The Sweetest Fix

Page 7

“You think you could do better?” He swept an arm to indicate the display cases, and Jesus Christ, he was actually enjoying this. “Which would you choose for me?”

If his employees thought he couldn’t see them nudging each other under the counter, they had another think coming.

After a moment of appearing startled, Reese straightened her spine and walked the length of the case, wheels turning behind her brown eyes. There was no way she was going to guess correctly. It just wasn’t possible—

“Biscotti.” She brushed her hair back over her shoulder, nodding at the row of glass jars on top of the case. “Not the chocolate-dipped one. Just the regular, no frills kind.”

“She nailed it,” Tad whispered. “Holy shit.”

Leo echoed the sentiment in his head.

“Connection,” Jackie murmured, falling onto her elbows on the counter. “There it is.”

This whole thing, meeting this beautiful, interesting girl and finding himself pretty eager to know every damn thing about her, was happening too publicly, even if it was only two people watching. He was probably going to say the wrong thing or accidentally offend her and the last thing he needed was an audience. But letting her simply walk out of his bakery?

Yeah. He just couldn’t let that happen.

Leo coughed into his fist, hoping his ears weren’t as red as they felt. “Do you want to come in back and see my work station?”

Reese didn’t seem to register the twin gasps from Jackie and Tad, the corners of her mouth lifting into a quiet smile. “Yes. I’d like that.”

Chapter 4

Reese Stratton was a sensible girl.

Being a dancer had given her the gift of discipline. Taught her the value of routines.

The last day and a half were an anomaly.

Until this moment, following this great, big, gorgeous bear of a man into the back of his rustic, enchanting bakery, she’d never understood why routine and discipline were so important. Well, now she did. Without rules and schedules, one ended up taking the advice from a yellow cartoon character in Times Square and falling deeper and deeper into a scheme she never should have considered in the first place.

She should have walked in and come clean.

Told him everything. About her audition with Bernard, her travel fiasco, the dreams of dance glory she’d been entertaining since childhood.

She just…never expected the instant attraction.

When in real life does it ever happen? Leo Bexley had walked out in his apron, the top of his head nearly brushing the doorframe, and she’d gotten a zap of static in her fingertips. Followed by her toes and then inward. Straight to her belly button. And that was before he’d spoken in that hibernating-with-a-jar-of-honey voice and it resonated everywhere that counted.

As in, her vagina.

Dear sweet Jesus, the man was nothing like she’d expected. Bernard Bexley was known for his lean, wiry frame. His son had the polar opposite build. Less dancer, more…steer. His black hair was slightly unkempt, as if it had been shoved inside a baker’s hat all day. His eyes were the most glorious shade of blue. And he was such a grump. Without apology. How refreshing! He didn’t even bother trying to bolster a good attitude for her. A customer! At one point, she’d actually wondered if that no-trespassing frown meant he wanted her to leave.

Reese dated on occasion. Her most recent short-term relationship had been with an older brother of one of the dancers in Cedar-Boogie Dance School. She liked the theory of men, but it took a lot to inspire her to flirting. Is that what she’d been doing out there? Flirting?

Yes, definitely. There was no way to help it when he looked like he just wanted a snack and a belly scratch. She’d turned it on. To the point that she completely forgot why she’d come to the Cookie Jar in the first place.

You came here to charm him into helping you reschedule your audition.

Guilt thickened like syrup in her veins.

She should tell him everything before this—whatever it was—had a chance to get too far. But what if his surliness extended to girls who tried to use him to get to his father? Would this whole unexpected connection between them get slashed straight down the middle?

Reese was surprised to find how little she wanted that to happen. More of the frowning and ear blushing, please. Did she have to break the spell so soon?

Leo stopped walking abruptly and Reese ran straight into his ox-like back.


“Christ.” He turned quickly to steady her, his huge hands wrapping around her biceps. “Sorry, I didn’t think you were so close. I’m not used to people following me back here.”

“It’s okay,” she breathed, trying not to be obvious about ogling the size of his fingers.

So. So big.

Up close, she could see his irises were rimmed in black. Although the dark of his pupils was quickly obscuring most of the denim color. Dilating. Definitely looking pretty closely at her mouth. And on reflex she wet her lips, her belly hollowing when his grip flexed in response.

Crazy enough, if he kissed her right now, she would let him.

No. She’d kiss him back.

When had a guy ever affected her like this?

If one had come close, she couldn’t remember. Definitely never this fast.

“How did you know I prefer biscotti?”

This was another reason she already liked him. He didn’t stop to think whether or not the moment was appropriate for a question. Or how he should ask it. He was decisive and blunt. A person would probably never have to worry what he was thinking, and that kind of uncertainty had always been her problem with men in the past. Sure, they asked questions about her, but upon giving her answers, their eyes were almost translucent with boredom, as if they were watching a tiny football game inside their brains, drowning her out in the process.

Leo didn’t strike her as a man of many words. Far from it. Right now, though, she could see he was suspicious about her powers of deduction. Earlier, he’d been relieved to find out she didn’t have a boyfriend. He wasn’t hiding as much as he thought behind that scowl. She could read it just fine, and God, that was nice. Honest and comforting.

Although he probably wouldn’t take kindly to the reason she’d been led to guess biscotti. Basically, she’d imagined him as a bear with his paw stuck in a honey jar. Which led her to the glass display canisters—and boom. She’d known.

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