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Baylee stood behind the cake table. Well, the cupcake table, to be exact. It was a prime spot to survey the room and not draw attention and she had no problem hiding behind the cupcake tower she’d made for Jack and Kate’s wedding reception.
The overhead lights were now dimmed, a disco ball spinning above the bride and groom as they danced. Etta James crooned about wanting a Sunday kind of love. Gracious, the woman could sing.
Baylee had become good friends with Kate a few months back when a fire damaged both Baylee’s Bakery and Kate’s design shop, Atmosphere. They’d recovered, both businesses up and running again and doing well.
The groom, Jack, was Kate’s opposite in every way, and yet they fit together perfectly. Kate’s dress was elegant and classy, just like her. The lace covered bodice clung to her, satin buttons down the back. The skirt flowed into a short train, now floating behind Kate as they danced. And although Jack wore a tuxedo, his jacket was gone, his shirtsleeves were rolled up, and his tie now draped from his collar. His signature black boots were on his feet.
The wedding reception was in the town hall, a historical building with loads of charm. Kate fell in love with the place after attending the annual sock hop the year before. Baylee helped her plan the wedding, something she never thought she’d enjoy again, but loved it.
And everyone in Silver Bay had jumped in to help. It was one of the many things Baylee loved about Silver Bay. Having moved from Texas, she found the small town warm and welcoming. A great place for her to call home.
Baylee smiled. It was nice to see two people she cared about so happy and in love. The couple only had eyes for each other as they swayed across the dance floor. Baylee moved her hips to the music, the song as smooth as silk. She hummed a little too. She wouldn’t mind a Sunday kind of love herself, but that wasn’t in the cards. No matter. Her life was full. She was happy. Really, she was.
A sigh escaped her lips as everyone cheered when the song ended and Jack pulled his bride in for a long, slow kiss. Baylee was a hopeless romantic, yes, but her life called for practical, not whimsical.
“These cupcakes are to die for, Baylee!” Maggie’s voice drew her from her daydream. Kate’s sister stood on the other side of the table, a small plate in one hand, a cupcake in the other. She took another bite, a wisp of frosting sticking to her top lip.
“Thanks.” Baylee held back a giggle. She was getting more and more used to people’s response to her baked goods. She loved it. Loved feeding people, seeing their eyes light up as the sugar and vanilla tickled their taste buds.
Maggie was Kate’s sister but also Baylee’s friend. Her deep blue bridesmaids dress was a sleeveless crepe bodice with a “V” neckline. A small bump beneath the satin waistband the only sign of Maggie’s pregnancy. Baylee was delighted for her friend. It was her first baby. She and her husband, Josh, who was also Jack’s brother, were beside themselves with excitement.
“This baby is going to come out addicted to your baked goods,” Maggie said then popped the last bite of cupcake into her mouth.
Baylee laughed. “That’s good for me and business, but I certainly don’t want to be blamed for a child’s sugar addiction.”
Josh came up and put an arm around his wife’s waist. Unlike Jack, who had dark hair and dark eyes, Josh’s coloring was lighter. They looked like brothers, only one favored their mom, the other their dad.
“Babe, try to keep yourself to maybe two of those today.” Josh kissed Maggie on the cheek then looked at Baylee. “No offense, Baylee. Your stuff is amazing. I just don’t want my beautiful wife, or our baby, to go into a sugar coma.”
“None taken.” Baylee winked at him. “I’ll keep an eye on her.”
“Pshhh. Two. Whatever.” Maggie complained but the look in her eyes said she adored her husband’s care for her. They excused themselves and moved to the dance floor.
Baylee missed that. Having someone look after her. And someone to look after. Well, a significant other, anyway. She wasn’t lacking someone to care for. She had her little boy, Casey. But to love and be loved? A part of her still longed for that, sure.
Lost in thought, she didn’t notice Kate’s brother on the other side of the table until he spoke.
“Did you make these?”
His voice was gruff, but not unfriendly. She’d seen him sitting in the corner alone most of the evening. Drew was a professional baseball player; that much Baylee knew. He’d been injured and had to sit out most of the season. Kate said he was going to stay awhile after the wedding, visit with their mom, Rose, but Kate was worried about him.
Baylee hadn’t officially met him yet, but she could see why Kate was concerned. He looked… unhappy. He filled out a tuxedo well though. Goodness. It wasn’t hard to see the man was built like a professional athlete. Standing at a mere five feet, three inches, Baylee had to look up to talk to him. He had to be six foot two.
He took a bite of a cupcake, some frosting sticking to his upper lip. The short, groomed beard he had going was the sexiest thing she’d seen in a long time. Baylee licked her lips.
Whoa. Time to back things up. No daydreaming about Mr. Sexy Mouth. He’d asked a question. Yes. He had.
“Guilty. I own a little bakery in town. Right next to your sister’s store.”
He raised an eyebrow as he chewed then swallowed. He swiped a napkin across his mouth.
“Kate and I are friends. I helped her plan the wedding. I made the cupcake tower…” Okay, now she was babbling. “I’m sorry. I’m Baylee.” She stuck out her hand for him to shake. He did. With a slight nod and grunt. No “Hey, I’m Drew.” Nothing. Just popped the rest of the cupcake in his mouth and chewed. He looked at the dance floor then again at her.
“You wanna dance?”
Baylee blinked. “Um. Well. Sure.”
She smoothed down her skirt and came out from behind the cupcake table. He took her hand and led her to a spot under the twinkle lights and disco ball. Her heart raced in her chest. She hadn’t danced with a man since… well, since her own wedding.
Christ Stapleton crooned about Tennessee whiskey as Drew put his arm around her waist and pulled her close. Oh, dear Lord. The man smelled as great as he looked. Like leather and the outdoors. A heady mixture, for sure.
A hint of vanilla on his breath tickled her senses when he said, “I’m Drew.”
She looked up at him, her left hand on his right shoulder, her right hand clasped in his. Up close, his eyes were more of a grey than blue. “I know.”
He nodded. A simple movement of his head. A smooth dancer, he moved them across the floor. He didn’t speak another word. When the song ended, he nodded again, kissed her hand, then left.
Baylee stood in the middle of the dance floor and watched him go.
Drew stepped outside for some fresh air. The joy and merriment inside was beginning to smother him. Not to mention the feelings of happily ever after that radiated off his sister.
He was happy for her. He was. Jack was a good guy, from what Drew could tell. He’d only met the guy a few times since coming to Silver Bay, but from what Kate had said, along with their mother, Jack was the real deal. Nothing like Kate’s ex, a no-good piece of work, now in prison where he belonged. Good riddance.
Drew leaned up against the building, crossed his feet at the ankles, jammed his hands in his tuxedo pants pockets. No. He didn’t begrudge his sister happiness. He just wasn’t ready to face whether he’d ever find any again himself. He’d been sitting in the corner, glad to be left alone, when the blond behind the cupcake table caught his eye. He’d seen her at the rehearsal dinner, but didn’t talk to her. He didn’t talk to anyone, really. Wasn’t up for it.
But something about her drew him in. Short, curvy, and, dare he say, cute, she was like a breath of fresh air in the dismal existence that was his life. As he watched her chat with people from behind her tower of cupcakes, for a brief moment, he hadn’t felt sorry for himself. His mind could only focus on her.
He had zero idea what had possessed him to ask her to dance, but he had. And after holding her up close, cute would definitely not be his first word to describe the woman. An all-out siren hidden under a buttoned-up floral dress was more like it.
Drew shook his head. That last thing he needed right now was a distraction like Baylee. His mind was messed up enough.
Baylee. Hmph. Not a typical girl name. And yet he liked how it rolled off is tongue when he said it. It fit her too. Along with the underlying southern twang in her voice, it worked. Where was she from? Texas, maybe.
“Hey, big brother.”
Kate’s voice pulled him from his thoughts.
“Hey, sis.” He didn’t move away from the wall. Just smiled. Well, as much of a smile as he could give at this point.
Kate stood next to him, her concern for him evident in the furrowed brow.
“Don’t give me that look.”
“I’m not giving you anything. Yet.”
He managed a full smile at that. Feisty little sister she was, never afraid to give him grief.
“Shouldn’t you be in there dancing and enjoying your wedding reception?”
“I’m worried about you.”
“’Cause I’m fine.”
“Phh. Right.” She leaned up against the wall as well and leaned her head on his shoulder.
His good shoulder. The one that didn’t ache. The one that wasn’t potentially costing him his entire livelihood. His dream. Damn it, his pity party was back. He sounded pathetic, even in his own head. But so what? His life was swirling down the toilet. He was entitled to a little self-pity, right?
“Stop that,” Kate said.
“All that garbage you’re letting go through your head. You’ll play again, Drew. You will.”
He shook his head. Such an optimist, his sister. Sure, his physical therapy was going well since surgery, but would he every pitch like he did before his injury? And Drew wasn’t sure he was ready for the answer just yet. His trainer said he was doing well. Improving. But what did that really mean? It wasn’t a definite answer. Nothing he could base his future on. Not to mention his pitches were wild and his velocity wasn’t up to par. Things his trainer said would come with time but spring training was right around the corner. Time wasn’t a luxury he possessed at this point.
“I said stop it.”
He turned and pulled Kate into his arms. She snuggled against him like she had when they were kids. After she’d fallen off her bike, or when she watched a sad movie that made her cry.
“I mean it, K. Don’t worry about me. You need to focus on being happy with Jack.”
She looked up at him. “I am happy with Jack.”
“Good, because if he makes you sad, I’ll have to kick his butt.”
A playful slap landed on his chest as she stepped back.
“Come on. Let’s go back inside.”
He took her hand and led her back to the reception. His life might be going down the drain, but hers was taking a turn for the better. There wasn’t much he could be happy about in his life right now, but he’d be damned if he ruined Kate’s wedding day with his grumbling. Yep. It was time to put on his game face and look happy for his sister. He’d wallow in his own worry later.
Baylee watched as Drew and Kate came back through the main door hand in hand. They were a close family. Not something seen as much anymore it seemed. It was nice.
She’d found her spot behind the cupcake table again after dancing with Drew. Still a tad confused at his abrupt departure and lack of conversation, her heart skipped a beat when he turned her way and smiled.
Gracious. The man was beautiful when frowning. When he smiled he was downright mind-blowing. She blinked and smiled back, cursing the warmth in her cheeks she was certain turned them crimson.
He led Kate to the dance floor and spun her around. She laughed and kissed his cheek as he pulled her to him. Being around his sister had cheered him up. That was good.
Baylee could only imagine what the man was going through. She only had a few details from Kate, but as a major league baseball pitcher, having a shoulder injury was not a good thing, and that was putting it mildly. Nothing had felt wrong with his shoulders when they danced, that was for certain.
Baylee didn’t know much about baseball either. Growing up in Texas, football was what everyone would eat, sleep, and breathe. She watched every weekend with her dad during the season, but with only one sister and no brothers, sports weren’t high on her radar.
Kate and Drew made their way around the dance floor. Drew said something that made Kate laugh. A wave of homesickness hit Baylee. Sure, Silver Bay was her home now, but she still missed her sister. After her divorce, Baylee wanted a new start. She and Casey landed in Silver Bay. After her father died of a heart attack, her mother decided to join her. With a family of her own already established, Baylee’s sister stayed in Texas. Baylee saw her now and then when she could get back, but with running the bakery and raising Casey, time and money were not two resources she had to spare.
The song ended and Drew hugged Kate before handing her off to Jack. The two men shook hands. Baylee kept her gaze on Drew as Jack led his bride to get something to drink. His smiled faded as they walked away, the cloud that had hovered over him before returning.
She sighed. Why was she spending so much time focused on Drew? He’d asked her to dance once. Sure, he was gorgeous, but she didn’t have the time or energy in her life for another man. The little one she was raising drained her enough. Besides, Drew wasn’t even staying in Silver Bay and the heaviness he carried in his life right now was not something she had the strength for. Or did she? Her mind kept telling her to look away, a tiny spark in her heart said to keep looking.
End of Excerpt