Knead: Contemporary Romance (Creamy's Bakery Book 1)

BOOK: Knead: Contemporary Romance (Creamy's Bakery Book 1)
11.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub





Creamy’s Bakery #1


By Aspen Drake





This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious or used fictitiously. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher or author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

Creamy’s Bakery Knead

Published by Surrendered Press

Copyright 2016 Aspen Drake





Chapter One



“Of course, Mrs. Preston.” I nod against the phone even though she obviously can't see me. “Chocolate filling should be fine. Yes, gluten-free too. Do you want the entire cake to be gluten-free or just the extra—”

The pretentious trophy wife of a Facebook mogul cut me off before I could even get my question out. “Okay, so the entire cake in chocolate and twenty-five separately packaged gluten-free sticks. Got it.” I pause to let her ramble on about expecting nothing short of perfection from the pastries we’re delivering on Saturday morning. “Of course, Mrs. Preston. Thank you.”

I have to stop myself from slamming the phone against the counter after she hangs up.

“Let me guess,” Aaron says from beside me. “She's changing everything.”

I raise my eyebrows and nod, indicating he's right. Aaron throws his head back and laughs. “You’ve got to be kidding me! This is the third time she's called and changed the entire order. Does she realize her party’s in a day and a half?”

“I guess not.” I shrug one shoulder and rub my temple, warding off the headache brewing. “Becca!” I call out to the back kitchen.

“Yeah, boss.” Her perky voice makes me feel even more guilty for the news I'm about to give her.

I peek my head through the swinging door and wait for her to meet my gaze. “Mrs. Preston called.”

Becca’s jaw drops and she sighs heavily. “Now what?”

“She wants chocolate filling and twenty-five glu… ugh, gluten-free sticks.” It’s hard to even form the words. My eclairs, which I’ve branded as cream sticks, have earned a reputation for tasting amazing. The gluten-free versions are definitely

Becca makes a face. “Did you tell her our gluten-free sticks taste like shit?”

I laugh. “Nope. That’s something she’s gonna have to discover on her own.”

Becca shakes her head and tosses the bag of French vanilla cream into a bowl. “I don't know if I can get two hundred and fifty chocolate sticks made by Saturday and still keep up with our daily orders.”

I thread my fingers through my hair and tug at the dark strands. “I can call Cody. I’m sure he’d be happy to come help.”

“God, I so don't want to work with him.” Her eyes plead with me to come up with another option.

I wish I had one. Becca and Cody had a bakery romance when he first started working for me. When things didn’t work out, he quit to work for a catering company in town, but he's always flexible to help out when I'm in a crunch. And I'm definitely in a crunch right now.

“Well, you can work as much overtime as you need to get them all done by yourself…”

Becca glares at me with a pout.

“Or, I call Cody to see if he can come in here tomorrow morning to help.”

“Fine. Call him.” She huffs and reaches for the piping bag to empty it out. “I’ll package up everything I've already made into to go boxes. We’ll just need to have a sale on them so they aren't completely wasted.”

“That's the spirit,” I say, teasing her. “I knew I could count on you to be a team player.”

Becca rolls her eyes and smirks. “Yeah, well, let's just hope that there's no drama with Cody to interfere with all this team playing over the next thirty-six hours.”

“I’ll make sure he’s on his best behavior.” I give her a mock salute then disappear to the front of the store.

“She’s gonna work with him?” Aaron looks shocked. “Last time they were in the same room, she threated to cut off his dick and send it through the Kitchen Aid.”

I cringe at the visual in my head. “It’s either play nice or do all the work herself. She’s a smart girl. She’ll do what’s needed to get done.”

Aaron doesn’t look convinced. “Well, tell Cody to wear a cup, just in case.”





Chapter Two



Seven missed calls. I don't even know if seven people have my number. And it’s not Mom or my sister, Amy. Assuming it’s probably a wrong number, I check my messages. Only one voice message that was left about ten minutes ago. We were playing at the park, and my phone was locked in my trunk.

Isla and I spent the morning at the park. She loves to climb on the monkey bars and wore herself out. As I lay my sweet four-year-old in her twin bed to finish her nap, I casually hit the listen button in my voicemail.

My blood runs cold, and I can't breathe when I hear his voice. I haven't heard from JR since I snuck out of the apartment almost four years ago. His
love taps
had turned into
anger punches
drunken shoves.
About two months after Isla was born, his violence was to the point that it wasn't safe for us to stay with him.

I don't know how he got my number, but my instinct is to grab Isla, throw her in the car, and drive away again, hoping he never finds us.

“Beth, baby. It's good to hear your voice. I want to see you and my baby girl. I know you left on bad terms, but things are different now. I've changed, and I want to be the man you fell in love with. Call me. Or don’t. It'll just give me a reason to stop by to see you at your place. But I want our reunion to be a happy time, so please call. I love you, babe.”

My skin crawls as I delete the message, hoping he will be deleted along with it. It's an immature sentiment, but immature or not, I wish it were possible. If he wants to find me, he will. After all this time, I assumed he wasn't interested in us and was happy we were out of his life. But if he got my number, he can certainly get my address, and I don't want JR to show up here.

I'm tempted to call Amy for advice, but she's busy with Natey’s baseball practice and her own family. It's not the right time for me to be bothering her with something like this. It'll only upset her, and I don’t want to do that.

I take a deep breath and get comfortable on the couch, trying to convince myself that this conversation will go well. Maybe JR really has changed, and he might be able to handle occasional visits with Isla. But as soon as he answers the phone, I know I gave him too much credit. The thick slur of his voice tells me he's already drinking, and it's only four thirty in the afternoon.

“Baby, baby, baby,” he says in the singsong voice he likes to use when he’s trying to be cute. It actually disgusts me because I know the bipolar, violent JR lurking just behind those words.

“Hi, JR. How are you?”

“Great, now that I hear your voice. I knew you'd call.”

I clasp my lips together and inhale deeply through my nose to keep from saying something that will set him off. I just need to keep the peace and find out what he wants then I can get off the damn phone.

“You still there, baby?” he asks, the tone of annoyance starting to leak into his voice.

“I'm here,” I say quietly. “Um, how can I help you?”

He laughs in an almost frightening way. “Well, there're lots of ways you can help me, baby, but I need to see you and my baby girl. Where you living now?”

I don't know if he knows the answer and is testing me or he doesn't and wants me to tell him. Either way, I don't want him to ever know where I'm living, so I do my best to divert the conversation.

“I'm down in the bay area now. Where are you?”

“I'm on my way to you, baby. I just need your address. I'm in Sacramento. Your mom said she didn't have your address so she just gave me your number.”

My own mother sold me out? “She did?”

“Yeah, I can be there
Got some shit to take care of tonight.”

“Tomorrow? Um, actually, I've got a big project at work, so how about we wait until
Saturday? Then I can
drive up to you. We’ll come visit and you can see how big Isla has gotten.”

“I'll be at your house
evening, Beth. You gonna give me the address or make me find it out for myself?”

“JR, I'm sorry but don't give me that shit.”

“Respect, Beth. That’s all I’ve ever asked of you. I'm not gonna play your games. I gave you space. Now, I'm better, so don’t make me fucking hunt you down. We can see each other like adults. You can't keep my daughter away from me forever, baby. That’s not what you’re trying to do, right?”

“No, of course not.” Tears form behind my eyelids, but I try to keep my voice from cracking in defeat and terror. “Um, how about we meet in San Jose? There's a Starbucks off Bascom with a park nearby. We can grab some coffee and take Isla to the park. She’ll play there for hours.”

JR is quiet. I know he’s debating how to respond. I’m sure it’s a struggle to keep his cool. When he wants something, he doesn’t like to be challenged.

I can’t take the silence. I won’t take it anymore. “Okay, so we’ll meet for a few hours?”

“No, Beth. That's not okay. I'm coming home, baby. You better not have anybody else warming your bed while I've been gone.”

“I don't,” I say quietly, wishing I did have somebody who could scare JR away. He's not a big guy, but he's mean as hell. He’s a street fighter, growing up around gangs and drug dealers all his life. I don't know what I ever saw in him, but there's nothing that terrifies me more than the thought of having him back in my life.

“Good, then I'll meet you at home. Give me your address.”

“Please, JR,” I whisper through a thick lump in my throat. “I haven't seen you in years. Let's start slow. Okay? We can’t just jump back into the way things were.”

I can hear him sucking air through the side of his cheek the way he used to when he was thinking something over. That's a good sign. The JR I used to know didn’t think anything over. It was either give him his way or get your ass beat. Maybe he has changed a little bit.

“Fine. I have a cousin in San Jose. I'll stay with him for a few days while we get to know each other again, but don't think you're gonna get away from me this time, Beth. I want you. I want my daughter. We can be a family again. Got it?”

“Yes, JR.” Defeat laces my voice. I haven’t given in but know I can’t run forever. He can see Isla in a public area. I can keep her safe.

After working out the details of when we'll be meeting, I hang up the phone and curl into a ball on the sofa. Realizing I can’t hold back any longer, I let myself cry. I try not to do it often anymore. I spent too much time crying when I was with JR, and it's been a while since I felt the need. But right now, I have to let it all out. There’s no more smiling and pretending things are great. No more blissful ignorance that he’s gone forever. I press my face into a pillow to muffle my sobs. Every time I think I've gotten it out of my system, I start up again, completely unable to stop. I don't know how much time has passed before I feel little fingers brushing through the top of my hair.

“What’s wrong, Mommy? Did you get hurt?”

I press my eyes against the pillow to dry them and sniffle loudly before looking up into my daughter’s sweet face. “No, baby. I'm not hurt. I was just feeling sad, but I'm okay now.”

“What made you sad?” she asks, twirling a lock of my hair around her fingers. “Did you lose your favorite toy?”

I force a smile and shake my head. “No, baby. Just thinking about something, but I'm okay now. How was your nap?”

Isla climbs up onto the couch beside me. “I wasn't even tired, you know.”

“I know, baby, but sometimes our body is tired and needs to rest, even if we don't want to.”

“Well, my body didn't need to rest. My body wanted to keep playing.” Isla is at the age where she doesn't ever want to sleep. She’s afraid of missing a single moment of excitement around her. I’m just grateful she was asleep when I had to have that conversation with her…sperm donor.

I turn to my daughter and clasp my hands together. “How does tater tot casserole sound for dinner?”

Her eyes grow wide and a shocked expression covers her face. “Really?”

“Yeah, why not?” I stand from the couch and hold my hand out to her. Giving in now and then and allowing her to eat her favorite meal is the least I can do. As hard as it’s been to raise her without a father, I know my life and hers is about to get a hell of a lot worse.

But this is one dish I rarely make. It's pure fat, but I've got some cauliflower and broccoli I can sneak into it in small chunks. She’ll think she's having a wholly junk food dinner, and I get credit for indulging her four-year-old palate now and then. But I won’t feel too guilty about the junk in it because she played so hard today.

“But, I'm gonna need some help making it.” I lead her by the hand into the kitchen.

Isla nods vigorously. “I'll help you, Mommy. I'm a good helper.”

“I know you are, baby. Let's go see what we’ve got in the fridge.”

“Do you think we got any dessert in the fridge?”


BOOK: Knead: Contemporary Romance (Creamy's Bakery Book 1)
11.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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