CAKEWALK BY CLAIRE HASTINGS
Release Date: May 24, 2021
Love isn’t always a cakewalk …
Gigi Hawthorne is starting from scratch. She just didn’t realize until her crappy car broke down that she was going to be doing it in a small town in Vermont. With an eye for design and some serious decorating skills, she’s managed to land a job making delectable treats for the patrons of the Busy Bean. Now she’s up to her elbows in sugar and flour, but her thoughts are never far from her gorgeous, brooding landlord.
Holden St. James swears he isn’t a recluse. He goes to the local coffee shop three times a week, doesn’t he? Yeah, maybe he never actually talks to anyone, but with a backstory of loss, pain, and regret like his, he’s pretty sure he wouldn’t be very good company anyway. Yet something about his new tenant makes him wonder if maybe it’s time to let someone open the oven door and release a little heat into his closed-off world.
But both are hiding secrets as dark as an espresso mocha cupcake and they’re not sure if they can trust each other. Will the truth break their delicate relationship into sad, sweet crumbs–or will it turn out to be the key ingredient in the recipe for a new life?
Sneaking another glance at him, she smiled to herself noticing a scone on his plate. He hadn’t taken a bite yet, and her chest filled with nerves as she thought about him trying it for the first time. She wanted everyone to like the goodies she was making for the café, but she really, really wanted Holden to like them. Maybe even like them so much that he’d ask her to make some just for him, at home. An image of the two of them in the kitchen together, covered in ingredients as he pressed her up against the blue cabinets, flitted across her mind, making the nerves in her chest morph into something else entirely. Was that…lust?
Stop it, Gigi…just because the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach doesn’t mean you need to make an attempt. Especially with that man.
The sound of coughing pulled her attention back to the counter, where Officer Nelligan was still standing. When he finally swallowed, he took a long swig of his coffee, blinking harshly, like he was trying to forget a taste.
“Miss Gigi, may I ask what you put in these?”
“Ummmm, usual scone ingredients?” she floundered. “Flour, salt, cream, baking powder, orange zest, cranberries…”
“I’m not much of a baker, but I think you might have mixed up your baking powder and your baking soda. A girl did that in my junior high home ec class, and it tasted much like this—kinda metallic,” Officer Nelligan said.
“What?” Gigi said. All feelings of butterflies and lust were long gone now, replaced by sheer panic. She looked at Officer Nelligan in horror, taking in the scone he’d just bitten into. The apologetic look in his eye told her everything she needed to know—she’d screwed up. Big time.
“Georgia. I don’t know what possesses you to even try these things. It’s a well-established fact that you just are not capable of cooking. Please stop trying—you’re just making yourself look ridiculous,” Bradley’s voice said. She shook her head, trying to clear his words from her mind, as she turned and ran into the kitchen.
Sure enough, the canisters labeled “baking powder” and “baking soda” were right next to each other. However, it was the baking soda whose lid was off and sitting in front of it. That was the one she’d used when measuring out her ingredients.
“Sugar Honey Iced Tea!” she exclaimed, stomping her foot in frustration. She could feel Roderick looking at her, but she didn’t have the heart to turn around and see the expression on his face.
“Uh oh,” she heard Roderick’s voice say over her shoulder. “That’s a bad day.”
Was she ever not going to screw this up? When would she learn that she couldn’t do this? No, what she couldn’t do was let Bradley’s words get to her.
At least it was just Officer Nelligan. He was used to seeing her at her worst at this point. He and Holden.
Holden had also ordered a scone. But he hadn’t eaten it yet. Right?
Racing back up front, she skidded to a stop in front of his table to find him mid-bite into the inedible treat.
“Nooo!” she cried. “Don’t eat that—it’s…”
“A bit salty…” he responded, choking it down.
Gigi could feel the tears starting to prick at her eyes, but she wasn’t going to let anyone here see her cry. It was no big deal. So she got the canisters mixed up. Happens to everyone at some point, right?
“I’ll get you a muffin,” she told him, turning back to the counter. Looking between Holden and Officer Nelligan, she sighed. “At least it was just you two, right?”
“And Mr. Hughes,” Kirk said, not looking up from the espresso machine.
“That older guy who bought six. Owns Hughes Hardware store up the street.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” she exclaimed before turning and running out the front door. She had to get to him before he let his employees have any of them.
Deserting the café like this was probably not her best move, but she figured after this disaster, she was going to be lucky to even have a job.