Candy Store

Chapter 9

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And she didn’t want to. She just wanted to make candy and watch the joy on her customers’ faces as they ate it.

Callie pulled into the plowed parking lot behind her building, then walked through the narrow alley between buildings to the sidewalk. She always made it a point to enter her store by the front door in the morning. Her first sight of the pretty yellow, blue, and white striped awning over the window and the fanciful cartoonish painted letters of Callie’s Candies on the flag beside the door made her incredibly happy.

She unlocked the front door and walked in, pulling up the shade on the door, scanning the glass for smudges or smears. Satisfied that it was clear and clean, she headed for the back room, breathing in the scent of sugar and cocoa powder, feeling settled for the first time since the wedding the day before.

Her store didn’t open until 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, but Callie always had plenty to do in the morning. The best was making fudge or coating truffles in coconut and peanuts. The worst was going through her inventory and doing her orders for the week.

Today was inventory day, of course. Callie sighed with dismay. Today of all days, she could have used a long, therapeutic session with some caramel and nougat.

“It figures,” she muttered, as she walked into her small office at the back of the store and put her purse down. She took off her suit jacket and laid it across the back of her desk chair. Unbound by the jacket, her breasts felt free and immodest in the white lace camisole, reminding her yet again of her wanton behavior at the wedding.

“Forget about it. You’ve got work to do,” she lectured herself and got straight to work, intent on ignoring the new sensual sensations her body was sending her.

Picking up her clipboard and supply spreadsheet, she went to her dry storeroom first and noted what was low. Moving to her tiny walk-in refrigerator, she checked materials off her list from the top shelf first. The bottom shelves were deep and she had to get on her knees to count cocoa bars. The position was awkward, with her rear end pointing straight up, her hands and knees sprawled unladylike on the floor. For the past five years, Callie had planned on putting in sliding shelves on the bottom of her refrigerator. Unfortunately, the project never made it to the top of her ever-growing to-do list so she hadn’t gotten to it quite yet.

Squirming around, trying to get comfortable in her clumsy position, she said, “One, two, three, four,” aloud as she counted stacks of the finest imported cocoa bars.

Immersed in her counting and in the painful crick that was building up in her neck, she was surprised by a familiar scent that suddenly overwhelmed her senses. Her inventory forgotten, she stopped counting cocoa and heard footsteps coming up the short hallway and then stopping at the doorway to her storeroom.

One thing was absolutely certain, she thought with a thudding heartbeat, she was no longer the only person in Callie’s Candies.

“We’ve got to stop meeting in refrigerators like this.” Callie’s heart stopped beating altogether. She would have recognized that smooth, deep voice anywhere. Her breasts had grown full and tight after just that one sentence.

And now that she heard his voice, she knew the scent that had tipped her off was one she would never forget again. Tobey smelled like the perfect mixture of passion and heat and masculinity all rolled up in one.

Callie froze in place, unable to get her limbs to work. She couldn’t believe that Tobey’s first image of her outside of the wedding refrigerator was like this—could she be any less feminine, she wondered dejectedly—in her own damn commercial refrigerator. Her face, she was sure, was going to be flushed a deep shade of red when she finally stood back up, considering that the man she had been lusting after for the past twenty-four hours had just walked into her store unannounced, just in time to witness her pawing through her shelves on her hands and knees with her ass sticking straight up in the air.

“On second thought,” he said, his voice washing over her like hot caramel, “I think I like it.”

For a millisecond, Callie considered trying to crawl onto the shelf, hoping that Tobey would just go away. Then again, she thought, she hadn’t invited him to her store.

In fact, she hadn’t even told him she had a store, so how could it possibly be her fault that he had found her looking less than ideal.

Trying desperately to rouse up some anger—otherwise she was stuck with embarrassed and horny, and that was a terrible combination—Callie crawled backwards and stood up, brushing invisible specks of dust off her knees and skirt.

Her arms folded across her chest, she said, “What are you doing here?” Tobey was leaning against the door, looking more gorgeous than any man had a right to in his pin-striped shirt and well-tailored coat and slacks. He grinned widely and Callie wanted to smack the smile from his lips. And kiss him senseless, of course, but she was going to have some control over herself if it killed her.

“This is Callie’s Candies isn’t it?”

Callie nodded, keeping her lips firmly pressed together, forcing herself to back up into the refrigerator shelves, rather than jump Tobey’s bones like the slut that she was turning out to be.

Tobey smiled. “I’m here for our appointment.”

Callie’s mouth dropped open. She quickly shut it, but no question about it, her brain wasn’t firing correctly anymore. She couldn’t manage anything better than, “For our appointment?” She was utterly mortified, sure that her skin was turning pinker and pinker by the second. If things got any worse, she would definitely fade away completely into the fabric of her pink suit.

“10 a.m., Monday morning. My assistant set it up with your accountant.”

“You can’t be. I mean, you couldn’t be. Oh god,” she said, leaning her weight into the cool air of the refrigerator as the full ramifications of her actions came crashing down upon her.

Thoughts rushed around her brain, knocking into each other as the magnitude of her mistake sunk in. I slept with the Candy King. I had a one-night stand with the one person who could save my business. Oh god, what am I going to do? What if he thinks I knew who he was all along and did it on purpose?

Trying to think quick, she said, “Oh yes, of course. I was so wrapped up in doing my weekly inventory that I forgot all about our appointment.” Her voice was as crisp as she could make it, but to her ears her words still sounded far too much like soggy pie crust. Struggling to sound impersonal, she said, “Please forgive me. You’re with Sweet…”


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