Cooking Up Trouble(5)

By: Judi Lynn


He looked up from his plate, frowning. “And in bad weather? What do you do then?”

She grimaced. “I write.”

He almost dropped his fork. “Sorry, you just surprised me. Mill Pond doesn’t look like a mecca of literary events.”

She felt her eyebrow rise. Her Gramps used to call it her schoolteacher look, not that she’d ever taught. “What are you saying, that only big cities have people who read?”

He gripped his fork and stumbled for a reply. “That didn’t come out right. But when I think of publishing, I guess I think of New York.”

“Not every writer in the whole freaking country lives there.”

He threw up a hand in surrender. He looked pretty darned attractive, contrite. “True. You’re a writer, and you live here. So what do you write?”

She hesitated.

He leaned forward, curious. “Porn?”

“Oh, my God!”

He leaned back in his chair and laughed. “I wish you could see your face. Priceless.”

“You just said that to throw me.” She jabbed her fork at him. “You’re more evil than you look.”

“I’ve heard that before. My big brother claims I was a terror. If you meet him, don’t believe him.” He cleared his throat, grew more serious. “I bet you’re a technical writer of some kind. I know, a master gardener. No, maybe a baker.” He clicked his fingers together. “Cookbooks! I bet you do cookbooks.”

“Romances.”

He coughed, took a sip of water, then stared. “Really? I got the impression you’re not fond of—”

She interrupted. “I have lots of men friends.”

“But that’s not romance, is it?” He blinked, trying to organize his thoughts. “Wait. I get it. You got hurt, didn’t you? And now you write about romance, because you can create your own happy endings.”

She laid down her fork. Her throat dry, she looked away from him.

“Oh, crap, I’m an idiot. I didn’t mean that. I don’t know what’s wrong with me today. I’m babbling about things I don’t know. Don’t pay any attention to me. Please. I’m not usually this stupid.”

Tessa raised an eyebrow. “Gary happened a long time ago. I’m over it, but I’ve decided that fantasy is lots better than reality when it comes to relationships.”

“I get it. I really do.” He looked pained. “I’m guessing you’ve been told this over and over again, but you’re an awesome cook.”

It was her turn to blink. What an unsubtle change of topic. But it worked for her. She inhaled a deep breath. “I’ve actually started a cookbook, but it’s mostly to entertain myself.”

“Oh, you’d have a good one. And you have the credentials to go with the recipes. I could see yours being a success.”

They went on to talk about his grandmother’s corned beef and cabbage, Irish recipes, and Midwest cooking.

“But I thought McGregor would be Scottish,” Tessa said.

Ian smiled. “My great-grandfather was Scottish, but my great-grandma was Irish.”

Then they meandered into discussing her business and his dreams for Lakeview Stables. They both made an effort to keep the conversation steered to safe topics.

After large slices of apple pie, she took him on a tour of her house and property. When she unlocked the barn and led him into its stainless steel, commercial kitchen, he let out a low whistle. “This looks pretty serious.”

“It is serious. Grandma and I make a lot of pies and jams, pestos, pickled vegetables . . .” She raised an eyebrow at him. “Right up your alley. All kinds of baked goods. We make one specialty cake and pie a week, all year round. People buy them ahead to freeze.”

He turned in a slow circle in the large, front sales room. A glass case lined one wall. Empty now, but filled with pies and cakes on weekends. Wood tables of different shapes and sizes, scattered here and there, held their jams and jellies, but his attention focused on the shelves on one entire wall that were dedicated to pickling—vegetables, sauerkraut, beets, and onions, as well as every way to pickle cucumbers she and Grams could think of.

He blinked. “That’s a lot of pickles.”

“Not close to enough. They’re one of our best sellers.”

“Really.” The thought clearly amazed him. His gaze scanned the store. “Would you be interested in supplying anything for the lodge’s dining room once I get the business up and going?”

“We can talk about that later. I’d have to hire someone else if you’d need a lot, but you can get a lot of artisan goods around here. Carl Gruber raises grass-fed beef.” She nodded to the property on the other side of hers. “Evan Meyers raises goats and is known for his milk and cheeses. The Danzas raise free-range chickens, ducks, and geese. Pheasants and rabbits, in season.”

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