“This is unacceptable.” Keegan Murphy shoved the drawing of the plain cake beneath the pretty nose of the caterer, not caring that he was interrupting her work. “You need to fix this.”
Liz Arnold snatched the drawing from his hand and slammed it onto the table. The metal reverberated with a tinny clang. Around them, work momentarily ceased, and Keegan was aware of several pairs of eyes focusing in their direction. After a heartbeat, they resumed working.
Liz’s nostrils flared a moment before a tight smile creased her lips. Keegan drifted his gaze over her and fought back the wave of desire. A pink bandanna held a riot of brown ringlets away from her heart-shaped face—a rather attractive face. Her smooth caramel complexion was devoid of makeup. Remorse chased his thoughts. He remembered a time when he’d have pulled the hair restraint free and combed his fingers through her tresses.
Somehow he’d missed his opportunity. He returned his attention to her face. Wire-rimmed glasses held specks of green and red, probably frosting splatter if the bowls on the table were any indication.
How had she kept her apron so pristine when her hands were covered in several colors? The fitted chef’s coat accentuated firm, round breasts and a narrow waist. He shifted his stance as lust simmered through his veins and rushed between his legs. LIZ was stitched in heavy lettering over her left breast. In that moment, he envied the bit of material caressing the curvy swell of her bosom. He longed to trace said breast, and he lifted a hand to touch her. Taken aback by his reaction, he recovered by combing his fingers through his hair. How could he be so attracted to her after all these months?
“Mr. Murphy, I appreciate your concern, but the design has already been approved by the bride, your sister. She’s happy with it, and you should be too.” She reached past him for a blob of red dough. “If you don’t mind, I’ve got work to do.”
He stepped in her path, and she juggled the bright crimson ball to keep it from touching his clothes. “There’s no need to be so formal, Liz. We had some good times. We have a history.”
Their history was something he’d always regretted. For some reason, Keegan had believed she would wait for him no matter how long he took to get his act together, but he had been wrong. Now he lamented not making her his when he had the chance.
“Convenient how you want to bring that up now,” she scoffed. “Our past will not work in your favor. Whatever we had has nothing to do with your sister and her wedding. Now leave. You bother me.”
He stepped closer and was satisfied when her eyes widened and a quick inhale thrust her luscious breasts up. “Change the design. When they see the cake, everyone is going to know what it means.”
She rolled her eyes and huffed. “Mr. Murphy, if you believe that nonsense, then you’re not as intelligent as you look. Now would you please get out of the kitchen and let me work?”
“What did you say?”
A ghost of a smile flirted at the corners of her mouth. “Go. Away.”
He lifted the drawing from where she’d slammed it earlier. “I’m going to speak to my sister about this design.”
“As long as you do it outside of my kitchen.” She plopped the dough on the stainless-steel table. A cloud of flour floated upward in its wake. She kneaded the crimson ball, pushing it forward with the heel of her hand and then folding and pulling it toward her body. Her movements were smooth and fluid, and he yearned to feel her hands work him in the same manner.
Keegan stepped into her space. Her scent—a hint of spiced vanilla—rose to greet him. Just as he remembered. He closed his eyes, savoring. With a sigh, he inched back and opened his eyes. Her jacket lifted, baring her back just above the waistband of her black, curve-hugging slacks. For a moment, he was rendered speechless as he fastened his gaze on the hint of smooth toffee skin that was revealed. He had an overwhelming urge to slide his palm over the exposed flesh. The long apron did more than just keep her clothes clean. It also hid a great figure.
She glanced at him but continued to work the dough. “Are you still here? I thought you were leaving.”
He bit back a smile. He liked her gumption. Plus, she was sexy and sassy, a combination he thoroughly enjoyed, but this was supposed to be about his sister, not him. “For the time being.”
“Mr. Murphy, I’m sure you’re aware that there is a dinner for thirty friends and relatives in roughly”—she glanced at her watch—“three hours. You being here is a distraction. Unless you plan on donning an apron and joining the prep?”
He laughed. His idea of cooking was a takeout menu or pushing buttons on a microwave. Even then he still used the smoke detector as a timer. “Right. I’ll talk to my sister about this. You will change the design.”
Keegan strolled out of the kitchen, aware of the looks from a couple of the cooks, one chopping vegetables, the other standing near the wall of commercial stoves. Let them stare. Having such a simple cake for a grand wedding would be an atrocity. Too often he heard about Liz’s cakes and how her more elaborate designs would ensure a newlywed couple would enjoy a long and prosperous future. Even while they were dating, a certain mystique was attached to her name as the premier cake decorator. And he’d checked out the weddings of the cakes she had designed. Many were still happily married, but those who’d chosen a lesser design… The simple cake for his sister would guarantee disaster for her marriage.
He shoved through the double swinging doors, rounded the corner into the wide corridor, and spied his sister. Her back was to him as he approached. He hurried over. “Hey, Caroline.”
With a bright smile on her face, the younger woman turned from her conversation with an older woman who held a clipboard. “Keegan. Just the person I was looking for.” She glanced at the other woman. “Thanks, Martha. Would you be so kind as to let the caterer know about the menu change for tonight?”
Martha nodded and hurried toward the kitchen.
“A menu change?”
“David just informed me that half his family is allergic to shellfish, which just proves he was not paying any attention when we were going through the menus for the parties.” She shook her perfectly coiffed head. “I hope Liz isn’t too inconvenienced by the menu change.”
Keegan nodded. “Caro, are you sure about the cake?”
His sister stopped in front of a mirror and tucked a stray blonde curl back into its pin. “Isn’t the design heavenly?” She pulled lipstick from her purse, then swiped the color across her lips. “She’s got the most decadent chocolate, chocolate-mint, and vanilla-raspberry layers going on. It’s so good.”
“This is your wedding day. Your cake should be elaborate.”
“It is. It’s got curlicues and fresh flowers.”
He shook his head. “I know you’ve heard the rumors about Liz’s cakes. A simple cake means your marriage won’t last.”
Caroline faced him and laughed. “Keegan, you are the most superstitious person I’ve ever met, and I can’t believe you’d put stock in all that nonsense. People make a marriage work, not a piece of pastry.” She rose on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. Then she wiped the lipstick off with her thumb. “You’re so sweet to worry about such things.” She glanced around the large foyer. “Have you seen David?”
Keegan frowned. The caterer had corrupted his sister into giving up her dream cake. “What about all those pictures you had in your wedding wish book?”
Her greenish-gold eyes widened. “You remember that silly thing? Goodness, I think I lost that when I was thirteen.” She shrugged. “Besides, there are much more expensive items to worry about than childish wishes. Did David show you the rings? Or my gown?” She clutched his arm. “Keegan, the dress is exquisite. The lace is perfect, and the crystals will dazzle. I try it on every night.”
He chuckled. Just like his sister to forge ahead with what was most important to her—jewelry and clothes. “I still think there’s something to this wedding cake thing. She did the Fuller wedding two years ago, and they’re now divorced. Their cake was simple, whereas the Salzer wedding cake was ornate and extravagant. There were even cupcakes, and they’re still married.”
She patted his cheek. “Only you would worry about the statistics of our friends’ marriages. What you need to do is find one of the bridesmaids and sleep with her.” She paused. “Or do you prefer one of the groomsmen?”
Heat touched his cheeks. With nearly a decade separating them, his love life was not a conversation he wanted to have with his sister.
He did prefer the soft, voluptuous curves of a woman, losing himself in her sweet, slick heat. The subtle scent of spiced vanilla teased his nostrils, and the image of a certain caramel-skinned woman drifted to his mind’s eye. He’d love to explore all that creamy flesh with his mouth and tongue, indulging in her nectar. It had been so long since they were together; he wondered if she’d taste as good as she smelled.
“In this day and age, one can never be presumptuous. Whatever your preference, I still love you.”
“That’s good to know, and none of the bridal party appeals to me.”
“Too bad. Sandra’s been eyeing you like a chocolate-covered berry.”
Keegan shuddered. Since the bridal party arrived at the family estate two days ago, he’d been playing keep-away from the maid of honor. Spending any length of time with the brunette lowered his IQ. Whoever said blondes were dumb hadn’t taken the time to know this particular brown-haired beauty. An ordinary conversation with Sandra was the equivalent of smashing his fingers in a door. How the woman obtained a medical degree, he’d never know. “I’d rather not,” he said. “How did you two become friends?”
“She’s a lot of fun when you get to know her.”
“I don’t have that type of time.” Or enough fingers. Although, a little fun with a certain caterer would be welcomed.
A loud crash emanated from the kitchen, the doors opened, and muffled swearing followed a harried and blushing Martha. She saw them and nodded. “The…um…caterer will make the changes.”
Keegan smothered a chuckle. Apparently, Martha hadn’t had much luck with the caterer’s temper either, and he wondered if Liz was still just as feisty outside the kitchen.
“I can just imagine how upset that dear woman is. She’s spent so much time helping me pick out the right dishes, and this change is last minute. I better go see if there’s anything I can do to help.”
He grabbed her arm as she headed toward the kitchen. “I’ll go check. You go mingle with your guests. This is your weekend. Your moment.”
She nodded. “You’re right.” A man of medium build wearing tennis whites and twirling a racket strolled by. “Hey, Christian. Wait up. I’ll walk to the courts with you.”
Keegan narrowed his gaze as he watched the two walk out arm in arm. His sister was awfully close to the best man. Another crash from the kitchen captured his attention. A faint smile creased his lips while his pulse pounded a hasty rhythm of anticipation. Time to see the caterer again.