Billionaires in Blue Jeans



“One million dollars.”


“I’m sorry, Parker but that’s really my final offer.”

“Because anything more than that would be ridiculous?” Parker asked.

“Exactly.” Rudy fought a smile.

“Because your $1,000, $10,000 and $100,000 offers weren’t ridiculous?”

“I’m very serious about this one.”

“I am too,” Parker assured him. “I have no time, or desire, to put pie on my menu. Not for $5 or for $5,000.”

Rudy hid his grin. He shouldn’t have such fun teasing Parker Blake, the diner owner in Bliss, Kansas, but he did. Parker was far too uptight. He worked too much and too hard and took making burgers—albeit amazing burgers—far too seriously.

His drive and focus reminded Rudy a lot of himself. Until about a year ago, anyway. And he definitely reminded Rudy a lot of his daughter Ava.

Rudy knew that Parker would not add pie to the diner menu for him. For one thing, he’d already tried every negotiating technique he knew. He was a businessman worth a few billion dollars, so he knew a few. He’d also tried money. Which always worked. Because he could, and would, pay whatever he needed to get what he wanted.

Of course, usually the people he was negotiating with knew that. Parker didn’t. Parker thought Rudy was just a nice, slightly eccentric old man, whose car had broken down in Bliss, Kansas, a year ago and simply hadn’t yet left. And Rudy didn’t think it would make a bit of difference if Parker knew he was worth billions. He wasn’t serving pie in his diner because he didn’t want to. This was Parker’s diner and it was still exactly the way his dad had left it when he’d suddenly died eight years ago. Parker had no intention of changing it and nothing—not promises, negotiations, friendship, or money—would change his mind.

“I thought that’s what you would say.” Rudy turned on the stool and got to his feet. “Come on.”

Parker’s brows went up. “Where?”

“I have something to show you.” Rudy started for the door. “Evan should be there by now.”


“Noah, too probably.”

Parker looked around the diner. It was two p.m. and it was empty except for Rudy. Technically Parker closed every day at one p.m. and re-opened at four for the dinner crowd. The time off was supposed to give him time for things like restocking and reordering, clean-up and prep for the next meal, as well as to do outside errands.

That was all great in theory. But few people actually followed the hours posted on the diner’s door. It was unusual for Parker to have an empty restaurant much before two. But Rudy had taken care of that today. His buddies, Hank, Walter, Ben, and Roger, had spread the word that the diner had to be cleared out no later than 1:30. And it had worked. Of course, everyone had wanted to know why, but Rudy had been happy to share that too.

He was mostly excited, however, to show Parker his new project. This was going to be a daily reminder of something that Parker needed to learn. Parker needed to realize that his diner represented things that were nostalgic and made the people of Bliss feel comfortable and at home. But there was room for new things here too and Rudy wanted to show Parker that it was okay to think bigger and to change things up once in a while. Even if it was just for fun.

“Come on, Parker. We’re not going far.”

Rudy put his fedora on—the one that people said made him look like Frank Sinatra, thank you very much—and pushed the door open.

Parker seemed to be searching for an excuse but he finally sighed, untied his apron, and rounded the counter.

Parker was serious and gruff and Rudy wished for a moment that he could come up with something that would help the guy lighten up. He worked his ass off and loved this town and everyone knew it even if he tried to hide it. He bitched about people lingering over their coffee—which was the one thing in the diner that was terrible—but he always had hot hash browns for Walter right away at 6:00 a.m. and while he didn’t allow substitutions on his menu, he did put extra bacon on Noah’s burgers and had vanilla creamer along with the regular half and half because Evan liked it.

Parker ran things his way, no question. He had his rules and he expected simple interactions because of those rules. Rudy completely understood. He’d always thought business was pretty simple—he gave people money, they gave him what he wanted, then he made more money. But he’d been missing out. People definitely complicated things if you let them close, no doubt about it. But watching Parker try to stay behind his wall, and watching the town of Bliss get past his barriers anyway, had made Rudy take a closer look at things in his own life. There was something to be said about people who cared about you enough to put up with you and didn’t let you push them away.

Rudy had never had that. He envied Parker. But it all also made him love Bliss even more. They let Parker be who he was, without letting him be too much who he thought he wanted to be—the grumpy diner owner that everyone just left alone.

Parker joined him at the door and Rudy let him hold it as Rudy stepped through.

“I can’t be gone long,” Parker said starting to lock the door behind them.

“Oh, you won’t be. You don’t even have to lock up.”

It was then that Parker turned and noticed the crowd gathered on the sidewalk in front of the diner. Except that they weren’t really in front of the diner. They just couldn’t all fit in front of Rudy’s new shop next door.

“What’s going on?” Parker asked.

Rudy grinned. “Welcome to Blissfully Baked.” He waved at Hank and Walter as they stepped apart, making a path to the door through the crowd.

“What’s Blissfully Baked?” Parker asked, following Rudy.

As they got to the door, Noah and Evan pushed away from the wall where they’d been leaning.

“My new shop.” Rudy inserted his key into the lock.

“Your new shop?” Parker asked. He looked at Evan and Noah.

Evan grinned and Noah shrugged. Rudy chuckled. Evan knew all about the shop. He’d helped Rudy draw up the paperwork.

Rudy pushed the door open with a flourish. “Yes. My new shop.”

Parker frowned at the doorway, making no move to step forward. “You’re opening a pot shop?”

“Pot?” Rudy shook his head. “No. Pie.”

“Pie?” Parker looked from the shop to Rudy. “Seriously?”

“You won’t make me pie, so I’m going to make my own.”

“You can’t just do that at home?” Parker asked.

“Oh, eating by yourself isn’t nearly as fun as eating with friends,” Rudy said. “Even pie.” That was actually something he’d learned since coming to Bliss. He’d eaten many meals alone over the years. And the ones he’d eaten with other people had never been with friends. At least, not friends like he’d found here. “And Hank and the guys will want to hang out on Main or we might miss something.”

Parker sighed. “What was I thinking?”

“Besides, it’s going to be a lot easier to rub your nose in all of this if it’s right next door,” Rudy said. He was joking. Kind of. But he did want Parker to have to see every day what it looked like to just enjoy delicious food that you loved with people you cared about. He knew Parker loved cooking. Deep down. But running the diner and dealing with everything that went with that sometimes distracted him from the idea of simply making food that made people feel good.

And pie was the ultimate feel good food.

Rudy understood Parker’s strict adherence to his routines and rules. He felt like he was still running his dad’s diner, for his dad. And his dad hadn’t served pie. Rudy hoped Parker would eventually make the diner his own, but Rudy knew it would take something major to shake Parker up to that point. So, until then, Rudy was going to make pie next door and be right in front of Parker, as a role model for expanding and opening up to new ideas.

“Not sure it’s rubbing my face in anything. It’s really just proving that if you don’t do what people want, eventually they’ll go ahead and do it themselves.”

Parker stepped through the door into the shop behind him as Rudy flipped on the lights. He felt an unexpected surge of pride as he looked around.

The place was a dump. It had been a dime store and soda fountain years ago, but the building had been empty for nearly thirty years now. It shared a wall with the diner and Rudy could already picture the awning out front and the Blissfully Baked painted on the front window and the glass display case. He’d never owned a dump before. He’d also never cleaned a place up on his own. He’d ever scrubbed a floor, or painted a wall, or…baked a pie.

He owned a lot of businesses all over the world, but this pie shop was going to be the only one that was really his.

“Do you bake?” Evan asked, coming into the front area of the shop that would be filled with tables and chairs and the display case and front counter.

The back would be the kitchen. Though Rudy needed an oven. And a fridge. And all new plumbing and electricity.

“Never,” Rudy admitted. “But my grandmother was an amazing baker.”

“You’re going to use her recipes?” Evan asked, turning a full circle and taking in the high ceilings. And the cobwebs.

“Oh, I don’t have them,” Rudy said. “But I’ve eaten a lot of pie. I’m sure I’ll be able to recreate it with some trial and error.”

“By taste?” Parker asked.


“That will be impressive.” Parker looked like he should have said, “That will never happen.”

“Well, worst case scenario, I eat a lot of pie trying to find the right one,” Rudy told him.

Parker finally chuckled at that. “Recipes should just be guidelines anyway.”

Rudy looked at him with surprise. Parker seemed like a strict recipe and plan guy. “Yeah?”

Parker nodded. “Some days you need more sugar than others, you know?”

Rudy smiled. He did know. There was definitely hope for Parker.

“Well, I’ve got taste testers all lined up.” He gestured to Hank, Walter, Ben and Roger.

“And will there be—” Noah looked around. “—places to, you know, sit and stuff?”

“Damn, I knew I’d forgotten something.” Rudy laughed.

As if on cue, he heard, “Excuse me,” and saw the crowd just inside and around the door parting.

John Henderson came in. “Hey, Rudy, I’ve got the stove out in my truck for you.”

“Great. You’re right on time. Can you bring it around back?”

“You got it.”

“How about this table?” another voice called.

Rudy waved at Glen Berger. “You can bring that one in here.”

“Ours too?” Kim Murrey called.

“Yes!” Rudy said. “Are there chairs?”

“We’ve got three,” someone said from the back of the crowd.

“We brought two!” someone else added.

“Bring them in,” Rudy said, waving them all forward.

Tables and chairs—none of which matched—were carried through the door.

Rudy looked at Evan, Noah, and Parker. They looked a little stunned.

“I went shopping,” he said.

“Where?” Noah asked, his eyes wide.

“Yard sales.” Rudy was aware he’d said it like someone else might say “the Taj Mahal.” But yard sales were a new thing in his life and he was addicted. He’d discovered Goodwill a little over a year ago. And now yard sales. The tables and chairs were a mishmash of styles and colors and for a guy who’s had two offices, three homes and a condo all decorated by professionals…he loved it.

“You’re getting furniture at yard sales?” Evan asked.

“Sure. It will feel homey that way. Lots of meals—probably even pie—have been eaten at these tables.” He loved the idea of these tables getting a new chance to entertain and be a part of more memories.

“And the appliances?” Noah asked, watching John and his son moving a stove off the back of his pickup and carrying it around the side of the building to the back door.

“Michelle Henderson is remodeling her kitchen. This one still works but it doesn’t match her new décor.” And he’d practically stolen it from her at fifty bucks.

“Okay.” Parker ran a hand through his hair. “Well, this should be interesting.”

Rudy didn’t know what was going to happen with the pie shop. He wasn’t looking to become a franchise. Hell, he didn’t even really want to work past three p.m. But Parker didn’t like when he and Hank and the guys wanted to just hang out at the diner and talk. So, this would be where they could go, sit around, talk about anything—or nothing, and watch the town go by through the big front windows.

“You’re going to need to redo the subfloor,” Noah said to Rudy after he’d walked the perimeter of the room. “And you need a full inspection before you hook up appliances.”

There are coding issues and business licenses too,” Evan said.

Rudy wasn’t worry about licenses. His best friend, Hank, was Mayor. But Rudy nodded. He loved the idea of the boys being involved.

Noah was a mechanic, but he could really fix anything and he’d do the work for Rudy even if he insisted on hiring someone else. Noah knew all the local plumbers, contractors, and electricians. He’d make a deal with them to let him know if Rudy called them instead. Then Noah would come over and do the work, even if he had to wait for Rudy to be out of the building. It was exactly how he took care of his buddy Jared’s mom, Maggie. Jared had been killed in a car accident when the boys had been only nineteen and Noah took care of everything from Maggie’s yard to any plumbing issues. Whether Maggie liked it or not.

Noah was a tough one. He showed he cared by doing things. He wasn’t much of a talker. He hung back when it came to deep conversations, and if you got advice from Noah it had to do with your vehicle’s engine. He didn’t get too personal. Rudy couldn’t imagine what one of his friends would have to be going through for Noah to get involved. Something big, that was for sure.

Evan, on the other hand, was the laid back one who was easy to laugh with. Maybe too easy. He didn’t take much seriously. But Rudy knew he had it in him. He would gladly let Evan take care of any paperwork or contracts or anything else that would show the guy that he could be trusted with big things. Rudy knew some of Evan’s desire to always be the life of the party came from his late father too.

Rudy sighed. He might have screwed a lot of things up with his daughters but these boys had some dad issues as well. And Noah the observer, Evan the instigator, and Parker the composed voice of reason reminded him of his girls so much sometimes he felt an actual pain in his chest.

After a year in Bliss, Rudy knew he’d give anything to just sit with a piece of pie and coffee with his daughters. It was too late for him and his girls. Which was, no doubt, part of why he loved spending time with these young guys.

“So glad I’ve got you boys to help me with everything,” Rudy said. He hoped they didn’t notice the strange, sentimental tone in his voice.

“No problem. I can get to work on the floor,” Noah said, tucking his hands into his back pockets. “But you have to stop bringing stuff in until it’s done.”

“I’ll get the paperwork going,” Evan said. “You’re going with Blissfully Baked for sure?”

“For sure,” Rudy said with a nod.

“What can I do?” Parker asked.

“How about going apple picking with me?” Rudy asked.

“Uh—,” Parker looked at Evan and Noah. “Apples aren’t in season right now.”

“Oh.” He hadn’t thought of that. “When will they be?”

“Not for a few months.”

Well, that definitely put a damper on his plans.

Parker must have read his disappointment because, in spite of the sigh he gave, he said, “You can get apples at the store, you know.”

“Oh, that’s true, I guess.”

Parker arched a brow. “I’ll help you get things started with the pies.”

Rudy didn’t grin as big as he wanted to, but he nodded. “Thanks.”

Parker looked around. “Well…yeah. This is definitely going to be interesting.”

Rudy agreed.

Just because a man started on one path didn’t mean that the detours couldn’t be very sweet.



Get to know Parker, Evan, and Noah better in the Billionaires in Blue Jeans series!


Book one, Diamonds and Dirt Roads  (Cori and Evan’s story)

Book two, High Heels and Haystacks (Ava and Parker’s story)

Book three, Cashmere and Camo (Brynn and Noah’s story)