Scotch trifle fit for Queen Victoria, scones with clotted cream…Alys Redcake knows the way to a man’s heart. Yet she is unaware that with each morsel—and flash of ankle—she is seducing the handsome marquess frequenting her father’s tea shop. Unmarried at twenty-six, Alys’s first love is the family business. But thoughts of the gentleman’s touch are driving her to distraction…
With his weakness for sugar, the Marquess of Hatbrook can imagine no more desirable woman than one scented with cake and spice. Mistaking Alys for a mere waitress, he has no doubt she would make a most delicious mistress. And when he finds himself in need of an heir, he plans to make her his convenient bride. Yet as they satisfy their craving for one another, business and pleasure suddenly collide. Will Hatbrook’s passion for sweets—and for Alys—be his heart’s undoing?
“Gentlemen?” asked a waitress in a businesslike tone. “What may I bring you today?”
Michael considered her. The young woman with elfin features didn’t look familiar, but she smelled delicious. With a start, he realized she’d been the cake-scented girl who jostled him just a few moments ago outside. He wondered why she’d prefer waiting tables to a trip to the country.
Michael forced his eyes from the avowed city girl’s generous curves, which were ornamental indeed. He couldn’t get that blasted Scotch trifle out of his head. The memory of that heather-honey flavor of the Drambuie in the sponge, reminding him of simpler times, had his mouth watering anew.
“A dish of the special holiday trifle, if you will, and coffee.”
“I’m so sorry, sir. We’re all out.” The cakie’s voice didn’t change tone as she delivered this tragic news.
“That’s ‘your lordship,’ young miss,” Theo said, mischief dancing in his eyes. “You can’t refuse trifle to the Marquess of Hatbrook.”
A woman at the next table gasped and nudged her neighbor, whispering, “A marquess, that is!”
The cakie swallowed sharply, but then her pointed chin went up. “I’m sorry, your lordship, but it’s all gone to Buckingham Palace for a celebration.”
“Buck House,” whispered the other gossip at the next table. “How fancy!”
“Very tiresome,” Michael said, enjoying the cakie’s show of spirit. An attractive girl with heat in her eyes was as welcome as Scotch trifle. He wondered if she ever put those rosy lips to use in other passionate endeavors. “Instead, I’ll have a plate of scones with honey.”
“Would you like some Drambuie with that?”
A gasp went up from the other table. “Did she just offer his lordship spirits? I thought this was a respectable place?”
The cakie flushed scarlet, but her chin stayed up. Her gaze had regained the besieged fire he saw outside.
“That won’t be necessary.”
“Yes, your lordship.”
Her clipped tone had him glancing at her again. Those eyes were as dark as Theo’s, but the high color and pursed full lips told him of her pique. Though a cap covered most of her hair, he could see, not surprisingly given her temper, that her hair was a carroty red, though smooth and shiny at the part. All together, a young woman with spark, and he wondered again why she would want to spend her days here. Of course, times were hard, and poverty sent many girls into the workforce. Since the girls wore black dresses of a conservative cut with white aprons, they offered no hint of individuality, though he thought this particular girl was the least subservient cakie he’d ever run across.
The girl’s gaze captured his and he realized he’d been staring.
Her forehead and cheeks flushed crimson. “I-I’ll get your order for you, your lordship.”
She darted away, skirts fluttering, offering a glimpse of trim ankle. Fetching, very fetching indeed. He wondered what she’d look like in a ball gown under gaslight, with her hair aglow and her pale skin enhanced by golden glamour.