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Baking Hot

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I’d given up hope of keeping the bakery open. Dad couldn’t keep up the payments, and he’d started dating before I could blink. We weren't the only ones living in a small apartment, but so were our new extended family. My stepmom I could deal with my stepbrother, the only person he ever loved, was himself. He was arrogant, rude, and a real prick. But he had one gift and not the one from the waist downwards, but upwards. The guy could bake. And I knew I had to ask him for a favor. The problem was the more time we spent in the kitchen, my body temperature rose, and I felt as if I was baking hot. And it wasn’t long until there wasn’t only a cake in the oven, but a bun in my oven too. I didn’t know what to do. Not only was the cake going to be perfect, but my dreams were going to be burned…as I got hot and bothered with Zach, my future soon turned to smoke.

Chapter 1

Jade

“Life is too hard,” I muttered to myself as I sat at my desk with my chin rested on my open book. I was supposed to be studying, but I was too depressed to be bothered. I just wanted high school to be over! But, it was just dragging on and on and felt as if it was a never-ending story.

My family lived in New York; no matter what job track I picked in college, there would be heavy competition. A competition that I was sure to lose, so I wasn’t going to give it my all.

There was one thing I did care about, however. It didn’t involve higher education, and Dad and I had always been arguing about my career choice, until now.

Dad owned a bakery and had been working at it for as long as I could remember. Before my mom died when I was younger, and every year since, I remembered going to the bakery with Dad, looking on as he worked, and as I grew older, helping out. When Mom passed away, I kept going back to the bakery every day, because I felt her presence more there than at home. If I could have, I would have slept in there, but Dad always chased me out. Then years later, he started dating again and told me he planned on marrying. It was a quick engagement and before I could even say, Congratulations, they had married and moved in. Not only her, but her son too.

I was happy until I found out that things were bad at the bakery and it seemed that he would have to close down. I always thought of the bakery as my future. I hated that I was more worried about the bakery than he was, and I also hated that he’d had to shut it down because he couldn’t keep up with the payments.

It happened not that long ago, just a week. I’d been walking around depressed for the past two weeks, getting worse after the actual closure happened.

Technically, the building was still ours. Dad wasn’t doing business because it wasn’t going well, and when he closed it, I knew he had no intention of opening it up again. So, I’d been thinking of what to do to get it opened back up. I couldn’t rely on Dad, because he felt too guilty that Hazel, my stepmom was the only one currently bringing in real income, and all she did was work in a diner. For a family of four, it wouldn’t be enough; it couldn’t be.

My phone vibrated on my desk, pulling me out of my thoughts, and I sighed as I picked it up, not moving my position. Someone had sent me a text. I debated for a moment whether or not to read it, then decided I’d been ignoring my friends for long enough, and unlocked the screen to read it.

The words didn’t register properly at first, but when they did, I sat upright. Immediately, I called my best friend, Veronica and wanted to know more about the text that she just sent.

“Hey,” the voice on the other end said coyly. “Wow, you’re speaking to me now, huh?”

“Cut the crap,” I growled. “What is this about a baking competition? What is it, where is it from, do you have any details and how did you even know about it?”

My heart was starting to beat quickly, and it felt like I was coming alive after living in a fog for the past two weeks. The text was simple, meant as bait, because my friends knew me so well. Besides that it could help the bakery, I’d spent too long giving up hope, and at last, there was some!

Veronica laughed. “You want to know, right? Badly?”

“Yes,” I blurted out immediately.

Not only could this save the bakery, but it could also save the whole family. With Dad’s business closing down and one stream of income getting cut off, money at home was tight. I might not have warmed up completely to Hazel, but I felt as guilty as Dad did that she was the only one making any contribution to the family upkeep.

I wasn’t interested in going to college, but with the way things were going, I knew it wouldn’t be a possibility anyway. And besides, I knew my stepbrother had his eyes set on college.

Dad wouldn’t listen to me if I tried to talk to him about this, but maybe, he could help.

“All right, all right,” Veronica placated. “I’ll send you a link where you can get more information on it, okay? Just please stop being so d*mn depressed already! It’s making everyone else feel depressed, too, you know?”

I gave a sheepish smile, even though she couldn’t see it.

“Sorry about that. I promise, I won’t act like a zombie anymore, okay? Now hang up quickly and send me that message!”

There was a long silence, and I could imagine the look of disdain on the other end. But she did cut the call, and a minute later, my phone vibrated with a new message. I opened it impatiently and found a link. Pressing on it directed me to my phone’s browser. Thankfully, we had home wifi and I was already connected. The web page opened, and there it was.

I read through the details, and the more I read, the happier I felt. It was exactly what I’d been looking for!

“If I could only get help with this,” I muttered, frowning.

With all my experience working at the bakery, it was something I could manage. I could register with someone else, though, and it would be better to have someone else with me. Only someone very overconfident would try out competition like this without help.

The right person for the job hit me. He happened to be the only other person I knew that would be as desperate to win as I was, and would have some idea of what to do in a kitchen.

My step-brother, Zach.

“Is he going to help me, though?” I muttered to myself, sitting back in my chair and frowning.

Zach and I… didn’t exactly get along. While I’d been indifferent about Dad dating, and then getting remarried, Zach had hated it, and hated my dad for being the man his mom wanted. That hate had extended to me, and since the time we first met, he hasn’t exactly been nice to me.

I didn’t have anything against him personally, but I wasn’t going to take his sh*t lying down, either. Most of the time, we just didn’t talk. We might live in the same house, but there was no reason for us to meet, anyway. I was usually stuck at the bakery, and now in my room, while he participated in activities at school and hung out with his friends.

No matter what, though, I am getting him to work with me on this, I thought to myself, determined.

Besides, I was pretty sure he would be interested. If we managed it, we would both get what we wanted the most.

According to the website, the competition was all about baking a cake, something I’d done so many times already. And Zach had plans to enter culinary school, so it wasn’t like he didn’t know his way around a kitchen. He didn’t bake as much as me, but at least he wouldn’t be completely useless.

The good part was that the winning cake in the competition won a hundred thousand dollars. Just seeing the amount of the prize had made me think the whole thing had to be a scam. But the site had mentioned previous competitions, and there had been reviews with some big names I’d heard of in the baking profession, not to mention all the verified partners. It was legit.

If we won, not only could I open up the bakery again, Zach would get to go college, just like he wanted. Dad and Hazel would be less stressed with more money coming in, and Dad would go back to working at the bakery until he retired instead of starting over doing something else when he’d only ever finished community college. He’d had the bakery for so long; I wasn’t sure there was anything else he could do even if he did have the qualifications.

Everything depended on whether I could get Zach to agree, but I could already see my dreams coming to fruition.

Chapter 2

Jade

I had been so eager to get things started—at least, the planning phase of things—that I forgot something important.

Zach wasn’t home, and I didn’t have his number. I had no way to contact him at all because before today, I never even needed to.

Because he didn’t particularly like me and I ignored him because of his attitude, besides when we met at the dinner table, he and I rarely even talked. We both pretended the other didn’t exist when we passed each other around the house.

Dad had taken me on a dinner date with his girlfriend and her son, and he had treated both my dad and me with disrespect. Not to mention, the bastard called me fat. As if! I was just naturally curvy! Also, I worked in a bakery, so I couldn’t help tasting some of the stuff we made, was I supposed to be a stick thin figure or something?

After that, while I still supported my dad, when he said we all had to live together after he got married, Zach and I had both been agai

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