Chapter One from Bake It to the Limit
Rita Knight glared at her twin sister with her usual aggravated expression. “Why?” she asked. “Because,” Rhonda Knight responded in a humorous tone as she slapped a smiley face sticker onto the side of an old-fashioned cash register that now belonged to the Twin Berry Bakery. “A smiley face a day keeps the doctor away...or doctors, in our case, because we're both forty-four and not spring chickens anymore.” Rita glanced down at the soft green dress she hoped made her appear distinguished yet youthful. The dress was very lovely—and costly—and complimented her flowy strawberry-blond hair, but her sister’s words suddenly made her feel more like a simple green bean stuck in a rusted can. “Don't remind me of our age,” she begged Rhonda. “Yesterday had to be the worst birthday we have ever experienced.” Rhonda grinned. “Humor makes life better, sister.” Rita rolled her eyes. She loved her sister more than life but could never understand why the woman had the heart of a clown. “Logic is strength,” she fired back, holding firm to her lifelong belief in the value of taking life seriously. Comedy was one of many frivolous distractions to be discarded along with other nonsense that interrupted practical life. “Oh, pooh,” Rhonda replied and motioned her hands around at the lovely bakery that looked like a kitchen straight out of the 1930s. “Just look at our new bakery,” she said, then added with a happy smile, “The bank wouldn't have given us the loan if I hadn't made the loan officer laugh at my jokes.” “It was my business plan that did the trick. And that dress you’re wearing is a joke,” Rita complained, cringing at the sight of the bright yellow and pink dress her sister was wearing. “You look like a deranged pink lemonade.” Rhonda threw her hand at Rita. “Oh, you wouldn't smile even if you won the lottery.” Rita rolled her eyes. “Winning the lottery isn't practical. Owning and managing a business that can support daily, monthly, and yearly expenses is practical. Need I remind you we have a mortgage, two car payments, and other financial obligations that need our attention?” She nervously glanced around the deserted bakery and wondered if going into business with her sister had been practical. The bakery was lovely and the building itself held a certain appeal. The old hardwood floor was very nice and the vintage wood-paneled walls did make a person feel as if they had stepped back in time. The only items that needed to be replaced were a few old, splintery wooden shelves and a cracked glass display case sitting to the side of the front counter. “A little fresh paint...some flowers...but what it needs is a touch of class on the walls. We could update this whole place—” “Hold it,” Rhonda objected, reading her sister like a book, “I know what you're thinking and the answer is no.” “No?” Rita prepared for an argument. “Rhonda, if we're going to be successful, we—” “We're not going to transform this lovely bakery into a cookie-cutter modern art gallery,” Rhonda told Rita sternly. “In today's world all you see are lookalikes...everywhere. Towns all look the same, buildings, grocery stores...why, I can't tell one town apart from the next anymore. Chain stores are everywhere...corporate America has ruined the character of our great land—” “Oh, please don't give me one of your speeches about how corporations are destroying America,” Rita begged. “I hear enough of your crazy conspiracy theories at home.” Rhonda folded her arms and gave Rita one of her I-feel-sorry-for-you looks. “If you would only open your eyes,” she said, a desperate note in her voice. “But...okay, I'll bypass my speech and just say this bakery will take a hard nosedive if we transform it into a flashy modern dump just like all the others that pollute the American landscape. We need originality. We need to reach back into time and bring the good old days back alive. We need to give this bakery a heart.” Rita hated to agree with her sister on any topic, but the vintage appeal of the building was undeniable, and she had to admit that making the bakery into a modern lookalike wasn't very practical. “Rhonda, the loan officer approved our business loan because our credit was stable and because we're both retired cops with savings and small pensions to fall back on. But if this bakery fails, we're both going to be dipping into our personal savings to pay back the business loan...for a long time. Now, with that said, I don't want to argue. I simply want to agree that making this bakery a success will become our primary—and only—goal. However, I do agree that a vintage design would be…helpful to our goal of owning a successful business.” “You bet,” Rhonda said, tapping the smiley face sticker on the side of the old cash register and beaming with excitement. “I knew this would work out when we left Atlanta. Moving to this lovely small town up here in North Georgia was the best idea we ever had, not to mention buying ourselves a lovely two-story cabin on a piece of land with a river running through it. Oh, this life is the fulfillment of my dream.” “I thought your dream was to live in Los Angeles and become a star?” Rita asked, teasing her sister. “Oh, well...you know...being a cop got in the way,” Rhonda blushed. Rita rolled her eyes. “Sure it did,” she told Rhonda. “My, how time flies. Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday we went through the police academy after we left the Navy? So let's see, if we enlisted in the Navy right when we turned eighteen, completed our contract, and then we went to the academy one year later, that would make it—” “Twenty years ago,” Rhonda sighed. “Twenty long years ago.” Rita saw joy leave her sister's face. “Oh, I'm sorry, Rhonda. I was only trying to tease you.” “I know,” Rhonda sighed again. “It's just that...well, it’s not the silly dream of being a movie star I think about. I think about love and making a family. I’m still not married, and neither are you, Rita. And being single at forty-four is no laughing matter. I can laugh at almost anything...except being unmarried.” Rhonda reached into a green purse sitting on the front counter and pulled out a half-eaten bran muffin wrapped in a soft pink handkerchief. “See this?” “Your breakfast?” “My predictable, lousy breakfast,” Rhonda pointed out. “I bypass the junk food, walk five miles a day, take my daily vitamins, sleep eight hours a night...everything I’ve been doing since high school because deep down, I believe someday I'll find Mr. Right and actually get married.” Rhonda looked down at the bran muffin, made a sour face, and tossed it down onto the counter. “It’s stupid. I don’t know why I bother.” Rita studied her sister’s upset face. “I know you're upset,” she said in a loving voice, stepping away from business for a minute and becoming a caring sister again, “but until love peeks its beautiful eyes around the corner, I'm afraid we have no other choice but to keep living our lives and doing what makes us happy. And doesn’t this bakery make us happy?” Rhonda looked away from Rita and tossed her eyes at the glass front. “Yes, I suppose you’re right.” Fall leaves were dancing in the crisp, early morning autumn air, gently caressing the small town of Clovedale Falls. The sight of the autumn leaves created a cozy, warm feeling in her heart that slowly pushed away the sadness trying to destroy the peaceful morning. “Maybe I'll find a husband at the Pumpkin Festival?” she said hopefully. Rita sighed. Being a twin sister meant she felt every single ounce of pain Rhonda felt—and more, even though she would never admit the truth of this. Rita understood Rhonda’s painful longing to fall in love, get married, and start a family. She too longed to wake up to a husband and share a cup of coffee with him and raise babies and spend rainy nights playing board games with children. But there was no way to hurry fate along. “The Pumpkin Festival starts in a few days”, she said lovingly. “A few days,” Rhonda replied, and quickly forced a smile back to her face. There was no sense in letting a foolish heart ruin a beautiful day. “You know, Rita,” she said, “we bought a beautiful cabin together. And now we're opening our own bakery. And you’re right. So what if Mr. Right hasn't come along yet? When he does...if he does...great. Until then, well, life goes on and so do we. Now,” she grabbed her bran muffin and tossed it into a wooden trash can under the front counter, “let's focus on the here and now.” Rita felt a calm smile spread across her face. Her sister was a fighter and never let life push her down for too long. That was one character trait about Rhonda that Rita admired more than anything: Rhonda never gave up and always went all twelve rounds even when the fight seemed lost. On the other hand, Rita had a bad tendency to give up the fight when logic screamed in her ears it was futile, instead of letting faith carry her through to the conclusion. “Back to business. I agree that we need not design our bakery in a modern scheme,” she said. “I believe an old-fashioned design will be fun and profitable.” “Which means we have a whole lot of antique stores to visit,” Rhonda pointed out excitedly. “Clovedale Falls has a few antique stores and I believe I saw a couple in Dove Hills, and—” “Wait a minute,” Rita objected, quickly holding up her right hand. “Rhonda, we're not rich. We can't spend all our savings in antique stores. We have to be practical.” “We also have to spend money to make money,” Rhonda pointed out. “Atmosphere is everything, Rita.” She pointed to the front window. “We can bake the best muffins and cakes in town, but if we don't set the right atmosphere...splat!” Rhonda smashed her hands together. “Like a bug hitting a windshield.” “I don't think—” “We'll get off to a good start, and then...splat!” Rhonda smashed her hands together again. “Like a bug with no sense buzzing down a night highway.” Rita stared at her sister. Fear quickly gripped her heart. “Rhonda, this is our first time ever owning a business. We spent so many years fighting crime. Relocating to Clovedale Falls...going into business for ourselves...buying the cabin...this is all so very risky and scary. I simply want to make sure we don't fail and by chance, if we do, we have a little money to fall back on. I'm wary about spending more money than we have allocated for our start-up funds.” Rhonda understood Rita's worry. Deep down, she was scared herself. “I promise we'll stick within our budget,” she told Rita, offering her sister a warm smile. “This bakery isn't the size of an iceberg. It won't take a lot to make this place look like the 1930s. A few tables, some shelves, and we'll be off and running.” “Off and running,” Rita said in a nervous voice. “That means we must bake...and that's where the true test will come.” She gazed around the bakery. “That is, if we even get past the health inspector.” Rhonda bit down on her lip. “Yeah, the health inspector,” she agreed and looked at the wooden door leading back into the kitchen. “The kitchen is a mess, isn't it?” “We need all new appliances—” “Which is covered by our loan,” Rhonda pointed out. “I know,” Rita said in a grateful voice. “I can't imagine what we would have paid out of pocket for the new appliances we need to get the kitchen back in functioning order.” Rhonda was more worried about the health inspector. She didn't believe the jokes she told the loan officer would go over well with the health inspector, who was a sixty-nine-year-old woman named Mrs. Thorndale. Rumor was—at least from the loan officer’s mouth—Mrs. Thorndale was meaner than a threatened rattlesnake and colder than a block of ice dredged up from an underground ice cave. According to the loan officer, Mrs. Thorndale was tougher than a Marine drill sergeant with inspections and searched for any excuse to fail a hopeful business owner. Rhonda tried to banish those thoughts from her mind. “I know we can do it. We have one week before the health inspector is due to arrive. That's plenty of time to get our bakery in tip-top shape. We have money in our loan to cover the new appliances and we have a few extra dollars set aside for buying what we need to transform this front room into something that reminds folks of the old days. As long we keep a positive attitude, I think we'll succeed in all our efforts.” “Prayer first,” Rita pointed out in a serious voice. “Yes, prayer,” Rhonda agreed. She grimaced and tried to turn it into a smile. “With our baking—” “Our baking skills are—” “Decent,” Rhonda finished for Rita and forced a worried smile to her face. “We may never bake the best coconut cake in the world, sister, but we don't burn our cookies in the oven. This a small town and folks here are used to granny's cookies. We have a lot of competition to overcome to make a go of it.” “You're not making me feel very confident,” Rita complained, looking around at the dusty corners of the room behind her. Rhonda winced. “I guess I'm just as nervous as you are,” she admitted. “I know I haven't been showing it, but I'm...well, I'm nervous, okay? We have invested our lives into this bakery and our new home. If we fail, you and I both know our personal savings won’t quite cut it. It will be Mom and Dad bailing us out of a deep hole.” “Then let's not fail,” Rita begged. “Yeah, let's not,” Rhonda agreed, “because I don't want to ask Mom and Dad for help. They were so happy when we retired from the force and moved to Clovedale Falls—” Rhonda stopped talking when the front door opened and a woman in her mid-sixties strolled inside, looking just as relaxed as a soft autumn breeze. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, we're not open for business yet,” Rhonda said in a quick voice. Erma Wilson tossed a warm smile at Rhonda and then at Rita. “I know you're not open for business,” she said in a honeyed voice filled with gentle love that nearly melted Rita and Rhonda to the floor. “I've just come to see my old bakery.” “Your bakery?” Rita asked in pleased surprise as her eyes absorbed the woman’s short gray hair and round, rosy face that cried grandmotherly, and now, most important, an excellent baker. The woman smiled at Rita, folded her wrinkled, arthritic hands in front of her soft, rust-colored dress patterned with leaves, and nodded. “My name is Mrs. Erma Wilson and I owned this bakery for forty years,” she explained. “Five years ago, after my Ralph went on to Heaven and my hands became too stiff and poorly to bake anymore. I closed up shop and put the building up for sale.” Erma's sweet smile slowly faded. “I'm afraid the building has sat empty these last five years, collecting dust. And last year, a couple of runts broke in here and made a mess of things. Sheriff Bluestone put them to work mowing a whole lot of the town.” Rita and Rhonda looked at each other in surprise and then focused back on Erma. “Uh...we are pleased to meet you, Mrs. Wilson. Can I offer you some coffee?” Rita asked. “We brought some in a thermos.” “Oh no,” Erma replied and brought her smile back like a ray of sunshine. “I just came back to meet the two women who bought my bakery and to thank you. Ralph didn't leave me much to live on, and now with your purchase, I have enough money to rest on. Thanks to you…” Tears began to sting in the elderly woman’s eyes. “Oh my dears, excuse me,” she said, and hurried back outside, leaving Rita and Rhonda confused.
An email is delivered to the email address you use when purchasing with the links to download your books/audiobooks.
You will also receive an email from our delivery partner, BookFunnel, as a backup.
- All digital sales are final.
There are no refunds given on digital products.
- Refunds for physical goods.
There is no return for change of mind. Returns are given for faulty items if you contact us within 7 days of receiving item (according to the tracking).
For refund queries, please email (firstname.lastname@example.org) within 7 days of receiving your product (according to the tracking). Please use the subject "returns" and include your name, order number, and reason for return, and photographs of faulty item. If item is faulty, we refund or resend your goods - your choice. We want you to be happy!