Authors: Lila Ashe
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction, #Romance, #love, #hot, #sexy, #firefighter, #fireman, #bella andre, #kristan Higgins, #Barbara freethy, #darling bay, #island, #tropical, #vacation, #pacific, #musician, #singer, #guitarist, #hazmat, #acupuncture, #holistic, #explosion, #safety, #danger, #cupcake, #coffee, #maple latte, #plumber, #wrench
The Volunteers - A Darling Bay Short Story
Everyday Hero: The Volunteers – A Darling Bay Short Story
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright © 2013 Lila Ashe
This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author. This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Other books by Lila Ashe
The Volunteers – A Darling Bay Short Story
Noah’s shoe was wet from where the Great Dane had peed on it, and he’d broken his most expensive wrench trying to fix Mrs. Finch’s sabotaged washing machine, so when the enormous strawberry cupcake ran him over, it was just par for the course.
No ordinary cupcake, this one was half the size of a Smart car and apparently had a little engine in it somewhere, an engine of considerable power, since Noah was six foot two and two hundred pounds and it had still sent him flying.
“Holy crap,” said the woman inside the cupcake, her brown eyes wide. Only her head was visible. “Are you okay?”
Noah sat up slowly, brushing off the wet leaves. He wiped his now-slimy hands on his jeans which were now obviously a lost cause. “Do you have a license for that thing?”
Her eyes widened even more. “Do I need one? Because Josie at the bakery said I didn’t, but I swear this thing is as big as a house, right?”
Noah looked more closely at the woman driving the snack that had attacked him.
It appeared to be a stuffed pink cupcake, at least three feet wide. A sign that said “Josie’s Bakery”
hung from a frosting swirl on the side. The woman sat inside it, the costume coming all the way up to her neck. On top of her straight blond hair sat a stuffed strawberry. “I can’t even apologize enough. I don’t know why I said yes to doing this.”
She was pretty on this second examination. Wide brown eyes, a generous mouth, high cheekbones. Who knew what was under the cupcake, but Noah had a hunch that the woman in front of him was probably good looking down to her toes.
The face that he’d been run over by a
strawberry cupcake was a slight boost on a day that was already crap in every other way.
The electrical motor buzzed as she moved forward. “I would help you up but I have no earthly idea how to get out of this thing,” she said. “Oh, I just can’t apologize enough.” She looked at his coffee cup which was also in the gutter. “And your drink. I’m so sorry.”
Noah stood. “It’s okay. The coffee is kind of masking the gutter smell.” And the dog pee smell, but he wouldn’t say that.
“No, let me buy you another cup.” She gestured with a jerk of her strawberry-topped head, the green leaves bobbing. “Mabel’s Cafe makes a great maple pumpkin-spiced latte.”
Noah drank his coffee black, always had. And for some reason, the way this woman said the word pumpkin got him thinking he should be more creative when it came to his morning beverages. “I’m Noah,” he said. He automatically extended his hand until he realized she wouldn’t be able to shake it.
“Ruby,” she said. “It’s very nice and very embarrassing to meet you. Will you let me buy you that coffee?”
“Yeah. Sure. I’ve never been bought coffee by a cupcake before.”
Her cheeks colored. “I’ve never run anyone over in one. First time for everything. Are you sure you don’t mind walking next to me, though?”
“Nah, a cupcake car is okay. At least you’re not a toast car. So boring. I’m also not a big fan of being run over by donuts. It happened a couple of times when I was college, and the aftermath wasn’t pretty.”
“I hear you. I saw a bagel car pileup a few years ago.”
“Wow,” Noah said. “The cream cheese must have been something else.”
She shook her head. “It was awful. All the screaming poppyseeds in the street. I finally got over it, with a lot of therapy and time spent with a couple of very nice bakers, but this is bringing it all back. Post-traumatic dough disorder.”
And with that, Noah fell in love.
Ruby had hit the most handsome man she’d seen in years with her cupcake. Yep. That was her luck. Even better, he was wearing a Darling Bay fire department T-shirt. She’d run over a hero. Awesome.
This was a cake wreck of gigantic proportions.
He held open the door of Mabel’s Cafe for her. “Well,” he said. Then he opened the other half of the double doors. “Wide load,” he said. “Oh, I don’t mean … ”
Ruby said, “It’s not the first time I’ve heard it said about this cupcake.” The engine whirred as she made the short distance to the counter where Mabel Mellor presided. Ruby could feel her cheeks going as pink as the fake frosting all around her.
“Hi Mabel,” she said as smoothly as she could. “Can I get one maple pumpkin latte, please?”
Mabel, who had run her eponymous cafe for the past nine hundred years or more, didn’t miss a beat. “Sure, honey. You got a cup holder in that thing?”
The regulars at the counter who had been waiting with bated breath to hear what Mabel said roared in appreciation.
was passed up and down the cafe, and Ruby regretted her decision to replace the man’s coffee.
The nice thing was that Noah didn’t seem to mind a bit. He had greeted at least four people at the counter by name, grinning easily and laughing with them. It took a man comfortable in his own skin to wheel a cupcake into a cafe, that was for sure.
“Three fifty,” said Mabel.
It was then Ruby realized that unless she got out of the cupcake car and freed her arms, there was no way she was going to be able to pay for the coffee. And in this state? At the bakery, it had been hard enough to fold herself up inside with Josie’s help. It would probably take three people to pry her out.
She looked up at Noah. Laughter danced in his incredibly nice green eyes. “Allow me,” he said.
Was it wrong to feel so attracted to a cupcake? Noah had spent the past fifteen minutes telling himself that it was normal to think that a woman sitting inside a low frosted snack—who couldn’t even hold a cup of coffee—was hot. He had no idea what she looked like inside the cupcake, after all. For all he knew, she was naked.
was an idea.
“You know,” he said, as she rolled next to him toward the marina, “if this doesn’t work out you can probably get a job doing bachelor parties or Lions Club birthdays. They usually prefer a woman to jump out of a cake, but I’m sure the lower budget version could do well, too.”
The strawberry on top of her head tilted in thought. “Good idea. Josie isn’t exactly paying me a fortune for this.”
“This is … advertising?”
“Supposed to be. So far, it’s just been embarrassing. I’m hoping she gets her money’s worth from me. But now I know that I enjoy being inside baked goods, I can sense a whole new world of job opportunities opening up.”
Noah grinned. “What do you normally do?”
“I was a nanny, but I’ve been in town helping my sister recently. You want to sit over here?” She nodded toward an open bench that faced the water.
“Sure.” He sat and she stopped her cupcake next to him.
In front of them, Darling Bay sparkled in the autumn sun. It seemed as if the view was showing off just for them—piles of cotton-soft clouds were banked on the horizon, and the water, often gray, was a deep, clear blue. Boats bobbed at their moorings, their furled sails clanking. On board
Her Fuzzy Navel
, Thom Grandy waved at them. Noah knew him from the volunteer firefighter meetings.
“Couldn’t have a better morning for it, could you?” Thom yelled.
For sitting next to a pretty cupcake while sea gulls wheeled in the blue sky? Noah didn’t think so. “You’re right about that,” he called.
“See you at the fire station tomorrow?” Grandy bellowed.
“See you there!” He took a sip of his coffee which was better than anything maple should be allowed to taste. “You want some of this?” he asked, holding out his cup.
Ruby’s brown eyes danced. “Really?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“Okay. I’d like that. I didn’t get my caffeine quotient this morning.”
“Me, neither.” He leaned over and held the cup to her lips. She sipped, and Noah felt himself stir.
He was letting a hot cupcake drink his maple latte.
how he’d pictured his day going.
She licked her lips, and for a second, Noah imagined himself doing the same thing.
Get a grip
Ruby said, “Thanks. That’s good. And now I’ve decided that I’m done doing embarrassing things. For the whole rest of the day, I’m going to be classy. I’m totally not going to run anyone over and then make them buy their own coffee and then drink it for them.”
“Good to know.”
“So, what do you do?” Ruby nodded toward his Darling Bay Fire shirt. “You’re with the fire department?”
“What do volunteers do? I mean, in comparison to the paid ones?”
“We do most of the same things they do until they get on scene to take over.”
“So if that guy—” she pointed to a man who looked old enough to have fought in the Civil War “—just suddenly dropped, you would do CPR on him?”
“Mouth to mouth?”
“Sure. I’ve been single a while.”
Ruby gave another one of those laughs that made him want to lean closer to her. If she were only on the bench next to him instead of inside a cupcake car.
She went on, “What do you do when you’re not giving CPR on unsuspecting citizens for free?”
“I’m a plumber.” Noah straightened. It had taken him a long time to figure out how to be proud of what he did for a living. It might be a gross job sometimes, but it was a necessary one. He’d worked with his dad until he died, and Noah had taken over the family business.
He’d learned, though, to keep an eye on anyone he told what he did. A flinch, and they weren’t going to be friends.
Ruby didn’t flinch. In fact, her radiant expression got even brighter.
“You’re kidding! That’s amazing!”
Was she pulling his leg? “Really?” The fact that he excavated through the problems of septic tanks was an interesting thing to her?
“My dad was a plumber. When I was a kid I was
into working with him. I still have a thing about hardware stores, and I can tell an aerator wrench from a cartridge removal wrench in the dark.”
Noah laughed in delight.
She continued, “And I have very strong opinions about six-step faucet seat wrenches. You should ask me sometime.”
Ask her? He wanted to ask this woman every single thing. He wanted to know her favorite color and her favorite song and her middle name and the way she sounded when she was mad. And more than anything, he wanted to know when she was happy so he could keep her that way.
“I’m sorry, what was it that you said you did?”
“Oh,” she said, blowing a breath upward so that an errant blond strand moved out of her eye. “I used to be a nanny.”
“Used to be?”
“I’m … taking a little time off. For another endeavor.”
“A woman of mystery.”
She glanced sideways at him playfully, and Noah felt himself fall further. “Every girl has a secret.”
Then her face paled. “Oh,” she said. “Oh, no. Not
. Oh, no.”
It couldn’t happen this way. It just couldn’t. Not in front of this guy, this sweet man with the intelligent eyes and a mouth so sexy and warm-looking that it was almost all she could think about.
But the feeling she was having … Okay it had moved beyond a mere feeling.
Her water had broken.
Inside the cupcake.
Josie was going to
her if she shorted the wiring out in this thing.
“Oh, no,” she said again.
Noah leaned toward her. “What? What is it?”
“I can’t tell you.”
He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “There’s something wrong and I want to help.”
“No. You really can’t.”
A contraction gripped her then, and she suddenly realized that yes, she
tell the difference between a real one and a Braxton-Hicks. She groaned and closed her eyes as tightly as she could.
One, two, three
… How could she be in so much pain, so fast? Was this normal? Everything disappeared for a moment, long moments, as she concentrated on breathing. A small breeze kicked up off the bay—she could feel it on her cheeks, but suddenly it seemed as if there wasn’t enough air in the world. She breathed in small gulps.