You know what they say about best-laid plans... After a disastrous thirty-first birthday party where she gets stood-up by a man she isn't supposed to be dating, Peri McKenna decides it's time to change what hasn't been working-which is pretty much everything. Her love life is going nowhere fast, she's bored to tears by a job that makes her the office pariah, and the lifelong junk food addiction that used to be somewhat quirky is now positively problematic. To top it all off, her newly-purchased home is falling apart and wishful thinking hasn't done much to fix the leaky roof. It's time be an adult now that she's officially 'thirty-something.' But when the first step of Peri's self-improvement plan backfires, she starts to wonder if change might be overrated. Enter Milo Preston, an up-and-coming chef who's in town to take over a local restaurant. When Peri and Milo begin working together, she finds it hard to ignore his easy charm and captivating emerald-green eyes. Since Milo is her best friend's estranged brother, Peri has to keep reminding herself that he is completely off-limits. As they grow closer, Milo introduces Peri to new foods, the joy (and pain) of jogging, and makes her think her luck might finally be turning. But when the past catches up with them, Peri finds herself back at square one. Will she be able to sort herself out-or will the roof cave in on her once and for all?
By the time the Messina Grill closed its door at eleven, I was ready to keel over. My feet and back were sore and my head was buzzing with all the information Harriet had given me. I’d made a ton of mistakes and messed up orders, but she still wanted me to come back the following day. Part of me hoped she’d fire me after the end of my shift. Being a waitress was hard and I had a newfound respect for every waiter and waitress who’d ever served me food. But working at the Grill was doing what it was meant to do—it distracted me and I hadn’t thought about Declan or Frost Financial the entire time I was there.
“Heading home?” Milo asked, coming out of the kitchen. He pulled out a chair and started putting on bright red sneakers.
I nodded. “Harriet says I need to learn the menu by tomorrow.” I waved the folded up paper in the air. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to tell the difference between grilled swordfish and tilapia or distinguish between couscous and quinoa.
“I can help you study while we make our way back home,” Milo said. “I pretty much know that thing by heart. What do you say, neighbor?”
“I don’t know. I think I need to keep my eyes on the road. My luck has been a bit iffy lately and the last thing I need is a car accident.”
Milo finished putting on his sneakers and jumped to his feet. “Oh. I ran here, so I figured you might like to join me.”
“You ran?” I asked. The Grill wasn’t too far from his mother’s house, but I couldn’t imagine why Milo would have to run to work. “Did your car break down or something? You could have asked me. I would have driven you.”
He shook his head and smiled. “Thanks. But I don’t own a car. I like running. It helps me clear my head.”
And, as evidenced by his muscles, it helped him stay in shape as well. I guess you have to when you make cream sauces on a daily basis. “What do you do when it’s raining? Or if you don’t feel like it?”
He laughed and ran a hand through his hair. “I just do it. Sometimes I have to kick myself in the butt, but once my feet start pounding the pavement and the blood starts rushing through my veins, it’s the best feeling in the world.” Wow. I didn’t think anyone could ever make running sound sexy—but Milo had done just that. “Oh, and I wear a jacket if it’s raining. There’s a shower at the back of the break room if you’re wondering how I keep from being sweaty and stinky. Did Harriet show you?”
“No, she didn’t.”
“It’s tiny and the hot water is completely optional—on most days you’re lucky if you get a few drops of warm water—but it does the trick. Although sometimes I feel like skipping the shower and letting Gary enjoy my runner’s aroma.” He winked and flung his backpack over his shoulder. “Are you coming?”
“Umm. Car,” I stammered, pointing to the door that led to the parking lot.
“Right,” he said, heading toward the exit. “I almost forgot. I’ll see you tomorrow, Peri McKenna. You better know my menu by heart or I might just have to hide your keys and make you run with me.”
“Have fun trying,” I called out. There was no way I was going to run. Ever. But even though I wasn’t the one jogging into the dark night, I felt a bit breathless and my heart started to race as I watched Milo leave. I waved good-bye to Sam, grabbed my keys, and got into my car.
Get it together, Peri. You need to focus on learning the menu, not the man cooking the food. And stop picturing Milo cooling off in the shower after his morning run.
Cat Lavoie lives in Montreal, Canada with her tempestuous cat, Abbie. She is the author of BREAKING THE RULES, ZOEY & THE MOMENT OF ZEN, and PERI IN PROGRESS.
If Cat isn't reading or writing, she's most likely watching too much TV or daydreaming about her next trip to London.
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