Icing On The Date (The Bannister Brothers #1)

BOOK: Icing On The Date (The Bannister Brothers #1)
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This book is dedicated to Todd

—my favorite hockey player and the one who completes my team—

 

 

Chapter One

 

Ignoring the blister on her heel and her sore back, Gabby Davis plastered on a smile and picked up the last tray of cupcakes. Straightening the red sugared poinsettia on one, she gave the final display of chocolate frosted confections a nod of approval.

The ache in her back was nothing compared to the ache in her heart and the sinking feeling of desperation that followed her from the kitchen of the fancy hotel like a dark cloud ready to burst with rain.

She checked her watch—the Christmas party would last only another thirty minutes or so—there was no time to worry about Justin now. She’d deal with her brother later. Just like she’d been dealing with him for most of her life.

Smoothing down the front of her pressed white caterer’s shirt, she pushed on the swinging door of the kitchen. The door didn’t budge. Instead it burst inward, smashing the entire tray of cupcakes against her chest as a waiter carrying a tray of dirty dishes hurried through.

“Sorry,” the waiter said, not even pausing to slow down.

Shit.

Gabby looked down at her shirt and peeled the smashed cupcake wrappers from her chest.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Seriously? Could her night get any better? Slamming the plate of ruined cakes on the counter, she pushed through the door—this time without incident—and hurried down the hallway to the ladies restroom.

Ignoring the elegant sinks and mirrored wall, she banged into the nearest stall and slammed it shut behind her. She leaned her head against the cool metal of the stall door and beat against it with a sticky fist.

I will not cry. I will not cry.

Swallowing back the burn in her throat, she took a deep breath. She’d learned long ago that crying didn’t solve anything. And the only thing punching a door did was give you a sore fist. She rubbed at her tender hand.

Damn it. This was her last clean caterer’s shirt—she hadn’t brought an extra for tonight’s party. And now, thanks to Justin, she wouldn’t be able to afford to get any of them cleaned and pressed soon.

Mentally subtracting the two thousand dollars it would take to bail Justin out of jail—again—she figured she had about seven dollars and eighty-two cents left in her marketing budget savings account.

It had taken her six months of scrimping and saving to come up with that money. She’d made the final deposit just last week. Had even called the sales director of a big-name marketing firm to set up an appointment to start the new advertising campaign that would take Simply Sweet, her cupcake shop, to the next level. That would finally allow her the promotional backing she needed to give her small business the advertising boost it required to compete against the larger bakeries in town.

Six months. Six months of extra catering jobs. Of driving the cupcake truck around to new neighborhoods to drum up business. And for what? To bail her brother out again.

Why did she always have to be the responsible one? What if she didn’t bail him out this time? What if she left his alcohol-drinking, bar-fighting, dumb ass in jail?

Yeah, right. Like that would happen.

As much as she wanted her business to succeed, she loved her brother more. And she would do anything—including delivering cupcakes for another six months—to take care of him. It’s what she did. He was her little brother and when he needed her, she was there.

She just wished that this one time he hadn’t needed her so much.

Letting out a sigh, she balled up a wad of tissue and wiped at the sticky mess on the front of her shirt. No use crying over spilled, or in this case, smooshed frosting.

She froze as the door of the restroom slammed open, and the rumble of a man’s laugh filled the air.

Peeking through the gap of the stall door, she saw a couple stumble into the bathroom, the woman’s arm wrapped around the man’s waist. If you could call her a woman—more like a girl. Barely in her twenties and barely wearing a skin tight dress, her breasts threatened to pop free of the top of her dress. Her expensive dress.

Taking in the whole outfit, Gabby noted the girl’s red-soled shoes probably cost more than it was going to take to bail her brother out of jail. Long blond hair in perfect shades of sunshine and gold curled in flawless loose ringlets down her back.

Gabby fingered a wild curl of her own hair that had escaped the elastic band and envied the girl’s shampoo-commercial perfect locks. Granted, Miss Short-Dress probably used better shampoo than what Gabby bought off the grocery store shelves. And most likely spent more time than Gabby’s usual five minutes of fussing with a hair dryer and fat roller brush then giving up in exasperation and pulling the whole wild curly mess into her standard ponytail topknot.

The guy on the other side of the stall door was big—tall and powerfully built—his muscled arms stretching the fabric of his expensive suit. His dirty blond hair was tousled and messy and the tail of his dress shirt was untucked on one side. He leaned against the sink, and Gabby got a look at his face in the mirror.

Holy hotness.
A bolt of desire shot through her, and she shivered at the unexpected chill.

The guy was cute.
Really
cute. But in a tough cute way. His jaw was strong and carried a scruff of blond whiskers. His nose had a slight bent as if it had been broken, and a purplish bruise circled under his eye as if he’d recently taken a punch.

He leaned forward, turned on the tap, and splashed water in his face.

“Hey—stop it. You’re getting me all wet.” The girl pushed against his back, trying to sound giggly and coy, but failing to hide her irritation. “And not in a good way.”

Oh gag. Come on, honey. You can do better than that.

The girl tried to wiggle closer to him, pressing her breasts against his arm. “Come on, Owen. I thought we were going to have some fun.”

Owen, presumably, shook his head like a dog, flinging droplets of water onto the mirror and the girl, who let out another sound of annoyance. “I told you I don’t feel so great.” His words carried a drunken slur that Gabby was all too familiar with.

Owen’s stomach let out a rumble that Gabby could hear all the way in the stall, and he pressed his hand against his side before letting out a low belch. He turned around and leaned against the sink.

“Eww.” The girl made a face, but still seemed determined to hang in there. She made a grab for his untucked shirt, sliding her hands along his waist and flicking open his belt buckle. “We can still have a party.”

Owen shook his head and pulled his hands from her belt. “Sorry, sugar. This party’s over. The fat lady is singing, and it’s time to go home.”

The girl let out an exaggerated gasp and planted her hands on her hips. “Are you calling me fat? A fat lady?” She shook her head. “Seriously dude, I heard you were fun, but you’re a total downer. I’m outta here.”

Sliding down the front of the vanity, he hit the floor with a jolt. He waved a hand at her—unfazed by her dramatic exit—as he leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “See you later, Brittany.”

“I’ve told you three times already. My name is Bridget,” she said through gritted teeth. “And it’s your loss.” She stomped from the bathroom, slamming the door against the wall as she left.

Gabby eased the door of the stall open. Her fingers were sticky with frosting. She just wanted to wash her hands and get out of there. Barely turning on the tap of the farthest sink, she rinsed the chocolate from her hands.

The guy was slumped against the cabinet door, his breathing even and deep. She hoped that he might have actually fallen asleep.

The paper towels rested in a tray above the center sink, and she leaned forward, grabbing for one and drying her hands. The guy didn’t even seem to notice.

Glancing in the mirror, she sighed at what a mess she was. Strands of her hair had come free from her loose ponytail, and she pulled out the elastic band. Finger-combing it back, she gathered the thick mane of chestnut-colored curls in one hand and stretched the elastic band in the fingers of her other.

Before she could make the new ponytail, another hand reached up and grabbed her thigh. A seriously strong hand.

She dropped the elastic in surprise then looked down at the man holding her leg. She probably should have been scared, but he looked so miserable, she felt bad for him rather than afraid of him. “You all right?”

He shook his head in misery. “Nope. Not doing so good at all. Do you think you could make the room stop spinning now?”

She sighed. This was familiar territory for her. She’d been here many times with her brother. Forgetting about the lost hair band, she wet a paper towel, sat down on the floor next to the man and lay the cool cloth on his forehead.

He slumped forward, easing his head onto her shoulder, and wrapping his arms around her waist. His eyes stayed closed as he let out a sigh. “You’re soft. And you smell like chocolate.”

She was used to this, too. The lack of inhibition and spontaneous showers of affection. Why did a little alcohol seem to turn everyone into hugging best friends?

He snuggled against her, and her insides went a little melty. Reaching out, she brushed his hair from his forehead, the damp ends curling. A funny tingly feeling curled in her belly, and she dropped her hand.

Everything about this should have seemed weird and creepy, sitting on the floor of the women’s restroom, covered in chocolate, and being snuggled by an immensely hot guy with messy blond hair and huge muscles. Yet, somehow it didn’t. Maybe it was because she was used to taking care of her drunk and often disorderly brother, who was never more affectionate with her than when he’d tied one on.

“Is there someone I can call for you? Are you staying at the hotel?” she asked. “Should I call security to help you to your room?”

He struggled awake, his eyes widening in alarm. “No, don’t call security. I’m in enough trouble as it is.”

Great. He
was
just like her brother. What kind of trouble was this guy in, though? His clothes looked expensive, his watch probably cost more than her car, and he had the hard body of an athlete—maybe he was a drug dealer. That would be just her luck. “Is there someone I
can
call?”

He pulled his phone from the breast pocket of his suit coat, squinted at the settings, then handed it to her. “Call Bane. Call my brother. Can you tell him to come get me? And tell him I’m sorry. I’m really fucking sorry.”

His words sounded so miserable and sad, she almost felt sorry for him. But she’d been on the other end of a hundred drunken apologies and after a while, they started to lose their effectiveness.

She scrolled through the contacts. Had he said Bane or Ben? Her eyes caught the word Bane, and she pressed the contact and held the phone to her ear.

A sleepy male voice answered. “Dammit, Owen. I told you I’m not coming out tonight.”

“Um. Hello. Is this Owen’s brother?”

“Who’s this?” The voice went instantly alert. “Where’s my brother?”

“This is Gabby Davis. I’m a caterer, and I’m working a party at the Crown Hotel downtown. I’m in the women’s bathroom on the first floor, and your brother appears to be very drunk and passed out on my lap. He asked me to call you. He seems to think he’s in some kind of trouble.”

“Oh, he’s in a whole hell of a lot of trouble. Listen, Gabby, thank you for calling me. I can be there in fifteen minutes. Can you stay with him until I get there?”

“Sure, I guess.” She wasn’t in charge of the whole catering job tonight—only the desserts—and no one would notice she was missing as the party wound down.

“I’m on my way. Keep him out of sight and in the bathroom if you can.”

Out of sight of whom? What kind of trouble was this guy mixed up in?

“I can try.”

“I’d really appreciate it, Gabby. You have no idea how much I’d appreciate it. Tell him I’m on my way.” He hung up.

Gabby set the phone down. “Your brother’s on his way. How about if I just sit here with you until he gets here?” The guy was big, and his brother had said he was in trouble, but she still wasn’t afraid. He didn’t seem dangerous, even with the black eye.

He snuggled into her chest, smearing remnants of chocolate frosting across his cheek. “Are you an angel? Because you smell like heaven,” he slurred. “Seriously, why do you smell so damned good? Like cookies and cake and chocolate?”

He opened his eyes and squinted at her chest. He ran a finger along the top edge of her breast, sending a wave of tingles darting down her spine, and came away with a dab of frosting on the end of his finger tip. Popping his finger into his mouth, he groaned in pleasure. “God, you even taste like chocolate. I just want to frickin’ lick you.”

Wow. Wildly inappropriate to say, but the words still sent a prickle of desire through her. This crazy hot guy just told her he wanted to lick her. Granted, it was a drunken statement and he most likely meant the chocolate frosting spread across the front of her shirt, but it had been a long time since she’d had a man tell her anything half as remotely sexy as that statement had been.

Spending all of her time working, saving money, and taking care of her miscreant brother didn’t leave a lot of time for dating, and she didn’t want to think about how long it had been since anything of hers had been licked.

BOOK: Icing On The Date (The Bannister Brothers #1)
7.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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