“My name is Blaire, not Alice, thank you very much.” I want to smack myself for that terrible, unimpressive comeback. I blame my inability to come up with something–anything–better on thinking we were in the middle of an earthquake, the loss of one of my precious unicorn martini glasses that I honestly cannot afford to replace, and this ax-wielding hipster. Oh, did I forget to mention that beyond the fact that he’s filthy and dressed like some kind of GQ lumber-jack, he’s also incredibly good-looking?
“Well, Blaire, you’re standing in the middle of a construction zone, and I’m pretty sure those shoes don’t meet the required code, so you can march them right back out the door.” He uses the axe handle to point to my heels–which are adorable and surprisingly comfortable.
I take a step back. “Pointing is rude.” Where the hell has my quick wit disappeared to?
“So is trespassing.”
“I knocked, more than once, but with all the racket going on in here it’s not really a surprise that no one heard me, is it?” I’m irritated and gathering steam, thanks to my embarrassment, residual fear, and frustration over the problems this guy is causing me. I can’t afford setbacks–there’s too much on the line for me. Plus this guy has insulted my outfit. True, I may be silently judging him for his own wardrobe choices, but I’m certainly not going to voice them. Yet. “I own the café next door and all your banging around in here is making my life impossible.”
“You mean the cupcake shop?” Once again, he uses the handle of the axe to point in the direction of my café. It makes his tattooed forearm flex enticingly. I don’t even like tattoos. Well, that’s not entirely true. I don’t not-like tattoos. I just don’t understand how anyone can sit through hours of being stabbed with needles for the sake of wearing art that could very easily be hung on a wall instead–pain-free.
“It’s not a cupcake shop. It’s a cocktail and cupcake cafe.”
Damn it wit, I need you!
“Right. My bad. A cupcake and cocktail cafe isn’t the same as a cupcake shop.” His sarcasm bleeds through in his dry, day-old scone tone.
I ignore the dig, because trying to explain the difference to a flannel-wearing hipster is pointless. He’s clearly the opposite of my target market. “What’s happening back there?” I motion to the plywood room behind him. “Is that even legal?”
“It’s called an axe-throwing enclosure, and yeah, it’s legal.” He pulls a piece of paper out of his back pocket and shakes it out so it unfolds, then holds it up in front of my face. When I try to grab it from him he snatches it away. “No touching, looking only.”
I pin him with an unimpressed glare, uncertain as to whether that’s what makes his cheek tic, and raise my hands in mock surrender. “I wouldn’t want to soil your precious paper with my frosting fingers.”
He lowers the paper so I can see that it’s a permit for an axe-throwing enclosure. “See, Alice, totally legal.”
I glare at him. “It’s Blaire, and you need to move this enclosure thing because all that banging around is making my glassware fall off the shelves.”
Axe man’s eyebrows pop. “Uh yeah, that’s not going to happen.”
I flail a hand toward the mess of plywood. “One of my brand new unicorn martini glasses broke because of you, and they’re expensive.”
“Martini glasses. It’s a martini glass with a unicorn face on it, and a horn. They’re adorable and they weren’t cheap and all your banging caused one to fall off the shelf and break.” I hold out the box so he can see the damage he’s responsible for.
He peeks inside, but makes no move to take the box. “Can’t you just move your glasses?” His completely unaffected, blasé attitude is driving me crazy.
I set the box on the bar rather aggressively, making the glass inside tinkle. “I’ll have to move an entire shelf. Maybe more than one.” I continue to flail my arms all over the place. I’m sure I resemble an octopus on some kind of hallucinogenic stimulant. All the caffeine I’ve consumed today was obviously a terrible idea because it’s making me edgy and discomposed.
“Okay.” He hooks his thumb in his pocket, obviously not understanding the difficulty this axe-throwing room of his is going to be for me and my business. He’s completely self- centered as well as condescending. I hate him already. Forever. Like a kindergartner.
“It’s not okay at all. Moving a shelf will offset the entire layout of the wall. You can’t just take a shelf down without there being any design consequences,” I tell him. “It disturbs the continuity and interrupts the flow. The whole vibe will be thrown off!”
And now he’s looking at me like I’m crazy. “Well, I’m sorry that taking a shelf down is going to mess with the cupcake vibe, or whatever, Blaire, but unless you’d like to foot the bill to uninstall and reinstall all of this.” He thumbs over his shoulder. “I’m thinking moving a shelf is probably your best bet if you don’t want any more shattered unicorn dreams.”
I huff my irritation, because although he has a point, the only person inconvenienced is me. And all this noise is going to make concentrating impossible today. I avoid responding, because I don’t want to give in and agree with him. “How long is this going to go on for?”
“We can stop arguing about you moving a shelf anytime you want.”
I’ve already filed this guy under Jerks I Want to Junk Punch. I hope someone puts Veet in his shampoo and all that luxurious, thick hair falls out. The thought of that alone makes me feel better. “I mean the noise, smartass.”
The corners of his mouth turn up slowly until he’s full on smiling. Dammit. Of course he has great teeth and a beautiful smile to go with his stupidly handsome face. All he probably has to do is flash that smile and people move shelves for him without a second thought. They probably move entire walls. And drop their damn panties, too.
He lifts a shoulder in a careless shrug. “I guess it depends on how long you want to stand here, bickering with me. I could do this all day, but that means I’m not working, and if I’m not working the enclosure isn’t getting built. So it’s entirely up to you how long it takes.” His smile widens, likely at my appalled expression. “I’d offer to set you up with a pair of safety boots so you can keep having a go at me, but I’m not all that interested in putting a saw or a nail gun in your hands. I have a feeling it might be me you’d try to nail to the wall.”
I flash him a less than friendly smile. “I meant how long do you expect these renovations to take?” I don’t want them to interfere with my grand opening next week.
“Dunno. I’d say at least a couple of weeks, but it all depends on how often you decide to come over and give me shit.”
“So now you’re the one being inconvenienced, is that it?”
All he does is stand there with his arms crossed, wearing a telling smirk.
“Well thanks so much for making more work for me. It’s not like I don’t have enough to do right now. And I sincerely hope you’re insulating that wall because I sure don’t want an axe coming through it like some kind of B-rated horror movie!”
I spin on my heel and try to yank the door open with a dramatic flair, but of course the stupid wind-suction means I have to use both hands, which completely ruins the impact.
Once the suction seal is broken, the door flies open and I stumble back, almost landing on the filthy floor. I don’t look back as I regain my composure, straighten my spine and exit his crappy pub.
“It was really nice to meet you, Blaire,” he calls out after me, voice dripping sarcasm. “I’m Ronan Knight, by the way, thanks for asking, and for being so understanding about the renos!”
Well, now the name of the bar makes sense. Of course he has a super hipster, but also highly masculine name that’s just as sexy as he is. Jerk.
He rattles the box with the broken glass. “Hey! You forgot your unicorn dreams!”
I consider flipping him the bird, but that would mean stooping to his level and I’m unwilling to play his game. “Kiss my cupcake!” I shout over my shoulder, wishing my wit had kicked in earlier. I stalk angrily down the sidewalk and nearly lose my footing for what seems like the hundredth time this morning when I step in something slippery. I glance down and gag, then tip my chin up to the sky. “Seriously?”
Of course I stepped in the dog-doo.
Because today hasn’t been ruined enough by my new jerk of a neighbor.
I remove the offending shoe–the yellow flower is stuck to the bottom–and try not to breathe in the noxious odor. Daphne looks up from the bar where she’s currently on her phone posting photos when I hobble back into my shop, my soiled shoe dangling from my finger.
Daphne’s expression is somewhere between incredulous and questioning as she gives me a quick once-over. “Who are you and what have you done with my friend Blaire?”
“Since when do you go around confronting complete strangers?”
She makes a good point. “Since I don’t have enough money to replace that stupid glass. Everything I have is tied up in here.” I wave my poopy shoe around. “I need this place to do well, Daph. I want to prove I can succeed on my own–with your help, obviously, and Paul’s–but this needs to work out. I can’t go to my family for help. They’re too . . .”
“Crazy? Meddling? Impossible to deal with?” Daphne suggests.
“Well, I gotta say, this new, bolder you is something I can definitely get used to. You’re finally growing into your lady balls.” She grins and nods to the shoe still dangling from my finger. “What happened?”
“I stepped in crap. Literally.” “Next door?”
“No. Out there.” I motion to the sidewalk and hobble- weave my way through the tables all the way to the back door. I throw it open angrily and debate whether I should toss the shoe. I leave it outside, fairly confident no one is going to touch it.
I wash my hands before I return barefoot and still very much annoyed. Especially when the banging starts up again, and it seems like it’s even more vigorous than it was before.
“So what’s going on over there?”
“The lumberjerk next door is putting in an axe-throwing enclosure.”
Daphne’s eyes flare. “Lumberjerk?”
“He was wearing a plaid flannel shirt, wandering around with an axe. And get this: His name is Ronan, totally a hipster, right? He probably changed it from something far more pedestrian, like Robert or Bill. His hair looks like it’s styled with pomade. All he was missing was the lumber-beard and the black-rimmed glasses.”
Daphne holds up a hand. “Wait. Flannel in August?” Daphne asks. I’m glad she seems appropriately horrified by that fashion travesty.
“Or maybe it was plaid and I’m making up the flannel part. Regardless, he was wearing a plaid long-sleeved shirt with another shirt under it. In August. Totally ridiculous. And he’s a completely condescending jerk! Can you believe he had the nerve to tell me I should move my shelf because he’s putting in an axe-throwing enclosure? Who even likes throwing axes other than barbarians?”
“Uh, axe throwing is pretty popular these days.”
I give her a look that tells her how much I don’t appreciate her opinion on this. Or the fact that she is most certainly correct. “That’s not the point. The point is he’s inconveniencing me by using our adjoining wall for his freaking axe throwing! Why should I have to move my glassware for him? Moving that shelf means I’ll have to adjust the entire layout. What a selfish bastard.”
“Or do you mean shel-fish bastard?” Daphne grins, and I fight one of my own.
“That was ridiculously lame.”
“And yet, still funny.”
I roll my eyes. “I need to tackle the shelf.”
“Leave the shelf where it is.”
“Why? We can’t even put anything on it. Or hang stuff from that freaking wall if Lumberjerk is going to be throwing axes at it. And there’s still a bar in there! How can they serve alcohol and wield axes? That seems outlandishly unsafe.”
“There’s protocol. And inspections.”
I tap my lip, considering my options. “Inspections?”
Daphne shakes her head and raises a hand. “Don’t start a war before you’ve even opened your doors, Blaire.”
“You didn’t meet him. He’s a grade-A a-hole extraordinaire.” Although, she does have a point. “I’ll tuck that piece of information in my pocket in case I need it.”
Later, when I’m heading home for the day, I find a flyer tucked under my windshield wipers, which is odd, since I’m parked in the alley behind all the shops, where only the owners and employees are allowed. I lift the wiper and flip it over, curious and hoping that I don’t have to fight a parking ticket I can’t afford. It’s definitely not a ticket, but it’s dusk, and shadowy back here, so I climb into my SUV and toss it on the seat beside me.
It isn’t until I get home and the interior light comes on that I finally realize what’s on the flyer. It’s an advertisement for anger-management therapy. At the top, in semi-legible man-scrawl is a note:
I’d invite you over for a little axe throwing to get out some of your latent aggression, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea. Maybe this will help your vibe.
~ your friendly neighborhood bar owner
“What a jerk!” I ball it up and toss it in the trash. I don’t have to wonder how he knew it was my SUV since I have a Buttercream and Booze magnetic decal stuck to the side panel.
Excerpted from KISS MY CUPCAKE. Copyright ©2020 By Helena Hunting. Reprinted with permission of Forever/Hachette Book Group. All rights reserved.
As two neighborhood shop owners battle for business, they prove opposites attract in this outrageously funny romantic comedy from the USA Today bestselling author of Meet Cute.
Blaire Calloway has planned every Instagram-worthy moment of her cupcake and cocktails shop launch down to the tiniest detail. What she didn’t plan on? Ronan Knight and his old-school sports bar next door opening on the very same day. He may be super swoony, but Blaire hasn’t spent years obsessing over buttercream and bourbon to have him ruin her chance at success.
From axe throwing (his place) to frosting contests (hers), Blaire and Ronan are constantly trying to one-up each other in a battle to win new customers. But with every clash, there’s also an undeniable chemistry. When an even bigger threat to their business comes to town, they’re forced to call a temporary time-out on their own war and work together. And the more time Blaire spends getting to know the real Ronan, the more she wonders if it’s possible to have her cupcake and eat it too.
About Helena Hunting
NYT and USA Today Bestselling author, Helena Hunting lives outside of Toronto with her amazing family and her two awesome cats, who think the best place to sleep is her keyboard. Helena writes everything from contemporary romance with all the feels to romantic comedies that will have you laughing until you cry.