The Sweetest Fix

Page 27

An undiscovered vein between Leo’s eyebrows started to throb. “No.” He shook his head, trying to step of the frame, but the synchronized pair moved with him. “We’re closed to orders. Not taking any more. Can I go now?”

“You mean, like, there’s a waiting list?” Rylee asked, eyes growing rounder. “Or a VIP list? There has to be a way to get on it—”

“There isn’t.” He wedged himself into the door opening, holding the broom between him and the overdressed pair. “Don’t bother.”

“Can we post this?” Daschul called before he could close the door.

“I don’t care,” Leo shouted back. Maybe it would be a good thing if the weirdo twins did put the impromptu interview up on TalkTalk or whatever the hell it was called. If people knew the bakery was closed to submissions, maybe Jackie would stop passing him new orders. They’d agreed to keep the online form open until five days before Valentine’s Day and he was almost in the clear. If the video was effective, he could avoid reading any more notes from people gushing about their partners. They were just reminders to Leo that he’d blown it with Reese.

Through the rear door of the bakery, he heard Rylee say to Daschul, “Let’s grab some shots from inside the bakery, ’kay?”


Leo sighed and went back to work, forgetting about the encounter within minutes of getting back into his routine. But he would be remembering it soon enough…

Reese sat on the floor of the dance studio, wincing as she removed the tape wrapping from her bloody toes. The last three days were one long, continuous blur of dancing. Everywhere hurt. Her lower back protested the slightest movement, but she bent forward and re-wrapped her toes, anyway, giving the task single-minded focus, just like she’d given every task since Wednesday afternoon.

This is why I’m in New York City. Dancing.

Not to fall for a big, gruff, endearing baker.

With mad oral skills and dirty talk game.

It was stupid to miss Leo, right? To miss having that protective arm slung over her middle, holding her close while she napped? It only happened once. Why did she feel like she’d just gotten out of a long-term relationship?

Not answering his texts kept her up at night.

They were so perfectly Leo. To the point. She could hear his voice in every one of them.

Reese. Hi.

I hope you’re having a better day.

Can we talk?

Swallowing the knot in her throat, Reese shoved her sore feet back into her shoes, eyes straying to the clock. Five minutes until the break was over, then back to the free class. Despite the fact that she’d exhausted herself with two auditions yesterday, making it to the second round of both before being cut halfway through the routine, she’d set her alarm for five a.m. to make a free workshop.

Sitting still for even a few minutes already had her muscles coiling up and stiffening, so she leaned forward and gripped the arches of her feet, groaning at the pulls and twinges. She didn’t look up when Cori fell into a cross-legged heap beside her. Her new closet-dwelling friend had been at the same auditions yesterday, suffering the same fate, and they’d walked to the workshop together this morning. Reese liked Cori, even if the dynamic between them was competitive at times. Hard to avoid it when they spent every waking moment strained, the prospect of failure hanging over their heads like storm clouds.

“So, okay, I have to show you something,” Cori said, tapping away on her phone. “Right now, right now.”

Reese turned her head, asking absently, “Did a new open call get posted?”

“No.” Cori held the phone up so Reese could see the screen. “This TikTok of Leo Bexley is going viral. Didn’t you date him?”

Seeing Leo on the screen shot her heart up into her mouth. “Oh…no. We didn’t…” His mouth moved, but she couldn’t hear his voice—and after three days without it, she didn’t have the willpower to pass on the temptation. “Can you turn it up?”

“Oh. Yeah.” Cori tapped the volume button on the side of her phone. “Hold up. Let me start it over.”

Over the next sixty seconds, Reese watched clips of Leo talking in between sweeping shots of the bakery display cases at the Cookie Jar, the video set to a hip-hop classic. It was clear that he didn’t want to be interviewed and knowing him, there was no way he’d agreed to it. How did they manage to get him on camera?

Cori snorted when Reese played the TikTok a second time, her chest growing heavy when she noticed the circles under Leo’s eyes, the dusting of flour on his apron. The crook of his neck would smell like chocolate. His arms would be so warm. Knowing he was only a short walk away made her pulse pound. But she’d made it three days. Going back now would be the equivalent of playing games with him. Walking away had been the right thing to do after her deception. It had all gone too far in the first place.

Besides, she only had enough money to make it eight more days. According to the constant math she’d been performing in her head, her funds—and her closet sublet—would run out on Valentine’s Day. If she wanted to catch a break by then, she’d have to be at every audition, every class, every open call. No time for anything else.

“Brilliant marketing move,” Cori laughed. “Right?”

Reluctantly, Reese handed her back the phone. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, telling people they can’t have something, especially this Gen Z audience, is like ringing a dinner bell. The Cookie Jar website crashed an hour after the VIP Section posted this video. The Sweetest Fix might as well be the newest iPhone.”

Reese’s mouth hung open, her head swimming with the implications of what her friend was telling her. “Oh no,” she breathed, closing her eyes.

In the TikTok, Leo said submissions were closed, but Leo had told Reese they wouldn’t officially stop accepting orders for a few more days. Meaning, the Cookie Jar got so many submissions, their website crashed. Now Leo would have to fulfill them all.

And this whole thing had originated with her.

Two sharp claps signaled class resuming. With guilt germinating in her stomach, Reese stood up and fell into position, memorizing the quick burst of choreo being demonstrated at the front of the room. She executed the moves, improving her timing slightly with each pass, but her head wasn’t in it. No, her brain might as well be on the counter of the Cookie Jar—and that’s where it stayed on the way home, with Cori and a few other dancers chattering beside her on the sidewalk. The animated group invited her to brunch, but she declined, walking the rest of the distance to her building alone.

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.