Romance is . . . found in books and movies!

My favorite romantic book lines:

“I don’t ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember. Somewhere inside me there’ll always be the person I am tonight.”

TENDER IS THE NIGHT

F. Scott Fitzgerald

“You could have had anything else in the world, and you asked for me.”

CITY OF GLASS

Cassandra Clare

“Mo Nighean donn,” he whispered,” mo chridhe. My brown lass, my heart.”
Come to me. Cover me. Shelter me. a bhean, heal me. Burn with me, as I burn for you.”

Diana Gabaldon

The Fiery Cross

“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

John Green

 The Fault in Our Stars

“To douchebags!” he said, gesturing to Brad. “And to girls that break your heart,” he bowed his head to me. His eyes lost focus. “And to the absolute fucking horror of losing your best friend because you were stupid enough to fall in love with her.”

Jamie McGuire

Beautiful Disaster

“There are no refunds and no exchanges with love. It comes with flaws and imperfections. It’s raw, unfiltered, and sometimes it isn’t easy.”

Pucked Up

Helena Hunting

My favorite romantic movies lines:

“I wanted it to be you, I wanted it to be you so badly.” You’ve Got Mail

“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” When Harry Met Sally

“I hate the way you talk to me, and the way you cut your hair. I hate the way you drive my car. I hate it when you stare. I hate your big dumb combat boots, and the way you read my mind. I hate you so much it makes me sick; it even makes me rhyme.

I hate it, I hate the way you’re always right. I hate it when you lie. I hate it when you make me laugh, even worse when you make me cry. I hate it when you’re not around, and the fact that you didn’t call.

But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.” 

Ten Things I Hate About You

“I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss of her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it. One.” City of Angels

“I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what I saw. I’m scared of what I did. I’m scared of who I am. And most of all, I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.”

Dirty Dancing

 

Romance is . . . more than a day.

I’m going to say something fairly outrageous here. Are you ready?

My wedding day was not the most romantic day of my life.

I bet lots of you feel the same way, especially if your wedding involved months of planning, a fancy dress, lots of people invited, and family.

When I think about my wedding day, I remember a lot of running behind as we were getting ready. I remember tons of people in my house, my parents being anxious, my father forgetting to get gas in the van that was meant to transport the bridesmaids and me to the church (and then sending out my cousin to gas it up and the subsequent misplacement of Daddy’s credit card). I remember being worried about my cousin who had just had a baby by caesarian section ten days before. I remember finding out we were SUPER late to start the ceremony. I remember they misspelled the word CONGRATULATIONS on the sign at the reception. I remember that my new husband lost his glasses at the park where we went to have pictures taken.

I don’t remember gazing fondly at my groom. I don’t remember seeing his face when he first spotted me in my gown. I don’t remember our first dance or the toasts or speeches or anything else.

(Later, my father would admit that he was getting misty-eyed as he began to walk me down the aisle, remembering that he had carried me down this same aisle the day I was christened. Apparently, I merely looked at him and said, “Remember to start with the right foot.” Yeah, that sounds like me.)

No, I don’t remember that day as particularly romantic.

But no worries–I’ve had lots of romantic days since. Are you ready?

On our third anniversary, my husband was on field training exercises about half an hour from where we lived on Wheeler Air Force Base. That meant he was out in the field all week, and we’d be apart for our anniversary. Imagine my surprise when on the big day, he showed up at the back door around dinner time. Turned out he’d driven a tent peg through his hand and had to come back to post to get stitches, and while he was there, he’d gotten permission to stop to eat with me. I remember our romantic dinner (I have NO idea what I made) with the baby asleep in the other room and Clint’s driver sitting outside in the truck.

I remember eating dinner with my mom on our 19th anniversary. My dad was in the hospital, not doing well–he’d pass away three days later. My mother was understandably sad and alone and worried about my dad, so we invited her to join us that night. My husband was always close to my mother; having her at our romantic dinner didn’t faze him at all.

On our 23rd anniversary, my husband drove the kids and me and our best friends to Georgia so we could be at our other friend’s 40th birthday party. We drove through the night, through some really scary parts of Georgia. Not exactly roses and champagne, but we made memories!

On our 24th anniversary, about two weeks before our oldest daughter’s wedding, we went to Savannah and St. Augustine. It was crazy to take a trip like that so close to her big day, but we had so much fun . . .

And on our 31st anniversary, my husband said good-bye to me as I drove to Cinncinati to be part of Lori Foster’s Reader and Author Get Together. I spent that day with my friend Violet Howe, driving, but it was still romantic, because my sweetheart supports my career, 100%. He didn’t even blink that I was leaving him that day–I knew he had my back.

Romance isn’t just a day. If you’re counting on your wedding day to be the epitome of romance . . . you’re liable to be disappointed. But if your focus is on the life you’re creating instead of putting pressure on one 24 hour period . . . you just might find romance is in the most unexpected places.

My favorite weddings . . .

I didn’t write weddings for a long time. My couples’ HEA usually ended with a kiss and promise, but not necessarily during a wedding ceremony. And then I wrote Jude and Logan’s wedding at the end of The Posse, Meghan and Sam’s at the end of The Only One . . . it was fun!
At a fan’s suggestion, I wrote a wedding book for Ava and Liam, I Choose You. I had a blast writing their ups and downs. Later, I wrote Army Blue about Jacey and Owen’s West Point wedding. I also included weddings in The Anti-Cinderella Takes London, Age of Aquarius, The Comeback Route, and The Problem. 
Here are some excerpts from a few of my favorite wedding scenes!

From I Choose You

THE CHURCH WAS PERFECT. It smelled of evergreen and lit candles. I stood with my father, Angela, Frankie and Julia in the foyer, watching as Carl walked my mother to her seat. Vincent had just seated Mrs. Bailey.
The music changed, and Julia smiled as she started up the aisle. Angela followed close behind, and then Frankie took her turn, walking with uncharacteristic sedateness.
“Our turn.” Daddy offered me his arm, and we stepped into the doorway. The congregation had risen to their feet at my mother’s cue, and the collective gasp gave me a little thrill.
I couldn’t see Liam yet, but Father Byers stood on the altar, beaming at me. I clung to my father’s arm as my heart pounded.
A few steps from the end of the aisle, I finally caught sight of my groom. Liam stood tall and unbelievably handsome in his dark suit. When he saw me, his mouth broke into a wide smile, and his eyes gleamed.
We stood at the front of the church while Father Byers intoned the beginning of the service, reminding everyone why we were here, charging us all to speak now if we knew any impediment to this marriage.
And then he was asking my father who presented this woman to be married to this man, and my father was speaking.
“Her mother and I do.” He drew me close, kissed my cheek, and passed my hand to Liam. For one breath, he held on to us both, pressing our hands together.
“Be happy.”
He stepped back to stand with my mother, and I walked forward with Liam toward the future.
We repeated the timeless words of faith and promise and love that had been handed down to us across the centuries. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish til death do us part.
Liam slid a band onto my finger, and I did the same to his. The soloist sang Ave Maria, and I presented a small bouquet to the Blessed Mother. Everything else passed in a blur of standing, sitting and kneeling, until Father Byers held our clasped hands.
“Those whom God has joined, let no man put asunder.” He smiled at us. “Liam, you may now kiss your bride.”
My husband took my hands and held them between his. He leaned his forehead against mine and whispered to me.
“I love you, Ava Catarine Bailey.”
His lips covered mine in the most gentle of kisses. It was a brief touch, and yet it contained the promise of a thousand tomorrows together.

From Age of Aquarius

“The music changed from the slower, somber tunes to an elegant and yet joyous song, something that sounded vaguely familiar to me, as though maybe I’d heard it at other weddings. I had a minute to wonder what the piece was called before Zoe rose to her feet, followed by everyone else, as Nell and Seamus appeared at the top of the staircase.
My girl was not usually comfortable with being the center of attention, but standing there, pausing so that she could be seen and admired before descending the stairs, she looked every bit the powerful woman I knew her to be. Her chin was lifted, her eyes were bright, and her smile was steady. I hoped she knew how absolutely fucking gorgeous she was. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
She wore a dress of simple blue cotton that swirled around her ankles. The color complemented her eyes and her hair so perfectly that I would have sworn she’d had it made specially for her. The top of it hugged her slender curves, leaving her arms and shoulders bare. The bunch of flowers that she held in one hand was riot of different shades of blue, with accents of yellow.
Nell and Seamus floated down the steps, both of them regal. I heard the quiet awws as they made their way to me. At the end of the aisle, Seamus bent and kissed Nell’s cheek before taking her hand from his arm and placing it within mine.
“She’s yours now. You belong to each other. Mind that you take very good care of her.”
Although Seamus wasn’t any relation to either of us, and although we’d only known him a short period of time, I felt a lump rise in my throat, and I nodded my understanding, closing my fingers with care over Nell’s smaller ones.
Seth cleared his throat and began to speak.

“From the most ancient of times to this very day, souls have sought out the one other in existence whose being completes its own. When that happens, there is rejoicing in all the realms of Light, because the joining creates new light to shine into the world, and light and love are always causes for celebration.
“When the joining of two souls transcends the physical and the emotional to embrace the spiritual, it is right and good thing for a ceremony to mark that occasion. That’s why we are all gathered here today, as friends and loved ones of this man and this woman. We are here to support their decision to bind themselves to one another for all of eternity. We are here to witness their commitment to one another. And we are here to share in the light cast by their love.”
The words he spoke were not the traditional welcome to any marriage ceremony I’d ever heard, but they were perfect for us and for this situation. Not for the first time today, I felt a twinge of guilt that my grandparents weren’t with us. They would have loved to have been part of our day. I comforted myself with the thought that we could have another celebration later, after the world was once again safe.
“Rafe and Nell, we begin by requiring that you both state your intentions toward one another regarding your decision to enter into marriage together. Be warned that you should not come into these vows lightly; they have weight and power, and they are binding for this life and forever after.”
He turned to face me more fully. “Rafe, do you intend to love, cherish and respect Nell all of the days of your life together? Will you promise to always hold her needs as important as your own? And will you keep your body and heart only for her enjoyment and pleasure?”
I nodded. “I will.”

After Nell had repeated the same promises, Seth directed us to join our hands. “Because this is a union of equals, and because we do not view marriage as a way to subjugate one person to another, but rather as a way to raise both parties to new heights, I would ask you to repeat your vows in unison, while looking into each other’s eyes. Begin by saying, I, Nell or I, Rafe.”
Obediently, we spoke the words, and then, with ours gazes locked on each other, we made our sacred vows.
“I, Rafe, take you, Nell, as my partner in every nuance of life. I promise to love you, to honor you, and to worship you with my body. I will share laughter, love, dreams, hopes, tears, sorrow, burdens and grief from this day forevermore. If I hurt you or burden you, it is not my intention, and I ask your forgiveness and grace for when that happens. My vow will remain unbreakable for all of eternity.”
Seth smiled gently at us and then lifted his eyes to the rest of the group. “You who are gathered here today are also committing to support this couple in their joining together?”
“We will.” Our friends spoke in unison, and I felt it deep within my heart. Cathryn, sitting between Veronica and Seamus, wiped at her eyes discreetly. Behind her, Tasmyn, sitting next to Joss, gave me an almost imperceptible nod, while Joss herself was grinning broadly. It was a good thing to have the approval of the ex-girlfriend squad, I decided.
“Then by the power that be, the power of light and of love and of eternity, I bind you together, now and for all days. What has been joined in the light, let no darkness tear asunder.”

Seth paused for dramatic effect before adding, “Rafe, you may now kiss your wife.”
I lifted both hands to Nell’s face, and for a moment, I simply stared down in wonder at this gift that had been given to me. And then, with gentleness that belied the surge of passion between us, I sealed my lips to hers, consecrating the vows that we had just made to each other.
“I love you,” she murmured against my mouth, and I realized with a start that this was the first time she’d ever said these words first, instead of in response to my own declaration.
“Forever, and then for one more eternity,” I agreed. “And that’s only the beginning.”

From The Comeback Route

“We stood now at the front of the canopy with the minister between us. A breeze rippled through, blowing my long white cotton dress to swirl around our legs. Leo smiled down at me, squeezing my hands, and I grinned back. His eyes flickered over my shoulder, and then back to me, and one eyebrow rose.
I knew what he saw beyond me. We’d specifically chosen this spot, just down the beach from the house, right near where our under-the-boardwalk tryst had taken place. It was part of our history, and like every other episode in our past, it was the foundation upon which we were building our forever.
The minister cleared his throat and inclined his head toward Leo. It was time for our vows.
“I, Leo, take you, Mia Quinn, to be my own, now and forever. You have been my best friend since you drew your first breath, and you will be my best friend until I draw my last. I will spend every day of my life showing you how much I love you, in everything I do and say. I promise no regrets, only truth. I promise that you will come first in my life, no matter what. And I swear that you will always be the only woman to wear my jersey.”
There was a wave of tittering laughter in the congregation, but Leo didn’t look away from me.
“I love you, Mia Quinn. Loving you is the best choice I ever made, and it’s one I will make every day, for the rest of our lives.”
I’d sworn that I wouldn’t cry anymore. This was the happiest day of my life, and I didn’t have room for tears. But as Leo’s words swept over me, I felt a lump rising in my throat, just in time for the minister to turn to me.
“I, Quinn, take you, Leo as my own, now and forever. You are my best friend, my earliest memory and the man who I want by my side, no matter what. I promise you my love and my support, from preseason to postseason and every day in between. I promise that regardless of what happens on the field, our home will be a place of unconditional love. I promise to only look to our future together and not regret the past. And I promise that no matter what team you play for, I’ll always wear your jersey.”
Leo brought our joined hands to his lips, kissing my knuckles.
“I love you, Leo, and I will spend every day of our lives together making sure you never doubt that.”
The minister spoke again, and a few minutes later, Leo slipped a delicate white gold and diamond band onto my finger. I slid a wide ring onto his hand, thrilling to the expression on his face as he looked down at his finger with a mix of wonder and pride.

“And now, having entered into the covenant of marriage through the exchange of vows, the declaration of intent, and the giving and receiving of rings, by the power vested in me by the state of New Jersey and in the name of the God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I now pronounce you husband and wife. What God has joined, let no one put asunder.” The minister smiled at both of us, a benediction in itself. “You may now seal those vows with a kiss.”
I thought I’d seen Leo smile before. I thought I’d seen him full of joy. But at that moment, when we were declared husband and wife, I realized every other smile had been dim foretaste of what came now. It was as though the brightest sunlight had just broken in a gray sky.
Taking my face between his hands, he sealed his lips over mine in a vow just as tangible as those he’d just spoken. His touch was both reverent and passionate, and my heart sped up, eager to feel his hands on me, consummating our promises in the best way I could imagine.
The minister gave a discreet cough, and Leo pulled back, murmuring against my cheek as he held me close.
“I love you, Mia Quinn Taylor.”

 

First Chapter Friday!

Since we’re celebrating the 2nd anniversary of The Anti-Cinderella this week, it seemed like the perfect book to launch our new feature, First Chapter Friday!

Every month, I’ll share the first chapter of one of my books to give you a taste of what you might have missed.

Enjoy!

Want to read the rest? Get it here!


“WOOOOHOOO! HOT MAMA WALKING ALERT.”

Shelby, my roommate and best friend in the world, waved her hand in front of her face in an exaggerated fanning motion as she lounged in the doorway of my bedroom. “Damn, girl! Sometimes I forget how good you clean up.”
“Funny. Very funny.” Rolling my eyes, I balanced myself on one foot. “I need your input. Which shoes work best? Option one . . .” I switched feet, lifting the first one up behind me. “Or option two?”
“Hmmm. It depends. Are you going to a club? Or is this date a quiet affair at an elegant restaurant?” Shelby wiggled her fingers, grinning at me wickedly. “C’mon. Tell me all the details.”
I blew out a breath. “Neither one. And get real. Where would I find either a club or an elegant restaurant within thirty miles of us? Tonight is a command performance at my grandparents’ house.”
“You’re going to visit Honey and Handsome without me?” Shelby frowned, pushing out her bottom lip. “I thought you loved me.”
“I do, which is why I’m not taking you with. This isn’t the fun kind of H squared visit. It’s a formal dinner. It’s going to be long and boring.” I shook my foot. “Shoe answer, please.”
“Uh, the first one. It’s cute, but it’s not trampy.”
“Excellent. That’s exactly what I was going for.” I kicked off the shoe that hadn’t made the cut and found the match to the one I was wearing. “Tell me again why I put myself through this shit.”
“Because your grandparents are funding your graduate school career and keeping you fed, with a roof over your head?” Shelby tilted her head. “Those seem like wonderful reasons.”
“Yeah, that’s right.” I turned a little, checking myself out in the full-length mirror. My black dress was silk, sedate and stylish, the most important three S words for this kind of occasion. “Plus, there’s the whole thing where I love them.”
“What’s not to love? Honey and Handsome are the coolest people I know. No one who’d just met them would ever guess that they’re both in their seventies.”
“Or that they’ve been married for over fifty years.” I frowned, concentrating on fastening my earring.

“Yes! They’re so dang cute together. Remember when they came here to help us move in, and we caught them making out in the kitchen?”
I held up one hand. “I don’t want to remember that, thanks. Eww. You might find it adorable, but it’s not something you want to see if they’re your grandparents.”

“Yes! They’re so dang cute together. Remember when they came here to help us move in, and we caught them making out in the kitchen?”
I held up one hand. “I don’t want to remember that, thanks. Eww. You might find it adorable, but it’s not something you want to see if they’re your grandparents.”
“I guess I can see that.” Shelby was silent as she watched me dig through my backpack, pulling out essentials like my driver’s license, cash, tissues and mints and depositing them into a small evening bag. “What’s the occasion tonight? Why did they ask you to come to one of their fancy dinners?”
“I’m not entirely sure,” I scowled. “Honey was being a little cagey when she called to tell me. She said they wanted me to be there because of my unique point of view on the subject at hand, or something like that. It probably has to do with ecological sustainability. They like to have me there as back-up so it seems like they have the latest research on conservation.”
“Are you saving the moose this time?”
I snorted. “Totally possible.”

“Well, whatever the cause, I know you’ll end up having a blast. Your grandparents never throw dull parties.”
“Yeah. You’re not wrong. I’m not afraid of being bored. I just don’t want to smile and act happy around a bunch of rich people. Even if they might someday consider donating millions to one of my projects.” I patted my bag, took one more look in the mirror and straightened my shoulders. “All right. I’m set, I guess. Do I look okay? Will I do?”
Shelby scrutinized me with narrowed eyes. “You will. You’re gorge, babe. You’ll knock them all dead. And who knows?” She gave me wide, dramatic eyes. “Maybe one of them will bring his hot and sexy grandson, who just happens to be rich as hell, and your eyes will meet across the crowded room—”
“Ugh!” I stuck out my tongue at her. “Just stop. You’ll get my hopes up, and when no one under the age of seventy is there, I’ll have to drown my disappointment in some of Handsome’s best whiskey. That never ends well.”
“Hey, it could happen. And if it doesn’t, at least your grandfather’s whiskey is primo.” She leaned in to kiss my cheek. “Have fun. Drive safe. Make good choices. Give the two H’s my love.”
“Will do. See you tonight.”

I stopped at the tiny front closet by the door to grab my long rain coat. Yes, it was late April, but this was Maine, and although today’s high temperature had broken the sixty-degree mark, as soon as the sun set, the chilly air would get downright frigid. I’d lived here long enough that I didn’t mind the cold so much, but my dress tonight was sleeveless, and there was no way I was going to shiver when I could avoid it. The rain coat wasn’t exactly haute couture, but it would do the job.
Opening the door to the hybrid compact Shelby and I shared, I tossed the evening bag onto the passenger seat and eased behind the wheel. I was unreasonably grumpy about this dinner. My grandparents were wonderful, amazing people, and I adored them beyond reason. One of the reasons I’d chosen Grant’s graduate program was because the school was close enough to Honey and Handsome’s summer home that I could visit when they happened to be living there. But I wasn’t in any mood to play nice just now, when I’d spent all day mucking around in a muddy field, working on the research for my final project.
The sun was drooping low in the sky, but I still needed my sunglasses, thanks to the eye-level glare. I knew this route by heart, since I’d been driving it for two years now. Still, this time of evening was when the moose liked to come out and play, and God knew I didn’t need to hit one of those monsters tonight. So I kept my car to a reasonable speed, sliding my eyes right and left as I passed wooded areas and open fields.
Darkness settled slowly, and I finally shed my sunglasses a few minutes before I reached the turn that led me down my grandparents’ driveway. Their home was large, but it wasn’t ostentatious. No one would ever guess that these two had founded and still owned—and were actively involved in—one of the largest organic juice and sandwich businesses in the country. Honey Bee Juices had won accolades over the years for its business practices, growing methods and passionate commitment to conservation and activism. I was proud not only of my family’s success and efforts to do the right thing, but of the fact that they used their wealth in practical ways.
This estate, for instance, housed a group of horticulturists for a month in the summer, men and women of all ages who won scholarships to a camp where they were taught the latest methods for natural gardening. Not only that, but Honey and Handsome always opened their home to anyone visiting the nearby college—the one I was currently attending.
“Nothing we have is truly ours, Kyra,” Handsome liked to tell me. “Everything is held in trust. And if we don’t share, what’s the point in anything?”
My grandparents were, without doubt, the coolest, kindest and most compassionate people I’d ever known. Growing up, I’d spent a lot of time with them—not because my parents were absent or neglectful, but because we worked and played as a family so often. Both of my parents worked in the juicing business, and I was always there, too, listening, watching and learning.
It was natural that I became close to my grandparents, of course, who had wanted me to call them Grammy and Grampy. But even as a toddler, I’d had my own mind. I’d noticed from a young age that my grandmother always referred to her husband as Handsome, while he called her Honey almost without fail. If it was good enough for the two of them, it worked for me, too, which was why all of their grandchildren—and their grandchildren’s friends—henceforth used the same names for our grandparents.

“I smiled as I stopped the car and climbed out, my heels crunching on the gravel of the drive. Handsome and Honey gave selflessly to all of us, whether it was time, attention or education. They didn’t lavish us with gifts, exotic trips or designer clothes, but my grandparents were the reason I was now in my last year of graduate school at Grant. They’d covered the tuition and bought the adorable little cottage that Shelby and I shared. I worked hard to keep up my grades, and Shelby and I were responsible for all the maintenance on our home, in addition to the improvements Handsome requested, but that was a small price to pay for the freedom to study and live without worry.
That was why I never really balked when H squared, as Shelby teasingly called them, asked me to make an appearance at one of their gather

“ings or fundraisers. They didn’t force the issue, ever, nor did they invite me to any social affair that would make me uncomfortable. Truth be told, I almost always ended up having a good time and meeting interesting people.
Which, come to think of it, made me wonder why my car was the only one in the circular drive as I climbed the steps of the porch. Usually, other guests’ vehicles would be here, too, by now; I was running late, as I usually was. Everything was quiet, and for a moment, I wondered if I’d somehow misunderstood my grandmother and gotten the date wrong.
“Kyra, are you planning to come inside, or should we deliver your dinner on a tray to the porch?” Honey’s voice behind me held more than a hint of laughter. “You look like you’re lost.”
“I was beginning to think maybe I was.” I turned around to face the front door, where my grandmother stood. “Where is everyone? I know I’m not early. That just isn’t possible.”
“You’re just exactly right on time.” Honey drew me into a tight hug and kissed my cheek. It was impossible to believe, looking at her, that she was over seventy years old. Her skin was smooth, her eyes clear, and the hint of white in her hair was well-camouflaged by her natural blonde. The smile on her face held just a hint of mischief, which made me pull back a little, my eyes narrowing in suspicion.
“Honey, what are you up to?”
“Up to? Whatever are you talking about?” She affected innocence, but I knew better.
“Honey . . . you told me this was a formal dinner with some people you wanted me to meet. Tell me you’re not scheming about something else.”
“I never scheme, sweetie. And maybe you misheard me. I said it was a formal dinner, and you might meet someone interesting.” She gave a little nod, and I remembered that she was right. That was exactly how she’d phrased it.

“You’re not making me feel any better.” I followed her into the foyer. “How many people are you expecting? And where is everyone?”
“Already sitting down, waiting for you.” Honey inclined her head, indicating the direction of the dining room. “Your grandfather is entertaining.”
“Oh, brother.” I giggled, leaning conspiratorially against Honey. “That means long-ass stories, doesn’t it?”
She bent her head so her mouth was next to my ear. “‘When I was first coming up with the recipe for pineapple sunshine, the juice that put us on the map . . .’” Her impression of Handsome made me laugh even harder.
We walked across the foyer and down the wide hallway that led toward what my grandparents called the public side of the house—where the large, formal dining room, the conference rooms and the ballroom were all located—but to my surprise, Honey steered me to the left and opened a door.
When I hesitated, she only smiled. “Since it’s just the four of us, I thought it would be cozier to eat in the family dining room.” When I didn’t move, she patted my back. “Come on, now, no one’s going to bite you. Don’t you trust me?”
“All of sudden, not so much.” I frowned, but I allowed her to move me along.
This part of the house was comfortable and warm. The sitting room where I’d played dolls as a kid flowed into the kitchen and dining room. As we rounded the corner, I heard the sound of my grandfather’s laughter mingling with someone else’s voice.
I didn’t know who it was—not really—but for some reason, my heart began to pound, and I felt a little lightheaded. There was something familiar—something in me that recognized the tone and timber of the voice.

We rounded the wall that hid the table from my view, and I came to a sudden, abrupt halt. Sitting at the table next to my grandfather, leaning back in his chair as though his being here was the most natural thing in the world, was a man I thought I’d never see again—not in person, anyway.
He looked so different—and yet, of course, not that very different. He wasn’t the boy I’d known ten years before. He was a man now. Still, although I hadn’t been in the same room with him—or even in the same city, to the best of my knowledge, since I was fourteen, it wasn’t as though I hadn’t seen him. I hadn’t sought out glimpses of him, but they’d been impossible to avoid on magazine covers at the grocery store checkout counters or splashed over social media.
Yet, he was more a stranger than a friend now. Too many years divided us, and those years had taken us in opposite directions. Neither of us was who we’d been back then on the Florida beaches.
And then he saw me, and the way his eyes lit up was heart-rippingly familiar.

A smile spread over his face, and slowly he rose to his feet.
“Hi, Ky.”

Want to read the rest? Get it here!

 

 

 

 

 

Recipes That Will Make You Fall in Love!

The food of romance . . .

All of the dishes below either came from my books or are inspired by them. I hope you’ll make them and enjoy!

Roasted Garlic Cheese Dip

I think Sarah would make this when she and Gideon invite the football team to their farm for parties. And remember garlic is perfectly acceptable if both kissers have eaten it! <3

2 heads garlic
8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups shredded asiago cheese
1 cup sour cream
1?4 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup Italian shredded cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Peel most of the outer layers of the garlic off, then slice off the top of the garlic to expose the cloves inside. Drizzle 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil over the exposed surface of the garlic, letting the oil sink down into the cloves. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Once the garlic has cooled, turn heads upside down and gently squeeze the garlic out of the skins.
3. Reduce oven temp to 350.
4. With a food processor or electric mixer, blend cream cheese, shredded cheeses, sour cream and parsley until well-blended. Add garlic and blend again.
5. Place mixture into a baking or casserole dish and sprinkle shredded mozzarella over the top.
6. Bake about 20 minutes until bubbly and golden brown on top.
7. Serve with firm crusty bread.

Italian Love Knots

Vincent made these for Amanda on a very special occasion. I recommend serving these to someone you love!

5 cups of unbleached flour
5 teaspoons of baking powder
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1.5 cups of cooled melted butter
1 cup of milk
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lemon for cookie
1 ounce of lemon extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, and then the extract and zest.

In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder, then slowly add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk.

When everything is incorporated, let the dough rest for 5 minutes, or wrap and chill overnight.
Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

To form the knots, use a cookie scoop to keep the size uniform. Scoop the dough and roll it into a log about 5 or 6 inches. Take one side of the log and form a circle, then tuck the other end down.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.

Chicken Soup

Vincent made this for Amanda when she was sick. I make it for my family, too. It cures everything!

1 large chicken
1 onion, roughly cut
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 carrots, finely cut
2 stalks celery, chopped
Escarole (optional)
Bebes (or other small pasta like Acini di pepe)

In a large stock pot, place chicken and cover with water. Add vegetables and garlic, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for four to six hours. Add water as it evaporates.

Remove the chicken and vegetables, straining stock. When chicken is cooled, remove from bones and return to pot. Add finely chopped carrots and celery. Bring to boil and add escarole (if desired).

You can add the bebes to the boiling soup if you like, or you can boil the bebes separately and add to each individual bowl, which will keep the liquid from being absorbed.

Reheat as often as you need. Excellent cure for colds, flu and all manner of crud.

Chicken Fried Steak

(From Ree Drummond)

As served at Kenny’s Diner in Burton to Tori and Hunter!

1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 pounds cube steak (tenderized round steak that’s been extra tenderized)
Kosher salt
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
Gravy:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 to 4 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Mashed potatoes, for serving
  1. For the steak: Begin with setting up an assembly line of dishes. Mix the milk with the eggs in one; the flour mixed with the seasoned salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, paprika and cayenne in another; and the meat in a third. Then have one clean plate at the end to receive the breaded meat.
  2. Work with one piece of meat at a time. Sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and black pepper, then place it in the flour mixture. Turn to coat. Place the meat into the milk/egg mixture, turning to coat. Finally, place it back in the flour and turn to coat (dry mixture/wet mixture/dry mixture). Place the breaded meat on the clean plate, then repeat with the remaining meat.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. Drop in a few sprinkles of flour to make sure it’s sufficiently hot. When the butter sizzles immediately, you know it’s ready. (It should not brown right away, if it does, the fire is too hot.) Cook the meat, 3 pieces at a time, until the edges start to look golden brown, about 2 minutes each side. Remove the meat to a paper towel-lined plate and keep them warm by covering lightly with another plate or a sheet of foil. Repeat until all the meat is cooked.
  4. After all the meat is fried, pour off the grease into a heatproof bowl. Without cleaning the skillet, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup of the grease back to the skillet and allow it to heat up.
  5. For the gravy: When the grease is hot, sprinkle the flour evenly over the grease. Using a whisk, mix the flour with the grease, creating a golden-brown paste. Add more flour if it looks overly greasy; add a little more grease if it becomes too pasty/clumpy. Keep cooking until the roux reaches a deep golden brown color.
  6. Pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Add the seasoned salt and black pepper to taste and cook, whisking, until the gravy is smooth and thick, 5 to 10 minutes. Be prepared to add more milk if it becomes overly thick. Be sure to taste to make sure gravy is sufficiently seasoned.
  7. Serve the meat next to a big side of mashed potatoes. Pour gravy over the whole shebang!
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