Laura Senton has found peace and happiness, knowing she’s right where she belongs, running her own kitchen at A Piece of Heaven, a Christian coffee house in Pingree, MD. Being partners with her dear friend, Trina, she has carved out a niche and counts her blessings daily for being able to do something she loves doing. When the sins of her past are brought to mind by the appearance of Sean Laylor, her teenage crush, Laura tries to hide from Sean, as well as her own feelings.
At first not recognizing Laura because she changed so much, Sean is at a loss as to why she tries to avoid him. He has no idea of what Laura went through years ago, or how she felt toward him, but he still feels a share of the guilt for her past once he learns some of the choices she made.
Both covet the memories of their time together, but sins of the past can be a tough hurdle to get over.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about its own things ~Matthew 6:34
Laura Senton blew the bangs out of her eyes as she leaned forward to peek into the oven. Just another minute and the cheese would be crusted perfectly. The haddock would still be good and moist. She glanced at her watch, pulled the pan out, and then slid it into the warming oven seconds before the timer went off. A smile twitched on her lips.
This really was her little piece of heaven, running her own kitchen, deciding what the specials were each day, doing things the way she wanted them done. Accepting Trina’s offer of a partnership was almost the best decision she had ever made—second only to accepting Christ as her Savior.
She double checked the stoves and burners and then looked over the whole kitchen area. All the food preparation for morning was done and put away, and most of the counters had been wiped down as she worked. Clean up shouldn’t be bad tonight. In another half hour, she could close the kitchen, sit down with a nice latte, and enjoy Trina’s last few songs while the dishwasher ran. Who would have guessed little Pingree, Maryland, would keep them this busy?
What a crowd tonight. Granted, it was Friday, but this was their biggest night yet.
Thank goodness, she had prepared an extra tray of the haddock—as well as having the salmon for back up. Both dishes would be gone by the end of the night. Fish Fridays had been popular from the start, but tonight was just over the top for their projections.
Maybe Jared was right, and the time to expand had come. She stirred the chowder, and then reached in the fridge for three salads to fill the order Mandy had just posted. She set them on the counter, and glanced over her shoulder at the rice maker—just a few more minutes and she could layer the spinach over it. Reaching for a spoon, she stirred the Alfredo sauce and set out the black olives, ready to assemble her latest salmon dish.
Hmmm, almonds or sesame sticks would add a nice touch...she couldn’t wait to try the Wild Salmon Spinach Alfredo. It had just popped into her head this afternoon. Luckily she had broiled salmon on the menu tonight so she had all the makings and could assemble a small sampling.
The ringing of the bell let her know there was another new order in the system. Wow, they just kept coming.
She peeked out the kitchen window. Customers were being seated at a table. Maybe a game or another event had finished.
Mandy came into the kitchen to pick up the tray of salads.
“What’s going on tonight?” Laura asked as Mandy reached into the refrigerator for the salad dressings she needed to complete her order.
“Sounds like a baseball game just ended. Whatever it is, looks like we’ll be busy right until closing.” She walked out of the kitchen.
Trina’s voice carried in over the sounds of the crowd.
Laura set four salads onto the tray to fill the next order while she hummed along with the song. She loved this version.
How amazing God’s grace really was. Not even a year since they opened the doors to A Piece of Heaven and already they were talking about expansion.
Well, Jared was talking about expansion, probably because he would be doing the construction. But Trina, as usual, was dragging her feet. Getting that girl to commit to change was about as quick as tapping sap from a maple tree.
And Laura knew just how quick that was. After growing up in Vermont with forty maple trees to tap, she had learned patience when she was young, patience she had needed as she grew up.
Lise swept into the kitchen next and grabbed her dressings out of the fridge. “Can I have the bowl of chowder now, please? They want it with their salad.”
“How are you holding up tonight?” Laura asked as she ladled chowder into a bowl and turned to set it on the tray, placing a sprig of parsley on top and a crust of bread beside it.
Lise had only been with them for a few weeks and this was definitely a trial by fire.
“I’m OK,” she answered. “I’ve seen worse. The last place I worked was like this almost all the time, but I had to dodge grabbing hands while I delivered meals. That was the worst.” She laughed as she lifted the tray and headed for the door. “So, as long as I don’t have to worry about that part, I can handle busy, no sweat. Plus it’s not like this all the time, so—piece of cake. ”
“No, silly. A Piece of Heaven,” she said and laughed as Lise went out the door.
The answering chuckle bounced back through the swinging door.
Laura ladled chowder into another bowl and set it on a tray. She put a sprig of parsley on a plate, added a scoop of rice and vegetables, and positioned the last piece of lemon chicken. She’d have to get someone to cross it off the board if she couldn’t sneak out there.
The last dish for this order was easy. She pulled the sheet of haddock au gratins out of the warming oven and set one on the plate with a baked potato and some green beans, and then turned to set out plates for the next batch of meals.
Orders trickled to a stop over the next half hour.
Wow. So much for a quick and easy clean up. Laura wanted nothing more than to put her feet up on a chair and relax. She pulled her apron off, hung it on the back of the door, and stepped out into the restaurant.
Trina wasn’t playing—must be on her last break.
Laura grabbed a mug and stepped over to the latte machine. She looked over the crowd.
Lise was just clearing off a small table by the wall.
The seat was Laura’s favorite. Maybe because she Jared had proposed to Trina there. Or maybe because it had a good view of the stage but was out of the way.
“Excuse me. Could I get a cup of coffee? The other waitresses look pretty busy.”
“Sure, I’ll...” She lifted her gaze past the broad chest and shoulders to a neatly trimmed beard and startling blue eyes. Eyes she would know anywhere. She swallowed hard. “Sean?” Her first crush.
“Sorry, do I know you?”
No, he wouldn’t know the blonde, curly hair, or the body that was half the size it used to be. She shook her head. “Sorry, I thought you were someone else. I’ll get your waitress for you. What table are you—”
He touched her arm. “You look vaguely familiar. Are you sure we don’t know each other?”
Of course, he had no idea. But she knew him. Sean Laylor, high school quarterback, team captain senior year...why would he remember the fat girl with glasses and long, stringy hair who tutored him to get his English grade up so he could stay on the team and get into college?
She snapped back to the present. “Let me get your waitress for you.”
He stared a moment longer, his gaze covered her from head to toe, a frown creasing his forehead. He pointed to table three.
“I’ll send her right over to you.” Laura set her coffee cup down.
Mandy was talking with a customer who was obviously settling their bill. No sense distracting her.
Lise was clearing another table off.
“Hey, would you mind checking with table three?” Laura asked Lise. “He’d like some coffee, and I don’t want to mess up anyone’s tab.”
She glanced at the man at table three. “Sure thing. I’ll just have to be careful not to drool in it when I set it down.” Her gaze slid back to Laura’s. “You sure you don’t want to bring it over since it seems he’s got eyes only for you?”
Laura’s gaze collided with midnight blue eyes surrounded by long black lashes. The smile that creased his face deepened the laugh lines and set the dimple in his left cheek. He tipped an imaginary hat before turning back to his table companion, a teenage boy—the spitting image of Sean twenty years earlier.
“Thanks for the help with my essay – and for the study tips...”
“Hey Sean, ditch the pumpkin and get a move on. We have to get to practice!”
Laura glanced down at her orange top and realized the comment was aimed at her...
Sean touched her sleeve. “Sorry for that. I’ve got to go. Thanks again for your help.”
“I’ll go see what he wants,” Lise mumbled.
Laura smiled and turned to her table before she made a fool of herself.
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