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The Billionaire’s Betrothed

By:Ella Cari

The Billionaire’s Betrothed


Key to My Heart, Book 1





Ella Cari





Chapter One





This is what I get, I suppose.

I glanced around the empty chairs of the bakery, eyes lingering on the dented off-white metal of the old chair backs.

There was a time, practically before I could remember, when people were stuffed into the seats here, splitting a piece of cherry pie with their spouse or child. The metal of the chairs was so clean it almost hurt to look at them under the fluorescent, cheery lights. Age had not been kind to the chairs, however.

Now, this place was practically a ghost town. Passersby never even glanced curiously into the windows anymore.

Once, the scent of freshly baked chocolate pie would pull patrons in off the street like a beautiful siren’s song. Now, I couldn't afford to bake things not specifically ordered, though I rarely even got those any longer. No pretty frosted cookies rest perkily in glass boxes, no cheesecakes or cupcakes or pastries waited to be snatched up by greedy, sticky fingered children whose parents were footing the tasty bill.

Nope.

These days, I spent hours staring bleakly at the oven I wasn't even sure would start anymore. Soot clung thick and strong to the walls of the oven, the burners up top were glazed over. Talk about a fire hazard.

I wasn't even sure how I'd gotten the business to last as long as it had now. It was a pure and simple mystery as to how the doors were still open. My luck was running short now.

It'd only taken me a year, after all, to crash my parents' hopes and dreams into the ground. They were probably looking down at me in mortification right now.

They'd all but spent their entire lives making this shop the hit of our small town, and now the doors would be shutting forever by the end of the week.

I groaned, head lurching forward to slap the rough wood of our service counter.

"Macy!" I could practically hear my mother's sweet, southern drawl from where she would normally be rolling out pie crusts by the stove, "You pick that head up right now, young lady!"

My father, a man of much less words, would just be silently shaking his head from the corner as he went through the business ledger with a fine toothed comb. The disappointment in his eyes would have me begging him for a stern lecture rather than silent judgement.

I'd always said I never wanted to take up at the shop. I rebuffed every chance my parents gave for me to be more involved in the bakery.

That wasn't my dream, after all, I would retort nastily. I would come to regret that bitter tongue in later years.

With a solemn chuckle, I sank down onto one of the cream colored chairs, twirling a leftover red striped straw wrapper between my fingers.

There was no reason to push away honesty now. I'd always been jealous of the cozy little shop they ran.

How strange, to be jealous of something that couldn’t even speak for itself.

The bakery was basically another child for my parents, though. It needed tending, attention, and time. More often than not, it needed more than I did, or at least more than I would ever let on.

Funny, how much I despised any time in the shop then but now I was desperately trying to turn this sinking ship back around. It hurt too much to dwell over how much time I wasted running away from my parents and their passion. If I had just come around a bit more…

I'd always expected more time to fix the strain on the relationship between my parents and myself. I'd always expected this shop to be run by them...well forever, really.

How often had I pushed off a simple phone call for weeks at a time? How often had I ‘almost’ come for a visit?

Obviously at this point I knew how foolish that was. And yet, I kept turning my brain back in that direction, like running your tongue over a cut in your mouth just to see if it would still hurt.

Had it really only been a year since I got that phone call in the middle of the night...

Shaking my head, I lurched back up to my feet, turning to flip through the recipe guide my mother had kept under the counter. She had no need for such a thing, I liked to imagine she kept it there just for me.

The ingredients swirled in front of my eyes, as though it were another language.

I was not a baker. I couldn't even cook. It was quite clear why all of the regular patrons had vanished so quickly, none of them wanted to taste any of the "treats" that I concocted.

I had not been lucky enough to inherit my mother and father's sweet thumb, that was for sure. I could spend all day baking away in the kitchen and barely come up with anything edible.

It'd been so, so very foolish of me to think that I could swoop in here and right every wrong I'd done against my family. I thought if my parents were able to run this bakery so smoothly, I should be able to do the same.

That, however, was definitely not the case.

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