The Sweetest Fix

Page 8

“Well.” She thought about reminding him that his hands were still wrapped around her arms, but stayed quiet, just in case the hint made him remove that touch. The tingle was too nice to mess with. “That cherry bomb didn’t look natural in your hand. Too dainty. You couldn’t get rid of it fast enough. So I got the hunch you do the fancy stuff for customers, but you’re into the classics. Big chocolate chip cookies. Black Forest cake. Staples of the bakery world.”

This man was making a visible effort to see into her brain. He made a sound that could only be described as a sexy garbage disposal.

“Then I thought, if you’re a baker, you’re probably up really early in the morning. The natural choice would be biscotti, right?” When the groove between his eyebrows only deepened, she bit back a smile. “Are you going to show me where the magic happens?”

Yup. Definitely flirting.

Definitely flirting with the guy she’d come to beg for assistance. It didn’t matter that one had nothing to do with the other, she was on borrowed time. But she really didn’t want to end this association so soon. Intuition told her that’s exactly what would happen.

Leo did a double-take when he realized his hands were still on her, dropping them away fast and scrubbing his palms on the chest of his apron. “What you said before, about getting up early, is true. But there’s another baker who gets here earlier to do the bread, croissants, quiche and pain au chocolat.” He stepped back, tipping his head toward the far end of the back room, where several racks and oversized ovens were located. “That’s his side. I get here around when he’s finishing up to start the pastries. I prep what I can the night before. That’s what I was doing when you got here.”

“Sorry to interrupt.”

His mouth twitched. “Your smile says otherwise.”

Reese pressed her hands to her cheeks. “Who wouldn’t smile at a spur-of-the-moment behind the scenes bakery tour?” She turned in a circle, taking in the huge standing mixers, the deep fryer, the clipboards hanging on the walls, lettered in precise blocky handwriting that she surmised belonged to the man following her sound, hands clasped behind his back. “Here’s what I was working on.”

He opened up a door of an industrial fridge to reveal a wonderland of color. Reese didn’t know where to look first. At the rainbow of cake pops or Hershey kiss-sized meringues. The éclairs or…what were those? She pointed and looked at him in question.

“Those are butterscotch panna cotta. Ready for the after dinner crowd.”

“Butterscotch panna cotta,” she repeated, dazed. “I’ve never heard those three words together and that’s a crime.”

Leo shrugged a mountainous shoulder. “They’re no Black Forest cake.”

“Ha! I knew it.” His cheek did kind of jerky thing she interpreted as a smile and it caused a definite flip in her mid-section. This reaction to a guy was so incredibly out of the ordinary, she searched for a distraction that would give her time to recover. And found it just to his right, sitting on one of the metal tables. A red cake on a decorating stand, intricately piped on the side with white tulip outlines. “Who is that cake for?”

“No one,” he said, seeming caught off guard himself. “It’s a display for the front window. Valentine’s Day and all.”

“No one is going to eat it?”

“I usually leave it there for a day, then Jackie gives away free slices to customers.”

“You never give them away yourself?”

The very idea seemed to give him chills. “No. Why?”

“You’re not in this profession for the feedback? I always assumed people baked solely for the moment someone tastes their work. Eyes roll back in the head, inappropriate groaning. Etcetera.” She mimicked what the facial expression she was referring to, hoping to get another smile out of him, but he only looked thoughtful. “What are you in it for, Leo?”

He crossed his brawny arms and considered, staring down at the cake. “The repetition. The routine and tradition. I like the feeling of waking up in the morning before everyone else and them knowing…that they can walk in here and be fed, no matter what. That someone else took care of that worry for them. I guess I like being a given.”

Warmth smeared across her chest like butter. It took her a moment to gather enough breath. She never could have expected that answer, but it fit him to a T. He didn’t come across like most guys in his twenties. There was a gravity and salt-of-the-earth quality to him and she was positive that in the future, when waking up early, she would think of him doing the same, knowing he wouldn’t deviate for love or money. “That’s really nice. Still, I hope you get a little feedback through the door once in a while. Or maybe scroll through the five-star Yelp reviews late at night when no one is watching.”

“I’ll deny that in a court of law.”

That warm butter sensation spread all the way to her belly. It caused Reese to speak more freely than she intended. Being in this man’s company was calming and stimulating, all at the same time. “My mom and I loved baking on the weekends when I was growing up, trying out recipes we watched people with actual talent make on television. We held a bake sale once a year to raise funds for her dance school and let me tell you, if there was no praise involved, we would have done a car wash instead.”

His left eye twitched. “Dance school.”

“Yes,” she said slowly, sensing his guard coming up. “She taught me everything I know.”

Leo sighed, uncrossing his arms to scrub at the back of his neck.

Whoa. Landmine.

She hadn’t even gotten to the bad part yet.

Go on. She’d landed on the perfect transition. Can you help me?

How hard could it be?

She’d come here for the purpose of getting another chance at Bexley. Just because she was experiencing an odd instant attraction to the famed chorographer’s son didn’t mean she could just drop her plan, forget the main reason she’d come to New York City in the first place. This was her only hope. The words wouldn’t come out, though, remaining stuck like a peach pit in the center of her throat.

Because it was wrong. To use Leo that way. Even if he consented and agreed to throw her a life preserver in the form of a rescheduled audition, it would be awful. And there was something about his reaction to finding out she was a dancer that made Reese wonder if dancers were a hot button issue for him. His suddenly reserved body language hinted at the topic of dancing in general being a no-fly zone.

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