Authors: Denise McDonald
Blue Collar Baker
In high school, Marissa Llewellyn had the hots for golden boy Jackson “Jax” Carlisles.
So when he arrives at her bakery, yummier than ever, to investigate a series of break-ins,
she can’t help being reminded of the awkward girl she was. But that’s not the reason
she evades his questions….
Silver Spoon Sheriff
Jax grew up as part of the Fort Worth country club set, but as the new chief of police,
that’s all behind him, much to the chagrin of his family. Though he may not remember
Marissa, he can’t stop thinking about the woman she’s become—and the secret she’s
obviously keeping from him.
A Recipe for Romance…or Disaster?
Marissa is determined to help the homeless teen she caught breaking into her shop,
even if that means lying to Jax. And when the sparks between her and the sexy sheriff
ignite into a passionate affair, Marissa will have to choose between following the
rules he upholds, and her own sense of justice.
Harlequin E Contemporary Romance
To Alan, Collin, Aaron, Reed and Zac—I love you guys!
I want to thank Sandy Behr for always being there for me. Amie Stuart for always pushing
me to keep at it. Nikole Berg for being a super cheering section.
Brenda Wood, Betty Brett and Carie McDonald for always being as excited as I am.
Jody Wood for bragging to everyone who will listen to you.
And Alissa Davis, my editor, for enjoying the book as much as I do!
A loud bang woke Marissa Llewellyn. She rubbed the grit from her eyes and felt the
ledger shift across her chest. She’d fallen asleep in the back of her cupcake shop
again, this time while going over the previous month’s pitiful financial statements
and waiting to see if any cupcakes would go missing tonight.
Marissa sat up, let the ledger fall away. Something clanked in the kitchen again.
She hadn’t imagined it. Someone was moving around in her shop.
Without taking her eyes off the open door separating her from the intruder, she edged
her sock-covered feet off the sofa and pawed for the bat she kept for just this scenario.
Her sister Marlie had told her it was a bad idea to try to catch whoever kept breaking
into her bakery. Marissa couldn’t even prove there
a thief. Very little was missing, but twice in the morning when she’d come in, things
were…off, out of place and she was always down a couple of cupcakes.
Water ran in the bathroom. She frowned.
A robber who uses the restroom?
She eased up off the sofa with the bat gripped tightly in one hand. In the other,
she snatched up the cordless phone she’d left on the floor beside her. When the Oak
Hollow 911-operator answered, she whispered, “This is Marissa Llewellyn at Sweets
by Marissa. On Flower Tree. I need to report a break-in.”
“Are you in any danger, ma’am?”
“I don’t know. Please send someone quickly.” The operator was still talking when Marissa
hung up the phone. She should have stayed on the line, but she needed both hands to
swing the bat. She dropped the phone on the sofa. The police would hurry. The station
was only a few blocks away.
The water in the bathroom shut off and she paused only a couple of feet from the door
to her office. Her heart pounded heavily. A shadow danced over the threshold into
the office as the intruder walked past it and back toward the kitchen. Marissa held
A moment later one of the kitchen stools squeaked.
She crept to the opened door and gave a quick peek. The after-hours lighting cast
shadows throughout the back of the shop. She couldn’t see all the way into the belly
of the kitchen, so she edged farther and farther out of her office. A tall, lanky
man sat at the huge stainless steel table with books open in front of him. A discarded
cupcake wrapper sat at his elbow. She shook her head.
What the hell?
A siren sounded. The police had arrived. The man scrambled and shoved books into a
backpack at his feet. He turned toward the back door and then froze when he saw her
waving a bat at him.
She shifted the bat. “Don’t move.” It wasn’t a man—tall and lean, sure, but in the
still-going-through-puberty way. “You’re a teenager! What are you doing in here?”
He looked like he wanted to bolt, but he stayed put. He was dressed like every other
teenager in Oak Hollow, Texas. Baggy jeans hung from his skinny hips. His white T-shirt
and open button-down plaid shirt looked tidy but worn. She didn’t know his name, but
she’d seen him hanging around the shops.
“What are you doing here?” She eased a step closer to him.
The boy shrugged. There was no anger or menace coming off the kid. He looked more
resigned than anything as he sighed and slumped his shoulders.
“I called the police,” she said, as if it wasn’t obvious enough with red and blue
lights illuminating the front of the store. A heavy knock sounded. “Walk to the front.”
She waggled the bat at him.
What if he wouldn’t? Fear tittered down her spine. He was a good head taller than
she, well over six feet tall. He could easily overpower her and run out the back door.
Luckily, the boy turned and headed to the front of the store. She flipped on the lights
as she crossed through the kitchen behind him.
Once her eyes adjusted to the brightness, she motioned with the bat to one of the
tall tables with three stools in the corner. “Sit.” He sat.
Another knock sounded, harder. “Oak Hollow police.”
A large man stood at the front door. He had on the Oak Hollow police uniform of dark
slacks and shirt with a silver shield pinned to his chest and a tan Stetson hat. She
glanced back over her shoulder. “Don’t even think about moving.” She finally let the
bat fall to her side and dug in her pocket for the keys. The deadbolt was locked.
How had the boy gotten in?
The police officer shifted when the door swung out. “Marissa Llewellyn?” When she
nodded he continued, “Did you call about someone breaking and entering?”
Where had she heard that deep, raspy voice before?
“Ma’am?” He pushed the Stetson back farther on his head. A patch of reddish-brown
hair fell over his forehead. “Did you call in?”
“Chief Carlisle,” he corrected her.
“Carlisle?” Her eyes widened. “Jax?” She took a step back and got a better look. He
had to be well over six feet tall with the broadest shoulders she’d seen in a long
time. He still had that dusting of freckles across his nose. He looked every bit as
handsome and intimidating now as he had nearly twenty years earlier.
She’d gone to school with Jax Carlisle. He’d been two grades ahead of her, but everyone
had known who he was. The captain of everything. Football, baseball, even the class
president his senior year. The most popular guy at Oak Hollow High. Last she’d heard,
he’d gone off to college and hadn’t come back since.
“You’re the new chief? Your mom must be…” She wanted to say
Bunny Carlisle was nothing if not the epitome of upper-crust exclusivity. Her husband
owned the country club across town and came from a long line of oilmen. Men who didn’t
work for a living. “Does your mom know you’re the chief?”
He gave a quick nod and frowned at her. “Do I know you?”
“I doubt it.” She and Jax hadn’t run in any of the same circles. She hadn’t run in
circles. She’d done her best to blend into the walls once everyone hit puberty. She
had escaped high school with nothing more than a horrible nickname. “I just can’t
believe…” She shook herself, then waved him into the shop. “Sorry. I caught this young
man—” She turned to the table where she’d left the teen. The seat was empty.
“Where’d he go?” She ran to the back of the store. The delivery door was closed but
the empty crates next to it sat slightly askew.
Marissa stroked her hand through her bangs and turned to run smack-dab into Jax. “Sorry.”
Damn, he was big. All hard muscles and sexy. She fought the urge to fan herself. He’d
improved since high school. If that was even possible. Or fair.
“Stand back.” He pushed her behind him and drew his gun. He searched the stockroom,
her office and the restroom. He came back to her side as he holstered his gun. “He’s
His comment almost pulled her from her hormone-laced assessment. Almost. She couldn’t
stop staring. He would knock the wind out of someone with one lip-lock. Her nipples
hardened under her T-shirt and thin bra. Rubbed uncomfortably as she shifted.
Marissa tore her gaze from Jax’s broad shoulders to find him staring at her breasts.
He cleared his throat. “Any signs of forced entry?”
She scrunched up her nose. “No.”
“Tell me what he looked like.” He removed a little notepad from his pocket.
Marissa described everything she could remember about the teen, right down to his
bright backpack. “That’s all I can remember.” She shook her head and shrugged. “He…”
She stifled a yawn and motioned for Jax to follow her back into the front of the shop.
“He was here.” She walked over to the table. “I left him sitting right here.” She
touched the tabletop.
“Did he hurt you?”
“Hurt me?” She shifted her gaze to her former classmate. “No.” She frowned. “I think
he was doing his homework.”
“Homework? You called in a burglary.” He didn’t quite roll his eyes, but he might
as well have. “Walk me through what happened.”
Marissa gave Jax—she couldn’t think of him as the new chief, not quite yet—a rundown
of the recent break-ins to her shop, and why she’d stayed the night, up to when she
found the young man sitting there.
Jax looked up from the notebook. “Do you know who he was?”
She shook her head. “I’ve seen him, but no.”
“Was anything missing?”
This was going to sound ridiculous. Why did she have to say it in front of Jax Carlisle?
She bit her lip for a moment, then just blurted it out. “A cupcake.”
“A single cupcake?” Jax looked like he had better things to do than search for her
“I don’t know where he went.” A huge yawn escaped before she could stop it. “What
time is it?”
He glanced at his watch. “A little after three.”
Marissa groaned. Normally, she’d come in to the shop at eight to start baking for
the 10:00 a.m. opening. She would get next to no sleep tonight if she drove home all
the way across town to then turn right back around and do it all over again a couple
of hours later. “I’m sorry you had to come out this late for nothing.” Marissa started
to wave him back toward the front of the shop but then stopped. “Hang on a sec,” she
said before he pushed out the door.
She hurried back to the kitchen and boxed up a few day-old cupcakes. She usually took
them over to her sister or their dad once Kya showed up for her shift. She found Jax
standing where she’d left him near the front door. “Here.” She offered him the box
when she reached him. “For coming out so late.” She frowned for a second. “Or early.”
He stared at the box. “I’m just doing my job.”
“Then as a welcome home.” She jiggled the box and gave him a tentative smile.
He took the box and stared at her for a long moment. “I do know you. We went to high
school together. You’re Lulu.”