With a sigh I pulled my special cupcake from the refrigerated case and set it on the counter. Though several customers had wanted to buy it, I wouldn’t sell. I’d made it for Brett, only he hadn’t shown up. Like a cake kept in the oven too long, disappointment burned through me. It was closing time for my bakery. I wouldn’t see Brett today.
The large cupcake, chocolate, with pink buttercream frosting and topped with a dark red buttercream rose, sat on the counter as if mocking me. I’d take it home and eat it, and swallow my bruised pride along with the sweet treat. I’d had such hopes that today - Valentine’s Day - Brett would finally ask me out.
My shop had done a booming business. Cases where my Valentine’s Day cupcakes and heart-shaped cookies once rested were now bare. I should be happy, but my heart was breaking a little. No Brett had walked into my shop, his long-legged stride and lopsided grin brightening my day.
Brett, construction manager at a site down the street, had been coming to my bakery every day for a month. He always bought a chocolate cupcake, then stayed to talk and flirt a little. I knew he was unattached and I’d wanted him to ask me out almost from the first day. Had I read him wrong? Maybe he wasn’t attracted to me after all. Maybe I should ask him out - but what if he said no?
Tamping down self-pity, I pushed away from the counter and headed toward the door to lock it. As I put the key in the lock, I looked out the plate glass front window and saw Brett hurrying down the street. My heavy heart lightened as excitement rose in me.
I opened the door to him, then locked it after he slid through. We stood for a few seconds and stared at each other. His longish dark blond hair was ruffled from the breeze. His green eyes lit with a delicious gleam as his gaze scanned me.
Nervous as a teen with her first crush, I smoothed a hand over my hair. “Brett, I didn’t think I’d see you today.” How lame. Thankfully my voice sounded normal.
He gave me that lopsided smile I’d come to love. “It’s been a really busy day and I couldn’t get away till now. I had to come in for my daily cupcake fix.”
I laughed, feeling some of my nervousness dissolve. “I saved a cupcake for you.” I walked to the counter with Brett following close behind.
When I handed him the cupcake, his eyes widened. “Wow, Janie, that’s beautiful. You’re a true artist. It’s almost too pretty to eat.”
“It’s meant to be eaten. Enjoy. It’s on the house. My Valentine’s Day treat to you.” My face heated as soon as the words were out. I was giving him a Valentine’s Day gift and I didn’t even know how he felt about me. What if he’d lied about being unattached?
“Thanks,” he said softly. As he took the cupcake from me, our fingers touched, shooting sparks up my arm. I knew he felt something too, because his eyes darkened with awareness.
He took a bite of the cupcake and moaned softly, his enjoyment showing on his face. When he flicked his tongue over his lips to lick away the icing, my knees wobbled like an unset soufflé. An erotic image of Brett licking his way down my body flashed in my mind. I gripped the edge of the counter for support.
Brett held out the cupcake. “Have some.” I took a bite, relishing the rich taste. Brett watched as I licked the icing off my lips.
“Delicious,” he whispered.
I could have baked a dozen cupcakes in the heat arcing between us.
Very slowly, he took the sweet from me and placed it on the counter. He drew a deep breath and raked fingers through his hair. “Hell, Janie, I don’t know how to say this, so I’m just going to say it. This is my last cupcake.”
I felt as if five pounds of sugar settled in my stomach, weighing me down and smothering my hope. He was going to tell me he had a girlfriend or that he was moving to another city for his job.
I swallowed. “What do you mean?”
He patted his stomach, his flat, muscled stomach. “Since I’ve been coming to your bakery, I’ve had to add extra workouts at the gym. I’ve got to stop with the cupcakes.”
His gaze softened, and he took one of my hands in his, pulling me toward him. “Your cupcakes are exceptional. But you’re extraordinary. Why do you think I’ve been coming in here every day?”
A bud of hope grew in my chest. “For my delicious cupcakes?”
He laughed, then framed my face between his strong, work-roughened hands. “You’re more delicious than any cupcake. It’s taken me all this time to get the nerve to ask you out. Will you go out with me? I want to get to know you, to be with you, but if I keep coming to your bakery on the pretense of needing a cupcake, I won’t be able to fit through the door.”
Happiness swirled through me, sweeter than whipped cream. “Oh, yes, I’ll go out with you. I never thought you’d ask.”
To cover my embarrassment at the words I’d blurted, I stepped back and looked up at him. “What do you mean it took you all this time to get the nerve to ask?”
“You’re so beautiful. And talented. You intimidate the hell out of me.”
“If I’d known you felt that way I would’ve messed up a few cupcake batches.”
He threw back his head and laughed. Then he grew serious and looked at me with darkened eyes. Desire curled in my stomach.
He moved closer and skimmed his thumbs over my cheekbones. “Will you have dinner with me tonight?”
I nodded. Words froze in my throat. He bent and took my lips in a tender kiss that poured out his longings. I wound my arms around his neck, savoring the feel of his lips moving gently, a little hesitantly, over mine. He tasted of chocolate, buttercream and the promise of sweet days and nights.
He pulled away and gazed into my eyes. “You taste better than I’d imagined.”
“You too,” I whispered.
“I think I’m going to enjoy having a girlfriend who looks like an angel and bakes like one too.”
I stepped back and raised an eyebrow. “So I’m your girlfriend now?”
“I hope so.”
I touched his lips with my finger. “I thought you were worried about your manly physique. As my boyfriend, you’ll be eating lots of baked goods.”
He gave me a wicked grin. “I know some very inventive ways to work off the weight.”
“Really.” Then he kissed me again, a slow seductive kiss that whetted my appetite and left me wanting more, so much more.