The Wife He Needed

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Jordyn Green dreamed of owning her own bakery since she was small, despite her mother’s criticism. She drove an old car, lived in a small apartment and worked two jobs to make her dream come true. It was finally happening and all it took was throwing all her money at it and the sexy, dominant, mountain man contractor, Ben Collins, to fix it up.

Ben was a widower who was looking for a fresh start in a new town, but he didn’t know it would include a brand-new renovation project and a sexy baker. He wasn’t sure he was ready to move on, or that he would ever find a woman who could stir any feelings in him until he met Jordyn. A sassy spitfire who definitely needed a strong man with a stronger hand.

This is book three in the Clearwater Romance series and can be enjoyed independently.

Publisher’s Note: This contemporary romance is intended for adults only and contains a new beginning romance and power exchange. If any of these offend you, please do not purchase.

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Sample Chapter

Jordyn Green looked around her – her! – shop. Or what would be her shop soon. Right now, it was just four empty rooms and a dream. She didn’t even have a name yet, which was strange considering how long she’d been dreaming, wishing and planning all of this. Not one name just felt right yet. It was coming down to a time crunch though. She needed to get the sign for out front, her business cards, publicity for social media, and all kinds of things ordered soon. She didn’t want anything cutesy, like The Sweet Shop, she wasn’t a cutesy kind of person. Naming her bakery after her Grandma Rose was an option, but Rose didn’t really imply bakery. Today was Monday and she had given herself till Friday to find the name. After all, opening day was November first and that was only three months away!

She set up her temporary office, a folding table and three chairs, and put her laptop on it. She was in business! Well, not yet. Her friend, Lucy, was coming by in a few minutes to see her new place. She’d signed the paperwork while Lucy was off on her honeymoon; she’d gotten back yesterday and wanted to run by this morning while she was out doing errands. Jordyn couldn’t wait to show her around.

Looking out the huge front window onto Clearwater’s little town square, she smiled, imagining watching the seasons change from that window for the next however many years. The outside of the square had, at one time, been the heart of the town, with everything from a grocery store, to chain stores, small mom and pop shops, coffee shops where people gathered before work in the mornings, the library, and the requisite barber shop where men whiled away many afternoons. Like many towns, it had withered away as the big box stores and the mall came to town, but in the last few years, it had started rebuilding. The town council had been putting in a lot of effort to make sure it did and she felt very pleased to be part of bringing back the heart to the city. The small park across the street held many concerts in the summer, plus charity events, food trucks and, of course, that was where the kids all greeted Santa every season. Right now, the fountain sparkled, the trees were green and the grass lush. When she opened, the leaves would be wearing their brilliant fall colors and perhaps falling. People would be gearing up for winter and the holiday season.

Jordyn envisioned her little shop as a morning meeting place for coffee and donuts or a muffin before work. Where busy moms picked up their child’s birthday cake. The place where young brides – or older brides, for that matter – came to pick out their wedding cake. The small room off to the side of this bigger one would be wonderful for cake tastings, small bridal showers, and maybe, eventually, luncheons or teas.

Looking up, she saw Lucy parking right in front of her – her! – shop and almost danced inside. That was Lucy for you and it looked like being married agreed with her. She seemed to be almost glowing.

Walking to the door, Jordyn opened it. “Lucy! Come on in! How was the honeymoon?”

She fingered the elastic band in her pocket. She really should braid her hair before she got busy this morning. It felt so good to have it down for once though. Tight braids were good for work, but sometimes her scalp just needed a break.

“It was fantastic! I’m so glad to be home though; I’m on my way to pick up Gypsy and Juliet from Joni’s house.” Those were her two little dogs, who were the most spoiled creatures Jordyn had ever met. “But I needed to see you to say congratulations, and see what you have here!” Lucy hugged her, unexpectedly, and said, “I’m so very happy for you!”

“Thank you so much,” Jordyn said. “I really didn’t think I’d be doing this for about five more years. I’ve been saving, but when Grandma Rose left me that bit of inheritance, well, I decided that was it. It was time. This place sort of fell into my lap and so far everything is coming together like it was meant to be.”

Lucy laughed. “Well, I saw what Ellie and Mike went through when they built their house, but I hope this goes smoothly for you. At least you have walls! So what are the plans?”

“Well!” Jordyn began, “This room, of course, will be the show room. I’m thinking a display case along that wall and a counter here where people pick up things, a coffee and tea station here, then a few small tables and maybe a longer table for the morning coffee drinkers to gather before work.”

“Maybe a big table in front of the window to put the baked item of the day for people to see out the window?” Lucy interrupted. “Or a fancy wedding cake to show off?”

“Maybe,” Jordyn said. “I am eager to see what the designer says.”

“The designer.” Lucy stopped and grabbed her arm. “The. Designer?”

Jordyn smiled a little and shrugged. “Well, she’s good.”

“Oh, I know she’s good, she’s really good. But, Jordyn!”

“I know,” Jordyn said. “It will be fine.”

“It’s Miranda!” Lucy said. “How will that be fine? She’s going to squish you like a bug.”

“She’s not that bad,” Jordyn protested, trying not to feel uneasy. “Anyway, this will be the kitchen. I need her because I don’t know all the rules and codes and things like she does.”

“I never said she didn’t know what she was doing,” Lucy said. “How about this room?” They walked into the back of the store.

“Half office, half walk-in freezer and half pantry,” Jordyn said.

“I’m not a math major, well, technically I was a finance major, but I really don’t think that works out,” Lucy said.

“That is totally not my problem. The designer has to figure out how to get three halves out of a room,” Jordyn said as they walked back to the front of the store. “And this little room, I can see for cake tastings and small bridal lunches and things. There’s the bathroom over there. It needs remodeling badly.”

Lucy opened and closed the door. “That’s an understatement.” Going back into the front room, she glanced out the window.

“Look, Jordyn! It’s Paul Bunyan in the flesh and on our square!”

Jordyn walked over and looked out the window. “It is,” she agreed. A man walked – no, strode – down the street on the park side of the square. He looked huge. Tall, bearded, massive, jeans and boots, a work shirt rolled up to his elbows and all he needed was an axe over his shoulder and maybe a big blue ox to complete the picture. “He’s one gorgeous specimen of lumberjack, isn’t he?”

“Well, he’s no Max,” the newlywed said. “Jordyn, he’s coming here!”

“He’s just crossing the street,” Jordyn said, her heart unexpectedly hammering. Wasn’t he?

“If he was just crossing the street, he would have gone to the corner where there are crosswalks made for that purpose, instead of crossing in the middle of the road. Nope, he’s coming here,” Lucy insisted. “Don’t worry, I’ll save you!”

“From what?” Jordyn asked. He was coming here! Walking right up to her door. “Do you think he’s here to ravish me or something?”

“Ravish?” Lucy giggled. “Hello, sir, can we help you?” she asked as he knocked once and walked in the door. In person he was even more imposing than when striding down the street. Jordyn tried not to stare. At six three, she had thought Ellie’s husband Mike was tall. This one had a few more inches on him and a lot more muscle. He was a mountain man! There was a tattoo snaking down one of his arms, and for some reason, she really wanted to see the rest of it. Did he have any more? Where?

“Hello, I’m Ben and am supposed to meet Miranda here,” he said.

“I’m Miranda,” Jordyn blurted out, then blushed and said, “I mean, Miranda is supposed to meet me. Meet here. Come here. Miranda is going to be here. I’m Jordyn.” She wished she was Miranda though, for some reason. Or could fall through the floor. Her cheeks felt so hot. What was wrong with her?

Ben looked at her almost quizzically, then smiled and he suddenly didn’t look as intimidating anymore.

“Miranda is always late,” he said conversationally, as if she just hadn’t stuck both feet in her mouth. “It isn’t one of her best qualities.”

“She’s a very good designer, though,” Jordyn said. She was defending Miranda, exactly why?

“That she is,” he agreed and folded his arms. She tried not to gawk at the muscles. Lucky Miranda! She really couldn’t see the fashionable designer who always wore what they called ‘power suits’ and whose hair and nails were done to perfection with this man who wore jeans and boots and had a tattoo and a beard and, well, opposites attract. This opposite though? She needed to stop staring at those arms.

Lucy said, “Well, it was really nice to meet you, Ben. I hope you and Miranda hook up soon.” She turned and grinned at Jordyn and said, “I really have to go get my girls. Good luck this morning; call me later!”

“Oh, you know I will,” Jordyn said.

She watched Lucy leave and turned to Ben as he looked around a little bit. “So what are you doing in here?” he asked.

“Waving my magic wand, throwing my magic checkbook at it and turning it into a bakery. Thus Miranda,” she said, itching to ask him about him. Why not? What could it hurt? “So how do you know Miranda?” she asked.

“She hired me to do contract work for her. I just recently moved to town and we’d worked together before.”

“So you will be working here?” Oh be still her heart!

“If we’re hired,” he said easily and smiled at her again, making her knees tremble. Just look at him! She had to get herself under control. He had implied he was ‘with’ Miranda and she had no intention of getting on Miranda’s bad side. She’d heard too many rumors.

“I have an in with the boss,” she told him. “You probably have it in the bag. You know, if Miranda ever shows up.”

“Oh, she always shows up,” he said. “Always late and never mentioning it unless you do. Then she blows it off like it was nothing. Randy’s time is more important than anyone else’s.” He seemed to know her well.

“Well, as long as we all realize that,” she said, then laughed. “Here comes the woman of the hour now.” They both watched Miranda walk across the street, but down at the corner to cross at the crosswalk, unlike Ben, in her red high heels and pale pink power suit. She had to work out on one of those calf machines at the gym. The woman had gorgeous legs. Why had she noted that? Because she was staring at her walking so she wouldn’t stare at Ben like a fool? Maybe.

Miranda walked in the door without knocking and looked around, not quite smiling, not quite smirking. Jordyn suddenly felt anxious, as if she’d failed somehow.

“Randy, you are late, as usual,” Ben said.

“Ben, you are dressed like a bum, as always,” Miranda retorted. “Hello, Jordyn, I can’t wait to see what you have here!”

“Hello, Miranda. I’m looking forward to seeing what you can do for me.” Hmmm. That sounded very formal.

“I see you’ve met my general contractor, and brother from another mother, Ben,” she said. “He’s a little rough around the edges but he’s very good at what he does. I decided with business booming the way it is, it would be an asset to my clients to create my own contracting crew. Ben is the best I know, despite how he dresses.”

“Oh, shucks, Randy,” Ben shuffled his feet like he was embarrassed but winked at Jordyn, which made her smile. “The pretty things you say.”

Not that it mattered one iota, but Jordyn couldn’t tell if they were a thing or not. She listened to them banter as they walked around the building and she told them of her dream. “And I need it all done before November first, because that is opening day,” she said. “What do you think? Can it happen? Maybe the week before so I can do a soft opening?”

Miranda stopped typing on her tablet. “When?”

“November first,” she said.

“Jordyn, seriously? That’s three months away. A job like this would usually take five to eight!”

“Really? I really want, no, need, to be open downtown for the holiday season,” she said, feeling utterly stricken. She’d thought three months was a long lead time. It seemed like forever to her. Ages before she could open her doors. She hadn’t even given notice at her day jobs yet!

“I can aim for, maybe December first,” Miranda said. “What do you think, Ben?”

“Well, let’s work out figures and plans, and then make an estimate,” he said. “Jordyn, we will do the best we can, though.”

“How soon can I have the figures and plans?” Jordyn asked, her head spinning.

“Day after tomorrow,” Miranda said confidently. “Same time, same place?”

Jordyn nodded. Okay. She’d see what they had to say, and as soon as possible she’d give notice to her clients where she worked as a private chef. After that, she’d find out how to renovate an old brick building into a sweet modern bakery on YouTube because everyone knew that was where you could learn anything. She’d throw sweat equity into this place and if she had to work day and night, well, then she would. Plus she had friends. Her friends would pitch in now and then when they could, she felt certain. Especially if she fed them. If she was going to do this dream, she was going to go all in. Plus, working side by side with Ben did not sound bad at all.

Though, she reminded herself, Miranda. She was not a homewrecker, and they obviously had something. The last thing she wanted or needed now was drama. What did brother from another mean? Were they step-siblings? Half? Best friends with romance and that was just a saying? What did it matter? It didn’t. She had a new business to open. Sure, she could fantasize about the hot contractor, not a darn thing wrong with that, but no more. Nothing else. It could be fun, she decided. Fantasy men were as much fun as real ones anyway.

You never had to pick up fantasy men’s socks or get up and make them a sandwich or explain why you spent too much on a pair of shoes. Fantasy men just approved of every little thing you did. Well, unless they didn’t and put their big, strong, dominant foot down and made you shiver delightedly. However, once again, there was a fantasy man and then the real man. Real men weren’t like that. Real men just complained. They didn’t know about strong and dominant.

Real men got pissed off at you and made you feel horrible. They put you down and they made you scared. She’d seen it before, and she had no desire for that. She would just enjoy her fantasy man, and the eye candy that was Ben, the mountain man. It was a good thing he was with Miranda. A very good thing. Yes. She would convince herself of that before she saw him again. They spent the next hour going over and over the four little rooms with Miranda and Ben both making copious notes. What could they be writing down?

“What is that door to?” Miranda had asked in the back hallway.

“It goes upstairs. I’m not doing anything with it right now.” Miranda nodded and scribbled more down. It was a door! Why did it take what seemed like three pages of notes?

“All right, Jordyn. I’ll be back day after tomorrow, and will have the plans and figures and a timeline then and we can make some final decisions.” She pulled paperwork out of her satchel and handed it to her. “Here is my contract. You can read it over and we will discuss it at our next meeting. Bring your checkbook. Or, well, I take cards, too.”

Why did she feel like Miranda was the one in charge and was hiring her, instead of the other way around? Miranda just was that way. She had yet to meet the person who thought she was equal to Miranda. Everyone felt a little less than when they came away from a meeting with her. But everyone raved about what a fantastic job she did. Her business was apparently booming, despite her personality. Really, there was nothing you could put your finger on that made her disagreeable, but just, well, as Ellie had said, it was just the way she was.

“I’ll see you for dinner,” Ben said to Miranda. “I want to go take another look at those pipes in that bathroom before I do any estimates.”

Miranda didn’t even bother to answer him but gave him a wave and walked out the door.

“She’s something else, isn’t she?” Ben said, watching her walk away.

“She’s a little intimidating,” Jordyn said. “I mean, she is very nice.”

Ben laughed. “I’ve known her all my life. I know what you mean. There isn’t anything you can say ‘ow, that was mean’ or ‘what was that about?’ but still, you know she thinks she’s better than you.”

Jordyn laughed, but felt unsure how to respond to that. He was with Miranda, somehow. Dating? Married? They were having dinner together anyway.

“Come on. Show me which pipes you need to look at,” she said as they walked back toward the bathroom.

“Do you really think it will take five months?” she asked him. “I had no clue it would take that long.” She thought she was prepared for this bakery. Apparently not. She didn’t even have a name! Or a realistic timeline on renovations. On TV they got it done in what seemed like a few days.

“Don’t know yet,” he said, opening the door to the stinky room, as she called it.

“I’ll need to see the copy of the inspection report Miranda has, and do a little poking around, and then see what she has in mind to do, before I can give you a real time estimate. Luckily, it doesn’t seem you need any walls taken down. That isn’t as easy as it looks on TV.”

“Is it as fun as it looks on TV?” she asked him.

“Oh, yeah. Even more,” he said, and moved into the bathroom. A few minutes later he came out and said, “Good news.”

Jordyn almost sagged with relief. Then covered her mouth not to laugh. She wasn’t expecting bad news, was she? No. Then why did ‘good news’ make her feel like a weight got lifted off? Because she already stressed over the time frame? Probably.

“What is it?”

“Your pipes are in good condition. Not going to have to be replaced. If the rest of the place is in as good shape, you got yourself a good deal.”

Jordyn almost beamed. Why did his approval mean so much to her? It didn’t. It was only that he knew construction and she’d made a good buy.

“I just hope you can make it into something decent,” she said. “Right now, it is a pretty sad little bathroom.”

“That it is,” he agreed. “That’s up to Miranda though. I just do what the boss tells me to do.”

Yeah. Miranda.

“Do you have a partner or anything?” he asked her.

What kind of question was that? Or did he need to know if he had still another person to answer to? That was probably all it was. “Nope. This is a one woman show. Well, I have a couple of people who will work for me part time, but I’m the one and only owner. I make all the final decisions.”

He laughed and she felt utterly charmed by his low guffaw. “And then you hired Miranda and now you know better.”

Jordyn smiled, a little ruefully. “I guess that’s true. The upside of that is I know I will have a great space when she’s done.”

He nodded in agreement as he typed something more into his tablet. “Owning your own business at your age. You’re doing good for a youngster,” he said.

Giggling escaped her. She hadn’t been carded in years. No one thought she was young. “You are so sweet, but I’m far from a youngster. I turned twenty-eight last week, in fact. See, almost over the hill!”

He looked at her and gave another low chuckle. “Well, now that you mention it, I can see how ancient you are. I’m sorry, ma’am. Didn’t mean any disrespect.”

“You are forgiven,” she said as grandly as she could manage. Not that it was any of his business but, “I’ve been saving for years for this and when my grandma passed a few months ago, she left me a little to invest in my business.”

“I’m sorry about your grandma,” he said, which surprised her. She’d thought he was simply worried about being paid.

“Thank you. She’d suffered the last few years, so it was time. But it is still hard, you know, even when you expect it.”

He put his tablet down and looked into her eyes. “I do know. Slow or fast, it is always hard when it’s final.”

Jordyn nodded, blinking back unexpected tears. “I’d like to incorporate her name into the building name or logo or something,” she said. “But I haven’t found the right way to do it yet.”

“You don’t have a name or a logo yet?” he asked, sitting down in one of the folding chairs.

Shaking her head, she said, “I gave myself till Friday to come up with the right name and a logo.”

“You know outside signs can be a couple of months lead time, depending on where you get them made, right?”

“Why did I think three months was a really long lead time?” she moaned. “I honestly thought I’d be rattling around in here in September or early October bored out of my mind, wishing I was open already.”

Ben laughed. “Well, we do what we can, but yeah. You need to make that decision and get that sign ordered this week so I can get it up for you and you can start creating a little buzz. I know a couple of places that do a good job with that, so depending on what you come up with, I can order it for you if you want.”

She nodded. Why had she thought there was a mythical sign place, sort of like Amazon that just had signs ready to ship on a second’s notice? Of course it would have to be personally made, just for her and her shop.

“I’ll have a decision for you when we meet the day after tomorrow,” she said.

“Good girl,” he said. “And I’m sure Miranda will have a whole bunch more things for you to decide.”

Why did his good girl in that tone he said it in make her want to wiggle? Shouldn’t she be offended? It was those muscles, she decided and that fascinating tattoo. That was all. He was pure eye candy in the best of ways. She’d have a fun, few months just fantasizing, which, as she reminded herself, was more fun than being with a real man anyway. It would be not only delightful but very safe for her heart. “I better get moving,” he said. “The boss lady keeps me on a short leash.”

Jordyn smiled. “I imagine she does.” That did not feel, well, like anything. It was a non-issue to her. “Good to meet you, Ben,” she said. “Looking forward to working with you.”

“Same here, Miss Jordyn,” he said. “This town looks like a great place to start a new life.”

“It is,” she told him as they both stood up. “You’ll see. Welcome to Clearwater.”

“Thanks,” he said. “I’ll see you in a couple of days.”

“You will,” she said and watched him walk out the door and across the street. Lucy wouldn’t be happy he didn’t use the crosswalk, but Lucy was such a rule follower. Personally, she didn’t mind watching him stride across the street.

Shaking her head, she started gathering her things and then walked around turning out lights. “I’ll be back,” she promised her empty shop. “With brand new plans and a brand new name for you. We are going to make memories here, me and you.” And she didn’t feel a bit silly talking to walls, she thought, as she locked her front door behind her and headed off to her job. They were her walls, after all.

***

“Rose’s Cakes of Clearwater. What do you think? Is it too long?” Jordyn spoke into the phone to her friend Ellie as she drove home later that day. Ellie was the city manager and she knew things about things.

“Maybe just Cakes of Clearwater and use a rose as a logo to honor your grandma?”

“Yeah, I like that,” Jordyn said. “Why is this so hard?”

“Beats me, the only business I ever named was my realty business and that was pretty easy. “Thompson’s Realty. Easy peasy. You could do Green’s Bakery if you want easy?”

“With like a green rose for a logo? Nah. I’m probably going with Cakes of Clearwater. I need someone to design a logo for me though. You know anyone?”

“I do, in fact. Joni’s sister, Beth. Do you know her?”

“I have seen her a time or two. I think the last time was at your housewarming party. Doesn’t Joni have a couple of sisters?”

“Yeah, Beth lives with her and does stuff on the computer. No one knows exactly what all she does, but apparently she’s a whiz at it. The other sister is off to vet school in Chicago.”

“And Beth does logos? I thought she worked for an insurance company or something.”

“She does that, too, or something like that, but Lucy got to talking to her once and found out she also does things like designing brochures and logos and things. I’ve used her a couple of times to help promote charity events,” Ellie said.

Jordyn shook her head. Her friend Ellie had always been neck-deep in good causes. Ellie made her tired, often, and while she admired her ambition and drive, she had no idea how laid-back Mike kept up with her.

“Can you text me her number? I’ll give her a call tonight.” Jordyn felt a bit of excitement instead of feeling overwhelmed. Maybe things would come together before November first? She’d given her two-week notice to the three people she worked for today. She’d been their private chef for over a year and a half now, going to each of their houses twice a week and making them all three meals each time. One for that night and two more to put together later in the week. That had her making six different meals a day, in two different kitchens, three days a week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays. Then she did catering for events Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Usually she was off on Mondays, but sometimes that didn’t work out for her. She would be very happy to work regular hours in one spot instead of running from place to place. To be working in her kitchen that would be laid out just the way she wanted instead of learning on the fly in other people’s houses and kitchens and often having to make do because she didn’t have what she needed.

Jordyn pulled into her small one-bedroom apartment in the not so good part of town. Her car was ten years old and her apartment rent was cheap and that was why she could save as much as she did. She wore the same clothes almost every day, calling the jeans and the light blue shirt she wore her work uniform. She had four pairs of each, and then a pair of black pants and a khaki-colored pair and about half a dozen shirts that rarely got worn. She wasn’t a clothes horse and saving for this bakery had first priority in her life. Now, finally, it was coming true.

She would have regular hours, be closed on Sunday, maybe, so would have a regular day off every week, at least to start, till she got some good people hired. Wouldn’t be working evenings unless she chose to cater for someone but she was hoping the bakery would bring in enough soon that she would only have to work there. One job, she marveled. Who would have thought it was finally happening? Not her. But she was ready. Jordyn loved Clearwater and other than being gone for a couple of years for culinary school, had always lived here. It was one of those towns you just never wanted to leave. Or at least she didn’t want to.

Most of the friends she had grown up with had drifted back to town after college, and some had never left town for college. Their town had a very nice, very exclusive private college at the edge of town. Out of reach for most of the families but people came from all over to attend. She had taught classes out there at one point, but when she decided that the bakery was her passion, stopped doing that to do the better paying private chef and catering things. Concentrating on saving for her business had been her priority.

Getting out of her car, she walked up to her apartment door, looking around. Once again, it didn’t reflect her. Second hand couch, small TV and a coffee table. Her kitchen was sub-par at best. But, she spent enough time in other people’s kitchens she rarely cooked at home. When she got her kitchen in her bakery, she’d been toying with the idea of starting a vlog. Why not? It could be fun! She’d thought about it for a while, but didn’t have any place to film one. She’d be baking anyway, in her fancy new kitchen with all new professional appliances, so she might do it.

How was she going to wait till day after tomorrow when she would get to see the plans? Tomorrow would just drag. Well, she had the appointment with Beth tomorrow, so that meant she needed to think of a name. No pressure!

Her mind drifted to Ben as she unbraided her hair and brushed it out. Safely fantasizing only, she reminded herself. He was gorgeous in a big lumberjack sort of way. Those muscles! They were amazing! His hands were huge. What would he look like shirtless? Was the tattoo on his arm the only one he had, she wondered, dropping her rubber band into the jar on her bathroom sink, then kept brushing her hair. Her long braid was good for work, but she enjoyed the feeling of having it down. It was long, to the middle of her back and her mom thought it wanted cut, badly. Why her hair was anything her mom needed to think about, Jordyn couldn’t imagine, but apparently it was a big issue with her. But if she was fussing about her hair, then at least she was still thinking. The Alzheimer’s was creeping in on her, as well as the physical things, but she seemed to be doing better under the excellent care in the home she’d picked out to go to right after her diagnosis. She’d had a couple of more years at home before she moved in there, but Jordyn felt better knowing she was cared for and where she wanted to be.

And right on cue, her phone rang. Jordyn rolled her eyes, but picked up. “Good evening, Mom,” she said.

“Hello, Jordyn, how are you today?” Her mom had been a powerhouse. She’d married and divorced when Jordyn was very young, and put herself through nursing school. Nurses always had a job, she’d told Jordyn all her life. Her sister, Stephanie, had dutifully gone to nursing school and Jordyn knew she was a disappointment for having no inclination to go that route at all. “Everybody knows how to cook,” her mom kept telling her. “It isn’t a real career.”

“I got a call from Clarice,” she started. Jordyn moaned inwardly. Great. “She said you gave notice today! Jordyn, what is wrong with you? That’s a nice steady job and she’s been good to you!”

“Mom, you know I’m starting the bakery. I can’t work at the bakery and for my families. I just don’t have that much time. I’m just one person!”

“How do you know you will even make a go of this bakery? I can’t believe you sank all your grandmother’s money into something like this. Your sister is investing part of hers, saving for her children’s college tuition and taking some classes to further her career.”

Stephanie, the golden child who never did anything wrong. “Of course, she is, Mom. She’s brilliant. Me, I just want to bake my little cakes in a nice little store.”

“Anyone can bake a cake, Jordyn! Why would they buy one from you?”

“People don’t bake their own wedding cakes, Mom.”

“And how often do people get married? Two or three times in their lifetimes? Jordyn, you aren’t married, you need a good career, a decent income. You know how you live, in that tiny little almost unfurnished apartment, driving that old car that could break down at any minute. I’m not even going to talk about your wardrobe. You need to think about your future. I was talking to one of my nurses today and they said you weren’t too old to go to nursing school. They would even help you apply.”

Apparently today was one of her mom’s good days, Jordyn thought and at least she didn’t say she needed her hair cut this time. This was all old news. The nurses seemed to appreciate the cupcakes and cookies she brought them regularly. She doubted they were really invested in her applying to nursing school.

“Mom, I’m hoping to be open by November first. When it’s all done, maybe you’d like to come to my grand opening?” Maybe if she saw it all shiny and new, with a lot of people cheering her on, she’d realize… what? Jordyn wasn’t sure what she wanted her to realize. But something. That her career choice was every bit as valid as nursing?

“If I’m feeling okay,” her mom said, her voice sounding very weak suddenly. “I am certain Clarice would hire you back if you change your mind.”

“I’m sure she would, Mom. I have to go, there’s my doorbell,” she lied. “Love you, talk later.”

Jordyn sighed as she hung up her phone. She really needed to set some boundaries with her mother. Talking to her was not good for her confidence or certainty that what she was doing was right. But it was hard when one day, she was as sharp as she’d ever been, and other days she got her and Stephanie confused and even confused her with her aunt, her mom’s sister. She should be grateful that her mom still had good days, mentally. Maybe she’d just be too busy to answer her phone, but then she knew her sister, Stephanie would get all the blow up. Stephanie had her hands full with her job, her toddler twins and her husband who was an adorable goofball, but seemed to need a lot of attention. Stephanie didn’t need Mom on her case because of her, especially on her, well, Jordyn didn’t know what was worse, her good days or her bad days.

Sighing, she went back to her kitchen. One day she would upgrade to a place with a decent kitchen, but right now, everything went to the bakery. Her bakery. She needed to think of a name before she met with Beth tomorrow. Why did nothing jump out at her? Grabbing some leftover stew, she zapped it in the microwave then sat down in front of the television. Her mind drifted again to the mountain man. She had two more weeks of work, then she’d be in the store full time working alongside him. What could she do? Well, paint and clean, put stuff together Make any decision Miranda allowed her to make. Who knew what else, but surely he would tell her.

She also had to set up her bookkeeping and so many financial details. Luckily, her friend, Mike, who was also Ellie’s husband, had set her up with his assistant Bryan. Bryan showed her how to easily navigate the intimidating program she’d bought to do the books. It was quite different than what she was doing now, but he made it seem doable and he was only a phone call away, as he assured her.

Jordyn set her stew bowl on the coffee table and pulled a blanket over herself. Feeling too tired to get up and go to bed, she decided to sleep on the couch in front of the TV. Why not? Tomorrow would be a busy day. Maybe the name of her bakery would come to her in her dreams.

***

“Hi, Beth,” she said as she walked in. “I love your house!”

“Thanks,” Beth said. “It was our grandmother’s and when Joni and I decided we needed a fresh start, coming here just seemed to be the right thing to do. We’ve been here almost two years now and we both love it.”

“It looks like a grandma’s house should,” Jordyn said. “Huge front porch with a swing, white picket fence, big rooms with high ceilings. I bet the kitchen is fantastic!”

Beth laughed. “Well, come this way and see!” They walked through the living room lined with bookshelves and into a dining room, then past that to a huge kitchen. “Isn’t this a grandma’s kitchen?”

“It is. I love it!” It was vintage, yet modern. The stove was an older gas stove, that looked restored, a brand-new fridge and a huge farmer’s sink. Cheerful red cushions covered the wooden chairs around the big wooden oak table and red and white checked curtains were on the window. It felt homey and warm and Jordyn loved it.

“Here is my office.” Beth led her to a small room off the kitchen. “It used to be my grandma’s sewing room. I can still hear her machine running if I listen hard enough.”

Jordyn smiled. “I love that too,” she said. “My grandma lived in a condo at the beach in Florida the entire time I knew her. She wasn’t a typical snap beans on the front porch type of grandma. More of a play pickle ball and zoom around on her golf cart kind.”

“I’m sorry about her passing,” Beth said.

“Thank you,” Jordyn said.

“Hey, Beth! The contractor is here.” She heard Joni call from the other room. “You okay?”

“Jordyn is in here with me,” Beth called back, then shrugged her shoulders. “Joni is a bit overprotective of me.”

“It’s nice to have someone who loves you around,” Jordyn said. She liked being alone and on her own, but still… Occasionally… no. Just no, she shook her head.

Beth nodded as she sat down in her chair and motioned to the other one for Jordyn. “It is, but really, it can be a little overwhelming sometimes, all her hovering. We are getting bids to remodel the upstairs bathroom, and I hope he comes up with something good, because right now it’s barely tolerable. Okay, let’s talk about what you are wanting.” Beth pulled a computer program up.

Jordyn sighed. “I’ve got a couple of ideas,” she said, “but none are really speaking to me, you know.”

“Give me a few,” Beth said. “I’ll put them in and maybe with a little decoration, one will speak to you. Then we will talk about what kind of sign you want, metal or lighted or just what.”

“More decisions,” Jordyn moaned, but took a deep breath, “Okay. I’ve got Clearwater Cakes, Cake & Bake, Rose’s Bakery, Rose’s Cakes.”

“Is Rose your grandma’s name?” Beth asked as she typed.

“Yeah, and I’d like to honor her somehow in the name. Then there is A Piece of Cake, Sunrise Bakery because I plan to open early for coffee and donuts for the people who work downtown. Cake O’clock. See, they are all good names, but really, nothing very exciting.”

Beth nodded and worked a little more on her computer program while they talked and she did some kind of computer magic. Half an hour later, they both heard voices in the kitchen.

“Beth, Jordyn, come on. I have tea and cookies and want to show you the bathroom plans,” Joni called out.

“We can take a break for a minute, let some of the ideas soak in,” Beth said, swiveling in her chair. “I’ve been smelling those cookies for the last hour.”

Jordyn followed Beth back into the pretty kitchen and stopped in the door. Why did her heart skip a few beats and her breath catch? Just because he was so big and so unexpected. She swallowed hard and said as lightly as she could muster, “Why, Ben, are you cheating on me?”

He stood up as they walked into the room and Joni looked at her, surprised.

“No, ma’am, Miss Jordyn. I’m perfectly capable of renovating a bathroom and shop at the same time.”

“Are you sure?” she tried to act sassy to cover her surprise. “I didn’t think males could multitask.”

“I’m one of the few who can,” he said and she laughed.

“We’ll see about that,” she said. “Ben is the contractor on the shop,” she told Joni and Beth.

“We figured that out,” Joni said. “But right now he’s mine.”

“I’m not charging by the hour, especially if I get cookies,” Ben said, and Jordyn watched him as she took a bite out of her cookie.

“Joni, this is amazing,” Jordyn said. “If you want to make these for the shop, I’d love to have them.”

Joni smiled. “Well, maybe during the summer or school vacations. Or I could give you the recipe and you could make them. Just call them Grandma Daisy’s Oatmeal Cookies.”

“I’d love that,” Jordyn said. “A whole bunch of my recipes are from family members and old cook books and I think it’s great to give them names after the people who made them. Kind of honoring them.”

“Isn’t your wedding cake recipe from your aunt?”

Jordyn nodded. “And I’ve collected cookbooks over the years. My favorites are the little ones the Home Extensions or churches put out with people’s notes in them.”

“Your place is going to be so great,” Beth said. “Think of all the new generations who wouldn’t get to try them, or even know about those old recipes if it weren’t for you, and all the new traditions you’ll be starting.”

Ben looked at them, and said slowly, “You know what you are doing, don’t you, Jordyn?”

She looked at him, puzzled. “What?”

“You are baking memories. If that isn’t a name for a shop, I don’t know what is.”

“Baking Memories,” Jordyn said. “Beth, what do you think?”

“I think I love it,” Beth said, standing up. “And then we could maybe put little roses over the i’s in both words for your grandma, or a larger one underneath or well, come on, let’s go design.”

Without thinking, Jordyn got up and impulsively hugged Ben. “Such a great idea, thank you!” She rushed out of the room after Beth, totally ignoring her physical reaction to him and how she felt when he hugged her back.

Baking Memories. That was it. It just felt right. Weirdly, just like Ben.

 

 

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1 review for The Wife He Needed

  1. Redrabbitt

    YES—I WILL GO STEADY WITH YOU

    The second book in the Clearwater Romance series was a fun read, with charming characters, plenty of social interaction, dreams, and aspirations. It will bring Ben and Jordyn together when she needs renovations on the building she buys in the downtown area to start a bakery. None of the spankings are based on discipline but more on keeping things on an even keel. The two main characters recently meet, and a relationship blossoms.

    Jordyn Green grew up in Clearwater, and now that her mother’s health has declined and she is in an assisted living home—she needs to stay near when problems arise. Jordyn’s late grandmother left her a tidy inheritance that she is using to start her bakery—even if her career choice doesn’t meet her mother’s approval. She will resign from her private chef position, cooking meals for several families, several days a week to focus on her new business. With the help of friends, the name will be decided.

    “Baking Memories. That was it. It just felt right. Weirdly, just like Ben.”

    Miranda is hired and will be helping design and decorate the new bakery and brings in her brother, Ben Collins, as the contractor to do the work. For a bit, Jordyn believes that Miranda and Ben are a couple and then learn they are step-siblings. Ben knew Mike and Max in college, but many years have passed—and the last they knew, he had married Laura. Both Mike and Max feel duty-bound to protect Jordyn and want to warn Ben away.

    “We all have to do things or go through things we don’t want to.”

    The story has plenty of social interaction, people from the previous two books, a touch of mystery, a little bit of angst, some romance, and two people getting to know each other. Both Ben and Jordyn are busy, mainly with the renovations on her bakery, but he has other jobs he is working on. As they get to know each other, things of the past come out. When Miranda and Jordyn have issues with what the plans for one room are, Ben threatens to spank both of them as it escalates into a battle.

    The story keeps the pages turning as both Ben and Jordyn navigate the renovations and the growing feelings they have for each other. Ben is drawn to Jordyn but isn’t sure if he can move forward. Jordyn gets upset, thinking she is being used—and worrying more concerning things being ready for her opening—and Ben seems to be MIA.

    “He was smart and funny and knew how to do stuff. Never underestimate the appeal of a man who knew how to fix things, her Grandma Rose had told her. Grandma would have adored him.”

    Many characters from the first two books play significant roles in this one. It will also set up the next book for another new romance among one of their friends. What you will not find in this story is any details or mention of sex scenes. It is strictly the relationship of this couple and power exchange. This is a series but does not end on a cliffhanger, but instead, a segue into the next book.

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