Title: A Catered Romance
Author: Cara Marsi
Genre: Contemporary Romance
A taste of delicious, hot romance from Cara Marsi …
There’s more than business brewing between two old high school flames…
Stubbornly self-reliant Mary Beth Kendrick needs financial backing to keep her catering business cooking. A looming corporate buyout forces her to accept help from Tom Sackett, the man who broke her heart and left her with no appetite for love.
Unable to forget Mary Beth, Tom sets out to win her forgiveness. As he gets to know her again through their shared business interests, he realizes he wants more than forgiveness from her. He wants her in his life.
Grateful for Tom’s support but unwilling to trust him, Mary Beth vows to keep their relationship strictly business. But his attentiveness, culminating in a night of passion, starts to melt her icy resolve and shows her the caring, sensitive man Tom has become.
Can Mary Beth learn to love and trust again? Will she and Tom open their hearts to a second chance at love?
His voice. Richer, mellowed, smooth as the finest wine. Warming her with old memories, old yearnings. She was eighteen again. In love. Dreaming of a life by his side. Until he betrayed her.
Anger, like boiling water spilled on her lap, jolted her. Biting on her lip, she turned slowly to face Tom Sackett.
He filled the doorway, his masculine power reaching out, drawing her in as it always had. Despite his aristocratic breeding and elegantly tailored suit, he still had the look of the renegade about him.
Lifting her chin, she willed starch into her spine. “You’re early,” she said, glancing at the clock. “The meeting isn’t for another half hour. My partner’s not here yet.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Hello to you too. That’s not much of a greeting after twelve years.”
She placed a hand on her hip. “As I recall, our last meeting was less than cordial.”
His jaw tightened. “People change, Mary Beth.”
“Believe it.” The determined set of his rugged features stopped any further argument. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No.” She tugged on her braid, trying to gain control of her emotions. For the sake of her company, she wouldn’t let her feelings interfere. “We have a business deal to negotiate. Nothing more.”
Tom’s harsh features softened. He scanned her face, making her wonder if her tension showed. “You’re more beautiful than I remember.”
Awareness and a flash of anger shot through her. She dug her nails into her palms. “Saving my company is my primary concern.”
“Mine too,” he said. “A businessman expects a return on his investment.” He strode into the kitchen with the confidence born of inherited wealth and family standing.
Squaring her shoulders, Mary Beth fought the onslaught of old hurts. She’d grown up in the years since he’d humiliated her. Her family might not have his social connections, but her poverty-stricken upbringing had made her strong. Strong enough to fight for her professional life and keep her pride – and her heart – intact.
“Coffee smells good. May I have a cup?” Tom straddled one of the high stools surrounding the white-tiled center counter.
Glad to do something to distract her from past memories and Tom’s disturbing presence, she grabbed a heavy white mug from the cabinet and poured a steaming cup of vanilla almond coffee. “Just cream, right?”
“You remembered,” he said.
“A lucky guess.” She handed him the mug. His fingers grazed hers as he took it, sending heat racing up her arm.
She escaped to the opposite side of the kitchen and leaned against the counter edge. The citrus scent of his cologne lingered in her nostrils, stirring up the unwanted memory of their kiss at the formal. But the sweet kiss that had promised love and dreams fulfilled had been tainted with betrayal.
A new dread suddenly filled her. “I won’t take charity, Tom. If this is about payback, there will be no deal.”
She wanted to wince at her overly dramatic words. Seeing Tom again peeled away the years, bringing out the teenager in her. She had to get a grip.
He stared at her over the rim of his mug, then banged the cup on the counter. Coffee spilled over the sides onto the clean white tile.
“I’m a lawyer and a businessman. I don’t gamble with my firm’s money.”
The intensity in his sapphire eyes held her. “I’ve checked your company out,” he continued. “Talked to people. You have the potential to be big, but you’re overextended. That’s where Sackett comes in. We’ll help you get on your feet. You have to look successful to be successful.”
Mary Beth angled her chin, still not ready to believe him. “Sackett Industries doesn’t invest in small businesses like ours.”
He shrugged and swallowed a sip of coffee. “Sackett owns a diverse portfolio of companies. Catering will mesh well with our other holdings. We do a lot of corporate entertaining. We could use an in-house caterer.”
She studied him to assess the truth of his words. The confident set of his jaw spoke of a strength and maturity eighteen-year-old Tom had lacked. Maybe he’d changed after all.
Stop it! her brain shouted. Dreams of Tom had only caused her pain in the past. She wouldn’t go down that path again.
She pulled another mug from the cabinet and grabbed the coffeepot to pour some coffee for herself. Hot liquid splashed on her hand, scalding her. She jumped.
“Are you okay?” The stool scraped the floor as Tom stood up and started toward her.
“I’m fine,” she rasped, waving him away. She didn’t want him close to her, not while she felt so vulnerable…and angry. Angry at him and at the circumstances that had brought him into her life again. She yanked on the faucet and held her hand under cold water.
“This kitchen is great,” he said. “I’m planning to renovate mine. Maybe you could come over sometime and give me your professional opinion.”
“I don’t think so.” She wiped her hands on a towel and faced him. “If we work out a deal — and I’m not at all sure about that — I will not be at your beck and call to help decorate your house, or perform any other duties.”
“You always did have too much pride for your own good,” he said quietly.
She met his gaze and held it, refusing to look away despite the small seed of awareness growing in her. “Pride got me through school and it will get me through this. I won’t be dependent on you, or anyone, for long.”
His lips quirked in a crooked grin. “A little bit of overreaction, Mary Beth?”
She tugged on her braid. The man had a way of making her lose her cool.
He studied her. “You always tugged on your braid when you were nervous. Do I make you nervous?”
“Don’t flatter yourself.”
An award-winning and eclectic author, Cara Marsi is published in romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. She loves a good love story, and believes that everyone deserves a second chance at love. Sexy, sweet, thrilling, or magical, Cara’s stories are first and foremost about the love. Treat yourself today, with a taste of romance.
When not traveling or dreaming of traveling, Cara and her husband live on the East Coast in a house ruled by a formerly homeless cat named Tortie.
Read excerpts of her books and sign up for her newsletter at www.caramarsi.com
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