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Mike is a contestant on the hot new quiz show gripping the nation, and he has a chance to win a lot of money – a lot. But when he can’t remember the answer, and the quiz show host helps him out, what price will he be expected to pay for cheating?

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Cupcake Kissin’ 16 – Alex Ankarr free online gay romance serial

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Cupcake Kissin’ 16 – Alex Ankarr

So sue him, nine p.m. and he settles down with a salad and a glass of wine, and he watches it.

Okay. He watches it twice. It’s well-plotted, okay? Surprisingly well-written. The actors know their stuff, and do the job with flair and élan.

And, yeah, Mack is hot as hell in it. And by the end of the second viewing, Caspar just may be a little tiny bit starry-eyed and wistful about him. (And a little bit starstruck and excitable, when he remembers that, hey, he’s actually met the guy. That aunt Gertie was on first name terms with him. Maybe the old girl didn’t just leave him a bakery, a thriving business. Maybe she – unwittingly – left him a future husband, too. Hey, a guy can dream, right? Caspar, if truth be told, generally always likes to have a little crush on someone or other, to nurse and cherish along. It brightens life up, and it does no harm, and it’s a slightly sad little substitute for an actual boyfriend when he’s going through a dry spell, realistically. He expects the current dry spell to probably continue on for quite a while. He’s so god-damn busy.)

So, TV off, lights dimmed and the cat snoring in the kitchen, Caspar tucks himself up in bed and expects pleasant dreams, following on from pleasant daydreams. He dreams, a little bit, about Mack, which is probably going to be his definition of pleasant dreams, from now on.

***

On the Monday they do get a Mack-related customer, though sadly not the man himself. Caspar wouldn’t have known, because he’s in the back at the time, trying to rescue a batch of red velvet that he’s made the most horrible hash of icing. He’s had a telling off from Sandy, and another from Sophia, the senior supervisor, and all in all he’s not feeling terribly managerial and important and senior and business-ownery, what with the reprimands and the pinkness of his overall. But he’s called out of his abstraction, when Sandy, the junior sales staff on duty, pitter-patters to the back-room door and hisses at him. He looks up and she’s positively grimacing with excitement.

‘Come out, come out, it’s Sara!’ she whispers, a whisper so loud it could probably carry to the back of a theatre on-stage.

This doesn’t mean a damn thing to Caspar. He’s never heard of a Sara, but then Sandy is rather given to carrying on conversations with him that she’s begun in her own head some time before, so that she forgets what he actually knows, and what she’s just been mulling over herself, and launched into the minute she sees him. It doesn’t prevent her being completely exasperated, when she sees by his face that he’s failing to keep up with the narrative. ‘Oh, hell. Sara, Mack Langot’s personal assistant! Come out and meet her! She’s nice. A little bit bossy, maybe, but nice.’

Well. It’s not quite the same thing as having an actual TV star visit the bakery, but it’s a bit of excitement in the day nonetheless. Caspar gets himself out to the counter, to see what he can see, see what’s going on.

Sara is dark-haired, pretty, dressed in the vertiginous pitch of high fashion and has a very sly look on her face, peering over her dark glasses. And her sly look seems to be reserved for Caspar. When Sandy introduces him, voluble and eager and loud and breathless, she looks faintly surprised that someone has taken the trouble. ‘Oh, I know that,’ she says calmly. And she looks back at Caspar, and that is definitely a little grin on her face. ‘Mack mentioned you,’ she says.

And Caspar would like to know a lot more about this mention. About exactly how detailed it was, and what kind of areas it got into, and if it was just the once or if Mack had chanced to mention him multiple times, and if Caspar’s eyes or ass had come up at any point in this conversation, and… Well. Just whoa, really. Even Caspar knows when he’s getting a little bit out of control.

It’s probably fortunate, that Caspar actually has little chance to respond, or more accurately to get a word in. It’s Sandy who leaps to response, with Sophia off serving another customer – and giving Caspar a little glare that he failed to get in there first and demonstrate his new mastery of customer service. He gets no respect! Not in his induction phase, at least. When his two years are up, they’d better be dancing to a different tune, he thinks!

‘What, did he mention what a terrible boss Caspar is?’ Sandy gets in immediately, sending him a winking glance. ‘He’s a real Legree, this one. He’s got a dungeon down below in the basement, and if we’re naughty or don’t hit our targets we get a whupping!’

Sara laughs, and widens her eyes, probably just to play along. Caspar hopes. ‘Oh, I won’t mention that part to Mack. He might like it too much!’ she says, slyer than ever, and Caspar gets another grin out of her. And then, unfortunately, she’s off, out of there.

Sandy leans her elbows on the counter, and gazes after her dreamily, gazing into space. ‘Do you think she meant it?’ she asks Caspar, sighing a bit.

‘What?’ he asks, because he was just wondering himself. ‘That he talked about me?’

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Lyn Whitfield on Flickr, public domain.

Buy ‘A Spell For Destruction’ – Gay Magician Romance!

Pell is a powerful Magician, financially successful, with a rewarding life. He doesn’t think about or pine for his old human boyfriend, Stephen. Honestly. So when Stephen hires him to scan and vouch for his new fiancée, it’s no big deal. Just Magical business as usual. Right?

Cupcake Kissin’ 15 – Alex Ankarr

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Cupcake Kissin’ 15 – Alex Ankarr

And Sandy leans against the back wall and eyes him knowingly, like someone who’s seen it all before. ‘Devastating, isn’t he?’ she says cheerfully. ‘Honey Gummy’s, home to the stars, huh? Brightens the day up, having a celebrity sprinkle a little bit of stardust around this place – worth coming into work just for that, almost!’

What she gets off of Caspar is a slightly vacant look, to this, though. And she crinkles her brow at him, a little bit, and then sighs in despair as comprehension settles on her pretty face. ‘Really? Really, Caspar? I mean, I know you’re a bit of an academic old buffer – considering you’re twenty-five, Caspar, twenty-five, not fifty-five! But honestly, buddy. Will you please try to make an effort to keep up with pop culture? For me? Please?’

Caspar has had quite a few of these conversations with Sandy, already. She doesn’t seem to have the first idea about a proper respect for one’s employer, not at all. At least, not for an employer she’s been tutoring in the arcane intricacies of icing and baking and filling and all the what-not and fol-de-rol that seems to be the lot of the life of a cupcake baker. On several occasions she has already expressed loud and vociferous disbelief that he’s never heard of this singer, or that actor or dancer, or that show or cartoon or film. Caspar doesn’t think it’s that big a deal, but then since he’s never heard of any of them, they’re not going to be any big deal to him, are they?

Caspar doesn’t watch a lot of TV. It’s not that he’s a snob about it. It’s more that he just hasn’t had much discretionary time, and that not for quite a few years now. He’s worked his way through his undergrad, worked his way through his doctorate, put in untold hours as a teaching assistant, even had extra volunteer jobs and worked on the student council, in the union and as a LGBT rep for his college. (He’s a good guy. He’s not ostentatious about it, but he’s a good guy.) Long story short, he’s kind of oblivious about popular culture. Translated, that means he hasn’t got a clue.

And Mack, it turns out, is kind of a big deal. And translate that, and it turns out that, in Sandy’s words, ‘Oh God! This is the biggest deal ever! He is huge! I can’t believe he flirted with you so much! Even looking like that!’ And in response to Caspar’s mystified look – while he’s also serving a particularly demanding customer, and wishing that Sandy would stop the hell dancing around and attend to her duties – she gives the hugest sigh there’s ever been. ‘Mack Langot, Caspar! Please don’t tell me you’ve never heard of Mack Langot, because I’m just not going to believe you!’

Caspar, up until now, or at least up until Sandy’s excitable, frenzied explanation, has never heard of Mack Langot. He doesn’t have the foggiest, not the very least iota of an idea. But Sandy has put that to rights, all right. Mack, it seems, is a star of the hottest soap opera in all the land, filmed here in Los Angeles, and currently filming its third season. He plays Vince, a charming bounty hunter who’s embedded himself in a rich suburb with a false identity in order to catch a white-collar criminal who’s hiding out there. It’s his opportunity to entrap and collar the skeevy fellow he’s after.

And Mack is, as Sandy puts it, huge. A massive star, right here in the city of angels – where he probably belongs, after all. And Honey Gummy Gertrude’s, it seems, has, for the past few months, been his absolute favourite bakery. Even to the point where, should his personal assistant be too overloaded to pick up his favourite, habitual order for him, he sometimes stops in and picks it up himself. Although, it turns out, he’s been filming overseas for the past few weeks. And hence, neither he nor his personal assistant have been stopping off at the bakery for dark-choc caramel and macchiato, not for a while.

It is quite fun, actually, owning a place that’s evidently a popular stopping off point for famous folk. Especially supernaturally hot famous folk. Caspar thinks it might almost be worth being tied to a food service management/service role for the next couple of years – and having to wear a hairnet, and a lot of pink.

Especially if Mack decides to drop by again. Soon.

***

It’s not as if he really expects that to happen, though, or not seriously. After all, according to Sandy, it’s usually Mack’s assistant who picks up his order, and that not every day. (And what other establishment does he patronise, on the days he’s not getting his caffeine and sugar fix from Honey Gummy’s, Caspar wonders, just a little bit put out. He finds, perhaps slightly ridiculously, that he’s becoming jealous of the reputation of Honey Gummy’s, suddenly every inch the proud proprietor.

And for a couple of days, that’s certainly the case. There’s no sign of Mack or his emissary, not a one, and in fact, although it was certainly a bit of entertainment, a fillip to experience his appearance in the shop, Caspar is too busy – flat-out busy – to really think of it that much.

He does think about it a little bit, though. The guy is hellish attractive. And when Caspar has the TV on in his apartment, on his quiet Friday night in – because he’s bushed, and he needs a break, and although Sandy and some of the other staff have invited him along to a bar night, he’s not really ready to launch into a social life here in L.A. yet – he notices a trailer for something called Secret Heart. And the trailer pings something in his brain, because if he’s got it right then that’s the name of Mack’s show, something that Sandy has been needling him to check out ever since Mack’s brief appearance in the bakery. Because according to her, it’s an absolute requirement for anyone with any pretensions to engagement with popular culture, to check out at least the occasional episode. To at least stream the first series, absolute minimum.

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Lyn Whitfield on Flickr, public domain.

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Cupcake Kissin’ 14 – Alex Ankarr

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Cupcake Kissin’ 14 – Alex Ankarr

‘I’m so sorry,’ Langot responds, but it’s more to Caspar than to Sandy. And Caspar has calmed a little bit, and when Langot adds, ‘Was it, uh, sudden?’ he can smile about it.

He’s cheerful, as he takes the cake-slice and identifies – what was it, that Sandy had said? She nudges him with one elbow to correct his aim, and yes, that’s it, the ones Sandy has just had to bring in from the back-room bakery to augment their glaring absence of trayed and displayed stock. The dark-chocolate caramel muffins, topped with toffee frosting, lush with chocolate sprinkles. ‘Just the one?’ he asks, with a tip of the head to Langot, and gets a confirmatory nod. ‘Oh,’ he says, and busies himself with boxing and packaging, ‘it was just exactly how she would have wanted it, really. Wasn’t it, Sandy?’ The whole bakery know how Gertie went, now. He smiles at Langot. ‘She was out on a date with a younger man – Sid Gemmell, a spry seventy-two. They had an evening of dancing, took in a show, got a little tipsy, according to their usual waiter at Gertie’s favourite Italian. He took her home, kissed her on the doorstep-‘

‘Sid is a perfect gentleman,’ Sandy interjects, looking a little misty-eyed.

Caspar snorts a little at that, and it gets a raised eyebrow out of Langot. ‘If he really is, then that won’t have constituted quite the perfect evening, not for old Gertie. But apparently close enough, by all accounts. Macchiato, is it, sir?’ There’s no point not getting on promptly with an order, he thinks, a little bit prim perhaps. It sets a good example to Sandy, who is entirely too keen on a good old gossip with customers – for all her lecturing of him on that and multiple other subjects – and less keen on the spirit of customer service than on paying lip-service to its importance.

He’s turning into a real little old business owner, positively professional. It’s a little bit unnerving. He finishes off the frothing on the macchiato and turns back to the counter, smiles at Langot. Who is watching him rather closely, and not smiling. Inscrutable, Caspar would classify that look as. Setting the cup on the counter, he says carefully, feeling his eyes not perfectly dry – even now – ‘So, it looks like he dropped her off at her place, she went indoors, poured a nightcap – pretty strong, the paramedic said – and went to bed. Died in her sleep, heart failure. Much missed by all, very much missed.’ He coughs, and looks down at his feet as he brushes at his face, the best cover he can manage.

‘Very much missed,’ Sandy echoes, and sounds genuinely sad. ‘But even now she’s gone, she’s still managing to cause havoc, isn’t that right, Caspar?’ And she turns to give him a grin.

‘For me at least,’ Caspar confirms. ‘That’s five dollars forty, Mr Langot, thank you.’ Langot hands over the bills, and Caspar gives him his change as he shoulders coffee and muffin both.

‘I guess by that you mean leaving you this beautiful bakery?’ Langot drawls, looking a bit amused. ‘That doesn’t seem like any kind of trouble to me. Is that right, the place is yours now? That’s a sweet thing for your aunt to do for you.’

And Caspar puts his hands on his hips, and nods at Sandy. ‘You don’t know what I have to put up with. I never knew trouble until I knew the staff of the Honey Gummy Gertie Bakery, isn’t that right, Sandy?’

He gets a swat with a serving slice for his pains, and ducks, and they wind up in a little faux-spat, both giggling.

Langot’s still watching, when they’ve sobered up a bit and calmed down, turned back to him, emotion and horseplay done with. Professional, Caspar thinks. Professional behaviour must be maintained at the Honey Gummy Gertie Bakery at all times! Langot’s bought his cake, and his macchiato, and he’s technically done. There’s no reason for him to hang around, to lean up on the counter and smile at Caspar.

He’s doing it anyway, though. Takes a sip of too-hot coffee, and winces a little bit, very beautifully. ‘You don’t like cake?’ he asks Caspar. Caspar can feel, even though she’s to the side and a little behind him, the sudden raise of Sandy’s eyebrows, the way she edges just a trifle further back. Either to get out of his light, or to get a better view of the proceedings.

Well, new developments are always interesting, Caspar thinks. He feels the slightly flirtatious twist to his lips as he replies, the flutter-and-return of eye contact. ‘Oh, I’m sweet enough,’ he manages. ‘What about you?’ he asks, turning it around, leaning in himself. He’s pretty proud of himself, right this minute. Is he seriously, genuinely, definitely pulling, then? Here, in the bakery, in his pink pinny? With tissue-thin plastic gloves on his hygienic hands? With his hairnet on? ‘Do you like cake? I guess you must, if you’re such a regular you knew my auntie by name. Do you like this bakery, so very much? With your own special order, and everything?’ He gives it his best, special smile – the one with the glancing gaze, and his lids down, lashes in full effect.

If Langot could get any closer, over the distance of the counter, then he would be closer. And his eye-contact is unwavering, steady. ‘Yeah, I have a sweet tooth. I like cake, and other sweet things.’

Caspar isn’t sure if that’s a bit of blatant flirtation, or just pure teasing, but he’s pretty much charmed anyway. When Langot’s out of the door – with one last grin, and taking a big chomping first pass at the cake in his hand – he’s stood there with his chin in his hand on the counter, and sighing and smiling into space like a complete idiot.

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: duncan johnston under Creative Commons licence modified for book cover use.

 

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Jude and Danny are rival ghost-hunters with a case in common when they’re hired to work together by the same firm. Danny’s fleeing family troubles, and Jude’s recovering from a poltergeist trauma in adolescence and a nasty case of PTSD: but they both have business in mind, when they have to take on a sexy spirit. Well, business and pleasure, both…

Cupcake Kissin’ 13 – Alex Ankarr

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Cupcake Kissin’ 13 – Alex Ankarr

Caspar doesn’t get to be the one giving the sad tidings, though, because Sandy springs out of the back-room bakery section, and is all over the both of them at the most impressive top speed. And her charm offensive is in full effect, too. And it isn’t as if Sandy doesn’t give good customer service on a normal day, with a normal customer. But she’s certainly going all out with this guy. (And Caspar can scarcely blame her.)

‘Mr Langot! It’s been so long since the last time you came in to see us!’ she flutters at him happily. Boy, subtle she isn’t. Doesn’t seem like she’s even going for subtle. ‘I’m so happy to see you here at Honey Gummy’s again!’

Caspar has to give a discreet cough at that, which is his own form of revenge for the past few days, for induction and training and utterly ridiculous and inflexible bakery procedures, to which he now thoroughly understands he must stick rigidly, or risk forfeiting his nice little inheritance. Sandy is probably caught off guard, what with the sudden arrival of what is clearly her favourite customer, but it’s not like she’s been cutting him any slack for difficult circumstances. He’s been thrown into the cupcake-hurling business, inducted about as quickly as a doughnut getting dipped in and out of the deep-fat fryer, and done up in white linen and hairnet as pretty much the most effective prophylactic ever, since there’s no-one on the planet who is going to be interested in getting busy with him, not once they’ve clocked him in this horrendous get-up.

And yet, Sandy still picks him up on every single infraction, every failure to have the prescribed customer greeting down pat. And he her boss, technically, even so! How’s that goose sauce tasting, Sandy, he thinks a little vindictively, grinning at her, before saying, ‘Or even, welcome to the Honey Gummy Gertrude Bakery, what can I get you, cupcake?’ with a very meaningful cough.

Sandy spares him a quick glare, and gives him a slight kick under cover of the counter. ‘You covered that, didn’t you, sir,’ she points out, and the tone of her voice is mean, even if her eyes say she’s slightly amused by his jabbing. And she turns back to hot guy, clearly not really having a lot of attention to spare for Caspar. ‘This is my new boss, Mack, can you believe it?’ she says, with a lot more eye-rolling and eyebrow-raising than Caspar feels is entirely fair or reasonable. ‘The one in the hairnet.’

‘I’m rocking it a lot harder than you are, Sandy,’ Caspar points out, although that is of dubious factual accuracy. Sandy is a bubble-headed blond with big blue eyes, and actually can kind of pull off a white and hot pink bakery staff uniform combo without looking entirely un-doable. Even the hairnet.

‘He’s right,’ a very smooth voice confirms, and Caspar feels his head spin on his neck like he’s actively trying to rupture something. ‘It’s a very good look on him.’

And Caspar eyeballs this joker carefully, because there’s no way in hell the guy isn’t making fun of him. And, yeah, certainly – there’s a little smirk pulling at that narrow, pleasingly modelled mouth. But in fact it doesn’t look malicious. In fact it might even be interpreted as an invitation to a shared joke. To making a little fun of the other third party here, in fact.

Caspar’s day is looking up. ‘Sure it is,’ he agrees solemnly, looking down at himself. He’s got white slacks on – regulation – under his white overall. And a pink checked gingham shirt, under his pink floral pinny. God damn, but it’s not helped by the perky little pink cap over the hairnet either.

Caspar has been assessed, by many an objective observer, as an attractive young man. (Some of them not so very objective, either. Some of them slightly inebriated at the time, and some of them quite definitely trying to get into his pants. But then, that just amounts to further evidence in his favour, to Caspar’s mind.) It would take a helluva pretty face, though, he thinks, to get past the hurdle of his current outfit, to overwhelm it.

He does have quite a pretty face, though. Blue eyes, quite like Sandy’s. Chestnut curly hair, what you can see of it, under the god damn hairnet. ‘You look familiar,’ hot guy – Mack, apparently – says to him, forehead creasing up like he’s trying to place Caspar, now. ‘Do I know you from…’

Caspar laughs at that, but it’s not really so funny. It gives him an odd sharp pang in the middle of his chest, in fact. This guy was evidently one of Aunt Gertie’s favourite customers. Had to be, if he asks for her particularly, knows that she’ll know his order. It’s not the first time it’s happened in the last week, but it’s a special, peculiar, sharp little grief each time. ‘No, sir,’ he says, voice softening a little, enough so he can hear it himself. ‘You don’t know me from anywhere. But if I look familiar it’s because Mrs Honey was my aunt.’

This Mack is evidently pretty damned sharp, sharp enough to pick up immediately on the past tense in use. His face sobers up, a lot, and the look he levels at Caspar is softer, dialling down from just a touch flirtatious, to sympathetic, and a little emotional himself. ‘Gertie’s dead?’ he checks.

Caspar gives a brief perfunctory smile, and begins to move the cakes around in the display with the tongs, arranging them in a more orderly fashion where they’ve been disarranged by service. And Sandy – who is not so bad, who is a good girl – rushes in to break the awkwardness. ‘Oh, Mr Langot. I didn’t think to realise, that you haven’t been in since before – well, since before Mrs H passed on.’

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Lyn Whitfield on Flickr, public domain.

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Jude is terminally ill, and he’s tired of it. He decides that just because he’s dying, it doesn’t mean he can’t live a little. With his sister he concocts a plan for adventures, including erotic and romantic ones. So he goes speed-dating: but his date with Walt gets him a lot more than he bargained for. Maybe too much to cope with, for a sad sick guy like him?

Cupcake Kissin’ 12 – Alex Ankarr

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Cupcake Kissin’ 12 – Alex Ankarr

So he’s not in any hurry to turn and greet the customer, as the doorbell jangles and footsteps enter the store. He’s busy, watching after Sandy, sighing over his own terrible, terrible, burnt-sugar and coffee scented morning. (Damn right the money had better be good, to make this whole endeavour worthwhile.) And at this point – even just a few days in, at the point where he’s really still just a rookie with frosting stains on his overall, who can’t keep the freezee menu straight in his head, for all he’s still technically the boss – it’s a little bit terrifying that the customer-spiel is apparently engraved in his head to the point that he doesn’t even have to think about it, even staring into space and twiddling a candy cane between finger and thumb.

So that’s what he does, because it’s an issue that is distinctly non-negotiable. It has been made abundantly clear to him, in his aunt’s lawyers’ offices, and here in his brand new shiny business opportunity, that if there is any serious infraction of, or disrespect for, his aunt’s loony-tuney bequest stipulations, then that is liable to get him, if not summarily shot out on his ear and denuded of sudden munificence, then certainly pulled in to explain his failures and deficiencies, and possibly put on report for more serious repercussions.

‘…get you, cupcake?’ is the first thing he’s even aware of, after momentarily zoning out, because yes, it’s that automatic, even already. And with the realisation of his inattention, he jumps, stiffens, stands to attention and slaps a big beaming I am the king of customer service shit-eating smile on his face.

Or, at least, he’s fully aware that that is what should have happened. In fact, what snaps him back to a state of full customer-serving attention, is a cough right up close at his ear. And then a low rumble of a voice, that’s musical enough to set something going, alert and interested, in his loins. And it’s clear and sharp of diction enough to signal that the possessor is maybe just a little bit annoyed. (He’s heard that kind of voice before, a time or two, in bars, in places it would be less inappropriate to act on it in ways that directly involve his loins. It’s a rare kind of voice, though. Not the kind you’re going to run up against every day.)

It’s enough to jerk him up out of a waking slumber, anyway. It would be plenty, anywhere, to get him to take a very close and interested look at the owner of a voice like that.

So he does, but he tries to make it a strictly professional, cupcake-selling kind of a look. And he hopes he succeeds, but there still, he owns, might be just the trace of a leer involved in it. Because this guy is hot.

Caspar knew he would be, already, before look one, before lifting and turning his head. No-one with a voice like that is going to be not-hot. He is, however, several degrees more scorching than even Caspar had anticipated. Closely-cropped russetty-blond hair, sharply flashing hazel eyes, and a sensitively-modelled poet’s face that’s topped off with a surprisingly tight, uncompromising mouth, a severely angular chin. He’s tall and built and relaxed, gracefully leaning against the counter, leaning in towards Caspar. But he’s only relaxed in the way that someone considering which one of several potentially lethal moves to employ is relaxed. There’s a faint trace of a smile on his face, but his eyes are harder than hazel eyes can usually manage, definitely annoyed.

This really isn’t the way to treat a customer. (Or a potential lay, but that’s just an aside.) With the sudden shot of adrenalin giving him the old espresso pop-eyes and speedy voice, Caspar is immediately paying a whole lot more attention than he was just half a minute ago. He’s smiling big, and he’s giving it a whole lot of whatever they teach salespeople at salesperson charm school. And all of it on instinct.

Auntie Gertie would be so extremely proud of him. ‘Sorry, you caught me napping there, got to admit! But believe me, here at Honey Gummy Gertrude’s – HGGs, I like to call it! – we are all about the customer! What can I do for you, sir? We go all out to please and I really want to make your day!’

Okay, so maybe he’s going a little far over the top. But considering his outfit, it’s not like he has any actual chance of a score, here. (Sadly.) He might as well sell all the damn cupcakes and baked goods he can, and at least make some money to cushion his bottom line, while he’s working.

It gets him a questionably raised eyebrow, and the guy straightens up a little, to survey him more carefully. Which is a mini-tragedy all by itself. Getting up this close and personal to this fine, fine specimen of manhood is the best news that Caspar has had all day thus far. Not that that’s saying a whole lot, considering his day thus far. But it’s saying a little, at least.

‘You don’t know my order?’ fine, fine guy asks. ‘No,’ he adds, sounding resigned. ‘Of course you don’t know my order. Where’s Sandy?’ he asks hopefully, looking a fraction friendlier, as the thought occurs to him to ask for someone who’s clearly one of his regulars. ‘Or maybe Mrs Honey? Is she around?’

Well. The Hot Guy clearly isn’t all that much of a regular, if he’s not up on the latest developments regarding ownership of Honey Gummy Gertrude’s. And Caspar feels a little bit of a pang, distracting him – over the prospect of having to give someone the same old bad news he’s given so often lately, to customer after customer, and over his Auntie Gertie herself. It’s still fresh. The old broad would be glad to know he’s grieving her so sincerely. (Then she would slap him around the chops for maudlin whining, and take him out for a drink or eight.)

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: duncan johnston under Creative Commons licence modified for book cover use.