Currant Creek Valley - By RaeAnne Thayne Page 0,1

it out on the wooden floor. “Sorry we don’t have tables and chairs yet. They’re on order but won’t be here for another few weeks. If you prefer not to sit on the floor, you can sit on the stairs. Katherine, Mom, Ruth, you three can sit on the hearth ledge.”

“Perfect,” Katherine Thorne declared.

Alex set the dishes out in the middle of the blanket, and for the next few moments, everyone in the book club was busy filling plates.

This had been a crazy idea to bring them here for the picnic. They all would have been far more comfortable back at Dog-Eared Books & Brew, Maura’s shop, but Alex had been dying to show everyone the progress.

“You must be so excited for the restaurant to open,” Janie Hamilton, one of their newer members, said around a mouthful of chicken salad sandwich.

“I can’t wait,” Alex said, though she declined to add that part of her also quaked with fear, if she let it.

Running her own restaurant had been her dream since she first decided to go to culinary school. Now that the opening date was drawing closer and the dream was quickly on its way to becoming reality, raw anxiety warred with her anticipation, the fear that she didn’t really have the necessary skills and creativity to make Brazen shine amid the crowded Hope’s Crossing restaurant scene.

“As far as I can tell, only one small detail is missing,” Angie said.

“What’s that?” Mary Ella asked.

Her sister scanned the open space again. “Maybe I’m missing something but, um, where’s the kitchen?”

“Oh, my word, you’re right,” Janie exclaimed. “There’s no kitchen!”

“Where’s your brilliant architect of a husband now?” Katherine teased Maura. “He left out the most important part.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Alex said, though she felt a stab of nerves. She needed a kitchen! “It’s coming. Another three weeks, according to Brodie. The contractor who has done most of the rehab work so far had a medical emergency in his family and Brodie had to hire someone else to finish up.”

“Sam Delgado,” Evie said. “He’s worked with Brodie before on some projects closer to Denver. I’ve met him a few times. He’s really nice.”

“I don’t care how nice he is. I just want him to get his butt in gear and finish the kitchen so I can start stocking it and we can set an opening.”

That uncertainty was just one of the worries keeping her up at night. After years of being a sous-chef in someone else’s kitchen, she finally had the opportunity to prove herself. As owner and developer of the restaurant, Brodie was giving her this chance, and she couldn’t afford to blow it.

She would be fine, she assured herself again. She was hardworking and talented and had years of experience under her white toque. What else did she need?

“I read something once that said nine in ten new restaurants close in the first year,” Ruth Tatum said, wiping a napkin daintily at the corners of her mouth.

“Mom.” Claire grimaced.

“What? I did.”

Alex was quite used to Ruth’s pithy comments, since she had practically grown up with Claire, but the words and the pessimism behind them still stung. “That’s actually a myth,” she was quick to point out. “The actual number is about one in four in the first year. Closer to three in five after about three years.”

Yet another worry that kept her up at night. How would she face everyone in town who believed in her if she couldn’t make Brazen a success?

“This place is going to be one of the restaurants that makes it,” Mary Ella declared loyally. “Assuming you do get a kitchen and don’t have to cook everything on a barbecue grill out back.”

Alex sighed. “For now, you’re going to have to use your imagination about the kitchen. Trust me when I tell you it’s going to be fantastic. I’ve gone over the plans with Jack and Brodie. You’ve all seen Brodie’s other restaurants in town. I’m sure you can guess this one is going to have state-of-the-art everything.”

“So when will we actually be able to eat here?” Maura asked.

“You’re eating now,” she retorted. “A particularly delicious chopped spinach salad, if I do say so myself.”

Her sister made a face. “That’s not what I meant, Alexandra. When is Brazen supposed to open?”

She firmly ignored the flutters in her stomach. “Near the end of May but before Memorial Day weekend. We wanted to have a few weeks to work out the kinks before the summer tourist season hits.”

“That doesn’t give you