“I LIKE your buns.” The customer’s voice was creamy, with a hint of spice. “How much are they?”
“Excuse me?” Adalia glanced up from behind the cash register and glared at the man.
“Your buns,” he answered, flashing a naughty grin at her.
Heat erupted in her core.
It was him. The guy. He came in every day in that Prada suit, no suitcase, and flaunted his perfect jawline and wavy blond hair. Adalia’s stomach did a turn, but she steadied herself mentally.
Come on, it’s just a customer. Same as any other in the bakery.
“Can I help you with something?” She asked the same question each day when he came in. Then it would begin.
“That depends.” The gorgeous man strolled over and rested his elbows on the glass of the counter that displayed treats and sweets.
“On what, exactly? It’s pretty simple,” she answered. “Either you want the buns or you don’t.”
“Oh,” he replied, interlocking his fingers and resting his chin on them. “I want the buns. You can count on that.” He reached out and brushed her forearm with the tips of his fingers. Sparks danced across her ebony skin.
Adalia cleared her throat gently, but didn’t move away. It was the first time he’d touched her, and she’d honestly fantasized about the moment for weeks.
“Which buns would you like?” She breathed the words, and he leaned in close enough that she caught a whiff of his cologne. It was a masculine, woody scent and it suited him perfectly.
Warning alarms went off in her head – this guy was clearly a player, well put together, with that easy charm – but they were drowned out by her attraction to him.
“Yours,” he uttered, “every day, for the next month. Every night, too.”
Adalia narrowed her chocolate brown eyes at him. She’d given up trusting anyone a long time ago, let alone suave white strangers with a clear desire for more than a carb fix.
“I wouldn’t advise you eat that many carbs. And you’ve yet to specify which type of buns you’d like, sir.” She gave a sweet smile she didn’t feel in her gut.
Why couldn’t she shake her attraction to this guy? She’d just gotten out of a relationship with DeShawn, just started the healing process. She had to focus on getting the bakery on track, not on some sexy dude with a fetish for curvy women.
God, wouldn’t it be nice if he had a fetish for – No!
He studied her expression with a grin that made her insides go melty like tempered chocolate.
“I think you know which buns I want.”
“Cinnamon,” she answered, reaching over for a brown paper bag beneath the glass fronted cabinet. In the back, one of her bakers slammed a tray in the oven and cursed.
Irritation flickered through her – they never treated those ovens with respect – but she kept a straight face.
“No, no,” he answered, then grasped her wrist again, and heat waves assaulted her. “I’m in the mood for chocolate today.”
She stared him dead in the eye, willing the arousal to back the hell down. “Smooth,” she said wryly.
“Excuse me, miss. I’d like to pay?” said a hunched over granny, clasping a box of éclairs.
“Sorry, ma’am,” Adalia replied, sparing a frown for the handsome businessman. He winked a blue eye at her and she swallowed hard. “That will be five dollars.”
“Five dollars,” the lady answered, squinting a little and stretching to pat her curlers. Adalia glanced at ‘Handsome Guy’ again. He hadn’t looked away, and their gazes were glued for a moment. “I’ll tell you, it’s a pity these éclairs are so good, dearie. You’re going to have me on the streets at this rate.”
“I’m glad you like them,” Adalia replied. That was the plain truth: with the bills piling up, every happy customer helped pave the pathway to financial success. Losing her lifelong dream wasn’t an option. “Can I get you anything else?”
“Oh no, dear. Perhaps the recipe so I can make these for myself at home.” The old woman’s wrinkled façade split into a friendly smile. “No, I’m joking, of course. I quite enjoy the trip into the city for these treasures.” She lifted one from the bag and took a bite. Cream squished out the sides and smeared onto her cheek.
“I’ll get you a napkin.” Adalia fumbled for them beside the register, but Handsome Guy was already on it.
He swept out a handkerchief and handed it to the customer with a courteous bob of his head.
“Thank you,” the lady breathed, accepting it with a flutter of her eyelids. “My, what a dashing young fellow. You certainly are a lucky woman.” She directed that at Adalia.
“What? He’s not my –”
“Not as lucky as I am,” he put in, and gestured for the customer to keep the soft square of linen. She thanked him and shuffled out with a cheery wave, pink slippers slapping on the linoleum.
Adalia had given the bakery a fifties’ style look. She’d loved the idea of a parlor where customers could sit and have a milkshake while they ate their baked goods. So far, the idea hadn’t taken off.
The booths and chairs were empty. A pang of regret stabbed at her stomach, and she wiped down her flowered apron with a grimace.
“I’ll get those chocolate buns for you,” she said to the businessman, but the stare he gave her made her stop dead in her tracks. “What is it? You don’t want them anymore?”
“I do, but I’d prefer it if you had a few with me. Do you make coffee here?”
“We do,” she said, “but I’ve got way too much to do to take a break.”
“I wasn’t asking.”
“Look, I don’t even know your name. What makes you think you can come in here, flirt with me and make a fool out of me in front of my customers?” Adalia allowed anger to gutter through her and override the desperate need to reach out and spank that cute butt. “Now, if you want buns, I’ll give you buns, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“I assume you don’t normally treat your customers this way.” He glanced left and right, searching the empty storefront with mock intrigue.
“How I treat my customers is none of your business,” she snapped. He’d hit a nerve there. The bakery was her life, her dream and her future, and it was falling through her fingers so fast, she barely had time to jam them shut.
Sunlight filtered through the front window, highlighting the golden streaks in his hair.
Adalia turned her back on him and got the damn chocolate buns, then thrust them at him over the counter. He took out a leather wallet with a flourish and flipped it open, but she shook her finger at him.
“No,” she said, “these are free of charge.”
“That’s nice of you,” he said, his left eyebrow lifted, and she longed to smack him in it. Then kiss him. Kiss him all over.
“It’s free of charge because I don’t consider you a customer. Don’t come back here again. Understand?” She folded her arms and steadied her breathing.
The devilishly attractive businessman ran his thumb down his jaw, holding the brown bag aloft. “Sorry,” he said, without a smidgen of the remorse he professed, “but I’m not in the habit of making promises I can’t keep.”
“Get out,” she hissed at him.
He strolled to the door with a low chuckle and pulled it open with a tinkle of the bell. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Adalia.”
“How did you know my –?”
But he didn’t let her finish, cutting across her with one word. It cut her to ribbons, zigzagged through the air between them on vibrations of smoldering need.
Then he was gone.