Enjoy this exclusive excerpt from SWEET LOVE by Lauren Accardo, the second book of the Forever Adirondacks series, and be sure to pick up a copy!
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She arrived at the diner twenty minutes later, rogue curls clinging to her neck and jaw, and her white T-shirt stuck to her skin underneath her heavy coat. It had been years since she’d sprinted. Her lungs burned, her heart slammed against her ribs. A trip to the gym seemed long overdue.
“There you are!” Amy, her teenaged coworker, rolled her big green eyes and yanked off her apron. “I’m gonna be late for my doctor’s appointment. I told you I had to leave at noon today.”
Mila tossed her bag and coat underneath the counter, wishing she had a single moment to catch her breath. But those moments were few and far between these days.
“I’m sorry,” Mila said. “I couldn’t find my keys—”
“Anyway.” Amy cut her off. “I gotta run. Oh, and Ethan called. He’s got a cold, so he’s not coming in today.”
Amy slipped into her jacket and sent Mila a sorry shrug. God damn it. Ethan LaMotta had begged for the busser job, told Benny he needed the extra cash for drum lessons his mom couldn’t afford. In the three months since the kid had taken the job, he’d called out four times. She’d wanted to rat him out to Benny so they could hire someone dependable. And yet, she held her tongue.
The lunch rush came in a deluge, and Mila zipped around the restaurant, filling and taking orders, checking on regulars, clearing plates, and gritting her teeth against complaints. As soon as she had one table settled, another needed more soda, a clean fork, more napkins.
Freaking Ethan. She’d chew him out next time he was in.
“Excuse me, miss, I’ve been waiting twenty minutes for a coffee refill.” Mila spun on a heel, the word understaffed hot on her tongue and ready to snap out.
Instead, she grinned. Jared leaned over the counter, a smirk hanging on his lips. He wore his Saturday casual clothes—fitted, faded jeans; a worn blue-and-green plaid shirt; and a navy peacoat—with his fawn-brown hair swept back in one tidy swoop. The lingering spring chill lent a pink tint to his cheeks, and Mila swallowed down the giddiness fluttering in her chest.
“My deepest apologies,” she said. “As you can see, we’re short-staffed today, and customers who tip most get priority service.”
His grin faded, but the sparkle in his eye did not. “Oh yeah? Cash, or do you accept creative tips?”
“I’ve served you here before,” she said. “Your most creative tip was a pile of nickels.”
“I was hammered,” he said. “I thought you’d think it was funny. I mean, I had to go out of my way to collect nickels from everyone in the restaurant for that gag. No props for effort?”
“Mila! Can I get a side of bacon, hun?”
Mila’s gaze flickered to where Annette Bethel waved at her from a corner table, a single egg with toast in front of her. Annette ate at Black Bear Diner every single day. She spent twenty minutes poring over a menu that hadn’t changed in twenty years and eventually ordered the exact same thing. As soon as the egg and toast were delivered, she remembered she wanted something else.
Mila leaned toward Jared. “Get your own coffee, yeah?”
He sat up on his counter stool like a puppy that had been offered a treat. “I’m allowed behind the counter?”
“This one time,” she said. “Don’t make it a habit.”
With a joyous, little-boy glow on his cheeks, he hopped off the stool and scurried around the counter before retrieving the coffeepot and filling a mug.
“Kirkland! Fill me up, will ya?”
Jared shot Mila a See what you started? grin and poured dark roast brew into the customer’s waiting mug. He shed his coat, tossed it under the counter, and filled another coffee cup. And another. As Mila entered Annette Bethel’s side of bacon into the register, she watched her best friend saunter around the diner, the coffeepot held high like some sort of award.
He rolled up his sleeves and continued his rounds, leaning over tables, his shiny white teeth gleaming and drawing smiles from waiting customers. No wonder he’d gone into sales. Even tables with full mugs waved him over to chat.
Mila jotted down orders on her notepad, but her eyes drifted back to Jared. The prickly mood in the diner shifted with his presence. Each table he visited lightened somehow, and as the carafe emptied, he slipped behind the counter and set to work making a fresh pot.
“Hey,” she said, sidling up next to him.
Something crackled between them, sparking like drops of water on a hot griddle. He’d been her best friend for as long as she could remember, and yet the air thickened between them lately in ways it never had before.
Well. At least before they’d almost kissed.
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date published : September 28, 2021
pages : 336
audiobook narrator: Andi Arndt
audiobook length: 9 hrs, 36 min
Falling for your best friend might be a recipe for disaster, but this small-town baker can’t help jumping from her pie pan into the fire.
Mila Bailey has always had a special talent for creating unique, show-stopping pies. But until her great-aunt leaves her the entry fee to the Pine Ridge Spring Bake-Off, she’s only ever shared them with friends and family. Thrust into the spotlight, Mila is determined to prove to everyone–but mostly herself–that she has what it takes to compete with top-level bakers. There’s only one flaw in her plan: The not-so-half-baked feelings she’s starting to develop for her best friend, Jared Kirkland.
Jared has always believed in Mila’s gifts, but lately he’s struggling not to fantasize about sampling more than just the spoon from the batter. No matter how much he tries to tell himself that Mila is not for him–his dreams have always reached beyond Pine Ridge–he can’t deny this new spark between them.
Mila embodies Pine Ridge, and Jared wants to break free. How can either of them move on knowing the loves of their lives have been right under their noses all along?
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