“Do you think they mind strangers coming?” Cassandra slung her purse over her shoulder as she stepped out of the little red MG convertible.
“Oh, I doubt it, Cassie,” said Angela. “Or they wouldn’t have such a big sign up. Anyway, the worst they can do is tell us to go away.” The two women began to walk up to the big metal quonset hut that housed the Town Hall. There were quite a few pick-up trucks and some cars parked around the building, and the big double doors were open wide.
Inside, it was crowded, and nearly everyone looked like they came from the local farm areas, but there were a few people who also looked like tourists among them. They strolled around the edge of the room. The pie bake-off had already happened, apparently, and they were offered samples of the winning pies.
“Mmmm, did you taste this apple pie, Cassie? Lots of cinnamon, I love that.”
“I like the pumpkin with the crumbly topping, wow, can these country people bake pies. I just buy them at the bakery when I bring them for Thanksgiving at Mom’s.”
“Look,” said Angela, “I think it’s time for the auction to begin, everyone is going over to that end of the hall by the little podium. Let’s go watch.”
“Okay, but I’m taking another piece of this yummy pie. I didn’t even see the chocolate one. I really wish I knew how to bake. I’d bid on anyone who could bake like this. It’s a shame none of the bachelors is a pie baker.”
“You’d really bid on a guy just because he could bake a pie?” Angela could hardly control her giggles. “You really would? You swear?”
“Angie, I get tired of fast food and I can only burn water on a good day. I can’t live forever on microwave popcorn. So, yes, I swear, if there were a guy who could bake a silky, dark chocolate cream pie like this one, I’d not only bid on him, I’d marry him.”
Angela couldn’t control herself any longer, she clutched her stomach and bent over laughing, revealing what had been behind her on the wall. A poster that said,
COME ONE COME ALL
ON THE HOTTEST PIE BAKING BACHELORS
IN THE COUNTY
ALL PROCEEDS BENEFIT
STYXTOWN FOOD BANK
Cassandra turned pale as her sister continued to convulse in helpless laughter. “It’s not funny, Angie. You set me up!”
“Like you haven’t set me up a hundred times! I wouldn’t be married to Sam now if you hadn’t set me up on that blind date. Looks like we’d better take a seat and see which of our handsome bachelors made that yummy chocolate pie.”
Cassie knew how much Angela loved Sam. He was with his platoon on maneuvers, and Angie missed him dreadfully. She was worried he’d be sent to
next, and this trip was supposed to be a distraction. Home for Thanksgiving was just too lonely without Sam. “Okay, you know I never back out on bet. I guess this was a bet. I only hope he’s my type.” Iraq
A matronly woman in a floral dress and a flower-trimmed hat stepped up to the microphone, “Welcome to the auction! I know you’re all anxious to bid on a bunch of guys with such a crisp crust and well-spiced filling.” There was a polite smattering of applause and a few chuckles from the assembled audience. “Without any further ado, here is your Master of Ceremonies, Bianca Hatfield.”
From off to the side, up stepped a young woman dressed in a pair of tight jeans and a short black jacket, her long auburn hair pulled up in a tight ponytail. She raised her arms and said, “We begin! Gentlemen, this way please!” And at her call, a dozen men walked up in front of her and turned to face the waiting crowd. “Here they are, ladies, the finest pie bakers
has to offer! Remember, when you bid all the money goes to charity, so be generous.” Miner County
The men lined up in front of the audience were all sizes and shapes and ranged in age from about twenty to maybe forty-five. They were all smiling, and a few of them were blushing at the catcalls that had begun with their arrival. The country crowd was getting rowdy and having fun with these men they had known all their lives.
“All right! We will begin with baker of the Crispy Apple Tart. Let me remind you ladies that you not only win the bachelor in question, but also a baking session in their own home kitchen to recreate their winning pie! What am I bid for the bachelor responsible for the Crispy Apple Tart?”
Cassie scanned the men to see who would step forward and take credit for the delicious apple tart she’d tasted. Not one of the men moved forward or stepped onto the podium. “Angie, do you think he’s not there? Why doesn’t one of them step forward?”
Angela craned her neck over the tall woman seated in front of her. “I don’t know, Cassie.”
The bidding had begun, starting at twenty dollars and climbing to over three hundred before the auctioneer called, “Going, going, gone! Sold for three hundred fifty dollars! Now, anyone have a guess who our winner, Mamie, bought to make her a pie?”
Cassie was amazed to observe that it had been a secret auction. Those who lived here obviously knew the rules and were good-naturedly calling out guesses, until the auctioneer said, “Pie-maker, show yourself!”
A man stepped forward, to cheers and whistles from his friends in the audience. “Never knew you could make apple pie, Ed!” yelled a masculine voice from toward the back. “Thought you were a pumpkin man!”
“Nope, apples have always been first in my heart and my pan!” said Ed as Mamie, an apple-cheeked woman about his age, led him away.”
“I have my doubts about whether there is total secrecy here,” Cassie whispered to Angie after watching three more happy couples wander off to the back of the hall.
“We’ll see, which one do you think made the chocolate?” She looked under her lashes at her sister, who had been staring at one corner of the line of guys the entire time the bidding had been going on.
“Oh, I don’t care,” she said. “I probably won’t win him anyway. I don’t have the kind of money it will take for the Best of Show pie.”
“But if you could? Which one?”
“The one with the white shirt, and the black boots.”
“Wow! He is pretty cute, but not your usual type, you usually go for the blonde, urban types.”
“I think I’m tired of the usual types. They haven’t worked out so far, have they? I think I’m ready for the cowboy type, with all that wavy black hair and those chocolate brown eyes. Think it’s a hint?”
“I don’t know, Cass. Let’s hope so, I like your new type.”
The bidding continued, and with each bid Cassie’s heart beat louder. Would he be the next one to go? The others were okay, but she was getting awfully set on that guy on the end. He was tall, she noticed, and his jeans hugged his hips in a way that she really liked. “Do you think they’ll turn around so we can see the other view?” she whispered to Angie then blushed furiously as she realized what she’d said.
Angie was lost in giggles once again, clutching her side. “I had no idea this little car trip would turn out to be so much fun! Maybe you should ask, no, I will!” and before Cassie could stop her, Angie called out, “We want to see the rear view!”
“All right, we have a request from the audience!” said Bianca, looking very serious. How about it, gentlemen? Let’s see if another angle will help loosen the purse strings.”
As one, the remaining six guys, the best looking of the original dozen, turned to face the stage. A line of jean-clad behinds faced the audience and the cat calls grew in volume.
There were even a few shrill whistles and masculine laughter was very audible.
“How is that? Everyone got a good look?” The guys turned back around, laughing themselves. Overall, the afternoon was fun for everyone present, and the hilarity was growing with each winning bid.
The next bachelor was the one who had baked a banana cream pie. Not only did that get the crowd going, but two ladies were very determined and managed to bid up to almost a thousand dollars before one waved to the other and said, “All yours, I don’t need banana cream pie that much.” If it got much wilder in there, someone was going to have to call the riot squad.
Cassie’s heart sank, though. If the bids were this high now, they were only going to get higher. She knew which guy she wanted, and she’d sworn to bid on the chocolate cream pie. Even if they were one and the same, it was bound to be more money than she had.
The next three bachelors were bid on and won, the ladies squealing with delight and the guys smiling and accepting the hugs and kisses and pats on the behind as they passed through the crowd. It was down to only two pies and two guys. Cassie held her breath. If the guy with the chocolate eyes had baked the
Second Place autumn pear pie, she was done for.
“They’re both cute, Cass,” whispered Angie. “Either way, it should be fun.”
But Cassie had her heart set on the guy with the beautiful eyes (and cutest butt) and was prepared to be heartbroken if she didn’t get him. This is ridiculous! I don’t even know him, and I’m acting like we’re going to break up or something. She watched the bidding on the next-to-last pie rise to almost twelve hundred dollars and waited to see what would happen. When the auctioneer said, “Sold to Amber Conahee for twelve hundred dollars,” the two men looked at each other, then at the audience, and Cassie knew she wasn’t the only one holding her breath.
Then, just as she thought she might turn blue, chocolate-eyes took a step back. He was still in the running. He was the only man standing, and she was about to take the chance of her life.
“Do you think they’ll take a check, Angie?”
“I saw one lady pay with one, Cassie, so yeah, they probably will. How much are you planning to bid?”
“I have two thousand three hundred twenty dollars in my checking account.”
“All of it.”
Angie looked at her, big eyed. “All of it?”
“Yep, for once in my life I am going to do exactly what I want to do. I get paid next week, I’ll be okay.”
“Ladies,” began the auctioneer, “ I know how many of you had a piece of that delicious Dark Chocolate Dream pie. And I know you’ve probably guessed by now who the baker might be. Shall we open at five hundred dollars?”
The audience was much quieter for a moment. Then,“five hundred,” shouted a petite redhead, waving money over her head.
“Six!” shouted another and the bidding was fast and furious until it reached the two thousand dollar mark, when it began to slow. Cassie joined the bidding early on, and more and more women had dropped out until it was now between her and the redhead who had bid first.
“Two thousand three hundred!” the redhead yelled, and the crowd went wild.
“Two thousand three hundred twenty.” said Cassie, clutching her checkbook. She saw now that the object of her desire was looking straight at her. He was so handsome, and she saw kindness in his eyes and laugh lines by his mouth. She wanted him more than she had ever wanted anyone or anything in her life.
“Two thousand three hundred twenty-five,” screamed the redhead.
Cassie felt despair begin to gather around her like a dark cloak. She had no more money, none at all. It was over. She turned to congratulate the redhead and felt her sister press something into her hand. It was a fifty dollar bill.
“Get him, Cass! Sam and I owe you for helping us find each other.”
“Two thousand three hundred seventy!” Cassie shouted, voice hoarse with emotion.
She looked around, and the redhead looked back at her, then grinned and shook her head.
“Any other bids?” asked Bianca. “No? Okay then, going, going gone. Sold to the pretty blonde in row three. Thanks, honey, that money will do a lot of good.”
Cassie stood frozen by her seat. She had won him, what was she going to do now?
What was I thinking? He’s headed this way! I don’t even know him, what have I done?
Then he was standing right in front of her.
“I’m Bob Stone and you must have really liked that pie.” His eyes twinkled gold flecks in the dark brown reflecting the light.
“I did, and I understand you’re making me another one?”
“You bet, come with me and we’ll get started. What are you doing for dinner?”
Angie shook her head, “Don’t mind me, I’ll check into the motel. Going to do everything you said you’d do with the maker of that pie, Sis?”
Cassie smiled, “You never know.”
Angie watched her sister walk away, hand in hand with the tall cowboy in the tight jeans. She shook her head, it wasn’t like Cassie to fall this hard. But she was due, it was about time she let her heart lead her. As Cassie walked out the door, Angie felt someone standing close to her.
“That girl got lucky,” said Bianca, the afternoon’s auctioneer.
“He does seem nice,” said Angie.
Bianca smiled. She pointed to the window where they could see Cassie reaching on tiptoe as Bob bent to press his lips against hers. “They’ll be fine. They’ve both been waiting for each other. It works like that here sometimes, if you’re very lucky.”