Play My Game (Stark Trilogy, #3.7)(7)

A perky waitress who looks like she’s ready to star in her own sitcom bounces to our table. “Can I get you some dessert?”

I meet Damien’s eyes. “Thanks,” I say. “But we’ve already got a plan for that.”

We settle the check, and then stroll the two short blocks to Love Bites, the exceptional bakery owned by Sally Love. She’s been featured on every food program known to man and has graced the pages of wedding and food magazines. She’s known Damien for years, and I adored her—and her cakes—from the moment I met her. And after just one bite of her dark chocolate and Kahlua cupcake, I knew that no one else could cater our wedding.

I’m convinced that what is sweeter than Love leads like an arrow to Sally Love and Love Bites. Valentine’s Day and love go together—and love leads to weddings. So how could the bakery that catered our wedding not be where the clue leads?

But though I might be certain, Damien, damn the man, has steadfastly refused to either confirm or deny.

Soon enough, though, I’ll know if I’m right.

I’d called Sally just seconds after my aha moment, and though the bakery is technically closed on Sundays, she said that she was on-site getting ready for a luncheon she’s catering tomorrow and invited me to stop by.

“Look at you two,” she says the moment she tugs open the glass doors to her sugar-scented shop. “The very picture of marital bliss.”

I simply grin and return her enthusiastic hug.

“Now, what’s this all about?”

“Apparently my wife has a craving for your cupcakes.”

“Does she?” Sally says, her brows rising. “I’m flattered, but what brought this on?”

I look between the two of them, suddenly unsure of myself. “Um, it’s just that nothing is sweeter than love, right? So that must mean your cupcakes.”

She points a finger at me. “Now there’s an excellent slogan for an ad campaign. Mind if I borrow it?”

I glance toward Damien. “You’ll have to ask him.”

“It’s all yours,” he says.

“Easiest deal I’ve made all day,” she says with a wide grin. “But seriously, what do you need from me, Nikki?”

I hand her the tiny piece of paper and watch as she squints at the words. When she looks up at me, I see both interest and confusion on her face. “This is from where?”

“From him,” I say, pointing toward Damien.

“Oh, really?” There is laughter in her voice, as if the very thought of Damien Stark writing silly poetry and organizing a scavenger hunt is beyond the realm of possibility. She looks so perplexed, in fact, that I’m about to tell her that I must have made a mistake.

That’s when I see the tiniest smile touch her mouth.

“Oh, you are so playing me,” I accuse. “Both of you.”

She holds her hands up in mock surrender. “Sweetie, I swear I have nothing in the store you’d want tonight. But if you’d like to special-order something for delivery to your office tomorrow … well, I’m sure I can come up with a treat that will intrigue you.”

I keep my own expression businesslike, but inside I’m jumping with glee. I knew I’d figured out the clue. I’d just done it faster than she or Damien had expected. “That sounds great. I always need a sugar boost by the afternoon. Why don’t I let it be chef’s choice?” I add, smiling innocently.

She holds my gaze, then nods. “I think that’ll work out just fine.”

Damien and I spend a few more minutes chatting with her, and when we leave, I have a chocolate cupcake in hand—one that she said was leftover from the catering job she was preparing in the back.

“It’s delicious,” I say to Damien, who has taken my wrist and is starting to lift the confection to his mouth for a bite. “And it’s all mine.” I tug my arm very firmly out of his grasp.

“Oh, really?” The humor is plain in his voice. “And why is that?”

“We both know I got it right. You’re just keeping your mouth shut to torment me.”

“Tormenting you is one of my favorite activities, Mrs. Stark.”

“I know that very well, Mr. Stark,” I retort, keeping my voice and my expression prim despite the heat that his sultry tone has sent coursing through me. “But this time it’s my turn to torment you. No sharing unless you play nice.” As if to illustrate my point, I take another bite of the cupcake.

With a laugh, he tugs me close. “You can withhold chocolate,” he says, dipping me. “Just don’t withhold anything else.”

And then—as the well-heeled Rodeo Drive crowd looks on and applauds—my husband licks the chocolate from the corner of my mouth before kissing me long and deep and very thoroughly.

Chapter 3

Despite having weeks of work stacked up on my desk and an email inbox that is full to overflowing, I am having a terrible time concentrating at my desk on Monday. I manage to spend the morning getting some work done, then eat lunch at my desk as I plow through emails. But by mid-afternoon, I’ve lost my focus. Instead of computers, I’m thinking about cupcakes. Not to mention the present that I have planned for Damien—and yet haven’t had nearly enough time to work on.

The problem with buying presents for a man like Damien Stark is that if he doesn’t already own something, then it’s probably not something he’d want anyway. I considered naming a star for him, or stealing him away for a romantic weekend, or even donating in both our names to one of his favorite charities.

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