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Sunday, June 28, 2015

COOKING UP TROUBLE: Excerpt #9

When Audrey stepped out the back door, the snooty woman was stomping her way down the icy sidewalk, muttering to herself, heading straight for her. Audrey tugged her cap lower on her head and hunched her shoulders.

"Excuse me," the woman said, just when Audrey thought she had escaped unscathed. "Do you -- is that a Dolce set?" She rocked back a little on her high heels and blinked a few times, as if maybe she thought she was seeing things. Obviously she didn't expect people in Tabor Heights to wear designer originals.

"This old thing?" Audrey tugged on her hat and slung the long end of her scarf around her neck. She had seen the label when her aunt sent her the scarf, hat, and gloves set last winter and considered throwing them out just because they were designer. Still, they were warm and went with her coat. "Yes, I believe so." She muffled a snort as she heard the voice of the debutante character she had created two years ago coming out of her mouth.

"Do you know where Emily Keeler is?"

"I would expect Miss Emily to be..."

Maybe she wanted to shove the woman's attitude back down her throat, as well as vent her long, frustrating day. Audrey didn't spend more than half a second examining her reasons, but let her creativity flow.

"Well, she's very busy at this time of year. She's involved in so many charitable functions." She fluttered her eyelashes as she added a snooty drawl to her voice.

The woman's sneer relaxed into something that looked like a real smile. Audrey speculated that it was because she heard a cultured voice and probably thought she was talking to an equal. After all, despite this being a hick town, the woman talking to her was wearing Dolce.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

COOKING UP TROUBLE: Excerpt #8

Someone at the gossip sheets had figured out -- probably from a more knowledgeable source -- that Jorge's information was a complete farce.

That phone call that had him so upset had been a major reaming, and probably a demand to return whatever money he had been paid for his "inside information."

And this woman had read that gossip sheet, and was so incensed that she hadn't been consulted to design a dress for Carlo Vincente's daughter, she hadn't bothered to get enough information. She knew to come to Tabor Heights, and she knew about Homespun Theater, but didn't know where the theater was or even pay attention to Max's real name.

"Besides," Audrey continued, "Miss Emily is making Max's wedding dress."

"Whoever she is, this Miss Emily doesn't have the reputation or the experience to qualify for the importance of this occasion!" For punctuation, she slapped her hand down on the edge of the counter again. Several of the people waiting in line took steps back or sideways, as if whatever was wrong with this woman was contagious.

"Emily Keeler, mother of the bride, with twenty years of experience designing clothes. Lots of people are proud to wear Emily Keeler originals."

"She can't be that wonderful," the woman said with another sniff, "since I've never heard of -- Keeler? Emily Keeler? The actress? She's here?"

"Uh, yeah," Saundra said. "Considering she's Max's mother?"

"Can I help you, Ma'am?" Simon said, stepping up to the counter. Finally.

Audrey took the opportunity to turn and beat it double-time for the kitchen while the snooty woman's attention was off her.

Monday, June 22, 2015

COOKING UP TROUBLE: Excerpt #7

"I need to speak to her immediately. There's no time to spare." She dug in her purse.

"Excuse me -- but in case you haven't noticed, this is a restaurant," Audrey began.

"If that's what you want to call it." She stepped up to the counter and held out a gold-embossed business card. "You'll give this to her, and make sure she calls me."

"I'm not Max's secretary." She stepped back, crossing her arms, and tucked her hands into her elbows. "If you want to talk to her, you'll have to call the theater and leave a message."

"You don't understand the seriousness of the situation. I am the finest couturier in the entire East Side. The most exclusive families come to me for the most special occasions."

"What does that have to do with Max?"

"If I am to design her dress in time for her wedding this fall, we have to get to work!"

"If Max wanted you to design her dress, she would have contacted you." Audrey dropped her arms, wanting to laugh as she realized what had happened.

Her lies to Jorge had hit the gossip sheets.

Friday, June 19, 2015

COOKING UP TROUBLE: Excerpt #6

"This lady wants to ask about Homespun," Saundra said.

"Romeo and Juliet at the end of February. Tickets go on sale--" Audrey began.

"I don't care what half-baked productions you might have in this hick town," the woman said, her face twisting enough it resembled a bleached prune.

"Then I don't think I can help you with anything." She turned to leave.

Much as she wanted to argue about the high quality standards of Homespun and that Tabor Heights was not a hick town, Audrey knew better. Besides, the clock was ticking and she needed to get home and off her feet.

"I want to know about Maxine Vincente," the woman snapped. She slapped her hand on the edge of the counter when Audrey didn't turn around to answer immediately.

"Who?" Audrey stopped, but she refused to turn any more than it took to look over her shoulder.

"The daughter of Carlo Vincente." The woman sniffed.

"Max doesn't go by that name," Saundra said. "She--" She stopped, responding to Audrey's grip on her wrist.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

COOKING UP TROUBLE: Excerpt #5

Audrey sighed as she settled the tray into the display case and stepped back. She was so late, the pre-dinner rush was starting to spill into Stay-A-While. With a glance at the customers lining up, she turned to go back into the kitchen. Thank goodness, she was done for the day. She would be grateful if she could get out of there without Simon lecturing her. Even the fact that Allen knew what had been going on all day and put the blame squarely on the evening crew, that wouldn't stop Simon from blaming her. How was he ever going to make it as management if he couldn't examine the situation before lambasting people for problems that weren't their fault?


"That's her. Hey, Audrey?" Saundra beckoned from the counter.

Audrey glanced at her watch. She hoped this wouldn't take long. She needed to get home, shower, and put her feet up for at least an hour before rehearsal.

"Need something?" she asked, praying the woman on the other side of the counter wouldn't be one of those people who expected everything to be made fresh just for them.

"She's just a cook," the woman said, taking a step back and looking her over from head to foot. Judging by her fox fur stole and matching hat, and the disgusted little curl of her mouth, she thought the outside indicated the inside of a person. And didn't like Audrey's outside.

Yes, Audrey admitted, today had been especially messy and colorful. She had smears of red and blue icing on the left hem of her shirt from a batch of monster cookies for a five-year-old's birthday party. She had smears of apple pie filling right across her bust line, courtesy of Jorge bumping into her -- deliberately -- as she carried the industrial-size open can to the work table where she filled three dozen graham cracker crusts for individual pies. Then there was the usual assortment of butter smears, egg spatters, and other detritus of cooking.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

COOKING UP TROUBLE: Excerpt #4

Audrey picked up the tray of fresh apple fritters to take up front to the counter. She was almost an hour behind schedule, thanks to dozens of small disasters. The evening crew had emptied the twenty-pound canister of flour, and didn't bother refilling it. There was only one egg in the dozen-and-a-half carton, so she had to get more. The evening crew borrowed from her shelf of ingredients in the walk-in cooler and didn't replenish anything, so the cream cheese and butter was frozen instead of soft and ready for use. Jorge didn't feel like cleaning the pans and tools he regularly used, so he borrowed hers, so she didn't have anything when she needed it and had to stop constantly to rinse or scrub something. On and on.

Not that she would complain to Jorge. He had been too quiet from the moment he walked in the door. Every time she turned around, he was watching her. Then he took a phone call and in the middle of it started cursing in Spanish and slammed out the back door -- which didn't want to close, so the kitchen got filled with gusts of icy, snow-laden air. That wasn't good for the half-raised yeast donuts. Jorge hadn't come back for twenty minutes, and the meat he had been browning started to burn, so the fire alarm went off.

It was never good to have a fire alarm go off in a restaurant kitchen. Simon had come barreling into the kitchen, snarling in stage whispers. And of course it was Audrey's fault that Jorge's meat had burned, even though she had her hands full with her own tasks.


When Jorge finally came back into the kitchen, he muttered under his breath and slammed lids and cleavers and pots all over. Whatever his gripe, it was poisonous enough to scare Simon. He had stopped with a squeak in the middle of a scolding encompassing every kitchen sin Jorge had committed in the last five months, and stormed out. After that, Audrey had felt that prickling up her back that meant Jorge stared at her with particular malevolence. She didn't look at him. That might be all the excuse he needed to spew whatever was bothering him.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

COOKING UP TROUBLE: Excerpt #3

"Phoebe got upstaged by the wedding plans, but according to Chuck, the story about you marrying her in a secret ceremony in Italy is one page back in the same tabloids."

"Oh, just great..."

"But get this -- the reporter with the inside scoop decided to investigate. They're calling her a deluded, heartbroken child, living in a fantasy world, because they have proof you haven't left the country in six years, and there is no wedding license in your name."

"Nice to know people can track you down so easily." Steve decided to laugh about it. Act II in the battle with Deirdre/Phoebe/Serena was a success. He wondered what she would do in Act III. "If I ever get married, I'm eloping. Leaving the country, not even showing my face in public for a year afterward. Maybe getting plastic surgery before I come back."

"You are an idiot." She shook her head. "Have I told you lately how much I like having a big brother?"

"Never get tired of hearing it."

Sunday, June 7, 2015

COOKING UP TROUBLE: Excerpt #2

"I have a lot of apology letters to write." She smirked and leaned back in her chair.

"Let me guess -- you're getting a book idea out of this?" Steve barked laughter when she stuck her tongue out at him. "Have I told you lately how much I like having a little sister?"

"Not for the last five days. You're getting better." Max chuckled. "If only we could have as much success getting everybody here for the wedding without half the tabloids in the country following them."

"I keep telling you, if you'd just elope--"

"But Mom is having such fun making my dress." She sighed, her smile fading.

"What? Tell your big brother what's really bothering you."

"Not bothering, exactly." She rubbed her eyes. "Is it stupid, asking both my dads to walk me down the aisle? I mean, how old-fashioned is it, having my parents give me away? It's not like Tony is buying me, or I'm not an independent, self-determining..." She let out a growl that threatened to turn into a wail and hid her face in her hands.

"That settles it. If I ever get married -- and I'm not, despite that psycho claiming we were secretly married--"

"That's on page two."

"What is?" He felt a cold, empty sensation settle into his gut.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

COOKING UP TROUBLE: Excerpt #1

"Did Chuck call you?" Max greeted Steve when he showed up at Homespun Theater just after lunchtime.

"About?" He dropped his sketches for arranging the back yard for the dinner theater on Joel's desk and slid down into the seat, since the older man was nowhere to be seen.

"Reggie has been in automatic denial mode since about five this morning, when the first rag hit the streets," she said, referring to their father's public relations manager. "For every call he answers, there are about two who leave a message. Everybody's demanding confirmation that the wedding will be there in the fall. Since Chuck is my agent, people are pestering him, positive he'll be the weak link."

"How much of Audrey's crazy story did they print? And how much was word-for-word?" He laughed and leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk.

"Let's put it this way -- a lot of important people who can't get through to Reggie are playing the hurt feelings card with Chuck. 'Carlo has been a friend of ours since the early days of his career. We're hurt, just hurt, that he hasn't booked our restaurant for his only daughter's wedding reception.' Or their florist shop isn't providing my flowers. Or their garden isn't the site of the wedding. The only people who haven't called to gripe is your church."

"Maybe they're too busy fending off calls, demanding to know the wedding date, and exclusive rights to sit in the balcony and get it on film."

Monday, June 1, 2015

COOKING UP TROUBLE

COOKING UP TROUBLE takes us back to Homespun Theater.

Audrey is someone we've met before, a member of the ensemble at Homespun. She has two loves -- theater, and cooking. She went to culinary school. As chief baker for Stay-a-While, she's perfectly happy. Her bosses are great, and she gets along with most of her co-workers. Her dream, though, is to be involved in dinner theater, combining both her loves.

Steve Vincente comes back to Tabor, after helping out during the crisis featured in BEHIND THE SCENES. He decided he liked working in live theater, and the Randolphs have agreed to let him come back and work at Homespun. More important, he wants to get to know his newly discovered half-sister, Max -- and help her survive the fuss and publicity and paparazzi troubles that come with being the daughter of a Hollywood legend.

Steve and Audrey are cast as Romeo and Juliette, and then they are partnered to head up Homespun's experiment with dinner theater. More important, they work together to help protect Max and Tony as the time for their wedding approaches and the paparazzi get more insistent and tricky. Partnership turns to friendship, but will it turn to something more when they both have secrets and hidden fears that sometimes make it hard to see what's really going on in the person who has become very important to them?