I had just spent a grueling day of testing for my GED, and I was hoping I’d done well enough to start taking some college courses.
And I’d met two new friends, the owners of Indulgent Brews, Lia and Zeke. I’d stopped by the coffee place across the street from Jett’s condo the day after Jett and I had started the new chapter in our relationship, and struck up a conversation with Lia as I was getting a latte. Although the shop was well-known for their coffee, they’d recently tried adding pastries and it had been an epic fail, according to Lia. I told her I could try to help her find something better, and I’d brought her some of my own pastries to try to get a feel for what she liked.
Lia had just demolished the frosted orange and poppy seed buns, and was starting on the chocolate caramel brownies.
I’d tried to bring her a few things I thought would pair well with coffee, and do well in her store.
What she was carrying now was bite-sized pastries that didn’t really hold all that well throughout the day. And in my opinion, they just weren’t big enough. When I had coffee, I wanted a pastry to hold me over until my next meal. I wanted something more satisfying than tiny bites.
“I need these,” Lia groaned as she licked her fingers and then went to wash her hands after totally killing off the large brownie.
“I think I can help you find the right vendor,” I said. I might not know all of the bakeries in Seattle, but I could browse through them until I found the right products.
She tossed her paper towel in the trash and turned to me as she said, “I’m looking at her. I need your pastries.”
Lia was a pretty, petite, and curvy blonde who loved to chat with customers. Normally, I wasn’t very social because I hadn’t had much of a social life, but Lia made everybody feel comfortable when she was around.
As a teenager, I’d loved talking to vendors and helping my mom get the products she needed.
“I’m not really a professional,” I said in a rush.
“Your talent says otherwise,” she said as she stared steadily at me. “I ate a lot of pastries when I was looking for the right ones, and none of them were this good.”
“I had a good teacher,” I told her. “But I haven’t gone to pastry school.”
“There’s something to be said for natural talent and experience,” she said. “Let’s make a deal,” she said persuasively.
“Making deals without me?” a male voice said from the door of the small kitchen and storage area.
“Zeke!” Lia squealed. “I found our pastries.”
I watched as Lia’s partner and friend entered the serving area. Zeke was incredibly attractive in a dark suit and tie that made his hair look lighter than its usual light brown.
It was hard to believe that Zeke and Lia weren’t a couple. They squabbled and joked like they’d been together forever. But Lia was getting married to somebody else, so there was nothing romantic happening, even though I noticed that Zeke looked at Lia like he adored her.
He strolled over and peeked into the box I’d brought. “Two spots are empty,” he observed as he took out a cinnamon roll, the only thing left in the box.
“You’re lucky I don’t care for cinnamon,” she told him. “Or that one would be gone, too.”
Zeke took a huge bite and swallowed before he said, “I’m on board. Where can we get these?”
“Ruby made them. I’m trying to talk her into making our pastries for us.”
“These are really good, Ruby. I hope you agree,” Zeke said with a charming smile.
“I was just telling Lia that I’m not a professional.”
“All that matters is the quality of the product that comes out of the oven,” Zeke said as he finished off the cinnamon roll. “And this is perfect.”
“They were all perfect,” Lia added.
“Knowing you, Ruby’s not leaving until she agrees,” Zeke teased his partner.
“You know it,” Lia told him.
“I can’t stay,” Zeke said as he headed for the kitchen. “I just came by to pick up my phone. I left it here this morning.”
I saw disappointment in Lia’s expression. She was obviously fond of her business partner. But Zeke had a career, and Lia had told me that he was the silent partner who had put up the capital while she ran the store.