Recipe for Love? Take one alpaca and a meddling grandmother, add in a fake relationship, and stir.
Simone’s delectable wedding cakes have the power to make any couple’s special day even sweeter. Despite her friends’ attempts to get her to move her business to small-town Two Hearts, Tennessee, Simone is happy with her life in Nashville. She’s even less interested in a romance with the man who manages to say something rude whenever they meet.
Nick owns a successful Nashville restaurant, but he’d love to move back to his home town of Two Hearts. He’s been catering weddings there, but the drive from the city is wearing him out. And a certain cake baker is stirring up emotions. Every time he’s near Simone, he says the wrong—usually stupid—words.
When his suddenly feeble grandmother asks who he’s dating and pushes him for a name, he blurts out the one he shouldn’t. Simone. Things go from bad to worse as he and Simone have to act like they’re in love.
Get ready for a romantic comedy filled with laughter and unexpected twists. Will Simone and Nick discover that love is the icing on life?
Author’s Note: Enemies to lovers (in a fun, sweet way). A fake relationship that goes from bad to worse. Fun and laughter. A charming small town. Sweet and clean.
Simone Mills checked the time on her SUV’s dashboard. The country highway that led into tiny Two Hearts, Tennessee, rolled out before her. Instead of focusing on the beauty of the countryside, she saw the remaining miles ahead before she arrived at a wedding with the wedding cake that currently sat in the back of her vehicle.
At least, the January temperatures were kinder to cakes than summer had been. She didn’t have to leave at the crack of dawn to avoid the heat. In July, she’d done that and still had to crank the air conditioning to its highest level. What a sight she must have been wearing this same hat, gloves, and winter coat then. But the cake had arrived intact. Every cake had arrived intact. On time. She’d never missed a wedding.
She resisted the urge to put her foot a little heavier on the gas pedal because she didn’t have time for a ticket, and she certainly didn’t want an accident.
Her phone rang, and Cassie’s name came up on her SUV’s system. Forcing enthusiasm into her voice, Simone answered, “Hello!” Maybe that would deflect her friend and the wedding planner for today’s happy event.
“You aren’t here. I know that’s stating the obvious, but I’m at CJ and Paige’s house and you aren’t. I have to head over to the ceremony in about ten minutes. Then there’s going to be a reception here where people will expect cake. And food,” she added with a lower mutter. “Not that it’s on you.”
Ouch! Neither she nor the caterer had arrived. “I’m about a half hour out. Everything will be fine.” She hoped. She really, really hoped. “My assistant went into labor a month early. She and the baby are doing great, but my workload doubled. I’d already planned for a lighter client schedule while she was off, but not for this surprise.” Simone would be relieved when the new mother came back to work in a couple of months.
Back in wedding planner mode, Cassie said, “That makes sense. But you know who this wedding is for and how important it is.”
Simone knew that all too well. “Don’t worry. Mrs. Brantley will have the cake of her dreams.”
Cassie sighed. “I know she will. I trust you.”
Good thing this wedding planner knew her well. She had never cut it this close before. Everything on the cake was planned in detail, with the baking and assembly starting days in advance. She’d grown to trust her assistant and expected her to always be there. She might have to hire a second assistant or take fewer orders.
Cassie’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “I’ll see you when we come back after the ceremony.” There was almost a pleading sound in her friend’s voice. Simone hated to hear that. She’d let her down.
“I’ll be there.” At that moment, a warning light on her engine’s dashboard popped on.
As Cassie ended the call with “See you soon,” Simone’s anxiety ratcheted up about five hundred notches. The SUV was running okay. She just needed the vehicle to continue doing that for another half hour. These ninety-minute drives from Nashville to Two Hearts were starting to wear her out. She loved her friends Cassie and Bella, and the townspeople she’d met, but she might have to stop working weddings there.
If she didn’t get to the town, she’d have few choices for help today. Cassie would be at the wedding. So would Bella, because this was someone they both knew. In fact, the entire town would be at this wedding. Her options for people to contact narrowed. Cassie would at least check her messages in case something to do with the wedding had arisen, but she was the future daughter-in-law of the bride.
Simone wouldn’t let down the bride and groom.
The SUV continued to drive smoothly. In another half hour, she’d be pulling into town. At least there, she knew people who could help her. Out here, not so much.
The seedy-looking motel that always gave her the creeps when she passed it came into view and she shuddered. At least she wouldn’t be stuck there.
The vehicle chugged.
“Come on, Harriet. You’ve been a champ.” Simone patted the dashboard. “Give me just a little more.”
Her trustworthy girl rolled on for about twenty seconds, so Simone started to release the breath she’d been holding. Then it chugged again and her speed dropped.
“Please, please, please.” As she patted the SUV’s dashboard, Harriet slowed to a crawl. There was no way she was going to make it to Two Hearts. She would be stuck at the only establishment around—the no-tell motel on her left.
As Harriet limped into the motel’s entrance, her vehicle suddenly shot sideways with a crunch, stopping at the side of the parking lot. She’d been hit.
Simone looked up to find a big, black SUV with tinted windows pulling in behind her. That must be the culprit. Her rearview mirror showed the vehicle’s door opening.
The motel’s parking lot had a few cars in it, none from law enforcement, so this was a slow day crime-wise. She’d driven by more than once on her way home after an event when emergency lights lit the night sky.
Considering where she was, she’d rather leave than see who’d hit her. “Just one more time, Harriet?” Simone turned the key in the ignition, knowing in her heart nothing was going to happen, but also knowing she had to give it one more try, just in case. Silence greeted her.
When she looked up to find a man standing beside her vehicle, her mouth opened to scream. Then she realized it was Nick Barton from the Nashville restaurant Southern Somethings, and she felt like she’d won the lottery. Always easy on the eyes, the dark-haired, brown-eyed man made her heart skip every time she saw him. Hers and probably every woman’s within range of his charm.
She didn’t have time to date, so that was out, but she could look. He’d been kind every time she’d seen him at his restaurant or at one of the weddings he’d catered and she’d made a cake for, but they’d never spoken beyond a word or two.
He’d damaged Harriet. But he could help her get to the wedding. Simone jumped out of her door. “Nick!”
“Sorry about your SUV!” About her age, he looked older and strained today. He rubbed his hand over his face. “I swerved to avoid an alpaca.”
Did she hear him wrong? “A what?”
“They’re like a bigger llama.”
“I know what one is, but—”
He interrupted by pointing across the highway, where, sure enough, a cream-colored alpaca ambled away from the road and toward a large field.
“It stepped into the road just as you pulled in here. I turned in what I thought was the right direction.” He shrugged with obvious frustration. “Then you slowed down and went left too.”
Simone walked to the back of her vehicle and rubbed her hand over the damage. The rear panel behind the wheel had a scrape and dent. She’d just paid off Harriet. Now she had to repair the engine and body damage.
“It was either you or the alpaca. I’m sorry, but your SUV lost in the deal.” Before she could argue that it would cost more than she wanted to spend to fix, Nick added, “I’ll pay, of course, but why did you stop?”
He stared at her vehicle with a panic-stricken expression. “There’s a dead woman in there?”
Simone giggled. “Harriet’s my SUV.”
As realization struck him, he laughed. Checking his watch, he said, “I need to get to Two Hearts. Can I give you a lift?”
So he was the late caterer. And she would get there in time.
“Thank you! If you could help me shift the cake to your truck, we can be on our way.”
Nick frowned when he leaned forward and peered into the back of her SUV. “My vehicle’s larger than yours, but it still may be a tight squeeze.”
Simone gulped. “Um, cakes can’t be squeezed.”
He ran his hand over his head. “Yeah. Sorry. We’ll make it work. Don’t worry, Simone. I’ll start moving things around.” As he hurried away, he added, “But we need to hurry. Greg will never forgive me if I don’t get this food to town in time for his mother’s wedding reception.”
Ten minutes later, they grunted as they hefted it out of the back of her vehicle, set it on the folding cart she always brought, and wheeled it over to his. When it rested in the space he’d cleared, she gasped. A giant gash tore through the bottom tier of the three-tier cake. Her heart stopped. Could you pass out from stress?
“Nick!” She pointed at the cake. Bits of pink cake mixed with the white frosting, telling her this damage went deep. “It’s—”
“Whoa. Did we just do that?” He rubbed his eyes.
Had they? She went through their steps. “We didn’t bump anything. This must have happened when—”
Nick finished her sentence again. “I hit you. I am so sorry.”
They both leaned closer, and he asked, “Can this amount of damage be repaired?”
Probably. “I always bring extra frosting in what I call my Oh no! kit. With the accident, I might have forgotten it if we hadn’t noticed this. It’s usually beside the cake, but it must have shifted.”
Nick folded the cart. “I’ll put this on the roof rack. You need it, right?”
“Definitely.” Simone crawled inside to get the toolbox that held filled piping bags for every color of frosting on the cake, extras of every decoration, and every tool that particular cake might need.
As she crawled out with it, her phone chimed with a message from Cassie.
Where are you?
Simone closed the back hatch and hit the lock button on her key fob. “Cassie’s getting more anxious. We need to hurry.” She gave Harriet a pat on the side as she walked away. When she’d climbed into his truck, she wished she was back in Harriet. “It’s a good thing you’re driving. I’m so short that I can barely get in here, let alone drive something this big.”
As he started the vehicle, she noticed the alpaca making his or her way back toward the highway. “The fence must be broken. We need to tell someone, or it may not make it next time.”
He checked his watch and focused on it for a moment. Now that they were seated, he seemed to be moving more slowly. “We don’t have time to find the farmhouse that goes with this land. We don’t have time for anything beyond driving to Two Hearts and barely that.”
A sheriff’s department car pulled into the motel’s parking lot and stopped in front of the office.
“That’s the answer!” Simone opened the door and hurried over to the officer. After she pointed to the animal and explained, the officer agreed to help. Back sitting beside Nick, she said, “He’s going to take care of it. It’s a good thing so many law enforcement vehicles stop here.”
He laughed. “The neighbors may agree just this once.” When they pulled onto the highway, she took out her phone to check the clock.
Nick spoke before she could. “We should make it in time.”
She hoped so. He only needed to unload food. She had to repair a cake, and that could be delicate, time-consuming work.
Simone bit her lip to hold in the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks.