Can't Fool Me Twice: Sweet Contemporary Romance: Belles in the City Book 1 (8 page)

BOOK: Can't Fool Me Twice: Sweet Contemporary Romance: Belles in the City Book 1
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Chapter 9

 

Sunny shouldn't have been surprised that Dante showed up for dinner. Miss Lucille had a knack for making things happen as she thought they should. But she was still tongue-tied with everyone watching them. She reached for the bowl of turnip greens and plopped a spoonful onto her plate before passing the bowl to Miss Lucille.

"These pork chops look good," Judd said.

Miss Lucille cut into one, took a bite, chewed slowly, and let out a sigh. "They are good, but they don't taste like the ones you usually make, Bethann."

Bethann bobbed her head and held her hand out toward Sunny. "That's because I didn't make them. These are Sunny's."

Out of the corner of her eye, Sunny saw Dante's head whip back around to her. "We need these at Bubba's."

Sunny started to say she'd give the chef the recipe, but Miss Lucille spoke up first. "You don't expect her to give away her family recipe for free, do you?" The older woman shook her head as she pursed her lips. "No sirree bob. That's not gonna happen. If you want the recipe you'll have to pay for it." She tipped her head toward Sunny. "Right?"

Sunny had no idea what to say to that, so she picked up her fork and shoved her turnip greens around on her plate. She knew that all eyes were on her, so she finally shrugged. "I don't expect to get paid. If you like the recipe, I'll just give it to you."

"I'm willing to pay for it," Dante said. "These pork chops are the best I've ever tasted, and that's saying a lot since I've been in the restaurant business all my life."

"You heard her," Miss Lucille said. "She's just happy to let you have the recipe, which is an old family recipe." She sighed. "Things like that really should stay in the family, if you know what I mean."

Sunny's throat constricted. The obvious meaning behind Miss Lucille's words made her want to crawl beneath the table. She glanced over at Bethann who gave her a sympathetic smile. Judd lifted his napkin and cleared his throat before he changed the subject.

Throughout the rest of the meal, conversation took on a lighter tone. Judd brought up some events happening at the church, and Bethann got Sunny to commit to helping with the talent show to attract some people from the neighborhood.

"Dessert?" Sunny asked as she stood.

Bethann shrugged. "I'm full as a tick, but I can help serve everyone. We're havin' pecan pie, so y'all just have to let me know if you want whipped cream or vanilla ice cream." She turned to Sunny. "Come on. Let's go get everyone's dessert."

As soon as they were in the kitchen, Bethann gave Sunny a hug. "Sorry about Aunt Lucille. You know she means well."

"Of course. It's funny how I feel like I know her so well, yet she's so full of surprises."

"I know, bless her heart." Sunny giggled. "We'd better get that pecan pie out there, or they'll come lookin' for us."

Finally, after a dessert of pecan pie, Miss Lucille lifted her hand. "One of the main reasons I wanted you boys here was to help me get some stuff down from the attic."

Dante nodded and looked over at Judd. "Yes, of course. Where is the attic access?"

Sunny glanced over at Bethann who was having to suppress giggles. "You're kidding, right?"

"Serious as a heart attack," Miss Lucille said. "C'mon, I'll show you."

After Miss Lucille led Dante and Judd out of the dining room, Sunny turned to Bethann. "What was so funny?"

"You and I could have easily gotten stuff down from the attic. She has carpeted stairs with a very solid handrail. This was just a ploy to get you and Dante together."

"Of course, I figured that," Sunny said. "I just wasn't sure what she told him to get him to come."

"Welcome to my world," Bethann said. "You're actually letting me off the hook by being here."

"What do you mean?"

"Aunt Lucille wanted children so badly she's been hinting that I shouldn't wait too much longer. She even brought up the fact that she isn't getting any younger, and she sure would like to have some great-great-nieces and nephews to spoil."

"She'd definitely spoil them," Sunny agreed. "Bless her heart."

"Who'd spoil what?" The sound of Miss Lucille's voice caught their attention. "Bless whose heart?"

Bethann made a face as she exchanged a glance with Sunny. "Busted."

"I don't want to have to drag it out of you girls. Tell me what you were talking about."

Bethann planted a hand on her hip. "When Judd and I have children, you're gonna spoil 'em rotten."

"Dern tootin' I will. That's my job." She cackled as she looked over at Sunny. "And when you and Bubba Dante come to your senses and get married, I expect some young'uns from you too."

Sunny opened her mouth but couldn't think of a thing to say to that. Good thing Dante wasn't there, or she'd want to crawl under the table.

Bethann cast a sympathetic glance in Sunny's direction before looking back at her great-aunt. "Where are the guys?"

"They're figuring out the best way to set up the games for the party. I reckon I better go see about them."

As soon as Miss Lucille left, Bethann turned back to Sunny. "I really don't know what to say. And she's not even the worst of my relatives. They're all very outspoken."

"But you're generally so quiet," Sunny said.

"I know." Bethann made a face. "I could never get a word in, so I just stopped trying and watched the others. They're pretty entertaining."

"I can imagine."

"So what is your mama like? Is she talkative like you or quiet?"

Sunny didn't hesitate. "She makes me look like a church mouse."

"This should be fun. I can't wait to see her and Aunt Lucille together. I just hope they don't clash."

"I don't think they will," Sunny said. "Mama goes out of her way to be nice, sometimes to the point of making me gag."

"So she subscribes to the catch-more-flies-with-honey concept?"

Sunny nodded. "Pretty much. I'm excited about having her here …"

"But?" Bethann picked up a stack of plates but remained standing there watching Sunny.

"But she likes to be involved in everything." Sunny followed Bethann's lead and helped clear the table. "But I really miss her, so I can deal with that for a little while."

As they went back and forth between the dining room and kitchen, they talked about how Sunny's mother tended to meddle, although she did it in a nice way. Bethann offered to be there if she was needed to run interference.

The guys joined them in the kitchen, their sleeves rolled up. "We'll load the dishwasher and scrub the pots and pans," Judd said. "It's the least we can do after that delicious meal."

Bethann grinned up at her husband as she dried her hands on the dishtowel. "All right. We'll go see about Aunt Lucille."

Sunny got to the door when she heard Dante say her name. She turned around and saw him walking toward her. He took one of her hands, kissed the back of it, and smiled before letting go.

"Let me help in here, and then you and I can talk, okay?"

She nodded and then went toward Miss Lucille's study. When she got there, both Miss Lucille and Bethann had expectant looks on their faces.

"Are you okay?" Bethann asked.

Sunny grinned. "Dante wants to talk with me after they clean the kitchen."

"Any idea what about?" Before Sunny had a chance to answer, Miss Lucille spoke up again. "I couldn't help but watch how he looked at you with pure, unadulterated love."

"Sunny?"

She spun around and saw Dante at the door of the study. "Yes?"

"Can we talk now?"

"Go on, girl," Miss Lucille said before she had a chance to respond. "Why don't y'all go in the chat—and I'm talkin' real chat room, not some silly internet thing—so you can have some privacy?"

*

Dante wished he'd taken a few minutes to form some cohesive thoughts before getting Sunny. He'd opened up a bit to Judd who urged him to take advantage of being away from the diner to talk to Sunny. Now that they were alone, words danced around his brain and became jumbled.

"You wanted to talk to me?" Sunny's voice was soft, barely above a whisper.

"I did." He licked his lips and swallowed hard. "I just want you to know that although I appreciate Ms. Chambray's intentions, I want you to know that she has nothing to do with what I say and do with you."

She smiled. "I understand."

"You know how I feel about you." He wanted to remind her that he loved her, but there was no telling who might appear at the door.

"Yes, we've already discussed this."

"I just wanted to reinforce everything, since …" He didn't want to come right out and bring up Ms. Chambray's interference, but he wanted her to know that he had his own plan.

"Listen, Dante, I know Miss Lucille likes to orchestrate things, and she does it out of the goodness of her heart, but that doesn't have anything to do with our … um, our relationship."

"Okay, good." He reached out and brushed her hair from her face. "I want to help as much as I can when your mother is here." He gazed into her eyes. "I would have wanted to do that, even if I hadn't been asked."

"I appreciate that."

Okay, time to change the subject. "What time are you working tomorrow?"

"I've scheduled myself for early breakfast so I can be here in the afternoon."

"Then I need to go so you can get some rest." He stood, took both of her hands in his, pulled her to her feet, and wrapped his arms around her waist. With his face inches from hers, he whispered, "I'm leaving in a few minutes, but not before I do this." And then he kissed her. He forced himself to keep it short, but he wanted to remind her of how he felt.

When he pulled away, he saw her open her eyes and blink a couple of times before she gave him a shaky smile. "I'm glad you came, Dante."

"Me too." He stepped back. "I'll see you at the diner tomorrow."

*

Sunny fell asleep an hour later with her lips still tingling from Dante's kiss. She woke up feeling pretty wonderful.

"You're mighty chipper," Miss Lucille said as Sunny poured her coffee. "Is it Bubba Dante?"

"What do you think?" Sunny asked before taking a sip of her coffee.

"Honey, you always know exactly what I'm thinking. I'm pretty transparent."

Sunny smiled. "I'll be home early this afternoon. Do you want me to bring you anything?"

"I don't need a thing. Just come home as happy as you are this morning, and I'll be delighted."

As soon as Sunny got to work, she jumped right into her job. The lunch line wasn't quite as long as it was on catfish special days, but there were still quite a few people wanting downhome food.

Riley cut his finger while prepping for the evening special, so he took off to the walk-in clinic down the street, leaving a couple of his assistants in charge. It didn't appear to be too bad of a wound, but it wouldn't stop bleeding, and he didn't want to take any chances.

She kept glancing at the door, hoping to see Dante. Finally, after the lunch crowd had died down completely, her hopes were dashed. She'd planned to leave around two or three, and it didn't seem likely she'd see him.

"Maybe something has come up," Estelle said as she carried a couple of empty plates to the kitchen.

Sunny gave her a curious look. "What?"

"You've been acting like a schoolgirl with a crush ever since you got here today. You keep looking at the door." Estelle lifted an eyebrow. "You were looking for Dante, weren't you?"

She started to deny it, but she finally nodded. "He said he would … er, might be here this afternoon."

"Something probably came up." Estelle shot her an apologetic look. "It happens." Then she disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Sunny standing alone, wondering why he hadn't at least called. She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and glanced at it. She hadn't gotten a single call since she'd been there.

Sunny was about to work on the prep station when the bell on the door jingled. She glanced up and spotted Dante's brother Anthony. Fear washed over her. "Is Dante okay?"

"Yes, of course," Anthony replied. "I'm just here for some dessert. I hear you have killer cobblers and pies."

She took his order and went to the kitchen to prepare it since the cooks were busy getting ready for the dinner crowd. She brought the cobbler and two iced teas to Anthony's table. "Mind if I join you?"

"Not at all." He gave her a kind smile. "In fact, I was going to ask you to. I'd like to get to know you a little better."

"Did Dante send you?"

He shook his head as he cut into the cobbler. As he chewed it, his eyebrows shot up. "Dante wasn't kidding when he said this stuff was good. It's amazing."

Her cheeks flushed as she glanced down. "Riley was busy with the pies, so I made the cobbler."

"You really are a good cook. Dante had better be nice to you, or I just might steal you away for one of my restaurants." He took another bite while she sipped her tea. "How do you like New York?"

BOOK: Can't Fool Me Twice: Sweet Contemporary Romance: Belles in the City Book 1
11.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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