Authors: Cindy Arora
Copyright © Cindy Arora 2013
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or Simon & Fig except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Cover Art by Amanda Mullins
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I’d like to dedicate this book to my dad who handed me a paperback of
by Jackie Collins one summer in the 80s. I was never quite the same again. I also dedicate this to every Algebra teacher who told me I was a lost cause and to every English teacher who told me I had a natural writing voice. Couldn’t have done this without either one of you.
And, of course, to Greyson. You make me a better person.
Also by Cindy Arora
Christmas at Mulberry Inn
by Cindy Arora
Oh hell, I fell asleep.
I take a one-eyed sideways glance at the pink-cheeked bartender sleeping softly next to me and inwardly groan. I know this sweet-natured man-boy who just moved here from Nebraska is going to want to take me to breakfast, or even worse—make me breakfast in bed.
I quietly sigh and curse my damn rookie mistake, already dreading the awkward post-coital conversation that will begin with, “It’s Matt…right?”
I’ve got to get out of here before I’m fork-deep into a plate of pancakes with someone who has a plastic card table for a breakfast nook.
But first things first. Where did I leave my clothes? I think back to the drunken strip tease that started in the courtyard of his megaplex apartment building.
Clutch? By the front door. Purple dress? By the couch.
Favorite cognac-colored vintage heels? Under the coffee table.
Panties? Well, one of my favorites, but sometimes you gotta lose one for the team.
This could be tricky, I muse, but I’ve definitely gotten myself out of worse.
Ever so slowly, I start with a shimmy of my hips.
Hip, shimmy, slink. Hip, shimmy, slink
Hip shimmy. . .saaaa-link.
Wait a minute, wait a minute. The boy stirs in his sleep, and I stop mid-shimmy, close my eyes and play possum. After a few still seconds, I look up and see his eyes flutter a bit and hold my breath waiting for them to pop open and greet me with the same slow-like-honey smile that got me into this mess to begin with.
But instead, he takes a deep breath, flaps his mouth like a California happy cow and begins to snore softly.
With a renewed ease, I hurriedly slide down the bed and kick my legs like an enthusiastic Rockette and cha-cha into the living room to hunt for my clothing.
With shoes in hand, I tip toe to the front door, grabbing an orange from the ceramic fruit bowl on the kitchen table, and am seconds away from the best early-morning sneak- out of my dating history.
"Hey, where are you going?" a sleepy male voice whines from behind.
“I was going to make you breakfast.”
Shit. Shit. Shit.
What could I do?" I grip my cell phone with my cheek while wiping away residual black eyeliner with a damp cotton ball. I catch my gaze and look away, not ready to face myself. I could still see the sweet bartender’s crestfallen smile when he realized I was ditching him with some lame excuse about needing to be at work to greet the milk man as if it were 1954.
“Well, Indira Aguilar, you could’ve just woken him up like a sane person and told him you had to go to work. Doesn’t that sound healthy and functional? You are a grown ass woman. Just get up, grab your panties from the sofa cushion and get the hell out of there.”
I roll my eyes. This is so like her to be up at 7 a.m. and already handing out rulings on my life. She makes sense, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.
“I just didn’t know what to say. It was a mistake so I panicked and tried to flee without having to explain myself. It’s not like I’m out there bed-hopping like I used to.”
I toss the cotton ball into my overnight bag that I affectionately call my Ho-On-The-Go, which contains everything a girl could need after a late night out at someone else's house.
I close my eyes and pull the phone away from my face and spritz with a water bottle and gently towel dry.
“He could’ve been someone if you gave him a chance to take you out on a date,” Rebecca says over the chatter of her two-year-old daughter, Maggie, who seems to have inherited her mother’s gift for gab.
“He was not The One,” I snort. I pull out an electric toothbrush from my bag-o-tricks and squeeze a smidgen of toothpaste onto it. “I met him at bar called The Buccaneer, and he had a stuffed parrot perched on his shoulder and was wearing a bejeweled eye patch.” I jam the toothbrush into my mouth and flick it on.
“You never know,” Rebecca says optimistically. “That sounds like it could be sexy. Did he keep the patch on for, you know, the whole night?”
“Jwesus, Webecca. No that’s twot wexy at twall.” I yank the vibrating toothbrush out of my mouth. "Can we talk about this later? I’m still in the car. I rushed home to take a five minute Silkwood shower and nearly toweled off in the car. I’m doing my morning routine in the parking lot of the shop. Let’s skip the love lesson.”
I pause and let the toothbrush vibrate in my mouth as one of my oldest girlfriends, whom I met waiting tables in college, is now going on and on about opening up to the possibility of fate and love and how she just wants me to find myself spiritually, emotionally, and if necessary…physically.
Why did I pick up her phone call this early in the morning? Nothing good comes from a 7 a.m. or a 2 a.m. phone call.
“Rebecca, or wait, is this Deepak Chopra? As enjoyable as I find this, I’ll have to call you later. I’m going to be late to work. Kisses to Magpie.”
Before Rebecca can say anything, I hang up, take a swig from my bottled water and swoosh it around my mouth.
Open the car door. And spit.
I tie my hair into two braids, dab on a little cappuccino-colored lip gloss and smile prettily into the rear view mirror.
And just like that, last night never happened.
At 7:05 a.m., Cake Pan Bakeshoppe is milling with the locals and regulars that give us our daily bread and butter. You’ve got the urban professionals who come in distracted and always late to work, the friendly retirees, the relaxed yogis and the well-dressed hipster mommy brigade who roll up in their state-of-the-art strollers and chug copious cups of Fair Trade coffee.
We are a neighborhood bakery found on the corner of 4th Street and Redondo Avenue in Long Beach. A small California beach town that’s more grit than glitter, but filled with a vibrant growing art scene known for its vintage shops, skate punks and artsy bohemian types.
Lined up along 4th Street—or retro row as we locals call it—are clothing consignment shops, vintage furniture stores, the independent movie house Artplex, Cuppa Joe Coffeehouse run by an army of tatted up baristas serious about foam art, and the new roller skate shop “Track Rash” owned and run by the Derby Dames—Long Beach’s all- female Roller Derby team.
It’s the quintessential gentrified neighborhood that just 10 years ago was seeing an exodus of families leaving for safer neighborhoods and blue-ribbon schools. But all it took was the opening of Great Reads, a bookstore owned and run by Mindy Deshal, former lead singer of the 1980s all-female punk band, Daisy Kills, who reincarnated herself into a literacy advocate, and her bookstore became the anchor for the area’s renaissance.
It was exactly why Pedro and I came along last year, with our seed money and an ambitious business plan that would keep us firmly rooted in the city.
Our menu can range from cinnamon rolls to pumpkin and cardamom muffins, fig and cherry scones, cobblers, and a bevy of rustic tartlets, and bread puddings.
And while we do have cupcakes—because people would riot if we didn’t—we also make doughnuts and beignets served with homemade sauces. We make our own seasonal jams that we preserve in our kitchen and sell to the public. And we make cake. Let’s not forget glorious cake—chocolate, vanilla, carrot, and German, lemon, and strawberry and plenty of good old fashioned yellow cake.