Picnics & Promises: Six Delicious Summer Romances
SWEET DELIGHTS by Cecelia Dowdy
Patty-Lynn is stunned when she runs into her wealthy ex-boyfriend, Sam. She’s still haunted by their painful breakup seven years ago. Recently widowed, Sam now wants to fix their broken relationship. Seeing Patty-Lynn, happy in her bakery, gives him hope. Can her prize-winning pie recipe sweeten his new business venture and heal their broken hearts?
Excerpt from SWEET DELIGHTS:
“PATTY-LYNN?” THE FAMILIAR VOICE made her pause.
She quickly turned and slammed right into Sam Richardson. Her lips brushed against his shirt right before she took a few steps back. Goodness, she didn’t realize he’d been standing right behind her.
“Sam? What you doing here?” She’d just finished setting up the wedding cake. The guests weren’t due at the reception for another hour.
“My friend Mark just married my sister-in-law Lisa. He sent me to the reception early to make sure everything was set up.”
Lisa. Sam’s wife’s sister. So she assumed Sam’s wife, Lorena, would come strolling in at any time. She imagined the woman was part of the bridal party. Well when Lorena turned up, Patty-Lynn would be sure that she was long gone. No way did she want to see the woman who’d stolen Sam’s heart away from her seven years ago.
He leaned toward her, as if he were going to give her a hug.
No way did she want to hug him. She quickly turned around, ran smack into the table, hard. The table tilted on an incline as pain shot through her knee. The wedding cake slid down the small table, right toward the floor. She reached out toward the cake and screamed. Quick as a cannon, Sam raced to the end of the table and caught the cake in his arms.
Workers in black and white suits appeared from the back, scurried and assisted Sam with the cake, set it back upright onto another nearby table. The manager yelled at his workers in Spanish, pointing at the legs of the faulty table. Apparently one of the legs had not been properly locked into place when they’d set it up. The manager bobbed his head toward her. “So, so sorry ma’am.”
Not half as sorry as she was. After the workers had confirmed that the legs were properly locked into place, she shooed them away. Before she could examine her cake to be sure no damage had been done, she focused on Sam. He patiently stood beside her. His intoxicating cologne wreaked havoc with her frazzled nerves.
She gulped. It’d probably be a good idea to thank him. After all, if it wasn’t for his fast save, her cake would have been splattered onto the floor and then she’d have to explain the terrible fiasco to the bride and groom.
She forced herself to look into his eyes. Dang, he had the most hypnotic eyes she’d ever seen. She used to swoon just staring into the chocolate brown depths. Looked like he still had some effect on her, and that was not good, not at all. She finally forced herself to speak.
“Sam, awful kind of you to rescue my cake like that. I appreciate it.” He’d also helped to save her business. If word had gotten out that she’d ruined a wedding cake, her business would have been affected – she was sure of that.
“You’re welcome.” He gestured toward the table that had caused them so much grief. “Did you need some help?”
She was about to say no, but stopped herself. She could use some help. The white table cloth had spilled onto the floor and she needed another. “Could you ask the manager for a new table cloth? I don’t want to use that one since it was lying on the floor.”
Sam scurried away. While he was gone, she took a few minutes to compose herself and examine her cake.
Surprisingly, the three-tier cake swirled with rosettes and curlicues looked perfect. She saw where Sam’s finger had touched the bottom layer, messing up a small sliver of the fluted icing. She quickly opened her bag of supplies and repaired the damage. There, nobody would be able to tell that this cake had been saved from certain death.
Sam had been quick, that was for sure. She remembered how he’d been a fast runner on his college track team. He could sprint with his long brown legs. She also recalled he ran every day—either early morning or late at night. Good thing he’d come to her rescue this afternoon.
“Here’s the tablecloth.” He rushed from the back of the kitchen and working together, they quickly smoothed the cloth over the table. She was about to get the cake but he stopped her. “Hold on.”
He slammed his hand on top of the table, then forced himself to bump right into it. What in the world was he doing?
“I just want to make sure it won’t topple over if somebody crashes into it again.”
Ahh. Now that was smart. Well, she needed to be smart, too. What if they tried to move this heavy cake and slipped or something? She took the cake boxes and dismantled the cake, carefully setting each tier back into the box.
Sam studied her as she completed her chore. “What are you doing?”
“I don’t trust myself to move this whole cake back to that table. It’s heavy. I know you did a fast save earlier, but I just want to be sure.” She carefully carried each layer back to the table, set one layer on top of the other. Now, all she needed to do was put the figurine of the bride and groom on the cake. She removed the cake topper from the packet and pressed it into the white icing. The sweet delicious scent of vanilla wafted around her.
“You do some nice work, Patty-Lynn.”
“Thanks, Sam.” She needed to be cordial to him. She eyed the dark suit and blue shirt that hugged his trim frame. Oh, how she’d used to love it when he’d held her in his long, lanky muscular arms.
She nodded toward him. Eyed the cake again. She’d finished her duties here. Time to get back to work. “Well, Sam, nice seeing you again. Thanks again for helping me. I’m much obliged to you for doing that.” She gathered her bag of supplies, slipped it over her shoulder. “Have a nice day.” She strolled toward the exit.
“Patty-Lynn, wait.” His deep, sexy voice resonated in the room, making her heart pound. Oh, how she remembered how excited she’d become when her name rolled from his beautiful lips.
“No, Sam. I’ve got to get to work.” She had a special order to fill that day. Fifty banana cream pies for a huge corporate event. She’d been selling a lot of her blue-ribbon banana cream pies lately. Since she’d recently won The French International Pie Competition, her sales had doubled.
“I’ve opened a new office for Richardson Enterprises in Crystal Spring.” Sam moved a step closer.
Lord help her, she couldn’t believe Sam had actually moved to her small town. She recalled he lived near his family, about two hours away, up in Northern Virginia. The thought of Sam being in such close proximity rattled her. “Why don’t we get together for a picnic?”
Oh, no, he had to go and mention a picnic. When they’d dated, her favorite activity was having a picnic in the park. They’d shared thick sandwiches and huge cups of cold iced tea. He’d teased her, telling her how much he enjoyed hearing the southern twang in her voice. He’d loved her southern accent, said that she sounded cute when she spoke. He’d leaned in for warm romantic kisses while they’d enjoyed their treats. Afterwards, they’d eat big, sweet slices of pie.
Those passionate kisses, those picnic dates. That’s what had gotten them into trouble. As soon as his sister, Kelly, had spotted them, ratted them out, things had spiraled out of control. Kelly knew that his parents wouldn’t approve of their relationship. Well, she’d learned to let bygones be bygones, at least she thought she had. But if she’d really let bygones be bygones then why did hearing Sam’s voice make her feel weird, light-headed, almost hypnotized. The memories swirled through her, making her wish her day had gotten off to a better start.
Besides he was married to Lorena, so why would he want to go on a picnic date? She didn’t want to have anything to do with a married man. Kind of sad that Sam had such loose morals.
She needed to focus on leaving. “Sam, it’s been real nice seeing you again.” She swallowed and forced herself to give him her megawatt smile. Not a good idea to let him know how seeing him again affected her. She offered her hand and he eyed her palm, accepting it. Her white skin clashed with his dark chocolate complexion. She gave him a firm handshake before offering another smile. Standing tall, she rushed toward the door and pushed it open. She welcomed the heat from the sunshine as she scurried to her delivery van.
Sam eyed his late wife’s sister, Lisa, as she popped a bite of wedding cake into Mark’s mouth. Seeing his wife’s identical twin get married had been bittersweet. Hard to believe that Lorena had been dead for two years. He squeezed his napkin, so many thoughts ripping through him, too many. He’d just gotten his MBA—his father had insisted he get an advanced degree before promoting him to the Marketing and Food Distribution Director’s position.
Surprisingly, when his father had said that Crystal Spring Maryland was where their new office would be located, he’d wondered if God was showing him a sign. As soon as he’d heard this news, he’d thought about Patty-Lynn, the first woman he’d loved when he was only twenty-one, a senior in college. When they’d dated, she’d told him that she’d been born in Crystal Spring, and that’s where she’d lived during the first seven years of her life. Now, it was late March, and their new office was set to open. It’d been a leap of faith for his dad, allowing Sam to run his own office.
After pictures had been snapped of the happy couple eating cake, the confection was served to the guests. Several slices were also slipped into white paper bags, ready for guests to take home. A server approached and slid a white plate toward him. The cake looked awesome. The white cake, bright red filling, pale frosting. He cut his fork into the delicate cake and popped a large bite into his mouth. Strawberries, sweet sugar….delicious. He closed his eyes, vividly recalling that Patty-Lynn had lived in the basement apartment of an off-campus house. She’d made him a cake in her small oven for his birthday.
His birthday cake had tasted just like this wedding cake.
She didn’t have much money. Only eighteen, and just out of high school, she’d moved to his university town from down south and worked in a fast food place near campus. He’d managed to keep their intense, deeply emotional relationship a secret from his parents. He opened his eyes, the memories haunting his mind. He inwardly cringed, recalling how he’d hurt Patty-Lynn, one of the sweetest women he’d ever met.
Eyeing the crowd, he enjoyed another bite of cake. Man, seeing her again made it seem as if time had stood still. Patty-Lynn still looked the same—petite, pretty. Her smooth white skin was sprinkled with cute freckles across her nose. How he’d loved her rosebud-shaped mouth. Her lips turned down when she was upset or afraid.
Patty-Lynn had had her share of disappointments over the years. When they’d dated she’d struggled with so many problems. She didn’t have the luxury of having a family to back her up. She was used to being by herself.
“Hey, man.” Mark clapped him on the shoulder. He’d been in such deep thought that he didn’t realize the bride and groom were now circulating the room, making sure they greeted every single guest. “You looked like you were a million miles away.” Mark had removed his tuxedo jacket and had loosened his tie. He’d noticed a few of the younger female guests eyeing Mark during the reception. His friend got his share of female attention with his dark skin and striking good looks. Mark had mentioned that Lisa would get mad when females openly admired him in public.
Sam tried to smile. “I was.”
“Is something wrong?”
This was no time or place to tell Mark about all that was on his mind. “Yeah, something happened before the reception.”
Mark gestured toward the stairs in the lobby. “Why don’t we go up to the suite to talk about it?”
Both the bride and groom had a private suite. “Are you sure?” Who took time to talk about a problem during a wedding?
Mark checked his Rolex watch. “I have a few minutes. Lisa won’t mind as long as I don’t stay too long.”
Might as well. He needed somebody to talk to right now. His mind was so full of tumultuous thoughts that he thought his brain would explode. He followed Mark into the posh lobby. Chandeliers dipped from the vaulted ceiling. Plush carpet sunk beneath their shoes as they made their way up the stairs. He followed Mark down a long hallway before he opened a white door marked as Groom’s Suite. Sam followed him into the room.
Mark dropped into a chair, propped his feet onto a stool. “Man, I’m tired. I can’t wait until we leave for Hawaii in the morning. Now, what’s up?”
“You remember you’d mentioned you’d had some problems with the caterers? Lisa wanted me to come to the reception early to make sure everything was set up before the bridal party arrived.”
“Yeah, man, thanks a lot for doing that.”
Sam nodded, rubbed his hand over his head. This was so hard to talk about. He took a deep breath. What he needed was a good stiff drink, but alcohol was something he’d given up when he’d become a Christian. The temptation was just so great—hard for him to indulge without overdoing it. “Well, when I got here, the baker was setting up the cake. It was Patty-Lynn.” He told him how he’d saved the cake in the nick of time.
Mark blinked, frowned. “Patty-Lynn? Who’s that?”
“Lisa never told you about Patty-Lynn?” How strange. He knew that Lisa was aware that he’d broken up with Patty-Lynn right before he’d started dating her twin sister, Lorena. He figured Lisa would have mentioned it to Mark. After all, Lorena was the person he’d married one year after he’d broken up with Patty-Lynn.
Mark shrugged. “I know the baker I hired to do the cake owns a bakery called Patty’s Pie Palace over in Crystal Spring. Other than that, I don’t know her. We were fortunate to get her to do our cake.”
“Since our reception was an hour away from Crystal Spring, we weren’t sure if we were too far away for her to deliver it.” He shrugged. “But she said she’d do it. I thought the cake was good.” He focused on Sam. “Should I know her? The first time I saw her was when I ordered the cake.”
“Lisa wasn’t with you when you chose the cake?”
Mark shook his head. “Nope. She was so busy with other stuff, and you know Lisa, she’s not a big fan of sweets. She left the cake totally up to me. So Patty’s Pie Palace was recommended by our wedding coordinator. I visited her shop, chose a vanilla wedding cake.” He shrugged. “Seemed easy enough. Should I know her?” he repeated.
“I guess not, since Lisa didn’t mention her to you. It was just strange seeing her. I feel so bad.”
“About what?” Mark threw his hands in the air, as if upset that Sam was taking so long to explain what was on his mind.
“I dated Patty-Lynn seven years ago.”
Mark nodded, stroked his chin. “So?” He patiently waited, as if coaxing Sam to open up to him.
“My parents…well my parents and grandparents didn’t approve of her. She wasn’t from a good family…well, she barely knew her family. She was poor, her parents died in a car accident when she was a kid…she was raised by different foster families. She’d been on her own since she was eighteen. She had a deep southern accent, terrible table manners—”
“So she was from the wrong side of the tracks?”
“Yeah, but she didn’t put on airs.”
Mark frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I mean she was real. So blunt, so open, so…honest. I loved her and she loved me. We dated for a year and, my parents…Well, you know how they are.”
“Yeah, unfortunately, I do.”
Richardson Enterprises had been a big family food distribution business for over one hundred and fifty years. It’d been started by freed slaves within his family and had grown. His parents and grandparents had protected that legacy with an iron fist.
“Can you imagine how they reacted when I started dating a poor uneducated woman? They also objected to the color of her skin.” That had been the biggest pill for them to swallow, especially for his grandparents. They’d been highly vocal about their wanting him to date a wealthy Black woman.
“I’m surprised you found the courage to tell them.”
He frowned. “How’d they find out?”
“Kelly saw us during a picnic date and told my parents.” He dropped his head into his hands. The memories tumbled through his mind like unwanted bricks. The arguments, the discussions, the pain. When they discovered that Patty-Lynn was not just a brief fling, but that he’d been secretly dating her for a year, declared his love for her….they’d made him miserable. His grandmother had threatened to withhold his inheritance if he married Patty-Lynn—if he had any children, they would not be able to be a part of Richardson Enterprises.
The turmoil, hurt, and pain that his family had caused…it was just too much. In spite of his deep love for Patty-Lynn, he didn’t want to hurt her. “I don’t need to explain all of this to you. I think, knowing my family, you can imagine their reaction.”
“So you broke up with her?” Mark asked quietly.
He nodded. “By the time we broke up, she was nineteen and I was twenty-two. Patty-Lynn cried, hard. I cried too. But I just wanted her to be happy. I honestly didn’t think my family would ever accept her.”
They’d been openly rude to the woman he’d loved. He’d brought her to the house for a family dinner and it’d been a disaster. A formal dinner setting, she’d not known which utensil to use. She’d spilled her drink, she’d been so nervous. Then, he’d been upset with himself. Sure, he’d warned her about his family, but he could have at least explained the outward in principal. He’d been so pre-occupied, worried about his family’s reaction that he didn’t think of things he could’ve done to make things easier for Patty-Lynn.
Heck, who was he kidding? Even if he’d taken the time to teach her some of the things he’d known since he was a child, the proper way to act, the way to sit, how to eat, would they still have accepted her? He doubted it. She’d still not meet their high expectations. Although she’d worked in a fast-food joint near his college campus, she’d had no aspirations for college. His parents had cringed at her southern public school education.
They’d openly wondered why he didn’t simply date one of the college students. When his mom had asked her about her educational endeavors, Patty-Lynn had haughtily told his mom that she didn’t have time for school. She did well enough on her own. Plus, how was she going to pay for school? She was barely making a living for herself.
“So seeing her today started you thinking about stuff?”
“Yeah. My life has changed so much.” He’d become saved and now relied on Christ for his decisions. He tried to do everything that his parents wanted and felt they knew best. But for some reason, he always felt as if his dad never approved of his actions. He still thought his dad was a bit harsh with his criticism, and he figured in time, he’d earn his father’s approval. Especially since he’d be opening the office in Crystal Spring.
Mark checked his watch. “Well, I’ve got to get back downstairs. I know Lisa will be looking for me. But if you want my advice, I’ll tell you what I think you should do.”
He sat up straight. This should be good. He’d been friends with Mark for over a year. They’d hit it off after he’d joined Mark and Lisa’s church. Whenever he sought Mark’s advice, he’d never steered him wrong. The man had a good head on his shoulders, so hearing what he had to say would be interesting.
“What should I do?”
Mark cleared his throat. “Give it a few days. If she’s still on your mind, simply visit her at her bakery. It’s easy find, downtown on the main road. When you visit, you might want to try her banana cream pie. Best pie I’ve ever eaten in my life.”
About Cecelia Dowdy:
CECELIA DOWDY is a world traveler who has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. When she first read Christian fiction, she felt called to write for the genre. She currently has several romance novels published in the Christian market. She loves to read, write, and bake desserts in her spare time. Cecelia currently resides with her husband and young son in Maryland.