TAKE A CHANCE AND MAKE IT HAPPEN.
WHEN THE BLUE-EYED BEAUTY
Layla Ellison isn’t above wishing on stars or dropping pennies in fountains to make her lifelong dream of opening a bakery come true. And when the perfect building goes up for sale in her idyllic hometown of Silver Lake, she’s determined to be the one who buys it. So what if she’s nearly broke, has no credit and can’t get a loan to save her life? Or that her perfect building goes to the highest bidder in only forty-seven days? She’ll do whatever it takes, even if it means making a devil’s bargain.
MEETS THE DARK-HAIRED DEVIL…
Jin Li knows how to use his hands. As Silver Lake’s best mechanic—and one of its most eligible bachelors—he can make the crankiest of engines purr. And when the gorgeous Layla drives into his life in one of the worst lemons he’s ever seen, he’s only too happy to help. But fixing her car takes time, time Layla doesn’t have. So when Jin offers to drive her to her whirlwind list of catering jobs, she simply can’t refuse.
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN
The attraction is instantaneous, and as the days go on, Layla finds herself falling for Jin more and more. But when a devastating betrayal threatens to ruin everything, Layla begins to wonder if her dream is worth the pain, if her heart is worth the risk. If she never should have trusted a dark-haired devil.
Full of delicious romance and characters that will captivate, Sweetly Irresistible, the debut book in the Taking Chances contemporary romance series, proves that going after your dreams—and falling in love—really are the sweetest things of all.
“I just have a few more questions to go.”
I smile and clench my hands tighter. It’s the second of November, in the thick of my favorite season. Normally, this is the time I’m at my most comfortable—no need for AC, no need yet for heat. I can still wear short sleeves with long pants. Evenings can be brisk but all I need is a blanket and my coffee. Like I said, cozy. But right now, I’m…what’s the phrase? Sweating like a sinner in church. And squirming like a baby in the same pew.
“And how much do you make annually?”
My right hand is clutching the fingers of my left so hard I’m surprised my knuckles aren’t cracking. I answer, “It’s been a slow season. I did just have four parties over the last few months, though. Each one was worth—”
“I just need a number, Miss Ellison.”
I lick my lips. “Sixteen-thousand.”
The woman—it’s weird to call her Patty; Patty is a name for nice aunts and helpful old ladies, not helmet-haired bank tellers with bad acrylic—puts her hand on her mouse and moves it in a small circle. She hasn’t made any real eye contact with me since I’ve sat down.
“What is your job?”
“What do you do?’
“I’m a baker.”
Casually, I tuck a strand of hair behind my ear, wiping a bead of sweat off my face as I do so. I can’t believe it. I felt so good when I woke up this morning. I love the start of a new month, I love the feel of a new beginning. It’s like my motivation is fresh and I can begin again, stronger and better than before. But the minute I sat down with Patty, I felt as hopeful as a bug pinned under a microscope.
“Um, like I was saying though, the jobs I do can pay anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, so it—”
“Do you have any other source of income?”
Jesus, would I be wearing a button-down shirt a size too small and a gray skirt with a small hole on the hem above my left knee if I had any other sources of income?
I shake my head. “Just the catering.”
Mouse click. Typing. Mouse click.
“And what would this loan be for? To pay off existing debt?”
Deep breath, I’ve rehearsed this. “Actually, I’d use the money to open my own bakery. I’ve always wanted to be a small business owner, especially here. I’ve spent my life in Silver Lake and think the residents would especially enjoy a bakery in their neighborhood. Cake Shoppe is the nearest one, and it’s almost five miles—”
“Okay, that’s all I need.”
Ever play the game Red Light, Green Light? Someone yells “green light!” and you run as fast as you can toward them and then, without warning, they yell “red light!” and you have to stop so abruptly your upper body pitches forward? Talking with…Patty…is exactly like playing Red Light, Green Light.
I hate that game.
“Alright”—finally, she looks at me—“let me just put this through the computer. An answer should come back to us pretty quickly.”
She types a few things. God, my face hurts from smiling. And the back of my legs are sticking to the metal chair because I’m so damn hot.
Come on, St. Anthony. Please let this loan go through. Please find a way to make this loan go through. I paid off one debt, and yeah, I know it’s not anything big but still, that’s got to count toward something. And I did get one of those spammy pre-approval letters in the mail from a bank in Honolulu. That’s got to mean something, too. Right?
Suddenly, the music to A Chorus Line starts sounding in my head.
Oh God I need this loan. Please God I need this loan. I’ve got to get this loan!
Patty finally looks at me. Drum roll, ladies and gentlemen.
“I’m sorry, Miss Ellison. The bank did not approve you.”
“Oh,” I say. I sit back and blink. And even though I didn’t come in here with sky-high confidence, it still feels like I got the wind knocked out of me. “Um, does it say why?”
“No, but you’ll get something in the mail within the next few days explaining the decision.”
I want to slump in my chair. I want to frown and furrow my brows and whine but why? But you know what? The ol’ slump, frown and furrow never got me anywhere before, and it won’t get me anywhere now. Just the other day, I went to the mall to return a shirt I thought I liked but the minute I tried it on, realized what an unflattering monster it was, but the receipt had expired. Did I give up, though? Did I slump, frown and furrow? No. I persisted and insisted and bam! Shirt returned.
I sit up straighter and smile. Again.
“You know,” I say, “just so you know, in case you want to write a note on my account or something, I probably got rejected due to my credit. But my credit is only so low because I just don’t have much of it.” Smile. “I mean, I don’t lease. I got my car from a friend. And my phone…well, I use one of those monthly plans so I’m not locked into a contract because cell phone companies are always increasing their prices and, well, anyway, you see that it’s not bad credit, just not, you know, any credit so—”
She nods as if she understands, but the whole effect is ruined by her pursed lips and slow blinking, as if I’m some lying piece of scum off the street instead of a loyal customer since I was sixteen years old.
“You know,” I say, “maybe there’s someone else I can talk to.”
Her lips tighten so much it looks like she’s either going to kill me or kiss me. “The answer will be the same. With your credit score, lack of funds, and the fact that you overdraw every other week, you’re too much of a risk.”
Two thoughts hit me at once. One: so she did know the reason why I got rejected and her whole you’ll-get-something-in-the-mail schpiel was bullshit. And two: a risk! Really? The most daring thing I’ve ever done was shoplift a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure when I was eleven. And then I felt so damn bad about it, I buried the thing in my backyard because I couldn’t deal with the guilt of playing with it. Every time I was in that yard, I swear I could hear him whisper, Kowabunga…
Risky? Yeah, just ask my Tell-Tale Turtle.
“Well, what about a smaller loan? If fifty is too high, I’m sure I could get by on forty. Or even thirty.” I inwardly cringe, but it’s better than nothing. Thirty thousand wouldn’t pay for all the equipment I’d need, but it’d be a good down payment on the building. I could do thirty thousand if I was careful.
“Miss Ellison, you were denied a loan. For any amount.”
An awkward silence descends. That’s probably my cue to leave but I can’t. Leaving is admitting defeat. If I can’t get this loan, I’m back to working at the Bargain Basement. I cannot ever work at the Bargain Basement again.
“Are you sure there’s no one else I can talk to?” I add quickly, “Not that I don’t trust what you’re saying or anything. But maybe there are different avenues we could look at, see what we can come up with.”
Patty sighs, as if I’m a child she’s fast losing patience with. “I’m the branch manager here, and I cannot authorize this loan. You can go to a different bank. You can call the eight-hundred number. But the end result will be the same because frankly, you don’t have enough money, you don’t have steady income, and you have no collateral whatsoever. Based on that, no bank will give you a loan for two thousand dollars let alone fifty.”
I press my lips together. I nod. And because there’s nothing more to say, I grab my purse from the floor and stand. As casually and classily as I can, I adjust my skirt in back, so it’s no longer sticking to my sweaty thighs.
My car is a ten-year-old Nissan Altima. It wasn’t ten years old when I got it. It was a young and spritely seven years old. When my best friend, Natalie, gave me the keys, I instantly fell in love. I sat behind the wheel and named him Barry Allen, and on days when he would go fast, I would call him the Flash. I have yet to call him the Flash. In fact, there are days I can barely call him anything but Damn It Stupid Car. The only nice thing about him is the color: a deep ruby red. As for the rest…
The passenger door is so rusted that there are small holes at the very bottom of it. There are several large dents on the driver’s side and several smaller ones on the back. All cosmetic, my mechanic (read: son of my next door neighbor who looked at it once two years ago) says, so I never bothered to fix them. The car is such a weakling my friends and I joke that it doesn’t have horse power, it has pony power. Goes from zero to fifteen in thirty seconds.
The car makes that all too familiar creak and groan as I open the door and sit. I throw my purse on the passenger’s seat. You know, now that I think about it, I’m somewhat glad I didn’t get the loan. In fact, maybe me not getting the loan was divine intervention or something. After all, I’d have hated to be indebted to the bank where Patty It’s-In-The-Mail-Liar works, she who can’t maintain eye contact.
The thought actually makes me feel a little bit better.
I stick my key in the ignition, fully prepared to go to the bank down the road, just to prove my theory, when suddenly…
Click click click.
I turn the key again.
Click click click.
I lean my head against the steering wheel.
“Damn It Stupid Car.”