Authors: Carol Durand,Summer Prescott
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Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright 2015 by Maven Publishing - All rights reserved.
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Table of Contents
Melissa Gladstone, owner of Missy’s Muffins and More, in LaChance, Louisiana, and its sister store, Crème de la Cupcake in nearby Dellville, snuggled against Detective Chas Beckett’s chest, lazily rocking back and forth in the porch swing that graced the front of her humble lemon-yellow and white Victorian home.
“Chas?” she murmured, taking a sip of her minted iced tea and setting the glass, dripping with condensation on a side table.
“Yes, beautiful?” the handsome, dark-haired detective answered, sounding just a bit sleepy.
“When are you going to tell me about your family?” she asked, holding her breath a bit, in anticipation of his reaction. She heard him sigh, then felt him kiss the golden curls at the top of her head, buying himself some time.
“There’s nothing to tell,” he said lightly, hoping that she’d let the subject drop. “I’ve told you, my mother passed away years ago, and I visit my father in the nursing home once a month. That’s really all there is to it.” He ran his fingers lightly up and down her bare upper arm, giving her goosebumps.
“There has to be more to it than that,” she persisted, frowning. “What about brothers? Sisters? Cousins? Everybody has a family, Chas. I want to know more about how you became the amazing man that you are,” she turned to face him, her grey eyes large and inquisitive.
Chuckling, he shook his head and kissed the tip of her nose. “I love your tenacity when you’re digging into the details of a mystery, but it’s not nearly as much fun when you set your sights on my personal life,” he teased.
“Well, I’m part of your personal life, and I want to know about the other parts,” she twined her fingers through his. “Please?”
“I can tell you one thing,” he said, a touch bitterly. “The man that I am today has very little to do with my upbringing.”
Missy was surprised. Chas Beckett was everything that a woman could want in a man: strong, handsome, a complete gentleman who had impeccable manners, well-spoken, clearly well-educated…he certainly didn’t seem to be the product of a troubled home. She paused and took another sip of tea, carefully considering how to proceed. The detective was a quiet, reserved man, who had opened up to her more in the time that they’d been seeing each other, than he had to anyone in his entire life previously. She wanted to explore what clearly bothered him about his family, but didn’t want to push him so hard that he shut her out in self-defense. Being someone who had trust issues of her own, she completely understood his reticence, but her curiosity prompted her to continue.
“Okay,” she said, turning playfully toward him and using charm to break down his defenses. “We’ll make this easy. I’ll ask you questions, and you say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ okay?” she asked, employing her most endearing smile.
“Must we?” he asked, smiling despite himself. Missy nodded happily, her golden ponytail bouncing behind her. “Fine,” he sighed. “But you’re going to owe me some serious cupcakes after this,” he warned.
“Deal!” she agreed. “Now, do you have any brothers or sisters?” she asked, tracing a fingertip down his jawline.
“Yes, but I won’t be able to concentrate on any further questions if you continue to do that,” he raised an eyebrow at her.
Missy giggled, but dropped her hand. “Okay, how many of each?”
“That’s not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question.”
Missy bit her lip and frowned at him for being difficult. “Fine, but it’s an easy one, just answer that and we’ll go back to yes and no,” she bargained.
Chas sighed in mock-annoyance, fully recognizing the sweet-talking technique that she was using on him to bring him out of his shell, and really not minding too much. “I have one of each, a younger brother, and an older sister.”
“Oh that’s wonderful!” Missy clapped her hands together. “Are they married? Do they have kids? Where do they live? When’s the last time you saw them?” her questions came out in an unstoppable torrent that had Chas raising his hands for a time out.
“Whoa…slow down,” he laughed at her exuberance, then sobered, taking her hands. “Look, the reason that I haven’t wanted to talk about my family is because it’s a very painful subject for me. My siblings and I are…estranged. I hear from my sister on holidays, and I believe the last time my brother spoke to me was at my mother’s funeral,” he admitted, masking his expression to hide the depth of his pain.
“Oh, Chas, I’m so sorry,” Missy placed her hand on his cheek, kissing him softly. “What happened between you?”
The reserved detective had been wrestling for quite some time with whether or not he should share his past with her, but, had ultimately decided that when the time was right, he would. Knowing that he had arrived at a crossroads, he took a deep breath and plunged in. “My father owns a very successful brokerage firm, among a handful of other lucrative enterprises, in New York. When he accepted the fact that he was no longer going to be able to run the businesses, he wanted me to take over for him, but stepping into the shark-infested waters of Wall Street held no appeal for me, so I declined, which led him to offer leadership to my younger brother, Reginald. My sister, Olivia, didn’t care who ran the family businesses, as long as all of her needs, wants and frivolous desires were taken care of. My brother resented the fact that my father had asked me first, and resented the fact that I had said no, because that would mean, instead of working on being the world’s flashiest bachelor, he’d have to actually work for a living.” Chas grimaced, reliving the tale.
“I can understand that it would be a big responsibility for your brother, but why was he so angry with you?” Missy asked. Her parents had been tragically killed in an accident when she was 17, which transferred ownership of the family cupcake business to her. She had run the shop, with the help of family and friends, while going through school, and had made it such a success, that she had ultimately opened a second store. She understood hard work, understood sacrifice and responsibility at a young age, but didn’t understand why Reginald would be bitter about the opportunity.
“Reginald and Olivia both wholeheartedly embrace the lifestyle that comes along with being members of a very wealthy family. I never did. Even in school, I didn’t hang out with the other country club kids, other than when I had to because of a family social obligation. I always wanted to do something more…meaningful. I wanted my life to make a difference, and I just didn’t see how spending three months of the year on a yacht, owning villas all over the world, and gambling people out of their savings would keep me satisfied,” he revealed, keeping his gaze fixed upon the floorboards of the porch.
If Missy had had any doubts about her feelings for this amazing man before, they would have been swept away in the tide of emotion that crashed through her in this moment. She had always known that he was different, special, but to see this noble, vulnerable side of him nearly overwhelmed her. “Well, I for one, am glad that you didn’t stay in New York,” she smiled at him tenderly. “But darlin, family is important, so that’s something we’re going to have to work on,” she counseled.
“I believe you owe me a cupcake,” Chas forced a smile, ending the discussion.
The manager of Missy’s Muffins and More, Cheryl Radigan, had come down with a terrible cold, leaving Missy to man the store with Cheryl’s assistant, Grayson, a pale, quiet youth whom the customers absolutely loved. The two of them got through the morning rush like a well-oiled machine, selling entirely out of the Cupcake of the Day, one of Missy’s latest creations, the ChocoMint Delight. The cupcake itself was a rich, moist chocolate, with a warm, melty fudge center, topped with a light, fluffy chocolate buttercream frosting and a generous sprinkle of crushed peppermints. Missy had kept one in the kitchen for Chas, thinking mischievously that she might be able to use it as a bargaining chip for hearing more of his life story.
The afternoon traffic in the shop was much lighter than the morning, and Missy glanced up with a smile when the bell over the door jangled, signaling that she had a customer.
“Welcome, how may I help you?” she asked the well-dressed young woman who entered. As thin as she was, Missy wondered if she’d ever had a cupcake in her entire life.
“Hi! Are you Melissa Gladstone?” the elegant brunette asked pleasantly.
“I am,” Missy nodded. “And you are…?”
“Althea Browning,” the woman responded, shaking Missy’s hand. “I’m so glad to meet you! My daddy is friends with Mayor Felton, and you should know, the mayor speaks very highly of you.”
“Well, I’m flattered,” she replied, wondering where this was going, and not sure that she wanted to find out.
“In fact, he said that you were the one who was helping his daughter, Priscilla plan her wedding before…well, you know,” she finished awkwardly, not wanting to refer directly to the scandal that had recently rocked their little town.
“Yes, I had started working with her,” Missy said. “We didn’t get very far.”
“Well, given the circumstances, I’d say that was completely understandable,” the young socialite commented graciously. “But, the reason I’m here, is because the mayor spoke so highly of you, that I’m really hoping that you could help me with my wedding. It probably won’t be quite as lavish as Prissy’s would have been, but my daddy has given me a pretty healthy budget to work with.” Missy opened her mouth to refuse and the young woman cut her off. “The mayor was thinking that you would probably have the time now that you weren’t busy with Prissy’s wedding, so he said to be sure that I told you that he sent me,” she smiled expectantly.
Missy sighed inwardly. She was not a wedding planner, she was a cupcake artist, but ever since she had planned the wedding of her two managers, Ben from the Dellville shop and Cheryl from the LaChance shop, which the mayor attended, Mayor Felton Chadwick had been pushing hard for Missy to use her admirable organizational skills and plan another wedding.
“I’d be happy to do the cake, or a series of desserts for the reception,” she offered. “But I’m not actually a wedding planner. The only one I’ve ever done was for two very dear friends.”
“Oh, I know, Mayor Chadwick told me,” she nodded. “He said it was the best wedding he’d ever attended and that you really should make a career of it.”
Apparently Althea Browning was about as good at taking no for an answer as the mayor was. Missy began to realize the futility of refusing, knowing full well that if she did, she could expect a call from Felton Chadwick in short order. “Okay, Althea, I’d be happy to help you with your wedding, as long as you understand that this is not something that I normally do.” She was relieved that at least Althea seemed to be a much more pleasant person than Priscilla Chadwick had been.
“Oh, thank you so much, Miss Gladstone! I’m so excited to get started,” the young woman looked as though she wanted to jump up and down. “Do you have a card or something so that I’ll have your email address to set up an appointment?”
Missy gave her the card, as well as a Rainbow Delight cupcake, on the house, and Althea glided from the sweet-smelling shop as though she were drifting on air.