“Oh lollipops and sugar plums! Where on earth did I put that thermometer?” Terry mumbled just before smacking the back of her head against the cupboard frame. “Ouch!”
She dropped the metal lid with a clatter. She grabbed the base of her skull with both hands, slowly retreated from within the dark recessed space, and flopped back on her bottom. Terry gave the offending cupboard a glare, but when her assistant giggled she transferred her hard stare to the amused young woman.
“It’s not funny, Bella,” she said and rubbed at the sore spot, hoping the dull throb would subside.
“Sorry, boss. Just came out. Let me make it up to you,” Bella said and held out her hand to Terry.
A little begrudging, a little amused at herself, Terry reached for Bella’s hand, but as soon as their palms touched she cried out and pulled her hand back.
“Ew, Bella. What’s all over your hand?”
Bella laughed again and tossed Terry a towel. She caught it and wiped the sticky goo from her palm before standing without assistance.
“It’s the jelly you want to try in the lollipops. I think it’s still too runny to work. Just wanted to let you know.”
Bella stifled another laugh as Terry attempted her most stern look of reproval, which was pretty weak by all accounts. Terry had never been good at staying grumpy, but Bella adding insult to injury made her want to try anyway.
“There are better ways to share that information,” she said and looked over Bella’s shoulder into the bowl of cherry gel she hoped to add to her signature candy.
“Yeah, but I doubt you’d have liked my other ideas any better,” Bella said and laughed as she pretended to lob a spoonful of the gooey substance over her shoulder.
Terry backed away with her hands raised. “You win. Let’s do some research on how to thicken it up a bit.”
“You mean me?”
“Yes, I mean you research,” Terry said with a satisfied smile.
“Ahhhh. I get it. Payback.” Bella nodded and made a little bow. “Your wish is my command.”
It was Terry’s turn to laugh. Bella was the best assistant she’d ever had. She’d only had two before, but they hadn’t worked out. It seemed that Terry was nice enough, but difficult to work for. Something about being a perfectionist.
Bella washed her hands and skipped out of the kitchen humming a little tune. Terry went back to looking for the elusive candy thermometer. She had others, but this one was her favorite.
With her head tucked back into the offending cupboard she heard the door swing open and smack against the side of a freestanding metal shelving unit. She knew it was coming but for some reason didn’t expect it to sound so loud inside the cabinetry.
Terry’s head thwopped against the top again, and she let out a loud grunt of pain. It would take that spot a long time to heal after that double beating.
“Terry! There’s somebody out front. You gotta come out here. I mean now.”
“Sheesh, Bell. Whatever or whoever it is can’t be so important that you have to give me a heart attack.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that . . . .”
There was a strange tone in Bella’s voice that sounded an awful lot like she had a secret she was dying to share, but that made no sense.
“I’ll be out in a sec,” Terry said and went to the fridge to grab an ice pack from the freezer.
She pressed the pack to the back of her head and walked out into the storefront, but any words she was about to say died on her lips. On the other side of the counter stood a man she thought she’d never see again.
Terry ignored the giggles from Bella and her sales counter girl while she stared at Luke Blaine, the man with two first names and the heir of the biggest candy magnate in the U.S.
Everyone in the candy-making industry knew who he was. His picture was plastered all over Forbes, USA Today, GQ, you name it. Luke was not only a pretty face, he was a savvy businessman who’d overseen the biggest candy company merger of all time. And he was Terry’s ex-boss’s brother.
“Ah. Uh. Mr. Blaine.”
“Miss Tyson,” he said with an amused smile.
She shook her head a fraction of an inch and realized she was still holding the ice pack against the back of her head. Terry quickly pulled it away and stood a little taller, hiding the pack behind her back.
“What brings you to my little shop, Mr. Blaine?”
She watched him take a brief look around the tiny space, examining the table in the corner, the glass display case full of her candy creations, and the sign on the wall with other offerings of espresso and smoothies. His eyes came back to rest on her face and seemed to convey a modicum of respect. She was confused by it, knowing how his brother had felt about her piddly dreams of owning her own shop.
“I have a business proposition.”
“I’m not interested,” she replied without hesitation. She would not be owned by some large candy corporation. Not ever.
“You haven’t even heard what I’m offering,” he said, his eyebrows raised, a question in the tone of his voice.
Terry dropped the ice pack on the counter and crossed her arms. “My lollipops and other proprietary goodies are not for sale. I mean, they are for sale, but I’m not selling out.”
Luke’s head tilted to the side and the quizzical expression on his face was almost too adorable to resist, but even though she was flustered Terry held herself in check, ignoring her long-buried, now-revived emotions.
“Let me take you to dinner,” he said. Before she could protest he added, “At least hear me out.”
She pursed her lips as he slipped his hands into the pockets of his trousers and rocked back on his heels. Terry debated how to answer him before settling on a hesitant response.
“As long as Scott won’t be there.”
1000 word stories. Yikes! This one’s not done. The romantic part is still coming if you didn’t already figure that out.