The Sweetest Fix

Page 37

Nap date, tomorrow? I’ll bring sandwiches?

Best text I’ve ever gotten, he responded, immediately. Hands down.

Her lips curled up into a smile. I promise not to touch your utensil drawers.

I want your hands all over my…utensils.

Reese snort-laughed loud enough to draw the attention of a couple walking by. It’s a date, she typed back, unable to ignore the helium-like feeling in her belly. It carried her along the path for several blocks, before she turned back and headed for the apartment, mentally preparing for long hours in very cramped quarters. With her dwindling lack of funds, going out wasn’t an option. She was probably better off studying dance tutorials on her phone anyway. Maybe watching some old competition footage and look for areas of improvement.

Just before she reached her apartment building, memories of her tryst with Leo playing in Technicolor in her mind, a push notification came up on her phone from the app she’d been using to find open calls.


Casting chorus line dancers for the musical Chicago. Coordinator states: Seeking an extremely limited number of polished, experienced dancers, preferably with Broadway experience. Familiarity with the material a plus. Open call on February 14th at noon. Arrive early. Participants to be seen only if time permits. 200 West 49th Street.

Reese couldn’t breathe.

And then all of a sudden, she was breathing too quickly. So fast that she stumbled to one side and wedged a shoulder up against the closest building in order to remain standing. Chicago. Her dream musical. God, there would be hundreds of dancers there, eager to get this kind of steady work on the iconic show. She’d be an even smaller fish than she’d been thus far while auditioning for less established productions.

But she had to try. She had to take her shot.

The open call was one week away. Valentine’s Day. Her last full day in New York if she didn’t get hired. Between now and then, she would dance her ass off. Hit every audition possible. And if she didn’t land anything…Chicago would be her last shot. After the music cut out and she’d left her soul on the stage, there would be no doubt for the rest of her life that she’d given her dream every ounce of her effort. If that effort didn’t pay off, she would go back to Wisconsin.

Right after she came clean to Leo.

God. He deserved to know. It would just make ripping off the bandage so much easier if she had an actual, real life job in her back pocket when it happened. And she would kill herself trying to make that a reality. For her sake and for his. For the sake of her dream, too, because there was a possibility that if she told Leo now, if he didn’t wish her straight to Satan…he might try to help. Intervene with Bernard. And that would be too tempting. Too easy. She wouldn’t give herself that out. She’d make it on her own merit or not at all.

Come on, Reese. One more week.

Make it count.

Leo set down his phone with a grin on his face.

Plans with Reese. He had them.

For a moment, he stared down at his work station, completely at a loss for what he’d been trying to accomplish before she texted him.

The Fixes. Right.

Seven days to Valentine’s Day. People who’d placed orders were scheduled to begin picking them up in five, meaning he had a lot of work to do creating each individual cake pop. Jackie had ordered personalized boxes stamped with the Cookie Jar logo. There were red ribbons involved, too, but it would be a cold day in hell before he started tying bows. That was all Jackie and Tad. He just needed to focus on the pops themselves.

Usually at this point, he would be heading home for a few hours to sleep after an early morning of baking, but there wouldn’t be any downtime if he wanted to complete all the Fixes by the 14th and still leave space in his schedule for Reese. And he did. Very much want to leave space for her.

Over the course of the next few hours, Leo mixed ingredients, creating several flavors of cake batter, baking, forming them into balls. Whipping up buttercream. Melting white chocolate and dark for drizzling, leaning sideways to read his notes on each one of the printed-out order forms. By the time he’d worked through three dozen orders and placed them in boxes, the clock—and his stomach—told him it was dinnertime.

Jackie came through the swinging door looking exhausted. “I’m taking my break. Going to sneak out for some ramen, I think. Do you want anything?”

“Soup isn’t a meal. It’s an appetizer.”

“There are noodles involved, boss, but I’ll take that as a no.”

He’d never be sure where his next words came from, but suddenly he was speaking them. “Why don’t you and Tad go together? I can watch the front.”

Jackie paused in the act of removing her apron. “Huh?”

Leo grunted. “I can watch the front. Go. If you’re forcing yourself to eat liquid for dinner, at least have some company.”

“Who are you and what have you done with Leo Bexley?”

That was a good question. Maybe he just wanted to try and be better with people. Maybe it didn’t seem so daunting after he’d talked to Reese about what typically held him back. He’d written himself off as antisocial for so long, but after last night, did he really have to be? Or was that just an excuse not to have to try? With Reese, he had things to say. With her, it was easy. A lot easier than it had been growing up. And while it wouldn’t be like that with anyone who walked into the Cookie Jar, he wanted to make the effort. Wanted to earn her confidence in him and prove something to himself in the process.

Tad breezed into the back room, noticing Jackie’s odd expression. “What’s going on?”

“Um…nothing. Leo is going to watch the register while we go have dinner.”

“Soup,” Leo corrected. “Arguably a snack.”

“Speaking of a snack,” Jackie hummed, busying herself tying a red ribbon around one of the finished boxes. “Is a snack named Reese responsible for this change?”

Leo started to tell them to mind their own business, but apparently his mouth not cooperating with his brain was becoming a regular occurrence. “We went out last night.”

His employees executed an air high five. Tad said, “O-kay. Based on that baritone, I’m going to assume it went extremely well.”

“When are you seeing her again? When do we get to hang out with her?” Jackie wanted to know. “Show her you have friends, boss. Charming, attractive friends.”

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