Chocolate Couture<br/>

Author: Zelda Benjamin
Publisher: BZP, LLC
Published: 2013-12-01
ISBN(s) 9780991076604
Illustrator: Ravven
Category: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Genre(s): Romance, Contemporary, Action Read Excerpt >



Lily Peradou watched as a tray of her lime-elderflower cupcakes toppled to the floor. Like a line of ballerinas falling into an orchestra pit, two-dozen of her most popular pastries now lay at her feet.

"Oh, Chef. What a mess." Olivia, her assistant looked down at the floor. "I tried to warn you. It all happened so fast." Friends and co-workers, embarrassed by Lily's clumsiness, often tried to minimize the experience with excuses.

Lily knew better, she had no one to blame. She had caused the cupcakes' demise. "I'll clean up. You open the shop."

Olivia stepped over the squished chocolate cakes and inched her way between Lily and the prep counter. A plethora of pans and mixing bowls hung from every available inch of wall space. Ovens, coolers, and baking appliances covered the opposite wall. In this cramped, but organized narrow kitchen, Lily managed to create the finest cakes in Brooklyn.

The shop at 4 ½ Smith Street would be considered limiting to anyone. No one suspected that the showcases filled with the sweetest desserts ever created held hidden dangers for a klutz like Lily.

Many years ago her brother, Zach had appropriately nicknamed her Clum, a sticky matter in the universe that makes things go wrong. Being near Lily had the potential of a dormant volcano waiting to erupt. This morning's big bang proved that not much had changed since that day when he bestowed the name on her.

This was not the time to think about past events. The mess at her feet needed immediate attention. She reached over the fallen sweets and grabbed her broom and dustpan. In minutes, the work-area sparkled.

Miraculously, two halves of the cupcake hung precariously at the edge of the counter. Lily worked best under pressure. Could she still make something out of this mess?

Her customers would soon be lining up for what they had voted Brooklyn's Best Cupcake. She needed to do something fast. It might not be what they were expecting, but she wouldn't disappoint them.

She cut the remaining pieces into bite-sized servings and placed a delicate slice of lime on each piece. A drizzle of elderberry juice over the top completed the free samples. That should satisfy her elderberry addicts until the next batch hit the shelves later in the day.

Before joining Olivia at the front counter, she carried the trash out the back door to the dumpster.

Lingering winter weather greeted her as she hurried outside. At first glance, the alley appeared like any other dusty Brooklyn alley. A closer look revealed it was more than another deserted street hidden behind rows of old buildings.

This alley had personality. Graffiti covered walls revealed the history of the merchants behind the brick facades. Before Lily owned her shop, several movie crews used the street and its hidden artwork as a backdrop. It was not unusual for tourists to come searching for this back street.

From the corner of her eye, she noticed a man poking around the back door of 5 Smith Street. The old gray brick wall around the door was decorated with abstract designs of women's fashions. It marked the back entrance to the late Sally James' popular dress shop.

The man jiggled the door handle. It was locked, of course.

Maybe he was a relative of Sally's. If he were related, she would like to talk to him and make an offer for the store. The perfect solution for her space problem was 5 Smith Street. 

Dwarfed by the giant metal container, Lily felt a temporary sense of security. She used her advantage to assess the situation and the stranger. He didn't look like a tourist. There was no sign of a camera or guidebook. He didn't walk with a leisurely stroll of someone sightseeing. His stride was with purpose.

Was he a thief? If he were, he was a neatly dressed thief. But his shiny leather cowboy boots looked out of place on this Brooklyn street. Stylishly worn jeans hugged all the right places. His face was handsome, definitely not the look of an axe murderer. There was something ridiculously sexy about him. 

His left hand rested in the pocket of his leather jacket. Was he hiding a weapon? Should she call the police or confront him?

Unsure which option to pursue, she remained hidden. With her trash still clutched in her hand, she inched her way to the edge of the dumpster. Unaware of a stray trash can cover at her feet, she risked a quick peak around the corner. A gentle tap with her toes was enough to send the metal cover flying against the brick wall.

The sound of metal against brick resonating down the silent alleyway could wake the dead. It had definitely gotten the stranger's attention. He turned toward the dumpster.

She froze and wished the noise to stop. With a flip of her wrist, she flung her trash over the side of the dumpster and ran back toward her shop. Better to be safe than sorry. Overanxious to get inside, she reached out toward the doorknob. Her hand hit at an awkward angle causing the door to slam shut with a loud thud.

Ignoring the shooting pain in her thumb, Lily pulled on the latch, but to no avail. The door had locked from the inside. Her futile attempt to release the handle limited her options. She turned to face the intruder.

With her back against the wall and the stranger still in her line of vision, she glanced to the end of the alley. Was she fast enough to run past him to the main street? Her shop, Sally's vacant shop, and old Pete's former coffee shop stretched from where she stood to the street.

She had another option. Her cell phone rested in the pocket of her apron. She reached in and closed her hand around the phone. A quick glance at the delectable pastry pattern on her apron reminded her of Sally James. The print matched the graffiti painted on the wall behind her. If she could vanish through the painted wall, everything would be fine. Back in her shop, where the blends of chocolate and herbs tricked your senses, she would be safe.

A gentle breeze swirled the trash in the dumpster. Lily expected to be assaulted by the smell of stale garbage. Instead, she was surprised by the unexpected scent of Sally's favorite chocolate cherry cordial cake.

Chocolate Couture   by   Zelda Benjamin   |   See Bio >
Hearts melt and emotions sizzle when the Queen of Cakes meets the King of Burgers and Fries,

Lily Peradou has proved she can do it on her own. But can she defend her cherry chocolate cordial cakes when they are accused of undue influence? Noah Adler, the handsome restaurant owner of the new place down the street doesn't think she can. When he offers legal aid as side dish, Lily questions his motive.

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