Romance readers love series. So do writers of the genre.
Last week I gave you a sneak peek at book 2 in the MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN SERIES, TODAY, TOMORROW, ALWAYS, which should be out in the book reading world sometime this year. Today, I want to give you a little insight into book 3, which I’m currently writing.
The title? BAKED WITH LOVE, and if you’ve read book 1, you know the sister who bakes is sister Number 4, Maureen. Maureen owns and operates Inn Heaven, the award winning B&B in her hometown, in addition to being a fabulous baker. This is the first scene I’ve written in the story. It’s unedited, but you can feel the relationship that’s blooming immediately.
“Oh, my God, Maureen.” My sister Colleen’s voice rose a good two octaves from its normal sultry timbre. “Are those…penis pops?”
“Lower your voice,” I told her as I continued to pipe buttercream roses on the cupcakes I’d made for tomorrow’s wedding. “My entire Inn doesn’t need to know I’ve got those”—I grinned—“hardening in my kitchen.”
“Why, in the name of all that’s holy are there”—she counted out loud—“seven chocolate candies in the shape of male genitalia on your counter?”
“Because your bride’s maid of honor special ordered them for the attendants. I tried to talk her out of it, but she paid me triple to make them and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Be happy there are only seven. Originally she wanted one for each of the fifty females on the guest list. I was able to talk her out of it by promising to make those”—I chinned the pops—“for the bridesmaids. She’s going to present them tonight after the rehearsal. Thinks they’ll be, quote, a scream, unquote.”
My wedding planner and getting-bigger-by-the-second pregnant sister plopped herself down onto one of my kitchen chairs and sighed. Heavily.
“Oh, good Lord. Thanks for the head’s up. I’ll make sure the moms are nowhere in sight when she gives them out. I don’t relish having to listen to one more complaint about this wedding. I’ve had enough for the past week to last me until junior here”—she patted her round tummy—“is off to college.”
I flicked a glance at her and said, “Put your feet up, Coll. I can see how swollen they are from here.”
With more effort than was probably warranted – she is after all, related to our grandmother, who corners the market on theatricality – she hefted her feet onto an opposing kitchen chair then extended and flexed her toes a few times. This time the sigh that blew from her lips was thick with fatigue, and if I wasn’t mistaken, pain.
“I can’t believe you’re still wearing those ridiculous heels when you’re almost eight months along,” I chided. “Standing in them all day can’t be good for the baby. Or your back.”
“Stop scolding me.” It was impossible not to miss the whine in her voice. “I refuse to take advice from someone who thinks flipflops are the greatest invention known to the shoe wearing population of the world. And just for the record, my back is fine and my feet don’t hurt.”
“No, they just look like flesh colored water balloons.”
“When did you turn so mean? You’re usually the supportive, quiet sister.”
In ordinary circumstances this was true. But with my heavily pregnant and three-inch heel wearing sister, I was more than willing to make an exception.
I piped the last rose on the final cupcake, laid my pastry bag down on the counter, and turned to face her. Camera ready face with her professionally polished outfit perfect and not a tendril of hair out of place, the middle of my three sisters looked something she rarely did: tired. With her hands folded over her protruding belly, she’d dropped her chin to her chest and closed her eyes.
The snarky remark I was going to make about the benefits of wearing flats died before I gave it breath.
Since lunch service had finished a half hour ago and my serving staff was done with cleanup, Colleen and I were alone in my kitchen. I put the kettle on for tea for the two of us and asked, “Did you have lunch?”
Colleen lifted head. Her eyes took a moment to clear and focus on me, lending credence to my thought she was tired. And maybe more than simply tired.
“There’s a salad waiting for me at the office. Charity texted me while I was with the florist that she’d gotten me one.”
“Text her back and tell her to put it in the fridge. I’ll make you something to eat.”
While she contacted her assistant, I plated the luncheon salad I’d concocted for today’s menu and then put half of a ham and cheese sandwich into my Panini maker.
“Eat this until the sandwich is done.” I handed her the salad and a bottled water.
“What is it?”
“Spinach, cranberries, walnuts, raisins and carrots with a light pomegranate dressing and shaved Parmesan.”
Colleen shoved a forkful in and groaned. “Oh. My. God. Honestly, Maureen, you should have your own cooking show. This is insane.”
“Everything she makes is insane,” a male voice said from the doorway.
I knew that voice well, since it was a frequent inhabitant in my dreams most nights. Husky and deep, with a dash of just woken smoke, it was a voice that could cajole a lover into seduction and cut off a criminal at the knees.
Unfortunately, I’d never been either.
“Truth,” Colleen said through a mouthful of salad. “Why are you here?” she asked Heaven’s Chief of Police, Lucas Alexander before I could. “Somebody call a cop?”
Lucas flicked his moss green, heavily hooded gaze from my sister to me, one corner of his mouth tilting up. I actually had to contract my pelvic floor muscles whenever he looked at me so I wouldn’t melt to the floor in a pool of want. My ninety-three year old grandmother, Nanny Fee, calls this girding your loins. As far as a descriptive phrase for the maneuver, it’s a good one.
“You got a minute?” he asked me.
I nodded. “A few. Then I have to get the dining room reading for tonight’s rehearsal dinner.” I turned and pulled Colleen’s sandwich from the press when the bell tinged. Lucas, always comfortable in my kitchen, moved to lean a hip against the counter and then halted mid stride.
I knew the cause of his sudden stop. I bit down on the inside of my lip while I handed Colleen her sandwich plate. She caught my eye, and my stifled grin, and realized the cause. Her lips lifted in a wicked grin.
Lucas cleared his throat. “Are those–? Wait. What, what are those? Are they…?”
“Are they what?” Colleen asked, innocence dripping from her voice, at the same time I asked, “Want one?”
Lucas turned to find the two of us staring at him, expressions blanked, and waiting for him to continue.
He huffed out a breath and dragged a hand through his hair. “Nothing,” he said, with a nervous shake of his head and shoulders.
Colleen glanced up at me, winked, and then took a huge bite of her Panini. “Oh, good Lord, Mo.”
I smiled and told her, “You’re welcome,” before I said to Lucas, “What’s up?”
He tilted his head to the right in a come-with-me move I’d seen him make innumerable times over the years.
In the breezeway that separated my private kitchen from the commercial one I used for the Inn I own and cook in, Lucas stopped, bit down on a corner of his mouth, and twirled his hat in his hands. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was nervous, but nerves weren’t an emotion that lived in this man. His training as an army sniper had taught him how to remain calm in any crisis, cool under the hottest of circumstances. I’d never even heard him raise his voice in all the years I’d known him.
I repeated the question I’d asked in my kitchen.
“I need a favor.”
I rolled my hand in a go on gesture.
“Cathy might have mentioned that Robert’s coming to spend the summer with me and dad. Nora’s getting remarried this weekend and then leaving on a month long honeymoon.”
I nodded. “I’d heard that, but not from Cathy.” To the question in his eyes I said, “Nanny told me the other day when I dropped off her scone delivery at the nursing home. She heard it from Tillie Carlisle who got it from Maeve Capshaw, whose granddaughter, Olivia, told her. Nanny said Olivia was the one who introduced Nora to her intended at a divorced-and-looking event she’d hosted.”
“Jesus.” Lucas shook his head. “Small towns.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “A curse and a blessing, as Cathy is fond of saying.”
“Yeah, well, your sister is one of the smartest people I know. Anyway. Nora doesn’t want to leave Robert home alone for the summer. He’s too old for a babysitter, but at fifteen, still too young to be left to his own defenses. He just started driver’s ed but doesn’t have a valid license yet, so it was easier to take him for the summer while she’s gone.”
“So he’s gonna live with you and your dad until school starts up again?”
“Why don’t you sound happy about that? I mean, whenever Robert’s visited for school breaks before you’ve always been thrilled since you don’t get to see him as much since they moved.”
He huffed out another breath and leaned a shoulder against the wall. My pregnant sister wasn’t the only one who looked exhausted.
“It’s not that I’m not happy he’s coming to stay with us. It’s more, things with dad now aren’t good and I’m afraid he’s gonna make the kid’s life miserable with all his complaining and griping all day. Last time Robert came for a weekend all dad did was harp on him. Get a haircut, stand up straight, stop mumbling. Poor kid couldn’t wait to get back to his mother, and that’s saying something, because she’s just as bad. But, that’s why I don’t want him to spend all his time with his grandfather.”
“And I’m assuming this is where the favor you need from me comes in?”
He nodded. “The kid needs something to occupy him while he’s here. I’ve gotta work and I can’t take any time. I don’t want him sitting home all day fighting with dad or locked in his room playing video games. I want him to get out of the house. Get a job. You hire high schools kids to bus tables and help serve at the weekend events here at the Inn. I’m hoping you’ll take Robert on as summer crew. That way I’ll know where he is every day, he’ll earn a little money of his own, and I won’t have to worry about coming home to World War III every night. Plus…”
“Well, if he’s with you all day, I won’t…worry about him. I know he’ll be in good hands. That you’ll feed him, take care of him like he was one of your own. Like you do everyone else.”
To say I was thrilled by the offhand compliment was an understatement. I didn’t even need to think about his request because even if I wasn’t on the lookout for extra help, I would have hired Lucas’s son.
“Sure. I can always use another body, especially in the summer when I’ve got a full house every weekend with Colleen’s weddings.”
Lucas’s shoulders dropped a couple of degrees from where they’d stationed themselves at his ears and he let out a breath filled with relief. “Thanks, Maureen. Really.”
I waved my hand at him. “Don’t worry about it. When does he get here?”
“Sunday morning. Nora’s dropping him off before she leaves for the airport.”
I nodded. “Get him all unpacked and settled and then you can bring him by Monday. I’ll go over everything with him then, okay?”
“More than okay. Again, I can’t thank you enough. You’re truly a lifesaver.” He took my hand and squeezed it. Lucas had done this hundreds of times over the years and like every other time he had, the wiring in my heart went a little haywire.
And like every other time, I swallowed the temptation to tug on his hand and pull him close enough so I could kiss him.
Intrigued? Me, too. Can’t wait to see how it ends. ( hee hee)
You can catch up on the O’Dowd’s now with book 1, DEARLY BELOVED. As soon as book 2 goes up for preorder, I’ll let ya know.
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Until next time ~ Peg