Actually, he wanted to see Daisy again.

Pushing open the door, he walked inside. The shop was empty. Daisy stood, with her back to him, humming while she worked behind the counter.

“Excuse me,” he said and she whirled around, her eyes widening.

That same feeling hit him again. His palms grew sweaty, his knees weak and the earth tilted on its axis. Oh hell. It hadn’t been a fluke. “What in the world are you doing here?”

She sounded less than pleased to see him, and he seriously considered cutting his losses and leaving. Again. “I’d like to order more cupcakes.”

Her brows rose. “Will you pay before you walk out of my store this time?”

He nodded.

“Did you help Rose and Alexander get back together?” she asked.

“They seem happy.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “Alexander’s stop pestering me.”

She cocked her head to one side. “Why was your cousin pestering you?”

“I assumed it was because he was lonely and missed Rose.”

“Do you miss him pestering you?”

Yes. He pulled a face. “You really don’t expect me to answer that, do you?”

“Not if you don’t want to.” She winked at him, and dusted off her hands, then moved to a nearby sink to wash them, returning with a smile. “So, how many do you want, Viscount?” she asked, her full lips twitching. “One bwa-ha-ha, or two bwa-ha-ha?”

“Ah—” Sebastian began, flustered. Daisy sighed, her face flushing a little. “Sorry, that wasn’t very nice of me, and you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. So, how about one on the house to make up for it?”

Her apology sounded sincere, something he rarely encountered. So when it did make an appearance…“How about two…bwa-ha-ha?” Things like that happened. Although a part of him wanted to say—See, I can be humorous, too. As for her Sesame Street reference, his brother had guest starred on the show. Though Sebastian would never admit it, he had watched everything Christian had ever been in.

“Oh.” She blinked, pretty eyes going round. “Two…it is.” Licking her lips, she glanced down and picked out the two he’d been coveting the most, then placed them on a green and silver plate. “Something to drink: coffee, hot chocolate, water, mil—”


She handed the plate to him. “Most people want coffee or milk.”

Biting into the Christmas confection sent thrills of pleasure streaking through his taste buds. “Not most people,” he said around the first cupcake. What did one need with coffee or milk? Neither, in his opinion, served to enhance the flavor. Give him a roomful of sweets and an unlimited supply of water.

The bells on the door rang.

“Excuse me, but I have another customer.”

He raised a questioning brow and concentrated on not dropping a crumb. Not only because he was fastidious by nature, but this manna from Heaven couldn’t be wasted. When Daisy returned, he practically had his nose against the glass, searching for the next candidate.

“Berry Lemon is a customer favorite,” she said. “Or Red Velvet Dream.” The bells rang again. “Hold that thought, I’ll be right back.”

He straightened, watching Daisy as she handed an older gentleman a white box tied up with a green and silver bow. The man waved good-bye, and then went on his way, paying no mind to Sebastian or the two rather large Russian bodyguards standing on each side of her door.

“Where were we?” She smiled and he scooted closer to bask in the warmth of that smile. “Make a decision?”

“I’d like the two you recommended.”

In no time at all, she’d given him what he’d wanted. He walked to the closest table and sat down, centering the plate in front of him. To his eternal surprise, she sat down at the table for two, directly across from him. She placed a glass of iced water beside his plate.

“Who are you looking for this time?” she asked.

You. “No one.”

“Are you up to something again?” she finally asked, her gaze assessing. It felt as though she could see through him, as though she could see through the mask he constantly wore in public. Outside his inner circle, he wasn’t exactly known for being the most gregarious bloke.

“World domination,” he said. Not a total lie.

Sighing, she placed her chin in her hand. “Can’t help you there.”

“Why are you sitting with me?” he asked, and then wanted to kick himself.

“I like people.”

“So do I.”

She dipped her head to hide a smile, but he’d caught it and wanted her to do it again. “You kinda have a funny way of showing it.” She glanced at the watch on her wrist. “It’s almost lunch time. Can I fix you something, or…I know! Want to help me fix lunch? After the first of the year, I’ll be offering cooking class. You can be my test subject.”

If her cooking was anything like her sweets, he’d never leave Holland Springs without her. “Expanding your horizons?”

Rising to her feet, she shrugged. “Thinking ahead. Can’t ever tell what will happen in business.”

Smart woman. “What does helping you ‘fix lunch’ involve?” he asked, standing and following her to the back.

“You’ll have to take off your coat and put on an apron.” Her hips swayed as she walked, enticing him to quicken his pace. “Maybe even a hair net.”

“A hair net?” He practically growled the question.

She laughed. “I’m teasing.”

He stopped when she turned to face him, her br**sts brushing his coat. Desire burned through him, making his clothes too tight and his skin scorching hot. “And the apron?” he asked, his voice deeper than usual to his ears.

Her full lips parted. He wanted to kiss her, to taste her lips and nibble at them. Sweet or tart, he had to know. Dipping his head, he closed his eyes and—

“That’s non-negotiable,” Daisy squeaked, sidestepping him, completely unable to stop looking at his gorgeous face.

His eyes opened, blue as the sky in winter. “Wasn’t aware this was a contract in the making.”

Heart pounding, lust raging, and knees wobbling, she fanned herself. “It’s hot back here, isn’t it?” She almost kissed him! Well, he almost kissed her, and she’d almost let him. What in the world was she thinking?

“If you can’t take the heat…”