hide who he is. He shows it in the motorcycle thrumming between the legs of his
tight jeans…the shaggy hair that falls in his gorgeous eyes…the wicked gleam in
his smile when he asks Emma out for a drink. Sean is a rebel, a bad boy, and a
ton of fun: exactly the kind of guy she’s sworn off forever.
kindergarten teacher she appears to be. And somehow Sean can tell. As soon as
he pulls up to her overheated car he knows that a fast bike and a cold beer
will fix her rotten day better than compliments or a bubble bath. Her
straitlaced exterior and her wild heart light him up. But Emma wants to escape
her past and settle down—and if her desk jockey dates don’t understand where
she comes from, at least she doesn’t worry about them bringing her back.
can’t change the paths Sean and Emma have chosen. But with a little space to be
themselves together, maybe the rest of the world can wait…
The blast of air-conditioning hit them as the automatic door swung open. Emma paused, looked up and around, and turned toward the bakery. Sean followed. She kept walking, and he stopped by the coffee cakes. A chocolate-chip cake sounded good.
“What about this?” He held up the plastic container.
“Uh-uh. It needs to be birthday cake.”
Sean held on to the coffee cake but followed her to the refrigerated section. She looked at the display for a minute before choosing one. As great as Emma seemed, she sure had some weird quirks. She picked out a round cake with Happy Birthday written in blue handwriting. Red, yellow, and blue icing balloons decorated the edge.
Emma said nothing. With the cake in hand, she turned toward the register. Although she quickly offered answers to his questions, she wasn’t like other girls he knew, who would fill silence with any kind of pointless chatter.
“You okay?” he asked when they got to the self-checkout.
“I will be.” She scanned her cake, and he jumped in to scan his too before she could finish the transaction. Then he swiped his card to pay.
“You didn’t have to buy my cake.”
“I know I didn’t have to, but if I have a crappy day and someone buys me a beer, that beer tastes even better going down.”
His answer got the reaction he’d hoped for. A smile. Emboldened by her smile, he pushed on. “So why does it have to be birthday cake?”
She sighed and he thought she might not answer. “Birthday cake was the one thing my mom got right when I was a kid.”
He waited, hoping she’d explain, because how could anyone mess up store-bought birthday cake? They walked through the automatic door, and the heat of the afternoon swamped him.
“You met her. Even with that brief encounter, you can probably tell Brandi is far from a stellar mom. A lot of things were uncertain when I was little. But birthday cake was something we could always count on. It didn’t matter where we were living or even if she had a job, Mom made sure we had birthday cake on our birthdays.”
“It’s weird now that you mention it. I guess I always took birthday cake for granted. In my family, we’re all adults and we still make a trip to Blackstone’s to get a birthday cake.”
“For me, birthday cake is comfort.” She leaned over and bumped his shoulder as they walked. “I keep some in my freezer because you never know when you’re going to have a bad day.”
“Well, it’s not like I buy a cake and eat it all by myself in one sitting. It would be a waste to throw it out, so I cut it into pieces and freeze it.”
The walk back to his house was too quick. Sean liked Emma talking about herself. He didn’t know how he’d even managed not to realize how much he missed having a girlfriend. Then he remembered that every girl at some point pushed for something more than he wanted to give. He wasn’t about to put a ring on anyone’s finger. That kind of commitment would ruin his easygoing lifestyle.
Schroeder is the author of the O’Leary series, contemporary
romances centered around a large Irish-American family in Chicago and the Hot
& Nerdy series about 3 nerdy friends finding love. Her new series (For Your
Love) will release this summer with the first title Under Your Skin. When she’s
not wrangling her three kids or writing, she watches a ton of TV and loves to
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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl