Sweet on You

By: Kate Perry


Chapter One





Daniela lay on the cold tile of Ground for Thought's kitchen and contemplated her life. It was, in short, a mess.

Her grandmother used to tell her there was a recipe for everything. If her grandmother were still alive, she'd say this was no different. Nonna would tell her she needed to taste the ingredients of her life and figure out the right balance of flavors.

In this case, the ingredients were one slight Italian woman, a full serving of hot blood, a dash of stubbornness, all spiced with a talent for cooking—plus a liberal dose of unhappiness.

It just added up to a bitter dish.

The kitchen's swinging door creaked open. "Daniela? Are you still in here?"

Caught. She sighed. She'd hoped for more alone time. "Yes."

The confident clacking of heels sounded on the tiles, and then her friend Eve was standing over her, peering down. "I thought you came back here to make a private phone call. What are you doing lying on the floor?"

"Thinking."

"My kitchen floor is better for thinking than yours?"

"Your kitchen is nicer." It was smaller than hers, but it was finished and homey. There was the lingering scent of vanilla and sugar, and it reminded her of baking with Nonna. It also didn't have construction going on, a nosy assistant hovering close by, or telephones ringing nonstop. "It's peaceful here."

Eve stared down at her, hands on her hips. Then she kicked off her shoes and sat cross-legged next to Daniela. "Want to talk about it?"

"No." She shook her head. It should have been uncomfortable on the stone tile, but her mass of curly hair provided good cushioning.

"Do you want to bake something? Baking always makes me feel better, especially when I do it with a friend."

"Hell no." Unable to stay stationary, she popped up to sitting and faced Eve. "Can I make a confession?"

"Of course."

"I haven't baked in months."

Eve's pretty face scrunched up. "You baked the cake for my wedding a few weeks ago."

"That's the only thing I've baked since the summer." It'd been a labor of love, because Eve was the only one who'd treated her like a person instead of a commodity.

Daniela frowned at her new friend. "Why is that, anyway?"

"Why is what?"

"That you treat me like I'm a real person."

"Have you been sniffing powdered sugar?" She put a hand on Daniela's forehead. "You feel warm. Maybe you're feverish. Maybe I should call Marley."

"Don't threaten me. I don't want to talk about my traitor-of-an-assistant." She pursed her lips. "Or the man formerly known as my brother. Tony is dead to me."

Grinning, Eve shook her head. "You're so Italian sometimes."

"I know. I'm a walking stereotype."

"But you own it and make it work for you." Eve tucked her hair behind her ear. "So tell me about your brother."

"I told you already. He's dead to me. If my grandmother were still alive, I'd ask her how to curse him. Nonna had the evil eye."

"He must have seriously upset you to make you want to put the evil eye on him."

Seriously upset didn't begin to cover it. "For my birthday, he had his secretary send me flowers."

"That's nice, isn't it?" Eve asked carefully.

"No, it's not. The card read Best Regards for Another Year." She paused meaningfully. "That was it. It wasn't signed or anything."

"Oh."

"And it was my thirty-fifth birthday." Eyes narrowed, she pointed a finger at Eve. "Everyone says thirty is awful, but it's thirty-five that smacks you upside the head."

"Should I worry that you just cursed me?"

"It's nature's curse." She slumped. "It hit me hard, and Tony didn't even have the decency to call me to see how I was doing. I ate take-out Chinese food at my coffee table in the living room as I watched TV. It was pathetic. I was pathetic."

"There wasn't anyone else you could have spent the day with?"

"No. These days, people like me for what I do, not who I am. I've become all fame and no substance." She threw her hands in the air. "What have I done with my life? I bake cookies for spoiled, rich people."

"But you love to bake." Eve frowned. "Don't you?"

"I used to. Now I'm not sure. I've become a brand instead of a person. Even my own brother sees me as a dollar sign." That was what upset her most, because Tony had once been her best friend.

Eve touched her arm. "Have you told him you're upset?"

"No. I'm sulking at the moment." Daniela stuck her lip out just a little more to show her pique.

"Yes, you are."

"It's very satisfying."