A California heart-throb, Tyne is fast becoming a legend in Mill Pond. While his easy cool and creative, Thai influenced culinary style have all the ladies in town salivating, Tyne is less interested in flirting than in finding the perfect spot for his own restaurant—and in staying single for as long as possible. His days working at the elegant Lakeview Stables resort are numbered from day one—until he meets a woman who stops him in his tracks.
A quiet beauty and free spirit who owns a stained glass shop—above which Tyne rents an apartment—Daphne seems to have her life in order. But when her boyfriend leaves her, for his soon-to-be-ex-wife no less, she’s destroyed. Tyne offers a shoulder to cry on. But that’s just a first course. After a slow boil, their relationship turns into something far deeper than either of them expected. Yet is Daphne really over her ex—and is Tyne ready to commit to a life in Mill Pond, much less to her? Time—and a few challenges—will tell if they’re just cooking up a delicious memory . . . or a lasting love.
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Spicing Things Up
A Mill Pond Romance
By Judi Lynn
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Judith Post
All rights reserved.
The alarm buzzed. Tyne Newsome rolled over and ignored it. Five minutes later, it buzzed again. He pulled the pillow over his head and then thought better of it. Might as well get up. He usually beat the alarm, but he'd stayed up later than usual last night. Silly, since he worked early shifts on Mondays, but he and Harley went for a long motorcycle ride after Tyne got off work yesterday. Tyne glanced out the window of his upstairs apartment. A blaze of leaves glowed in the streetlights. Those leaves were what got him in trouble.
He and Harley hadn't meant to stay out as long as they did, but Harley's wife, Kathy, had told them to do whatever felt good. She was going to work on the winery's bookkeeping all day to catch up. The crisp air and glory of autumn had pulled them deeper and deeper into the national forest south of Mill Pond. They hadn't returned to the vineyard until close to sunset, and then Kathy had insisted Tyne stay for supper. By the time he got back to his apartment over Daphne's stained-glass shop it was late, and then he'd stayed up reading an hour more to relax.
Oh, well, the lack of sleep had been worth it. He hustled into the bathroom, took a quick shower, and tugged on his chef's pants and coat. Ian's resort was too swanky for line cooks. He had to look the part, even though he usually wore his worn jeans into work for supper shifts and changed before guests hit the dining room.
He zipped down the inside staircase and stopped to glance at Daphne's shop in the dim light. Most people didn't move at four thirty in the morning, for good reason. When he returned later this afternoon, would the shop be decorated with dangling crepe paper and balloons? The professor she'd been seeing was supposed to be a free man today. All he had to do was sign his divorce papers. Patrick could finally ask Daphne to marry him. Nothing Tyne would celebrate. The man was as exciting as porridge, but Daphne thought she'd be happy with him.
On his way out the door to his Jeep, he inhaled the crisp, clean fall air. It perked him up, cleared his head. Driving down Main Street with its brick buildings, striped awnings, and old-fashioned street lamps, he saw Maxwell step out of his bakery to snag the morning paper by his door. Another early riser. When Maxwell saw Tyne's orange Jeep, he raised a middle finger and grinned. Tyne laughed and returned the gesture. As usual, Maxwell's Chihuahua, Chester, was close to his heels. Tyne had never met a man so attached to his dog.
Tyne passed Ralph's diner and saw lights on in the kitchen. Garth's gas station was still dark with only a security light shining on its four pumps. Once outside town, Tyne passed the farms that lined both sides of the street until he came to the drive for Lakeview Stables, Ian's resort. He glanced past the tennis courts to the lake at the back of the property. The water lay still as a mirror.
He drove around to the back of the building — a three-story, limestone center with a wing off each side — and entered the kitchen through the back door. Monday breakfasts weren't as rushed to prepare. He'd made the potato and sausage strata ahead of time and left them in the refrigerator to soak up the custard filling. All he had to do was put them in the oven. Steph, the morning sous chef, walked through the back door while Tyne was sliding the sausages and bacon into the second oven. She started putting ramekins in a stainless steel pan for them to start the eggs en cocotte with smoked salmon.
"Have a good weekend?" Tyne asked as they lined each ramekin with the salmon.
"We spent the weekend at Ben's parents' place on the lake. Had a great time, played lots of cards, and ate too much food."
Tyne grinned. "The scenery's gorgeous right now. Bet the lake was beautiful."
Steph started breaking an egg into each ramekin. "It's hard to beat Mill Pond when the leaves change."
"It's hard to beat Mill Pond in lots of things." He slid her a sideways glance. "You happy you stayed on as the early shift sous chef?"
Paula, his fellow chef, had trained Steph and expected her to go to culinary school, but Steph had decided to stay in Mill Pond, near her high-school sweetheart. She slid the eggs into the oven and filled the steel pans with hot water to create a water bath. "What's not to like?"
Tyne couldn't think of anything. The area farmers had worked together to up their standards so that specialty goods were easy to find. The area had become a foodie's delight, one of the reasons the inn was so popular. That, and all the things Ian had to offer — a golf course, tennis courts, horseback riding, and lake activities. Things always slowed down once kids had to return to school, but the inn still did all right. Couples used it as a romantic getaway. This week, enough couples had doubled up to rent the cabins by the lake that sixty people came for meals each day. And Ian had decided to add special weekend offerings for holidays. Every room was booked for Halloween in a couple of weeks.
Steph began slicing oranges for a fresh fruit salad. "Have you and Paula decided what to serve for the long Halloween weekend yet?"
"We just talked about it. Ian wants us to go for fun instead of fancy. We're leaning toward a barbecue of some kind with gory desserts."
"Gory?" Steph raised an eyebrow.
"Dirt cakes with jelly worms and gravestones, eyeball popcorn balls ..."
"Good idea." She glanced out the windows at the long shoreline. "It's not like kids can trick or treat here, though. How's Ian going to keep them busy?"
The owner himself walked through the kitchen door before she finished the question. "I'm doing a movie night — fun stuff earlier in the evenings for kids, like Hocus Pocus, and horror movies later for the adults. I have hay rides and scavenger hunts planned, pumpkin carving and bobbing for apples. The Kruses are building a corn maze." Their boss still held his five-week-old baby boy, Drew. The baby had lots of black hair like his dad and hazel eyes like his mom. Steph loved babies and would have hurried to grab him, but everyone knew you had to use a crowbar to pry the baby away from Ian.
"Hey, Big Daddy!" Tyne called, teasing him. "You gonna wear a pouch and teach the kid how to work the dishwasher later this morning?" Ian would stall as long as he could before he handed Drew over to Paula's mom, who lived in an apartment in the inn's east wing and babysat for the employees here.
"Tessa would hurt me. My wife has the temperament that goes with coppery, wild hair."
Tyne glanced at the clock — close to nine — and he and Steph carried food out to the long buffet tables, then watched over things for the next hour until the last guest left. Betty flew in at ten to help with cleanup.
She looked Tyne up and down. "Lookin' good, Hot Stuff. Heard you had a full weekend."
Ian, who'd settled into work mode, turned to hear his answer.
"Harley and I spent Sunday riding through the national park, enjoying the fall colors."
Ian nodded. "Another reason we have so many guests now. The park's good for business."
They had the kitchen and dining room clean in no time, and Tyne and Steph got busy on lunch. Tyne settled on two international soups — classic posole from Mexico and lemon chicken soup from Greece. He didn't want to push his luck, though, so went for traditional sandwiches — BLTs and chicken salad. Lunch went smoothly, and before long, he and Steph even finished his contribution for the supper menu. He provided the international dish each night, and Paula did the traditional.
Their jobs done, Steph took off her apron. "I'm out of here. See you tomorrow."
"Not for long." Tyne worked the supper shifts for the rest of the week. Paula did the early hours with Steph. On Mondays, she dropped Aiden and Bailey at her mom's apartment before she zipped into the kitchen.
Paula rushed in, glanced at the menu, and then frowned at his scruffy chin. She tsk-tsked. "What? You didn't have time to trim your whiskers this morning?" She always gave him grief about his chin strap. He returned the favor. "What? You didn't have time to do your hair?" Her thick, black tresses were pulled up in their usual clip, spiking at the back of her head.
She laughed. "What have you got for me tonight?"
"Thai curry with pork and eggplant over rice." Tyne had lived and cooked in Thailand for a year before he returned to the United States. He loved its food and flavors. That, and Vietnamese cuisine were two of his favorites.
Since he loved it spicy, she asked, "You toned it down a little, right?"
He grinned. "For you, Miss Wimpy? Of course. I wouldn't want to send you home too hot for Chase to handle."
She smirked. "Like that could happen."
She had him there. Chase could handle most anything. He'd been tamed by his little Goth mama, though, and Tyne had never seen him happier.
Paula came over to taste a spoonful of his dish. "Oh, this is good."
Tyne untied his apron and hung it on the peg by the door. "You should talk Aiden and Bailey into trying it."
Paula snorted. "It has too many vegetables. They might accidentally get healthy."
Kids. They resisted what was good for them. Come to think of it, though, so had he. Tyne gave her a quick wave and headed to his Jeep. He was going to take it easy tonight, make himself something simple for supper, and chill out.
He drove past Daphne's shop to turn at the corner and pull into the alley that ran behind the buildings. He glanced at the stained-glass pieces displayed in her front window. Was the shop dark? He frowned at the CLOSED sign hanging in the door. What was up? Tourists crowded the sidewalks. They'd come to see the leaves and stopped at Mill Pond to shop and eat. Had she closed up early to run off with Patrick?
Nope, Daphne's SUV was parked in the back lot next to his spot. No matter. They probably took Patrick's car, but when he stepped through the back door to head upstairs, Daphne sat behind the cash register, her head in her hands, her shoulders shaking. Oh no. He'd never trusted the professor. Tyne went to her. "Hey, you okay?" Dumb question. Who sits there and sobs when life's good?
She turned away from him. He bent to wrap his arms around her. "He dumped you?" Did the asshole have another girl on the stringer in some other town?
No one but Daphne's parents had been impressed with Patrick. The professor was so self-absorbed, Tyne wondered how he could relate to his students. He probably didn't. Chase had been interested in Daphne before he met Paula. Chase didn't think much of Patrick either. He'd made Tyne promise to be there for Daphne if the misery came. Not a hard promise to keep. Tyne liked her. He'd never make a move on her — she was a for-keeps type of girl — but Tyne didn't just rent his apartment from her; they were friends. Or at least friendly to each other, good neighbors.
She turned and pressed her face against his chest. Tears and snot soaked his Tshirt. Gross, but what were friends for? He patted her head. Love sucked. Sometimes, it worked — like it did for Ian and Tessa, Chase and Paula. But usually? It wasn't worth the bother, the pain. That's why Tyne had promised himself he'd never fall for someone until he reached forty. Maybe not even then, but he might be ready for the crush of romance once he was older and his friends were more tied down. Maybe then he'd be bored enough that a relationship would look good.CHAPTER 2
Daphne clutched Tyne's T-shirt and buried her face against his hard chest. So different from Patrick's that it made her cry more. Not that Patrick would appreciate it if she sobbed into one of his expensive tailored shirts. He took pride in his looks, how thin he stayed for his early forties. He cultivated his professor look with baggy trousers and button-down shirts and cashmere sweaters. He took pride in wearing wire-rimmed glasses. He loved the status of academia.
"I should have seen this coming." Had seen it coming, but she didn't want to believe Patrick would leave her to return to his wife. The wife he swore was cold and bitter, the wife he couldn't please no matter what he did. The wife that was too much like him. He swore she drained him of any creative energy, that he'd only stayed with her to raise their two kids. "I'd have never, ever dated a married man except that he and his wife had separated, and his wife lived in their house in Bloomington, and he moved to an apartment in Mill Pond. They'd been separated for five months and the papers had been filed." She swallowed hard. The divorce took an ugly turn, and Patrick's wife would receive much more money than Patrick had anticipated. His income would be severely limited. She choked on a sob. "Patrick likes money. So does his wife. Neither of them enjoys pinching pennies, so they reunited. I got cast aside as a budget cut."
Tyne shrugged. "Doesn't surprise me. The man's priorities didn't add up."
"I met his wife once. I could see why Patrick had been attracted to her. She carries herself regally, gives off the essence of money." Patrick, deep down, believed he should be treated like aristocracy, believed he should have more attention and privilege than he did as a professor. He wrote poetry and he'd published it in journals and chapbooks, but once his kids left the nest, he'd decided it was time for him to write a book, his ode to a man who'd bedded many women before he turned to more cerebral pursuits.
Daphne knotted her hands into fists. "Patrick was full of himself." Shame on her. She'd fallen for his drivel because she'd turned thirty-six and decided it was now or never. "We had a lot of common interests — books, music, plays. I hoped that would be enough."
She was a damn coward, and she knew it. Patrick wouldn't demand too much from her except constant support and occasional worship. And even that hadn't been enough. Bugger! The stinking idiot dumped her. Her tears were as much for her own stupidity as for losing him.
Tyne patted her back. He pulled away to bring her a Kleenex. She grimaced at his T-shirt, probably ruined with smudged makeup and gunk. The man was a luscious length of temptation who didn't seem to think about his looks. Maybe when you were that sexy, you took it for granted. He handed her one tissue and dabbed at her eyes with another. "Hey, people break up all the time and live through it. It's going to hurt for a while, but you'll move on and find someone else."
She snorted. Unladylike. "Bullshit. I've heard that all my life."
He stared, but his brown eyes sparkled. "I've never heard you cuss."
"Neither have my parents. It's my own private pleasure, but the words hardly ever leave my lips."
His handsome face lit up, curious. "What other naughty things do you think about?"
"Like I'd tell you!" She rubbed at her eyes, smearing her mascara she was sure. She probably looked like a puffy-eyed raccoon. But what did it matter? Even when she'd decided to settle for less, the professor had kicked her to the curb.
Tyne tried again. "You have a right to be angry. Anger's good, but you can do better. Just wait and see. You'll meet someone ..."
She didn't let him finish. "That's a load of crap. I'm not buying it. I bought Patrick's stupid lies for months, and I'm sick of it. Don't you lie to me."
His lips curled at the edges. "So why did you buy into his massive ego? The man was nothing but a spoiled snob."
She winced. Tyne never minced words. She'd forgotten that. He wasn't the best person to spar with verbally. He'd have eaten Patrick alive. She frowned. "You make me sound stupid. No one's talked to me like that. Ever."
"Then it's time they did. Own up. What the hell were you thinking?"
"I'm tired of dating. I'm tired of looking for Mr. Right, and I'm not getting any younger."
"So what? I'd rather be by myself and enjoy my own company than be stuck with a jerk."
She sighed. No one else would say that to her either. But Tyne wasn't like anyone else. He was his own person. Yes, the man was gorgeous with his dirty-blond hair and scruffy whiskers, his body that rippled with muscles, and pheromones that permeated a room, but that's not what she liked about him. She liked his keen wit, his quick mind, and his outspokenness. At least, she used to like his outspokenness.
Her shoulders sagged, the fight seeping out of her. Defending herself took too much energy. Tyne would be too demanding day in and day out. He'd make her tired. "Look, you're the type who goes for it. You've traveled all over the world. You wanted to be a chef, so you became one. I never dreamed that big. I'm happy here in Mill Pond, love working with stained glass. I just wanted a little more. That's all."
He circled the counter to get a better look at her. "Maybe you didn't dream big enough."
"Not all of us can get everything we want." She went for another Kleenex and turned her back to blow her nose. She took another Kleenex to wipe under her eyes. The sheet came away covered in black.
Tyne leaned his hip against the counter. "I'm glad you won't be smothered by Mr. Brain Drain."
That was a new one. "Brain Drain?"
"He loved to hear himself talk, but never said anything of importance."
Excerpted from Spicing Things Up by Judi Lynn. Copyright © 2017 Judith Post. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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