Can't Fool Me Twice: Sweet Contemporary Romance: Belles in the City Book 1 (10 page)

BOOK: Can't Fool Me Twice: Sweet Contemporary Romance: Belles in the City Book 1
9.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Sunny grinned as she and Mama went to work putting away the contents of the luggage. "Miss Lucille will use any excuse to eat pizza."

"I just hope I'm not a nuisance. I'd like to cook a few meals if that'll help."

"It absolutely will. Miss Lucille loves downhome cooking. I think that's probably the best way I've been able to pay her back for her hospitality."

"Do you plan on being here forever?" Mama asked as she draped a sweater around a hanger. "Or are you comin' back home eventually?"

"I haven't really given it much thought. When I first got here, I was so homesick all I could think about was going back to Charleston. But now …" She tilted her head. "I really like it here."

"No wonder." Mama gestured around the room. "This place will make you forget about where you came from."

The sound of female voices coming down the hall caught their attention. Mama's eyebrows came together. "That doesn't sound like Miss Lucille."


Chapter 11


"Bethann!" Sunny motioned for her friend to come on in.

Right behind her were Cissy and Charlene. "Hey, girl. We heard your mama was here, and wild horses couldn't keep us from checkin' things out." Charlene turned to Sunny's mother. "Hey, I'm Charlene, and this is Bethann."

"What about me?" Cissy piped up. "If it weren't for me none of us would know Bethann, and we wouldn't have met Sunny because it was my idea to go to the diner where she works and—"

Charlene held up her hands to shush Cissy before turning to Mama. "If you haven't already figured it out, she's the one nicknamed Motor Mouth."

"Or Mouth of the South," Cissy added, "but since we're not in the South anymore I guess you can't call me that, but Tom says—"

"See what I mean?" Charlene interrupted.

Mama clapped her hands together. "You girls are all so cute. No wonder Sunny likes it here so much. How did y'all know I was here?"

Cissy thrust a hip out and took on a jaunty look. "Well, let's see. Dante told Judd, and Judd called Bethann while she was working … she works for me, ya know … and I just happened to be in the office when he called. I couldn't very well leave Charlene out, so I called her, and …" She held out her hands. "And here we are."

Sunny grinned at her friends. Mama laughed. "Cissy, you and Sunny are two peas in a pod."

"I know, right?" Cissy walked over to Sunny. "Twins separated before conception."

Charlene made a face. "I never heard that one before."

"That's on account of I just made it up," Cissy said. "So Bethann's great-aunt let us in. She said she's havin' a bunch of pizzas delivered and to call our guys to join us. Nothin' more fun than an impromptu party."

"That means we'll be having two parties for you," Bethann added. "As soon as Aunt Lucille found out you were coming, she started calling everyone she knows."

"Oh my." Mama placed her forearm on her forehead. "I haven't had a party in my honor since my ten-year-old birthday."

Sunny mostly listened as the other women bantered about parties they'd had. All sorts of things flickered through her mind, like the question of whether or not Dante would be coming back while Mama was here. But she didn't have to wonder long.

"Judd said he'd come if Dante does," Bethann said. "So I think they're arriving together."

"I bet Ms. Chambray is in hog heaven." Charlene turned to Sunny's mom. "I hope you like socializing because that's what Ms. Chambray does best."

"Oh, that's another thing. Some people call her Miss Lucille and some say Ms. Chambray. What does she prefer?"

"Anything you want to call me but late for supper." Everyone looked up at the doorway. "I go by almost anything. You can even call me Gorgeous if you want to." Before anyone had a chance to respond, she shook her head. "Nah, better not do that. I don't want to make anyone jealous. Just call me whatever feels comfortable."

"When will the pizza be here?" Bethann asked.

"Just like my great-niece to be thinking about food. But she comes by her healthy appetite honestly. All the women in our family enjoy good food." She paused. "But to answer your question, I told them to get here as close to seven as possible."

"Let's go make some tea," Bethann said. "I checked, and you don't have enough for that many people."

Everyone followed her out the door. On the way to the kitchen, Mama leaned toward Sunny and whispered, "This is a fun place to live. No wonder you don't wanna leave."


Dante's stress level was off the charts. Riley would be out of commission for several days, and he only had one other cook competent enough to handle the large crowds at Bubba's, but he still wasn't as efficient as Riley. Without two high-level cooks, he worried that things would get too crazy.

He sat at his desk trying to think of a solution, and the only thing he could come up with was to go into the restaurant and bumble through it. The main problem was that, although he could follow recipes, Riley didn't write every step down. He'd been cooking for so long he knew everything by heart.

The sound of someone clearing his throat made Dante glance up. "Oh, hi, Judd. Ready to go to Ms. Chambray's house?"

"I am, but from the look on your face, I'm not sure you are."

Dante shook his head as he scooted his chair away from the desk. "I don't know if you heard about what happened, but we're in a pretty big bind."

"Are you talking about the cook who cut himself?"

Dante nodded. "He can cook in his sleep without missing a beat, and the customers have come to expect the best."

"And you don't have the confidence in your backup cook?"

"I hate to admit this, but yes." Dante grimaced. "I should have known better than to go so long without training someone else."

"Why don't we pray about that before we leave?"

Dante bowed his head as Judd started the prayer, asking for wisdom and guidance in this very uncomfortable situation. Dante finished the prayer by thanking the Lord for the success of his diner. After they said, "Amen," and opened their eyes, Dante felt a peace flooding his veins.

"Feel better?" Judd asked.

"Much better. I need to trust God more, but sometimes it's hard, ya know?"

"Oh yeah, I do know. I went through all kinds of anguish when I was with the Bradley and Marsh law firm. When Lucille introduced me to Bill Powers, I was reluctant to let go of what I always thought I wanted. But after many prayers, I realized that I was holding onto something that was very slippery and not solidly in line with my faith."

Dante nodded. "Yes, I remember that."

"There are no accidents when it comes to God's plan. He will present you with all kinds of opportunities that are better than what you think you want."

"Thanks, Judd. So have you met Sunny's mom yet?"

"No, but I hear she's a lot like her daughter."

"She is, but I don't think she has Sunny's confidence."

"That happens."

Dante chuckled. "Ms. Chambray said she was going to order a bunch of pizza. My uncle has a pizzeria, but she didn't want to take advantage of me by letting me bring it."

"Brace yourself for wall-to-wall pizza boxes," Judd said with a chuckle. "I've never known anyone who likes pizza as much as Lucille."

When they arrived at Ms. Chambray's house, it looked like the party was in full swing. Swing music blared through the house, and all the women were circled around Sunny's mother, talking over each other and laughing. The lightness of the moment instantly lifted Dante's mood.

About ten minutes after Dante and Judd got settled with their sweet tea, the doorbell rang. "Everyone's here," Ms. Chambray said, "so there's only one person that can be." Her eyes lit up. "Pizza man." She pointed to her purse over beside her desk. "Can someone bring me my handbag and help me to the door?"

Bethann jumped into action. About a minute later, three men dressed in red and white striped uniforms walked in with boxes stacked way over their heads.

"You weren't kidding about Ms. Chambray liking pizza," Dante whispered to Judd.

"I know. She hates for anyone to go hungry."

"We can feed the entire neighborhood on what she bought."

"Come on, y'all!" Ms. Chambray's voice lilted as she motioned for everyone to follow her. "Come get your pizza. I got at least one of every kind they have and more of the ones I think will go first."

"You sure know how to throw a party," Cissy's husband Tom said. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Nope." Ms. Chambray patted Tom on the shoulder. "But thanks for asking. Just grab one of the plates on the counter and fill it up. I don't want anyone going home hungry." She paused. "Oh, and don't forget that we have banana puddin' for dessert."

Bethann tilted her head and gave her great-aunt a curious look. "Where did you get the banana puddin'?"

Ms. Chambray held her hand toward Sunny's mother. "Twila whipped it up while you were gettin' ready. Said it's her favorite recipe. I can't wait to try it myself. I've had a lot of banana puddin' through the years, so I think I'll be a good judge."

Dante glanced over at Sunny and then at her mother. He wasn't sure if she wanted to be judged, but the women didn't seem to mind. In fact, he was pretty sure they were pleased. Southern women were still an enigma to him, but what he saw so far, he liked.

His own mother was from the South, but she'd mostly lost her southern ways since she'd lived in New York City most of her adult life. And being in the restaurant business with Pop, she adapted to the environment enough to be considered a New Yorker by most. However, she was still the person who recommended bringing southern cuisine to the city so other transplants could get their fix on the foods they grew up with.

Ms. Chambray touched his arm. "Would you be a dear and fill a plate with a couple of slices of pizza and carry it over to the table for me?"

"Sure, what kind do you want?" Dante looked down at her eyes that flickered with excitement.

"One pepperoni, one mushroom, and one with everything." She tipped her head toward the table. "I'll be waiting for it."

The slices were huge, but if she wanted three slices, that's what she'd get. He filled her plate and carried it to her. "What do you want to drink?"

"Don't worry about it. Bethann is bringin' it to me." She patted the spot next to her. "I want you to sit here. Go get your pizza before it's all gone."

He had to stifle a laugh. Everyone in the room could eat all night, and there would still be some pizza left.

When Dante returned, he saw that Sunny's mom was on the other side of Ms. Chambray, putting her directly across the table from him. He wasn't sure, but he suspected it was planned. Now all he had to do was pay attention.

"So, Twila, how long will you be able to stay with us?" Ms. Chambray asked. Her gaze momentarily darted in Dante's direction, but then she turned all of her attention to the other woman.

Sunny's mother shrugged. "I was only planning to be here a week, but Sunny says she'd like me to stick around a little bit longer." Her lips twitched into a smile. "But I don't want to inconvenience you."

Ms. Chambray lifted her free hand and flapped it around. "Don't worry about that. You can stay here as long as you want."

"That's what Sunny said."

"In fact, since you're out of a job, you might want to think about looking for one here."

"I don't think I can afford—"

"You don't have to afford anything. You can live right here." Ms. Chambray grinned and leaned back in her chair. "Wouldn't that be a grand idea? We'd have so much fun."

Dante knew she didn't just now think of this idea, but he still didn't know where he came in. "Sunny really enjoys living here."

"Oh, I know she does," her mother said as she turned to the older woman. "I'll have to think about it. I still have my home back in South Carolina."

"Can you sell it or rent it out?" Ms. Chambray asked.

"I didn't think about renting it out. I'll have to give it some thought."

"As for jobs, there are plenty of them around here, right, Bubba Dante?" Ms. Chambray's eyes twinkled, and he now understood what was happening.

He nodded. "Absolutely. Especially if you like anything in the food service industry."

"Oh, honey, I've done everything—from waiting tables to cooking."

"Cooking?" Ms. Chambray said with her eyebrows raised. She turned to Dante again. "Did you hear that, Bubba Dante? She can cook. Don't you need a cook at Bubba's?"

"Only temporarily," he said. "At least until Riley returns."

"Then it's settled." Ms. Chambray lifted the next slice of pizza and held it up. "Twila, you can help out at Bubba's Diner until Riley's cut heals, and then we'll find you something else."

Sunny's mother cast an apologetic look in his direction. He suspected she didn't find herself speechless very often but this was clearly one of those times. And his heart went out to her.

"I would be honored to have you help out," he said, hoping to make her feel better but deep down wondering if it was such a good idea. "But I don't want to cut into your vacation."

She shrugged. "Sunny will be working anyway, and that'll give me a chance to spend more time with her." She paused. "That is, if you're serious about this."

He pushed aside his doubts. "Oh, I am very serious."

"Great. But there is one thing."

BOOK: Can't Fool Me Twice: Sweet Contemporary Romance: Belles in the City Book 1
9.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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