Home > The Marriage Mistake (Marriage to a Billionaire #3)(14)

The Marriage Mistake (Marriage to a Billionaire #3)(14)
Author: Jennifer Probst

Max took a hard right, stopping occasionally to chat with various business owners, and kept a lookout for the big sign. He hadn’t been able to oversee this event, but he trusted David to wow him. He worked well with the chef at their new store, and the samples they decided on were a winning combination. Thank God he’d vetoed the chocolate—it would have been a melty mess on a hot day like this.

His gaze snagged on the huge banner and the crowd squeezed around the table. Yes. Their desserts were a huge hit if the line was any indication. A flash of white moved in and out, and a familiar husky laugh raked his ears in a caress.

Then he saw her.

Definitely not David.

She wore tiny little white shorts that did nothing to hide her magnificent ass. Her top should have been conservative enough since the fabric covered everything, but the bright yellow only directed attention to the thrust of her br**sts. Her hair was bunched up underneath a ball cap with LA DOLCE MAGGIE spelled out in black lettering, and flirty gold hoops swung on her earlobes. His gaze automatically took in those tanned muscled legs to her feet. Just as he thought. With every other woman wearing flip-flops, she stood out in three-inch yellow sandals that were impractical, ridiculous, and sexy as hell.

What the hell was she doing here?

He pushed his way toward the front of the table but she still didn’t notice him. She flew back and forth with samples of cassata—a sponge cake plump with cannoli cream and soaked in liqueur. Bite-size pieces of tort di treviglio looked fresh and tempting, and the honey biscotti seemed a big hit with the children. Juggling conversation and glasses of iced mocha coffee, Carina chatted, laughed, and handed out a dizzying array of flyers. Her face gleamed with sweat but she never faltered. The two interns played back up, but even Max could see they were out of their element. Rushing back and forth on lanky legs, they seemed unable to properly work the espresso machine and used their time to gape at their gorgeous female boss.

As if she finally sensed his gaze, Carina stopped mid-flight and turned her head.

Something weird squeezed his chest—an uncomfortable tightness he never experienced. The odd urge to take her in his arms flooded him and he took a step forward. Thank God he didn’t finish the movement. With a casual wave, she smiled and went back to her job as if he’d never appeared.

Ego slapped down to size, he cleared his throat and tried to get a grip.

He pushed his way forward and glared. “What’s going on? Where’s David?”

She never broke stride and took her time to answer. “Wasn’t able to make it. I’m covering.”

Max smothered a curse. “Why?”

She shrugged. “His wife’s pregnant. He was in the ER last night with her—she had false contractions.”

“Is she okay?”

“Yeah, but he was exhausted and wanted to stay with her.”

“What about Edward or Tom? They’re supposed to play backup.”

She smiled and doled out a biscotti. “They had plans. I told them I’d take over.”

This time the curse escaped. Her management skills were nonexistent when it came to playing the hard-ass. She let the employees get away with ridiculous stunts they’d never to think to pull on him. She was smart, savvy, and a complete pushover. Her heart got her in trouble every time. “You should have called me, Carina. Dio, I’m going to slaughter my sales force on Monday.”

Her eyes snapped with temper. “Don’t you dare. Besides, I want to be here. I needed to learn the desserts, what sells and what doesn’t. I learned more in the last few hours than I ever did in the office. Get over it.”

The two teenagers took a break from the machine hissing in crankiness and walked over. “Hi, Mr. Gray,” they greeted in unison.

He nodded and tried not to seem like a mean old man. “Hi, guys.”

“Umm, Carina, we’re having trouble keeping up with the espresso. I can’t seem to get it to work right.”

“Okay, Carl, I’ll check it. Here, do the pastries for now. Don’t forget the flyers.”

“Got it.”

Max eased his way toward the side of the L-shaped table where the professional espresso maker loomed with monstrous proportions. She fanned herself and attacked the shiny robotic levers. “You’re management, Carina. The staff is playing you big-time. You moved yesterday and have to be exhausted.”

She gave him a smile full of sass. “Speak for yourself. I’m eight years younger than you. Stamina is not my problem.”

He had a sudden urge to tear off her clothes, tumble her in the field, and teach her about real stamina. The image of her naked and moaning under him assaulted his vision. “Watch out, little girl. I may have to prove you wrong.”

Instead of backing down, she hooted with laughter. “Are you kidding? The only type of stamina I need right now is a man who can make a hundred cups of coffee in record time. I bet you don’t even know how to make a decent espresso.”

He placed his lemonade down on the table and stared in disbelief. “You did not just say that to me. I’m Italian. I’ve been making homemade espresso my entire life.”

She snorted and finally tamed the machine. A trickle of dark liquid poured into the cup, and the scent of rich roasted beans hit his nostrils. “Sure, in your nice shiny kitchen with your gourmet equipment. Why don’t you get your hands dirty, boss, and show me what you got?”

“Are you challenging me?”

Carina shrugged. “Forget it. Wouldn’t want to ruin your fancy clothes.”

He muttered a curse, tossed his lemonade in the trash, and stalked behind the table. With efficient motions, he donned a pair of gloves, snatched an extra ball cap, and grabbed her shoulders. Her startled jump matched his own as the sexual electricity zinged between them. He moved her out of the way. The machine spit out a billow of steam as if their sudden intimate moment pissed it off.

He yanked back his hands and covered it up with a growl. “Step aside.”

Her pupils dilated as if recognizing and responding to the command in his voice. Max grew hot, and it had nothing to do with the weather or the coffee. Something about the awareness in her dark eyes hit him where it hurt. Right in his dick.

“Time me.”

Max knew there were certain rules in perfecting a great cup of espresso. Ingredients were primary—pure arabica beans medium roasted and not toasted, fresh water without any lingering chemicals to dilute the taste, and the proper machine. The rest was skill, especially the right amount of pressure used in the tamping process, which could make or break the balance. He fell into the rhythm perfected from years of impressing women and his own mother. Remove filter holder. Add fresh-ground coffee. Tamp while holding filter holder off to the side. Polish. Pour. Serve. Repeat.

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