Baking With A Rockstar - Chapter One

The soft glow of the morning sunlight and a fresh breeze stream through the open window into the kitchen. The canyon stretches out beyond the backyard, accentuating a sky splattered with beautiful hues of pink, orange, and blue. I turn away from the window and walk over to the big island in the middle of the room, grabbing the radio remote on the way.

Even though I enjoy the soft and comforting humming of the oven in the background, I prefer having some music on too. Almost everything is better with music, especially baking. Since there’s a nice pile of dough waiting for me, I wash my hands thoroughly then dig into the soft mass, my whole body instantly relaxing at the sensation.

“Charlie, it smells amazing in here. What are you making?” Hannah startles me as she walks into the kitchen, stopping to casually lean against the refrigerator. Her gray hair is piled loosely on top of her head, making her look younger than she actually is. But since she was my grandmother’s best friend, I know exactly how old she is—not that she acts like she’s in her seventies. If there’s one woman who portrays the saying of “You’re only as old as you feel,” it would be her.

“You’re as stealthy as a cat.” I shake my head and laugh, my hands automatically going to my now racing heart. Removing them from my shirt a moment later, I feel the material lift and immediately know I’ve made a mess. One look at my chest, and it’s confirmed—several pieces of dough stick to the faces of my favorite Supernatural actors. I let my head fall in shame dramatically, not the slightest bit surprised about it.

I should have known better. Sorry, guys. Poor Dean and Sam.

“Sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to sneak up on you. I always forget how easily you scare.” She walks over and looks at the array of ingredients in front of me, especially the big jar in the middle with the hazelnut chocolate spread. “It’s that kind of day, huh?”

We’ve only lived together for a few weeks, but she already knows me well enough to understand I crave specific kinds of food when I’m in need of some emotional comfort.

“I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, and the little I got was mediocre at best. So, I thought I could use a little pick-me-up this morning and decided to make some Nutella puffs.” I smile at the silliness of it all. “You know how much I love that stuff. There’s already some cream cheese Danish bread in the oven. I know you have a weakness for that too.”

Hannah chuckles, the laugh lines around her eyes dancing with the movement. “You know I do. I hope you’ll save some of both for me for later.”

“Of course.” After grabbing a rolling pin to roll out the dough, I look back up at her. “Where are you off to this early anyway? I was hoping you could sample the new cupcakes I want to make later.”

Grinning at me, she grabs a banana from the large fruit bowl on the counter. “No worries, I wouldn’t leave you alone with that task. The ladies from the quilt club talked me into joining them for their Sunday morning hike, but I won’t be gone for long. Just a quick round around the lake.”

“Oh, that sounds like fun.”

She shrugs her shoulders. “I’m not sure I’d call it fun, but with all of the sampling you’ve put me through over the last few weeks, I have to up my workout routine if I want to continue to fit into my clothes.” She winks at me, and I give her a big smile.

This woman has been my lifesaver, and I’m not sure what I’d do without her. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be standing in this kitchen right now, more content than I’ve been in a long time, if it wasn’t for her. Right when I hit rock bottom in my life, she swooped in and not only did she talk me into moving across the country on a whim—from New York to California—but she also provided a roof over our heads.

She took me and my little baby in like family, no questions asked. There will never be enough words to show her how grateful I am for all of the help and support she’s given us. Life certainly wouldn’t be the same without this guardian angel.

When I focus back on her face, I catch her staring at me.

“Stop thinking about it. You know I can tell.” Her hands are on her hips, her lips pinched together in a tight line.

A quiet snort escapes my mouth, and I hold up my hands in surrender. “I know, I know. I just can’t help it sometimes. But I’m trying not to fall into that trap if I can help it, I promise.”

We share a knowing look, one we’ve shared many times over the last few weeks. This wasn’t the first time my mind slipped into the past—voluntarily or not—but we both know it won’t be the last time either. Thoughts from the past have a weird way of sneaking up on you at any time. Sometimes it’s a fleeting thought that’s gone before you can grasp it, but other times, it’s so overwhelming, you feel like it’s going to suffocate you.  

Beep. The baby monitor sitting on the far side of the kitchen bar sends a warning tone, letting me know it lost its signal.

“I didn’t think I’d ever live in a house big enough for this thing to lose the connection.” Sighing, I quickly wash my hands to check the monitor.

By the time I push the button to turn on the screen, the signal is already back on. Weird technology.

“Is she all right?” Hannah’s voice is laced with a hint of concern as she tries to peek over my shoulder.

“Yep, still sound asleep.” The screen is bright, showing the crib with my little baby girl, Mirabelle, in it. Seeing her lying on her belly with her butt high up in the air makes me smile—sometimes it still feels weird that she’s become my everything so quickly. There’s no denying we had a rocky start, one I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but we pulled through and came out stronger on the other side.

My thoughts wander to last year, when my ex-fiancé, Sebastian, left me—left us—at the worst moment of my life. Just the thought of it makes my insides churn.

Sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if he hadn’t left me with a newborn, but in hindsight, I’m glad. Without a doubt, he was a complete asshole for doing it the way he did, but we’re better off without him. It took me a while to realize that, but once I did, life got a little easier. Thankfully, Mirabelle has been a great baby from the beginning, almost like she wanted to help me through that rough patch in our lives.

A hand on my arm snaps me out of my thoughts, and my eyes focus back on Hannah.

“You okay there?” Her eyebrows draw together as she looks me over.

I nod quickly and return my focus to the dough in front of me so she can’t study my face any further. There’s no need to indulge my brain in that part of my past any longer than I already have.  

Hannah drops her hand from my arm and walks over to the fridge. “Do you want me to bring any of the girls back with me after our hike? You know how much they love you and your baking.”

Just thinking about those women makes me chuckle. “Not today, but thanks. I just want to make a small batch for us later today. But if we deem them good enough, I can make a big batch next week at the bakery and we can invite them over then.”

Even though my bakery won’t be open for a while, I use every chance I can to bake big batches in my beautiful massive industrial ovens.

“Sounds perfect. I can’t wait.” She grabs her water bottle from the fridge, waving at me as she leaves. “Now, enjoy the little break, and I’ll see you later.”

“Have fun, and say hi to the rest of your squad for me.” I smirk at the term like I always do, but it’s just perfect. The six seniors who make up the quilt club are worse than a group of teenagers sometimes. It definitely never gets boring when they’re around.

For the next few minutes, I’m completely focused on my baking. It’s something that centers me, no matter what mood I’m in. Once I’m happy with the dough, I cut it into equal pieces. The brown hazelnut spread is next, and I smear it on generously with a knife, because there’s no such thing as too much Nutella.

After folding each piece to form an open tube, I place them neatly next to each other on a baking sheet. Since the oven is still occupied, I put the baking sheet on the counter and move on to the next bowl of ingredients that’s already waiting for me. I love days like today, where I can just bake one thing after the other. It calms me down while also allowing me to think clearly about what the week ahead will bring.

Since I’ve decided not to rush things with the bakery, I still have a few months until I’m going to open it here in this small California town. Not only is there a lot of preparation that needs to be done, but I’ve quickly figured out that trying to raise an infant at the same time isn’t the easiest thing—even with all the help I’ve been getting.

The song on the radio ends, and the host interrupts my thoughts. “Sources claim that our very own Brooksville citizen, rockstar Hudson Mitchell, was spotted at the airport this early morning. If it’s true, and he’s really back in town, please be kind, folks. Remember he’s one of us.”

“Rockstar?” I snort to myself. “I’ve been here for several weeks now, and no one has mentioned anything about a rockstar living here—not that I’ve been out much. And here I thought we could have a quiet life in this place. Thank goodness Monica didn’t move with us, she’d be all over this.” My best friend is the worst celebrity gossip, even though she knows to keep it to the bare minimum with me.

I shake my head, as I realize I’m talking to myself, a habit I don’t think I’ll ever stop—something Sebastian wasn’t very fond of.

Stop it! No thinking about him, he’s not worth the time.

The oven timer beeps, successfully distracting me from my thoughts. I take out the baking sheet with the Danish bread, and after carefully placing it on the stove, I put the next sheet in. The sweet smell of baked goods drifts into my nose, and I let out a loud sigh just as my stomach lets out a growl. I put my hand on my belly absentmindedly, immediately noticing Hannah might have been right about us having to up our workout routine.

Focusing back on my work, I lose myself in the bread dough once more. Swaying gently to the music coming from the radio, I startle when the front door shuts with a loud bang.

“Weird.” I stop, my hands still deep in the soft dough, and listen. “Maybe Hannah forgot something.”

“Gosh, what smells so good in here? I would’ve come back earlier if I’d known this was waiting for me.” The voice—male, and definitely not Hannah—gets louder with every spoken word, indicating the person is coming closer to the kitchen. A man is coming closer to me. A stranger.

I’m frozen in my spot—certain I look like a deer caught in the headlights—and I’m afraid my heart will burst out of my chest in a second if it keeps beating this wildly.

Who on earth could that possibly be?

Hannah and I have been living here for the past few days while her kitchen gets renovated. All she’s ever said was that it belongs to a family member who doesn’t use it right now. She didn’t mention anyone else would be here with us.

“Seriously, so good. I’m starving.”

Before I can even think about running or hiding, the person walks around the corner and into the kitchen.

The man’s wearing a pair of black basketball shorts and nothing else—I repeat, nothing else.

What on earth?

To complement the set of wide-open eyes that are practically jumping out of my sockets, my mouth hangs slightly open now too. Perfect.

The smart and rational side of my brain seems to be on a break because all I’m capable of doing is raking my eyes over Mr. Basketball Shorts. He’s tall with broad shoulders and the most pronounced abs I’ve ever seen up close. The baseball cap on his head is turned backward, and he’s currently wiping his face off with what I assume to be his shirt. That is the only reason he hasn’t seen me yet, and why I haven’t seen his face yet either. But I’m going out on a limb here and say it’s probably as gorgeous as the rest of him.

My eyes drift back to his magnificent chest, following the beads of sweat that are slowly running down his torso to the V-shaped lower abs until they disappear into the pair of shorts that sits low on his hips.

Sudden heat shoots through my body, making my cheeks tingle from the force of it. My brain uses that moment of distraction to finally kick back in again, reminding me of the situation at hand.

A total stranger is standing in my kitchen.

Half-naked.

And we’re all alone in this house.

He could be anyone.

“Aaaaahhh!” The strangled cry rips out of my throat, startling not just me but my drool-worthy intruder too.

He removes the shirt from his face in one swift motion, his brown eyes immediately finding mine—not that it’s a hard thing to do after the war cry I just let loose.

The noise of blood rushing through the veins in my ears is loud and distracting, and my body seems to have a mind of its own, doing things I’m not even realizing until—

Smack.

I look down at my now empty hands in utter shock before slowly looking back up to take in the crime scene I just created.

The big ball of dough I just threw—without any conscious thought of it—landed square in his face.

Oops.