In Over Her Head (Anchor Island #5) - Terri Osburn


When she’d dreamed of her first restaurant, Lauren Riley had imagined a dining room filled with delicious scents that would make diners’ mouths water. She had not pictured an empty space that reeked of paint fumes. And yet, here she was.

“Is the lighthouse really short and fat like that?” Lauren asked the artist, who was dabbing in a small shrub in front of the post office. This was giving her childhood flashbacks to when she’d watched Bob Ross whip up a gorgeous fall landscape with a few flicks of his wrist.

They’d been too poor to afford cable so PBS had been the go-to channel for PG entertainment.

The painting project had been going for a week, which made Mia Stamatis the only person Lauren had spent any real time with since arriving on Anchor Island. She seemed kind, was definitely talented, and most importantly, was not annoying. Lauren didn’t do chitchat, nor was she interested in gossip. Mia had offered neither.

Stepping back, she surveyed her work. “Do you think it’s too fat?”

Lauren leaned against the doorframe where she stood between the kitchen and 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,” she defended.

She’d come to Anchor Island to be head chef at Pilar's—previously known as the Marina restaurant—and overseeing the renovation took top priority. 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 her precious island, then she should have one. In the end, patrons would be too busy admiring their plates to notice the wall, but Lauren had kept that fact to herself.

“Have you taken any time to sightsee?” Mia asked.

The thought hadn’t even occurred to her. “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?”

Home. Not a word Lauren knew much about. During her childhood, she, Mom, and her younger brother Knox 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 had moved into what some might deem a charming island cottage.

These had all been places to store her stuff. None of them she’d ever considered a home. The island cottage was also the first time she had a place all to herself, and only because it was a perk of the job.

“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,” Mia said, “but the offer stands whenever you’re ready.” She took two steps back from the wall and once again assessed her work. “I think this puppy might be done.”

“Might be?” Lauren asked. Shouldn’t she know one way or the other?

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 shuffle in with the help of a bright-blue cane and followed by the cook from Dempsey’s.

Lauren met Nick Stamatis the day after arriving on the island and hadn’t