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Authors: Cheyenne McCray

Playing With You

 

Riding Tall:

Playing With You

Cheyenne McCray

 

 

Copyright © 2013

Playing With You by Cheyenne McCray

All rights reserved. No part of this e-Book may be reproduced in whole or in part, scanned, photocopied, recorded, distributed in any printed or electronic form, or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or hereafter invented, without express written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

E-book conversion by Bella Media Management.

Published by Pink Zebra Publishing.

13-Digit ISBN: 978-1-939778-95-6

First Edition e-Book

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

The smell of baked bread and rich fresh-brewed coffee made Ricki Sparks smile. She’d owned Sweet Things bakery for well over a year now and she never tired of the warm scents of pastries and the icing she used to decorate some of the confections. She turned the sign from “Closed” to “Open” as she peered out the glass door and saw the early morning traffic passing by on the street that would soon be busy—busy for a relatively small town. She returned to her place behind the counter, preparing for the morning rush.

Sunlight spilled through the window causing the metal on the cases to gleam and the glass to sparkle. She loved seeing the neat rows of Danishes, scones, muffins, and small quiches in her breakfast case. Her dessert section showcased chocolate dipped strawberries, homemade chocolates, petit fours in pastel fondant icing and decorated with frosting, along with a variety of cookies.

Another case held fine pastries such as Napoleons, éclairs, and cream horns. Whole cakes and slices were in the next case. She was well known for her rich, authentic red velvet as well as carrot and death-by-chocolate cakes. Behind the counter were baskets filled with homemade and artisan breads.

Lettie, one of Ricki’s two employees, had just brought out trays of tarts and turnovers before returning to the kitchen to clean up. Poncho had already gone home for the day after baking from midnight to six a.m.

Along the huge plate glass window were five small tables, often filled with customers who stopped in for their favorite treats.

She still believed that marrying her ex had been the worst decision she’d ever made. However, it was her divorce settlement that had allowed her to leave her job as a paralegal and buy this bakery, making her dream a reality.

The only downside of owning a bakery was that sampling all the treats made her curvier than ever. Her ex would make fun of her weight but, ironically, he would eat everything she made when she stress-cooked.

She still struggled with depression, which had become increasingly difficult to live with during her divorce, even with the meds that her psychiatrist had prescribed for her. She was working hard at having a normal life, but it wasn’t always easy. The only things that truly made her happy were her bakery and remodeling her home.

She loved her family but they hadn’t seen how her ex had been and they thought she’d blown her unhappiness out of proportion. Her mind would feel really fragile when she would bring her marriage up to her family and they would always brush it off.

Ricki felt a weight press down on her. Everyone loved Donny. If she’d told them
all
of the truth, no one would have believed he’d abused her. So she’d kept quiet about it and went through with the divorce. If nothing else, at least she’d found a good lawyer and had gotten her share of the assets—minus anything he might have had hidden, which wouldn’t have surprised her.

What she wouldn’t give for a good man.

The bells at the top of the front door jingled and Ricki looked up to see her first customer of the day. Garrett McBride.

Her stomach flip-flopped as she smiled at the man who topped six-three and had a hard look about him. He was definitely rough around the edges and she’d always been a sucker for a guy like that. He was mouthwateringly sexy with his broad shoulders and muscles that couldn’t be hidden by the over-shirt covering the T-shirt and the shoulder rig and weapon she knew he was wearing. He was a private investigator and she wondered what case he was working on now. She’d heard he’d been instrumental in saving Jo Burke McBride’s life just months ago when he’d taken on her case.

Garrett pushed up the brim of his Stetson with one finger. He had a way of looking at her that made her feel like she just might melt like icing under the sun. He’d been coming in almost every day since she’d opened the store. Despite the fact that he’d never flirted with her, she had to admit she had a mad crush on him.

“Hi, Garrett.” She gave him a bright smile. “The usual?”

“You bet.” He reached into his back pocket for his wallet as she pulled the tray of blueberry scones out of the display cabinet. She eased it out just far enough to pick up one of the scones with a piece of waxed paper before slipping the item into a bag. She set the white bag that carried the bakery’s logo onto the counter then turned to dispense a cup of dark roast coffee from one of the giant coffee thermoses, then put a lid on it the cup.

Garrett took his coffee black with no sweetener. He’d been in so many times that she knew automatically what he’d want. But she’d committed it to memory early on and had felt silly wanting to remember a little thing like that about him. A man who likely didn’t give her a second thought.

It was too bad he seemed so unattainable. Ricki carried the coffee to the counter and set the cup in front of him. Not that he’d go for her generous curves.

“How’s your morning starting out?” she asked as she rang him up at the cash register.

He drew a ten out of his wallet and handed it to her. “It’s starting out real good,” he said as his blue eyes held hers.

For a moment Ricki had the distinct feeling he could be flirting with her and she felt her cheeks warm. She shook off the feeling. Garrett had never flirted with her, yet the way he looked at her made her feel tingly all over. Was she imagining things?

“Mine is, too.” She smiled. “Any interesting cases that you’re working on?” she asked despite the fact she knew he never talked about work.

He handed her the ten and his fingers brushed hers. “I think you see more excitement here than I’ve been having these days.”

More tingles skittered through her at his touch and she had to clear her throat before she spoke. “I doubt that.”

“How’s business?” he asked her.

“I’d have to say I’m very blessed.” Now, that was a safe topic. “Some days are so busy my feet ache by the end of the day. Not that I’m complaining.”

“Glad to hear the bakery is doing well.” He reached for his change as she offered it to him and she was careful not to touch his hand with hers. “This place is always busy. I’m surprised I’m the only one here now.”

“Oh, the rush will start soon, no doubt about it.” She tucked strands of her blonde hair behind her ear. “If you want to stop by this afternoon we’re having a sale on our cakes.”

He stuffed the change into his pocket. “Red velvet?”

She nodded. “Yep.”

“I might just take you up on that.” He picked up his coffee and the bag with the scone. “The cake you made for Tate and Jo’s wedding was the best I ever had. Just don’t tell my mom I said so.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” A feeling of pleasure flowed through Ricki at his compliment. She’d made the cakes for most of the McBride weddings. “Their wedding was beautiful. The ranch it was held at has the most incredible view. It’s your parents’ ranch, isn’t it?”

“My stepdad and my mom own the place.” Garrett gave a nod. “A lot of memories there.”

“Good ones, I hope.” She picked up a polishing cloth from behind the register and wiped at an imaginary smudge on the glass case.

“For the most part.” The bells on the door jangled as he raised his coffee cup to her. “Have a good one, Ricki.”

She almost melted at the way he said her name, his voice a deep rumble.

“Yeah.” She swallowed. “See you.”

He turned away as the elderly Mrs. Johnson greeted him. “Good morning, young man. Staying out of trouble I hope.”

He shook his head. “Never.”

The woman smiled before moving to the counter and he gave a last nod to Ricki over Mrs. Johnson’s shoulder.

Ricki bit the inside of her lip as she watched him leave. Damn, but his ass looked nice in his Wrangler jeans.

“Honey?” Mrs. Johnson’s voice cut into Ricki’s thoughts.

Her face flushed. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you.”

“Of course you didn’t.” The elderly woman had a twinkle in her eye. “You were too busy watching that young man’s ass.”

Ricki’s whole body flushed. “What can I get you, Mrs. Johnson?”

“My bridge club is getting together this afternoon.” The woman glanced at the case with the cookies. “I’ll take a dozen cookies. Give me a couple of each.”

Grateful for the opportunity to change the topic, Ricki reached for a folded pink box on a lower shelf behind her. She unfolded the box and went to the cookie case and started filling the container with snickerdoodles, sugar, chocolate chip, double chocolate chunk, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies.

Mrs. Johnson paid for her cookies and it was then that the morning rush began in earnest. Lettie came up front and helped as they served one customer after another. It was with pleasure and satisfaction that she watched the confections gradually dwindled down. One of the things Ricki enjoyed about running a bakery was that she made people happy. As a paralegal she’d seen so much negativity, pain, and tragedy, that it had added to her depression. Now that she was away from that and her ex, she felt relaxed and happy in a way she never had before.

When there was a lull, Ricki and Lettie looked at each other and Lettie shook her head. “If you weren’t such a great baker this place wouldn’t be so damn busy.”

“I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Ricki started organizing the remaining bakery items in the cases. “You are a lifesaver.”

“You make it easy.” Lettie tossed her long brown braid over her shoulder before she pulled an empty cookie tray out of the cookie case. “I consider myself lucky to have such a great boss.”

Ricki didn’t have a chance to respond as Lettie turned away to head into the kitchen and the bells jangled as the front door opened again. Still smiling from Lettie’s comments, Ricki looked up from the case she’d been organizing to see an arrestingly attractive woman walk through the door. She had short-cropped, spiky white-blonde hair, brown eyes, beautiful skin, and high cheekbones, her make up in neutral tones. She wore a white button-up shirt with a black paisley design along with black slacks that were tapered at the ankles and low heels. She had an air about her that exuded sex appeal, which had to leave males drooling in her wake.

“Hi.” Ricki continued to smile. “Can I help you?”

The woman returned her smile before letting her gaze drift over the cases. “Looks like business is good.”

“We keep busy,” Ricki said.

“I’ll take a black and white,” the woman gestured to the tray of frosted cookies.

“Anything else?” Ricki took a wax paper and a bag and then grasped one of the black and white frosted cookies and slipped it into the bag.

“One of those pretty frosted Easter egg cookies looks lovely, too, so I’ll take one.” The woman met Ricki’s gaze. “I’m a sucker for pretty things.”

Ricki laughed. “You and me both. Will that be all?”

The woman nodded. “I need to watch my girlish figure,” she said in a teasing voice.

“You’re in the wrong place.” Ricki went to the register. “I will testify to that.”

“A few sweets won’t hurt anyone,” the woman said.

“That’s the attitude.” Ricki set the package of cookies on the counter top and gave the woman the total. In turn the woman offered her exact change.

After she paid, the woman extended her hand to Ricki. “I’m Deena Samson. I’m new to Prescott.” Deena said the name of the town as Pre-scott as opposed to natives who pronounced it Press-kit.

Ricki shook Deena’s hand. The woman had a firm, warm grip. “I’m Ricki Sparks. I own Sweet Things. So you just moved here?”

Deena nodded as Ricki drew her hand away. “I’m looking for a place to live but I just don’t know my way around town.”

Ricki pushed behind her ear a strand of her honey-blonde hair that had fallen into her eyes. “Prescott has really grown but we’re still a relatively small community.”

“I could sure use a guide,” Deena said.

“Have you found a real estate agent?” Ricki folded the top of the bag of cookies. “I can refer a good one to you.”

Deena waved away the suggestion. “Sales people. I avoid them when at all possible. I’ll just drive around until I find something I like.”

“You can also search for rental properties online or in the paper,” Ricki said.

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