Never Trust a Skinny Cupcake Baker (Death by Cupcake Book 1) (3 page)

BOOK: Never Trust a Skinny Cupcake Baker (Death by Cupcake Book 1)
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Chapter
5

A
balanced diet is a cupcake in each hand.

A few days later, I’m at the bakery early like usual. Anna’s
in the kitchen baking bread and I’m in my office. Anna is actually the genius
baker behind
Callie’s Cakes.
I keep trying to make her part-owner
because she totally deserves it. Without her,
Callie’s Cakes
would never
have made it in the year after Gretchen died and left the place to me. Sure, I
had great business ideas about remodeling and attracting students into the
place, but it would mean nothing without Anna’s bakery brilliance.

While Anna performs her magic, I sit in my office most
mornings working on the business end of things – invoices, accounts, ordering
supplies, etc. – although I do help Anna out in the kitchen when necessary. Today
I’ve got other work on my mind. The fall semester at the University is starting
in a few weeks, and I want to start preparing my Intro to German Lit class.
It’s my first time teaching the course and I’m ecstatic. I will now be teaching
two classes at the University, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that someday,
somehow, I’ll be taken on as a full-time professor. I don’t even care about
tenure and all that. I just want to be able to do what I love full-time. And
yeah, German literature is my passion. I may be a nerd but in German that’s
cool, right?

“Hey.” Anna peeps her head in.
“Detective Hottie’s here and asking for you.” I look at my watch in surprise. I
was totally absorbed in Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, and Günter Grass and had no
clue the bakery had even opened. I start to protest that I’m too busy to take a
break, but Anna cuts me off at the pass. “Get your butt out there. After that
kiss the other day, you owe it to him.”

“Callie?” I hear shouted from the kitchen and look up to see
Ben approaching my office. “Sorry,” he says and looks sheepish. “I don’t mean
to intrude in your private area, but I’m in a hurry and I had to see you.”

I totally don’t start glowing at
those words. Nope. Not a glimmer. Anna takes off, and Ben’s large size
dominates my doorway. “I just wanted to see if you wanted to go to dinner with
me tonight.”

“Darn it, Ben,” I say in frustration. “Why do you keep
asking me out?” I sound like a total brat, but I’m frustrated. I know there’s
no way this man wants to date me. Why would he? I’m short, overweight, and a
total nerd.

Ben’s kind eyes turn hard. “Because I like you Callie. When
are you going to get that through your thick head?”

“Are you really going to make me say it?” I stand and place
my hands on my hips, totally annoyed that I have to say out loud what everyone
is thinking, what everyone knows.

Ben’s eyes soften, and he cocks his head to the side as if
he’s confused. “Say what, sweetheart?”

I roll my eyes and throw my hands in the air. He’s going to
make me say it. “You’re out of my league,” I growl out.

Ben’s head whips back as if I slapped him. He takes a moment
to re-group before leaning forward and whispering. “Is that really what you
think?”

Another eye roll. At this rate, my eyes are going to get
stuck. “Look at you.” I point up and down at his gorgeous body. Then, I point
to myself. “Look at this.” I shake my head. “Nope. Not even in the same
division.”

Ben prowls to me and grabs me before pulling me into a hug
that should be uncomfortable with how tight he holds me, but instead feels like
a warm blanket has wrapped itself around me. “When are you going to get it
through your thick head that I think you are the most beautiful woman in the
world? I’ve been waiting a year for you. I watched your jerk of an ex treat you
badly and kept my mouth shut; knowing you had to be the one to end the
relationship. It nearly killed me, honey. Watching someone hurt you.” He
shivers. “It was hell.” He releases me from his hug but grabs my chin and
forces to me to look in his eyes. “There’s no one but you. I only see you, and
you are the most beautiful, sexy, intelligent creature I’ve ever seen.”

“Ben,” I sigh because I’ve got nothing. How do I respond to
that?

He leans down and gives me a quick
kiss. “It’s okay. You don’t have to say anything. I know your ex did a number
on you. I’m going to help build you back up.” He steps back. “Starting tonight.
I’ll pick you up at seven.” And with that, he’s gone. I’m still trying to form
words of protest.

Anna rushes in. “So, what did he say?” She’s quivering in
excitement.

“Apparently, we’re going to
dinner tonight.” I shake my head and clear the fog. “Oh wait, that doesn’t
work. We have pole dancing class.”

Anna is not easily deterred. “What time’s he picking you
up?”

“Seven.”

She claps in excitement. “No
worries. We’ll do class and then we’ll come back here and get you ready.” I
don’t like the sound of that. At all.

♥♥♥

Although I claimed after Dolly
accused me of keying her car that I’d never go back to the pole dancing class,
somehow Anna has managed to convince me to give it another go. There may have
been a bit of bribery involved as well. What can I say? I hate getting up early
on Sundays to open the bakery during the school year. I’m dragging my feet as I
close the bakery. I may have promised Anna I’d go to the class, but that
doesn’t mean I have to like it.

“Stop stalling,” Anna shouts.
“And I don’t want to hear any whining. If I can go to class after Dolly threw
herself at me,” she shivers, “then you can go as well.”

I reluctantly follow Anna through the kitchen to the alley
behind the bakery. She grabs my arm and starts to skip down the alley. Have I
mentioned that Anna is a bit crazy? “How can you go back there? Aren’t you
worried she’s going to kill you for keying her car?” Because Anna totally keyed
Dolly’s car while I was complaining to management about Dolly. Who else could
it possibly be?

Anna stops and stares at me. “You
think I keyed Dolly’s car?”

“Well, yeah.” At her hurt look, I’m quick to add. “I don’t
think less of you or anything.”

She shakes her head and continues
towards the fitness studio. Walking instead of skipping this time. “I didn’t
key that trollop’s car. Trust me, if I had done it, everyone would know. They’d
probably write songs about how epic my car keying was.”

I giggle and decide to drop the subject. We walk the rest of
the short distance to the gym in silence. I follow Anna into the locker room. I
don’t even bother to make a comment about the sports clothes Anna insists I
wear. It’s not like anything I say will change her mind anyway. We quickly
change and walk into the studio. Dolly sees me enter and throws me the meanest
look she can muster. I should probably quiver in my boots, but then again, I’m
barefoot.

“Come on, hussies! Get to your poles!” Dolly’s enthusiasm is
once again forced. I have to wonder if she’s got a genuine bone in her body.
She turns on the music and
Pour Some Sugar on Me
blares from the
surround sound speakers.

Dolly tones down her obnoxious comments during the class. I
like to think that my complaint has had some influence on her, but that’s
probably wishful thinking. Her instructions are actually pretty good when not
cushioned in nasty remarks about the women in the class. I feel like I’m making
some progress.

 
Huh. Who would have thought that?

Until my hands are coated in sweat that is and instead of
gripping my pole, I can’t get purchase on the thing, and I slide down it
landing in a heap on the floor. I quickly look for Dolly. I don’t really care
if anyone else notices my lack of grace. It’s not like pole dancing is a skill
I’m worried about acquiring. Lucky for me, Dolly’s playing around with the
speakers. I quickly, well as quick as my sore body will allow, get to my feet
making sure to wipe my hands vigorously on my yoga pants before trying to grab
the pole again.

I hear a giggle from my side and glance over to see Anna
checking me out. She’s gracefully twirling around her pole. She doesn’t pause
in her dancing as she winks at me. No wonder Dolly hit on her. Anna is grace
and beauty in a tiny package.

The rest of the forty-five-minute class passes without any
further slip-n-slide incidents on my part. I sigh in relief when Dolly cuts the
music off and tells us she’ll see us next week. My legs protest as Anna and I
walk to the locker room. I throw on a sweatshirt and shove my things in my gym
bag. I never shower here. I don’t really need any up close and personal time
with the beauties from our pole dancing class or the other young things that
frequent the fitness studio. My self-confidence can barely take the new clothes
and pole dancing class as it is.

I’m surprised to see Anna throwing her things in her bag as
well. “Aren’t you going to shower?”

She shakes her head. “No way. I’m escorting you home and
helping you get date-ready.”

I gulp and try to shake off the fear that grips me at those
words. “That’s okay,” I say with false brightness. “I’m good. Go ahead and
shower. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I try to walk past her, but Anna grabs my
wrist. For a tiny thing, she’s surprisingly strong.

“Please, like there’s any way I’d
let you get ready for a date with Detective Hottie without me.”

That’s exactly what I was afraid she’d say. 

Chapter
6

Tell
the negative committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up

Feeling all kinds of dirty and grimy, not to mention stinky,
I immediately jump into the shower when we get back to my apartment. I’m
rinsing my hair when Anna reaches her hand into the shower and hands me a
straight razor. “What’s this for?” I peek my head out of the curtain and glare
in the general direction of her fuzzy outline, although I probably just look
like I’m squinting. 

“So you can shave the female bits.”

“I’m not going to let Ben get in my pants!” I shout,
indignant.

Anna sighs and shakes her head. “Of course not. It only took
you a year to say yes to dinner.”

“Hey,” I’m shouting again. “I had a boyfriend for the
majority of that year.”

Anna snorts. “Boyfriend? A real boyfriend wouldn’t have
treated you like he did.” She doesn’t give me a chance to respond. She leaves
the bathroom making sure to shut the door on her way out. I should have shut
and locked the darn thing before getting into the shower.

What the heck.
I go ahead and trim up my ‘female
bits’ as Anna calls them. I don’t go for a completely shaved look because
that’s just eww. I put some extra conditioner in my hair to get it to feel
super soft. My hair may be straight, but it’s really thick, and I usually have
to fight my comb to get it detangled. I take my time rubbing lotion into my
freshly shaved legs when I finally leave the shower. I am usually the
throw-my-hair-in-a-ponytail and put-on-some-lip-gloss kind of girl. Working
part-time at a bakery and trying to get my PhD before I turned thirty didn’t
exactly give me much time for worrying about how I look. And it’s not like I
have any more time to work on my personal style now that I’m running the bakery
full-time and teaching classes on the side.

 I make my way out of the bathroom into my bedroom and
stop dead. Anna has laid an outfit out on my bed, but there’s no way I’m
putting that on. It’s a dress I bought for a formal occasion at the University.
I’d lost a good five pounds as I’d been working all hours of the day and night
on an edit of my dissertation. I felt pretty good about the black dress that
hugged my curves until my boyfriend Greg saw it and shook his head. “You
probably should put some kind of cover on or something, Callie,” he commented.
“You look like a cow.” The night went downhill from there.

I shake my head at the memory and turn to grab something
from my closet, but Anna’s waiting for me. She’s somehow maneuvered my armchair
in front of the closet and there she sits reading a magazine as if she doesn’t
have a care in the world. “What the begezus are you doing?” I have to work hard
to control the bitterness in my voice. She knows about the Greg-incident with
the dress.

Anna turns the page of her magazine and shakes her head.
“Either you wear that dress or you go naked.” She shrugs and keeps her eyes
glued to the article she’s pretending to read. “I guess you can wear your
stinky gym clothes.” Another shrug. “Whatever.”

“Can’t we at least talk about this?” I beg.

Anna slams her magazine shut and gives me the stink eye.
“Now? You want to talk now? I’ve been talking to you for years, telling you how
sexy and beautiful you are. But do you listen to me? No! You listen to Greg.”

“He was my boyfriend,” I defend.

Anna shakes her head sadly. “No, sweetie, he wasn’t. He was
a guy who dated you on and off for two years. A guy who took advantage of you.”

My hands start to shake. I do not want to hear this.
“Please, Anna, not now.”

Anna stands and moves to the bed. She grabs the dress and
shoves it towards me. “Wear this and I’ll drop it. For now.”

Darn
. I walked right into that one. I nod and grab
the dress. It’s just a stupid dress, right? I quickly shimmy into the dress.
After that, Anna expertly does my make-up. After I put on the pair of strappy
sandals I bought to go with the dress, I’m ready. And just in time, too. My
alarm clock reads 6:55 p.m. I walk into the living room to the sound of the
doorbell.

Anna jumps up. “I’ll let Ben in
and then I’ll head home. See you tomorrow.” She doesn’t wait for my response.
She’s already half-way down the stairs. I stand by the open door and wait for
Ben to ascend the stairs. He lumbers up the steps but doesn’t raise his head
until he’s at the top. He takes one look at me and stops.
 

“Wow. Just wow.” Ben blinks quickly and shakes his head.
“Sorry, you totally caught me off guard.” Before I can glare at that statement,
he continues. “You always look beautiful, Callie, but now? Now you are just
plain gorgeous.” He leans down and gives me a quick kiss. Then, he grabs my
hand and places it over his heart. His heart is pounding. “You feel that?” I
nod. “That’s what you do to me. I don’t want to hear any more of this junk
about me being out of your league, hear?”

I think I nod, but I’m not paying
attention. I can’t believe how wonderful he feels. He hasn’t released my hand,
and I take a moment to pet his muscles. He’s so hard. Is that normal? Despite
just coming out of a long-term relationship, I feel completely inexperienced.
Before my ex, Greg, I only had one other boyfriend in high school. I’m not sure
Charles even counts as a boyfriend. We spent hours and hours together in the
school library and went to prom together, but we never did anything more than a
few kisses which were more experimental than exciting in nature.

“Did you know it takes nine
muscles of the chest and upper back to move your upper arm bone?” I ask as I
continue to caress Ben’s very firm, very sexy chest.

Ben growls and steps away from my hand. I look up in
surprise. “Sorry. I tend to spout stupid trivia when I’m nervous.”

He lets out a breath and stares
at the ceiling for a long moment. Finally, he seems to come to some sort of
decision and turns his chocolate gaze on me. “You didn’t say or do anything
wrong, honey.  I just don’t think I can control myself if you continue to
touch me like that.”

My mouth drops open. “Oh.”

Ben shakes his head and chuckles.
“Yeah, oh. You have no idea what you do to me.” He grabs me and pulls me out of
the doorway before shutting the door. He puts his hand out, and I drop my keys
in his palm. He locks my door, and we head out.

Once we’re in the alley behind my apartment, I look around
for Ben’s car but the alley’s empty. “I didn’t bring my car, sweetheart,” Ben answers
my unspoken question before grabbing my hand and pulling me through the alley.
“I thought we’d go to that sushi place down the road. That one you love.”

“How do you know that?”

Ben smiles down at me but keeps walking. “Sweetheart, I know
everything about you.” His eyes scan my body. “Well, almost everything.”

We reach the entrance to the alley and join the people
walking on the sidewalk. Ben slows down and looks at my shoes. “You okay
walking?”

I nod. Although my sandals are most assuredly the sexiest
pair of shoes I own, they’re still tame in comparison to what most women would
wear on a date. The heel is only an inch or two, and the straps keep my feet
safely secured. Ben keeps our fingers entwined as we walk the short distance to
the Sushi Shop restaurant.

When we enter the Sushi Shop, the waitress immediately runs
over to us. “Hi, Callie! I don’t have a take-out order for you.”

I start to respond to her, but Ben beats me to the punch.
“We’re eating in tonight.”

The waitress turns her gaze on Ben, and her mouth drops
open. Although Mikki is as American as they come, her Dad is Japanese and
that’s obviously where her lack of height comes from. I’m only five feet five
inches tall and I tower over her. She has to take a step back to look up at my
date. “Let me show you to a table,” she finally says. Ben chuckles and follows
her to a corner table. I see Mikki quickly move the reserved sign to another
table, but she just shakes her head at me when I start to protest.

We’re in a corner booth which means that Ben is sitting
kitty-corner to me with his thigh pressed against mine. My heart flutters, and
I wonder how I’m going to survive dinner. Mikki’s back handing us our menus
before I can get my mind to catch up to my body. “Ready for school to start?” I
ask her but then quickly turn to Ben to explain. “Mikki was in my Intro to
World Lit class last year.”

Ben smiles at her. “What did you think of Callie’s
teaching?”

Mikki beams at him, clearly not as intimidated with the
giant now that he’s sitting. “She’s awesome! I’m taking her Intro to German Lit
class this semester.”

That’s news to me. “You are? That’s not a requirement for a
science major.” Mikki is studying biology and hopes to also get her PhD.

She shrugs and smiles at me. “You inspired me.” Her face
blushes slightly, and she hands us our menus. “I’ll be back in a few.”

I start perusing my menu, but I feel Ben’s eyes on me.
“What?”

He smiles at me and leans in to give me a quick kiss. “I
knew you were an awesome professor. You kick butt at everything you do.”

I shake my head. “Not a professor yet,” I mumble.

“It’ll happen.” Ben doesn’t give me a chance to start an
argument and instead opens his menu. “I’ve never had sushi. What should I
order? And don’t forget, I’m a big guy. I need lots of food.”

I set my menu down. “You’ve never had sushi? Why’d you bring
us here then?”

He shakes his head. “When are you going to get it into your
head that I’d do anything for you?”

“The Tokyo earthquake of 1923 brought sushi into
restaurants. Before that, sushi was just a street food, but the quake destroyed
much of the city and that caused real estate prices to drop so that sushi chefs
could afford real restaurants.” I clamp my hand over my mouth when I realize
that I am once again spouting weird trivia because Ben’s words unnerve me.

Ben grins and shakes his head. Then, he surprises the
daylights out of me by leaning over and giving me a hard kiss. “You are the
sexiest nerd on the entire planet.” He picks up his menu again as if he didn’t
just rock my world. “So, what should I order?”

I let his ‘sexiest nerd’ comment drop because there is no
appropriate response to crazy. “Is there anything you don’t like?” He shakes
his head. “Afraid of raw food?” Another shake. “Okay, let’s order a platter
with a mixture of everything.”

He sets his menu down and nods. “Sounds good. Do you think
it will fill me up?”

“Well…” I scratch my head and look at Ben’s big body. “Maybe
we should order some tempura.” The words are barely out of my mouth before I’m
taking them back again. “No wait, that’s a bad idea. I shouldn’t be eating
that.”

“Why not? Are you allergic?”

“No, not allergic. Tempura is fried. I should stay away from
anything fried.” I fidget in my seat, uncomfortable with my confession.

“Why?” He looks genuinely confused.

I roll my eyes at him. “Because I can’t afford to gain any
weight. It’s bad enough I run a bakery.”

Ben captures my hands with one of his enormous hands and
grabs my chin with the other one. “I said no more putting yourself down.” I
start to protest, but he pinches my chin to quiet me. “You’re gorgeous. I love
your curves. You look like a woman should. Man, you’re so sexy, it was all I
could do to not drag you into your apartment and have my way with you when I
arrived and saw you in that sexy as all get out dress.”

Finally, he’s quiet and I think I can get a word in
edgewise. Ben’s not that easily deterred, however. He leans forward and stops
any response I would have made with his lips. He nibbles on my bottom lip like
I’m some kind of delicacy. When he thinks he’s made his point, he leans back
and releases my chin although my hands are still encased in one of his
over-sized mitts.

I hear a sigh behind me and look over to see Mikki. “Oh man,
that was hot. Do not let him go, Professor Muller.” She flips open her order
pad. “Now, what do you want to eat?”

Ben gives me a meaningful look. “We want a platter of
seafood tempura and the sushi boat.” I turn to him. “Do you drink saké?”

“Not sure what that is, but I’ll try anything once.”

I turn back to Mikki. “Some saké and a bottle of still
water.”

Mikki snaps her order pad closed and takes off for the
kitchen. She’s back with the saké  in no time. I pour the saké in two cups
and then prod Ben to take one. “A toast?” He says before I can take my first
sip. I nod. “To the first of many wonderful dates,” he says and winks before
clinking my cup with his and taking a sip.

I’m in so much trouble.

BOOK: Never Trust a Skinny Cupcake Baker (Death by Cupcake Book 1)
11.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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