The Angel Tasted Temptation

By: Shirley Jump

A Sweet and Savory Novel

Chapter One

One of the first things to greet Meredith Shordon to Boston was a man in a pair of Fruit of the Looms, playing a set of bongos.

She'd come here looking for a man—but not one like that.

Meredith stood in the middle of the bustling airport subway stop and stared. Exactly like every other tourist beside her. If there was one thing she hadn't wanted to do, it was look like a gaping Midwesterner who'd never seen a big city in her life.

Well, there went that plan.

Heck, she'd been gaping since she left Indiana. First, there'd been the quartet of Patriots fans who'd been on the second leg of her flight, returning from an out-of-town game. They'd brought the ongoing celebration with them, from the red and blue stripes painted on their faces to the way they yelled "Go Pats!" at odd times, like they had a rare, two-word form of Tourette's syndrome.

Then, the clouds had parted and revealed the massive skyline through the oval window of the jet.

She'd forgotten the NFL fools behind her and stared at the massive stone behemoths of Boston's skyline. It looked more like Neptune than Heavendale, Indiana, where she'd been a few short hours ago. There were none of the wide expanses of green land and patchwork quilts of farms she was used to.

She'd stopped staring long enough to get off the plane and through the overwhelming crush of people to meet her cousin's friend, Maria Pagliano, and to claim her baggage without looking too much like a bewildered farm girl.

Until now.

The man tum-tummed on the two drums hanging from a leather strap around his neck, his long, dark, curly hair swinging in concert. He danced to the rhythm, a contented smile on his face, as if bongoing hit a high sex never could.

He caught Meredith's stare, hit his bongos harder and thrust his slim hips to the left, toward a big white bucket with a handwritten sign that read Tips for the Hips.

Meredith drew her caramel leather trench coat closer around her, resisting the urge to button up. She hadn't seen a man this naked since she'd walked in on Bobby Reynolds getting his football physical at the end of senior year.

Unfortunately, she'd opened the locker room door right in the middle of his hernia screening.

For two years after that, she'd been unable to look Bobby in the face. Or eat pork products ever again.

"Don't give a dime to Bongo Boy," Maria said, grabbing Meredith's arm and hauling her away. "He makes more than most investment bankers."

"He does?" Meredith craned her head over Maria's, casting one last look at Bongo Boy's swiveling anatomy.

"He heard about that naked cowboy who plays guitar in New York—"

"There's a naked man playing guitar in New York?" Geez. She needed to travel more. Scratch that. Travel, period, considering this was only the second time in her life she'd left Indiana, if she even counted that trip to the Ohio State Fair.

And this time she hadn't left. Exactly. More like run away. She'd abandoned a whole lot of people's expectations, leaping at the chance for something new, exciting, different.

She just hadn't expected the first exciting thing she saw to be a man in his tightie whities pounding out Yankee Doodle Dandy.

"The Naked Cowboy isn't really naked. I saw him once in Times Square." Maria shook her head, clearly disappointed. "I tell you, there's no truth in advertising anymore."

The instant she'd met her, Meredith decided she liked Maria. Maria was one of the trio of business partners at Gift Baskets to Die For, along with Meredith's cousin, Rebecca Hamilton, and another woman named Candace Woodrow.

A buxom Italian brunette, Maria wore a bright red dress and medium heels that set off her fabulous legs and made virtually every man in a thirty-foot radius stop and stare. The complete opposite to Meredith's long, straight and uninspired blond hair and dark blue eyes, all about as exciting as a Honda in a lot full of Ferraris.

Brash, outspoken and unafraid of color in her clothes, Maria was everything Meredith was not. Most of all, Maria was a perfect friend for what Meredith wanted to accomplish while she was staying in the city: a major overhaul of her life and her self.

"I think it's great that you're doing this for us," Maria said, shouting a little to be heard as they made their way through the crowds. "Dropping everything to come and help Rebecca while she's on bed rest. We were desperate for the extra help."