-ling.”
He grinned. “You didn’t…” He laughed harder and could hardly get the rest of the question out. “You didn’t hear the bell do what?”
 “Ding-a-ling.” She cleared her throat, not that it needed to be cleared. “That’s why I…why I said you snuck up on me. Anyway, what can I get you?”
He gazed at her for a moment about to explode with more laughter.
Gianna frowned. Why is he smiling? What’s wrong with this guy? Ask him why he’s smiling. Ask him! No, don’t ask him. Don’t…
“Why are you smiling?” she asked deciding to find out, going against her better judgment.
His smile turned into a light chuckle.
Narrowing her eyes, she asked, “Are you laughing at me?”
“Yes, I am and, by the way, you have something white on the tip of your nose. I’m assuming it’s flour. Well, I hope it’s flour. Here, allow me.” He reached out and wiped the substance from her nose using the back of his index finger.
At his touch, her entire body shook – not trembled – but actually jerked and wiggled like those twenty-feet tall, inflatable air dancers in front of a car dealership. Her legs went so weak, she had to catch herself from falling by placing her hands flat on the counter. The man must’ve thought she was nuts but in her defense, she’d never been touched by a man before, innocent or otherwise. And she’d never been in the presence of this kind of man – the kind of man you can look at and instantly tell he was somebody important. The kind of man that rocked five-thousand dollar, tailored suits. The kind of man who had the boldness to wipe something off of a woman’s nose without waiting for permission to do so because he knew he could get away with it. He could get away with anything with his fine behind.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Lips,” she replied.
He looked confused. Okay, so maybe that wasn’t flour on her nose. This woman is weird.  “Come again?”
“I’m sorry,” she said blinking profusely and shaking her head like she had to physically juggle her brain around to regain focus. “What did you ask me?”
Amused, he released a small chuckle before he responded, “I asked you if you were okay, but never mind. You’ve pretty much answered my question already.”
Her eyes narrowed even further when she replied, “You think I’m a fruitcake don’t you?”
He frowned and quirked his mouth into a lopsided grin.
“Well, I got news for you, buddy. I’m not fruitcake. I can assure you. I don’t even like fruitcake.”
“Nobody likes fruitcake,” he said. “Why are you so nervous right now?”
Why are you so ferociously male, taking over my little bakery with your testosterone and distinctive spellbinding scent? Hunh? Answer that, buster!
“Hello?” he said, making a waving motion with his hand to get her attention. She had to have been the strangest woman he’d ever encountered. “Are you high right now?”
High off of your cologne. Yep. “No, I’m not high! I am a little freaked out because you snuck up on me.”
“I didn’t sneak up on you. Okay. This is a place of business. I came inside. Why are you so nervous?”
“You already asked me that.”
“And I’m still waiting for an answer.”
“You know what,” she said, then giggled. The out of place laughter made her look even more nervous and panicky. “Let’s just cut the small talk or whatever this is. I’m sure you have somewhere important to be, so what can I get for you?”
“I want a cupcake.”
“What!” she screeched.
He frowned. Okay, this confirmed it for him. Something was really wrong with this chick. “This is a specialty cupcake bakery isn’t it?”
“Yes, but—”
“Then why are you yelling like I just pulled a gun out on you?” he interrupted her to ask. “I did just order a cupcake. Am I ordering incorrectly, or what? Do you have some special cupcake ordering system that I’m not privy to?”
She glared at him. “No, but you are ordering incorrectly and you know exactly what you’re doing…playing around with words.”
He was beside himself. “Look, lady, I simply said I wanted to order a cupcake.”
“No. You said you want my cupcake.”
He erupted in laughter. “No. I said I want a cupcake.”
Gianna crossed her arms again, staring at the man and his beautiful white smile. “I know what I heard.”
“And I know what I said,” he countered. “Now, can I get one of those butter pecan cupcakes, or are you holding them hostage?”
“Okay. Fine. One butter pecan coming right up,” she said unenthused. She slid a clear, plastic serving glove on her right hand, then took one of the freshly baked butter pecan cupcakes from the tray on the counter. She never did get around to putting them in the display case.
Glancing at him as he looked around the bakery, she asked, “Is this for here or to go?” Please say to go. Please say to go.
He had planned on taking it to go, along with a coffee, but now that he’d been thoroughly entertained by her, he wanted to stick around for more of her antics. “For here, please.”
Eyebrows raised, she asked, “You—you said, for here?”
He could sense she hadn’t expected him to dine in. “Yes. For here. Do I need to dust flour out of your ears, too?”
She smiled. “Sorry. I heard you.”
“You’re smiling. Does that mean you’re normal?”
“Somewhat,” she responded. “I’m just a little rattled.”
“A little?” His lips formed into a sensuous smile. “How about a lot? You’ve been high-strung since you realized I was here.”
“I know. I know. It’s no excuse, but I don’t usually get people in here this early in the mornings.”
“But when you do, you tell your sister how cute and tall they are.”
Gianna’s mouth fell open in shock.
“Newsflash, cupcake lady…you can’t whisper worth a lick,” the man informed her.
He watched as her already reddened cheeks turned a shade darker with embarrassment.
“To your point, though, I am cute and tall, although I would prefer handsome over cute. Remember that the next time you’re describing me to your sister.”
Gianna could only shake her head. “First of all, how did you know I was talking to my sister?”
“You mean your whittle sister?” He laughed.
She felt like locking herself in her office until he left. That’s how utterly embarrassed she was. Changing the subject, she asked, “Would you like some coffee?”
“I would like some coffee.”
“Small, medium or large?”
He smirked. “What do you think?”
She looked up at him. “Right. Large.”
He nodded.
She bent down to take a large paper cup from the shelf then placed it on the counter. “The sleeves and tops are over there by the cream, sugar and the…um…the…”
“Coffee?”
“Yes. The coffee,” she said smiling nervously, glancing at him then quickly returning her attention back to the cash register. After pressing a few more keys, she said, “And your total comes to $6.18.”
He pulled out his wallet from the back right pocket of his pants and took out a twenty-dollar bill, handing it to her. Before Gianna could give him change, he said, “Put the change in your tip jar.”
“I don’t have a tip jar.”
“You should. Your pocket will suffice for now.”
“Um…okay. Thank you for the tip.”
“Thank you for the cupcake and coffee. Finally.” He smiled again, then took the cupcake and cup from the counter, heading for the coffee station. After preparing his coffee until the color of it matched the woman’s skin tone – smooth and buttery brown – he sat where he would have a good view of her. He’d never met a more fidgety, uneasy woman. Granted, most women found themselves unnerved around him. That’s just the kind of hair-raising effect he had on women. And he could easily distinguish between the ones he could readily have and the women who would prove to be more of a challenge.
This woman, however, had him off his game. He couldn’t quite read her just yet, but he knew one thing for sure – she made some delicious, mouthwatering cupcakes. And everything about her appearance was beautiful in an innocent kind of way. He couldn’t see her hair because of the hairnet she was wearing, but he could tell it was black and balled up into a bun. Her skin complexion was a few shades lighter than his. She looked to be about five and a half feet tall. She didn’t have a curvy body from what he could see. She looked thin – straight up and down. And she had to be a smart woman. A little flaky, but smart. It took guts to run a small business, especially a niche market like specialty cupcakes where the profit margin was low and operating costs were high. He wondered how long she’d been in business, and if she ran the bakery alone.
He took a sip of coffee then removed his cell phone from his suit jacket. After pulling up a web browser, he Googled her bakery name – The Boardwalk Bakery – just to satisfy his curiosity on whether or not the bakery had an online presence. It hadn’t. And his search results yielded no reviews. No social media sites. Just a few listings showing the business name, number and address.
He glanced up when he felt her eyes on him and as soon as he met her light brown gaze, she looked away, continuing to wipe the counter in counterclockwise circles.
He took a sip of coffee, analyzing her – his eyes traveling down to her legs then back up to her oval shaped face. If he was correct in reading her, she looked like she wanted to ask him something but was hesitant to do so. That didn’t surprise him. Her hesitancy that is. He’d been told a time or two (truthfully speaking, more like a hundred times) that his presence was intimidating. Besides, the cupcake lady didn’t come off as a conversationalist and that had him guessing her age. Mid-twenties? Late twenties? There was no way she was a day over thirty.
His thoughts were interrupted by a tinkling bell at the entrance. He grinned to himself. So, there is a doorbell. Why didn’t it tinkle when I came in?
He shifted his body to take a look at the door. There wasn’t an electric chime doorbell, but an actual bell hanging from the interior side of the door. Apparently, it was faulty because it certainly didn’t tinkle twenty minutes ago.
Putting the doorbell concern on hold for the moment, he sat up tall watching a man who appeared to be homeless walk in – not that he was being judgy, but what else was he supposed to think by the appearance of the man? He looked like he hadn’t shaved in months and wore a dirty white T-shirt and worn, black shoes. He’d never seen a once-white T-shirt so filthy. And the khaki cargo pants the man wore had seen many bad days.
He watched the woman emerge from the kitchen and witnessed the moment her eyes lit up when she saw the homeless man.
“Hey, Jerry!” he said.
“Good moanin’ sweet thang. I see you done got yaself a customer dis moanin’.”
“Something like that,” Gianna said glancing over at the well-dressed gentleman who’d nearly frightened her half to death. He was looking back at her. She looked away from him, returning her attention to Jerry again. “I got something good for you. Be right back.”
She went to the kitchen for a moment, grabbed a box of cupcakes and, back at the front, she placed it on the counter. “Here you go. These were especially made with love for one of my fa-vo-rite people. You have three buttercream chocolate and three cream cheese carrot cupcakes.”
“Sounds good to me,” he said, rubbing his stomach. “Bless you, sweet thang.” He took the box and headed for the door.
“Have a good day, Jerry.”
“I will thanks to you.”
She smiled, satisfied she was able to do something to brighten Jerry’s day. “Don’t forget to share.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jerry said immediately before he exited.
Still smiling, Gianna glanced over at the suited-up man who’d unnerved her and interrupted her morning, feeling the smile instantly fall away from her face. Why was he staring so hard?
And he continued staring with his large hand wrapped around the tall coffee cup, sipping and reflecting on her interaction with the homeless man. He was on alert when the man came in, but it was obvious she knew who this guy was. And she’d given him a box of cupcakes for free. It only piqued his curiosity about cupcake lady. Exactly who was this woman?

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The Boardwalk Bakery Series is a three-part continuation series. You must read these books in order.

Book 1 - Baked With Love
Book 2 - Baked With Love 2