After the fun in the orangery, Andie decided to make use of the double ovens. Lemon chicken roasted in one while a chocolate orange swirled cheesecake baked in the other. All the while she mixed up an ambrosia salad with freshly picked mandarin oranges, pineapple, coconut mini marshmallows all tossed in a sweet orange and vanilla glaze. Andie loved a good ambrosia with chicken. Nothing like dessert in the middle of a meal.

Everything hummed along like a hummingbird on a rosebush in July until she pulled the cheesecake from the oven. She’d placed it on the cooling rack, and returned to the whisking confectioner’s sugar into the glaze, when from the corner of her eye, she saw a spoon descending. Without looking up, she grabbed a spatula and smacked the hand holding it, “No.”

“You hit me.”

She looked up to see Damien Drake holding his wounded hand to his chest.

“Call it a love tap. And do not approach the cooling confections.”

He moved, and she felt his heat over her back, his mouth at her ear, “Come on Kitten, just a bite.”  light as air kisses trailed down her neck, a hand came up and skillfully massaged the opposite shoulder. And ooh god, that felt good. She paused her whisking. Her eyes tried to slide closed, just before they connected, she saw a flash of metal.

Her eyes flew open and there was that descending spoon. The sneak.

“Hey.” She whacked him again. “No fair distracting with the sexy times, buddy.”

There was a heavy sigh and the heat left her back. Damien slumped against island beside her, arms crossed over his chest, a sulky frown on his face.  “I don’t see why you bothered to make it, if we aren’t going to eat it.”

Holy crap! The Demi-God had left the building and a five-year old boy had moved in.


She needed to get a picture and dang it, her phone was nowhere near. She could probably borrow his phone, but by the time he got it out and handed it to her, the pout would be gone. Andie made a mental note to keep her phone close in the future. These moments had to be immortalized.

“I’m taking it to class tomorrow. It’s a new gluten free recipe.”

“The whole thing?”

And we had moved on to dismay.  Also adorable. “So, is cheesecake is a favorite of yours?”

“Who doesn’t like cheesecake?” And now he was looking at her like she was not quite right in the head.

So that would be a yes, then. “Uh-huh. Well, cheesecake has to set for at least twelve hours Twenty-four is bet…”

“What?” The Demi-God returned, gloriously outraged, “Oh hell, no. That’s ridiculous.”

“Uh, Damien, who’s wearing the white coat?”

The midnight eyes narrowed and went all crafty. The hot-shot CEO was making an appearance, “One hour.”

“It won’t even be cool. I have to wait an hour before I can cover and chill it.”


 “Damien, this is not one of those things that’s negotiable.”

Hot-shot CEO dismissed that reality with an arrogant wave of his hand, “Kitten, everything is negotiable.”


“Three.” The hot shot crossed his arms over his chest, “That’s my final offer.”

 “Sheesh. You can have one slice in three hours. But that’s it, until tomorrow.”



“Nice doing business with you.”



All was well until it wasn’t.

Jose had called saying Tommy wanted her cinnamon bun recipe, she’d mentioned the new greenhouse and her friend’s “oh my gods” got the attention of the people still gathered.  She was popping an orange and cranberry dressing from the oven when the crowd milled in.

Andie went to lead them to “The Orangery”, as Barker had called it. He’d shown up like magic after she’d gotten off the phone with Jose. He claimed he’d stopped in to pick up a set of keys he’d left behind. Andie wasn’t buying it. He obviously had sensed the crowd was about to descend and headed over. Barker the Butler had super-powers.

They got to the dining room when the trouble started.

“What is that smell?”

“I smell food.”

“Holy shit, what is that….”

 “God it smells like heaven in here.”

“I wanted to work with some of the citrus,” She explained, “So I made a chocolate orange swirl cheesecake.”

“Whoa,” Dee froze in the midst of the pack, nearly getting trampled, “You saying there’s a chocolate cheesecake in this house?”

“Uh….” Okay yeah, that was stupid. She should have claimed the smell was from one of those plug-it in scent thingies.

“Out of the way,” A short arm shoved Dee aside and Min, the human beachball waddled past.

“Hey, wait just a damn minute.” Dee took off after her.  

Andie raced after them, making it to the kitchen to see them leaning over the cheesecake and sniffing.”

“Holy shit, that smells amazing.” Dee started opening drawers.

“Uh, thanks. It’s something new I’m working on. A chocolate orange swirl cheesecake with a chocolate shortbread crust gluten freee…. “ Andie realized she was shouting to be heard over all the drawer slamming and gave up.

Dee was opening and slamming drawers, cursing about some freak hiding the forks. Min just grabbed a knife out of the butcher block.

“Um, Ladies…”

 “Ha! Score!” Dee spun around holding a dozen forks.

 Andie delivered the bad news. “I’m sorry but we can’t cut it yet.”

“Sure, we can.” Min waved the knife.

“It’s supposed to sit for 24 hours. Cheesecake has to set.” Andie explained the realities of cheesecake for the second time today and got the same reactions. 

“Twenty-four…what the hell for?” Dee demanded.

“Looks plenty set to me.” Min and her knife came closer.

“Hell yeah, let’s eat.!” Dee was right behind her.

“Stop!” The one-word command thundered around them. The Demi stormed in, fire in his eyes, “That is my cheesecake.”

“Oh come on cuz. You can’t eat a whole…”

“Back. Away.”

Dee backed away. Hands up in surrender, “Uh okay yeah, your cheesecake sure.

Min didn’t budge, “I’m…”

“Don’t even try it.” Damien cut Min’s “preggo” off mid-preg, “According to my sources, your Doctor instructed you to cut back on sugar due to your current fluid retention levels.”

Min puffed up, “What the heck? What sources?”

Damien took hold of the cheesecake. Min refused to let go

“Uh, I’ve got ambrosia.” Andie said.

“What’s that?” Min asked without taking her eyes from the prize.

“It’s a salad.”

In hindsight, Andie had to admit salad as a lead in, was a mistake.

Min’s disgusted snort was so intense it caused her hand to slip from the cheesecake. Damien took advantage, raised it over his head, and headed for the butler’s pantry. Min, nine months pregnant or no, was not letting it get away. She held her belly in both hands and ran around the other side

of the counter, cutting him off at the door. Damien had height, but Min looked ready to tackle him.

 He bobbed.

She weaved.

Holy fudgesicle! Somebody was going to die over cheesecake. These people needed more dessert in their lives.  Andie shouted, “It’s got marshmallows!”

Min’s response sounded like another snort, but she couldn’t be sure as Damien was between them.

Marshmallows were a poor substitute for cheesecake. Then, Min jumped. She actually jumped, flailing and batting at Damien’s arms.

 That’s when Andie started making shit up. “It’s drizzled with chocolate and uh…. sits on chocolate cake.”

Min’s head popped around Damien’s left side, “Is there buttercream?”

Dear God. Well, why the hell not? She was lying her ass off anyway, “I was just getting ready to whip some up.”

Min was still eyeing the cheesecake, but at least her feet were staying on the floor.

It was one of those paradox moments. Would the imaginary Chocolate Ambrosia Cake lure have worked? Possibly, but since Layla stormed in, shouting for everyone to shut the hell up and listen, stole Jose’s double hand clap, put two fingers in her mouth and let loose a whistle powerful enough to bring down the walls of Jericho, the ambrosia cake solution would forever be an unsolved mystery. It helped that Barker used the distraction to take the cheesecake from Damien and nip it into the Butler’s pantry

“Listen up!” Layla waved her phone high in the air, “I’ve got a Mother with a broken clavicle and a five year old girl. We’re full up at the shelter. They need a safe place to stay for the next couple of days.”

There was a rumble of discussion, some shout outs and shut downs, but then loud clear and final, “Bring them here.”

Layla blinked. Twice. “What?”

“Bring them here.” The Demi repeated.

“Uh” Layla slid her the side-eye, “The child is young. of the children are young… five, I think.”

Damien shrugged, “We’ve got cookies.”