“Definitely one of my top 10 favorite book boyfriends of all time.” Laurie, Laurie Reads Romance
Josie Ryan is everything that quiet, risk-averse Erik has always tried to avoid: Loud. Pushy. Distractingly gorgeous.
But now that he’s opening his own wedding cake bakery, he needs her business savvy almost as much as he needs to bury his hands in her fiery red hair.
With scorching chemistry both in and out of the kitchen, can they find the perfect balance of salty and sweet, or will they be a recipe for disaster?
“Erik picks and chooses his words, but when they come, they are SO HOT.” Amy, Amazon reviewer
Tempting Taste is a high-heat standalone romance featuring a cinnamon roll hero who actually bakes cinnamon rolls and the big-hearted heroine who appreciates his, um, hot buns. Like all Sara Whitney books, Tempting Taste is bursting with playful banter, upbeat vibes, and a very happy ending.
"Sexy, sassy, and downright delicious! Tempting Taste brims with Whitney's trademark wit, humor and warmth." Kate Bateman, author of This Earl Of Mine
Josie Ryan jerked awake. Yellow lights swam in her vision, and her hands slid across clammy vinyl as she groped for her phone.
Almost 2:00 a.m. No wonder she’d nodded off on the train carrying her home. Every business in the Chicago area wanted to launch new products and host grand openings as soon as April ushered in slightly warmer temperatures, and Josie had been sprinting from event to event for her marketing firm all month long, including this Friday-night bash to celebrate a downtown club opening. Good thing she’d woken up before she missed her River North stop. But what had pulled her out of sleep?
She checked her phone again as the L creaked around a curve, confirming what she already suspected: she hadn’t been woken up by a return text from her mother. Apparently praise from one of Chicago’s top lifestyle blogs for tonight’s event wasn’t enough to spur Pamela Ryan’s elegant fingers into motion, despite Josie’s cheerful “So excited by this write-up!” opening salvo.
She jammed her phone back into her purse, frustrated that she’d expected anything different. That’s when she heard the noise.
“Come on, baby. I’m just being friendly.”
She shifted in her seat to look for the source. Her mother’s lack of reply might have left her restless, but the man’s whiny tone was pushing her right toward the edge of twitchy. Then another voice reached her ears.
“I said I’m not interested.”
The quaver in the woman’s words prickled the skin on the back of Josie’s neck and spiked her adrenaline.
“You should be grateful.” Belligerent anger colored the man’s voice now. “Somebody like me thinks you’re worth talking to? You should be fuckin’ grateful.”
Josie was on her feet and in the aisle before she could think twice. A woman cowered against the window two rows back while a thin, hardmouthed man pressed against her with his arm across the back of the seat.
“Excuse me.” Josie adopted her bossiest tone. “Is he bothering you?”
The woman’s terrified eyes met Josie’s, and she nodded vigorously. The man didn’t drop his arm, but he did crane his neck to growl, “Fuck off.”
Josie flicked her gaze left, then right, confirming that she was alone on the train with the creep and his target. A mix of unease and outrage thrummed under her breastbone. The smart move here would be to mind her own business. Then again, she wasn’t known for choosing the smart move, especially when it came to bullies; too many people had minded their own business back when she’d been the target.
Time to do something stupid.
“Actually, I don’t think I can fuck off, as tempting as that offer is. See, that’s my friend. We went to school together.” Josie bent her lips into a ferocious smile and addressed the trembling woman. “I haven’t seen you in ages! Not since graduation, right?”
The woman was obviously half a decade younger than Josie’s twenty-six, but she nodded anyway. “R-right. Not since g-graduation.” Her wide eyes never left Josie’s face.
“That’s way too long.” Josie advanced a step with a ramrod spine but wobbly knees. “I’d love to catch up with you right now. How about you ditch that asshole and come sit next to me?”
“Who you calling an asshole?” The man exploded from his seat just as the train’s brakes started to screech. Josie hid her flinch and held her ground, knowing from experience that people like this guy fed on weakness. As the train lurched to a stop, the doors at the front and the back of the car hissed open. In a flash, the other woman slid across the bench and darted out the closest exit, a mouse escaping the cobra’s jaws.
The guy didn’t turn to watch her go; he had new prey now. “Somebody needs to teach your fancy ass some manners, you know that?” He eyed Josie with distaste, his hands curling into fists, and a whisper of panic slithered through her veins. He was wiry and not much taller than her own five foot four, but he looked pissed.
Then she lifted her chin. Her redhead had been activated, so he ought to look scared. Poor motherfucker.
“My manners are fine, thanks.” She rocked back on her heels, looking him up and down with a sneer. “I’m not the one pawing a woman on the train like some kind of escaped zoo animal. Couldn’t find any of your own species to mate with, huh?”
The guy surged forward until his putrid breath burned all the way to Josie’s sinuses. “What the fuck is your problem?”
“What the fuck is yours?” she shouted back. “How do you not understand that no means no, asshole?”
Her heartbeat throbbed in her ears. Next time she’d be smarter about how she let her temper out. Next time she’d try harder to de-escalate instead of rushing straight to fuck you, buddy, let’s go mode. But that was next time. She was here now, and she’d just have to take care of herself like she always did.
The man growled, and she loosened her stance so she was prepared to dodge if he grabbed for her, frantically trying to recall where they’d told her to gouge during that self-defense class she’d taken at the Y last year. Eyes, right? And groin?
Suddenly the man’s face paled, and he took three big steps back. “Look, I’m sorry, okay?” All his bravado drained away, and the whine returned to his voice. “Jesus, I was just chatting up a cute girl. No harm intended.”
He lifted his hands in surrender and backed toward the same exit Josie’s “friend” had taken at the earlier stop, and oh, watching a humiliated harasser scramble down the steps and jog away as soon as the car slowed felt great.
“Yeah, that’s right! You step right off and keep stepping!” she yelled at his retreating form through the closed train doors. “And mind your fucking manners next time!”
She jabbed a finger in his direction with each word, smugly satisfied with her ability to handle herself and defend a victim of bullying no matter the personal risk. He’d recognized her inner predator, and he’d bowed before it. She was the biggest, baddest badass on this now-empty train. With a toss of her hair, she spun on her heel to return to her seat… and slammed into a solid wall of man.
She sprang backward with a strangled cry, arms windmilling as she tried to catch her balance. The true biggest badass on the train clasped her upper arm with one massive hand, and she suddenly realized what had sent her harasser running. The man steadying her might just be the biggest human she’d ever seen up close, all muscled and scowly and towering over her by at least a foot. Her pulse fluttered like a hummingbird at the base of her throat as she considered all the ways his strength and size were superior to hers— nothing at all like the diminutive man who’d just bolted. And this time she truly was on her own. Her earlier alarm came roaring back even more acutely than before, and just as she was about to catapult into panic mode, the big stranger released her and backed away, raising his hands in the universal gesture of “no harm intended.”
She grabbed the back of the closest seat as the train jolted back into motion, relieved to be able to breathe again now that he’d put a few feet between them. “W-where the hell did you come from?” Her voice held none of its earlier fire, and the brute took another step in the opposite direction, his broad shoulders shifting as he jerked a thumb toward the door she’d had her back to.
“Since when does this train make a stop in Asgard?” Now that she didn’t seem to be in imminent danger, her smartass streak was reasserting itself. But he merely looked back at her blankly, so she tried again. “Asgard? Where Thor lives? Just saying, what with you all…”
“With me all…?”
Her cheeks burned at the amused rumble of his voice, but it didn’t stop her from waving a hand down the length of his six-foot-plus frame, all buff and Hemsworth-y. “Just… you know.” He even had his dark blond hair pulled back into a bun, for God’s sake. But instead of nodding or smiling or playing along in any way, his gaze remained flat and steady.
“Gah, never mind.” She whirled away with a huff and reclaimed her seat, her heart thrumming for an entirely different reason now, while her unwanted rescuer dropped onto the bench running lengthwise down the train. Without a second glance her way, he plugged in a set of earbuds, leaned against the window, and closed his eyes, apparently done with the conversation.
She wasn’t though. Her pleasure at helping the frightened woman had curdled, and it was this guy’s fault. This guy and Harasser McGee and, what the hell, her mother too, while she was assigning blame. If Pamela had just sent a reply text, Josie might not have gone looking for a fight.
Who was she kidding? She was still looking for a fight.
“I was fine, by the way,” she called to the god of thunder. “I was handling it.”
His only response was to crack open one eye, shrug, and link his fingers over his battered moto jacket.
“Well?” she demanded. De-escalation was apparently not an option for her tonight, even with a man as big as he was.
The guy pulled one of the earbuds from his ear with a sharp tug and looked at her with a raised eyebrow, clearly indicating Well, what? When she continued to glower, he heaved a sigh. “Sorry.”
He gave her an opaque look. “For whatever’s got you so angry.”
She shut her mouth so hard her teeth clicked together. “Well, that’s a terrible apology. You’re just putting the burden on the injured party. Care to try again?” She crossed her arms over her chest, but he merely blinked and returned to his precious earbuds, leaving her to fume unnoticed.
Before long though, the aloof chill he radiated from six feet away wrapped its tendrils around her and poked a hole in her fight! instinct. As the buzzing in her head quieted, regret trickled in, like usual. Had she been too harsh with the huge, hot guy? He’d presumably thought she was in trouble and stepped in to help, and she’d yelled at him for it. It wasn’t his fault that she’d been startled by his size and angry that she’d needed rescuing.
Dammit. She was the one who needed to apologize.
She peeked at him under the pretense of checking her phone. His eyes were peacefully closed, as if their interaction never happened. Still, guilt swelled in her chest until she called, “I’m sorry” over the seat in front of her.
His lips quirked even though his eyes stayed shut and his earbuds remained in place. “Why? Aren’t you the injured party?”
Yeah, she deserved that. She stood and trudged toward him, her pinched toes crying for mercy after a long day in her tallest heels. “Okay, so I’m not injured, per se. But I—”
“—could’ve handled it. I heard.” His eyes snapped open. “I believe you.”
He tugged his earbuds out again as his bright blue gaze traveled from the top of her head down to her shoes. She puffed out her chest, conveying as much toughness as possible in her Brooks Brothers business suit.
“You’re goddamn right,” she insisted. “I have skills. I know self-defense.”
He twitched those full lips again. “Sure. You could probably teach Lady Sif a thing or two.”
His reference to the Asgardian warrior pulled a surprised laugh from her. “You did get the reference.”
That earned her another nonverbal response along the lines of Well, obviously. She shook her head and had started to pivot away when the rough velvet of his voice stopped her.
She turned back to find his head cocked in her direction.
“Your self-defense style. Is it mostly shin-kicking and yelling ‘fuck you’ from a distance?”
Heat coursed through her as his gaze moved across her face, both from her anger at his suggestion and her awareness of how well he wore that smirk on his lips. She was so caught off guard by her reaction that for once she couldn’t find the words for a comeback.
He shrugged and crammed those damn earbuds back into his ears. “It’d scare me off anyway.” Then he closed his eyes and had the audacity to ignore her for the rest of the trip.