Still reeling from a nasty divorce, Melanie Cruz’s pride takes another beating when she loses her enviable job at an upscale resort. After a flurry of unsuccessful interviews, she finally—desperately—accepts a job managing a small chain of family-owned pizzerias in a quaint downtown Phoenix neighborhood. The job also comes with Dominic Esposito, her overbearing but ridiculously handsome boss. Falling for him might be the last thing she expects, but maybe it’s the one thing she needs.
As hard as they try to resist, Melanie and Dominic embark on a romance as hot as a brick oven, and Melanie has every reason to believe that maybe, this time, she’s finally found “the one.”
But Dominic has a secret—one even his family doesn’t know. And the scandal could threaten everything he and Melanie have worked for…in business and in love.
"Now what’ll you have? I’m betting your tastes are somewhat diverse, maybe some pineapple, a few peppers. Tell me I’m close.”
“Not at all,” she laughed and looked up at me, shaking her hair out of her eyes. That hair, so dark and thick. It always seemed to be everywhere and always smelled like orange blossoms. “My preferences for pizza are simple, like my preferences for life.”
I sprinkled a generous helping of shredded mozzarella. “Is your life simple, Mel?”
“It is now—just me and my cats.” She groaned. “God, that sounds pathetic, doesn’t it?”
“Humble. Not pathetic.”
“I made a huge mistake when I married James,” she said suddenly.
“You can tell me about it,” I said. “If you want to.”
Melanie stared down at the dough and talked slowly, haltingly. “It was a really stupid decision. My folks had just died, and the guy I’d been dating in college decided he needed to be a hero. I was a fool to say yes. Neither one of us knew what we were getting into, and it didn’t last.” She sighed again. “Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll end up joining the cynics.”
She gave me a rueful grin. “The cynics. The scoffers who don’t believe in romantic ideals and argue that it takes two years and a lot of agony to properly fall in love.” She shrugged. “At least the mistake with James taught me a few valuable life lessons about blind trust and believing in heroes.”
I didn’t like hearing that from her. Melanie deserved optimism and hope, not wariness and suspicion. I didn’t know everything, but I’d seen enough to understand that she was as kind as she was beautiful. She was as smart as she was stubborn. She went out of her way to make each member of the staff feel valued and respected. She genuinely cared when her bad-tempered boss carelessly cut his hand open. She took the time to escort confused old ladies to the restroom even when she had a million other things going on. A woman like that deserved to be wined and dined and held and worshipped. She deserved every ounce of romance that could be squeezed out of this uncertain universe.
“Maybe,” I said slowly, “you need something more practical than a hero.”
Melanie watched me slide a pizza peel under the raw pie and then expertly deposit it into the mouth of the oven. The fire was stronger than it ought to be. I’d need to keep an eye on the pizza, or it would burn.
“More practical than a hero?” she repeated.
I faced her. “That’s right.”
“And I suppose you have a suggestion.”
I hung the pizza peel on a hook and took a step in her direction. “One or two.”
Melanie licked her lips. “Tell me.”
I looked her in the eye. “I’d rather show you.”
Her blue eyes widened, and her breath hitched, just enough for me to notice. “Then show me,” she said without a waver.
Those were bold words from her. But she knew as well as I did that this little dance we’d been spinning through was coming to an end. After weeks of holding back, her words were all I needed to hear to let go.
Two more steps and I was close enough to touch her. When I ran a fingertip along the delicate line of her jaw, she shut her eyes and exhaled raggedly.
Without saying a word, I eased around behind her and closed in, inhaling the heat of her body. She didn’t resist at all when I turned her around until she was facing the counter. I slid my arms around her waist. If either of us had spoken right then, the spell might have been broken, but she said nothing, not even when I pressed my chest against her back.
About the Author
Cora Brent is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Gentry Boys series. She was born in a cold climate but escaped as soon as it was legally possible. These days, she lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, two kids, and a prickly pear cactus she has affectionately named “Spot.” Cora’s closet is filled with boxes of unfinished stories that date back to her 1980s childhood (someday she fully intends to finish her first masterpiece about a pink horse that plays baseball), but in the meantime, she’s consumed with her romance novels.
For more on the author and her work, visit www.corabrent.com, or connect with her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CoraBrentAuthor.