The Icing on the Cake (Otter Bluff #1) - Linda Seed

Chapter 1

Cassie Jordan appreciated the merits of a good kitchen, and the one in which she stood was top-notch: acres of granite countertop, a double convection oven, a layout that made it easy to pivot from refrigerator to sink to stove, and a refrigerator big enough to accommodate a small restaurant.

She gloried in the luxury of it as she laid out flour, butter, sugar, and all of the other ingredients for her famous champagne cake.

Okay, maybe the cake wasn’t famous.

And maybe she’d lose her job if anyone knew she was here.

The cake would be famous someday—she was sure of it. And nobody had to know about her illicit use of the kitchen at Otter Bluff.

Cassie preheated the oven and used the big KitchenAid mixer—another thing offered at Otter Bluff that she didn’t have at home—and creamed together butter and sugar. She added three eggs, one at a time, then a teaspoon of vanilla. The batter whirred and blended in the stainless steel bowl.

Cassie usually wasn’t one to flout the rules, especially when it threatened her livelihood. But she needed to get this cake done, and she was desperate.

It wasn’t like she could bake, assemble, and decorate a three-tiered wedding cake in her Airstream trailer, and she didn’t have anywhere else to do it. Her parents’ kitchen was small, and worse than that, it was always packed with people—her siblings, her nieces and nephews, her mother’s book group, and her father, who always seemed to be puttering around looking for snacks. That was fine when she was just whipping up a batch of cookies, but this cake was important.

This cake was going to launch her career as a baker.

At least, that was the plan.

She’d gotten the idea to use the kitchen at Otter Bluff when the family who’d been planning to rent the house for the month of April had canceled at the last minute. Cassie’s boss, who ran Central Coast Escapes, was scrambling to find another renter, but until he did, the house was going to be empty.

Cassie had been in the house to clean it after the last guests had gone, and she’d had the idea of borrowing the place just long enough to get the cake done. Who would it harm? She would leave the house spotless, and no one would ever know she’d been here.

She’d done plenty of wedding cakes as favors for friends and family, but this was the first one she was actually being paid to bake. If all went well, the bride and groom’s guests would be impressed, and they’d ask for referrals for their own events.

Wedding cakes weren’t going to pay enough for her to quit her job cleaning and maintaining vacation rentals—at least, not at first—but eventually, who knew?

Carefully, Cassie combined flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and added them to the mixture. While the mixer whirred, she thought about Otter Bluff.

In the plus column were the location—perched atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with breathtaking views and the sounds of barking sea lions—and the newly renovated kitchen. In the minus column was the fact that only the kitchen had been renovated before the owner had either run out of money or had lost interest. The rest of the house hadn’t been updated since it was built in the 1970s.

The harvest gold bathroom fixtures had been installed well before Cassie was born, and there they still were, like some kind of museum exhibit of an earlier, more innocent America.

Then there was the shag carpeting in the master bedroom. Who knew what microbes lived there, even after a good shampooing?

The overall result was that Otter Bluff was a popular rental among people who were willing to put up with the shabby bathrooms, bedrooms, and living room in order to get the spectacular view at a relative bargain.

Cassie was mixing buttermilk and champagne in another bowl, preparing to add them to the batter, when her cell phone rang on the counter.

Her boss.

“Hi, Elliot.” Cassie attempted to sound both perky and honest, like someone who would never use a house that wasn’t hers.

“Cassie. Where are you?”

“Oh. I’m at my parents’ place. Did you need something?” The lie fell out of her mouth with disturbing ease.

“Yes. The Taylors left Dolphin Dreams early, and I wondered if you could get over there and clean it.”

Dolphin Dreams was a ridiculously named house in the Seaclift Estates neighborhood—four bedrooms, three bathrooms, partial ocean view. It was a nice place, but Cassie imagined some clients were put off