Karen Stivali and I met on Twitter, but we bonded at Lori Foster’s Reader & Author Get Together. Meeting her got me hungry to read her book THEN, AGAIN, which we chatted about at dinner. I referred to it as the “Grandma’s recipes foodie romance.” I’m also looking forward to reading her latest book, LEAVE THE LIGHTS ON. Because I’m into that, LOL! Don’t forget to enter the Hungry Hearts super swag pack giveaway at the end of this post and hop on all the Hungry Hearts blogs for recipes and a giveaway you don’t want to miss! Take it away, Karen…
One of the most frequent comments I hear from readers is “Your book made me hungry!” I always enjoy hearing that because it makes me happy to get people thinking about food. I adore food. Whether it’s something I’ve cooked or just something I really enjoy eating, I love sharing food with people. That’s why my characters can always be found cooking, snacking, dining or even grocery shopping together. There’s something simultaneously intimate, enticing and sensuous about it. I love the aromas, the textures, the anticipation. To me, it’s the perfect opportunity for exploring likes and dislikes, bonding over a shared experience and deepening a relationship.
In Leave The Lights On, Parker and Sophie are childhood friends who find themselves neighbors once again now that they’re adults. Their friendship is instantly rekindled as is their age old crush on one another. Not wanting to move too fast or make assumptions, Sophie invites Parker to attend a food expo with her. She’s a wedding planner and has to go but she tells him he should come along, for fun. Parker is all too happy to have any reason to spend some extra time with Sophie, so he jumps at the opportunity. Here’s a sneak peek at the day they spend together, sampling all sorts of decadent treats….
Excerpt from Leave The Lights On:
The intricate displays at the food show contained the most elaborate culinary concoctions Parker had ever seen. Towering pyramids of cream puffs housed in structures sculpted out of chocolate. Fruits and vegetables carved into flowers or turned into edible cups containing anything from savory soups to the lightest mousses he’d ever tasted. Bite-sized samples of everything from cheese to candied nuts to grilled meats. Each table more impressive than the last.
As much as he enjoyed the food, all of it paled in comparison to how happy it made him to spend the day with Sophie. She’d been a whirlwind since they’d first entered the expo. It seemed as though she knew at least half of the vendors, most of whom had come out from behind their displays to greet her with a hug or a kiss before pulling her to the side to give her special samples they’d held aside for VIPs. Impressive and more than a little bit of a turn on. Parker knew Sophie as the smart, capable, sweet girl she’d been when they were younger, but he’d never seen her in work mode. Her charm and grace were irresistible. And clearly not just to him.
“You’re certainly popular with this crowd,” he said, taking the umpteenth box of chocolates out of her hand so she could finish eating the miniature key lime mousse cup she’d just plucked off a silver tray.
Her auburn brows pinched together. “What do you mean?”
Watching her pop the last of the mousse cup into her mouth and lick a stray crumb from the corner of her lips made Parker’s abdominal muscles tense. He held up the three large totes full of samples they’d accumulated. “Do you not realize how many freebies we’ve got here?”
She grinned, sending the tension lower. “Okay, so maybe a few of them favor me a little bit.”
“They love you.”
Her cheeks pinked. “Half of them probably just wanted a closer look at the hot guy who’s carrying my bags.”
Hot guy? That’s got to be good. “So you’re saying you brought me along just to snag extra giveaways?”
“Pretty much. And so I wouldn’t have to carry them myself.” She batted her eyelashes, her lips pursed in a coquettish grin.
He wanted to drop all the bags, sweep her into his arms and kiss her right there in the center of the dessert aisle.
“Oh, Antoinette’s Chocolates. You have to try her truffles. They’re insane.”
She curled her fingers around the crook of his arm and tugged him toward a table with a white chocolate Eiffel tower. Having her hand on him made Parker even less able to concentrate on the food. He could imagine her hands everywhere. Is she just being friendly or does she want to touch me as much as I want to touch her?
His thoughts were interrupted as she held a small chocolate pyramid to his lips. “Try this.”
He swallowed hard then opened his mouth. Sophie popped in the chocolate. Her fingertips brushed his lips, making him feel lightheaded from lack of blood flow to his brain. He forced himself to chew the candy. The creamy chocolate liquefied on contact with his tongue, releasing a combination of caramel and hazelnut. “God, that’s good.”
“Mmmm.” She closed her eyes as she chewed. “They’re my absolute favorites. I shouldn’t admit this but I try to talk clients into ordering them just so I’ll get to eat them at the wedding.”
“Do you go to every wedding?”
She nodded, her eyes scanning the display. “Pretty much. Here. These are amazing too.” Again her delicate fingers paused in front of his lips, this time holding up a disc of chocolate with a white-chocolate rose etched on the surface.
Caramel and sea salt flooded his mouth as soon as he bit into the dark chocolate shell. “Jesus. I’ve got to get myself invited to some weddings. This stuff’s amazing.”
Sophie laughed, the shimmery sound sending tingles through Parker’s limbs. “Or you can be extra nice to me, and maybe I’ll bring you home goodie bags from all the ones I go to.”
She grabbed two sample boxes off the table and tucked them into one of the tote bags.
Parker chuckled. “Now there’s officially more food in these bags than in my entire kitchen.”
“That’s just because I haven’t taken you grocery shopping yet. We’ll get your kitchen stocked soon enough.”
“Sounds good.” Anything that involved more time with Sophie sounded good. His gaze was drawn to the saunter of her hips as she made her way through the crowd. Jesus.
“I think we’ve hit every booth. You ready to go?”
Parker held the door as they left the convention center. As they headed down the street, the sky darkened with deep blue clouds. Thunder rumbled long and deep. “Think we’ll make it to the car before the storm starts?”
No sooner did the words leave his mouth than the sky opened up.
Sophie shrieked, “No. Run.”
They tore down the sidewalk, fat raindrops pelting them faster by the second. One of Sophie’s sandals slipped off, and she started giggling. “Wait, my shoe.”
Parker stopped, slicking his hair back off his face. “Got it?”
“No.” She laughed harder, grabbing Parker’s arm to steady herself as she wiggled her foot back into the shoe. “There.”
Her eyes sparkled as she gazed up at him, her breath coming fast from laughter, her rain-soaked shirt clinging to her every curve. Parker smoothed her wet hair off her cheek. The feel of her skin, warm and inviting, was too much. He couldn’t wait another second.
His lips touched hers mid-giggle, for just a second. He held his breath, his fingers still woven into her hair, waiting to see if she’d pull away. She hesitated, the sweet scent of her making him dizzy, then her mouth was back on his.
Sophie went up on her toes, leaning in toward him, her lips parting beneath his. She tasted like the chocolate they’d had and red wine they hadn’t, a decadent blend of the richest flavors he’d ever savored. He no longer noticed the rain or heard the thunder—his whole world had condensed into the kiss. The only word his brain could form was Sophie.
Official blurb for Leave The Lights On:
When love throws you a curve, swing for the fences.
Parker Wood’s dreams of becoming a professional baseball player are shattered when he’s injured in a devastating car crash. After two years in hospitals and physical rehab facilities, he’s ready to move back to his childhood home and take over the family landscaping company. The house and business are his, now that his father has passed.
Sophie Vaughn has suffered through a hellishly public divorce from a husband who couldn’t manage to stay faithful for two months of marriage. Determined not to let her personal drama impact her successful wedding and party planning business, she buys her parents’ old house, hoping the comfort of familiar surroundings will help her heal.
When Parker and Sophie discover they’re neighbors once again, it’s as if time has stood still. Their friendship is quickly rekindled, along with the decade-long crush neither of them ever admitted having. Then the heat between them exposes a long-held secret that threatens to tear them apart…unless they can detach from their painful pasts and move forward—together.
Warning: Contains sultry summer nights, steamy pool-side encounters, and you’ll never look at a jar of peanut butter the same way again.
Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies and fictional British men. She is a multiple award winning author of contemporary and erotic romances for Ellora’s Cave, Turquoise Morning Press and Samhain Publishing.
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