Author: Regency

Title: Love & Other Sweets

Summary: AU. After her divorce from Bill, Katie decided to take her life in a new direction and opened a coffeehouse just off Rodeo Drive. She didn't expect the newly returned Ridge Forrester to become one of her most loyal customers.

Author's Notes: Inspired by a post made by the wonderful NewTKFan at the R/K Forums. Thanks for giving me permission to use your idea! FYI, this story features Ridge as portrayed by Thorsten Kaye, the recast, not the original by Ronn Moss.

Disclaimer: I don't own any characters, setting, or quotes recognizable as being from The Bold & the Beautiful. They are the property of their actors, producers, writers, and studios, not me. The poems quoted in this story are also the owners of their respective poets. No copyright infringement was intended and no money was made in the writing or distribution of this story. It was good, clean fun.

Pre-script: So, I don't know if anybody else even likes the idea of Ridge and Katie anymore, but I started this several months ago and I thought I'd share. I'm not sure I'll finish it in this form, but I still like the story. Hope you enjoy!

~!~

Katie was securing Will in his car seat as sunlight began to spill over the roof of their house in the Hollywood Hills. If the past few months were any indication, she'd have a line of customers slouching on the sidewalk when she got to work.

She started her commute in the pre-rush hour traffic, caffeinated news commentators guiding her way from home to her little turn-off from Rodeo Drive where The Golden Rule Café stood in sleepy vigilance in wait of her arrival. True to her expectations, a handful of breathtaking and quirkily unforgettable characters were holding up the plate glass window and brick wall whilst half-heartedly peering at dog-eared scripts Katie was partly convinced were just for show. Everybody wants to be known as an actor, but nobody wants to be the out of work actor.

Katie parked in her usual spot in the alley beside her building and unbuckled a dozing Will to carry him in through the side door. It was time to turn the sign around. Although she wouldn't be ready to serve for another twenty minutes yet, her regulars came to fold themselves into the cup-shaped velvet booths lining the walls to await the first complimentary cups of the day.

She shushed Will back to sleep on the cot she'd bought especially for him in her backroom office. The baby monitor she tucked in half under his pillow to keep it from falling and placed its partner in the pocket of her apron. The sitter would be by for him mid-morning. He'd be all right till then.

Carmine, the Rule's chief barista, was the first inside when she unlatched the front entrance. He tapped the bill of his ball cap in greeting as he swung around the polished counter to stow his bulging book bag underneath it.

She stepped aside to let the trudging public flow in after him. She wished them each soft-spoken good mornings before leaving them to man the door for themselves; there were chairs to turn down, roller shades to raise to let in the natural light slowly making itself felt in each quadrant of the room. Once she was satisfied that everyone could see, she turned her attention to the upstairs dining lounge.

This area doubled as an afterhours bar, or would have had Katie any use for it so far. As it was, she opted to make it optional seating for her daylight patrons. After cranking open the casement windows, she set out the stacked chairs for the tables on the balcony overlooking the sunny stretch of Rodeo Drive from Santa Monica Boulevard. There was already a procession of BMWs and Rolls-Royces parked in close ranks outside the Maxmara storefront. Katie made a note to check that they weren't out of low- and no-fat milk or soy. Big sales along the Drive usually meant they could expect an influx as the afternoon rounded out.

Katie paused briefly to check the baby monitor. All she heard was Will's stuffy breathing that smoothed out slowly. He must have just turned over. Satisfied that Will was fine, she went on to double check that the liquor stock was still in good order behind the bar. Tall, clear bottles stood side by side inside the recessed bar shelves, kept under brass locks and an iron grate. Since this floor was only sometimes manned by staff, this was the best way to ensure that nothing that shouldn't came up missing.

She counted off the brands and found all as it should be. Katie stepped from behind the bar to head back downstairs, then had to jump back to avoid a collision.

Lissett, the art student regular, had her head in an oversized photography book and they would have collided if Katie hadn't grabbed her shoulders and gently directed her to her customary spot near the lounge's stationary windows. This was where the sunlight would shine best as the hours progressed.

"Be careful with that book of yours, it probably qualifies as a deadly weapon."

Lissett giggled and settled into her favorite corner booth. "Sorry, K. Got a big project coming up and I'm looking for inspiration."

Katie patted her arm. "No problem. I'm sure you'll find it around here somewhere. What can I get you?"

"A large black coffee."

"With more milk than coffee, am I right?"

"I do like a little coffee in my milk. With a hint of cinnamon please."

Katie noted her order and dotted it with flourish.

"Coming right up." She tucked her gold-plated pen behind her ear and went to turn in Lissett's order with Carmine and his band of Rulers who acted as servers at the café.

There's still the issue of music.

Before her espresso machine had whistled its first reveille, Katie's coffee shop was already awash with the groggy song of the day. It was a chorus of yawns.

So much for Mondays.

She swanned between Carmine's intently brewing form and head Ruler Maxie's bubbly figure to queue up the mix Caroline and Liam had put together for her. It rolled out over the house sound system at an unobtrusive volume to immediate effect. Bleary eyes blinked a touch more lucidly and shaggy heads shook to match them in wakefulness. Katie left them to their morning rituals to see to the second slate of baked goods that needed to go into the ovens in the kitchen.

"Maxie, what are we going to run out of first?"

"Pumpkin muffins. We're talking famine levels. And we need more walnut brownies ASAP."

Katie peered around the girl to the display case where a mostly full plate of nut brownies sat in wait. She let her raised eyebrow speak for itself.

"Do it for me, Katie. I'm an addict in need of a fix. You know these'll be gone before I have to leave for class and I must have them all, er, some of them." She flicked a sheepish smile at her boss.

"Say no more, I'm on it." Katie made a quick note on her notepad, and then tucked it back into her apron. "What's ready to walk? I can take it out on the floor before I start up the next batch."

Maxie pointed to a tray of labelled ceramic pint glasses for sitting customers. Katie swept up the tray and moved swiftly through the dining area to the tables with matching names visible on their name cards.

A cappuccino for Braeden. A dirty blonde café latte for Shira. A steaming hot chamomile tea for Kendrick.

Omotola, the Silicon Valley IT intern, was tapping feverishly at her tablet when Katie came to deliver her extra-large, ultra-strength hazelnut coffee. She left it by the towering stack of coding manuals where it was unlikely to be touched on pain of death. Katie was good at knowing when to make herself scarce.

She disappeared into the kitchen for the next half hour to prepare the rest of the morning's assortment of baked goods. They ordered certain things readymade from other bakeries in the area, but it was important for Katie to make something of her own if she was going to charge Santa Monica Boulevard prices for it. Blondies and brownies shared a baking sheet. Pumpkin spice brownies were next, and Red velvet cream cheese brownies went in last. Muffins would come later. She began preparing the batter for the rest of the day's slates and stowed them in the walk-in freezer for whomever was going to handle them next. Viraj, the designated baker, skidded into the kitchen ten minutes late for his shift. Katie handed him the bowl of cookie batter she was about to put into the mixer and left him to it without passing comment.

"Sorry, K," he murmured to her departing back.

"Less apologizing, more brownies. Maxie's eyeing the stash." She grinned as he started swearing behind her.

Her morning proceeded much as normal, with the tardier of her employees slipping into their positions wearing shamed, apologetic faces when she spotted them. She offered them much leeway because she was aware that most split their time between schoolwork and auditions; nevertheless, they were well aware that her compassion did have its limits. For only being in operation three months, the Rule had its fair share of former employees.

Katie closed out the early morning by waking Will for breakfast, as well as to walk him around the café to greet the customers.

"Gimme some skin, little dude." Will slapped his hand and against the callused one offered by Sheridan, the former model turned semipro skater. "Aw yeah, don't have too many brownies, little guy. I gotta teach you some tricks." Will beamed, showing every one of his six teeth.

"You've created a monster."

"I've created an Olympic medalist."

Katie laughed. "For that, you get two green tea frapps on your way out."

Sheridan pumped a victorious fist.

"It's like you're reading my mind right now."

Katie waved her off. "Just tell your friends."

"All of them, honest."

She hoisted Will on her hip and headed to the front counter where the sitter had appeared.

"Look, honey, Aida's here for you." Will perked up at the sight of her. Look how happy he is. She sighed in secret relief; sometimes, she worried that she wasn't raising a happy boy. Not today. Thus mollified, she sent Will off with a kiss and instructions to drop him at the Spencer daycare at the end of the day so that Bill could take him for the night, as he'd promised. "If Bill says he forgot, you can bring him back or take him home. It's entirely up to you, but I'd be grateful if you could keep him until six. The afternoons are crazy here."

"I think Will and I can handle an afternoon in the park, if need be. Don't you think, Will?" Aida tickled his belly and until he all but squirmed out of her arms, giggling. "Yeah, we've got this covered. Just give me a call if you think you'll need me to stay late."

"Absolutely. Thanks so much, Aida, you're a lifesaver."

"Just doing my job."

Katie waved goodbye to Will as the two of them left the Rule in one of the Spencer fleet cars Karen had allotted for Katie's use. A year after the divorce, she's still coming to my rescue.

Not an hour later, Katie was re-stocking the dessert display case with cranberry muffins for the lunch crowd when she spied the distorted reflection of a familiar face in the glass. She almost thumped her head on the panel lights in her haste to stand up to see him.

Is that…? It can't be, can it? He's still in Paris. A sudden quirk of his lips proved her wrong. The chiseled jawline that had haunted her sister's youth was buried under a bristly layer of whiskers. His hair was longer, save for where his trademark sideburns had ruled; those were gone. Thoughtful lines crossed his brow where none had been before. Softness had glommed to the athletic physique he so prized. Yet, there was a youthful light in his eyes Katie had never seen. He had aged in both directions, it seemed; but for all that time had finally touched him, it was as if no time had passed at all.

"Ridge. Hi."

He smiled.

"Hello, Katie."