Anyone Else Love International Romance?

When I was in junior high, I discovered Mary Stewart’s books. And I LOVED THEM! I loved the mystery tinged with romance, the hint of magic, and the dreamy locales! When I first started writing, I wanted to be a Mary Stewart, but I quickly learned it’s hard to write with any authenticity about places I don’t know well. Although, I do love to travel, and I’ve been to lot of places, unless I was really paying attention it’s hard to paint a  proper  picture of a place. Still, I thought I’d give it a go with my latest work in progress, an untitled novella that will be published in the Authors of Main Street summer box set. So, although the beginning of this story begins in soggy Seattle, it quickly heads to South America where things really heat up.

If you’re writing or reading an international romance, please leave us a teaser in the comments. Be sure to leave a buy link!

Also, if any kindhearted person has a title suggestion, I’m open.

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CHAPTER ONE

In a hazy room filled with flashing lights, throbbing music, and hundreds of beautiful people, Adrienne felt like a mallard surrounded by swans. And she longed for a peaceful bit of swamp. A woman in a silvery dress resembling plastic wrap pushed past her, leaving behind a stench of perfume. Adrienne sought out a corner where she’d be less likely to be touched or bumped into, but the best refuge she could find was a bar stool. She hiked herself onto it and checked her watch. Was it too early to go home? Meanwhile, a man wearing a floral shirt brushed up against Adrienne and sloshed his drink on her.

“Oh, clumsy me,” he said, “So sorry!” After setting his drink on a nearby table and grabbing a handful of napkins, he patted her down.

Adrienne shied away from the man with his lingering fingers and over-powering cologne. Silently she cursed Sebastian because somehow this was all his fault—even though he wasn’t here. She didn’t know where he was. And she didn’t know why she was here at this awful party. She slid off the barstool and weaved through the laughing and smiling guests, making her way to the restroom.

Stephanie snagged her wrist. “You’re not escaping.”

“This was a bad idea,” Adrienne told her. She pulled her wet blouse away from her skin and the warm scent of wine wafted over her.

“And you think moping at home is a better one?”

Adrienne’s phone buzzed. She scrambled to open her sequin clutch bag.

“Huh-uh.” Stephanie snatched the purse. “No! He doesn’t get to talk to you.”

“How do you know it’s him?”

“I don’t.” Stephanie turned her voice into a purr. “Come on, sweetie, have some fun. You don’t need him.”

Adrienne blinked back tears. “He’s my husband.”

“But he hasn’t acted like it in months…maybe even years.” Stephanie opened the purse and sighed when she checked the phone.

“It was him, wasn’t it?”

Stephanie handed the purse back to Adrienne and slipped her arm around Adrienne’s waist and tried to urge her back into the thick of the crowd. “Let me introduce you to my friend Geoff. He’s an artist, too.”

“Graphic design?”

“No, video games.”

Images of bloody computer graphics flashed in Adrienne’s mind. A creature carrying an automatic weapon crashed into the room and began firing. Blood spurted. People screamed. Adrienne shook the visual from her mind. “I have to go,” she said. “I really need to talk to Sebastian.”

After thanking the hostess and following her direction to the room where the coats had been gathered, Adrienne stepped into the bedroom, closed the door, leaned against it and battled tears. She took a deep breath and a glance at the coats and jackets heaped on the bed. Ninety percent of them were black—like hers. But wait, why was there a shoe amid the jackets? Two shoes. No, four shoes.

Oh dear, what was that couple doing on the bed, buried beneath the coats? And how would Adrienne ever extract hers without interrupting? She quickly left, sans coat.

Outside, away from the party’s crush of noise and people, Adrienne breathed a little easier. The misty air blurred the headlights of the cars splashing down the black and shiny roads. Reflections of the store’s neon advertisements glistened on the slick sidewalk. The cold damp penetrated Adrienne’s blouse and the mean breeze twirled around her legs. Why had she let Stephanie talk her into going to a party full of strangers? Because it was better than spending another evening alone.

On the drive home, Adrienne tried to rehearse all the things she needed to say to Sebastian, but instead, she choked on all of her tears.

#

Nick stared in horror at the computer screen. “How did this happen?” His voice, usually so deep and melodic, came out in a whisper.

“Come on,” Steph elbowed him, “you have to admit this is amazing for business!”

Nick pulled his gaze away from the YouTube channel to give his cousin/assistant what he hoped was a terrifying glare. She was like a sister to him. He had backed her when her parents had thrown a fit about her purple hair and multiple piercings. He had chased off her loser boyfriend. He loved her and thought the feeling mutual, but all of those warm fuzzy feelings were evaporating as he watched himself singing on the internet and realized she was the one to blame.

Steph grinned back at him, wiped her hands on her apron, and pointed her chin at the line snaking around the counter of the Taberna de Música. “They don’t just come here for coffee, you know.” She patted his shoulder and practically skipped out of the office.

He watched her join Jon behind the counter and say something to the guy next in line who threw back his head and laughed.

Nick had to remind himself that they weren’t laughing at him, were they? He glanced at the computer. According to the page views, so far about a thousand people had watched the video of him singing at his cousin’s Pedro’s wedding. There had to be millions of amateur videos of people singing at weddings—why would a thousand people choose to watch him? Of course, it didn’t help that his cousin’s bulldog, Lester, dressed in a tux, and gave Nick his rapt attention, his big head swinging in time with the music. How had Nick not noticed that at the time? He replayed the video, curious about what else he’d missed.

Jon strode into the office. “Are you still obsessing over that?”

Nick shook his head, closed the laptop with a sharp click, and pushed away from the desk. “Nah.”

“I don’t know why you want to hide your talent beneath a bushel.” Jon was studying to become a youth pastor and liked to spout Biblical phrases. “You have a gift. You have to let it shine.”

Nick interrupted before Jon could start singing, This Little Light of Mine. “No, I don’t. What I have to do is keep this shop afloat.” Nick thought about going out and wiping down tables—his standard go-to when his accounts were all caught up—but the fear that some of the guests had seen the video froze him. He paced across the room.

Concern flashed in Jon’s eyes. “We’re doing fine, right?”

“Well, yeah.” Nick stopped and clapped a hand on Jon’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. We’re doing great.” In fact, they were doing much better than he’d projected when he’d opened the café. He’d patterned the shop after his uncle’s in Argentina. Like any standard coffee shop, they served hot beverages and a smattering of baked goods, but what set them apart from a Starbucks was their open microphone for musicians, poets, and comedians. They also sold vinyl records and vintage sound systems.

Nick’s thoughts drifted to his Tio Jose and he fought a wave of homesickness. But moments later, the sound of his own voice jolted him back to the here and now. He glanced at the closed laptop before bolting out of the office.

He halted behind the counter and stared at the TV screen in the corner of the room. All the patrons in the shop turned to stare at him before bursting into applause and cheers. Stunned, Nick backed away. Moments later, without any real recollection of how he’d gotten there, he found himself in the service closet wedged between a shelf of cleaning supplies and a hamper of dirty aprons. He pulled out his phone, sank into a squat, typed in the YouTube channel, and found the video of himself and Lester.

Five thousand views.

How is this happening? His head spun. There weren’t even five thousand people in his Tio Jose’s entire village. He let this process before he climbed to his feet. So, five thousand views. Everyone was watching Lester. Not him. And as Steph had said, this would be good for the shop. Publicity was publicity. He checked his reflection in the mirror and smoothed his thick dark hair, before squaring his shoulders and heading back into the fray. The patrons had at least doubled. The shop had an occupancy capacity of three hundred, and while they were nowhere near that number, they still had twice as many people as was typical for a Thursday afternoon.

He glanced outside at the weak January sun attempting to singe the edges of gray clouds. The rain was good for business. But so, apparently, were musical dog videos.

A blinding light flashed, making Nick blink. Had someone just taken his picture?

The Beginning of Miss Mabel’s Mysteries or Writing a Mystery

I grew up loving mysteries. The Box Car Children, Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew. When I was in middle school, I read all 80+ Agatha Christie’s novels. Eventually, I graduated to PD James, Elizabeth George, Mary Stewart…I lived for PBS Mystery series. And then real life happened. I witnessed tragedies. The world became darker, scarier, and I couldn’t watch Sunday night mysteries on PBS. I couldn’t read mysteries any more. And I certainly couldn’t write one. (Although, I had written a few by then.)

But what I love about mysteries isn’t the horror or the dark side of the soul, I love the puzzles. The who-dunnits and red herrings. And all mysteries are essentially morality tales. In most, if not all, of Agatha Christie’s stories, the victim deserved to die. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think anyone should get to play God and take it upon themselves to end a life. (And no, I’m not going to argue about the death penalty…this is not that kind of blog. I’m basically a-political.)

So what made me return to what was essentially my first literary love? An idea…a really great idea. The kind of idea that won’t be ignored. Here’s the first chapter of The Miss Mabel Mystery.

THE MISS MABEL MYSTERY

I crept through the dark forest, mindful of every snapping twig beneath my feet. If someone should apprehend me, I had a list of reasons for my loitering in the woods outside the main house. All of them lies.

A pair of French doors opened onto a deck from the master bedroom. I stole up the stairs so I could peek in the window and watch Doris prepare for bed. A cool breeze blew through the room, ruffled the curtains, and carried Doris’s voice and lavender scented face cream.

Her beauty, long faded, had shrunk like her frail frame, but she still held her bony shoulders has straight as hangers and moved with the grace of the ballerina she’d once been.

“Oh, my love, thank you,” Doris said when she spotted a single red rose and a chocolate candy lying on her pillow. She hummed a tune—a favorite about true love. She knew little of true love or devotion. Doris was as sentimental as the Hallmark station but as clueless to real human emotions as a Barbie doll. My stomach clenched as she picked up the rose and placed it in the glass of water holding her dentures. Pulling back the covers of her bed, she slid between the sheets, slipped the chocolate into her mouth, and switched off the light.

I glanced at my watch knowing that convulsions should start in one, two, three…wait. Was she snoring?

Frustration mounted as I waited. My breath curled in front of me like smoke and fogged up the window. But Doris, ever oblivious, slept. Her snores mocked me. Clenching my fists, I stood rooted in my hiding place on the deck waiting for death that refused to appear.

ARIEL

Put your back into your work, apply that spit and shine, and conjure up some elbow grease…A combination of physical exertion, endurance, and mental dedication to a menial task is good for the soul…not to mention the maintenance of a smooth running inn.

At least this is what I told myself.

The sun was warm, the breeze blowing in off the ocean cool, the sound of children’s laughter floating in from the beach heavenly. I had every reason to be happy as I wielded my broom. Of course, because I preferred being on the patio than vacuuming, mopping, cleaning toilets, or spritzing mirrors…I typically saved the patio for the last of my chores. The cherry on top.

The Hemingway Home was one of the Writer’s Away Inn most luxurious suites. It had windows on three sides and two balconies—one overlooking the beach and the other the pool. Each room in the inn was named after a famous author. My working here was fortuitous—not only because the inn happened to belong to my Aunt Victoria, but also because I had literary ambitions of my own. Because of yesterday’s rain, water mixed with sand and dust had pooled on the balcony. I swept the sludge over the edge.

“Hey!” A man shouted from below.

I paused my broom.

“Lunatic!”

Horror swept over me. What to do? I considered slinking back into the suite, but honesty pushed me to the ledge.

A wet man stood glaring up at me. With his hair slicked back, he looked like an angry Antonio Banderas—a little like Zorro right before he wielded his sword at Don Rafael Montero. It didn’t take a Ph.D. to know what had happened. He slapped at his arms and chest, brushing himself off.

“Sorry!” I called out.

His lips twisted in a sneer. “Get a dust pan,” he grumbled, “and a clue.”

I gave him what I hoped was a friendly and apologetic wave and slunk back into the suite, wishing that that was what I’d done in the first place. Not that I wanted one of the other maids to take the blame, but if he hadn’t seen my face…not that I regretted seeing his. What did he look like when he wasn’t frowning?

I peeked back over the ledge. He’d moved to a chair on the opposite edge of the pool and lounged with a novel in hand. I wished I could read the cover. Could he be one of those rare combinations of beauty and brains?

I slipped back into the suite and closed the literal patio door and the figurative door on my disloyal thoughts. To distract myself, I did some mental math. The three hour time difference between New York and Shell Falls would put Andrew on the stock exchange floor. I itched to call him and tell him of my sweeping mistake. I wanted to hear him laugh and tell me it wasn’t a big deal. Everyone does stupid stuff sometimes. Besides, it didn’t really matter. In a few months, we’d be getting married. And shortly after that, I’d start my new job at the music academy, and I’d never have to sweep a balcony again unless I wanted to.

These happy feelings carried me to the service closet where I hung up the broom, and took off my apron, before heading back to my room.

#

Later in the early evening, Victoria met me in the foyer. Sweeping her gaze over me, she flinched when she spotted my shoes. “Can’t you put on some heels?” she asked in a hushed whisper.

I had two jobs at the inn—housekeeping and piano playing. They each required a very different sort of uniform. No one cared how I dressed while I mucked out the rooms, but when I played in the dining room, Aunt Victoria liked me to look my best. I typically wore a black cocktail dress, lacy hose, and low-heeled black shoes. I had tried to explain to her that I needed a comfy pair of shoes to work the suspension pedal, but she liked to me to be as beautiful as my surroundings. This was a tall order since the dining room had massive floor to ceiling windows and a sweeping view of the ocean.

Tonight, she seemed more on edge than normal. “Miss Mabel McKnight and her cohorts are here.”

My pulse quickened. Miss Mabel, Shell Falls very own Jessica Fletcher, lived in a mansion at the edge of town. She’d written more than eighty mystery novels, and was our local reclusive celebrity.

“They say it’s been years since she’s been out in public,” Aunt Victoria said. “And she’s here!”

I glanced over my aunt’s shoulder and caught sight of a tiny figure sitting at a table with a cluster of well-dressed and expertly groomed elderly women. I easily recognized her from her picture on the back of her book jackets. My breath caught when I saw the Zorro look-a-like sitting beside her.

Aunt Vicky squeezed my hand. “Play Vivaldi,” she whispered.

I smiled back at her and tried to look more confident than I felt. I’d been playing at weddings and other events since I was thirteen. I had a Ph.D. in music therapy, had graduated with honors, and had an amazing job lined up for the fall.

I didn’t question my musical abilities.

But I seriously doubted my ability to face the man sitting beside Miss Mabel McKnight.

I told myself he wouldn’t recognize me. Very few people expect the maid to also be a concert pianist. I crossed the dining room, lifted the piano lid, settled on the bench, and launched into my music.

The dying sun cast the room in an amber glow. We were only a few days away from the summer solstice and the days were so long they melded together—a continuous round of sun, sand, and warmth. Within minutes, I was lost in my music. My fingers touched the keyboard, but my thoughts were in New York. With Andrew.

“You’re really playing.”

I glanced up at the Zorro standing behind me, his gaze on my fingers.

“I thought this might be a Disklavier or something.” His warm brown eyes met mine. Up close, he was even better looking than I’d earlier thought.

“You didn’t think the maid could also play the piano?” I shot back.

I immediately regretted my words when his eyes widened. Disbelief faded into recognition. Humor followed.

“You’re the girl who dumped water on Brandt?”

My fingers faltered as I twisted to look over my shoulder at Miss Mabel. She was older and smaller than I would have guessed from her pictures. Although her eyes were swimmy with age, they were still intense and inquisitive. In her younger days, she’d been an Audry Hepburn beauty—petite, dark haired, pale but pink-cheeked, large brown eyes. My dad had once said that Miss Mabel was like a poodle with razor-sharp incisors. Her deceptively dainty demeanor made her dangerous. Her intellect made her lethal.

“It wasn’t exactly a dumping,” I spoke without missing a beat, a skill I’d developed from years of practice.

“I wouldn’t be critical if that’s exactly what happened,” Miss Mabel said.

“That is exactly what happened,” the man muttered.

“Brandt could use a good dumping,” Miss Mabel said.

“Then I did you a favor.” I wondered how the two were related. Did he work for her? He wasn’t her son. Long ago, my oldest sister had once pointed out Miss Mabel’s only son, Douglas McNight. He’d been middle-aged then, a David Hasselhoff wannabe lurking on the beach and chatting up teenage girls. I’d heard he’d been married a number of times, and I’d seen him tooling around town in his cobalt blue Maserati on numerous occasions. But even though I had lived in Shell Falls my entire life—aside from my years at Julliard—I had never seen Miss Mabel. “You’re welcome.”

I felt the man stiffen while Miss Mabel chuckled.

“What’s your name?” Miss Mabel asked.

“Arial Guthrie.”

“And you know who I am?”

“Of course. Doesn’t everyone?”

Her laughter deepened. “I knew I’d like you. You remind me of my younger self.” I felt flattered that she remarked on our resemblance. It was something I’d been told before. I wondered if I would look like her in some sixty-odd years.

What are you doing here?”

“Playing Vivaldi. Excuse me, but I’m coming to the finale and it requires my full attention.” I plunged into the sonata’s climactic finish, hoping they’d be gone by the time I finished. I felt slightly shaky by the time I lifted my fingers.

“Miss Guthrie, that was breathtaking!”

I twisted on the bench to get a better view of Miss Mabel and her Zorro-friend. “Thank you.”

“Are you busy next weekend?”

I studied her face, trying to read her. “Do you need a pianist?”

“No, a companion.” Her eyes sparkled as if she knew a humorous secret.

I lifted my chin at the man beside her. “You don’t want to take him?”

“Brandt? Heavens no. He’s much too clever. I don’t want to work that hard.” She cocked her head and studied me. “Do you?”

He did seem worth the effort, but a mental image of Andrew flashed in my mind and I lowered my gaze to hide my flushed cheeks.

“Good! It’s settled then. You’ll accompany me to Doris’s birthday bash. It’s next weekend in Lake Arrowhead. You’ll have your own suite, of course. Doris has this ridiculously mammoth lodge with plenty of rooms. We can take my car, but you’ll have to drive. You do drive, don’t you?”

I nodded.

“Me too,” she said.

Beside her, Brandt grumbled, but Miss Mabel ignored him and patted me on the shoulder. “Well, I need to get back to my friends. Why don’t you come by tomorrow and we can chat some more over lunch? Discuss the details—like your fee.” She winked. “I’m very generous and I’m sure you’ll find your compensation to be well worth your while.” She glanced back at her table of cohorts and flashed me a smile. “My friends might be old, but I think you’ll find us entertaining.”

Miss Mabel moved away, but Brandt remained, hovering over me. I stood, just to feel less intimidated by him. It didn’t really help. He still had at least six inches to my five foot five. For the first time ever, I wished I’d listened to Aunt Victoria and worn my heels.

“I suppose I should thank you for taking her to Doris’s, but I will warn you—I have my hesitations.”

“Like what?”

“My grandmother is…”

“Impetuous?”

“Well, of course…that goes without saying. After all, she just picked you up off the street without knowing a thing about you.”

This made me feel like one of those cute but obnoxious puppies that you might find in a cardboard box in front of a grocery store wearing a large FREE sign. I probably shouldn’t have come across as so pathetic. I should have said something like, I’ll have to check my calendar, or let me see if I can rearrange my schedule. But the terrible truth was that since I’d moved here a few weeks ago, my calendar was as empty as an alcoholic’s whiskey bottle.

“It’s only a weekend,” I told him. “And it’s not as if I would persuade her to join a cult or invest in a shady business deal.”

He narrowed his eyes at me as if these were all things I could be capable of.

#

“You what?” Rainy voice squeaked when I told her about meeting Miss Mabel. “But when are we going shopping?”

“Not next weekend. You told me you had rehearsal.”

Rainy was suspiciously quiet.

“You do, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do.” Rainy’s pause was almost imperceptible.

I leaned back against my bed and picked up a pencil and a scrap of paper. I doodled while Rainy told me about a new guy she’d met. He was in a band—played the drums. He sounded exactly like the last guy she’d dated. Frankel something. She must have noticed my less than enthusiastic response because she shifted the conversation back to shopping—something we could both agree on.

“Technically, I’m not engaged,” I reminded her.

“But isn’t that the whole reason you’re here? To save money and plan the gala?” She emphasized the word gala in her Hollywood voice.

“Well, yes, but…you know it won’t be official until Andrew talks to Dad.”

“Ugh. That’s so last century!”

Because I was sick of defending Andrew to Rainy, I said, “I’ll have more money after my weekend with Miss Mabel.”

Rainy let out a happy squeal. “How much more?”

“I’m not sure, but she said it would be worth my while.”

“Do you know who would be worth your while? Her grandson.”

“She has a grandson? Is his name Brandt and does he look like Zoro?”

“Brandt? No, I thought his name was Zach.” The sound of clicking computer keys sounded over the phone. “Oh, he’s cute, too.”

“You googled her grandsons?”

“Yep. She has two, but oddly enough, they’re not brothers. Brandt—who you’ve met, and Zach, who I’ve met. There’s one for each of us!”

“I thought you were in love with…” I searched my memory for her latest’s name.

“Marcus? Oh, I am,” she said in a sad voice.

My phone buzzed with an incoming call. My heart sped when Andrew’s picture flashed on the screen.

“I have to go,” I told Rainy. “Andrew’s calling.”

“Oh, Andy…” Rainy said in a singsong tone.

I didn’t have to see her to know she was making the face she always wore when we talked about Andrew.

“Love you,” I said, ending the call. I immediately responded to Andrew but was disappointed when I saw he’d hung up. I shot him a text. WHERE’D YOU GO?

CAN’T TALK. JUST WANTED TO TOUCH BASE BEFORE GOING OUT.

Going out? It was ten here, making it nearly one a.m. there.

CALEB GOT US INTO CLUB 99

He answered my unasked question.

K, I replied, but it really wasn’t. I didn’t like Caleb—one of Andrew’s co-workers. He worked hard but partied harder. I considered him a Wall Street wolf—a cliché of the money driven, woman hungry, and status seeking. But Andrew, for whatever reason, liked him.

LOVE YOU I texted him.

He sent me back on emoji of a heart.

I dropped the phone in my lap and gazed at my doodling. I’d drawn a caricature of a boy in a band. Not knowing what to make of it, I crumbled up the paper and got ready for bed.

Book Bites

I’m considering starting a new blog–one where I combine two of my favorite loves–books and food. My characters are often sitting down to a great meal! (Maybe this is because I love them and I want them to be well-nourished?) My thought is to provide a recipe for some of the food my characters eat and an excerpt from the book. And, if it’s successful, I’d open it up to my writer friends and see if they’d also like to post their recipes and book excerpts. Here’s an example of what such a post would look like.

This is an excerpt from my novella, Stuck With You, which, by the way, is free for a few days. Get Your’s Here

stuck With You

At Grammy’s insistence, they had stopped at McDonalds on their way to Newport so that they wouldn’t be shamefully hungry at Kayla’s bridal shower. Andie climbed from the car and followed her mom and grandmother past the Mercedes and BMWs lining the street. She hung back when her mom pushed open the gate leading to a three story Colonial. Roses in every shape and color bordered the brick walk-way. She inhaled the warm ocean air laced with the smell citrus trees.

Andie reminded herself of the missionaries and the devastated homes in the Philippines. She imagined the grinding poverty of most of the world and compared it to the Dodd’s grandiose opulence. She decided that she hated the warm cranberry double doors with the brass lion-head knockers and, therefore, she must also hate all of the Dodd’s: Mrs. Dodd, Mr. Dodd and especially Grayson Dodd.

The bell chimed when Grammy Dean pushed it, and seconds later, Kayla, dressed in a green silk sheath, flung open the door. In her typical over-the-top exuberance, Kayla screamed when she saw them. She threw her arms around first her grandmother, then her aunt and finally Andie.

“I’m so glad you could come,” Kayla said, taking her grandmother’s hand and pulling her into the house. “I know it’s so far for you.”

She made it sound as if they lived in Kansas instead of the canyon twenty miles away.

“This is a really beautiful home,” Carol said.

Kayla flipped her long blonde hair over her shoulder and smiled at her aunt. “And the people that live here are just as beautiful on the inside as their house is on the outside.”

Andie frowned at the tapestry rugs on the wide planked wooden floors, the grand piano near the massive stone fireplace and the family portrait hanging above the mantle. She stopped in the hall, rooted to the carpet while her cousin, grandmother and mom passed through the dining room and a pair of open French doors.

Laughter floated from the conservatory. The smell of grilled shrimp mingled with fresh baked rolls hung in the air, beckoning her to the party, but Andie stood frozen in the hall, staring at the painting.

A beautiful woman with her blonde hair tucked into chignon and dressed in a lace dress sat in a chair. A man that looked like a young George Clooney in a dark suit with a maroon tie stood behind her, his hand on her shoulder. Two little blond, blue-eyed boys dressed in gray three-piece suits stood on either side of their mother. One wore glasses.

“Would you like to meet my family?” asked a familiar voice. “Or are you okay just studying them?”

Andie put out a hand to brace herself against the wall. She closed her eyes, took a steadying breath and turned to face the voice and face she thought she knew. She blinked at Grayson Dodd, or the Grayson Dodd clone.

“Are you Grayson?” she asked.

He shook his head and held out his hand. “I’m Whit.”

Andie swallowed and placed her hand in his. Warmth tingled up her arm, and she dropped his hand as if it were poisonous.  “Did I break your glasses?”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

High heels clicked into the room, and Andie tore her gaze away from Whit’s blue eyes to watch his mother hurry toward them. Although at least fifteen years must have passed since the portraiture was taken, Mrs. Dodd hadn’t changed at all, other than trading the lace dress for a silk blue tunic that perfectly matched her eyes.

“Are you bushwhacking the guests?” Mrs. Dodd scolded her son. “You do know that boys are not welcome here, right?”

Whit gave his mom a tight smile. “Mom, this is Andie Hart. She’s Kayla’s cousin.”

Andie tried not to flinch under Mrs. Dodd’s scrutiny as she considered the fact that Whit Dodd knew not only her name, but also her parentage.

“Aside from your coloring, you look very much like her,” Mrs. Dodd said, after running her gaze up and down Andie, probably taking note of Andie’s Payless shoes and designer knock-off skirt and blouse. “Are you a model as well?”

“Andie is a photographer,” Whit said. “A very talented one.” He casually dropped his arm around Andie’s shoulders and pulled her against him, bumping his hip with hers. He leaned as if to nuzzle her ear and whispered, “Play along with me.”

She blinked up at him, puzzled by not only him but also the buzzing in her blood. Her stomach felt jumpy. Could she blame it on the McDonald’s snack-wrap?

“I have your camera.” His eyes locked with hers.

Sudden tears sprung in Andie’s eyes. “You do?”

He nodded.

“How do you two know each other?” Whit’s mom wagged her finger between the two of them.

Whit smiled a slow, shy grin. Andie couldn’t read his expression at all, but his mother seemed to.

More clicking high heels. “Is this where the real party starts?”

The woman had long, jet black hair and an Angelina Jolie figure draped in a silver, sparkly dress. Her red lips turned pouty when she took note of Whit’s arm around Andie’s shoulders. Andie tried to shrug him off, but he pulled her close.

“Nessa, this is Whit’s friend, Andie Hart,” Mrs. Dodd said.

Somehow she had graduated from Kayla’s cousin to Whit’s friend. The thought made her head feel light.

Vanessa turned to Andie with large, violet colored eyes that held a lot of questions and something else…something Andie didn’t know how to define. Andie took a deep breath, deciding that she couldn’t understand any of these people. There was an undercurrent of communication that was passing her by. And that was just as well.

“It’s nice to meet you, Andie. How did you and Whit meet?” Vanessa cocked her head and showed her teeth. Was that supposed to be a smile?

Andie touched her necklace as a bizarre image of Vanessa ripping into her throat crossed her mind.

“She’s Kayla’s cousin.” Whit tucked Andie a little tighter to his side.

He was warm. And he smelled really good.

She did not want to play along. She wanted to leave, but how? She couldn’t very well ditch her mom and grandmother, and she really needed her camera. She had spent a frantic evening searching and making phone calls… thinking it was lost. She had even called Grayson Dodd. He had told her he hadn’t seen it, but now that she thought about it, he had sounded…off. Like he was trying not to laugh. Andie narrowed her eyes, determined not to play along…as soon as she got her camera. She turned to Whit. “You have my camera?”

He smiled at her, and his eyes said he was glad that she was beginning to catch on. He touched her lips with his finger. Andie staggered from surprise, but Whit kept her upright. Not liking the way her knees sagged, she straightened her spine and resisted the temptation to bite him.

“You’re a photographer?” Vanessa asked.

“More of a photo journalist,” Whit said, removing his finger. “You should visit her blog.” He looked at his mom. “She’s very charitable. Like Mother Teresa with a camera.”

Whit Dodd had looked at her blog. Very few people looked at her blog. At least in the United States. For some reason she had a healthy readership from Russia. She was constantly getting comments from Omars and Vlads. Which she had always thought the weirdest thing…until now. This was definitely getting weirder.

Vanessa took Andie’s arm and pulled her away from Whit. “Come on, sweetie. The party has started, and if we don’t get in there, we’re going to miss all the chocolate.” She wrapped her arm around Andie’s waist and steered her away from Whit’s laughing eyes.

Andie glanced back at him, and he grinned. “I’ll bring your camera by tonight.”

“Tonight?” Mrs. Dodd raised her voice so Andie could still hear. “Why not just give it to her now?”

Good question. Andie wanted to stay and hear the answer, but Vanessa pulled her through the French doors and into the thick of the bridal shower.

The conservatory was probably the most beautiful room that Andie had ever seen. Beveled windows let in the early afternoon light. Ceiling fans gently blew a warm breeze around the women seated on the wrought iron chairs with cushions almost as colorful as the flowers growing in pots scattered throughout the room. Andie instinctively headed toward her mom and grandmother, both seated at a table slightly set apart from where Kayla and her friends sat. Carol had a phony smile stamped on her face, and Grammy Dean looked tired. Both of their face lit up when Andie entered the room. Vanessa tried to lead Andie to Kayla’s table, but Andie took the chair closest to her grandmother. Vanessa dropped into the chair beside her.

“Where have you been, sweetie?” Carol asked. “You missed the soup.”

“Lobster bask.”

“Bisque, mother,” Carol corrected. “It was lobster bisque.”

“Whatever it was, it had champagne in it!” Grammy ran a tongue over her upper lip. “It was so yummy. I can’t wait to see what they bring out next.”

Vanessa studied Carol and Grammy through narrowed eyes, measuring them against a standard Andie knew nothing about. Andie reached out and clasped Grammy’s hand. “Kayla looks happy, doesn’t she?”

“She always looks happy,” Grammy said. “That’s why she got those acting bits when she was so young.” Grammy turned her big, watery eyes to Andie. “You could have been an actress too if you had just smiled more.” Grammy sighed. “Old sober-sides, your grandfather always called you.”

Andie gave her grandmother a sober-sides smile and looked out the window at a cluster of citrus trees. White blossoms fluttered through the air while Andie tried to think of ways to escape. There had to be a hundred, if not a thousand, excuses she could offer for ditching Kayla’s shower, but she could think of only one surefire way of getting back her camera.

She had to talk to Whit. Again. And since talking to Whit was worse than eating a shrimp salad covered in a mint julep dressing and watching Kayla coo over her pile of ridiculously expensive and impractical gifts, suffering through the lunch with a smile seemed like the right thing to do. She would find Whit after the dessert, which, if she were lucky, would include raspberries.

“So, tell me how you and Whit met again,” Vanessa said, bracing her elbows on the table and leaning in.

Andie speared a spinach leaf and considered an appropriate answer that didn’t include the words “none of your beeswax.” What was there about Vanessa that made her belly twist? Was it fair to dislike someone just because she was beautiful, rich and wore too much perfume? The money and beauty were probably gifts she was born with—just like someone else was born with a gimpy leg or a speech impediment—and maybe the perfume was trying to compensate for something. Maybe she had halitosis or athletes foot. “Not long.” She chewed and swallowed a forkful of salad before she wiped her lips on a napkin and asked, “How about you? How long have you known Whit and Grayson?”

“Forever. Our daddies met at Harvard.” Vanessa paused and flashed Andie a bright smile. “I adore their family. Sophie is my girl crush.”

Andie nodded, guessing that Sophie had to be Mrs. Dodd since the family portrait didn’t have any other females.

Carol slipped back into her chair, her cheeks red and her eyes unusually bright—even her blond curls looked bouncier.

“Where did you go?” Grammy Dean demanded in a voice that shushed the babbling Kayla.

All the women at the bridal shower turned to hear the answer. Carol’s cheeks turned a deeper pink. “Just to the ladies room,” she said in a stage whisper. She nodded an apology to Kayla, who flashed her aunt a smile and picked up another present to unwrap.

“Well, you missed the bird costume,” Grammy huffed.

“The bird costume?” Carol and Andie asked at the same time.

Vanessa put down her fork. “It was a Fredericka negligee.”

“Looked more like a flamingo suit to me.” Grammy laughed and pointed her fork at Carol. “And you missed it. Which is a shame. You could use a little warbling and chirping.”

“Oh, mother. How many times do I have to tell you?” Carol rolled her eyes. “I don’t have any time or interest in warbling or chirping.”

“Warbling or chirping?” a male voice echoed.

Andie twisted in her chair to watch Whit saunter into the room with her camera case in his hand. Her stomach did a flippy-twist thing, because she was relieved to see her camera, and because it always did that when he was around.

“Weatherford!” his mother scolded. “You know this is no man territory.”

“Oh, he’s so cute,” Vanessa crowed, “let him stay.” She patted the empty chair beside her.

Andie’s heart did another somersault while she waited for his response.

“I can’t.” Whit smiled and came to Andie’s table. “I had to return this.” He put the camera case on the table, placed his finger under Andie’s chin and kissed her. “I’ll see you tonight.”

After he winked at Carol, he strolled out of the room.

Wait. What just happened? Andie jumped to her feet.

“Oh honey, never chase after a man,” Grammy Dean said.

Carol’s fingers wrapped around Andie’s wrist. “She’s right, sweetie. Let him go.”

“B-but—” Andie stuttered.

“You’ll see him tonight.” Carol tugged on her wrist.

Andie glanced into her mother’s eyes and settled back into her chair.

Dessert arrived while Andie fumed and tried to sort out all of her questions. The chocolate soufflé with raspberry sauce helped her mood. Some. But the tingling on her lips just wouldn’t go away.

chocolate souffle

CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE

 

Unsalted butter, room temperature, for baking dish

1/4 cup sugar, plus more for baking dish

 

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or semisweet chocolate chips (1 cup)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten, plus 4 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 1 1/2-quart tall-sided baking dish. Coat with sugar, tapping out excess. Set dish on a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. In a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine chocolate, vanilla, and 1/4 cup water. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, 20 minutes.
  3. Stir egg yolks into cooled chocolate mixture until well combined. Set souffle base aside.
  4. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-high until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 5 minutes (do not overbeat).
  5. In two additions, fold egg-white mixture into souffle base: With a rubber spatula, gently cut down through center and lift up some base from bottom of bowl. Turning bowl, steadily continue to cut down and lift up base until just combined.
  6. Transfer mixture to dish, taking care not to get batter on top edge of dish; smooth top. Bake souffle until puffed and set, 30 to 35 minutes. (Do not open oven during first 25 minutes of baking.) Serve immediately.

As a reader and a writer, would this blog be interesting to you? Anybody else love chocolate and raspberries?

Welcome 2018!

I’m so excited about 2018 and the changes going on here on Main Street. The most exciting news is our upcoming Summertime Romance on Main Street! Another box set by some of my favorite authors!

Let’s welcome the New Year by playing a game. Go to the 18th page of your latest release if you’re an author or the closest book next to you if you’re a reader and give us a snippet of that page in the comments. Do it carefully, because what you choose will predict your year!

If you’re an author, be sure and leave us a buy link to your book. Here’s mine:

 

Christmas Miracles

Do you believe in Christmas Miracles? In the month of December, they happen every day on the Hallmark Channel, but how about in real life? Your life? I’ve experienced two. The first one happened during the Christmas season following my mother’s death. I was fifteen.

On a cold and snowy night, I heard a kitten crying outside our front door. This seemed remarkable because we lived on a large piece of property and for any kitten, especially a  sick one, it would be a trek to the front porch. Plus, we had two dogs who lived outside. But despite the distance, the dogs, and his health, this poor, sick kitten found his way to our porch. His eyes were crusty and only partially open, his fur splotchy and missing in places, his legs weak and wobbly. I named him  Wenceslas in honor of the season. Nursing him back to health made a bleak and lonely Christmas bearable. He grew into a magnificent cat and lived for nearly 20 years. I wrote a short story about him. You can read it here: Magic Beneath the Huckleberries.

The second happened a few years ago.

They met at the university, ages 16 and 17. He was the top student in the engineering class her brother student taught and president of the ROTC. When he was 19 and she was 18, they told their parents they were going to marry and his mother fainted. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple.

Grandpa attended MIT, Cornell and received his masters degree from Stanford. For almost forty years he worked as a rocket scientist for Hughes Aircraft. All those smarts, all that education, and in the end he didn’t know the names of his seven children. Eventually, he forgot his wife.

It started small — confusion in the grocery store, misdealt cards, falling down. He fell down a lot. Repeatedly, he lost the dog. Sometimes he lost himself. He took to hiding in his office when company, even his children, came. He hid until he disappeared.

He died in the fall.

At the funeral the siblings shared lessons they’d learned from their dad, and I found it touching that the boys (analytical brainy types all) were more emotional than their sisters. Thirty of his grandchildren sang Love is Spoken Here. As I was sitting at the piano, I couldn’t see their faces, but I watched them come forward, tall, amazingly handsome and beautiful. Their song matched their beauty. Then the great grandchildren sang and I realized that even though we’d lost grandpa, we have a new crop of people to know and love. Grandpa has 149 posterity.

They buried Grandpa high on a hill in a cemetery in the Avenues of Salt Lake. After Uncle Richard’s dedicatory prayer the girls laid red roses and the boys placed red carnations on his casket. Our family stopped for ice-cream at the Hatch Family Chocolate Shop on our way back to the chapel. It seemed appropriate, because Grandpa ate ice-cream nearly every evening.

For years we shared the holidays with Grandpa and Grandma. Christmas afternoon, our family would pile into the van and drive up the San Bernardino Mountains. We’d pass the Cliffhanger restaurant and drive through Blue Jay Village. Aunts, uncles and cousins usually joined us and we’d party for days. Grandma supplied candy and food. Grandpa provided games and tucked little gold envelopes filled with money into the tree.

When the drive up and down the mountain became too difficult, Grandpa and Grandma sold their home in Lake Arrowhead and moved to Saint George. In the spring, when life became too difficult they moved to Salt Lake. In the summer, Grandpa moved to an assisted living facility.

Although it’s been a few months now, Grandma is slowly settling into her new home. She lives ten minutes away from two daughters and has a host of grandchildren nearby. A few days before Christmas, Grandma found a little gold envelope among Grandpa’s files. Without opening it, she tucked it into the Christmas tree and saved it for Christmas morning. She would spend the day with a daughter and her family, but the morning she would be alone, for the first time.

It must have been a very quiet Christmas morning for her, so different from the bustle of our holidays spent in Lake Arrowhead. The children and even the grandchildren are grown and gone, busy with their own lives. The candy, the games, the laughter – even Grandpa, gone. Except for the one gold envelope. She pulled it out, opened it, and found $100.

And felt Grandpa near.

How about you? Have you had a Christmas Miracle?  I consider every story idea a miracle, and I’m grateful for each and every one. Today, my novella Baby Blue Christmas is free! Get yours here!Baby Blue Christmas

But, if you want a real bargain, you can get it and eight other holiday stories in the latest Authors of Main Street Christmas box set.

004 websiteBUY IT NOW!

2017’s NaNoWrimo Challenge

Is anyone else participating in the 2017’s NaNoWrimo Challenge. (Don’t know what NaNoWrimo is? It’s National Novel Writing Month. It’s a big deal.) It’s remarkable to me that I’ve written more than 20 books (this still boggles my mind even though I know more than anyone that it’s absolutely true) BUT I’ve never finished a NaNoWrimo challenge. This year will be different.

And I know this will sound funny, but somehow I imagine that if I complete this goal that all I’ll rock my other goals as well–I’ll lose 15 pounds by my birthday in January, my book business will take off in new and exciting ways, my backyard will magically become a place of peace and beauty…

So here are my goals:
NaNoWrimo: Write for four hours or 4k words a day (which ever comes first) five days a week until I’ve written 50k words…even though my real goal is a 70k word novel. I’ll post each day’s segment so you can follow along.

Health: Exercise an hour a day, six days a week and eat 4 300-400 calorie meals a day.

Backyard: Spend an hour a week (on Saturdays) gardening.

http://davidseah.com/node/nanowrimo-word-calendar/

You can follow along with my NaNoWrimo challenge here:  http://kristystories.blogspot.com/p/work-in-progress-share.html

Lasagna and a Story Excerpt

Baby Blue Christmas

Here’s an excerpt from my novella that will be featured in this year’s Authors of Main Street Christmas box set. (It involves lasagna….and hot chocolate. Two of my favorites.)

While Jamison napped, Sophie went to the attic and found her grandmother’s Christmas ornaments and decorations. Her heart twisted and she had to blink back tears as she carried the boxes to the living room. Her grandmother had been gone for nearly a decade, but this would be the first year without her sister. In her entire life, she’d never once imagined a world without her sister—until she had to. She had thought about calling her dad and offering to fly up with Jamison, and maybe she would still do that, but…

The truth was she didn’t feel comfortable around her stepmother, and she knew the feeling was mutual. And her dad didn’t do a thing to ease the tension. So, would she rather spend Christmas alone—or would she rather be uncomfortable with her dad and stepmother?

The teapot let out a high squeal, letting Sophie know that the cocoa was ready. She chose the reindeer mugs her grandmother had always used and filled four of them with the steaming cocoa. She topped each with a dollop of whipped cream and added chocolate sprinkles.

Luke’s SUV swung down the driveway. Maybe, she thought as she watched him climb from the car, there’s another option. The door slammed after Mia and Paige got out. Paige, dressed in a long black coat, dark jeans and knee-high leather boots, frowned at the house and wrinkled her nose as if she didn’t like what she smelled.

Sophie hurried back into the kitchen to check on her lasagna. It was her grandmother Morelli’s recipe and she’d made everything—even the noodles—from scratch, just as her nonna had.

She loaded up the tray with the cocoa mugs, carried it into the living room, and set it down on the coffee table before opening the door.

Luke came in and gave her a swift hug before turning to Mia and Paige. “I hope you don’t mind, but they insisted on bringing a salad.”

“Only it’s not made yet,” Mia said, nodding at the grocery bag in her arms.

“That’s great,” Sophie said. “Come on into the kitchen. If you can’t find anything, Luke can show you around while I set the table.” She motioned to the mugs on the coffee table. “I made some cocoa.”

Paige slipped off her coat and laid it over the back of the sofa. “Do you have any sugar-free?”

“Huh, no. Sorry.”

Paige sniffed. “How about tea?”

“Sure.”

Paige wrinkled her nose, screwed up her face, and sneezed so loudly Sophie worried she’d wake Jamison.

“Is there a…dog…in…this…place?” Paige asked right before she sneezed again.

Sophie pointed her mug at Javert sleeping on his quilt in front of the fire.

Mia dropped to her knees beside the puppy. “Oh, he’s the cutest thing! What is he?”

“I have no idea,” Sophie told her.

“He has to go!” Paige said. “Either that, or I do!”

That seemed like an easy to decision to Sophie, but after a quick look at Luke’s face, she gathered the puppy into her arms. “Come on, Javert,” she muttered into his fur. “We know when we’re not wanted.” Inside the mudroom, she put a towel on the floor and placed him on it. He blinked at her with sad, tired eyes. “You’ll be fine in here for a few hours,” she said while petting him.

Back in the living room, she found Paige rummaging through her purse while Luke and Mia sipped their cocoa.

“What sort of name is Javert ?” Paige asked as she pulled a small pill bottle from her purse.

“You know, like Inspector Javert from Les Miserables.”

Les Miserables? You mean that movie with Hugh Jackman? I don’t remember any dogs in that film.” Paige sneezed again. “Do you mind if we open the windows and doors?” she asked moments before she did so. A cold breeze blew into the room.

“Mia, why don’t you help me set the table,” Luke said.

Paige followed Sophie into the kitchen. “I’m allergic to dogs.”

“I sort of got that,” Sophie said.

Paige sniffed and popped open her pill bottle. “Where’s the tea?”

Sophie opened the cupboard where Chloe had left a large collection of teas. Paige sniffed again, selected a bag, and made a small sound that might have been a thank you when Sophie handed her a teacup.

Sophie pulled the lasagna from the oven. The cheese on top had turned a crispy, golden brown, just the way she liked it. The French bread would soon be done as well.

Paige removed a head of Romaine lettuce, a box of croutons, and a bottle of dried Parmesan cheese from the grocery bag and put it all down on the table.

“Do you have a bowl?” Paige asked.

“Um, sure.” Sophie retrieved the bowl, a cutting board and knife, and a colander.

Paige eyed the colander. “What’s that for?”

“I thought you’d want to wash the lettuce.”

“No. I bought this at Whole Foods.”

“Still—”

“Everything there is organic.”

Sophie bit her lower lip and took another peek at her French bread.

“I know what you’re doing,” Paige said as she whacked the lettuce into bite-size pieces.

“You do?” Sophie tried to guess what Paige could be talking about. “That’s great, because sometimes I feel like I don’t.”

“You’re pretending to play house with Luke.”

Sophie laughed, because, yes, that was exactly how she felt.

“Well, it won’t work. He can’t be domesticated.” She waved her hand at the mudroom door. “He’s not like a puppy you can housebreak.”

Sophie raised her eyebrows when Luke came in.

“Are you talking about me?” Luke asked.

Paige froze like a statue.

Sophie fought for something to say to break the tension. “You know, maybe we should go and pick out a tree before it gets dark.”

“But your ankle,” Luke said.

“It’s feeling better. A walk could do me good.”

“Why walk?” Mia chipped in. “Why not take the ATVs?”

“I’d forgotten all about those,” Sophie said, only she didn’t know how she could since they took up so much room in the barn. “I’m not even sure they still run.”

“Why wouldn’t they?” Mia asked.

“They might need gas,” Sophie said.

“Are you scared of the ATVs?” Luke asked.

“No.” Sort of.

“Well, I’m not going,” Paige said.

“That’s great,” Luke said. “Then you can stay here with Jamie.”

Panic filled Paige’s face. “But what if he wakes up?”

Luke pulled his phone from his pocket. “Then you’ll call me and we’ll come right back.”

Paige shot Mia a death stare.

“If you guys want to go, I can stay here with Jamie,” Sophie said.

“What? It’s your tree!” Luke put his arm around Sophie’s waist and steered her toward the mudroom. “Let’s get your coat.”

He opened the mudroom door and Javert shot out.

Paige screamed and jumped onto the ottoman as Javert tore through the kitchen and circled the living room. Luke went after him. Mia tried to tackle the dog, but landed face-first on the carpet. Sophie sank onto the sofa, laughing. Javert jumped onto her lap.

Jamison began to cry.

Paige huffed, stalked from the room, and banged through the front door.

Sophie, still trying not to laugh, tucked Javert under her arm, and climbed the stairs to get Jamison.

COMING SOON! IN JUST THREE DAYS! BUT YOU CAN PREORDER THE

AUTHORS OF MAIN STREET CHRISTMAS BOX SET NOW: only .99 cents

 

Lasagna

Directions

  • Prep

  • Cook

  • Ready In

  1. In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

From Allrecipes.com