Teddy’s Temptation is finally just about ready to head off to the editor! This book turned into my white whale, and it wasn’t until I realized how I’d done Shiloh wrong that I was able to continue on. Here’s a sneak peek of the first chapter. Please remember, this hasn’t yet gone to the editor, so there are more than likely some typos lurking about.
The predawn darkness that enveloped our quaint little town could have been viewed as a form of punishment by some, but not me. I embraced it wholeheartedly. The instant my phone buzzed from its resting place on the dresser, I leaped out of bed with renewed vigor. The frosty floor beneath my feet stirred me to life far better than the iciest shower ever could.
My home, though humble and drafty, was a symbol of my first significant investment besides Shiloh’s Sweets. It held the faint mustiness of times gone by, intermingled with the crisp winter air and the residual warmth of last night’s fire. I stretched, limbs reaching for the ceiling as I reveled in the pride of my accomplishments.
My best friend, Lacey, accused me of being toxically perky first thing in the morning. Personally, I thought she needed to try rolling out on the other side of the bed because she was a grouch until after her second cup of coffee.
Shiloh’s Sweets had been booming ever since the fall festival. Our patrons’ insatiable hunger for our treats had driven us to close early nearly every day. The momentum showed no signs of slowing down as the new year unfolded before us. Sure, we could bake more, but I liked the happy-medium we seemed to have found. I didn’t like having to turn people away but it was better than being left with trays full of waste after we closed.
Beneath the warm, orange glow of the streetlights, I crossed the short distance over Main Street, my footsteps hushed by the fresh layer of snow. The street remained silent, absent of the usual rumble of passing cars. The storefronts, temporarily deserted, sported snow-dusted steps waiting for their opening employees to clear. I waved at Roy, one of the city workers, as he passed me, shoving the snow to the center of the street so another truck could pick it up and take it to the edge of the park. That had seemed weird when I’d first moved to Harmony Grove, but it didn’t take long to understand there was simply nowhere to push it on Main Street that wouldn’t create more problems than it solved.
Upon arriving at my bakery, I took a deep breath, the faint scents of yesterday’s bread and muffins filling my senses. The peace and quiet wouldn’t last long; soon, eager customers would queue up, anticipating our freshly baked muffins and pastries.
Slipping on my well-worn apron adorned with patches and stripes, I found solace in the familiarity of the fabric as it hugged me like an old friend. The ritual marked the beginning of my day, a tangible connection to the bakery my grandparents operated throughout my childhood. I wasn’t too proud to admit I’d teared up a bit when my grandpa handed me one of his old aprons as a going away and good luck gift.
I eased into the routine of opening duties, soon joined by Lacey, who was as grouchy as ever. As the sun peeked over the horizon, I felt the warmth of satisfaction building within, knowing that my creations would soon bring joy to others.
But as I powered up the coffee machine, my gaze fell upon the persistent leak plaguing the faucet behind the counter. Sighing deeply, I added this task to the seemingly endless list of responsibilities I’d never envisioned when I’d dreamt of owning a bakery.
Then, as if by a stroke of luck, Teddy appeared through the back entrance, tool bag in hand, ready to save the day. “Hey, Shiloh,” he greeted with a warm smile. “Waylon mentioned your faucet troubles. Thought I’d drop by and take a look.”
I couldn’t help but feel a wave of gratitude wash over me as Teddy tackled the task I might have otherwise neglected. And, if I were honest with myself, the sight of the attractive handyman made for a delectable start to my day.
As Teddy worked, the steady rhythm of his movements was almost hypnotic, and I found myself stealing glances at him more often than I’d like to admit. I focused on the comforting routine of kneading dough and shaping pastries, but my thoughts kept drifting back to the man who had come to my rescue.
The sun had fully risen, casting a warm glow over the bakery as the first customers began to trickle in. Their excited chatter filled the air as they eagerly selected their morning indulgences. Behind the counter, I exchanged smiles and pleasantries with each customer, but my mind never strayed far from the handsome handyman who had turned my morning around.
The hum of the coffee machine came to life, but the persistent drip from the faucet behind the counter caught my attention. Heaving a sigh, I added the repair to my never-ending list of responsibilities that I hadn’t anticipated when I’d dreamed of owning a bakery. It was funny how it never occurred to me that my grandparents had to deal with issues like things breaking or supply chain issues. I truly believed they had the best job in the world, being able to bake all day and talk to people who adored them.
As if on cue, Teddy appeared through the back entrance, tool bag in hand, ready to save the day. “Hey, Shiloh,” he greeted warmly. “Waylon mentioned your faucet troubles. We’re heading over to look at a new house to flip, so I thought I’d drop by and take a look before he’s ready to go.”
A wave of gratitude washed over me as Teddy tackled the task that might have otherwise been neglected. And, if I were honest with myself, the sight of the attractive handyman provided a delightful start to my day.
Teddy’s movements were steady and almost hypnotic as he worked. I found myself stealing glances at him more often than I’d like to admit. My hands busied themselves kneading dough and shaping pastries, but my thoughts kept drifting back to the man who had come to my rescue. More times than I’d care to admit, I had to reel in my filthy mind because I started imagining the ball of dough was Teddy’s firm, round backside, and I wondered what it would be like to dig my fingers into his flesh.
The loud buzzer on one of the ovens saved me before my fantasy got the better of me and I started moaning. I reached out and grabbed the handle of the door, my hand accidentally knocking against the buzzer. It let off a grating sound that was louder than it should be, like two rocks rubbed together. The sound of it was so loud in the kitchen that I almost let out a sigh of relief. Teddy’s gaze was still locked on me with a knowing look on his face, causing my heart to flutter, and I tried to look away as I felt my face flush.
The sun cast a warm glow over the bakery as the first customers trickled in. Their excited chatter filled the air as they eagerly selected their morning indulgences. Behind the counter, I exchanged smiles and pleasantries with each customer, but my mind never strayed far from the handsome handyman who had turned my morning around.
“Umm, yeah, it’s the sink…behind the counter,” I stammered, heat rising to my cheeks. Teddy, being fully aware of where he’d find a sink, was already inspecting the leak. I felt tongue-tied and inadequate in his presence.
I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the reliable network of friends that had formed around me in Harmony Grove. Their support felt like a testament to my ability to thrive without relying on my family name.
Once Teddy completed the repair, he stepped back and surveyed his handiwork with satisfaction.
“It should be good to go,” he declared triumphantly. His smile revealed the faintest hint of a dimple hiding in the scruff on his left cheek. His voice was low and deep, sending shivers down my spine as our eyes locked for a beat too long. I chastised myself because now I was imagining he was just as obsessed as I was. “It should hold just fine. If it starts leaking again, let Waylon know, and I’ll swing by.”
Without considering not everyone was as tactile as I was, I threw my arms around Teddy’s neck. I thanked him, then quickly stepped back. I felt a rush of heat in my cheeks as I suddenly realized what I had done. Was that too intimate? Too much?
“Uh… why don’t you head up front and get something to eat? Whatever you want, it’s on the house,” I mumbled, looking away.
Teddy chuckled, patting his stomach. “A better man might insist you don’t have to feed me for helping you out when you didn’t ask, but I never claimed to be a good man.” He shook his head, grinning. “Trying to work while you’ve been in here baking has been torture. I should’ve eaten before I came in, but I wanted to get this taken care of before you opened for the day.”
“And that, my friend, is why you’re going to tell Lacey what you’d like for breakfast and get yourself a cup of coffee.” I gave Teddy a playful shove towards the swinging doors. My shoulders relaxed as I mentally crossed off the most recent task on my list. Waylon knew all too well about my inability to handle fix-it tasks, always teasing me about my obsession with how-to videos.
I surveyed the bakery, my heart swelling with pride. Everything was ready for the day, and there was no evidence of Teddy’s recent handiwork. Best of all, the annoying drip had stopped. Taking a deep breath, I opened the doors and welcomed the eager customers in.
Teddy perched on one of the stools along the wall, beneath the treasured photographs of Harmony Grove from times gone by. I had added a few extra seats to give customers a comfortable place to linger and converse, hoping that lingering customers meant increased profits – advice passed down from my grandpa.
But as Teddy looked around I wondered if he saw how lacking the bakery was compared to the one that had been a few buildings up along Main Street when he was younger.
I struck up some small talk. “So, how are Jasper and Waylon doing?” I asked, yearning to catch up on my friends’ lives. My ridiculous bakery hours seemed to always interfere with any opportunity to hang out. I hadn’t even been able to help when they’d moved into the new house because I’d been catering a dessert event at the Senior Center.
“They’re good,” Teddy replied, sipping his coffee. He paused, then added, “Waylon told me to tell you they’re still waiting on you to show up for dinner some night. I guess Jasper’s been driving him nuts about how they haven’t entertained since they moved into their new place.”
I smiled but didn’t respond, focusing on pouring batter into my baking pans. The idea of being the third wheel wasn’t appealing, but I’d never admit that to Teddy. The town gossips loved discussing his breakup with Peter, and I knew being the singleton among couples must be harder for him than for me.
After a moment of silence, Teddy asked how business was faring.
“It’s going really well,” I said with enthusiasm, relieved that things had improved since those nerve-wracking opening months. “More and more locals are making the bakery their breakfast spot every week, and I’m getting new customers from further away. Probably commuters on their way to Pineville. If I eventually get some more employees, I’d like to talk to Leo over at Harmony Cafe about selling some breakfast up there, too. I know he gets a different clientele than we do.”
“That makes a lot of sense. If he puts out a sign saying where the baked goods are from, it could help both of you.” Teddy nodded thoughtfully.
I preened, happier than I ought to be that he understood what I hoped to do. But, that was still a ways off. There was no way I could take on even more in the mornings with only me and Lacey in the kitchen.
“What kind of muffins are those?” He pointed to the pan of muffin batter I was about to place in the small oven at the front of the bakery. Baking where customers could see was an idea I borrowed from a local sub shop of all places, and it seemed to work – people constantly asked when the next batch would be ready. They’d then grab a cup of coffee and wait so they could have one hot enough to burn their mouths if they weren’t careful. If I expanded, I could add a bigger oven up here, too. So many dreams without the time or resources to make them come to life…
“Blueberry lemon.” With childlike enthusiasm, I boasted about the success of my blueberry lemon muffins. It was a strange flavor to be so popular during the cold and unforgiving winter months – yet somehow its vibrant flavor still delivered a burst of summer sunshine to those looking for something sweet on a dreary day.
Teddy’s eyes lit up as he listened intently. I felt a surge of pride that someone took interest in not only my creations but also my passion and process behind them.
“I haven’t seen much of Tyler lately. What’s he been up to?” I asked, as Mrs. Harrison bustled into the bakery. Everyone knew she was the one to go to for town gossip and news. She flashed me a knowing-smile as she passed, and I wondered if she was going to stop by and chat with us. As soon as she reached the counter, Lacey already had her daily order bagged and was pouring her small black coffee.
“He’s doing great,” Teddy replied. “He’s already planning this year’s fall festival. He wants to make it even bigger and better than last year.”
My eyes lit up at the mention of the festival. The day of the car show and parade, Jasper had convinced me to set up a stand, which had been a turning point for my bakery. The small-town charm of Harmony Grove had drawn me in, but I’d learned that such towns weren’t always welcoming to newcomers. The fall festival had made Shiloh’s Sweets a household name, and along with that came acceptance. I was now one of them, and that was a damned good feeling.
“It was a huge success for me last year. I’d love to have a booth again, maybe for the entire weekend if I can figure out how to keep stock on hand.” I couldn’t help but ramble, feeling indebted to the fall festival for keeping my doors open. “The bakery has been getting busier ever since. I’ve actually been thinking about expanding into the empty storefront next door.”
Mrs. Harrison clapped her hands in delight. “That’s wonderful news, dear! It’s about time that old building saw some action.” She took a sip of her coffee, then set it down, the cup rattling against the saucer. “I can hardly imagine what this town will look like when you youngsters are finished! Don’t you listen to anyone who tries to poo-poo your ideas, Shiloh. It’s boys like you and Jasper who are going to keep Harmony Grove from becoming a ghost town. If you have any friends with big dreams, I say you should tell them to follow in your footsteps.”
Grinning, I thought about the potential of the empty storefront next door and all the possibilities it held for growth. Having Mrs. Harrison’s support was invaluable. She was part of every historic committee in town and never backed down from a fight when people disagreed with her.
Inspired by her words, I imagined the bakery expanding, with more seating, perhaps a small stage for live music, and even a quaint outdoor patio surrounded by twinkling lights and fragrant flowers. This vision could breathe new life into the town’s center and draw even more visitors to Harmony Grove.
“I appreciate your support, Mrs. Harrison,” I told her sincerely. “If I do expand, I’ll make sure to keep the town’s charm and history in mind. I want to create a space where everyone feels welcome and can appreciate the beauty of Harmony Grove.”
Mrs. Harrison beamed. “I have no doubt you’ll do just that, dear. You’ve already made this bakery a local treasure.”
As the morning wore on, the bakery filled with customers, their laughter and chatter intermingling with the comforting aroma of freshly baked pastries. People exchanged stories about their lives and the town, and I could sense the growing sense of community and warmth that my bakery brought to Harmony Grove.
I couldn’t contain my excitement as Lacey and I discussed how we would arrange the new space once it was ready and what special touches would really bring the bakery to life in its expanded form. It was nothing more than a daydream for the time being, but Mrs. Harrison and Teddy had stoked my creative fire. My head was spinning with ideas before long and I knew they’d keep flooding my mind until I turned these dreams into reality.
Our silly dream planning continued through the lull between breakfast and lunch, and again as we cleaned up and shut down for the day.
“It’s going to be great, you’ll see,” Lacey said as she wiped her hands on her apron before clapping me on the shoulder in an encouraging gesture of support before leaving for home. “Of course, you have to hire more help if you’re going to expand. We can barely keep up as it is.”
“I know. And I will,” I promised. Lacey rolled her eyes, having heard too many times that I’d get at least one more person in here so both of us could have some downtime. But I was serious; I wanted to get to where the bakery could be open seven days a week without me killing myself.
Normally, I cherished my peace in the bakery’s kitchen. The soothing aromas of baking gave me respite from the hustle and bustle of lunch hour. But today, the stillness was oppressive as I mixed, kneaded, and formed dough for tomorrow. As I thought about taking that risk of expanding, an uneasy feeling spread through me. On the one hand, I wanted to take a chance and try something new, but on the other hand, fear of failure pushed me back. No matter how much I wanted it, I couldn’t escape from my worries.
I wiped my sweaty palms on my apron and tried to focus on the task at hand. It was easy enough to get lost in the rhythmic kneading of dough, but my mind kept wandering to the daunting decisions that lay ahead of me.
I had always been a one-man show and had built my business from the ground up, but I knew that if I wanted to keep growing, I needed to start taking risks and relying on others. I’d done what I set out to do: Shiloh’s Sweets was something I built completely on my own when I could have simply kept working for my grandparents until they retired, and then I would have had a six-decade history backing me. But that wasn’t what I wanted. And now, it was time to grow again.
My mind spun with what-ifs and worst-case scenarios. On one hand, I wanted to take the plunge and make a big change in my life, but on the other, the fear of failure held me back. How could I be sure that I wouldn’t let myself down? What if this wasn’t the right choice? What if it all went wrong? What if the grocery store or gas station brought in one of the national donut chains and my customers went there instead?
I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in over my head. My heart raced as I thought about all the debt I had already taken on to get this far. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was putting my dream at risk by taking on more.
Jasper’s voice broke through my thoughts, “Hey, you okay? You look a little lost in thought.”
I looked up to see my friend standing in the doorway, a concerned expression on his face.
“I’m fine,” I replied, forcing a smile. “Just a lot on my mind.”
Jasper walked over to me, his eyes scanning the bakery. “Business looks good though. You’re killing it. If you get any busier, I’ll have to shut down at lunch because your line is going to block the entrance of the salon.”
I nodded, grateful for the compliment, but still couldn’t shake the feeling of unease. Jasper knew me well enough to read the worry etched on my face.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Jasper asked, placing a hand on my shoulder. “You should be stoked.”
I hesitated for a moment before finally deciding to open up to him. “I am, but I’m worried, Jasper. Business is really freaking good but I can’t keep going the way I am. I need more space so I can get a bigger mixer and ovens but it feels like I’m drowning in debt as it is. What if I take on more and mess up?”
Jasper’s expression softened as he looked at me with empathy. “Shiloh, you’re one of the most driven and talented people I know. You’ve built this business from scratch and have made it a success. I get it, taking risks is scary, and failure is always a possibility but you can’t let fear hold you back. You’ve got to trust yourself and take that leap of faith.”
His words hit me like a ton of bricks. He was right. I had built this business from nothing, and it was a testament to my abilities that the bakery case was picked to crumbs daily. I couldn’t let fear stop me from taking it to the next level. I needed to have faith in myself and my vision.
“Thanks, Jasper,” I said with a grateful smile. “You always know what to say.”
He grinned back at me. “That’s what friends are for, right?”
As Jasper walked out of the bakery, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief wash over me. I knew that I still had a long road ahead of me, but I also knew that I had the support of my friends and the determination to make my dream a reality.
I took a deep breath and got back to work, feeling more confident than ever before. My fear of failure was still there, but I knew that I couldn’t let it control me. I had to keep taking risks and pushing forward, no matter how scary it seemed.
I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of what the future held as I started mixing a batch of Grandma’s key lime bars. I’d have to start writing down the recipes if I was serious about giving up a bit of control but it would be worth it. The bakery had come a long way since I first opened its doors, and I was just getting started.