“Thank you.” Izabella waved with a soft smile to the two teenage girls as they walked through the door, cupcakes in hands.
Her barely-there smile doing wonders to her protector seated in his signature black car with tinted windows across the street.
She looked around the café and smiled at the little boy staring at her.
Her brothers and father hadn't wanted her working at all since they could provide more than enough for her, but Izabella hated the thought of being home while everyone else worked and depending on them.
Sure, she didn't get paid for her job since she had volunteered to do it, but it helped her to not feel useless, a feeling she had constantly felt while staying at home.
The little boy blushed and tugged on his mother’s sleeve before whispering in her ear, pointing to me.
Izabella laughed as the woman turned to give her a sheepish smile.
The bell above the entrance door rang and she turned to greet the new customer with a smile.
“Hello and welcome to Sol Café. How may I hel-” She stopped talking as she looked up.
“Well, hello again. How are you, Izabella?“Carter asked with his signature cute smile and she giggled a bit.
“It’s nice to see you again. I’m good, and you?” He grinned.
“Much bette-” He was cut off by the bell ringing.
Izabella looked to the door to see a man standing with a beautiful bouquet of red roses so huge that his upper half was not visible.
“Delivery for Miss Izabella Knight.” The guy said, coming to a stand beside Carter.
“Uh-that’s me?” The confused female spoke, trying to think who could have sent her roses.
All the people she knew preferred to deliver it themselves and those were just her family.
“Where can I put these, ma’am?” He asked and Izabella’a eyes connected with a grinning Carter.
“Secret admirer.” He mouthed and her usually pale cheeks flushed a deep crimson.
As far as she knew, no one admired her, well, except for her family and she had never received anything from an unknown source.
“Um-the back.” She directed the man who bowed and in less than a second, the guy was on the move.
No one could imagine her surprise when two more guys, each holding differently coloured bouquets, came into the café.
The bewildered, yet flustered girl watched with widened eyes as men walked back and forth in the café.
By then, they had the attention of the entire café, even Amelia had come out of the back room and had been staring at the younger woman with a smirk on her round, chubby face, very much like Carter was.
Izabella avoided both person’s gazes and thought about whom could have sent those gorgeous roses.
“Excuse me?” She called to one of the delivery guys as they walked out.
The relatively tall guy turned to her with a kind smile and raised brows.
“Miss Knight?” He questioned and she nodded shyly as her cheeks coloured bright red.
She found the whole situation extremely embarrassing and baffling.
“M-May I know w-who sent these?” She questioned quizzically, eager to know.
The guy shook his head with a light laugh.
“Really?” She asked, not expecting an answer from him.
“Yes. I must go now.” With a smile and a nod in Carter’s direction, he walked out of the café, following the other two guys, the bell ringing as they opened the door.
“So?” Amelia asked as she slid behind the counter and bumped her hip with the younger female’s.
“So?” Izabella asked, playing dumb, knowing exactly what she was asking.
“Someone’s got a secret admirer.” Carter teased and Izabella’s face heated up as she gave him a slight glare.
Amelia turned to him and smiled that kind smile she always seemed to wear when meeting new people.
“And who might you be, young man?” Carter did a dramatic bow, his upper half bending all the way before standing up straight and fixing his suit jacket.
“Carter Stone, acting CEO of A&ES. Inc.” As he introduced himself, Amelia’s face lit up with recognition though she had a tint of worry marring it.
“Amelia Fordyce. You’re a handsome young man.” She winked his way and he chuckled.
“Thank you, ma’am. It’s nice to meet you.”
Amelia laughed heartily, her expression changing into one of pure glee.
“Don’t call me that. It makes me sound old. Do I seem old to you? Just call me Amelia. Everyone calls me that.” She waved him off.
“Okay. What pastry would you suggest I try? My wife has kept me off these for years. She’d freak if she knew I was doing this.” Carter said with an airy laugh and Amelia giggled like a school girl.
“I’m sure she does. The cinnamon rolls are nice. They’re not too sweet but just right. Izzy bakes them herself, actually, she bakes almost everything here.” Amelia gave Izabella a nudge as she spoke.
“Really? Now I have to try everything. Izabella is a lovely cook. I enjoyed the lasagne and spaghetti.” Izabella blushed at his words and picked a cinnamon roll from the glass case and placed it in a brown paper bag.
“On the house.” Amelia stated as he collected it.
“That’s okay. I have the money.” Carter smiled, but Amelia shook her head stubbornly.
“No. Take it. It’s for being so nice. I always thought people from that company would have been haughty and arrogant, you proved me wrong.” She gave him one last smile before walking around the counter and attending to an awaiting customer at a table.
“She’s a lovely woman.” Carter said, his eyes lingering on Amelia, a small smile playing on his lips.
“Okay. I don’t want to hold you up anymore. I’ll get going. Good luck with carrying home those roses.” He winked with a slight smirk before saluting and heading out the door.
His statement made her remember the multiple bouquets waiting to be admired in the back room.
“Izzy?” Amelia called from the table she was standing at.
“Yes?” She looked up with a confused frown.
“Shouldn’t you get going to the orphanage now? The kids must be waiting. You promised to take some cupcakes for them, remember?” Izabella’s eyes widened as her words registered in she brain and she immediately began packing the already cooled cupcakes in the kitchen.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay? It is pretty busy here right now.” Izabella asked sceptically as she grabbed her coat, willing to postpone the visit if Amelia said she needed help.
The older woman gave her a slight glare and a shake of her head.
“No. I’ll manage. I will not let those kids be disappointed. Now, get going! I’ve already called Jacob to come pick you up!” She ushered Izabella out the door after stacking the filled containers into her arms.
“You don’t have to do that. He has work.” Izabella protested, pouting like a little child being denied of her favourite toy.
“He didn’t. He was practically free so had no problem with it.” She smiled at the young woman just as a car honked from in front of them.
“Hey, princess.” Jacob grinned at them through the open window at the passenger seat of his white Mercedes.
When he was buying it, Izabella had told him all the pros and cons of owning a white car, especially one as expensive as that, but Jacob just had to be Jacob and went ahead with the idea.
She wasn’t complaining though, he was right in it attracting the attention of people.
“Hey, Jay.” She said as she climbed into the passenger seat and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek.
“How was your morning so far?” He asked, making light conversation as he shifted the gear into drive.
“Great. Carter came by and tasted a cinnamon roll.” She didn’t want to tell him about the roses she received yet.
He immediately stiffened in his seat, but relaxed shortly after.
“What is it?” His sister asked sceptically, her eyes shifting from the road ahead to him.
“Nothing. I just remembered he has a wife.” Izabella rolled her eyes at his statement and let out a loud sigh.
“Not every male who talks nicely to me is seeking a romantic relationship.” Jacob grunted, his eyes briefly meeting hers before shifting back to the road.
“I know. I just can’t help but be so protective of you. You know I only want what’s best for you, just like dad and Sean.” Her eyes softened and she grabbed his hand that was resting on the gear and rubbed circles into his knuckles.
“Yeah, but, I have to get married some time. You know I want children of my own and for me to do that, I need to start having male friends. Don’t you dare say I already have. You two don’t count because you’re my brothers.” Jacob chuckled humorlessly, an annoyed look on his face.
“I don’t even want to think about it. Why can’t you just stay single? I don’t want to have to see you cry over some stupid, egoistic guy who decided you weren’t enough or that someone else is better. You deserve the world, princess.” He said, his fingers tightening around hers as he spoke, his eyebrows furrowing and his jaw clenching slightly as if imagining the scenario.
One thing Jacob hated more than people hurting his family was seeing them cry, especially his baby sister, they all did.
“Princess?” His voice brought her out of her thoughts and she looked to see him standing by the open door on her side.
“Thanks.” She muttered, handing him the containers and stepping out of the car.