Breaking Bread Deux Over

Right, so I’m going to torture you guys…. Recently I posted about revising Breaking Bread based on feedback from you dear readers and from my beta team. Many of you thought the romance part of the story needed a little something more. This probably won’t be Chapter One –I need to really write a good opening hook– but it will be the first time you see Maya and Brad interact. Hopefully, this time, its clear that Maya is attracted to Brad, helping the romance develop a bit more naturally. Let me know what you think.

Stifling a yawn, I flipped the lock on the front door and turned off the “Open” sign. Twelve hours is a long time to be on your feet. Owning a restaurant –while a labor of love– is not for the faint of heart. I came in before 5:00 most days to bake so that the bread would be ready when we opened every morning at 6:00 AM. My cafe, Le Boulangerie, had been open a little over a year and although things were going well, I still felt like it was too soon for me to sit back and take it easy. Besides, I had plans. I wanted to buy the building where I was leasing the space for the cafe.

As I made my way to the back of the shop, I turned off lights and double checked that the equipment was powered down. The dough for tomorrow’s loaves was prepped and ready to go into the ovens first thing in the morning. I grabbed my purse, set the alarm and exited through the side door which led to the rear courtyard where I had additional seating. The tables, with their chairs tucked tightly beneath them, were empty. Except for one. A tall, handsome man was lounging in the chair nearest to the door with his feet propped up on another. My startled gasp alerted him to my presence. As he looked up and smiled, my heart did a little flip in my chest. Damn.

“Brad Logan, you scared the crap out of me,” I scolded my landlord and childhood friend.

“What are you doing here?”

“Maya,” he said, getting to his feet. “Do you have a minute?”

“I guess so.”

He picked up a folder from the table.

“What is it now?” I asked, exasperated. He was constantly making improvements to the building, which was increasing its value and putting it further and further out of my price range.

“I want to see what you think of the ideas I have for the basement.” He opened the folder and took out the sheets of paper it contained. “Adam did some drawings.” Adam Quinn was a local architect who did amazing design work. He was also a friend.

I frowned and crossed my arms. He said, “Come on, Maya. Just take a look?”

I sighed heavily. “All right.” I trudged over to stand beside him. “What’s Adam’s bright idea, this time?”

Brad grinned. “Check this out,” he said, spreading the drawings out on the table.

The designs confused me at first. “What am I looking at?” I asked.

“Ovens,” he said, obviously pleased with himself. “You’ll be able to expand your seating area by half if we move the ovens to the basement.”

I gaped at him. “Are you kidding me? Now you’re messing with my business, not just the building. Forget it, Brad.”

He looked like a puppy who’d just been kicked. I rolled my eyes. “Look, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but we’ve had this conversation a hundred times. I will not accept your charity. End of discussion.” I turned on my heel and marched out of the patio area, past the high brick wall that separated it from the alley.

“It’s not charity, if you let me be an investor,” he said, hurrying after me. “When the business grows, you could pay me back with a little interest.”

“Why can’t you just drop it? Huh?” I said, spinning around to face him.

He rested his hands on my shoulders and held me in place. “Because I care about you, Maya. We’ve been friends forever. I hate to watch you struggle when I could make things so much better for you.”

I looked up into his warm brown eyes, full of sincerity and hope. It would be so easy to acquiesce. Brad and his sister Olivia –my best friend– had just inherited a fortune. Neither of them had a clue how to spend it and as a result, they had both offered to help me with my fledgling business. Olivia, at least, had understood when I refused, but Brad was proving to be more difficult. I sighed. He just wouldn’t acknowledge the other issues at play.

I took his hands from my shoulders and held them between mine. “Sweetie, I explained this already. I have to do this on my own. I’ll never live it down if my family finds out you helped me. They still think I’m going to fail. They’ll say you’re propping the business up and I wouldn’t be able to do it without you.” I squeezed his fingers. “Come on, you said you understood.”

He looked at his feet and pulled his hands free to run them through his hair. “They don’t have to know.”

I smirked. “They already suspect.” I crossed my arms in front of me. “Ever since you bought the building out from under me.”

He reddened. “I just didn’t want you to lose it, Maya. What if another buyer grabbed it before your offer was accepted?”

“Seems to me that’s exactly what happened,” I snapped, then immediately regretted it. I said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I know you meant well.” I scrubbed my hands over my face. “But it sure has made things complicated.”

He reached out and tucked a stray lock of hair behind my ear. “It doesn’t have to be.”
I looked at him through my lashes. God, when had he gotten so cute?

I sighed and took his hands again. “You’re a sweetheart, Brad. But we are done talking about this.” I gave his hands a squeeze and let them drop. “I have to go. I’ll talk to you soon, ok?”

“Yeah, sure,” he said, swallowing hard.

I left him standing in the alley as I walked down to the street behind my building. He was still watching me when I turned the corner toward my Jeep.


My apartment was stifling. September hadn’t brought any respite from the summer’s heat. I fired up the air conditioner in the living room window and stood in front of it while the air cooled. I rested my arms on top of my head and closed my eyes. I was exhausted. Sometimes I felt sorry for myself on a Friday night when I had nothing to do, but not tonight. I would take a bath, put on my pjs and crawl into bed early. The breeze soothed and I found myself daydreaming, so when my doorbell rang, I nearly jumped out of my skin.

Not expecting anybody, I cracked open the door to peek out into the hallway of the stately old home that housed my apartment. Long, lean and movie star handsome, his thick, black hair pulled into a tail, Juan Paolo Serrano leaned casually against my doorjamb. JP was my hairstylist and one of my best friends. He flashed a smile that made women weak in the knees. Most women, that is. He and I had never gone down that road.

“JP what are you doing here?” I asked, opening the door wide.

He leaned in to kiss both my cheeks on his way past me. He held up a bottle. “I brought wine. We will commiserate tonight, eh?”

“And what are we commiserating, my friend?”

“Loneliness,” he said dramatically. “I’m alone. You’re alone. We could change that but you won’t have me. Your beautiful friend, Olivia, has been stolen away from me by that contractor. And all the women I meet at the salon assume that I’m gay.” He plopped heavily onto one of the counter stools. “We might as well drown our sorrows, what do you say?”

I laughed. “Oh, sweetie. What happened? Bad day?” I pulled two glasses from the cabinet and dug around for a cork screw.

He laid his head on the counter. “You have no idea.”

I set a glass of the wine in front of him. “Want to talk about it?” I asked.

He sat up, put his elbows on the counter and rested his chin in his hands. “Mrs. Amanda Curtis-Stevens. You know who I mean?”

My jaw dropped. “Like the car dealership Curtis-Stevenses?”

“That’s the one.” He sighed and took a gulp of his wine. “She came in for a color and a perm today.” Another gulp and I refilled his glass. “I warned her. She already has too many chemicals in her hair. Plus she blows it dry, does the curling iron and the hot rollers…” He shook his head. “It’s a mess.” He waved a hand. “She wasn’t having it. She insisted that I do what she asked for.” He looked up at me miserably. “I’m thinking you can guess the rest.”

“Oh boy.”

“Yeah. It was a disaster. Gerard promised free hair extensions until her own hair grows back.” He swallowed hard. “Just so she wouldn’t sue.”

“You have got to be kidding me!” I said, appalled. “Tell me Gerard knew it wasn’t your fault at least.”

He squeezed his eyes shut. “Oh, he knew. But it didn’t stop him from hanging me out to dry.” He laughed sharply. “The only good thing to come out of this is that she is now insisting that Gerard work on her himself. She is his problem now.”

I patted his arm. “Well, there you are. That’s a silver lining if I ever heard one.”

“Enough of my woes. Tell me about your day,” he said.

I swirled the wine around in my glass. “I had a good day, I guess. Busy as usual.”


“What?” I replied, narrowing my eyes.

“You had a good day, you guess?” he repeated, gesturing for me to elaborate.

I sighed and sat down next to him. “It’s Brad again. Always with the new ideas. This time he wants to renovate the basement so I can move the ovens down there and free up dining space on the first floor.”

“That’s a wonderful idea. What’s the problem?”

I frowned at him. “It’s my business! I can’t afford to be making those changes! I mean, who does he think he is trying to take over like that?”

Juan Paolo grinned wickedly and raised his eyebrows. “I think he is a rival for your affection. Should I be jealous, my darling?”

I snorted. “You have nothing to worry about JP. Brad is one of my oldest friends.”

“You’re blushing,” he said. “Are you sure he’s just an old friend?”

I hesitated long enough for JP to throw his head back in a satisfied laugh. “I knew it!”

“Cut the crap, JP. It’s not like that.” I drained my wineglass. “It’s just…”


My cheeks heated. “He’s really cute.”

Juan Paolo refilled my glass and said, “And you’re just noticing this now?”

“Well… it’s been years since I last saw him. We were awkward teenagers then. I kept in touch with Liv but Brad moved to Boston for college and then stayed up north for work.”

“Hmm, maybe it’s time you got reacquainted, eh?”

I rolled my eyes. “He’s lucky we’re even still friends the way he’s been interfering with my business and my building.” I took another big gulp from my glass.

“Let’s order food from Rafaela’s before we’re both too drunk to drive,” JP suggested.

“Screw that, let’s just get them to deliver.”

Chapter One – Three Empty Frames

Three Empty Frames is the first book in my series: The Bucks County Novels. As a new writer, I had to learn on the fly writing, editing and publishing this book. With some revisions and a more intriguing introduction, my debut novel is polished and ready for prime time. I’ve submitted it to the Writers Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards. Will keep you posted as to how that works out. I’m not really expecting an award, but some added exposure would be nice. Three Empty Frames is available in both e-book and paperback on Amazon. I hope you enjoy…

Chapter 1

Old Mick Monaghan liked to talk. Trouble was nobody listened to him anymore. Nobody except Joey Cassetori. “They think I’m getting senile, Joey,” Mick said.

“”S’alright, Mick. Keep going. I’m enjoying this story,” Joey said. He slowed his pace to match the old man’s as they made a circuit of the prison yard.

“Would have graduated in 1969 if I hadn’t lost my way. Thought we were going to change the world.”

“Yeah? How’s that Mick?” Joey prompted. It was hard keeping Mick on track.
“We were going to start a revolution. Everybody else was having their sit-ins and putting flowers in soldiers’ guns. Nonsense like that. We wanted more than just a stop to the Vietnam War. We wanted to start our own.”

“So what happened?”

“You can’t start a revolution without money, Joey. Lots and lots of money. Getting lots of money means taking big risks.” His voice caught. “Big risks got my little brother killed and cost me the love of my life.”

“What was her name again, Mick?”

Mick told him. “She was the only person I could trust, Joey. You find a woman like that once in a lifetime.”

Every time Mick told those tales of his glory days, Joey added a few more details to the notebook he kept under the pillow in his cell. It wouldn’t be much longer now.

When he got paroled with 18 months left on his sentence, his sister Maria picked him up at the prison gate. She was letting him move into her basement until he got back on his feet. She said Uncle Louie would have work for him if he was a good boy and kept his head down. He thought about telling Maria the story on their way back to Philadelphia but he didn’t. It was almost too much to keep to himself. Almost.

When they pulled into the alleyway behind Maria’s narrow, South Philadelphia row-house, she sighed and said, “Welcome home, Joey.” He got the distinct feeling she was no happier about this arrangement than he was.

As he lifted the small duffel bag holding his personal effects from the back seat of his sister’s car, Joey determined that he would make this stint living with Maria, her loser husband and their bratty kids as short as possible. He followed her through the postage-stamp back yard into the kitchen of the home. The door to the basement was next to the refrigerator. His subterranean room was a hastily converted space —sectioned off by a couple of shower curtains suspended on clothesline. It wasn’t much better than his prison cell, but he knew he should be grateful. It wasn’t like he could afford his own place. Yet.

At least Maria had good cable service and fast internet. They didn’t allow access to the internet in prison so he was never able to verify the old man’s story until now. While his sister sautéed garlic and simmered tomatoes for his welcome-home dinner, he sat at the kitchen table with her laptop in front of him. Sure enough, after multiple searches, everything Mick said checked out. Now he just needed to search for the woman Mick had spoken of so fondly and dig up her current location. Unfortunately for Joey, she was buried deeper than he anticipated.


I watched dry-eyed as Mother’s casket was lowered into the ground. My surreptitious glances at the small crowd gathered at the gravesite revealed no overwrought mourners. No surprise. Mother had been difficult. My thoughts were full of what-ifs and what-might-have-beens and, of course, guilt at wondering if I could have tried harder.

I was her only child, we should have been close. However, it wasn’t just me —she had distanced herself from my father and she’d had no intimate friendships so far as I knew. She clung to unhappiness like a security blanket and I swear it was the thing that finally killed her. She was only 68 years old —young by today’s standards.

I held my father’s hand as the casket reached the bottom of the grave. “You all right, Dad?” I asked.

“I will be, Jen.” He gave me a sad smile. “I wish I could have made her happy.”

“Dad,” I said, squeezing his hand. “You did your best. I’m not sure anyone could have made her happy.”

When it was over, we turned from the gravesite and began to walk back to the cars. Along the way, we exchanged farewells and thank you’s with the small circle of friends and family who had joined us at the cemetery. Our housekeeper, Lucinda, helped my father into the car, while I hugged my best friends, Joni and Desdemona and promised to call them later.

“Join me for a drink and keep me company for a while?” Dad asked, as we pulled out of the cemetery road.

“Sure, Dad. I’d love to.”

We were quiet as I drove us back to my parents’ old Victorian home in Doylestown, about an hour north of Philadelphia. I followed Dad into the house and helped him out of his coat. At 81, he was slowing down, but still spry for his age. Lucinda asked if we needed anything before she retired to her apartment at the back of the house.

“Bring us some ice, would you Luci?” my father asked. “And why don’t you join us?”

“Of course, Mr. Dunne.” She went off to the kitchen while I followed Dad down the hall toward his study.

My father chuckled. “After all these years, she still can’t bring herself to call me by my first name.”

I smiled. “Old habits die hard, Dad. Mother never would have tolerated that kind of familiarity.”

“I suppose not,” he said with a sigh.

Dad’s study was a comfortable, combination office, library and sitting room. He headed for the cabinet behind his desk. “Remember when you used to follow me in here after dinner and pretend to work?”

I laughed. “Yeah. I doodled all over your drafting table and wasted all your staples.”

“Well, it was worth it, Jen. I’m so proud of you.”

“Thanks, Dad.” When the time came to choose a career, the decision was easy. I went to school for engineering and Dad hired me at the company he had founded.

While we waited for Luci to join us, I scanned the bookcases lining the walls and their eclectic collection. They held everything from Newton’s ‘Principia Mathematica’ to Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Kane and Abel’. The cabinet behind the desk held a few bottles —whiskey, bourbon and cognac— along with a couple of glasses to drink from. Dad waited to pour until Luci arrived with a small bowl of ice. By then, I’d made a full circle of the room.

“What’s your pleasure, sweetheart?” he asked.

“Whatever you’re having,” I said, taking a seat in one of the chairs opposite the desk. He poured a Jameson’s and handed it to me. “Thanks.”

He poured one for himself and a cognac for Luci, then settled back in his chair. “Jen, there is something I have to tell you.”


“I’ve decided to move.” He put up a hand so I wouldn’t interrupt. “This is too much house for me. I’m starting to hate going up and down the stairs all the time. I’m moving to Westlake Village. It has apartments, assisted living and nursing care, so when I start going downhill, I can move along the system without a lot of fuss.”

Lucinda added, “And before you say anything, I’m taken care of. I’m going to Florida to live near my sister. The winters in the northeast are getting old and so am I.”

I was speechless for a moment, staring at the old desk that had belonged to Dad’s father before him. As a child, I had taken refuge in the knee hole to escape my mother’s moods. Lucinda must have read my mind. She said, “I always knew where to find you when you went missing.”

I finally felt the tears that had eluded me earlier begin to well up in my eyes. I cleared my throat. “Wow. That was fast.”

Dad continued, “I know it seems sudden but I’ve been thinking about downsizing for a while. The trouble was getting your mother on board. She wasn’t having any of it. But now….” He lifted his hands and let them drop. “My question is, do you want the house? Or should we sell?”

“Geez, Dad! I don’t know what to say. This is so unexpected. Are you sure about this? Do you want me to move home and help you out?”

“My dear, you are a young woman just getting started. You shouldn’t have the burden of caring for an old man.” He raised an eyebrow. “Besides at Westlake Village I’ll have a whole new audience for my jokes.”

I rolled my eyes. “Ok, let me think about it.” I sipped my whiskey and turned to Luci. “When do you leave?”

“I’m hoping to get to Florida before fall, so we have plenty of time. If things are settled before then I can go earlier. Your father’s apartment will be ready May first, so we have about six weeks to pack his things up. I’ll continue to look after the house until you make up your mind.”

I rubbed my temples. “Still… There’s a lot to do before then.”

Dad said, “Not to worry, I’ve already made a start. I’ve shredded old papers, pared down my wardrobe and I’ve even got my favorite books packed.” He swept his hand around. “You can either keep what’s here or donate the whole lot to the library.” He paused. “Your mother wouldn’t let me touch any of her things though. I’m afraid her bedroom, sitting room and the attic are going to be a challenge. I’m sorry, dear.”

I groaned. “Great. I’ll start as soon as I can.”

“One more thing,” he said. “I have a new lawyer.”

“What? Why?” I was shocked. “You’ve been with Vince Quinn for 40 years!”

“Yes and he’s retiring. Now, don’t worry, his son Tommy is taking over the practice and he’s a fine young lawyer.”

“If you say so.”

“Trust me, you’ll like him. Didn’t you meet him last night at the viewing? He was there.”

“I guess so. The whole thing was a blur.” With so many employees from Dad’s company paying their respects, the receiving line went on for hours. I remembered Vince and his wife, Margaret Mary being there. I vaguely recalled Dad introducing me to all three of their sons —my impression was tall, dark and handsome— but I didn’t know which of them was Tommy.

My father continued, “Tommy has everything well in hand. Besides his father has done such a nice job helping me plan our affairs that young Tommy shouldn’t have much to do. When I die, he can probate the will and settle the estate. I’ve made a nice provision for Lucinda and left the rest to you.”

“Please don’t talk like that. I hope you’ll be around for a long time.”

“Well, no matter. Tommy will take care of it all and you won’t have to worry about a thing. And you’ll get to meet him Sunday. The Quinns have invited us for dinner. You didn’t forget?”

“No, I didn’t forget.”

“Now, look,” he said, opening the top drawer of his desk and pulling out a large color brochure. “Check out the golf course over at Westlake Village. You can come play as my guest.”

As we talked over his plans for the move, I began to resign myself to his decision. Despite the circumstances, he seemed optimistic and resolute. It was time to close the book on the life he’d shared with my mother. I stayed for dinner —a light meal scavenged from the food friends had brought to the house following the news of my mother’s death.

Later, as I drove home in the fading light to my condominium, I pondered the idea of returning to live in my childhood home. When I’d finished college and moved back in with my parents, I soon found I just couldn’t stand being under the same roof as my mother. I bought the condo as soon as I could afford it. It was just the right size for a single person with a great room and two bedrooms, the smaller of which I used as an office. I couldn’t imagine giving it up, especially to rattle around in the big old Victorian all by myself. Besides, it’s not like the house was full of happy memories.

Nevertheless, Dad had said to take my time, try to think about things long term. I could redecorate and make the place my own. It might not be a practical choice for a single woman but ‘you won’t always be single, my dear,’ he had said. Way to be optimistic, Dad. I hadn’t had a date in a long time.