Anchor Island #6
February 22, 2021
Macie Rae Publishing
In Over Her Head
Love is on the menu when two chefs heat up the kitchen—and each other—in this newest addition to the Anchor Island series.
Chef Lauren Riley has one philosophy—never depend on anyone. A loner and a perfectionist, she’s on Anchor Island to turn Pilar’s into the best restaurant in the Outer Banks, not to make friends. But despite her cold demeanor, the locals refuse to take the hint, and she soon learns the meaning of a found family.
Nick Stamatis did his time in fancy kitchens but his laid-back life as head cook of Dempsey’s Bar & Grill, the most popular eatery on Anchor island, suits him just fine. Despite his playboy reputation, he’s a family man at heart. But if history repeats, he isn’t likely to live long enough to have one of his own.
When Nick sticks his nose into Lauren’s business, she tells him exactly where to go, but it isn’t long before the realization dawns—she needs his help. As he teaches her the ropes of running her own kitchen, sparks ignite, and soon they’re stirring up more than either expected.
Can two people who have sworn off love really make it work? Or will Lauren’s past, and Nick’s unknown future, keep this cautious couple from finding their happily ever after?
Pre-order now to reserve your copy and see just how far two chefs will go to keep from getting burned.
You know an island is small when every inch of it can be painted on one moderately sized wall.
“Is the lighthouse really short and fat like that?” Lauren asked the artist currently dabbing in a small bush in front of the post office. This was like watching Bob Ross whip up a gorgeous fall landscape with a few flicks of his wrist.
The painting project had been going for nearly a week, which made Mia the only person Lauren had spent any real time with since arriving on the island. She seemed kind, was definitely talented, and, most importantly, was not annoying. Lauren didn’t do chit chat, nor was she interested in gossip. Mia had offered neither. She looked to be around Lauren’s age, which was thirty-one, and also single. One of the guys who delivered the new dishwasher had tried flirting with her, but Mia hadn’t given him a second glance, which said she also had standards.
Not that she was looking to make friends, but Lauren had moved around enough to know locking in an ally was always a good idea.
Mia stepped back and surveyed her work, dark locks swinging in a high ponytail on her head. “Do you think it’s too fat?
Lauren leaned against the door frame where she stood between the kitchen and empty—as in not a table or chair in sight—restaurant dining room. “Hell if I know. I haven’t seen it.”
Green eyes cut Lauren’s way. “You haven’t seen the lighthouse yet?”
“I’ve only been on the island for two weeks,” Lauren replied in defense.
She’d come to Anchor Island to be head chef at The Cove—previously known as the Marina Restaurant—and overseeing the renovation had taken nearly all of her time. The sooner they opened the doors, the sooner she could get back to cooking, and in Lauren’s mind that could not happen soon enough. The owner of the place, Will Navarro, had specific ideas that didn’t necessarily gel with Lauren’s. Will was all about celebrating the island. Lauren preferred to celebrate her food. She’d reminded herself more than once that Will was the one footing the bill, and if she wanted a giant mural of this postage-stamp of an island, then she should have one. In the end, patrons would be too busy admiring their plates to notice the wall.
“Have you taken any time to sight see?” Mia asked.
“I’m not on vacation. I’m here to work.”
“That means you’re also here to live. Don’t you want to know more about your new home?”
The word home hit like a slice from Lauren’s prized Yoshihiro chef knife—painful and to the bone. During her childhood, she, Mom, and her younger brother Brett had fled or been evicted from more places than she could count. Since Lauren had struck out on her own at nineteen, she’d lived in apartments, townhouses, and two weeks ago moved into what some might deem a charming island cottage. They were all a place to sleep and store her stuff, not a home.
“I’ll get around eventually.”
Lauren had already discovered the important locations. The small grocer, who carried more fresh food than she’d expected. The Hava Java coffee shop, where she got her morning fix. And the gym, where she worked out at least an hour a day six days a week. Kitchen work took stamina and focus, both of which required keeping her mind and body in tip top shape. Lucky for her, the restaurant owners also owned the fitness center, and had thrown in a complementary membership as part of her benefits package.
Mia dropped her paint brush into a plastic cup of water and reached for a towel to wipe her hands. “If you want a tour guide, I’d be happy to show you around. The island is small but there’s still plenty to see.”
“I doubt I’ll have time before we get this place opened.”
“That’s fair, but the offer stands whenever you’re ready.” She took two steps back from the wall and once again accessed her work. “I think this puppy might be done.”
Head tilted, Mia shrugged. “I could tweak it forever and never consider it finished, but in this case Will is the one who gets to decide.” Turning to face Lauren, she said, “Do you know what time it is?”
Lauren checked her watch. “Two fifty-five.”
“Perfect. Nick should be here any minute.”
“I’m already here,” boomed a voice from the entrance.
Lauren spun to find an elderly woman with a cane shuffle in, followed by the cook from Dempsey’s, who she’d met right after arriving. The guy had an obvious attitude, but nothing she wasn’t used to. As a woman in a male dominated field, Lauren had dealt with her share of bullies, blowhards, and flat out bastards.
From what she’d seen, Dempsey’s served straight up bar food. Some items came with an impressive twist, but The Cove would offer a more refined menu, meaning the two businesses would not be in direct competition.
If the island cook didn’t like Lauren in his territory, he’d have to get over it.