Take A Number by Amy Daws

The bell above the door jingles as the familiar scent of fried dough permeates my nose. I glance around the quaint bakery peppered with regulars and find Norah behind the glass display case.

She purses her lips when she sees me coming. “You were just here last night, Moser. Aren’t you worried about ruining that supposed six-pack you’re always bragging about?”

“Norah, have you been thinking about me naked again?” A knowing smile spreads across my face. “You really should see a therapist about your obsession with me. My friend Lynsey has her own practice now…you could give her a call.”

Her cheeks flush a rosy hue that I’ve become addicted to bringing out in her, but she maintains her poker face as she fiddles with her bandana over her shoulder-length blond hair. “Dean, did you know that narcissist spelled backward is douchebag?”

“I had no idea!” My lips part in mock surprise. “The alphabet must have changed since last time I checked.” She can always dish it out just as well as she can take my overtly flirting ways.

“Hey, if you can make shit up, so can I.” She fails to hide her smirk as she lowers her gaze back to her large tray of colorful donuts and begins arranging them in a precise order.

I adjust my glasses and smile fondly. I love it when Norah is in a feisty mood. My first clue should have been her bandana, featuring Heart, a popular band from the eighties. I come into Rise and Shine Bakery enough to know that when Norah is wearing her classic rock bandanas, she’s not to be messed with.

Except for the fact that messing with her is always the highlight of my week.

Most women don’t fight back the way Norah does. Most women fall for my charms and trip over themselves to flirt with me. I may be bearded, but I’m not the typical knuckle-dragging, small-town Colorado guy who wears flannel and drones on and on about camping and ice fishing. I appreciate the finer things in life, like travel, nice clothing, IPA beer, and artfully constructed charcuterie boards.

Real men can taste the subtle nuances between a one-year aged cheddar and a five-year aged cheddar.

I should print that on a T-shirt.

My point is, the ladies of Boulder, Colorado, dig me. They appreciate my expensive shoes and tailored dress shirts. And they practically salivate over the story of my self-educated brilliance and the wealth I’ve made in the stock market as a result.

But not the stunning Norah Donahue, who makes the best croissant and donut combination I’ve ever tasted. She mocks my worldly charms.

I fucking love it.

I lean against the glass case and sigh heavily. “Norah, Norah, Norah, if you want to see me naked, all you have to do is ask.” I make a move to undo the top button of my dress shirt.

“Oh, trust me, I know,” she groans, her blue eyes meet mine with a challenge. “You’ve made your availability abundantly clear to the entire state of Colorado, Dean Moser. But no shirt, no service. That’s company policy.”

I clutch my fist to my chest, wounded. “Is this how you treat your best customer?” My eyes dance over every feature on her face—mostly because it’s all that’s visible since she’s determined to wear an ugly baker’s muumuu to work every day. Thankfully, her face is striking enough to distract me from her questionable fashion sense.

Norah’s features have a Nordic look to them—fair hair, blue eyes, high cheekbones, and a sloped nose that curves up at the tip to humanize her a bit. Her pale complexion contrasts stunningly with her full, peach lips that my eyes always seem to zero in on. Her top lip is deliciously larger than the bottom, and I’ve fantasized multiple times what it would be like to kiss them.

In short, Norah is gorgeous, and she couldn’t care less.

“You would be my best customer if you didn’t make it your life’s mission to get on my nerves.”

My brows lift. “I wouldn’t get on your nerves if you’d finally let me see what’s under that biohazard suit you wear to work every day.”

Her jaw drops, and she pulls away from the donut case, dropping her empty tray on the counter with a loud clack. “You are the king of too far, Moser. Please God, why did I ever think it’d be wise to let you become an investor in my second bakery?”

I huff out an incredulous noise. “Well, normally, I try not to mix business with pleasure, but something tells me you’d be worth it.” I hit her with a stunning smile that she does not reciprocate, and damn if it doesn’t make me smile even more.