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The Husband Recipe
Linda Winstead Jones

The Husband Recipe
Linda Winstead Jones

“I’m going to ask you out on a date.” Cole said.

“I’m a little afraid, though,” he continued. “My last few dates were …”

“Interesting?”

“Disasters.”

Lauren laughed and turned her head. Their lips brushed, met, settled together for a kiss that rocked him to the core.

She took her lips from his and whispered. “Let’s not over-think this. If we do we might end up talking ourselves out of something good.”

“You don’t strike me as a ‘go with the flow’ kinda girl.”

“I’m usually not. For you I’ll make an exception.” She tilted her head, touched her lips to his.

Before the kiss had a chance to grow into more, a sharp crash from next door—too close—interrupted.

“I have to go,” he said, reluctantly stepping away.

Lauren nodded. “If you ask me on a date,” she said, “I think I’ll say yes and take my chances.”

Dear Reader,

You never know where inspiration will come from, when or where characters will come to life—and then refuse to let go. I’ve recently started following baseball rather fanatically, thanks to a nephew’s success in that sport. When you watch every game of the season, when you get to know the players, you see well beyond the games. You begin to get a small glimpse of their lives. These very talented ballplayers travel all the time, during the long season. Their families make a big sacrifice. And there was my “what if?” What if a father was suddenly left to raise three kids on his own? It would be a sacrifice to walk away from a lucrative career in order to be a single parent, but that’s what Cole Donovan did, and that shaped his character for me.

Having three kids of my own, I know what a rowdy household can be like.

Lauren Russell comes from a world I know well. The South. Her grandmother was a big influence on her, and is still around to help shape her life. Cooking is at the center of Lauren’s world. She’s also organised to a fault and she has plans for her life, personal and professional. Plans thrown into chaos by a handsome man and three adorable (if occasionally unmanageable) children who move into the house next door and turn her neat life upside down.

Sometimes chaos is a good thing. Sometimes it’s the unplanned that shapes us.

I hope you enjoy their story!

Linda

About the Author

LINDA WINSTEAD JONES is a bestselling author of more than fifty romance books in several subgenres—historical, fairy tale, paranormal and, of course, romantic suspense. She’s won a Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence twice. She is also a three-time RITA

Award finalist and (writing as Linda Fallon) winner of the 2004 RITA

Award for paranormal romance.

Linda lives in north Alabama with her husband of thirty-seven years. She can be reached via www.lindawinsteadjones.com.

The Husband

Recipe

Linda Winstead Jones

www.millsandboon.co.uk (http://www.millsandboon.co.uk)

With special thanks to The Cooking Women, Doris

and Joyce. Fried chicken, pinto beans and cornbread,

sweet potatoes, coleslaw, fried squash, seven-layer

cake, peach cobbler … and that’s just a part of one meal.

Y’all have inspired me to go back to my grandmother’s

cookbooks and give some of those recipes a whirl. And

of course a thanks to Benny as well. Because when I’m

not around someone has to take care of the eating.

Chapter One

Blam!

Something hit the side of her house, right outside her office. Lauren Russell jumped half out of her skin, jarring against the desk and sending hot tea sloshing over the edge of the cup and running under the stack of articles she’d printed out, as well as coming dangerously close to her optical mouse.

“Damn it!”

She leaped up and grabbed her napkin—high quality linen, of course—and swabbed at the spill. When she’d rescued the mouse, she left the rest for a moment and hot-footed it over to the window to see what the heck had happened. She was just in time to spot a little boy pick up a baseball and hurl it to his sister in the yard next door, then race back into his own territory.

She should have known. The monsters were loose again.

Lauren immediately felt guilty, because in general she liked children. Maybe the pertinent phrase was in general, because these particular children were driving her nuts.

Going back to her desk, she finished mopping up, drying off the papers as best she could, then taking them into the bathroom and using her blow dryer to finish the job. They were crisp and wrinkly, but readable. She didn’t like the fact that they were now less than perfect, but it would take too much time to go to each and every website and reprint everything. Later, maybe.

She sat at her desk again and did her best to tune out the happy screams and shrieks of what sounded like fifty children romping around a sprinkler on a hot summer day, as well as the occasional thump of a ball hitting the side of her house. Every time it hit, she jumped. How could three kids make so much noise? Weren’t children supposed to spend hours indoors playing video games these days? How was she supposed to work with this going on?

She had a deadline, an article to finish and send off by noon. The first thump had alarmed her, but now that she knew what was going on she should be able to dismiss the noise and concentrate on her work. Though it was tempting, she didn’t march outside to tell the kids to take it easy. Yesterday she’d had to tell them not to tramp in her flower bed, and last week she’d had a talk with them about Frisbees in her tomato garden. She didn’t want to be that neighbor, the grumpy woman all the neighborhood children were afraid of, the witch who did her best to squelch the kids’ fun. Might as well get herself a pointy hat and construct her house out of candy. No, thanks.

Still, a very tall privacy fence was looking more and more like a necessary investment. That would ruin the ambience of her carefully landscaped backyard, but if this continued she might have no choice. Her office was on the newly noisy side of the house, as was the spare bedroom. Unless she wanted to try to move her bedroom furniture into these rooms and convert the master suite into a large office, she was out of luck. Yeah, like she wanted to try to sleep on this side of the house.

The Garrisons had been such good, quiet neighbors! Why had they moved? Lauren was happy that the older couple now lived closer to their eldest daughter and their two grandchildren, but why couldn’t the daughter have moved here? Why did being close to family mean going to Arizona, of all places? Maybe Alabama was hot in the summertime, even if Huntsville was about as far north as you could get and still be in the state, but it couldn’t be any hotter than Arizona. Worse, the Garrisons had sold their house to a family with three children. At least, she’d seen three so far—two boys and a girl. Good Lord, she hoped there weren’t more.

Lauren stared at the computer screen, concentrating diligently in an effort to mentally block the noises from next door. Naturally, trying so hard only made her more aware of every sound. A piercing squeal. A shouted taunt. Laughter. She just had a couple of hours to finish this piece for the local paper, and then she needed to tackle the edits on her book. They were due back in three days, and she was hoping to make quick work of them this afternoon and evening, and then tomorrow morning overnight the changes so they’d be there a day early. It was her first book, a collection of recipes and household tips—many of which had come from her weekly newspaper articles—and she was certainly hoping there would be other books to follow. Being late wouldn’t endear her to her editor. Besides, Lauren hated to be late, almost as much as she hated it when others were late. It was a … well, a thing she had. Everyone was allowed a thing or two, in her opinion.

As she was attempting to place herself in a magic bubble of silence, a loud crash jerked her back to reality. A loud crash accompanied by shards of glass that flew into her office, landing on the area rug and her grandmother’s occasional table and into the vase of fresh flowers there. Lauren’s heart almost jumped out of her chest. She screamed—just a little—and then, a split second later, she realized that all screams and laughter from next door had gone silent.
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