A Recipe for Disaster?
1 college junior, fired from summer internship
1 secret crush, the cute and flirty type
1 crush’s best bud, with a secret of his own
1. In large bowl, mix together college junior and secret crush.
2. Gradually add in crush’s best bud.
3. Stir until best bud’s secret is revealed.
4. Let mixture rest in a sleepy provincial town.
5. Bake under the blazing summer sun until golden brown (be careful, batter might burn).
Tania’s summer is more than she can handle! Her cooking career comes to a screeching halt before it can even take off. Then, best friends Rob and Mateo enter the picture. Can she figure out her feelings for them, AND get the internship credits she needs to make it to senior year?
NOTE: Mateo got Tania’s HEA. This is Rob’s story and may be a prequel to his book–that I have on good authority would be out soon.
This was the first time Rob Borromeo was spending Valentine’s Day alone. Okay, maybe not the first time. But it was the first time in quite a few years. A few days ago, he had decided to end his relationship with his girlfriend. He didn’t feel it was right to be with someone when his thoughts were tormented by someone else. By someone who was not only unavailable—someone who was in love with his best friend.
Rob looked out at the long line of cars in front of him, their tail lights a blur of red, angry eyes taunting him, telling him he was a fool. A fool to have hung on for too long to a relationship that was going nowhere, to have not said anything when he knew he was falling for someone else, and to have even pushed his best friend and the girl he liked together.
He was driving to Tania’s house because he had promised his buddy Mateo that he was going to help out with his V-Day setup. It was their first Valentine’s Day together and Mateo wanted to make it special. So of course who was going to hold up the sign, bring the speakers, and unload the flowers from the car? His trusty sidekick Rob, of course.
Rob never hated being Mateo’s sidekick. In fact, he felt it was his calling. Life wasn’t a stressful ride for him. Nothing really was. He just cruised along, taking whatever he could, doing whatever he felt like, passing his classes by the skin of his teeth. It was Mateo who had plans, who wanted to make big changes in Silay City, where he was going to one day take over his family’s farm. Rob was content with helping out. Heck, he even considered moving to Silay to be Mateo’s right hand man. He didn’t feel the need to submit applications to corporations and put on a tie. He wasn’t planning on wearing a tie to graduation either. But things were different now. He was feeling something he had never felt before and it was driving him crazy.
He finally inched forward a few more blocks and made a sharp right into Tania’s village. He never thought he’d fall for Tania Morales. She fun, pretty, and hot but didn’t know it. So he felt the need to keep reminding her. She also had a smart mouth, something he always looked forward to whenever he was with her. But he had a girlfriend. Suki. Suki was sweet, she was hot too, and she was a senior in high school. Suki was a go-getter. In fact, she was the one who had asked Rob out, the one who told him they should make their relationship official after they had kissed several times in his car. She was getting awesome grades and was being offered scholarships in different colleges. But she told him she wanted to go to his school, to be with him. It was one of the best universities in Manila. But Rob didn’t think it was a good idea.
“Suk, you should look for other options. I think this program might be better for you and they don’t offer it in my school.” He was sprawled on the carpet of her living room floor while she sat on her plump, cream couch. They were both holding several university brochures.
“I need to make a decision soon, Rob. They aren’t going to wait around for me all year.” She dropped one of the brochures on his face.
He flicked it off and tugged on her wrist. She tumbled to the floor, landing right next to him, her long black hair tickling his face. He breathed in its lavender scent and started kissing her soft lips. She struggled for a few seconds, making noises that sounded like, “my parents, my siblings, my helpers” but Rob ignored them and kept kissing her. He knew she eventually gave in when he felt her hands cradle his face, rubbing her palms against the stubble along his cheeks. Then all of a sudden, his phone beeped and vibrated against his thigh. He ignored it, but Suki had already pulled away and started digging into his pocket for the offending gadget.
“It’s that Tania.” She tossed the phone to him. “Why does she text you at all hours anyway?”
“Suk, it’s four in the afternoon. A perfectly respectable time to text people.” He took the phone and tapped on her message.
Bring some vanilla extract tonight. I want to make Mat cookies. And you can have some too.
It wasn’t that she was being demanding. Or that Rob was acting like her slave. Which he didn’t mind being in the least. But Tania knew he lived right next to a satellite grocery store and it would be really easy to pass by on the way to her house. He, Mateo, Tania, and her best friend Bobbi were studying the same elective and were meeting that night to discuss a class project. The problem was, he wasn’t at home. He was in Suki’s house and there were no supermarkets on the way to Tania’s.
Of course. Anything for you, fair lady.
“You had to type that, didn’t you?”
Rob’s head snapped up. He had forgotten where he was. He had forgotten that a few seconds ago, his lips were locked with hers. Her lips that were now slightly swollen, pink and precious. His heart sank as if Thor’s hammer had landed on it and plummeted it down to his toes.
“Suk, I’m so sorry.”
He had left her in tears, angry tears brimming in her eyes, only threatening to fall. She accused him of cheating. How could she not after reading the text message he had sent? She accused him of being shallow along with other more colorful words. But he knew he was doing the right thing. He couldn’t just make out with Suki and pretend everything was okay. Because it wasn’t.
And now, a few days later, on this day in particular, it still wasn’t.
He stepped on the brakes of his car after pulling up across the street from Tania’s two-storey house. He took a deep breath and swallowed the sore lump in is throat. He was going to do this. He was going to continue to play Cupid because Mateo was his best friend and Tania deserved an awesome guy like him. Not someone like Rob who had no direction in life. Not someone who was perennially someone else’s sidekick.
He hopped out of the car and opened his trunk. It was hard to see in the dim light, the lampposts few and far between, giving out a dull amber shimmer. He turned on the flashlight app on his phone and found what he was looking for. He pulled a few cardboard signs out together with his small yet powerful portable speakers. As he made his way across the street, he spotted Mateo standing by the gate.
“Hey, buddy!” He nodded, noticing that his usually self-composed best friend looked a bit fidgety, as if he didn’t know what to do with his hands, his arms, his feet. “You okay? You can pull this off, you know.”
“Rob.” Mateo clapped him on the back and took the speakers from his arms. “I know. It’s just it’s the first time I’m doing anything like this for her and she might just laugh at me.”
“She won’t. She was the one who did that horrible rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ that will have Freddie Mercury screaming and kicking in his grave. She has no right to laugh.” Rob smirked. He loved teasing her about that. It also so happened to be the moment he had lost his heart to her.
Mateo laughed, his face softening. “You’re right.”
“Of course, man. I’m always right. Now let’s do this thing before you completely chicken out.” Rob bent down and picked up the baskets filled with flowers at Mateo’s feet. “Scatter these on the ground as she opens the gate, right?”
Mateo nodded his head. “But now I’m thinking it might be too cheesy. She’s not cheesy.”
Rob looked up at the sky, not failing to notice the stars had decided to come out in full force, brightening up the darkness, painting an even more romantic evening than usual. Maybe the sky also knew it was Valentine’s Day and wanted to offer its own contribution to the poor guys out there who were killing themselves trying to make it a special night for their ladies. “No, Mat, but you are.”
Mateo straightened up and smoothed down his white dress shirt. Rob nodded at it. “Her favorite shirt.” It had a pattern of tiny dark blue macarons. If you didn’t look closely, you’d think they were just polka dots. A gift she had given Mateo.
“You’d think you were proposing marriage or something.” It wasn’t supposed to come out that way. Bitter, angry, hurt. And his best friend picked up on it.
“Hey, dude, you okay? You sure you want to help me out with this? After Suki and all?”
Rob heaved a deep sigh. “Yeah, I am. I don’t miss her. I guess it’s just not easy being alone tonight, you know?”
“Yeah, I know.” Mateo put his hand on Rob’s shoulder.
There was something in Mateo’s eyes, a flicker of doubt. And for a second, Rob panicked. Did Mateo suspect how he felt for Tania? He was so careful, making sure nothing escaped, not a glance, not a word of longing. But then again, Mateo knew him better than anyone did. He shook his head and forced a smile. “I’ll be okay.”
“Mat? Rob? Are you guys out there?” They jumped at the sound of Tania’s voice calling out to them from her front door. She still wasn’t at the gate so she hadn’t seen anything, but that meant they didn’t have enough time.
Rob dashed to the gate, petals in hand. He felt like an idiot, but hey, like all things, he went with the flow. As Tania pushed open the metal gate, he tossed petals over her.
“What? Rob?” Her eyes widened in surprise, but before she could think it was his idea, his gimmick, Rob pointed at Mateo who approached with the speakers in his hands. He pressed something on his phone and the opening chords of the song Rob played over and over in his car when he wanted to indulge in a little trip back in time began to fill the cool night air. Mateo had a rich, strong voice, one that Rob loved showing off to grownups when they were kids. He would call his parents, aunts and uncles and have Mateo perform. Rob had always been proud to have Mateo as his best friend. But right now, it hurt. When Mateo nodded at him, he joined in singing the second voice, echoing back the words Mateo expertly sang out loud. Rob knew his voice wasn’t anything to brag about, but he could carry a decent tune. And he had the most important thing of all when it came to performing, confidence. He sang loudly, making faces, doing a little hop, skip, and jump around the couple, showering both of them with petals. Tania had tears of laughter pouring down her cheeks. And, wonder of wonders, she joined in reprising the song she had performed in front of the people of Silay City, to win Mateo back. It was the most unusual song to sing on Valentine’s Day, but it was their song, this song about killing a man, not wanting to die, and how very frightening thunderbolts and lightning were.
Rob stood watching them make fools of themselves, his hands now empty of petals. He felt a smile lift the corners of his mouth. They belonged together. No matter what his traitorous heart felt, Tania belonged to Mateo. Not to him. That just meant he had to move on.
The question was, how?