“911 what’s your emergency?”
“Yes, my name is Heather Ryan. I need to cancel the fire trucks that are on their way to 218 Royal Street—Cupcakes on Royal. It’s a false alarm.”
Heather waited for the space of a heartbeat while she wiped cake batter off her face before looking at the mess dripping from the wall and yes, she noted, the ceiling fan. Perhaps she was going to have to rethink this whole brilliant idea of her cupcakery.
Dark smoke billowed out of the industrial oven. She waved a potholder ineffectively, trying to clear the air. The pan of burnt cupcakes rested on the stainless steel counter, mocking her and once again proving she wasn’t a baker.
“You want to cancel the alarm?” The dispatcher asked, incredulous. “I’m sorry, ma’am. Once the trucks roll, we can’t cancel them.”
“Damn,” Heather muttered to herself as she walked through the black lacquered doors into the main room of the cupcakery, looking though the large windows into the predawn morning looking for the trucks. This was going to make the third time the fire department had come to her little shop and she really hoped the crew who showed up this time was not the same one from last time. The lieutenant had been old and cranky and swore he’d fine her the next time.
Was it her fault she got so caught up in something she lost track of all the other things needing to be done? “Well, duh, Heather, yeah it is,” she muttered to herself as the trucks pulled up. “Please, God, if you’re listening, don’t let Lt. Grump be on this crew.” Heather tried figuring out their schedule—yeah, sadly, she’d gotten to know her local fire department that well and she wanted to avoid talking to Lt. Marcus.
Lights flashing, the fire truck pulled up to the building. “Please God, don’t let him be on that truck.” She squeezed eyes shut before letting out a resigned sigh then moved to unlock the front door. She didn’t need the New Orleans Fire Department breaking the door or window in their attempt to save her from herself.
A sigh of relief escaped her as she watched Garret step down from the rig and walk toward the shop. Heather nibbled on her batter coated thumb; fear and nerves made her shake. If the sweet batter was anything to judge by, she may have gotten the recipe right. Finally! However, that was secondary to the mess she had to clean up and the sweet talking she was going to have to do in order to avoid a hefty false alarm bill.
Quickly, she grabbed a damp cloth and began wiping the remnants of blackberry cupcake batter off her face.
“Heather, darlin, you’ve got to do something about your alarms. One more false alarm and we’re going to have to fine you. Well, the parish will fine you.”
“I know, Garret, but I swear I don’t know what the problem is. I’ve done everything you’ve suggested I do, short of disabling the system and seriously breaking code. I don’t know what more to do.”
Garret removed his helmet and poked around, looking for whatever a firefighter was supposed to look for when clearing a false alarm.
Once his inspection was done, he walked over to her and wiped a smudge of batter off her face. “What happened this time, brat? Did a butterfly flit on through here this early in the morning?”
“Ha, ha.” Heather swiped at her face once again, resisting the urge to scratch at her neck where the cupcake batter had dried and left her itchy. Her cousin was such a riot…NOT. “I was paying attention; just forgot to set the timer. I have to get this order done and then I need to start working on the Krewe party order. I’m feeling totally stressed.”
An alarm sounded on his belt. “I’ve got another call. Set the timer next time and keep an eye on things.”
Heather listened to the bell ring over the door as he left before she collapsed against the counter, cradling her head in her hands, her eyes squeezed shut. This couldn’t be happening to her.
She hoped to land a huge commission, baking cupcakes for the Krewe of Bacchus Party on Fat Tuesday. But she first had a tasting this afternoon with the two leads of the Krewe. She was making a Pecan Praline and a King Cake cupcakes, along with some fruity-flavored, bite-size fairy cakes. All she needed to do was get downtown with an edible batch for the tasting and hopefully win the hearts of the Krewe, or in this case their taste buds.
The bell over the door rang again and Heather looked up to see Ashley walking in.
“Hey, what’s up? Just saw the trucks pull away.” Ashley wandered over to the display case and perused the cupcakes. “These look so yummy, Heather!”
“Thanks. As to the question regarding the trucks, another false alarm.” A deep sigh escaped her; she was really growing frustrated with the alarms. “Thankfully, Garrett’s crew took the call.”
“So, what caused it this time?” She smiled as she pointed. “You have some pink goop in the center of your forehead.”
Heather swiped at her face and moved toward the kitchen. “Come with me. I have a mess to clean up and I still need to get the rest of today’s cupcakes piped and out in the case.”
“Holy crap!” Ashley looked around the kitchen. “What on earth happened?” A drop of cake batter chose that moment to drop and hit her on the arm. Instead of getting upset she scooped it up with her finger and took a taste. “Yummy.”
She winked and continued to take in the disaster that was the kitchen.
Heather looked at her pink splattered kitchen. “I’m an idiot. I accidently flipped the mixer switch on high just as the smoke alarms went off.” She pointed to the ruined cupcakes on the counter. “I seriously need to get at least a dozen more done and then I need to work on the Krewe party tastings for this afternoon.
Ashley put down her purse. “Well, then put me to work. What do you want me to do?”
Heather set her friend to mixing the batter and filling the cupcake papers while she worked on piping the remaining cupcakes and adding the decorations.
Between the two of them, they got the rest of the cupcakes done in record time and into the display case before opening time.
“Thanks for the help, Ash.”
“Not a problem.” She grabbed a Blueberry Pancake cupcake and took a bite. “These are so good, Heather.”
“Glad you like them.”
“You look tired. Why don’t you go up and take a shower, get cleaned up. I’ll watch the store for you.”
“That would be great.” Heather still itched from the batter clinging to her skin from earlier and wanted to get changed. “I’ll be right back.”
“Take your time,” Ashley called, opening the front door and flipping the sign.
Heather ran up the stairs and into her apartment. Her cupcakery was located directly across the street from the famed Hotel Monteleone. She’d hoped the location would be a bonus, and since her store came with an upstairs apartment, she figured it was worth the cost of the rent. Now, if only she could get her act together.
Frustration, exhaustion and a sense of something inexplicable was going to happen coursed through her, leaving her tingling and anxious at the same time. Not a good combo.
Stress and determination to make something of her life the past few months had left her without much of a social life, add to the fact her closest friend, Ashley, just married her true love. It left Heather feeling almost left out. What she needed now was a little time for herself, and maybe a chance for a happy ending of her own. If Ashley could find ‘the one,’ so could she. Problem was, she just needed to schedule time to find him. Yeah, that would be a breeze.
Of course that would all have to wait until she made a success of her business.
“I’m going to be the single, cranky cat lady on the block,” Heather muttered as she stepped into the warm stream of water. “I can’t let that happen.” She was going to be the rare person who could have her cake and eat it too! After all she was a baker.