Read Sugar Rush Online

Authors: Leigh Ellwood

Sugar Rush

BOOK: Sugar Rush
13.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
Sugar Rush

Leigh
Ellwood

 

Baker Neve Rush is surprised to receive social media
attention, both the good and bad varieties, after agreeing to bake a wedding
cake for a lesbian couple. She cares about people’s tastes in pastries, not
sexual partners. The newfound fame has gained her new customers—as well as one
resurfaced ex. Gianna stirs up memories Neve would rather forget, and an
impromptu flirtation with a client might just do the trick.

Judy Goldsmith finds Neve’s open-mindedness refreshing and
attractive, and isn’t above a little scheming to get to know her better. As
Neve and Judy satisfy each other’s sweet tooth in the most pleasurable ways
possible, feelings begin to blossom. But their deepening attraction may not
survive a little white lie…and an even bigger, darker secret.

 

A
Romantica®
GLBT erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave

 

Sugar Rush
Leigh Ellwood

 

Chapter One

 

“Neve, I think you want to get out front, quick.”

Neve Rush finished drying off a large jellyroll pan, which
she placed on its rack with the others. Standing in the far corner of her
bakery kitchen, she leaned back to see past her assistant Terri through the
open doorway that led to the sales floor. She spied only a sliver of the
checkerboard floor and a bright yellow table, so any activity Terri noticed had
to be happening out of sight, near the register.

The closer she moved toward the front of the store, the
clearer she heard somebody sobbing softly in her bakery. “Oh my goodness,” she
muttered, not necessarily to Terri. “What’s going on out there?”

“It just started,” Terri hissed as she passed. “I think
Corky did it.”

Neve groaned. Terri hadn’t approved of her hiring Corky,
citing the young woman’s flighty attitude and inexperience, but Neve doubted
the girl would willingly reduce a person to tears with a cruel remark. “I’ll
have a look,” she said, unconvinced of Corky’s guilt.

Neve slipped behind the sales counter to find Corky by the
register, wringing her hands and looking worriedly at their customers—two older
women, each sporting short hair of varying gray and silver hues, both dressed
for the frigid December morning. The shorter of the duo leaned into her
companion, eyes tightly shut and heaving with audible sobs.

“Something I can do here?” Neve asked the other one, who
offered a smile when they made eye contact. Neve didn’t want to accuse anybody
of anything just yet. Corky looked ready to burst into tears herself.

The taller of the pair, the one cradling the sniffling
woman, held up a hand to dismiss Neve’s concerns. “It’s okay, we’re fine,” she
said. “Maggie just got a bit overwhelmed, is all. It’s been a hell of a week
for both of us.”

“Has it? I hope it’s nothing serious,” Neve replied, and
patted Corky on the shoulder in an attempt to soothe the girl’s apprehension.
She didn’t know why the women had come into the shop, and from the look of the
one crying, her first thought drifted to a death or illness. Sometimes people
came to Sugar Rush to buy baked goods for wakes.

But the crying woman took a deep breath then beamed at her
with shining eyes. Perhaps somebody hadn’t passed away.

“We were up all night, celebrating,” the taller woman
explained. “As soon as it was announced that the ban was lifted, we started
making plans.” The woman twined her fingers with Maggie’s and kissed her
knuckles.

Of course!
Neve saw it on the late news, too. The
state had declared the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
“Congratulations,” she told the couple, and nudged Corky for a smile. “You must
be so excited!”

“Yes, it’s finally going to happen.” The woman holding
Maggie turned her hand to reveal a shining solitaire diamond. “We came in to
inquire about ordering a cake for the wedding, and I think the realization just
caught up with her.”

Maggie finally stood tall on her own, wiping away tears.
“I’m sorry, I’m a giddy old fool,” she said, her voice cracking. “Helen said
‘wedding cake’, and it dawned on me that I’m getting
married
! Finally!
Can you believe it?”

Tears dried, replaced by Maggie’s radiant smile, which
warmed Neve’s heart. She had cheered in her home when the announcement was made
official, but the financial implications weren’t clear then. Neve’s bakery,
Sugar Rush, had a fair number of gay and lesbian customers, to be certain, but
these two ladies were the first to inquire about an actual wedding cake—Neve
envisioned preparing multiple tiers, icing roses and two brides on top. This
called for something special.

“Ladies, you’re in luck. I happen to bake some damn good
wedding cakes.” She gestured to the yellow table. “Step into my office.”

As Maggie and Helen made themselves comfortable, Corky
leaned close to her ear. “Neve, I swear, I didn’t say anything to upset them!
They asked about a wedding cake, and I said sure and asked what they had in
mind. That’s all.”

“That’s all they needed to hear, Corky. You’re fine,” Neve
said, smiling at the young girl to assure her. “Go see if they’ll take coffee.
I need to get out the books.”

Corky nodded and saw to their customers’ needs while Neve
ducked back into the kitchen for the photo albums of their best cake work.
Terri had obviously been listening to the exchange—she turned rapidly back to
the cookie dough she was scooping onto a large, greased sheet.

“Everything okay?” Terri tried to sound nonchalant and Neve
couldn’t help but laugh at her friend’s nosy nature.

Neve opened a high cabinet and pulled out two albums. “Right
as rain, Lady of Spain,” she said. The impromptu rhymes with which she often
addressed people never failed to encourage smiles. “I have a feeling business
is going to pick up soon.”

Terri turned from the cookies and crooked her head toward
the couple at the table. “For the better.”

“Definitely.”

* * * * *

After half an hour of sampling cupcakes as samples of
available flavors, and oohing and aahing over the more popular designs, Maggie
and Helen finally agreed on a four-tier red velvet tower with white fondant,
dark-red flowers and red trim. Both women left smiling and toting small boxes
of treats for an after-dinner celebration.

“Now we’re off to get our something borrowed and something
blue,” Maggie said as the Sugar Rush crew waved goodbye.

Neve quietly cleared away the plates and mugs, looking up
when Corky lingered expectantly by the dessert case. “What’s up, buttercup?”
she asked.

Corky held up her smartphone. “While you were in the back, I
took a picture of those ladies. I thought it would be cool to, like, put it on
our Facebook page since they’re the first same-sex couple to come in for a
wedding cake. They said it was okay,” she quickly added.

“Oh. Well, if they don’t mind, I don’t.” Neve shrugged and
left Corky to handle it. Neve couldn’t tweet or e-mail pictures from her phone
to save her life, so she left all manner of internet and social media dealings
related to business to her younger employee. It seemed to work well—Corky had
explained to her once that they had over a thousand Twitter followers. Neve
couldn’t decide if that was a good number for a small bakery. If only they’d
all come in every morning and buy something to eat.

As the rest of the workday wore on, though, Neve gave no
further thought to Twitter or Facebook or the internet in general. Customers
arrived and left in a steady stream, buying cookies by the dozen and cupcakes,
whoopie pies and frosted cake pops. When Terri left to make the final bank
deposit for the day, they had only one rack of sweets left to sell in the dessert
case.

Neve turned the sign to Closed spot on five o’clock and
smiled at Corky. “I’d call this a banner day,” she said. “We haven’t been this
busy in weeks. Hope the mojo lasts.”

Corky quirked up one side of her mouth in a lopsided smile.
Neve thought the expression odd, since Corky usually exhibited more enthusiasm
at work. “What’s wrong now?” she asked.

“I didn’t how to tell you this,” Corky began, pulling out
her phone. “It’s probably better to just show you so you know what’s going on.”
Corky handed her the phone, and Neve held it close to her face to better see
the small text of Facebook’s mobile interface. Underneath the photo of Maggie
and Helen, Corky had written on behalf of Sugar Rush their congratulations to
the couple, the first such ladies to come to the bakery for a wedding cake.

Neve’s heart sank at the general consensus to their post.

Really, Neve? Baking cakes for a couple of old dykes?

Don’t you people read the Bible? This is wrong! God will
punish you for this.

Well, you gals just lost a customer.

On it went as Neve scrolled down the screen. Commentators
jeered the couple and badgered Neve for pandering to “the queers” for their
business. She could have read more, but her blood boiled and her eyes nearly
crossed to read the print. “Unbelievable,” she muttered, handing the phone back
to Corky. “It’s one damn cake. You’d think we were catering Hitler’s birthday.”

Corky looked absolutely ashamed, as though taking the brunt
of the backlash. “Should I take down the photo?”

“No. What a bunch of assholes, don’t even have the nerve to
tell me to my face what they think.” Neve didn’t mean to sound so annoyed. When
she noticed Corky back up a few steps, she softened her voice. “Corky, I’m not
mad at
you
. The picture stays up. If a few people can’t handle us baking
cakes for customers they don’t even know, it’s
their
problem, not ours.
I wouldn’t even try to win people like that back into my store—I don’t want
their business.”

Corky didn’t appear comforted. “What if people boycott the
shop?” Panic filled the young woman’s voice. Neve could only imagine the
apocalyptic images the girl conjured in her mind—torches and pitchforks and a
heavy-hearted Neve setting up a For Lease sign in the window. She hoped her
regular customers were better than that.

She believed everybody had a right to an opinion, and people
didn’t have to buy her baked goods for whatever reason they chose. She didn’t,
however, like people dictating how she should operate her business and whom she
should serve.

“Has anybody called the store to threaten us?” she asked.
“Or to cancel an order?”

Corky shook her head.

Neve gestured to the storefront window. “I don’t see any
brick holes or anybody charging the building toting a baseball bat, either.
This will pass. People will find something else to bitch about in due time.
Now,” she smiled and clapped her hands together, “it’s quitting time.”

“You’re not worried somebody will vandalize the place after
we’re gone?”

“Seems like a cowardly thing to do,” Neve said, then winked
at her employee. “Anyway, I have enough insurance to cover it. Maybe we can
upgrade the stove.” She paused and, on seeing Corky’s eyes bulge out, “It was a
joke! Relax, Jax.” She waved the girl to the back. “C’mon, let’s get those
dishes done.”

* * * * *

Bone tired from a long day of baking, Neve dumped her coat
and purse on the chair closest to her apartment entrance. She stepped out of
her clogs and flexed her toes, digging into the shag carpet for a few seconds
as she contemplated dinner. Cooking for hours normally wiped away her appetite,
and tonight proved no exception. Eventually, she decided, she’d raid the pantry
for a bowl of cereal.

She collapsed into her recliner, kicked up the footrest and
leaned back. With her laptop on her thighs and a half-empty bottle of water
from last night on the table next to her, she settled in to update her baking
and event schedule. She chuckled a bit to herself as she sipped the tepid
liquid, thinking one day she ought to put some of her culinary training to good
use and cook a gourmet meal. She might consider it if she wanted to eat
something besides cereal, or if she had anybody at home to appreciate the
effort. Living alone gave her peace, and the hours invested in her bakery left
little time for a social life. It did get lonely, though.

She finished her paperwork and lowered the laptop screen to
enjoy the rest of her evening with her favorite show, but after a moment’s
thought, lifted the screen again and called up her Facebook account.

Corky had made her an administrator of the Sugar Rush page,
though Neve rarely contributed to it. Corky did a good enough job posting the
daily specials and uploading photos, and with one person managing the page,
Neve felt it kept a consistent voice. She read through more comments from
customers and others, relieved to see some people had voiced their support for
Maggie and Helen. She did notice, too, the number of page fans had increased
since she and Corky last saw it.

“Nice,” she murmured, scrolling the page. “Let’s hope y’all
didn’t like the page just so you could complain on it.”

A lone remark in the right column, independent of the thread
of comments underneath the picture, read,
So, are you a gay-friendly
establishment now?

The words irked Neve. She hated labels—well, save for the
ones she used to identify her cupcakes. She called up the chat box within the
site to survey her online friends and saw no green light to indicate Corky was
surfing Facebook at the moment. Neve didn’t usually respond to fan questions,
but she didn’t want to leave this one hanging there unanswered.

She flexed her fingers, and soon they flew over the
keyboard, typing the words as quickly as she could think them.

Hi everybody, and thank you for the question. This is
somewhat difficult to answer, because technically we’ve always been
“gay-friendly”, as you put it. We are not unfriendly to anybody! We are
gay-friendly, straight-friendly, male-friendly, female-friendly, youth-friendly
and senior-friendly. We are friendly to Christians, Jews, other religious,
atheists, agnostics, Southerners, Northerners, people of all races and—yes—even
Virginia Tech fans, despite the fact that I’m a UVA grad and die-hard Cavalier.

So to answer the question, we are people-friendly. Also
dog-friendly—we do sell dog treats, too!

Neve took a deep breath and observed what a friend called
the Ten Second Rule—she counted slowly to ten before deciding the post looked
fine and not reactionary, then clicked to post it. “That’s that,” she said as
she checked her own news feed for friends’ posts. If anybody insisted on
boycotting her bakery or defriending her because she agreed to bake a wedding
cake for a lesbian couple, that wasn’t her problem.

Feeling tired, she decided on one last check of the Sugar
Rush page for any derogatory comments. When they’d launched their social media
presence, Neve had insisted they keep negative remarks visible to show they had
nothing to hide. Anything that read as threatening, however, would have to go,
and the user blocked from posting further.

BOOK: Sugar Rush
13.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Moon Palace by Paul Auster
The Return of the Titans by James Thompson
Bat out of Hell by Vines, Ella
A Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy
Prescription for Desire by Candace Shaw
Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks