PART TWO - Chapter 12

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That did it. I slammed my computer shut and tossed it onto the love seat beside me. As if meeting Kennedy hadn't been painful enough. Now it looked like I had a lot more to worry about than I thought.

***

I needed to get out of the apartment. I grabbed my favorite sweater, put on my boots, and took a walk to clear my head. This time, I decided to explore the neighborhood in the opposite direction, and it made me happy to see cute, inviting shops waiting that way as well.

As soon as I spotted the bakery on the other side of the street, I knew I had to cross and take a look. With its pink and white striped awnings and adorable sidewalk seating, the idea of a coffee and pastry outside in the fresh air seemed like my personal New York fantasy. And then I stepped through the door, and the wave of complex scents made me a little teary. This was a real bakery; nothing pre-packaged in this place. It smelled like home.

I stood in front of the case, eyes dancing over all of the beautiful pastries. We'd had a good selection at Julian's, but this display made that one look sparse. Three times, I had to let people in line behind me go ahead because I just couldn't make a decision.

"May I make a recommendation?" said the distinguished man behind the counter. His mop of grey hair somehow managed to look impeccably messy, and his brown eyes reminded me of a golden retriever.

"Oh yes, please," I said. "What's your favorite?'

"I have too many favorites," he said, patting the curve of his belly. "But I have always been partial to galettes. We have some beautiful peach ones today. Also the palmiers. I make those every day because I love them so much."

I smiled. "You're the baker?"

"Indeed I am. My name is Pierre."

"Hello, Pierre. I'm Emma, and your palmiers are beautiful. I've made them many times, but they've never looked as perfect as yours."

His eyes widened. "You are also a baker."

"I am. I worked in a bakery in Minnesota for several years before moving here."

With a little grin, he held up a hand, then bent down toward the case. When he stood, he handed me a small plate with a glistening peach galette and a palmier, perfectly browned and perfectly heart shaped. "From one artiste to another," he said.

It felt like Christmas. "Oh, how lovely. Thank you so much," I said. Unable to wait, I immediately took a bite of the palmier. The crispy, buttery sweetness melted in my mouth. "That's amazing," I told him.

He bent his head forward in thanks. "Did you have a specialty when you worked at your bakery?"

"I guess that would be my eclairs," I said, my heart aching a little when thoughts of Zach rushed into my mind. "I really miss baking, but my kitchen is so small here in New York that I don't think I'll be able to cook and bake like I used to back home."

He tapped his lips with one finger and studied me. "I happen to have a very large kitchen, state of the art equipment, and an opening for a part-time pastry chef if you're interested. My son is cutting back his hours so he can finish culinary school, and I could really use the help."

Shock washed over me. This was like a magical coincidence. I took a bite of the galette and felt like I might faint at its perfection. "It would be a dream to work in a place like this."

He clasped his hands together in front of his chest. "It would be a dream for me to find good help. Instead of an interview, I usually ask applicants to bake something for me. When could you come in and do that?"

I shook my head, feeling like I'd just found a winning lottery ticket lying on the sidewalk. "How about right now?"

"A girl after my own heart," he exclaimed. "Let me make you a cappuccino so you can properly enjoy those pastries. After that, we'll get you set up in the kitchen." He walked to the far end of the counter and soon I heard the hiss of the espresso machine.

Not wanting to devour everything before the coffee arrived, I stared down at the little plate and grinned. Who could have predicted this? Thank goodness I'd gone for that walk. Could it be possible that life in New York was going to be pretty great after all?


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