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“You what?” I asked. I begged him not to say something like, But I have a crush on someone else. Or, But I’m not interested in being taken by the likes of you.

“I live in California.”

I nodded, trying not to smile at his ridiculous obstacle. It was ridiculous because the distance of a thousand miles would never be enough reason to keep me from something I wanted.

“Mm,” I said, stepping back and nodding. I needed to give the poor man some space. He didn’t seem the type to want a nosy Greek stranger in his face. “Now I have answers to two of my questions.” I moved over to the sink to wash my hands again. “What about a third? What do you do for work?”

Miller let out a breath and reached for the sugar shaker again. “I’m the marketing director for a regional chain of orthodontist offices. I buy media placement like airtime for TV commercials and radio spots, billboards, that kind of thing. And I do some other marketing jobs on the side.”

I returned to my spot across the table and took up the royal icing again. “Why do you sound less than enthusiastic about it?”

He placed the stencil on the cake and shrugged. “I love marketing. It’s what I went to school for. But when my mom got sick, I left my big corporate job in LA to take care of her. The job I have now was my best option to stay in marketing but also work normal business hours. Now that she’s gone…”

Instead of trying to jump in and finish his sentence for him, I bit my tongue and waited. I wanted him to be comfortable sharing his feelings with me, and I was more than willing to be patient. The soft melody of holiday music filtered back from the front of the shop, and I could hear Hannah moving trays into the display case.

My patience was rewarded when Miller sighed and set the sifter down again. “I just don’t know what I want to do next. I don’t want to move back to the city and have a high-pressure job, but while my current clients are a smaller business, they’re so disorganized that they create more work for me, and I end up busy all the time anyway. Plus… I have so many ideas for how best to market my clients’ practices, but my clients are too old-fashioned to let me do most of the things I want to try.”

“Like what?” I asked, beginning to dot the cookies with colorful icing to make strings of Christmas lights in a zigzag pattern.

“E-commerce and social media, mostly. Their business is perfect for it, but the decision-makers are old dudes who don’t get it. They think a nice ad in the Sunday paper is the way to go. It drives me batshit.”

“So they aren’t letting you be the subject-matter expert in your field.”

Miller looked up at me in surprise. “Yes. That’s exactly right and an excellent way to phrase it. I guess it makes me feel ineffectual and stuck in the dark ages.”

“That doesn’t seem like the kind of place that would allow for career growth and fulfillment,” I added.

He let out a soft chuckle and went back to his job. “Thank you. Hearing it out loud helps.” I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not, but he quickly added, “I mean it. Talking about it like this makes me realize I need to make a change. I’m not happy there. And with my mom gone…”

“Happiness is important,” I said, meeting his eyes. The recent loss of his mother explained the sadness in them.

As I watched him, Miller’s cheeks and the tips of his ears turned pink, and my attraction to the man zapped me right in the chest. He was sexy as hell and so damned sweet. It was a potent combination, especially now that I knew he wasn’t involved with someone.

“It is. So… what about you? Are you happy? Um, with work, I mean? Owning your own place? This is yours, right? I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed.” He was adorably polite, and the fact that his manners got more formal when he was nervous was incredibly endearing.

“Honey’s is mine, yes. I opened it earlier this year.”

Miller focused on sifting sugar. “How did you wind up in Aster Valley from Chicago?”

Something inside of me warmed at the realization he recalled our conversation from yesterday, like maybe it had meant something to him, too. “A friend I met in culinary school got married a couple of years ago in Steamboat Springs. When I came to the wedding that summer, I fell in love with the area.”

“You didn’t like living and working in the big city?”

I never really knew how to explain my previous business to new friends. Whenever I tried it, I either came off sounding like a braggart—I owned the largest chain of small bakeries in the Midwest—or a fool—And I sold it all in hopes of starting one not quite so successful as the last…