Flirtations with Cake, Coffee, and Good Company
Will this star-crossed couple discover that together they hit all the right notes?
Her worst fears were realized. Every part of her body ached from the trail ride. Maybe twirling around in a hot shower would help to loosen her up. It better, she thought, or else I won’t be much help to Mabel in the kitchen this evening.
After her thirty-minute shower, she finally made an appearance in the kitchen. One look at Mabel’s face let her know the old woman knew exactly how she felt. She grimaced as she made slow progress across the expansive kitchen.
“I put some painkillers and water on the counter for you,” she said as she picked up her coffee and drank. The mischievous sparkle in her eyes made its appearance over the rim of her cup even though she never said a word.
“If only this would cure all of my aches,” Becky moaned. After swallowing, she went to the coffee maker and poured herself a cup before joining Mabel at the barstools. “Randy tells me you’ve gone flying in the helicopter. Is that true?”
“Yes. Almost everyone here goes at least once. Why does that surprise you?”
Becky shrugged. “You just don’t come across as someone who wants to leave the Earth for a joyride.”
“I thought you already knew I’m full of surprises.” Mabel quirked her eyebrow, and one side of her mouth tipped up at the corner.
“True. Randy asked me to go up today. I’m not sure I’ll manage to get into the helicopter if I can't lift my legs.”
“You’re going to love it. Are you going to check the fences or count the cattle?”
“I think he mentioned something—.”
“Definitely the fence lines,” Randy interrupted the conversation as he strode confidently into the kitchen and walked straight for the coffee machine. “Is this a new blend? It smells amazing.”
“It’s peppermint mocha. If you don’t like it, I’ll brew you a fresh batch of your regular,” Mabel offered, although she didn't bother to move from her seat. “You’re in later than usual. I haven’t even finished frosting the cake Becky made.”
Randy turned while sipping his coffee. “Mmm, this’s good. Yeah, the cattle got out at the back forty. It took forever to round up the stragglers and get them back in the right pasture. I hope you don’t mind me invading your space so late.” He crossed the room and took the barstool next to Becky.
“You know I always enjoy your company,” Mabel replied, keeping her eyes focused on the newspaper.
“And how about you, Becky? How’re you feeling this evening?” Randy asked a little too innocently.
“Like I got hit by a truck.” She grinned before amending her statement, “Or maybe like your herd of raging bulls ran me over. I’m not sure I’ll be up for taking that flight.”
“You’ll do fine. I’ll make sure you have a great time.”
“Really? How do you plan to do that?”
“You have to ask? Ouch. I’ll be going with you; that should be enough to make it great.”
“Confident much?” Becky playfully shook her head. “Seriously, I’m looking forward to the experience. I hope I don’t get airsick.”
“Not many people do with Hector flying. He’s an amazing pilot. I scheduled the flight for eight o’clock. Is that going to work?”
“Eight? Good grief, we’re going to have to hustle to get your evening snack and dessert ready.” Becky set her coffee cup down hard enough for the hot liquid to splash over the edge onto her thumb. She hastily stood, ready to charge into action, cringing at the sudden movement, but determined to hide her disability.
“There’s no rush, Becky. Besides, I only want cake and coffee. Nothing fancy tonight.” He stood and followed her around the island, his gait smooth and sexy. The hours of riding didn’t seem to bother him at all. “I’ll even help.”
Becky eyed him suspiciously before saying, “I’m not sure how much help you’ll actually be. Maybe you should sit and help Mabel with her crossword.”
“I’m good,” Mabel commented.
Restraining herself from glaring at Mabel’s defection from helping with Randy, Becky turned her attention to gathering supplies for frosting the already cooled cake. As soon as her hand reached out for the mixing bowl of melted chocolate, her fingers made contact with Randy’s. Immediately, she pulled back as if electrocuted. In fact, it felt just like that to her.
With wide eyes, she glanced up to see Randy grinning back at her. He seemed oblivious to what she just experienced, yet he picked up the bowl and offered it to her. “Did you want this?”
“Yes. Thank you,” she replied, careful to avoid contact again as she plucked the bowl out of his hand. With more purpose than before, she focused her attention solely on making the frosting. If she allowed her mind to wander over the past few minutes, then she was afraid she would forget an ingredient and spoil the icing.
“Are you nervous?” Randy asked, handing her the sugar as he leaned against the counter beside her workspace.
She dumped in the sugar and mixed it by hand. Finally, she poured in cold cream and clicked the bowl into the mixing stand. She carefully set the mixer speed on medium before turning to face Randy. “Maybe a little. I just don’t know what to expect.”
“Expect to have fun. That’s all. Enjoy the view and the company.”
Becky grinned as she looked up at him. She grabbed the towel and wiped her hands before swiping it across the counter. “Yes, I’ve always liked Hector.” She took pleasure in seeing him look slightly confused before he caught on to her playful banter.
“Yes. Hector.” Randy cleared his throat before pointing to the mixer. “Doesn’t that need to be turned off?”
“What? Yes!” Just before the icing overmixed, she pulled the lever to stop the whisk from turning. “You’re too distracting. If you want your cake edible, I suggest you go visit with Mabel.”
He leaned his hip against the countertop, crossed his arms over his chest, and roguishly grinned. “That’s okay. I’ll eat anything you make for me. I’m not picky.”
“I can attest to that,” Mabel piped in. “You should’ve seen some of the things Randy ate while out on the trail when he was little.”
Becky raised an eyebrow toward Mabel as she scooped some frosting from the bowl and plopped it onto the first cake layer. “Do tell.” She ran her knife through the chocolate until it was evenly spread.
“I think we’ve heard enough,” Randy interrupted, reaching in front of Becky to grab the second cake layer and put it in place.
Becky slapped his hands away as he continued to fuss with the layer’s placement. “Oh, no. I’d like to hear this.”
“I used to lick the cow salt-lick, okay?”
The spatula froze mid-stroke, and she stared at Randy. “Ew! What made you want to do that?”
Randy shrugged as he reached into the cupboard to get the serving plates. “I don’t know. I guess I wanted to know what made the cows so interested in it.”
The group laughed while Becky finished frosting the third layer. She fussed with making the finished product look perfect, leaving little swirls all over the sides. Picking up the chocolate shavings, she sprinkled them along the top in a decorative pattern.
“Will you stop teasing me, Becky? Just cut and serve it already,” Randy announced.
She rather liked stalling, especially when she kept learning interesting tidbits about this man who captured her interest. Taking pity on him, she picked up a knife and cut out three slices before placing them perfectly onto the plates.
Her pastry instructor would have a conniption fit if he found out she served it without any embellishments, but this was a working ranch. Those kinds of frivolous touches went unnoticed anyway.
She handed Randy two of the dishes and picked up the third for herself. Becky followed Randy to the barstools at the island and seated herself at the end, letting Randy sit between herself and Mabel.
No sooner did she get situated than Mabel folded her paper and stood. “I’m going to take mine into my room. There’s a new murder mystery coming on tonight, and I don’t want to miss it.”
Becky’s eyes narrowed at Mabel’s retreating back.
Randy picked up his fork and said, “I guess we get to keep each other company. Unless you have plans as well.”
“I do have a new song to write down, but I can stay for a few more minutes.”
“I'd like to hear it. Maybe you should work on it out here." He glanced at his watch and added, "It’ll be eight o’clock before we know it, and we’ll have to leave.”
She paused with her first bite of cake ready to enter her mouth. “Why did you have to remind me? Maybe I shouldn’t eat before we go.” She lowered her fork, forlornly looking at the dessert and reappraising the risk.
“Trust me. You’ll be fine. Let’s enjoy the cake.” He held out his forkful toward her, waiting for her to finish the toast.
Grinning, she tapped her fork against his and said, “To cake, coffee, and good company.” She took the first bite, relieved to find it every bit as delicious as the cakes she made in culinary school.
Randy’s grin widened, and he lifted his fork higher. “And to fun flights.” He shoved the massive bite into his mouth. Within seconds, he theatrically rolled his eyes and mumbled, “This is the best cake I’ve ever eaten.” He swallowed and leaned closer. “Just don’t tell Mabel I said that.”
Becky’s gaze flicked toward the hallway off the kitchen. Mabel’s room must have paper-thin walls since she always heard everything. But, since no retort came from the kind, old woman, Becky leaned until her shoulder brushed against his and whispered, “Your secret’s safe with me.
Read more of this series on Vocal:
Part 2: The Old Barn Holds a New Secret
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This is an excerpt from the first book in the Billionaire's Venture Romances series. If you want more of Randy and Becky, you can read their full story in A Cowboy's Recipe for Romance.
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About the author
USA Today bestselling author, Amy Proebstel, writes fantasy, and sweet romance.
When she's not busy writing about heroines and dragons saving the world, she spends her time with her husband watching YT and playing with their 4 Pomeranians.