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Authors: Jeannie Watt

Just Desserts





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This is one sure-fire recipe for disaster!



Always proper Layla Taylor never expected to need her childhood nemesis. But when she’s stranded in a blizzard after breaking up with her cheating ex, Justin Tremont is exactly what she’s missing. Well, Justin and his car’s snow tires.


Justin’s more than okay being the rebound guy. A little fun, no strings—that’s his kind of relationship. But Layla Taylor? She’s by the book, to put it mildly. Justin, on the other hand, hardly ever follows his own recipes for the spectacular cakes he’s become known for. This woman is making him feel protective and possessive, of all things. And she sees right through him.
he can’t have. After all, no chef likes to tell all his secrets….



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“Why not work for me?”



Layla smirked. “Thanks for the offer, Justin. I’ll see you around.”


He smiled at what was obviously a lie, since she was going to take great efforts not to see him, and took a step back. “Yeah. Layla. Sounds good.”


Layla barely got outside the door when the words he’d said sunk in. She’d given as good as she’d got.


Hadn’t she? Hmm. Maybe she hadn’t.


She turned and knocked. When Justin opened the door, she took both sides of his face, pulled his head down and kissed him.


“What was that for?” he said when she finally let him go.


“That was for every time I’ve taken the high road and didn’t respond in kind to all the stuff you and my brothers did to me.”


He rubbed his thumb over his lower lip. “I like the way you retaliate.”





Dear Reader,


Layla Taylor has long believed that if she planned well enough, her life would be safe, organized and secure—the exact opposite of the way she was raised. But when both her career and her love life evaporate within a matter of days, she begins to suspect that she’s wasted time chasing goals because she thought she had to, not because she wanted to. She’s determined to loosen up and enjoy life, but old habits are hard to break.


Enter Layla’s childhood nemesis, chef Justin Tremont, the guy who ran her bra up the ROTC flagpole fifteen years ago. Justin is the last person Layla thought she’d use as a role model, but who better to teach her to loosen up than someone who lives for a good time?


Justin, however, is not the carefree guy he pretends to be, because he has a secret. The kind of secret that doesn’t go away. The kind of secret that eats at a guy and eventually keeps him from forming long-term relationships. He’s getting a kick out of the new Layla and is more than happy to help her loosen up a little—until he starts to suspect that Layla deserves a whole lot more than he’s able to give.


Just Desserts
is a book about acceptance—accepting the mistakes you’ve made, accepting that life isn’t something that can be planned and controlled. Accepting that sometimes you just have to take a chance and hope for the best.


I enjoy hearing from readers. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected], or visit my website,


Jeannie Watt





Just Desserts


Jeannie Watt



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Jeannie Watt lives off the grid in rural Nevada and loves nothing better than an excellent meal. Jeannie is blessed with a husband who cooks more than she does, a son who knows how to make tapas and a daughter who knows the best restaurants in San Francisco. Her idea of heaven is homemade macaroni and cheese.


Books by Jeannie Watt






*Too Many Cooks?

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To Jamie, baker of delicious cakes and other fattening treats, too numerous to name.

To Victoria, my most patient editor,

Thank you!



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LAYLA TAYLOR WASN’T DRUNK enough to be hallucinating, which meant that Justin Tremont was not a figment of her imagination. Her childhood nemesis and the sworn enemy of all she held dear was indeed standing in the doorway of the Lake Tahoe lounge, scanning the room.




She ducked her head, hoping he wouldn’t see her drowning her sorrows, alone, as she waited for her sister to come pick her up. The lounge was dimly lit and crowded. There was no reason he
notice her, but less than a minute later she felt the vinyl bench give way beneath his weight as he sat beside her.


This evening just kept getting better.


“Hi, Layla,” he said, when she cut him a sideways glance. “I’m here to take you home.”


“Over my dead body.”




Layla leaned her head back against the black vinyl booth cushion, noting with some alarm that when she closed her eyes, the room began to spin.


“Why are you here?” she asked without opening her eyes, certain that if she concentrated hard enough, she could make the spinning stop. Besides, she didn’t need to see to know exactly what Justin was doing—smirking at her. Just as he’d smirked at her for her entire life. Well, not all of it. Only the ten years they’d lived down the street from each other, and her younger brothers and Justin, who were all a year behind her in school, had enjoyed some kind of an outlaw bond. The three of them had made her life miserable whenever possible.


“Sam called,” Justin said, bringing her back to her very real problem at hand—him. “She asked me to take you home when I got off shift.”


She’d called her sister to rescue her, and Sam had got Justin to come. Was no one in her entire family responsible?


Easy answer there. No.


She was going to kill her sister.


Layla opened her eyes to find Justin studying her with a slight frown, as if assessing her condition. She didn’t like being assessed by Justin.


“Go home,” she said, the last word slurring slightly. She wasn’t going to tolerate any more smirking or misery at his hands. If he thought for one blinking second that she was going to allow him to be party to yet another of her humiliations, and drive her back to Reno…well, he could kiss her ass.


“I fully intend to do just that. Once I deliver
home as per Sam’s orders.”


Sam could kiss her ass, too.


Layla attempted to fix him with her teacher stare, the one that could melt a kid at twenty paces. Big mistake, because in doing so she had to focus, and that caused a dull pain to shoot through the front of her forehead, and her vision to waver. She clamped a hand to her head before she realized what she was doing.


“You know Sam wouldn’t have asked me to give you a ride unless it was an emergency.”


What in Sam’s life wasn’t an emergency? That was how her siblings—and her parents, for that matter—seemed to live, rebounding between emergencies. As if it energized them, for Pete’s sake. She was, without a doubt, adopted. There was no way she shared DNA with her family.


“You want to help? Call me a cab.”


“Are you kidding? From the lake to Reno? You don’t make that kind of money.” He stretched his arm out along the back of the booth, his fingertips making light contact with her shoulder.


Layla let out a breath. The connection actually felt kind of good. As if she wasn’t alone in all this. But she was halfway drunk and her perceptions were not to be trusted. She didn’t move any farther away, though, because that would have meant she cared.


“What happened with Sam?” she asked resignedly. Hopefully, not something that would require Layla to bail her out.


“It’s snowing pretty hard. Didn’t you know? There’s no way her little car will make it up here and back unless she’s right on a snowplow’s ass.”


Spring in the Sierras. Great.


“There wasn’t much coming down when we drove up,” Layla muttered. The wet flakes had melted off the pavement as rapidly as they’d fallen. But if it was snowing hard now, then Sam’s small Ford Escort wouldn’t be safe on the road, and Justin probably had some kind of vehicle that could handle icy conditions. A vehicle she would not be getting into. “I’m fine here,” she said. “I’ll just get a room.”


“Sold out. The Mind Breakers. Remember?”


“Trying to forget.” The concert was the reason she was there. Layla took the stem of the empty martini glass between her thumb and forefinger, spinning it slowly as she thought. “Robert had a room for us,” she muttered. Robert the blackheart.


“What happened with Robert?”


“He’s sleeping with some trollop who works with me.” Layla couldn’t believe she’d just said that. That was it for martinis. The room was spinning. Her mouth was out of control. She shoved the glass across the table. Justin picked it up and set it on the tray of a passing bar server, who smiled at him and asked if he wanted another.


“We’ll pass,” Justin said, easing his hip up to pull out his wallet. He set a bill on the tray.


“Thanks,” the woman said with a pert smile that made Layla want to smack her for some reason. “See you around, Tremont.”


Layla half turned in the booth to face Justin. She was going to try a new tactic. “I do appreciate you offering to take me home, but I’m just going to sit here for a while. My head will clear and then I’ll figure out how I want to handle this. It’s really none of your business.” It took her longer to make the speech than expected, since some of the words tangled her tongue. But she got it out, and Justin, to her relief, slid from the booth.




Really? Oh, please let it be that easy.


“Remember how Derek used to practice for his fireman test?”


Layla’s eyes widened. “You wouldn’t....”


Justin simply tilted his head.


How could she have even asked such a stupid question? Of course he would. Justin loved nothing more than a dare.


“Leave me alone!” she said with sudden venom. “I don’t want you to rescue me.”


“Why?” he asked with a touch of weariness.


“Why? Because of all the crummy things you’ve done to me.”


His eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Name one.”


He looked as if he didn’t think she could. He was so wrong. Layla drew a deep breath and fought the fog in her brain. “You…picked on me as a kid.”


He appeared unimpressed by the generic description of his actions, so she searched her brain for the perfect representative incident. There were so many to choose from. Finally, she stabbed a finger at him. “You talked my date out of going to the prom with me.”


Justin gave a soft snort. “He was a jerk.”


Maybe so. She pointed at him again. “You put a frog in my lunch bag.” The lunchroom had been packed when she’d let out a bloodcurdling scream as her bag started to move.


Justin shrugged.


Another stab of the finger. “You ran my bra up the ROTC flagpole. You glued my English comp book shut. You put pudding in my slippers. You…you…” Had done so many small things she couldn’t remember them all.


“Do you want an apology?” he asked quietly. “For all the many wrongs you’ve suffered at my hands? Then would you come with me?”


“An apology wouldn’t suffice.”


“Good. Because I’m not sorry for most of it.” He placed one palm flat on the table and leaned his face close to hers, so close that she could see tiny flecks of navy blue in his green eyes. “Now get your stuff so we can start home before the real blizzard hits.”


“If you don’t leave,” Layla said between clenched teeth, “I’m going to call security.” Or someone.


“Go ahead,” Justin replied. “No, wait. I’ll do it.” He straightened and glanced across the lobby to the uniformed man standing near the slot machines. When Justin raised a hand and gestured, the security guard started toward them.


“You will regret this,” Layla said with a slight smile. Because she was
as drunk as he seemed to think.


“Hey, how’s it going,” the guard said, breaking into a smile as he clapped Justin on the arm.


Layla groaned.


“The wife was so happy with the anniversary party,” Mr. Security continued. “She told me she was glad we went with you guys instead of the other caterer she’d chosen. For once
was right.”


“Great,” Justin said, smiling back. “I was wondering if you have any of the emergency hotel rooms available.”


“Robert has a room,” Layla muttered. “But I am
staying there.” Justin touched her back reassuringly as the guard shook his head.


“Not one. Mind Breakers are big.”


“So,” Justin continued smoothly, “if Ms. Taylor here is feeling a bit…ill, it’d be best if I took her home?”


The guard’s dark eyebrows drew together. “As opposed to…”


“Her hanging out somewhere in the hotel waiting to sober up?”


Oh, great mental picture.
Layla stood abruptly, hitting her thigh on the edge of the table. It scooted sideways with a screech of metal on tile, and the room swam once she was vertical. She automatically reached out and clutched Justin’s shoulder. It was either that or go down.


All her arguments about being fine and not needing him to butt into her life evaporated when the guard’s face wavered in front of her.
Oh, boy.


“Take her home, Justin,” the man said. Layla kept her mouth shut as she fought to regain her balance.


Justin settled a hand on her waist to help steady her, and she felt the warmth of his fingers through the thin silk of her black dress. But she didn’t move away, because she couldn’t.


Robert-1. Justin-1. Layla-0.


Double-teamed in the worst way. Hell, if she counted the gin, she’d been triple-teamed.


“Hey, Miss Taylor!” A teenage voice penetrated the fog and she moved her head to the left, focusing on the group of people passing in the hall, headed toward the concert venue. Students. Her students. She forced the corners of her mouth up, but was not so foolish as to try to speak. Or wave, since she was still hanging on to Justin.


She glanced down at the bench, wondering how a few feet of altitude could make her head spin so nastily. She had to do something. Mind Breakers
big and several of her rather privileged students were likely here in the hotel. Along with their deep-pocketed parents.


“Get me out of here,” she muttered to Justin, without looking at him. “Please,” she added, just to make her humiliation total and complete.


LAYLA WAS TRYING HARD TO WALK without leaning on him. She was losing the battle. Justin didn’t know how many martinis she’d downed after receiving the happy news that her boyfriend was sleeping around, but he knew from experience that the bartenders at this particular hotel didn’t play coy with the booze. They charged a lot for a drink and they delivered.


What Justin wanted to know was whether Robert had abandoned her at the bar after she’d found out he was sleeping with the “trollop,” or if she’d stormed out of their room and taken refuge in the bar while waiting for Sam. Because if Robert had abandoned her, drunk as she was…well, Justin might have to do something about that.


They stepped out the front doors onto the freshly shoveled sidewalk. The snow had let up a little since he’d come into the hotel, but it wasn’t done. Not by a long shot. Just a lull.


Layla clamped a hand to her stomach, and Justin stopped walking. If she was going to be sick, he’d prefer it wasn’t in his car.


“I’m fine,” she said in a brittle voice as she took a resolute step forward. Justin moved with her, only to have her stop dead a few seconds later and look around wildly. He steered her off the sidewalk, through the snow and as far around the giant juniper bush flanking the walkway as he could before she heaved. She swung at him when he tried to get hold of her hair, so he let go of her and stepped aside, allowing her to commune with the bush. When she sat back on her heels and drew in a shaky breath, he held out a hand. She clutched his fingers, allowed him to help her up, but she didn’t look at him.


“I…feel a little better.”


Justin shook his head and, after brushing the wet snow off her knees and the front of her black wool coat, helped her back to the sidewalk. People had paused to watch the spectacle, but now moved on.
Show’s over, folks. Nothing to see here.


He and Layla started for the car again, which was parked in the employee lot, even though Justin wasn’t an employee of this particular hotel. Layla was walking better now that she’d emptied her stomach, and Justin hoped she had no memory of puking in the bush in front of a crowd, because, tight-ass that she was, she wouldn’t be able to handle it.

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