A Gingerbread Romance

Part of the Stories that Stand Alone

As an architect, she designs beautiful buildings…
But will her heart ever find a place to call home?

Taylor’s architectural firm enters her in a contest to build life-sized gingerbread houses. After the contest, she’s likely to get a promotion to a position in another city. But it’s a team competition, and Taylor’s temperamental partner soon backs out. Taylor needs a replacement—fast.

When she meets Adam, a baker and single dad, she convinces him to be her partner in the contest. After all, winning would give his bakery much-needed exposure.

For years, Taylor has avoided thinking of anywhere as “home.” When she was a kid, her family was always on the move. But the time she spends with Adam and his daughter Brooke, decorating for Christmas and enjoying Philadelphia’s holiday traditions, has her questioning everything. Could she have found a place to call her own?

A Gingerbread Romance

Part of the Stories that Stand Alone

A Gingerbread Romance

Excerpt

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PROLOGUE

Eight year-old Taylor Scott brushed  small fingers over the soft fabric of her favorite red dress. Tears filled her eyes and the Christmas tree in front of blurred.  Her father had selected a great tree this year. It was taller than last year’s and so wide her mother had to move one of the end tables into the dining room so it would fit in the corner.

Taylor had hung most of the bulbs on the bottom half of the tree. Now, she reached out to touch the only one that was still hanging. The white bulb that looked like it was frosted with snow was her favorite.

“Come on Taylor. We’re almost done packing,” her mother called to her just before she lifted the final white bulb off the tree and folded it into a piece of tissue paper.

Taylor was in awe of how her mother moved so gracefully in high-heel shoes while carrying Taylor’s favorite bulb across the room. She wanted to sigh the moment that bulb was stuffed into a box and that box was sealed with thick tape. Today was moving day.

Christmas was in one week and instead of bubbling over with excitement for Santa’s appearance and all the gifts she might receive, Taylor fought back tears. She shouldn’t be sad. This wasn’t new. Her parents were very busy with very important jobs. So what if that meant they had to travel a lot. It was for a very important reason. Even if it was right before Christmas.

Her mother closed the lid on the white box and Taylor stared down at the word “Christmas” written in print by the green marker her mother used.

So it was really happening. All the wishes she’d sent up on everything from the evening star to tossing at least a dollar’s worth of pennies in the fountain at the mall that they wouldn’t have to leave, had been for nothing.  The house was mostly packed. Everything in her room was boxed and waiting in the hallway for the movers to pick up. They would not be in this house tomorrow. They were going to Washington or France or it might have been Australia. It didn’t matter, they probably wouldn’t stay in the next place very long either.

Her steps were slow and heavy as she walked across the room to the mantle where her stocking was still hanging. She reached up and slipped it off the metal hook before carrying it to where her suitcase sat open on the coffee table. The memory of her mother folding clothes had her flipping the bottom half of the stocking up to meet the top and then stopping to rub her finger over the script letters that spelled her name. Her eyes blinked a few times. She was too old to cry. She slammed the top of the suitcase down and was about to zip it closed when she noticed her sketch pad and pencils on the other side of the table. Taylor couldn’t go anywhere without them.

Her latest picture wasn’t complete and since her mother had left the room, she knelt down to finish it quickly before they had to leave. More red. The little girl’s dress in the picture should be a deeper red so she pressed the crayon harder to the paper.

“Taylor. It’s time to go.”

Hurrying to finish the dress and stay in the lines she’d drawn was tricky. But mama was back in the room now moving boxes so she knew it was really time to leave. When the dress looked just the way she wanted it to, Taylor stuffed the crayons into a box and asked the question that had been weighing heavily on her mind. “Mama, what if Santa doesn’t find us this time?”

Carolyn Scott, wearing one of the nice business skirt suits she always wore, knelt down until she was eye level with her.

“Remember what I told you before our last move? Wherever you hang your stocking is where Santa will find you. And he did, didn’t he?”

That was true. It was the year she received her first pair of ice skates. So she could believe her. Santa would find her in just a few days and moving wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe this time they’d stay in the next place long enough for her to make friends. That way Santa wouldn’t always have to look for her stocking to find her, he would just remember her house.

“Oh, let’s see today’s creation.” Her mother lifted Taylor’s sketch book into her hands and that swishy feeling she got in her stomach whenever somebody looked at her drawings began.

The bright smile on her mother’s face as she set the sketch pad back onto the table made Taylor smile too.

“Sweetheart, I think it’s your best yet!”

Still grinning she fell into her mother’s open arms and enjoyed the warm hug.

“Hey gang, the airport limo is here!” Her father called into the living room

Her mother pulled back from their hug. “So, you ready for our next adventure?”

“You bet!” The swishy feeling blossomed and her smile came fast. Mama was right, Santa would find her just like he always did.

She stood and put her sketch pad into her suitcase before grabbing her coat. In minutes her parents had their coats on too and her father had zipped her suitcase. Taylor took the handle of the suitcase in one hand and walked beside her mother as they headed for the door.

This was indeed going to be a new adventure!

CHAPTER 1

20 Years Later

Crisp winter air greeted Taylor the moment she stepped out of the taxi and onto the sidewalk. A wisp of familiarity settled at the sight of a line of juniper shrubs which served as the fence to her end unit townhouse.  The wheels of her hard-shell suitcase rolled across the ground and she looked up to the driver who’d removed her bag from the trunk. “Thank you.” Even bone tired she managed to smile and sound cheerful.

With a half bow and tip of his Santa Claus hat he replied with a robust, “Merry Christmas!” and headed back to the car.

Of course she didn’t want to seem lacking in holiday spirit so Taylor called after him, “Merry Christmas!”

There was a quick beep of the car’s horn and then the cab pulled away from the curb and Taylor turned to grab the handle of her suitcase. This was definitely familiar. Dragging a suitcase behind her as she walked either to a destination or from one. Tonight, it was from—her four-and-a-half-month assignment was complete and now she was returning to her company’s home base in Philadelphia.

After being with Ogilvy & Associates Architecture for seven years, Taylor figured it made sense to purchase a house here. At least then she would have a familiar place to stay in between assignments. And she absolutely loved the upscale Northern Liberties neighborhood which was conveniently located ten minutes from her office downtown. It was the closest she’d managed to settle down in one place. While she probably didn’t sleep in the queen sized bed in her large master bedroom more than ten times out of the year, her name was still on the deed and owning a property gave her a deeper sense of meeting some of the goals she’d planned for her life.

At the moment, however, having this house was also a good thing because her feet were begging for mercy. She still wore the leopard print pumps and navy blue suit she’d put on for her last meeting. There hadn’t been time to change before she needed to be at the airport, so not only had she just taken a seven-hour flight which included a three-hour time difference, but her toes were screaming to be set free.

As she walked up to the front door Taylor couldn’t help admiring her neighbor’s endless strands of multi-colored twinkle lights and the cartoon Christmas family statutes adorning the yard. There’d obviously been recent snowfall because the lawn was covered in a blanket of white giving the statues a perfect winter wonderland backdrop. Her keys jingled as she pulled them out of her bag as she was about to open her door.

“Hey, Stranger!”

Taylor jumped and almost dropped her keys as Wendy, her neighbor, popped up from behind the bushes where it appeared she was stringing more lights.

With a wave Taylor stepped away from the door, “Hi Wendy.”

“Merry Christmas. How was Tucson? Or was it Seattle? I’m sorry, with all the kids’ activities and dates to remember, I don’t know if I’m coming or going. But I did remember to grab all your mail from the box and any packages that came.” Wendy was married to an advertising executive and had two children, a boy and a girl—the perfect pair.

She also helped Taylor out tremendously when she was away by collecting her mail and directing the landscaper to take care of her lawn.

“It was L.A. this time…I think,” Taylor joked. “And thanks, I appreciate your help when I’m away.”

“Girl, don’t worry about it. So you in town for Christmas?” Wendy clapped her hands together hopefully. “You’ve got to come by.”

Taylor had enjoyed a cookout and birthday party with Wendy and her family, but never a Christmas. A long time ago that day was designated to spending time with her parents. And once she became an adult, they’d tried to keep the tradition of celebrating together wherever they were in the world. But lately their schedules wouldn’t even accommodate that. Case in point, Taylor couldn’t travel to meet her parents this year because she had to return to Philly for a big meeting with her supervisor. A meeting she hoped would result in the promotion she’d been dreaming about.

“Um, I’m not sure yet, but I should know soon. And thanks for the offer.”

“The standing offer,” Wendy corrected. “Go on in and put your things down. As soon as I finish with this, I’ll grab your mail and bring it over.”

“Great. Thanks again, Wendy.”

Taylor unlocked the door and rolled her bag into the foyer. She switched on the lights and sighed while stepping out of her shoes. She’d carry them and her luggage up the stairs in a few minutes, but she did take her laptop out and carried it into the dining room where she placed it on the table and turned it on. She left it there because right now she really wanted to reacquaint herself with the place. It might seem silly but for some reason she’d thought about getting back here a lot in the last couple of weeks and now that she was here there was an urge to make sure it was everything she’d recalled.

It was. The crisp clean contemporary design of her personal space was a huge contrast from the corporate penthouse where she’d stayed while in L.A. Or anywhere else she’d been on business.

The artwork hanging in thick cherry wood frames on the wall had been selected during an impromptu trip to an art show here in Philly two years ago. She’d been so impressed by the up and coming artist that she’d purchased three of his portraits which captured African American families at different gatherings—Sunday morning church service, first day of school and a holiday dinner. Her fingers moved easily over the soft bark-brown leather of the couch while she continued to stare at those paintings, an unfamiliar warmth spreading through her body.

Growling that sounded more painful than it actually felt echoed in the quiet room she frowned before heading to the kitchen. Her feet moved quietly over the glossed hard wood floors of the living room and then the cool gray tile of the kitchen where she immediately opened the refrigerator.

“Well, that’s helpful.”

A lone bottle of water graced the top shelf and as if in response to her blasé comment, her stomach grumbled again.

She grabbed the bottle just as there was a knock at the door. Wendy really didn’t have to bring her mail to her tonight, but it was just as well, that way she could go straight to the office tomorrow morning.

“It’s a lot.” Wendy came through the door carrying a medium-sized box in one hand and two packages under the other arm.

“I see. Here let me take that. You can set the box on the dining room table and I’ll go through it later.” Taylor grabbed the boxes from under her arms looking down at the return address as they walked into the dining room.

“Oh this is from my parents.” Giddiness bubbled in the pit of her stomach as Taylor excitedly tore into the first box.

“What is it? Your Christmas gift?”

“My Advent calendar,” she announced after tearing off all the paper. “My mom makes sure to send me one every year.” And this year, Taylor was so hungry she opened it and took out the first piece of chocolate.

Wendy chuckled. “Yeah, I thought you’d be hungry and it’s too late at night for you to be ordering food from any of those menus you have stuffed over there in your drawer. So I brought you some leftover spaghetti.”

Taylor was already chewing the chocolate and reaching for another piece when she groaned. “Oh Wendy you are the best!”

Wendy pushed the box of mail closer to Taylor and went into the kitchen to set the bowl on the counter. The first floor of Taylor’s house was a full open concept so Wendy could still see and talk to her even though she was in another room.

“I’m just used to preparing three meals a day and you’re not used to grocery shopping on a regular basis. We match up well that way.”

Taylor skimmed through some of the mail. “You’re absolutely right about that. I’ve got to get better at basic things like that.”

“Well, you could if you’d stay in one place long enough. Get married, have some kids. They’re wonderful at settling you down immediately and encouraging scheduled and unscheduled grocery store outings.”

“Do I hear a complaint in your tone?” Wendy had the perfect family and they all looked happy each time she saw them, so Taylor was certain that wasn’t the case.

“Not a one,” Wendy said when she came back into the dining room to stand beside Taylor. “I was hoping you’d hear something like longing.”

Taylor’s frown came quickly, but her normal rebuff of the whole “family life” dream wasn’t fast to follow. “That’s not in the cards for me right now. I’m still trying to get settled in my career.”

“You’re twenty-eight year’s old and a senior architect or something like that at one of the city’s largest firms. How much more settled in your career can you be?”

That was a good question with an even better answer.

“I’m a senior project manager but my goal is to become a department head at Ogilvy. Hopefully in the international department. And I think I’m really close to claiming that. So to answer your question, I’ve got a little more settling to do.”

Wendy was nodding as if she’d heard all this before. “Hey, I guess you’re entitled to your own dream. I’m probably just projecting anyway since my kids drive me crazy a good percentage of the time. But I wouldn’t change a thing. For me, my family is my dream.”

Those words replaced the giddiness Taylor had been feeling with a heaviness that she attributed to being tired and hungry minutes after Wendy had gone. She continued to stack her mail in organized piles and took the box over to the trash can.  She should warm up some of that spaghetti but she was really tired. A hot bath to soak her feet and every other aching muscle in her body would help ease the somberness she was now experiencing.

Buzzing from her laptop had Taylor pulling out a chair and sitting at the dining room table. She pushed a button on the screen to accept the incoming Skype call from her mother and grabbed another couple pieces of chocolate from the Advent calendar.

“Hi, Mom,” she said when Carolyn Scott’s face came into view on the screen.

“Taylor, sweetheart. I hope it’s not too late but I wanted to catch you before we went to breakfast.”

It would never be too late to talk to her parents. Since they always seemed to be in different time zones, Taylor looked forward to anytime they could link up. She missed them so much, especially around this time of year.

“Don’t worry I just got home.” She unwrapped and popped another piece of chocolate into her mouth, enjoying the creamy taste.

“Hi honey. Merry Christmas!” Her dad, Grant Scott, came onto the screen leaning in beside her mother.

They were still such a good-looking couple. Her mother with her warm brown eyes and always smiling face and her dad with his stern but loving demeanor. In Taylor’s eyes they were the standard for love and commitment. They were also the reason for her wanderlust and for that she thanked them because otherwise she wouldn’t be in a position to receive the greatest promotion of her life.

“Hi, Dad. Merry Christmas to you.” Taylor chewed her candy so she could speak better. “So how’s Christmas in Singapore?”

“Hot and humid,” he complained with a grin. “And this sweater isn’t helping. So, now that you’ve seen my annual Christmas sweater, I’m taking it off.”

It was a nice sweater, red which was a color her father only wore around the holidays.  It had tiny wreaths all over and reminded her instantly of the early years when they each wore Christmas sweaters during the holiday.

“So how did things go in L.A.?” Carolyn asked.

Great change of subject, Mom! Taylor joyfully replied, “Two sunny months and the new condo complex is almost built.”

“And I see you’ve got the Advent calendar I sent. But is that tomorrow’s chocolate you’re eating today? Isn’t it only December 9th for you there?”

Her mother knew her too well. Taylor never ate the chocolates chronologically. For her, a daily chocolate indulgence was nice, but lots of chocolate at once was never wrong.

“Hey, it’s tomorrow in Singapore right?” Another candy went into her mouth. “This one’s for you.”

Carolyn grinned. “Any chance you can join us here this Christmas?”

“Well, I’d love to but I may be packing the moving boxes again. I’m meeting my boss tomorrow to talk about my next assignment.”

“Well, that’s tomorrow. But honey, if you’re not coming here for Christmas, what will you do? I really don’t like the idea of you being by yourself at this time of year.”

Why was everyone so suddenly worried about her being alone for Christmas? A good number of her adult Christmases had been spent alone even if they were in a pretty nice location. Her mother was an international lawyer and her father was a diplomat so their jobs were always a priority. Taylor had learned from the best.

The little girl who’d once dreamed of having a permanent home with a husband and kids where she could host large holiday gatherings for all her friends and family—her parents included—grew up. Now she was content traveling the world and building her career. Christmas came and went each year and she pulled out her stocking to hang wherever she was at the time.

“Well, Wendy, she’s inviting me over. I can hang my stocking there. Ok?” Hoping that would appease her mother and end this portion of the conversation, she continued, “Give Dad a big hug for me.”

“That sounds good. Wendy’s a nice woman with a beautiful family. I’d love to get pictures of you and my grandbabies at birthday parties.”

Which is why Taylor vowed to never send her mother another photo of herself with Wendy and her family again.

“But I will definitely give your Dad that hug.  Love you!” Carolyn blew a kiss and waved on screen as casually as if she hadn’t just dropped that obvious hint.

“I love you too, Mom. And I’ll let you know what my boss says tomorrow.”

She mimicked her mother’s blow kiss and disconnected the call. Lowering her head to the table Taylor allowed herself a few seconds to miss her parents and remember the naïve dreams of the little girl she used to be. When pity-party time was up, she stood from the table. Her hot bath was calling louder than her growling stomach.

 

Taylor walked down the street the next morning looking at all the buildings in Center City, Philly’s central business hub. A leather briefcase in the window of a supply store stopped her steps. That would definitely hold her portfolio and laptop. It had a sturdy-looking strap and lots of side pockets that she could store things in. She loved it. Until the purse and bag she was currently carrying slipped from her shoulder and she stumbled forward.

“Excuse me.” The guy who was obviously in a rush wore tennis shoes with his suit and carried a backpack.

“And a Merry Christmas to you too,” she muttered to his retreating back as she readjusted her straps.

The city was decorated in full holiday regalia. She’d already passed three sleighs, a humongous Santa and too many twinkle lights to count. Even unlit all those lights put Wendy’s yard to shame and made Taylor wonder why this type of year sent people into decorating overflow. Not that it was a competition or that she didn’t like Christmas decorations, Taylor had nothing against the holiday. In fact, there were parts of it she really enjoyed—namely the chocolate in her Advent Calendar she’d forced herself to ignore this morning. She loved Christmas carols and watching old holiday movies. The rest she’d left behind with her childhood.

Car horns and screeching tires blared through the chilly air. Taylor returned her attention to the briefcase and shivered. Pulling the lapels of her beige wool coat closed she decided it definitely was not window-shopping weather. Besides, she needed to get to the office. Her meeting with Linda Woods, the New Projects Department Head, was scheduled for nine-thirty.

Ogilvy was on the tenth floor of an eighty-five year old building with an industrial and contemporary style. It was one of the most iconic buildings in the city. That was one of the things she’d never forgotten about Philly. While the city wasn’t as known for its notable buildings as New York and Chicago, there were plenty of buildings spanning the spectrum of traditional and new age architecture. Taylor stepped off the elevator and walked down a short hall before going through a glass door. She’d just stripped off her gloves and was about to head toward her desk when her co-worker Josephine Lancaster approached. Josephine had worked for Ogilvy the same amount of time as Taylor. With her ready smile and dark wavy hair, she was the one who kept Taylor up to date with all the office gossip. She was also the one who wanted Taylor’s job. Not in a backstabbing type of way, but in the I-really-wish-I-could-move-up in this office way. Taylor understood completely. Moving up was definitely on her mind this morning.

“Taylor!”

“Hey, Josephine. It’s nice to see you.”

“Welcome back. I’d say welcome home but you spend more time on the road than here.”

Taylor personally enjoyed her lifestyle but had always been amazed at how different the two women she called friends felt about it. Where Wendy was all “settle down and have a family”, Josephine openly envied Taylor’s life of the single traveling architect.  “Well, I might be on the road again. I’m supposed to talk to Linda right now, hopefully about the promotion to International Projects Department Head in Paris. How do I look?”

She’d carefully selected a beige pencil skirt—because they were a classic favorite in her wardrobe—and a festive cranberry colored blouse for today’s meeting. The coat she’d picked up during one of her few off days in L.A. matched perfectly. After a quick survey of said outfit Josephine leaned in to attach a Christmas tree pin to the lapel. Who walked around carrying Christmas tree pins? Obviously, Josephine did.

Her co-worker stepped back with a proud smile and replied, “Very merry. And speaking of Linda, she’s in a pretty good mood this morning. Not sure why because Del is late on his plans for the Links project. But you don’t need to concern yourself with that. Just go in there and wow her!”

That’s exactly what Taylor planned to do.

“Right. Thanks.” She nodded and looked down at the pin. “I don’t really know why you’re carrying around extra Christmas pins, but it’s perfect!” And definitely not something Taylor would have considered adding to her outfit. Not that she even owned a holiday pin to consider.

“I’ve been so busy planning this year’s Christmas party I’ve had decorating on my mind. But everyone’s whispering about the Paris position. If you get it then I can possibly slide into your position. I’m more than ready to actually supervise a project outside of this city. ” Josephine clapped her hands together barely holding onto her glee.

Taylor knew Josephine’s happiness was a mixture of promotion possibility and the office party.

While Taylor loved her job she wasn’t a huge fan of office get-togethers but since her goal was to impress enough to get this promotion she would  make an exception. “I’m looking forward to it. But I should really get to this meeting. Don’t want to be late.”

Josephine nodded. “I hear ya. We’ll catch up later and good luck!”

She’d crossed both sets of fingers and wagged them at Taylor.

“Thanks!” Taylor replied, anticipation giving way to a nervous excitement that followed her around the reception area and back to her desk where she ditched her coat, briefcase and purse.

This floor of the office was full of cubicles before branching off in the back to the conference room where she was scheduled to meet with Linda. She waved and spoke to other co-workers she hadn’t seen for a while. The Christmas decoration explosion had hit this floor as well and all the red and green cheer caused a heaviness in her chest she wasn’t ready to examine.

The conference room had glass doors so Taylor could see Linda sitting inside on a phone call. That meant Linda could also see Taylor and upon her approach the supervisor waved her in.

In this spacious room, the walls were crisp white and floor-to-ceiling windows boasted a magnificent view of the city. Of course there were more Christmas decorations. From a tree standing prominently next to the flat screen television used for presentations to the garland decorated with red and gold bulbs around the door and along the window frame, the space was extremely festive. An easy, but not totally genuine, smile touched Taylor’s lips as she took a seat and waited for Linda to finish with her call.

“No, no, no. Yeah, we’re excited too and we promise not to disappoint. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Goodbye.” Linda’s smile, however, was beaming as she disconnected the call. She wore a red blazer over a white blouse with black slacks and leaned in before folding her hands onto the table.

One of the things Linda always mentioned loving about Taylor was her willingness to take initiative. True to form, Taylor spoke up without hesitation. “Wow. The mayor. What was that about?”

“Actually, it was partly about you.” Linda was bursting with excitement.

And now, Taylor was too.  

“Me?” She struggled to keep a tight rein on her emotions. Jumping up and yelling “Merry Christmas to me!” was probably a little premature and way over the top.

“Taylor, you’ve got a great eye. Your work is always cutting edge and your projects always come in on time and under budget.”

She gave herself a mental pat on the back. “Thank you.”

“And that’s why the board is considering you to head up our new Paris office.”

Yes! Yes! Yes!

The position in Paris would be a dream come true for Taylor. One of the only dreams she’d be able to see to fruition. She’d been to the city twice before—once with her parents when she was a teenager and the second time on a trip right after her college graduation. Even though that visit hadn’t ended the way she’d planned and had put a serious damper on the whole “City of Love” vibe, Taylor still felt like Paris was the place of hope and possibilities for her.

“Wow. That would be terrific!” Being professional was slowly losing the battle to shouting for joy.

Linda appeared to like her enthusiastic response, but was very good at keeping her cool as well. “We’ll see what happens,” she said. “But in the meantime, there’s this project I need your help on.”

Taylor clasped her hands—because yeah, they were shaking just a little. “I’m totally open and excited. What’s the project?”

“Ok, so you know that we submitted a proposal for the new downtown redevelopment project.”

“Yes, but I thought Crestford had a lock on City Hall.” Crestford was Ogilvy’s biggest competitor in the city. They’d also recently moved their offices into this building which, she imagined created a more competitive atmosphere.

“According to the mayor, we’re currently his top choice.”

Go Team Ogilvy! Her mood was apparently all about shouting this morning. “Great!”

“In the meantime, we need to do everything that we can to up our public profile.” Linda’s fingers drummed on the table as she spoke.

That made sense. Keeping Ogilvy in a positive public light would increase their visibility and gain more trust from the mayor and his future plans.

“How can I help?”

“Well, the City’s Christmas Marketplace is coming up and they’re doing a gingerbread house competition to raise money for an after-school program charity fund.”

Christmas and charity went hand-in-hand, so Taylor could follow that part. She waited to hear the rest.

“We’ve got a spot in the contest and I need you to represent our firm as our designer.”

And that’s where she lost her. Confusion came like that chilly breeze blowing outside and Taylor stilled.

“You want me…to design a gingerbread house…as in gumdrops and candy canes?” Saying it out loud sounded just as odd as she thought it did in her mind.

Linda, on the other hand, was completely feeling this idea. “A life-sized one. I mean, we’re talking big!”

Taylor was completely serious when she said, “Linda, I’m an architect. Not a baker. And besides, how does building this gingerbread house enhance our public perception and get us the city job?”

“Christmas is about love and giving. Just by entering this competition Ogilvy is showing how much it cares about the children. If we win, not only have we helped to raise money but we’ll also impress the mayor with our unlimited skills. In addition, the board will look kindly on the team player who is willing to get in there and help this company pull off a major victory. And yes, I know you’re a very talented architect and not a baker. That’s why I’ve already found you expert help.”

Helping the mayor was one thing, making an even better impression on the board was a big whopping thing that Taylor understood would seal the deal on her promotion.

“Have you ever heard of Annabelle Renard?” Linda asked the question as if she didn’t need a response from Taylor.

Either that or she knew what Taylor’s response was going to be.  “Ah, yes, doesn’t she have a fancy restaurant downtown?”

A chic French restaurant located on the corner across from the florist where she sometimes ordered flowers for her mother. How many times had Taylor thought about going in for dinner? And how often had she been pressed for time while she was between assignments and postponed that dinner?

“She happens to be the best pastry chef in the city. She’s agreed to meet with you to discuss teaming up.” Linda passed her a business card with the restaurant’s name and address.

“Taylor this is important. What do you say?” This was the somber Linda, asking for something she knew Taylor would not be able to decline.

And she was absolutely right.

This time Taylor’s smile was genuine as thoughts of living in Paris played in her mind.  “You had me at gumdrops. I’m in!”

 

“You’re kidding me. A gingerbread house?” Josephine  stood by Taylor’s desk a half hour later and frowned while pinning poinsettias to the garland around the wall of Taylor’s cubicle.

“I know. I thought I was getting Europe but turns out I’m getting the North Pole.” Taylor sighed. “But Linda wants me to do it and it might convince the board to give me the Paris job.”

And in the end, that was all that mattered. If she had to create a life-size gingerbread house to get the job of her dreams that’s exactly what she was going to do. But first, she had to make it to the meeting with the baker on time. Taylor grabbed her coat off the back of her chair. Josephine still looked perplexed. “Hang on, where are you going? The office Christmas party starts in a couple of hours.” The party that Taylor hadn’t wanted to attend in the first place.

“Oh, well, I’m scheduled to meet with the baker Linda paired me with at noon.  The competition starts the day after tomorrow. Which means I should have started yesterday. But I will try to be back in time for the party.” Because despite their previous talk about Taylor’s promotion leading to her promotion, Josephine was looking crestfallen at the possibility that Taylor wouldn’t be there for the festivities.

Josephine immediately perked up. “I’ll save you a plate and some cake.”

No matter the circumstances Josephine always managed to make Taylor smile.

Only a couple hours after she’d arrived at the office, Taylor was once again on the elevator. She put her coat, hat and gloves on during the ride down and had just stepped off the elevator and was turning the corner to the lobby when a man on his cell phone bumped into her.

Their eyes met and they each turned. He slipped his phone into his pocket before saying, “Taylor Scott.”

“Bradford? What brings you here?”

“Ah, Crestford just moved our offices here. We’ve got the top two floors now.”

Josephine had already told her that, but Taylor didn’t want him to think she was paying more attention to their firm than she needed too. Taylor and Bradford Fleming had gone to college together. They’d each landed internships at Ogilvy and worked together for four years before Crestford made Bradford an offer that included more money, travel and the Director of Design title. Bradford accepted the offer. If she were in his shoes Taylor probably would have done the same.

“Oh joy, we’re back together again.” That was a snide retort but she had somewhere to be, she didn’t have time to chat with Bradford.

But he apparently had more to say. “So…I hear that you and I are going to be going head-to-head or should I say gingerbread-to-gingerbread.”

Now that, Josephine hadn’t told her.

“So you’re doing the competition too?”

Because that would only be fair to make this promotion even harder for her to obtain. Bradford was a great architect which is why Crestford was so eager to steal him away.

“Yeah, what is it about Crestford and Ogilvy? They’re always so competitive.”

His tone was joking but Taylor wasn’t really feeling the laughter at the moment. “I don’t know. Try asking your Crestford colleagues since they stole you away.”

“Well, in one sense you already won this one. Snagging Annabelle Renard, I hear, as your partner. That was a lucky grab, you beat me to it.”

Great, point one to Ogilvy. “Thanks. Well, I’m actually late meeting her now. So I’ll see you around.”

“See you on the battlefield,” he called after her.

Taylor walked out of the building feeling slightly less excited than she had when she walked in, but even more determined to once again do a great job.

end of excerpt

A Gingerbread Romance

is available in the following formats:

Hallmark Publishing

Sep 17, 2019

ISBN-10: 1947892436

ISBN-13: 978-1947892439