Summer in Napa - By Marina Adair
If there was one thing Alexis Moreau knew, it was how to make an entrance. Timing, posture, and that enchanting smile that had been passed down from Moreau mother to Moreau daughter for over five generations were key to a lasting—and impeccable—first impression.
Which was why, after driving three and a half days across the country, Lexi planned a middle-of-the-night arrival and snuck into the vacant apartment above her grandmother’s bakery. She needed a good cry, a hot shower, one of Pricilla’s famous éclairs, and at least ten hours of solid sleep before she could face the residents of St. Helena.
Unfortunately, she found a bottle of her grandmother’s Angelica stashed behind a rack of day-old pastries in the bakery kitchen, which was the only way to explain how she woke up on the bathroom floor, eyes swollen shut, wearing yesterday’s clothes and half of an éclair.
She stumbled into the bedroom to grab her things and shower, then remembered that her dress—the outrageously expensive sundress from Neiman Marcus that she’d charged on Jeffery’s account, the same one she intended to wear when she walked out onto Main Street to announce that Alexis Moreau, former prom queen and current five-star chef, was back—was sitting in the trunk of her car.
Maybe they would be so dazzled by her Moreau smile and culinary prowess that they wouldn’t notice her bare ring finger?
Yeah, right. They would take one look at her custard-stained sweats and realize that Lexi had gone from overachieving to barely surviving. And for a girl who, until recently, had received a gold star in the game of life, that didn’t sit well with her current, and rapidly depleting, average.
Lexi looked down at herself, picked a curl of chocolate from her cleavage, and groaned. “Crap.”
Her return home, much like the past six months, was turning out far differently than she’d envisioned.
Most people only got one shot at their dream. Lexi was about to get her second chance at running an acclaimed eatery, and she wasn’t going to blow it. Making the right impression felt like the first step toward her new life.
She looked at the dozen or so boxes piled in the corner of her childhood room and forced herself to breathe. The last thing she wanted to do right then was unpack what was left of her marriage to find an outfit that didn’t have melted ganache on the rear.
So, tossing her pants in the hamper and her custard-smeared tank top in the trash, she riffled through her grandmother’s closet, coming up with a handful of old concert T-shirts, an aqua pantsuit in size twenty, Lexi’s favorite pair of cutoffs from senior year, and her prom dress.
She grabbed the shorts and her grandmother’s shirt, which said Hoff This under a smiling David Hasselhoff giving the finger, and tugged them on. The shirt came down to her thighs and her shorts came up to her butt, the last in a long list of things she wished she could reverse.
Lexi looked at the clock and her heart went heavy, because erasing the past ten years wasn’t going to happen. Neither was ignoring the fact that her grandmother was expecting her in less than an hour, or that she would have to face her family and friends eventually. But when she did, it was going be on her terms. And in that damn sundress. Which meant she needed to get to her car.
Lexi grabbed her car keys and headed down the rear stairs. Cracking the door open, she glanced around, her shoulders relaxing slightly when she saw that the alley next to the bakery and the back parking lot where she’d parked her car was reassuringly empty.
She had snuck in and out of this apartment so many times as a teenager there was no reason that her heart should be pounding out of her chest right now. It was like riding a bike, right? The only difference was that back in high school, she had snuck around so that no one would know she was having sex with Jeffery, and now she was going stealth because she didn’t want people to know that Jeffery had stopped having sex with her a long time ago.
“A quick grab and dash. That’s all.”
Coast clear, Lexi took a single step toward her car, then stiffened at the sound of feet pounding the pavement, followed by the instant clang of jangling metal. Both sounds were wild and hurried. And both sounds were moving.
“Shit!” Lexi reached back for the doorknob, twisted—nothing.