She’s rooted deep. He flies free.
Local-foods chef Claire Halford envisions turning Green Acres Farm into an event destination. Weddings prove trickier than she imagined when the first one comes with a ruggedly handsome brother-of-the-bride, who has everything but a fixed address. Oh, and faith in God.
Noel Kenzie loves the freedom his reforestation company affords him. Why worry about deep stuff like God and commitment when he’s in his prime? Except there’s a woman who might make it worth giving up his wings…and digging in some roots. If he dares.
Excerpt from Wild Mint Tea
What had she expected to see? Not a guy of about thirty with a hint of stubble and slightly messy brown hair longer than hers. He looked up, and his brown eyes widened.
He had no right to be this cute.
"I'm Noel Kenzie." He rose and reached across the folding table to shake her hand, giving her a good view of a tan t-shirt stretched across a muscular chest and covering the top of a pair of faded blue jeans. A lethal combination.
Better keep some distance from this one. "Hello, Mr. Kenzie. I'm Claire Halford here about the contract for feeding your tree-planting crew." Marks on her pants, nothing. If only she weren't leaving stained creases on the folder she clutched.
He took his time looking her over.
Could he tell this wasn't her style? She didn't do ruffles, but Sierra had insisted.
"Just call me Noel."
Through her lashes she could see he watched her, a speculative gleam in his eye. That gleam better be about the good food she could feed his employees.
He sat and motioned her to the straight chair across from him.
Claire complied, laying her proposal on the edge of the table.
Noel picked up the papers and glanced through the top few. "It looks like you downloaded all the pertinent information regarding crew size and dietary needs, Claire. Tell me what you can offer that's within our budget."
"Yes. The crew runs about thirty people, with five vegetarians and two celiacs." Hopefully he wasn't one of the vegetarians, but what did it matter? "The menu details are on the next pages."
Noel's eyebrows arched as he scanned the sheets. "This doesn't look very exotic."
He wanted haute cuisine? For tree planters? Claire's shoulder muscles tightened. "More like good, healthy meals made from local ingredients wherever possible."
Noel shuffled the papers to glance over a new one. "I don't mind telling you my crew is expecting a bit more flair." He frowned, still reading. "Your resumé said you'd trained in Paris and worked with a French chef in Seattle for several years?"
"I did." That had been enough traveling to do her a lifetime.
He laid the papers down and folded strong, tanned hands over them. "I'm not seeing that influence in your menu, and I must admit those credentials are what led to this interview."
"I don't have easy access to those ingredients here." She met his gaze.
Noel shook his head. "Food service trucks come to northern Idaho. Where do you think the local restaurants get their stuff? I thought you'd be aware of that."
Claire forced her jaw to unclench, at least enough to answer civilly. "I'm aware, Mr. Kenzie." Too bad if he didn't want to be called that. She needed the distance. "I've worked as the night chef at The Sizzling Skillet for the past year and have placed many of the orders. It's really not the same as getting fresh ingredients at Pike's Place Market."
"Then, why. . .?" He raised his palms and tilted his head to the side. His wavy locks slid over one eye, and he didn't bother brushing them out.
Claire’s fingers itched to reach across the table and do it for him.
Focus. Not on the guy, but on the contract. The contract she was about to lose before she had a real shot at it, if she wasn't careful. And then she'd never see Noel Kenzie again. That would be a good thing. Except she needed the money.
Valerie writes Farm Lit where food meets faith, injecting experience laced with humor into her stories. Raspberries and Vinegar, first in her series A Farm Fresh Romance, released in August, 2013.
To learn more about Valerie Comer and her books, visit her website at http://valeriecomer.com/