Cinderella Scandal(3)

By: Barbara Mccauley


"Since you're looking for some 'new items,'" Reid said with a grin, "maybe you should handle setting up the campaign headquarters."

"And deprive you of all the fun?" Jake dropped a hand on Reid's shoulder. "I wouldn't dream of it."

Before Reid could reply, Joyce announced that dinner was ready. As the family made their way to the dining room, the conversation turned to campaign strategies and procedures. The election was barely one year away, and Reid knew that the next twelve months were going to be busy. No doubt, there would be obstacles along the way, some predicted, some unseen. The entire Danforth family would be challenged, collectively and individually. Reid knew that he needed to stay focused and on track if he was going to help his father become a United States senator.

The last thing he had time for, Reid thought, no matter how "tasty," they might be, was Ivan Alexander's daughters.

With a sigh, Reid took his place at the table with the rest of his family and knew it was going to be a very long year.

* * *

Tina Alexander loved days when the chaos she called her life ran smoothly. The days when she didn't burn a single loaf of bread or an entire tray of apple Danish. The days when all the employees scheduled to work at her family's bakery actually showed up. The days when her sister Sophia wasn't having a man crisis and even managed to make her afternoon shift on time. The days that her other sister Rachel didn't lock herself in the back office and hide behind computer ledgers and sales accounts.

Tina especially enjoyed the rare days her mother wasn't busy meddling in all three of her daughters' lives.

Today, however, was not one of those days.

"Sophia went to one of those dancing clubs again last night." Mariska Alexander gave a disapproving sniff while she boxed up a phone order for two dozen chocolate cupcakes. Mariska, with her aristocratic nose, strong European jaw and thick blond hair she always wore in a French twist, was definitely the queen of Castle Bakery.

"She did not come home until two in the morning," Mariska continued, even though Tina gave her mother no encouragement to do so. "Two o'clock! Without so much as a phone call."

Tina taped the lid shut on the box of Danish she'd just filled. The morning had been hectic, with only herself and their counter manager, Jason, working up front. There were customers to help, orders to fill and display cases to replenish before the noon rush hit. The last thing Tina needed right now was to listen to her mother lament her oldest daughter's transgressions.

"You placed an ad in the paper for a counter clerk," Tina said in an attempt to divert her mother's attention, then nodded at two young men sitting at a table in the corner of the bakery. The one with black spiked hair and ragged jeans appeared bored, while the one wearing a short-sleeved shirt and black slacks was reading a book. "Are you going to interview them?"

As if she hadn't even heard Tina's question, Mariska pointed to her face. "Look at my eyes. They are bloodshot from waiting up for your sister."

Tina sighed silently and slid the box of Danish across the counter to Beverly Somersworth, the customer Tina had been helping. Like the majority of Castle Bakery customers, Beverly worked in the downtown Savannah business district. Every Thursday the plump, sixty-year-old brunette bought one dozen Danish for the legal office where she worked as a receptionist.

"Sophia is twenty-eight years old, Mom," Tina said as patiently as she could manage. "You don't need to wait up for her."

"My daughter is out until all hours of the night." Mariska shifted her attention to Beverly. "How could I sleep?"

"Eight or twenty-eight, a mother worries about her children," Beverly agreed as she fished around her purse for her wallet. "More than one night, I remember pacing my living room until my Eleanor came home. Thank goodness she finally got married and settled down. Have I shown you pictures of my grandchildren?"

Only ten times, Tina wanted to say, but she didn't, of course. She simply smiled and nodded when Beverly whipped the pictures out with the speed of a policeman flashing a badge.

"Ah, so lucky you are." Mariska sighed with envy. "I fear I will never be a grandmother. Sophia is dating too many young men, Rachel spends all her time at the movies and museums, and my Tina—" Mariska tweaked Tina's cheek "—she is just a baby herself."

I'm twenty-four, for God's sake, Tina thought and gritted her teeth. Because she was the youngest, she knew her mother saw her as the baby and, no matter what her age, probably always would. But she supposed it made no difference, anyway. Tina knew she could never accept a proposal.

Any man who would actually want to marry into the Alexander family couldn't possibly be right in the head.

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