“We’re coming to you live from The Epic Bake-Off, where the best pastry chefs compete to see who will hold the title of Most Epic Baker,” the show’s host announces from the big screen.
She’s tall, skinny, and looks like she hasn’t tasted a pastry in a very long time. Maybe she’s one of those mythical creatures who can eat anything she wants and not gain a single pound. Kind of wish that was me.
A few people in the hotel lobby cheer—they must be here for the Bake-Off, like me—and the three hot-as-sin men in line before me clap. Do they bake? Or are they fans? If they’re also mythical creatures who can eat all the dessert they want, I think I might cry.
I’m staring at them as intently as I would at a mouthwatering soufflé baking in the oven. I can’t help it. My God, they’re delicious. I’m drooling over them almost as much as I’d drool over a buttery, flaky pastry. And, I’m proud to say, mine are so scrumptious that I’m a contestant on the show.
Of course, none of the hotties have so much as looked my way since I got in line behind them. But I’m used to blending into the background. No one ever notices the short, curvy girl unless she’s handing them their pastries. But anyone who’s tasted what I bake doesn’t overlook me twice. Hey, maybe I should shove a Danish or two in their mouths.
“Next,” a receptionist calls out.
There are two staff members working the desk, and almost as soon as the three hot men step forward, the other receptionist calls for the next person in line.
“I’d like to check in, please.” I slide my credit card and ID across the desk.
“Do you have a reservation?”
She smiles and turns to her computer screen. But then her smile falls. “I’m sorry, ma’am. We’ve been trying to reach you all day. Unfortunately, your room had a plumbing issue, and we’re all booked up because of the Bake-Off, so we’ve had to cancel your reservation.” She slides a paper across the desk. “Again, I’m so sorry. Please accept this free one-week stay as an apology. It’s valid any time after the Bake-Off.”
I gawk at the paper, my heart rate skyrocketing. “But I’m one of the contestants. The Bake-Off is why I’m here!” My voice is laced with panic and quite a bit louder than I’d intended.
I glance over my shoulder and notice that people are staring, including one of the men who was in line in front of me. He’s tall, tanned, muscular, and has stubble on his cheeks, like he didn’t have time to shave this morning. If he had to be at the airport as early as I did, that’s probably what happened.
When our eyes meet, my heart skips a beat. Then it skips another ten when I realize just how screwed I am.
“I’m halfway across the country”—I turn to the receptionist, my tone low and pleading—“for the most important competition of my career. What am I supposed to do?”
“I really wish I could help. I’m so, so sorry.” She hands me a brown envelope. “These are your competition documents.”
“But all the Airbnbs and motels are fully booked. This was the only hotel that had an opening, and now you’re telling me I don’t have a room?”
”If there was anything else I could do, or any other rooms—”
“Do you have a couch in your break room? A closet? Anything?” My voice turns hysterical, but this is my dream, and it’s turning into a nightmare.
“We have room.” The deep, sexy voice sends shivers traveling down my spine, and a wave of hope courses through me.
“You do?” I turn to stare at the three men who were in line in front of me.
The one I made eye contact with earlier gives me a small smile. “I said we have room,” he repeats. “We booked a suite. And we’d be happy to double up so you can have one of the beds. We’re here for the competition, too.”
He opens a brown envelope and takes out three badges.
My heart starts to race. The thought of sharing a room with them makes me flush. I’m surprised I don’t turn into a puddle at their feet.
I stare, wide-eyed, at his equally wide-eyed friends. They look like they’d been shocked into complete silence. They’re probably thinking of a polite way to tell him he’s nuts and they’re not okay sharing their space with a curvy baker they just met.
“Look, I don’t want to inconvenience your friends,” I tell him, because it’s the right thing to do. Even if I am desperate, and I have no clue what I’ll do if they say no.