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Copyright © 2011 Jayne Rylon
Morgan aimed a puff of breath at the flame dancing on top of the candle.
“Wait! Too fast! Didn’t you make a wish first?” Kate jerked the plate holding Morgan’s cupcake out of the trajectory of the warm air. The orange glow dimmed but didn’t extinguish. “There must be something you want.”
Carnal visions burned hotter than the fire melting the sprinkle-coated frosting of her gourmet confection into a golden pool. The color reminded Morgan of the burnished skin of her crush. It should be illegal for Joe to gallivant without a shirt on as often as he did. Spectacular memories of his displays sparked her fantasies at the most inopportune moments of the day and wreaked havoc on her sleep patterns.
Kate was polite enough not to hound her while she let her gaze wander, devouring the glistening expanse of Joe’s perfect shoulders. Morgan sighed when she thought about the painted wooden sign he’d crafted—and now hung—outside the plate-glass window of her fledgling bakery. It bore the name he’d helped her brainstorm. Sweet Treats.
So thoughtful. And sexy as hell.
It kind of surprised her not to see steam rolling off his bunched muscles. How could he be comfortable working half-naked in the brisk autumn air? She shook her head. The motion didn’t erase all the naughty ideas sabotaging her rationality. The dirty thoughts tempted her with a variety of ways to warm the handyman up when he finished his task and rejoined them inside.
Morgan sighed when a snap of fingers returned her attention to the interior of her admittedly cute shop. It’d taken six months to decorate everything just so.
“You going to pick something…maybe someone? Or are you planning to wait until wax drips all over your birthday cupcake?” Kate chuckled.
Morgan decided denying her infatuation with Joe would be futile. Kate had been her best friend since grade school. The lucky bitch had referred the hunky craftsman and his crew of skilled friends in the peak of the summer heat—after she’d scored the crew’s foreman for herself.
No way could Kate miss Morgan’s similar craving.
The crew had taken on odd jobs, fixing up the crummy space in the strip mall that housed Morgan’s boutique in exchange for loads of the decadent goodies she whipped up. Damn, those guys could eat. She wondered if manual labor accounted for all of the voracious appetite they possessed. It had to take more than swinging a hammer to burn off those calories. Lord knew they found some way to stay fit and trim.
She’d baked Joe’s favorite today—a caramel apple tart. He deserved that and more for his considerate gesture. Two customers had already stopped in to say the colorful sign had caught their eye. Thanks to him, she’d sold out of brownies and cheesecake long before the after-work rush. Too bad she couldn’t generate the nerve to offer him something a little more sinful than her luscious dessert as a reward.
She’d considered it once or twice before, but she couldn’t stop drooling long enough to try. Always quick to flash his toned abs and rock solid biceps, Joe kept her off balance and lost in a haze of unvented desire. He’d become her favorite treat weeks ago. An instant addiction. Thoughts of him left her craving a taste—or more—of him in the dead of night.
She bit her lip when he reached for something along the roofline. From his perch on the ladder, his body rippled with strength.
“Damn, Kate. I don’t think the birthday fairy would sanction what I have in mind.” Morgan grimaced at the dopey grin on her friend’s face. Three months of blissful dating and wild nights with her boyfriend, Mike, had turned the woman into a ridiculous ball of giggles with a perma-smile. Worse were the googly eyes that emerged when the love of her life entered the room. Kate and Mike’s soul-deep bond was hell to be around.
Jealousy didn’t exactly flatter a girl.
“The big 3-0’s not until the weekend anyway.” Morgan pried her stare from Joe.
“I know but Mike and I will be out of town then, so it counts today. Besides, you’ll never know if you don’t try.” Kate squeezed Morgan’s hand. “Sometimes dreams come true. Believe me.”
Yep. There went that grin again. “Your face is going to stick like that if you’re not careful.”
Kate kept right on beaming.
Morgan swallowed hard then scrunched her eyes closed. She was tired of hoping Joe would ask her out. So she tried a new tactic instead.
I wish I had the courage to ask him on a date. It’s time to move on. Time to try again. I wish I could take a risk—be wild for once in my life.
When she blinked into the amber autumn light streaming through the window, Joe had vanished. A cosmic sign? Or had he needed some extra tool off his pickup?
“So… Was Joe the only guy involved in that wish or did some of the other hot construction workers we know feature in it too?”
Morgan’s mouth gaped open. More than Joe?
She never would have confessed to greed that titanic on her own, but Kate knew her better than anyone. Morgan had thought about it. A lot. The way the guys worked seamlessly together on projects made their bond impossible to ignore. When they’d crowded upstairs—in her tiny apartment over the bakery—for beer and cookies, they’d overflowed the cramped space with testosterone and something a bit more elusive.
Their camaraderie transcended their partnership. At least she thought it did. But she could have imagined the inside jokes, meaningful looks and secret smiles more common between lovers than friends.
The men’s intimacy could have been a figment of her overactive imagination but there was no mistaking their open arms. They’d accepted her right away, making her more than just a friend of a friend. Every time Morgan witnessed the interplay between the partners, her mind had spun with possibilities. That didn’t mean she had to say so. “Isn’t it one of the cardinal rules of wishing—if you tell, it won’t come true?”
“Come on, you don’t believe that nonsense do you?” Kate joked but persisted with a wiggle of her brows. “Fess up. You’ve wondered what it would be like to have them in your bed. At the very minimum, you’re burning up the sheets with Joe in your dreams.”
“Okay, fine. How could any woman resist? They’re buff, hardworking, playful, sexy as sin and sweet. I’ve got it bad for Joe. So damn bad. Like, worse than our Bon Jovi lust in high school bad. He’s strong but gentle. I could talk to him for days. He’s always surprising me with little things that make my day. And the way he fills out those ripped jeans has me thinking I’m going into cardiac arrest every time he bends over. But the rest of the crew isn’t far behind. Hell I’m so distracted, I’ve burnt more cookies since they’ve come around than in all the rest of my life.”
“About time you admitted it.”
Morgan’s heart froze at the deep rumble over her shoulder. It kicked in triple time when a broad hand settled on the side of her neck. She jerked from the retro-dinette chair she and Joe had salvaged and restored last weekend.
The sneaky bastard caught the vinyl-covered seat, saving it from crashing to the floor. Would he do the same for her if her jellied knees gave out?
“You set me up.” She gaped at Kate, betrayal and humiliation burning her cheeks.
“No, I’m sorry.” Her best friend stood, reaching out, but Morgan scooted further into the corner to avoid her seeking grasp. “I didn’t know he was there. I swear.”
“I came through the kitchen. Left my boots out back so I wouldn’t track mud all over the place.” Joe waved toward his socks. His grin turned feral. “But I won’t pretend to be sorry about what I heard. You want me. Bad.”
“Maybe. But only because I’ve let this shit go on too long.”