Rise: Contemporary Romance (Creamy's Bakery Book 2)

BOOK: Rise: Contemporary Romance (Creamy's Bakery Book 2)
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Rise

Creamy’s Bakery #2

 

By Aspen Drake

 

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious or used fictitiously. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher or author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

Creamy’s Bakery Rise

Published by Surrendered Press

Copyright 2016 Aspen Drake

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

Carly

 

“Are you sure you don’t mind, Nate?” My hands wring nervously as I sit on the couch in his office. I’ve been dreading this moment. But to my surprise, Nate’s answer is yes.

“It’s fine, Carly. Trust me.” He turns to look at Amy who is sitting next to me. “I know what I would do if it was someone I love.” The look in his eyes as he gazes at Amy makes my longing for Noah increase.

“Thank you, Nate,” I say with a choked voice. Tears well up in my eyes and my voice is strained.

“And don’t worry about your clients. The girls and I will take care of them while you’re away.” Amy wipes a single tear from her cheek. “We’ve got you.”

I reach for her hands and take them into mine. “Thank you. Thank you both so much.” Tears are spilling from my eyes. It’s been a month since Noah left and after some effort by a private investigator Max hired, we finally have a good lead on where he is. 

Amy squeezes my hands. “Just bring Noah home safely. I know you and Max are ready for him to be back.”

“I miss him a lot. We both do.” I nod through my tears.

Nate’s voice hovers over me, indicating he’s moved from his position next to his desk to stand near us. Pulling me up, he gives me a warm embrace. “You’ll find him, Carly.”

“I hope so.” I take a deep breath and try to rein in my sobs. Amy joins in and squeezes me from behind.

“Don’t worry about anything except Noah. We have everything handled here.”

“Thanks.”

They both smile at me as I break away from their group hug. Amy keeps her arm around Nate and he pulls her close to him, tucking her into his side as if they were made to fit with one another.

I head out to meet Max down at Creamy’s, which is a few doors down from Fierce Salon. The walk over to the bakery allows me time to compose myself. I can’t cry all the time. That won’t bring Noah back to us.

I stand in front of the store and dry my cheeks with the back of my hand before going inside. The bell chimes when I step through the front door. Max is standing with Mason over by the counter.

“Hey, Carly.” Aaron’s voice greets me as I walk up, which causes Mason and Max to look up from their conversation.

“Hi, Aaron.” I give him a quick wave and step over to the guys.

“What did he say?” Mason asks.

Max pulls me to his side, wrapping his arm around my waist and holding me close.

“He said yes.”

“That’s great.” Max’s fingers grip my side. “We can leave in the morning then.”

“I knew he wouldn’t mind,” Mason says. “I don’t know why you worried so much.”

I give him a pointed look and raise my eyebrow. “Because you didn’t know him before. He’s changed since Amy came into his life, but I’m still never sure.”

“Well, at least you know it’s okay now and don’t have to worry about finding a new job while you both go search for Noah.” Mason reaches up and squeezes my shoulder. He turns to Max before continuing. “Take care of my sister, okay?”

“I will.” Max gives a single nod, pulling me in even tighter. I leave his grasp for a moment to hug my brother.

“We’ll be back soon,” I whisper into his ear.

“And you’ll bring Noah with you.” His words are a statement of fact, not a hope or suggestion.

It amazes me the difference time has made with Mason. At first, he wasn’t into the idea of me being in a relationship with two men, but now that he’s gotten to know Max and Noah, I think he’s truly happy for us.

“Call me and let me know you got there okay.” Mason is already heading behind the counter. I know I’ve taken time away from a huge order he has, but I can always count on him to be there when I need him.

“I promise.” I wave quickly as Max and I head out the door.

~**~

“Are you all packed, beautiful Carly?” Max peeks his head into the bathroom where I’m gathering the last few personal items I need before we leave.

“Almost. Just a few things I keep forgetting. My mind just isn’t here.” I look at him in the reflection of the long mirror above the double sinks.

“I know what you mean.” Max nods his head solemnly. “I’m so ready to find Noah and bring him home.”

“Me too.” I toss my face cream into my bag. “Why do you think he chose New Orleans to run off to?”

“He loves the atmosphere. The Cajun culture and the French Quarter were always appealing to him. I can’t believe I didn’t think of going there to look for him earlier.”

“Well,” I say as I throw a hairbrush and ties into my bag, “you’ve been a bit preoccupied handling me and my blubbering mess for the past several weeks. I’m just glad Jason was able to track him down.” I pause and turn to lean against the counter. “Do you think he’s okay?”

“If I know Noah, he’s just being his stubborn, dramatic self. The first thing I’m going to do when we find him is hug him… Then I’m going to kick his ass for being so stupid.”

Yeah. Me too. “It’s my fault. If I hadn’t had said what I did at the bar that night…”

“Oh, stop that.” Max takes a step forward and pulls me into his strong arms. With my face resting against his firm chest, he rubs circles over my back. “I’ve told you, sweetheart. This is not your fault. I’m sure Noah thought he was doing what’s best for everyone. I don’t think he realizes how much we love him.”

My blurry eyes turn up to his, and a small bit of mist has formed over my lover’s eyes too. “We’ll find him, won’t we?”

“Absolutely. Nothing can stop us.” He holds my gaze, exuding confidence within the space surrounding us. “We’ll bring our man home.”

I give him another quick hug before releasing my grasp around his waist. “Okay. I need to finish packing if we are going to leave early in the morning.”

“Good. I’m almost ready too.” Max turns back toward the bedroom and walks away. My green eyes are puffy and my jet black hair looks like it needs a ton of conditioner. Turning on the faucet, I lean over the sink and splash some water on my face, cooling my heated cheeks and trying to calm some of the irritation around my eyes.

My mind is racing with thoughts of how happy Max and Noah have made me. If someone had told me a year ago that I’d be seeing two men at the same time—stepbrothers no less—and that the three of us would have formed this relationship, I would have said they were drunk or high.

Now, there’s nothing I want more than to have Noah back with the two of us so we can have our happy little family back together again.

“Please, Noah.” I close my eyes and whisper to myself. “Please let us find you and bring you home.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

Beth

 

“Hey, baby.” The voice sounds familiar, but in my sleepy state, I can’t make it out.

“Mph.” I snuggle deeper into my pillow.

“I told you I wouldn’t let you go.”

My eyes snap open, and I see JR leering over me. His breath on my face reeks of alcohol. Trying to squirm to the other side of the bed and onto the floor, a pain erupts on my scalp as my hair is pulled and my head snaps backward. My scream is barely audible as he grasps my shoulders and hoists me up to his eye level.

“Where is my baby girl?”

“Fuck you.” I spit on his face before the back of his hand slams across my cheekbone. Warmth trickles down my face and the copper taste of blood taints my lips. He drags me from the bed, and I hit the floor with a thud. My cries of pain only seem to make him more violent.

“I’ll ask you one more time, bitch. Where’s Isla?”

“Go to hell, you bastard.” My back talk earn me another punch. Only this time, it’s to my eye. Spots flash in front of me. The sound of crying in my ear seems to be coming from me, but I quickly realize they aren’t. They’re coming from down the hall.

“There she is.” JR pushes me to the floor, my head slamming against the hardwood. Bright spots continue to flood my vision as I begin clawing at his legs.

“Leave her alone.” My pleas are met with a chuckle as JR heads for our daughter. Trying to stand, I grasp the edge of the footboard for support. A wave of dizziness makes my head swim and nausea roils in the pit of my stomach. No matter what, I can’t let him leave with my baby girl.

“Isla, Mommy’s coming.” My voice is strained and barely comes out above a whisper. The floor teeters below me as I zig-zag to the doorway. When I finally reach the hall, rough hands connect with my face and slam me into the wall.

“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay down this time.” JR’s sinister laugh is all I hear. The world is fading around me, but I have to stay alert.

My daughter needs me.

Pushing through the pain, I brace against the side of the wall and force myself back to my feet. The hallway spins and elongates in front of me, making Isla’s room seem even farther away.

I’m not even halfway down the hall when JR comes out of the room carrying a terrified Isla.
He’s taking her
.

“JR, don’t do this. We can work something out.”

“The time to work something out has come and gone,
baby
.” His sneer isn’t lost on me, but I’ll do whatever it takes to keep Isla safe.

“Come on, JR. Put her back in her room and come to bed with me. I’ve got a place saved just for you.”

He never stops, moving farther away from me with each step.

“JR!” I scream. “Give me my baby.”

He turns swiftly, an unholy look of evil on his face. His lip twitches upward in an ugly grimace. “Say goodbye to Mommy. She’s not going to see you again.”

“NO!”

JR turns quickly and races out the front door with Isla. By the time I make it to the front steps, his car is peeling out into the street.

Isla’s tear-streaked face turns toward mine from her position in the front passenger seat. Her silent cries echo in my mind as I watch JR leave with the one good thing in my life.

Just when I think my heart can’t take anymore, an eighteen-wheeler passes through the intersection on the corner and barrels down on JR’s car. He’s just pulled into the street when the truck slams into his car, smashing my world along with it.

“ISLA!”

My scream wakes me from my nightmare. When my eyes pop open, Amy is standing above me.

“Beth, sweetie. You’re okay.”

“Where’s Isla?” I barely get the words out through the tears streaming down my face.

“She’s downstairs, playing with Natey… And yes, Nate is with them both. Nothing is going to happen to them.”

It takes me a moment to accept that she’s telling the truth. My clothes are drenched in a cold sweat, and I’m panting from the dream.

“Oh, sweetie.” Amy sits on the bed and pulls me into her arms. “Was it the same nightmare again?”

“Yes,” I mumble through the tears. I’m shaking in her arms as she rubs my back, trying to soothe me from the nightmare I’ve had over and over since coming to Amy and Nate’s home. “I know I’m being silly.”

“No, you’re not.” Amy rakes her fingers through my damp hair. “You’ve been through a lot. And after all JR has put you through, I don’t blame your mind for taking you to scary places in your dreams.”

“I don’t know what I’d do if it wasn’t for you and Nate.”

“Bethy.” My sister pushes me back and looks into my eyes. “You would be fine. You’re a strong woman, and I’m proud you’re my sister. But I want you to know, Nate’s not going to let anything happen to you while you’re here. He’s even upped security.”

“He has?” I tug up my t-shirt, trying to dry my eyes.

“Of course. We’re going to do everything we can to protect you and Isla. You are family, sweetie. What that jerk does to you, he does to all of us. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Nate doesn’t let much happen to him without his permission.”

I chuckle softly and let a slight smile curve the corners of my lips. “Yeah, until he met you.”

“Well.” She laughs and rolls her eyes dramatically. “I’m the one exception.”

After another quick hug, Amy gets up from the bed. Carefully placing an arm on her protruding, pregnant belly, she gives me a huge smile. “Okay, get dressed. Everyone will be here soon. I was just coming to wake you up from your nap.”

“Is it five already?” I glance at the clock on the bedside table. It’s five til.

Shit! I’ve slept longer than I wanted to.

“Yes. So hurry up. The caterers have already pulled out the food and it smells delicious.”

My stomach grumbles at the mention of food. Knowing Amy and Nate, they’ve spared no expense for their
little
get together tonight.

“Thanks, Amy.” I sit up and stretch as she heads out the door. “For everything.”

She smiles as she leans back inside. “Oh, and one more thing.”

“Hmm?”

“Wear something cute… Mason’s here.” She grins as she pulls the door behind her, leaving me to get ready.

~**~

By the time I get downstairs, it’s nearly five thirty. Most of the guests are hanging out by the pool or working their way through the buffet. It’s not a large group, maybe fifteen or so of Amy and Nate’s friends. I scan the crowd, looking for Isla. She playing on the swing set in the side yard with Natey.

I walk over to her, grabbing her in a huge hug. “Hey, baby.”

“Hi, Mommy,” Isla says excitedly. “Look what Natey and I can do.” She runs around to the small ladder that leads to the silver slide. After sitting down at the top, she flips over carefully and lays on her stomach before sliding down feet first. I have to smile at the joy I hear in her sweet little voice. She’s such a happy kid.

“That’s great, baby. Just be careful, okay?”

She nods in agreement before running up the ladder again.

“Do you want to get some food?”

“Uncle Nate got me some,” she says before twisting around and gliding down on her tummy again.

“Okay. I’ll be over here if you need me.”

She smiles and waves goodbye to me as Natey grabs her hand and pulls her toward another ladder. That one leads to the small treehouse on the other end of the set.

Making my way back to the covered patio, I grab a dish from one end of the buffet and pick at selection. It’s not an easy decision but I settle on chicken sliders and mashed potatoes, but turning around and almost walking into Mason.

“Oh, sorry.”

“No worries.” Mason reaches for my elbow to steady me. “It’s good to see you.”

“Mason… Hi. How are you?”

“Good.”

Noticing the plate of food in his hands, I motion for us to take a seat at a nearby table.

“I can’t believe Nate and Amy throw these get-togethers all the time. I’d be a wreck trying to plan them.” I laugh and hope that doesn’t sound bitchy.

Mason chuckles then sips from a glass of wine he’s paired with his baked chicken. “I don’t complain. The free food is awesome, and I don’t have to think about what I’m going to cook.”

I giggle in response, thinking about what the rest of Mason’s week must be like, surrounded by baked treats every day. “You mean, besides eating cream sticks all week?”

“Yeah. They can get old after a while.” He looks around us conspiratorially. “But you didn’t hear that from me.”

I make a motion as if I’m zipping my lips and he smiles. A twinkle in his eye catches my attention and I can’t help but notice how handsome Mason is. His dark hair is shaved on the sides and back with choppy spikes over his forehead. His look is enhanced by his trimmed beard. And that body… It’s perfect—slim and toned. He must look good with his shirt off.

“Earth to Beth.”

My eyes drift from Mason’s chest to his eyes. “What?”

“I was asking how your sliders are.”

“Really good.” I reach for one and laugh, hoping he didn’t catch me drooling over him.

“Sorry, my mind drifted for a second.”

“To my shirt?”

“I thought I saw a bug.” How lame am I?

“Really?” he asks, looking down to his green polo.

“Must have been my imagination.”

His eyes study mine and he grins. “Sure it was.” He winks and my face flushes.

We finish eating with small talk and then Mason gets us each a fresh glass of wine.

I look back to the swing set and see Amy and Nate along with some of their friends playing with the kids. “It’s warm out tonight.”

“Let’s go inside for a while.” Mason stands and takes my hand, leading me all the way into the main sitting room. We settle on the couch, and I kick off my shoes, folding my feet under me.

Mason sits with his body turned toward me. “You and Isla have been coming over more often.”

I take a sip from my glass, averting my eyes from his gaze.

After an awkward silence, Mason suddenly seems embarrassed. “Not that I mind. I’m glad to see you…and Isla. I just meant—”

“Mason…” I hold up my hand to stop him.

He leans back and takes a drink. When he looks at me, his green eyes pierce into mine.

“We’re actually staying here for a while,” I say uncomfortably.

“You are?” He looks at me with confusion. “Sorry, I didn’t know. Is everything okay?”

“I’m sure you don’t want to hear all about my woes.”

He sets his glass down on the coffee table in front of us. Placing his hand gently on my knee, Mason looks straight into my eyes. “I want to know everything I can about you.”

I glance to my now empty glass and his almost empty one. “We may need another drink.”

He nods and grabs my glass. “I’ll be right back.”

 

BOOK: Rise: Contemporary Romance (Creamy's Bakery Book 2)
4.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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