So I take a second deep breath, yank off my apron, nod in what I hope is a reassuring manner to our two assistants, and then head out to the front of the shop.
“I’m sorry,” I say before Lara can start. “I’m just stressed—we dropped a cake, and now we’re behind schedule, and…” I stop when she holds up a hand.
“Did I not tell you that you were overbooking yourself this weekend?” she asks with an eyebrow raised.
I bite my lip. “Maybe.”
“And did I not warn you that mistakes happen and we need to build more free time into the schedule to accommodate for them?”
I clear my throat this time. “Also maybe.”
“So when I ask you to go over the schedule for next week and make sure it’s not too insane, your correct response should be…”
I groan. “Yes, okay, I’ll try to cut it down a little. But Lara, we’ve got so many orders pouring in—”
“Right, because we’re doing great. Carmine, we don’t have to squeeze in every single order we receive. People are clamoring for our cakes because they’re amazing, but we can’t meet every single demand we receive. And we don’t need to. People understand we’re busy, and they know they need to book us farther in advance. We can trim down the schedule a little bit without losing business, you know.”
I swallow hard. “I know, you’re right…”
“Are you okay?” Lara squints at me, a little more closely than I’d like. I remember the bags I spotted under my eyes last night, and how hard it was to drag myself out of bed this morning.
“I’m fine,” I mumble.
“You need to take care of yourself too, you know,” she replies. “Nobody’s getting any cakes if you go and work yourself into the ground.”
“I take care of myself,” I protest.
“Carmine, when was the last time you did anything but work?” Lara lifts an eyebrow and fixes me with a sardonic gaze. “Hell, when was the last time you got laid?”
“I…” I snap my mouth shut again, because I’m still counting.
She snorts again. “I bet you’d be a lot less snippy if you’d had sex anytime in the last two years, you know.”
“I’ve had sex!” I protest.
“Oh really? When?” she counters.
I bite my lip again. Shit. She’s right. Now that I think about it, I haven’t been with another person since… Well, since before we got the business loan approved for the store. Before Red Velvet’s official opening day. I’ve been with my collection of sex toys pretty regularly since then, but I’m guessing by Lara’s estimation that won’t count.
“It’s not that long,” I reply slowly.
“Carmine, you’re 28 years old. It’s not super normal to have not had sex with anyone for two whole years. Come on, get back out there, get laid! What have you got to lose besides some of this grumpy attitude?” She grins and slaps me on the shoulder.
I stomp away from her toward the cash register as a distraction. “What’s the point?” I call over my shoulder. “Remember the last guy I even came close to dating?” Derrick Weaver, the nerdiest guy in town. He was hot in a geeky kind of way, but in the bedroom, well…
“Derrick doesn’t count.” Lara leans against the counter and watches me double-check the schedule for next week, purse my lips, and then cross off a couple of the cakes, which we should be able to reschedule with the customers, since they’re for events that are still a few days in the future. “You told me the two of you had basically zero chemistry.”
“Because he wasn’t into anything I was into,” I protest.
“Ah yes, your mystery kink.” Lara rolls her eyes. I glare at her, but she widens her eyes and spreads her hands. “Serious question, Carmine. You won’t even tell me what you’re into. Are you sharing it with the guys you hook up with?”
“I’ve tried,” I protest. My friends all know that I’ve got some kinks in the closet.
It’s been a running joke since high school. But I’ve never felt like I needed to share with my nearest and dearest. The guys I’ve tried asking about exploring my fantasies have shut them down pretty fast—which makes me feel like my friends would do the same if they knew exactly what I like. Being stuffed so full I feel like I’ll explode. It’s not exactly a normal desire.
I lean back on the stool and sigh, counting through my exes—not just the ones I’ve dated, but even the one-night stands. “I’ve talked to more than a few of them about it, Lara. And any guy I’ve ever talked to really openly about what I like has freaked out.”