Undone by Her Tender Touch

By: Maya Banks
One

 She shouldn’t be so nervous about catering for a bunch of muckety-mucks, but Pippa Laingley wanted everything to be perfect for her friend Ashley Carter’s housewarming.

 And really, why should she be nervous? Just because the net worth of the assembled guests was more than the national debt shouldn’t be cause for her to sweat. Okay, and there was the fact that Pippa was on the verge of opening her own storefront café and catering business and she needed this to go off without a hitch so there would be good word of mouth and maybe a few referrals.

 She spun around in Ashley’s huge kitchen, mentally taking stock of what was ready to go out. Where were the damn waiters?

 On cue, the door swung open, and a guy who couldn’t be more than twenty hustled through. Pippa took one look and groaned.

 “Where’s your uniform?”

 He gave her a blank look.

 She sighed and closed her eyes. “White shirt? Black slacks? Nice polished shoes? Preferably well-groomed hair?”

 His mouth worked and then he snapped it shut. “I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m the emergency fill-in. I just assumed whatever I needed would be here.”

 Pippa blew out her breath. “First day on the job?”

 “Yeah,” he mumbled. “A friend told me about part-time gigs that paid good money. I’m sort of filling in for him.”

 Her gaze narrowed. Great. She wasn’t even getting an official employee. Some moron had decided to skip and had worked a deal with his buddy to split the proceeds for a night’s work. No way he was going to handle a room full of people. Which meant she was going to have to wade in and help.

 So much for having a nice glass of wine with the girls and gushing about Ashley’s new house.

 Grabbing the kid by the arm, she pulled him toward the stairs. “Come on. You have to get into something better than that.”

 He blinked but allowed her to drag him all the way to Ashley and Devon’s bedroom. She barreled into Devon’s closet and hurriedly riffled through his clothing until she found something appropriate.

 “Strip,” she ordered crisply.

 A dull flush rose up the kid’s neck.

 The sound of a clearing throat was Pippa’s first warning that she and the kid weren’t alone.

 “Perhaps I should come back later.”

 The low drawl shivered over Pippa’s nape and she squeezed her eyes shut in mortification. Now she and the kid both were blushing fools. She turned to see Cam Hollingsworth leaning lazily against the door, his eyes flashing with amusement.

 “Why, Pippa, you cradle robber.”

 She could never understand why the man always caught her at a disadvantage. She was an intelligent, well-put-together, very articulate career woman. She owned her own business, never took any crap off anyone and people rarely intimidated her. And yet, every single time she crossed paths with Devon’s friend, she always made an ass of herself.

 No way she was going to let this spiral into a mire of humiliation. She glared at Cam and then stalked over, tossing him the shirt and slacks.

 “Get him into this. I need him downstairs in two minutes.”

 To her utter delight, Cam blinked in surprise. She’d caught him off guard. Then he frowned and looked beyond her to where the kid still stood.

 “What the hell? Aren’t these Dev’s clothes?”

 “I need a waiter or no one is going to get food or drink,” she gritted out. “He’s all I’ve got. I’m not letting Ashley down tonight and neither are you. So get your ass in gear.”

 She stomped past him and hurried down the stairs, not waiting to see Cam’s reaction to her dictate.

 When she got back into the kitchen, she quickly lined up the trays, set wine and champagne glasses out and then grumbled under her breath about having to help ferry food and drinks to Ashley’s guests.

 She’d asked for three servers. She’d gotten some college kid in need of beer money. Just great.

 A moment later, college kid presented himself, and to Pippa’s surprise, he’d cleaned up well. The pants and shirt were a bit too large for his lanky frame, but he looked neat and presentable. His hair had been combed back until he looked almost polished.

 She gestured him over, shoved a tray of lobster tarts into his hands and then pushed him out of the door toward the living room, where Ashley and Devon were entertaining their guests.

 Then she returned to the island and began pouring wine into half the glasses. She filled the rest with champagne.

 “Would you like some help?”

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