Authors: Melissa Whittle
Tags: #aa romance, #series, #small town, #ptsd, #grief, #bakery, #coffee shop, #Alpha Hero Romance, #business partners, #Melissa Blue, #contemporary romance, #multicultural romance
Double Dare, A Modern Fairy Tale: Book 1
Double Dare Published by Melissa Blue
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by Melissa Blue
Self-Published Edition 2013
“We agree to disagree that we’ll hate each other.”~ Emmaline Sharp
“We’re getting too old for this.” Emmaline Sharp passed over her left high heel from the back of the SUV.
Sasha sniffled from the passenger seat, causing Emma to pause mid-speech. Guilt, like a fresh wound, ached in her chest. Even in the dim streetlight she could see her friend’s reflection in the car’s rear view mirror. The hint of make-up didn’t hide the puffiness of her friend’s eyes.
“You complain every time.” Abigail twisted in the driver’s seat. Her pencil-straight, ebony hair glistened in the dark. “Right shoe.” She put out her small but deceptively strong hand.
Emma gave it up. “I’m just saying, at some point, we may have to figure out a healthier way to get over break ups.”
Sasha hiccupped, it sounded, ironically, like a lover’s gasp. “Brandon broke up with me over a text message. We’ve been dating for nine months and all I get is 'I’m bored with you. Have a nice life.' Then his signature is 'Conan FTW.'”
Abigail and Emma met each others’ gaze over the low-backed seat. Sasha had the tendency to date losers. For some reason this relationship lasted longer than six months, which was the minimum for a break up dare. Ten years ago they came up with the idea. What better way to get over some guy than to watch your friend, or yourself, make a fool of themselves to cheer you up? When the tradition started, freshman year in college, six months seemed like a lifetime to be with one boy. They chose who would do the dare like a true democracy and pulled straws. Emma pulled the short one tonight. Not an issue in the scheme of the things, except you always had to outdo traditions.
“Why can’t we be like normal people?” Emma handed over her stockings, because Abigail wasn’t having this event stalled a moment longer.
normal people do after a break up?” Sasha frowned at Emma.
“Get drunk and whine about men,” Abigail said. “It’s a well honored pastime.”
“She wouldn’t get drunk with us anyway,” Sasha pointed out. “She has to get up at like four in the morning. That guy is coming to the bakery to iron out their deal.”
guy,” Abigail said.
Emma rolled her eyes. “He owns a coffee shop. He wants my treats—” She blanched at how that sounded. “He wants my desserts to display in his store in Heron and here too when he opens. Never met him. Never talked to him. Don’t know why he’s
guy.” She sighed. “Though the married couple who runs the day to day business are the most adorable people I’ve ever met.”
“Online,” Abigail corrected.
“Same difference. I’m excited and hopeful. Maybe we could celebrate possibilities instead.”
Heron was a town more than fifty miles away from Sweet Tooth, which made the possibilities endless and the opportunity too good to pass up. She hadn’t realized how much she wanted to branch out until Tina and George, the face of the company, had contacted her. They were co-owners with another mysterious man—Tobias Merchant. Emma wanted the expansion like nothing else. It was a rare thing for her to want something that much. She'd created a wonderful life despite past heartaches and had thought if all her life would be was her bakery and her friends…then she'd be happy.
“I’ll meet the silent partner tomorrow. I still need to tweak some of the recipes,” Emma said. “So, a late night bender is out.”
“Your sweets are fine,” Sasha said.
“They’re delicious as is and you know it. You’re pussy footing. Skirt and shirt,” Abigail demanded.
Having dreaded this part, Emma shimmied out of her tweed skirt and placed it into Abigail’s outstretched hand. The smooth-as-butter leather cooled the exposed parts of her bottom.
“Look, even in college we avoided this kind of dare,” Emma argued. “Why couldn’t we have done this particular dare when my breasts were still perky?”
“You’re only twenty-eight. Your breasts are perky. Relatively speaking.” With that Abigail turned to Sasha. “Why didn’t we?”
“Guys,” Emma interrupted before they headed down memory lane. “I could go to jail.”
“Now that,” Sasha turned in her seat, red-rimmed eyes bright with laughter, “would be funny.”
“I could be mauled by a stranger who thinks I’m trying to give it up for free.” Emma started to unbutton her shirt. Nerves mixed with excitement made her fingers fumble over the buttons.
For a moment there was only silence. Sasha shook her head. “We’re right here. We’re going to have the lights on, so a car won’t hit you. Seriously, a pervert won’t maul you, so Abigail’s right. Stop stalling and get into your birthday suit.”
“Bra,” Abigail ordered. “See, you’re already making Sash feel better.”
“This is stupid.” Emma slipped out of the thin, red lace underwear. At least she didn’t have on her usual granny panties. She’d come prepared for anything. Too bad she hadn’t foreseen this.
Abigail whistled. “I forgot you had that tattoo. What year was it?”
That gave all of them pause. “Matt,” Emma finally replied, remembering. “You and Matt had been together for a year. You caught him with Marlene in the hot tub.”
“Right,” Abigail said. “Spring break. ’02. You threw up.”
“It’s on my pelvic bone,” Emma said. “You try to keep down greasy food when someone’s hammering on your pelvis with a needle.”
The four-leaf clover had been her first and last tattoo. She didn’t regret it, because it inspired their dating scale. The man was either
Not a chance
Abigail didn’t even speak this time, just glared. “See.” Emma pointed at the woman’s face. “This thing is creating rifts in our friendship.”
Both friends snorted. Emma sighed. “As agreed, no cameras.”
“Agreed,” they both said. Abigail added, “But since it has taken you an hour, you have to run up and back screaming ‘I’m feeling a draft.’ Now out with you.”
“This is going to be classic,” Sasha said.
Emma snorted. “Just for that I’m scooting out the car.”
The comment only made Abigail cackle. Still guarding herself with the door, Emma peeked up and down the street. No cars and no people. Not even a twitter from across the street where construction had been going on non-stop all summer. The previous business had moved out and the rental company had moved in to satisfy the next tenant—her future business ally.
At first, she’d worried about the store being across the way and had gone over to talk. There had only been construction workers. So…she sent an email asking what would be the purpose of having pastries in his store too? The reply came back from the account Tina and George had used but with a completely different tone. More reserved and to the point. Either Tobias Merchant had dictated the answers or wrote it himself.
He’d told her impulse buys, convenience and people on the run wouldn’t bother to walk across the street for the real deal. If she limited what Caff-aholic offered, it would still leave people with a reason to come to her. Sometimes a cookie wouldn’t feed the craving for a pie, no matter how delicious. All very good points that eased some of her concerns. The rest of the details…that she could deal with tomorrow at the meeting.
As soon as she stopped being a chicken.
Emma glanced back at Sasha. Dyed red curls framed her face. Loser or not, the bastard had made her friend cry. The women from
Sex and the City
harped, rightfully, about a break up with a sticky note. A text message had to be equally as bad, if not worse with the signature line.
Emma left the safety of the door, put her hands in the air, and yelled, “I’m feeling a draft.”
Her friends’ howls of laughter filled the quiet street. Emma let loose a wide grin. The cool, summer night pulled like a cloak over her skin as she ran. The pace she set was fast but cautious. She sent thanks to the city for keeping the streets clean and it didn’t take her long to reach the end of the block. Before anyone could possibly pick out her tattoo in a line up, she was heading back down the street.
Artificial light suddenly reflected off the grill of the SUV. Like a sprinter, she zipped to the left. Glancing over her shoulder, she spotted a cop car. When Emma turned back to see where she could possibly hide, she ran into a solid form.
“Umph,” a male voice said. He staggered for a moment with his hands on her shoulders, putting his back to the street. “What?”
The cop car set off a whoop-whoop in warning. It wouldn’t be long before those super-bright lights shone on her brown, bare bottom.
Thinking fast on her feet, she said, “I’m your girlfriend. Kiss me.”
“Are you crazy?”
“If I were I wouldn’t exactly know it, now would I?”
He shook his head. “You wouldn’t, but it’s just as crazy that someone sane would run down the street naked.”
Her short laugh was soft. “That’s what I told them.”
“The voices in your head?”
Another warning quieted them, and this time the man looked over his shoulder at the sound. He cursed before turning back. In a swift move he had the jacket he’d worn over her shoulders.
“This is crazy,” he said.
“No. Stupid beyond the telling of it, but what’s a woman to do in the face of tradition and peer pressure?”
He frowned, but he pushed her against the glass, deeper into the shadows, and then glanced back to the cop car. “Be still,” he whispered.
She obeyed since he wasn’t screaming for the cops to come over and lock her up. His entire body covered hers, from leg to head. He zeroed in on her face and the tension rolling off his body was palpable. Even if she’d been completely clothed that look would have stripped back any safeguards, all the layers of respectability between two people. It was simply a talk-now-or-else kind of stare.
His intense focus dropped down to her slightly parted mouth. His lips, thick and tempting, hovered over hers. A beat passed. She waited, suddenly breathless for him to lean forward. She pushed her legs into the cold surface of glass to cool her suddenly hot skin.
Her heart thumped and seemed to slow down at the rush of anticipation dumping adrenaline into her system. From the cop car’s angle it probably looked like they were kissing, which was best for both of them.
To not kiss
, she corrected herself. She didn’t know this man, and though his hands stayed respectfully on her shoulders, the electricity in the air between them could very well melt the glass at her back. As if tasting him already, her tongue flicked out to moisten her bottom lip.
His gaze strayed from her mouth, following the trail of skin exposed by the jacket, right down to the hair nestled between her thighs. He gasped, and then his head whipped up. Eyes damn near the shade of twilight flicked to hers. She sensed the punch of desire jolt through him. She held her breath, and then he had his lips over hers.
After a long hard day, biting down into a piece of chocolate would not have been better. His flavor was saturated with a sweet and bitter tang. She sampled him and her tense limbs melted. She sucked in air through her nose, trying to grab hold onto reality, but the jacket draped over her shoulders wafted up the scent of freshly brewed coffee. Both the taste and smell sent a signal to her brain―
. A stupid thought, but his mouth brushed over hers and she shivered as thoughts fled.
The callused hands splayed on her shoulders, pulled her close, crushing her breasts against him. Her nipples puckered on the rough fabric of his shirt. Heat and tension rolled off his body, enveloping her in the storm of his arousal. His soft lips explored the contours of hers before placing a playful nip at the corner of her mouth. Emma’s stomach jumped at the light but seductive tease.
The world disappeared. It was only his mouth on hers, his chest pressed against hers, and the warmth of him wrapping around her. He took her bottom lip into his mouth in long, light sucks, each time making a soft kissing sound. She yearned for the same plucking of lips but much, much lower. She trembled at the unexpected assault on her senses.
Three quick blasts of a car horn blared. “Excuse me, are you
a draft?” A familiar voice shouted with the humor barely contained.
Emma’s head snapped back, reality crashing down the instant her skull smacked into the glass. Those thick brows furrowed in confusion before his gaze sharpened. He shook his head, stepping back to give her room. Cold air rushed in and she trembled. She checked the street and the cop car had gone. She looked at him again.