1A: Baking a New Beginning (Chick Lit)
On the absolute worst day of her life, Charlotte meets the man of her dreams, only for him to dash off without giving her his name. Aspiring to open her own bakery, it seems that fate is on Charlotte's side when Mr. Mysterious happens into her life again. Will the spice he brings to her life satisfy her sweet tooth, or will she get burned before she can even open Café Blush?
It had been a hell of a day. Rainy, blustery, and apparently my last day working as the receptionist for the prestigious wedding cake designer, Paulette Wells. I stepped out into the weather, thankful that I at least had the sense to bring a rain jacket today, though my ballet flats were already getting soaked by the first few feet onto the cold, cruel, and wet city sidewalk.
My arms were loaded with my meager belongings, stowed somewhat safely inside a single cardboard box. It was all I could do to hold my black and white polka-dotted umbrella and the box without dropping one or the other. Yet, I managed to get to the parking lot in one semi-dry piece.
That’s when I realized my car keys were inside my purse, which I had quickly stashed inside the box before braving the weather, because of all things, the strap had broken on my way into work. It had probably been an unforeseen foreshadowing of what was to come.
If only I had three arms, I could hold everything, get my keys, unlock the doors, and get my crap into the car, while keeping the umbrella over my head. Alas, with only two, I decided I should be able to balance the box on my knee, while leaning against my old beater of a car. Biting my lower lip in concentration, I tried to pry the lid off the top of the box one-handedly, only to have a gust of furiously cold wind hit me and my umbrella with a force unlike any I’d ever experienced before.
I probably screamed as I lost the little bit of balance I had, toppling over backwards, with the box slipping from my grasp, along with my now stupid inside-out umbrella. Encumbered by my heavy rain jacket and soppy shoes, I could do no more than land sprawled flat on my back, my head effectively hitting the asphalt.
“Are you okay?” A sexy, deep, and deeply-worried voice came from above.
Where did he come from?
Wincing at the pain in my head, I managed to open my eyes. I wasn’t sure if it was the rain or my splitting headache, but the person kneeling above me seemed quite blurry. Alternately blinking, then squeezing my eyes open and closed helped some as the serious face above me came into clarity. His hair and clean-shaven face were both wet from the rain and I suddenly felt horrified that he was getting drenched on my behalf.
“Come on, let me help you,” he spoke again, grabbing my forearm gently, while putting his other arm under me to help me sit.
I groaned in both pain and humiliation, then inhaled deeply in response to the sudden movement. I couldn’t help but notice the delightful scents entering my nostrils. His soft, musky cologne enhanced by the mix of rain and his own scent, permeated his suit and my feminine mind. Unfortunately, given the chance to meet such a hunk, this was not my ideal way to go about doing so.
“Thank you,” I finally managed horsley, as his extremely close presence ebbed its way under my skin.
I knew I looked a mess. Not only was I in quite a compromising position, but I’d been crying just before exiting the building. My eyes were probably red and puffy, not to mention my makeup had probably run due to both the tears and rain. Despite this, his heroic actions and handsome features somehow managed to make my insecurities fade. Chancing a glance at his left hand, my hopes of spying a bare ring finger were dashed by the soft black leather gloves he wore.
“Do you need to go to the hospital?” His still worried voice brought me back to the present, and I instinctively felt my head and patted down my torso for injury.
My head was clear by now and I shook it. “No, I’m okay. I’m so sorry! I’m just a mess today!”
With a small, but surprised chuckle, he raised an eyebrow. “What in the world are you sorry for?”
“Oh, you know, making you go out of your way to help my clumsy self out and all. You didn’t have to. But I appreciate it, really.”
He smiled with humor in his eyes, though I’m sure he was still eyeing me for signs of a concussion. “It’s not everyday I get to rescue a damsel in distress. Let me help you up.”
Damsel, huh? Normally, my independent self would cringe a bit at the stereotype. Today? This damsel was in distress in more ways than he knew, and a friendly, okay, truly handsome and helpful face was just the pick-me-up I needed.
Taking his large and strong hands in mine, I allowed him to help me stand, soon realizing that one of my slip-on shoes had come off during my fall and that all of my belongings were now strewn across the parking lot. I groaned again at the sight. The wind had blown some of my papers several feet away, while the rest were thoroughly getting soaked in the puddle at my feet.
“My stuff!” I moaned, ready to cry again, but holding it inside, not wanting my rescuer to think less of me. I was usually a pretty resilient and upbeat person.
The thoroughly handsome stranger straightened, making himself taller than I had expected as he surveyed the state of my predicament. Without hesitation, he stooped to pick up my box and purse that had tumbled onto the asphalt, handing them over to me, before kneeling at my feet. He’d found my missing shoe, holding it out in true Prince Charming fashion for me to slide my foot into.
O-M-G! This guy has to be taken!
“Thank you so much,” my heart was thoroughly pounding as my cheeks had to have been crimson by now.
“Come on, let’s get your papers before the wind picks up again.” To my surprise, he dashed off to begin picking up the notecards and bits of paper that had already blown around the nearly-empty parking lot. I hurried to unlock my car and tossed the box, purse, and now-broken umbrella into the backseat. If I had help, I just might have a chance to save my precious notecards. Now jobless, they were all I had left of my heart’s desires.
Weaving in and out of parked cars and meandering past one another for the next fifteen minutes or so, my knight-in-a-drenched-black-suit and I were soon giddy. Finding notecards had become a game and the concept of having fun in the rain turned into a new reality. Finally, with nothing but a few bits of trash left in sight, we met back at my car. Handing me his stack of cards, I hurriedly counted the entire group out. “...forty-one, forty-two, forty-three,” I frowned. “One’s missing.”
“Are you sure?” he asked, already scanning the ground for another white index card.
I counted again, confirming that number forty-four was indeed missing. I wasn’t sure which one it was yet, but I wasn’t about to have him traversing the parking lot any more on my behalf. Both of us were probably going to catch a cold after this adventure as it was. But he didn’t give me a chance to decline his attempt, rushing off towards a parked car further down the lot, apparently having spotted something.
Turning to my semi-stuffed backseat, I began searching for anything to somewhat dry off the cards I did have, for the ink had already begun to run, much to my dismay. Gratefully, I found the t-shirt I’d planned to change into to go to the gym after work. Not needing it now, I carefully cradled the deck in the center of the shirt as I quickly stood, turning back towards the lot to see where my handsome stranger had gone off to.
Ready to call him off the hunt, I whipped myself right into his lean body, nearly losing my balance for the second time today.
With my guttural ompf, his hands firmly grasped me by the upper arms, steading me physically, while making my senses flutter with wavering anticipation as his wide brown eyes met mine, and time seemed to stop. “Sorry,” I whispered, the butterflies in the pit of my stomach returning in full force.
“Don’t be,” he equally muttered under his breath, and I was sure he felt the spark between us. Maybe, just maybe he was single and...
But luck wasn’t on my side that day. Crashing the moment, shrill notes emanating from his pocket quickly distracted him from me, and I closed my eyes with disappointment as his gaze left mine and he went in search of the offending phone.
“Hello?” He grew serious. He clenched his jaw as he stepped backwards, putting us at a more platonic distance as he listened to whomever was on the other end. “Uh-huh... Yeah. That’s not good.” A nod of the head and a disheartening grimace. Whatever it was, it wasn’t pleasant.
Finally, my hero remembered me, searching my eyes for... for something... for the briefest moment. With a dismal sigh, he gave me a chagrined and almost pained smile. Then, speaking into the phone, “Hey. Hold on for just a second. Wait, wait.”
Holding the phone to his chest, he placed the missing recipe card on the stack in my palms, then reverently folded the t-shirt over the top to spare them from further damage. Running his hand through his wet hair, he cleared his throat, his milk chocolate eyes focused back on me intently. “Look, I’ve really got to go. Family emergency. It was nice meeting you.”
The phone went back up to his ear, he turned, and my heart melted with despair and the rainwater as he trotted around the corner of the building and out of sight. My Prince Charming had turned into Cinderella, leaving me at the ball with nothing. No name, no number, not even a glass shoe.