Leave the Pieces Behind

Young Adult Romance


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Bree Apollo is an average fifteen-year-old girl: she loves chocolate, baking cupcakes, and her neighbor, the hunky and all around popular seventeen-year-old Foster Quinn. Except Foster is clueless about her feelings for him, instead treating her like a kid sister and begging for her homemade desserts. As a fellow chocolate lover, he should be Bree’s for the taking, if it weren’t for his oh-so-perfect girlfriend.

After she overhears Foster making fun of her to his friends, she’s devastated. And not even chocolate can take away the pain. She intends to wallow in grief for a boy that was never hers to begin with, but Austen, her eccentric new neighbor has other ideas.

The strange boy down the street always wears a black fedora, walks barefoot, and focuses all his energy on building a treehouse in his backyard. For some reason, he’s elected Bree to help him. At first, she turns him down because he acts too awkward and takes everything she says literally. But after learning of his autism, she decides to help with his construction (forgiving him for not being a chocolate fan), even though she doesn’t know a think about power tools.

As Bree and Austen grow closer, Foster notices Bree no longer worships the ground he walks on. He wants her to go back to that doting version of Bree, but Austen has become more important to her than she’s ready to admit.

Austen may just be the one to help her move on from Foster.

Like two pieces of a puzzle, they fit together perfectly.



“You’re certain you never frosted cupcakes before?” I asked Austen, who completed the task I had given him with great results. Whereas I made a mess whenever I baked, he was extremely neat and tidy, dirtying only the spatula he used to frost the cupcakes that would top my cake.

“Mom and Aunt Lea don’t bake.” He set the spatula on a napkin then, grabbing a spoon to scoop some leftover cream cheese icing from the side of the bowl.

Seeing him lick his bowl made me do the same with mine. I used my finger to clean my bowl of chocolate frosting, licking away the residue.

“Good.” Finished with his bowl, he put it in the sink. I kept licking mine while I viewed the disaster in the kitchen I would have to clean up.

Even with the mess, the cupcakes we baked, including the three-layer vanilla buttercream cake, and some of the flowery decorations I created with fondant had come out pretty good for a first try. It had gone better than I had anticipated. Based on the winning cakes from past years, mine might have a good shot at making the top five.

Austen collected the utensils and other baking implements cluttering the kitchen island. I inspected my bowl one last time for any stray frosting, but then froze with my finger half in the bowl when Austen swiped my chin with his thumb. I peered up to him as he checked his thumb covered with the chocolate he collected from my face. His tongue slipped out of his mouth, and he licked his thumb.

“This is what chocolate tastes like.” He then stuck his thumb in his mouth and sucked.

dropped the bowl on the counter and ran my fingers over my chin, completely dumbfounded by his move.

“Y-you… My chin.” I looked at him as if seeing him for the first time. For some reason he had touched me without any problem today.

“Yes, you have a chin, like me.” He tapped his chin, not sounding robotic like usual.

“Are you stating a fact or being funny?” I shifted closer to him and bumped his hip. He stiffened but didn’t move away. He kept his gaze on the top of the counter and swallowed more than once. Did I make him nervous? He sure as hell made me feel something like that when he wiped the chocolate off my chin and licked it from his finger.

“What do you think of chocolate now that you’ve tried it?” I pressed my arm to his, testing him in a way I never had before. I wasn’t trying to be cruel, but I wanted to see how he would react.

He turned his face toward me but stared at my forehead. I was tempted to snap my fingers so he would finally look me in the eyes. But this was a baby step for both of us. I was about to find out how far I could go, and how sensitive he was when I invaded his space.

“If you had frosting or cupcake crumbs on your chin, would you let me wipe them away like you did to me?” I braced my arm on the counter as I leaned into him.

He exhaled hard enough his breath tickled the top of my head. It made me smile, knowing he was comfortable enough I could ask him such a question without him getting upset.

“I don’t know.” His finger brushed the side of my mouth.

I sucked on my bottom lip as the tip of his finger traced the corner of my mouth and traveled down.

I lifted my hand to join his finger but then the doorbell rang.

He jumped away and knocked one of the chairs near the kitchen table while I tried to understand what had just happened between us.


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