One More KissBy: Katherine Garbera
“MARRY ME,” Gunnery Sergeant Mac said as he took the small box filled with four of her signature chocolate “sin” cupcakes. They were her number-one seller in the bakeshop, Sweet Dreams.
“I can’t, Mac, you only love me for my cupcakes,” Alysse Dresden replied. The uniformed Marine came in here once a week and every time asked her the same mock question.
“We can work around that, I can come to love you for your other assets,” he said as he headed toward the door.
Alysse laughed as the soldier left and she turned to her next customer. Sweet Dreams was the culmination of four years of hard work. She got at least two marriage proposals a day at her bakery and usually a few professions of undying love. Her mother hadn’t been wrong when she said the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach.
If only her mother had told her how to keep a man once she got his attention with food. Alas, she hadn’t, and Alysse had one failed marriage behind her. But that disaster wasn’t one that should be dwelt on.
“You should take him up on his offer,” Staci Rowland said as she came in from the back with a tray of red velvet cupcakes.
“Mac?” Alysse asked. She wasn’t about to marry a man she barely knew. She’d been there, done that and had burned the T-shirt.
“Yes, or any of the other guys who come through here,” Staci said as she placed the tray in the display counter.
Staci was her business partner and the cocreator of Sweet Dreams. They’d met almost four years ago in a local baking competition. They’d competed with each other for a few years trying to outsell and out-create each other around town before they’d decided to work together and open the bakery. The rest, as they say, was history.
“They aren’t serious. They just like my cakes,” Alysse said, knowing what she said was true. Though she wished sometimes that some of the men were at least interested in a few casual dates, they never were.
“Of course they do, but unless you go out with one of them you’re never going to find the one guy who wants more than baked goods from you,” Staci said.
Staci was five foot four and had short black hair that she wore in a pixie cut. She was petite but had more curves than Alysse, who was tall with a more athletic build. Where Alysse overanalyzed every action before she took it, Staci tended to jump and then hope a net would appear. They were opposites in everything except their desire to make Sweet Dreams a success.
“That guy was pretty hot, you should have—”
“Ugh!” Alysse said to Staci. “Besides, hot doesn’t mean he’s the right guy for me.”
She was living proof of that. Damn. Why was she dwelling on her ex today? She wanted to pretend she didn’t really know, but this week...it was the four-year anniversary of her waking up alone in the honeymoon suite of the Golden Dream Hotel in Vegas.
“It doesn’t mean he’s the wrong guy for you, either,” Staci chastised. “You have a thing against men in uniform. Why?”
“They’re cocky and they really can’t commit to a woman. And for the record, it’s not like I don’t go on dates,” Alysse said. She’d never talked about her brief marriage.
“You’ve given the usual dating websites a try and I’ll admit they aren’t exactly gleaming with amazing guys, but I think you don’t want to find a man.”
“Do you?” Alysse asked. To be honest, there were times when she was lonely, but the risk of falling for the wrong guy was too high for her to take the chance. She didn’t ever again want to feel the way she had when Jay had walked away. Ever.
“No, but I at least enjoy being single,” Staci said. “Going out to clubs. And you don’t.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t go with you last night. I had already promised my brother that I’d hang out with him.”
“Well, I’m surprised you went since it was just your brother and about fifteen hot guys.”
Alysse shook her head. “Toby’s friends are my friends. We grew up surfing together and playing beach volleyball. Going out with them...it’s fun.”
“It’s safe,” Staci said. “There’s no risk for you. Why do you do that?”
Alysse shrugged. It was safe going out with them because Toby’s friends treated her like their little sister. And when she was out on the waves, surfing with them they treated her like an anonymous person—just another surfer.
“Most people don’t want to risk their hearts,” Alysse answered.