Like Chocolat, this story was started as a result of the Chocolate Cake Challenge last summer. Though I never completed and submitted it due to the same challenges, I've got a good handle on how I want to continue. Without further ado, Chapter 1...
Preheat oven to 350*
Ashley poured the cake batter into three round pans. She licked the batter from the spoon and sighed. Another perfect batch!
After depositing the spoon and bowl into the sink to be washed, she stepped up to her oven and pulled open the door, bracing for the rush of heat that never came.
"What on earth?!" she exclaimed, her eyes darting to the oven dial. It was set for 350*. The color drained from Ashley's face. "No, no, no, no, no! This can't happen tonight!"
Ashley turned off the oven, then back on, waiting a few minutes before putting her hand inside. Again, it was cool. She touched the bottom of the oven and found it to also be cool to the touch.
Raking hands through wheat-colored hair, subsequently pushing the chef's hat to the floor, Ashley grabbed her phone. "Find me an appliance repairman!" she barked into the microphone.
"Searching 'appliance repair' in your area" the robotic voice announced.
When the phone displayed a list of repair places, Ashley chose the first one still showing open and dialed.
"A-1 Repair," a male voice answered languidly.
"Um, hi, hello! I need a repairman to come fix my commercial oven!" Ashley barked. Then added a terse, "Please."
"Sure ma'am," the voice on the other end of the phone drawled. "I can be there on Thursday."
"Thursday?! I need you here TONIGHT! I have a bakery to run and I need to make my cakes TONIGHT! Not tomorrow, not Wednesday, not THURSDAY. TONIGHT!"
"Well, sendin' someone out too-niight will cost ya extra."
"That's fine, I'll pay whatever. Just, please send someone out."
After rattling off the bakery's address, Ashley hung up the call and growled in frustration. She looked at her cake pans, filled beautifully with chocolate cake batter, waiting to go into the oven.
Her eyes darted to the clock hanging above her worktable. 8:00 pm. She stared longingly at her cake pans, then slid her eyes with disdain toward her oven. A loud sigh echoed around her and she leaned back against the stainless steel table, lost in thought.
A loud pounding on the back door startled her from her reverie, and she jumped from her stool, pulling her hat back onto her head.
Glancing at the security camera feed, she saw a van sporting a logo for A-1 Repair. The timestamp told her it was just after 8:30. She unlocked the door and opened it to see a tall, athletically built man standing before her. In one hand he held a toolbox; in the other, a cell phone which was held to his ear.
"Yuuup, she finally answered the door. I gotta go now," he punched the 'End Call' button, casting Ashley a disinterested sidelong glance as he walked past her and into the kitchen. He took a look around and gave a low whistle.
"I drive past this place nearly every day and I had no idea how state of the art your equipment was." Ashley felt herself beaming with pride.
"Where's your problem child?" he asked in the same slow drawl, his green eyes appreciative of the stainless steel jungle before him.
"Right this way," Ashley said, leading him to the commercial-sized oven in the middle of the kitchen, against the far right wall.
The repairman turned on the oven, waited a few minutes, and turned it back off. "It's broke."
"Well no kidding! Can you fix it?"
"Sure, but I have to call in the parts, and like I said, it'll be Thursday before it's fixed."
"WHAT?!" Ashley screeched. "You said you would fix it tonight!"
"No ma'am, I said I would look at it tonight. I looked."
Ashley growled loudly. "What do you need to fix it?!"
"Don't know," the man responded. "Don't have the right tools with me."
Ashley rolled her eyes. "I. Do. Not. Be. Lieve. This! I have a bakery to run, you get that, right Cowboy? I need my oven fixed tonight!" She gestured wildly at the stainless steel table pushed against the wall on the left. "I have cakes that still need to be made!"
The man's eyes left Ashley to look over at the three cake pans. His eyes widened.
"You make the chocolate cake they sell here?"
"YES!" Ashley screamed in frustration. "What do you think I've been trying to tell you???"
"Well gosh ma'am, you have the best tastin' cake in the state! Maybe even in the country."
The compliment tamped down Ashley's anger by a few notches and she took a deep breath, running her hands over her face.
"What tools do you need to fix my oven?" she asked, forcing a calm voice.
"A piece of cake," the man responded with a slow smile. "Can't work on an empty stomach."
Ashley stared at him, her jaw clenched. The man stared back, unflinching.
"Fine. I'll get you a slice of cake."
"And some ice milk."
Ashley stared at him incredulously before stalking off through the swinging door leading out to the café part of the bakery. She busied herself getting a slice of chocolate cake, a fork, and a tall glass of milk filled with ice cubes.
When she walked back into the kitchen, she found the repairman leaning against the oven, one leg crossed over the other, looking down at his fingernails, bored.
Ashley set the plate and glass on the counter closest to the man.
"Oven's fixed," he drawled, picking up the plate and taking a bite of cake.
"What?! I was only gone a few minutes! I thought you didn't have the right tools?"
"I might have lied," he winked at her, picking up the plate and digging into the piece of cake.
Ashley fought a smile, studying him while he ate. He was tall, at least 6'4", sandy brown hair cut close on the sides but longer on top. He had the beginning stubble of a goatee, with a dab of chocolate icing at the corner of his mouth.
The man noticed Ashley watching him as he ate, but he kept his eyes down. Who knew this late call would lead right to the kitchen of the most beautiful woman in town? Of course, she was mad as an old wet hen, but that didn't take away from her looks.
Her hair was blonde, the color of wheat, from what he could see peeking out from beneath her goofy hat. Her eyes were blue, hidden behind thin framed glasses, and she was a good foot shorter. He tried not to notice the rest of her body. Those thoughts led straight to nowhere.
"Name's Justin," he drawled, enjoying the way the color crept up to her cheeks when he spoke.
"A-Ashley," she stammered, smiling shyly.
An uncomfortable silence filled the room until the oven beeped, signaling it was up to temperature. Justin hooked his fingers around the door handle and pulled it open, setting his plate down next to his glass of milk, gesturing with his free hand that she could begin using the oven.
Ashley beamed and crept closer to the oven. "Does it actually work?" She reached her hand out to feel the heat. Justin acted like he was going to shut the door on her fingers and she squealed, jumping back.
Anger flashed over her face before she noticed his mouth hooked in a half smile, then she blushed and laughed, retreating to the table to retrieve her cake pans. She carried all three expertly back to the oven and slid them in, setting the timer for 30 minutes.
Justin watched her movements. She was an expert for sure, and moved with authority. He shifted against the counter and picked up the glass of milk, his eyes following her around the kitchen.
"So, how did you fix my oven?" she asked, coming to a stop a few feet in front of him. He took several long swallows of icy cold milk before answering.
"Replaced the fuse and hit the reset button," he drawled.
Ashley looked pensive then nodded as if she should've thought of that very solution.
"I-- thank you," she finally said.
Justin finished off his milk and set the glass down.
"How was the cake?"
"It was okay."
"Just okay?! That chocolate cake gets 5-star reviews!"
Justin shrugged slowly and pushed off the counter. He felt Ashley's eyes boring a hole into his head as he picked up his tool box and sauntered to the door.
"What about the bill?" she asked, teeth clenched.
Justin turned and smiled. "No charge."
He noticed Ashley's face reddening with anger again, then winked and let himself out.
About the Creator
Coffee gets me started; my toddler keeps me haggard.
I've always had a passion for writing but fear has stopped me from sharing my work with anyone. Vocal is my push to step out of my comfort zone.