I’m a big fan of brunch. Breakfast is something you just have to get through before you run off to work, and lunch is that thing you need to have midday so you won’t die of starvation.
But brunch? That means downtime. That means relaxation. That means you don’t have any deadlines and you can linger around the table with friends and family. I freaking LOVE brunch. 😉
The latest project I’ve got going on is HOUSE OF PAYNE: RUDE, and there are a ton of food references in this particular book, including a very girly brunch. The heroine, Sass, is a dietitian and avid food blogger, and like many popular food bloggers, she’s even published a cookbook. The hero, Rudolfo “Rude” Panuzzi, is pure Alpha male, a former Marine, an expert survivalist and now works in the field of private security. His idea of fine dining is spaghetti night at the family table. He’s never once poured a beer from a bottle and into a hoity-toity glass, and he’d probably be more comfortable with food being served in a plastic basket lined with wax paper than on fine china. The last thing he’d do is go to a girly restaurant for a fussy little brunch.
At least, that’s what Sass thinks.
Rude, however, is always happy to do the unexpected…
EXCERPT FROM HOUSE OF PAYNE: RUDE (Chapter Three):
Sass loved The Secret Garden; it was an almost sacred bastion of femininity. She had discovered the elegant little restaurant when she, Scout, Tonya and Frankie had taken Mama Coco out for her birthday celebration luncheon last year. The Solarium area of the restaurant was exactly as advertised—a circular solarium with white floors, white tables and chairs, and white-washed filigree metalwork framing the two-story-high windows overlooking Lake Michigan. With the exception of the many thriving plants dotted throughout the room, Sass thought it was like being inside a life-sized birdcage. She absolutely adored it.
And she was positive that by the end of their meal, Rude—all man and then some—would be covered in hives at being immersed in such pure feminine surroundings for so long.
“I strongly recommend the Bellinis here, though your mother and sister prefer the mimosas.” Humming happily to herself, she plucked up a menu, flipped it open and glanced at him over the top of it. Her smirking little smile slipped when she found him watching her with a bemused, almost indulgent expression. “What?”
“You’re a fucking riot when you think you’re being mean,” he said randomly before picking up a menu. “So. Have any recommendations for breakfast?”
He dared to laugh at her? Time to lower the boom on him. “They make the most adorable eggs in a basket, where they cook the egg in a piece of brioche, with the center cut out in the shape of a heart. Isn’t that cute?”
Ha. “Tonya always gets that, egg over medium, with a side of Greek yogurt and honey. Then there’s my personal favorite, the cream cheese crepes with the mixed berry and honey reduction. Frankie likes her crepes to be savory, so she orders the chicken and spinach crepes with Hollandaise sauce. Scout’s all about the sun-dried tomato and feta cheese frittata and your mother can personally vouch for just about any quiche they make here, though she does seem partial to the asparagus, bacon and gruyere cheese crustless quiche.”
“Hm. I’m thinking the quiche sounds pretty good since it’s mainly protein, but Frankie’s favorite sounds perfect. And I don’t think I’ve ever had a Bellini, so I’m going for it. What kind of coffee do they have here? I’ve got a serious craving for espresso, so please tell me they’ve got that going on.”
What. The. Fuck.
“Uh… yeah. They have great espresso here, though we never order it when we have your mother with us. Mama Coco can’t do caffeine anymore, something that breaks her heart, so we try not to drink anything like coffee in front of her.”
“Yeah?” Rude looked up at her, and the softness in his eyes when they connected with hers brought everything inside her to a quiet halt. “I love that you look out for my mom, Sassy. I love that you think of the little things, like not drinking coffee in front of her so she won’t suffer.”
“We all do it.” She had to look away. She had to, while she still remembered they were enemies. “It’s no big deal.”
“And it’s great that you know what everyone’s preference is right off the top of your head.” Without even looking at it, he closed his menu and set it aside. “You all keep yourselves woven into my mom’s life, just as you do with each other. You support each other completely, the way a family should. I know my parents are grateful you make that effort. I am too.”
She waved a vague hand at that, frustrated he kept being insanely charming while refusing to break out in hives. With all the over-the-top femininity around him, there should have been massive amounts of hive-breakage by now. “We’re grateful to them. Are you sure you don’t want anything more… substantial than crepes? Maybe go somewhere else?”
“You kidding? This place is the shit, for real.” He looked around so appreciatively she wanted to choke him with her lace-edged napkin. “Next time you bring Mom around, let me know, okay? I’d love to join you ladies.”
“Goddamn it,” she hissed, even as their server headed their way. “My bringing your super-bad Marine ass here is the equivalent of you bringing me out to a titty bar. You’re not supposed to fucking enjoy it.”
To her surprise he burst out laughing, then kept at it until he had to wipe at the corners of his eyes. Sass watched, frozen to her seat like someone had put a spell on her. She’d never heard Rude laugh in all the years she’d known him, and she couldn’t help but stare at the spectacle. He’d always been a handsome bastard with his thick black hair, its widow’s peak and lady-killer cognac eyes. But she had never seen the charming laugh lines at the corners of those eyes, or the shallow dimples that bracketed his smiling mouth.
Why the hell did he have to have dimples? That was like finding out Godzilla had dimples. It wasn’t fair.
I’m hoping to wrap up Rude and Sass’s story in a couple weeks, then have it out to my beta readers. Once that’s done, it should be out by Sept 21st. Be sure to look for it!