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Julia studied Thorne for a few moments. “Something simple?”

“Yes.” She was good. “I’m looking for something classic but not boring.”

Was that right? That fit Thorne’s tastes, but what about Riley’s? Why was Thorne second-guessing himself all of a sudden? That wasn’t like him.

Julia showed Thorne some gold bracelets, but they didn’t feel right. A black leather one was closer but still not quite the thing. Then she pulled out a sterling silver bracelet that looked like two braided cords of silver held together by three bands spaced at intervals around the circle, one enclosing the clasp. Thorne couldn’t explain why, but it was perfect for Riley. Maybe there was some deep symbolism about them being bound together—or bound to the bed on occasion. Thorne had to force himself to keep a straight face after that thought.

“That’s the one,” he said.

“Fantastic. I love this piece.”

Thorne wanted to give it to Riley right away. “Would you wrap it up for me?”

“Of course,” Julia said. “It’ll be just a few moments.”

He glanced at his watch. He needed to be back at his office soon, but if he worked quickly, he could leave early and surprise Riley at the bakery. He pulled out his phone and called Bavaria Haus, the first restaurant he and Riley had ever eaten at. He would take Riley out to dinner and do the proposal properly this time.

CHAPTER TWO

Riley surveyed the chaos in the space that would become A Dash of Perfection. The building was a mess. It had been neglected for months, but at least there had been a kitchen, and one fairly well suited for what he and his business partner, Susan, needed. They would have to tear out a section of the existing counter to make room for the Hobart mixer, but the oven space was adequate. They needed to update the existing appliances with the exception of one of the fridges, which was of a higher quality. He tried not to think too much about the enormity of the project as he prioritized the things that required attention. He’d had a phone interview with a designer that morning, and they were meeting in person the next day. He wanted to be well prepared for the discussion.

The front end of the shop was in better condition than the kitchen. The floor needed resurfacing, but the prep counter was in good shape, as was the area where they would place the cash register. They’d already ordered some display cases, tables, chairs, and lots of small things. They still had to figure out dishes and trays and… Oh God, there was so much to do.

It’s going to be worth it.

Riley sure as hell hoped so. If he lived through all the renovations, he truly believed he would love having his very own bakery. And as overwhelming as it all seemed, they weren’t starting off too large, just baked goods, coffee, and tea. They’d close midafternoon, and they wouldn’t open on Sunday since they expected more weekday business in the area they were in. Maybe, just maybe, he’d be able to keep up. He’d promised Thorne he would continue to make time for them. Now they were going to be married, in the midst of all this. How the hell was he going to add wedding planning to what he was already doing? At least he knew a good baker for the cake. He laughed, but it threatened to turn to hysteria.

You have a charmed existence; quit being so negative.

He sure did, and pessimism wasn’t like him, but these last six months… Life altering was the best way to describe them. The fact that he was here, in this space, ready to create his own shop, seemed miraculous. When Riley hadn’t been able to rent the space, Thorne had bought the entire building. Riley had been angry initially, and that had been a rough stretch for them, but he’d finally realized Thorne saw supporting his dream financially as a way of loving him. It was one of the things Thorne knew he could give. So Riley accepted it. He wasn’t going to ruin their relationship by being too fucking stubborn.

And now you’re where you want to be.

He was, but that didn’t make it any less terrifying.

Getting married and starting your own business both had to be in the top-ten list of life stressors.

Riley leaned against the counter, resting his head on his hand and rereading through his renovation ideas, when a jingle startled him. He turned to see Thorne opening the door and stepping in.

His heart sped up at the sight, and he couldn’t look away. How did Thorne still do that to him after all these months?

Because the man is fucking gorgeous.

Gorgeous and utterly his. An image of just how far Thorne would go to please him popped into his mind, and he smiled lasciviously at his fiancé.


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