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Authors: Gina Gordon

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary

A Taste of Trouble

BOOK: A Taste of Trouble
10.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2013 by Gina Gordon. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road

Suite 109

Fort Collins, CO 80525

Visit our website at

Edited by Libby Murphy

Cover design by Libby Murphy

Ebook ISBN 978-1-62266-067-4

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition February 2013

The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Betty Crocker, Tupperware, BlackBerry, Heineken, Abercrombie & Fitch, Budweiser, Bud, Marc Jacobs, Dumpster, Styrofoam, Coors Light, Coke, Alternative Press Magazine, Richter, Twitter, Facebook, Febreze, NHL, Javex, Pepto Bismol, Blu-ray, Jaws of Life.

To all the dreamers…

Chapter One

Liv Crawford sifted through boxes and bags, taking a mental inventory of what items needed to be saved. She sat on a crate in the middle of the storefront, the dust from the neglected space tickling the inside of her nose. Old containers and ribbon filled the box to her left. Bowls, baking pans, and rusty utensils filled the one to her right. As for saving anything, it looked like a trip to the dump was in serious order.

The bakery was filthy. It was stale. But it was hers.

The baking world certainly had changed in the last two decades—for the better. The yellowed and musty wholesale catalogs and baking magazines she'd sorted and piled high in front of her reflected that change. She reached for another bag of magazines, and specs of dust caught in her throat. She coughed, whipping her black hair across her face.

She'd been sneezing from the minute she stepped into the run-down building, black gunk and dust coating everything from the glass showcase to the counter top and old cash register. The walls were yellowing and in desperate need of some paint. But what Liv hated the most was the horrid orange curtain that separated the storefront from the kitchen. Despite its pathetic state, Liv couldn't stop the smile from spreading across her face.

The happy jingle of the bell hanging on the door forced her attention to the front of the store as Austin Reid barreled in waving a newspaper.

Her best friend took two quick steps inside before he noticed the debris blocking his way and almost toppled over the boxes. He cursed. “You're a celebrity. You're on the front page of the Living section,” he shouted.

Liv giggled.

He hadn't bothered to style his blond hair today, his cowlick in the front very apparent, and the slight growth of stubble on his face was an indication of only one thing—he hadn't been home yet from the night before.

Austin trudged toward her, sidestepping the dirty items. Liv knew she'd never hear the end of it if he damaged his expensive shoes.

He looked around, hugging the newspaper close to his chest. The look of exhilaration he'd flashed not ten seconds before slowly turned into a frown. “This place is—”


Austin's frown deepened as he took in his surroundings. A slight smirk curved at the side of his lips. “I was going to say a dump, but that, too.”

“Give me that.” Liv jumped off the crate and grabbed at the newspaper.

Last November, she'd been assigned Katie Harper's wedding as an employee of Sweet Creations bakery. They'd immediately hit it off, but Liv had no idea Katie was a writer for a local newspaper. She was even more surprised when Katie's brief interview turned out to be a feature.

She held out the pages for both of them to read. “Am I really on the front page?”
Please let it be yes.

“Yes, ma'am, and I especially like this part…” Austin cleared his throat and read, “Liv Crawford, soon-to-be cupcake entrepreneur, is the next big thing in pastry arts. Toronto, watch out for this rising star.”

Her stomach rolled. The tiny balls of excitement that'd been simmering inside ever since she'd walked through the front door holding her freshly signed lease burst like fireworks.

It had taken five long years of saving and planning—formulating her business plan, applying for licenses, securing the location, getting pre-approved for the bank loan, setting up the insurance—but she was finally ready to venture out on her own and open a bakery. All without the encouragement she was assured working for her mentor, Nancy Arbour.

Yet Liv knew her time had finally come. In just a few weeks she would grab the baking industry by the piping bag and introduce the city of Toronto to Cupcake!—her new bakery.

Austin's finger tickled under her chin. “This place is too dirty to leave your mouth hanging open like that.”

She snapped her mouth shut as pride filled her, inflating her chest, inflating her head. Was it too soon to think that this type of publicity was exactly what she needed to put her business on the map?

Liv met his stare, and without another word, they grabbed onto each other and jumped up and down, squealing. Or, Austin tried to squeal, but with the baritone of his voice it came out more like a grunt.

A perky voice sounded from behind the curtain. “What's all the racket out there?”

Nancy Arbour glided to the front of the store as if on a conveyor belt. Her tall frame was draped in a business suit, as it always was, even when she'd agreed to help her former employee sort through a mess of a kitchen. She kept her ebony hair chin length, and even through all the sweet-smelling treats they'd baked together, Liv could always pinpoint her strawberry shampoo.

Austin quickly released his grip and took a step back. Everyone who came in contact with Nancy fell under her spell, and Austin was no exception. He fixed his hair and smoothed down his shirt as if being scrutinized by the school principal. Nancy did give off that schoolmarm vibe, except instead of whacking you with a wooden spoon, she'd use it to feed you icing.

Holding tight her notebook to her chest, Nancy beamed. “Oh, hello, Austin. Lovely to see you again.”

“Hi, Nancy. I'm surprised to see you here.”

“Nancy's helping me make a list of things that need to be fixed so I can pass the city inspection.” However, with the arrival of Austin and the newspaper, the inspection list was the last thing on her mind. “Nancy, you have to see this.”

Liv approached the counter and placed the newspaper in Nancy's hands. If there were anyone in this world Liv could count on to be excited about this opportunity, it would be Nancy.

With only a quick perusal, her eyes widened, and Liv was positive her knuckles turned white. Nancy placed the paper on the counter, and just like that, her eyes sparkled with their typical warmth. Liv glanced at Austin, who still smiled from ear to ear, wondering if she'd imagined the whole thing.

“This deserves a celebration,” Nancy said.

“I'll second that.” Austin wrapped his arms around Liv's shoulders and squeezed.

“I think I should scoot to Sweet Creations and bring back some treats so we can toast the newest bakery owner and her much deserved success.”

“Can we toast with cookies?' Austin asked. “You know those shell looking cookies dipped in chocolate?”

“Of course, Austin.” Nancy clapped her hands. “But before we celebrate, let's talk about this bakery.” She picked up her notebook from the counter and flipped through the first few pages. “I did a check of the kitchen, and you're going to need new ovens, new electrical fixtures, and a new mixer. That one back there looks like it has been through two world wars.”

All Liv heard was money, money, and more money. She groaned and Austin returned, linking his arm in hers as Nancy continued.

“I've done a rough tally of how much you'll need to replace the equipment, but you're going to have to get an electrician in here as soon as possible.”

Liv had more than enough savings. She'd even applied for a small business loan three months ago as a safety cushion. She knew she wouldn't need it, but it was always a good idea to be prepared. “Thank you, Nancy.”

Nancy had gone through the entire bakery from top to bottom, looking for possible inspection violations. Liv hoped Nancy knew how much she appreciated her. Saying thank you just didn't seem good enough.

“That's not all, my dear.” Nancy held up her notebook. “I have three pages of things you need to fix before an inspector would even consider letting you open for business.” She passed over her notebook. Austin peered over her shoulder to check out the list for himself.

Liv knew she had her work cut out for her. But her confidence waned with every breath she took as she flipped through the pages. She only hoped she'd be able to satisfy this list in a few weeks, when she anticipated opening the doors to the public.

“This business is not going to be like the front page of the newspaper every day, Olivia.” Nancy's expression matched her words of warning. “The odds are against you. In order to succeed, you're going to have to be better and more cunning than the rest.” She flipped her hair behind her ear and puffed up the ends. “I just hope you have it in you.”

she have it in her? Liv's insides shook. This was really happening. This bakery was hers, all hers.

“There's no question that our girl is more cunning than the rest,” Austin said. Both Nancy and Liv turned in his direction. “This city better watch out, because the new cupcake queen has just been crowned.”

Liv smiled. She had the best friends in the world.

“I want to check a couple more things in the back before I leave,” Nancy said. She scurried away in a fluster behind the curtain.

Although Nancy had built a solid business, Liv would do it differently. Nancy's shop screamed tradition. Liv understood the value of tried and true classics, but she was constantly thinking up new and creative ideas. Her shop would be modern and whimsical, and she would create something for her customers built out of their wildest dreams.

“You are so lucky to have her,” Austin said. “I wish I had a Nancy.”

“You're right, Ozzie,” Liv said, Austin's nickname rolling so easily off her tongue. It had been given to him in University, and had stuck for the last ten years. “I never would've gotten here without her.” Guilt swallowed her thoughts. She'd been Nancy's right hand, her go-to worker. With Liv's talent, Nancy was able to book two to three events a weekend. After everything Nancy had done for her—

“Stop right there. I know what's going on in that brain of yours.” Austin sidled closer. “It's time for you to fly on your own. Nancy is one hundred percent behind your decision to open your own business. She wouldn't be in that kitchen otherwise.”

Liv nodded. Working for Nancy the last six years gave her all the experience she needed to go out on her own. She owed the woman the world. Opening and successfully running her own bakery would be her final thank you. After all, Liv's success was a direct reflection of Nancy's talent.

Liv glanced at the newspaper sitting on the counter. This
a day of celebration, but then she remembered that list in Nancy's notebook. “You think I can do this, right, Ozzie? That was a pretty big list.”

His face softened. “I know you can do it. And so does Patti.” Patricia McLean was the third member of their posse. “It's only a matter of time before you hit it big.” She could always count on Austin to tell her the truth. Sugar-coating words just wasn't a part of his personality. Still, he was her biggest cheerleader. He'd probably wear the uniform if she asked.

Liv slid her hand across the laminate counter, sweeping away the gray dust that was like a second skin. Excitement rumbled in her belly. During her childhood, sweets were used to mark every occasion in her household. Good grades. Boy trouble. Birthdays and holidays. Her mom always tried to make everything special. And to her, nothing was special without something sweet. Unfortunately, the baking gene must have skipped a generation, because her mom was the queen of boxed Betty Crocker cakes.

Once Liv was old enough to use the stove, she started to experiment. It never ceased to amaze her how so few ingredients could make something so delicious. Baking was like magic, and it didn't take long for her to realize she wanted to make magic every day.

Cupcakes eventually became her favorite because there were so many variations. They could be designed to fit any occasion. They were personalized, and if done masterfully, could be works of art. A freshly baked cupcake was her canvas, and a piping bag, her brush.

Austin surveyed the room, a concerned look on his face. “Did you speak with the landlord? Is this building even safe?”

“He said the building may be old, but he's kept it in working condition. Totally safe.” Besides, it wasn't Liv's responsibility to maintain the building. She only needed to worry about the inside of the store.

“If you say so.” Austin gave her a disbelieving frown.

Just picturing what this store would look like once she was finished invigorated her, sending all of the doubt away.

She paced the tiny room. In a few weeks, the walls would be covered in blush-pink paint, soft fabric sofas and stools would be available for seating, and her signature white boxes with pink ribbon would be ready for filling.

And Liv couldn't be more in the mood to get started. “Ready to get to work?”

“By ‘work' I hope you mean paperwork, because these hands were made to caress the skin of hard male bodies—not to be submerged in skin-damaging cleaners.”

Liv giggled. “Don't be such a priss.” She jumped up on the counter, not afraid to get a little dirty.

“I'm really proud of you.” Austin grinned. “This is your time. I will kick your butt when you get anxious and pick your butt up when you get discouraged.”

“I can always count on you to take care of my butt.”

“Somebody has to.”

Liv groaned. “Please tell me we are not getting on the boyfriend topic. Not today.” Boyfriends were not the most pressing item on her to-do list. They never had been.

“Then when? You're going to have to let someone get close to you sometime, Olivia.” She hated when Austin called her Olivia. He only did it to get under her skin.

“I got here without a man, and I can continue without one.”

Liv didn't need a man for a happily ever after. They didn't exist in real life, anyway. Her own family life was the perfect example. Her grandparents, even though they were still married, had never slept in the same bed. And her mother, she had sacrificed everything for a man who ended up leaving them and was never heard from again.

Her father—although he didn't deserve the title—was the first and last man to disappoint her. Growing up, witnessing the sadness in her mother's eyes, was enough to teach Liv no man was worth sacrificing her own happiness, her own plans.

“Besides, that's what I have you for.” Liv swiveled around until her legs fell on the opposite side of the counter, and slid to the floor. She grabbed the file folders she'd stored underneath the counter as Austin approached, resting his hands on the dust. She leaned forward and placed her forehead against his. “You're my token penis.”

BOOK: A Taste of Trouble
10.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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