Perfectly Matched

PERFECTLY MATCHED
Legend's Landing B&B, Book 3
Romantic Comedy, Novella

Suzie Matthews is hard at work on her new cookbook, Perfectly Matched, when she asks the local “wallflower” to help her with a project. Mary Lou Picketts dreams of falling in love with country music star, Nash Rhodes, but is ready to settle for Thurman Phillips down the street. But she doesn’t want to. Not really. When Nash comes to Legend for a music benefit and stays at the lodge, Suzie wonders if she can perfectly match this miss-matched couple.

Chapter One

The sushi looked fabulous.

Suzie Matthews glanced up at the smiling Japanese girl behind the counter who was rolling rice, spicy tuna and seaweed—and shrugged. “Who would of thought that the Legend, Tennessee Piggly Wiggly supermarket would ever hire a sushi chef?”

The girl smiled back and said, “See what you want? I make more.”

Shaking her head, Suzie returned, “Oh no. You’ve got quite a selection here.” She reminded herself to tell her husband, Brad, about her new discovery. The two of them being chefs, they were always interested in the new food offerings in their small town of Legend.

Somehow she couldn’t imagine sushi on the menu at Lake Lodge, Brad’s business. Nor could she imagine it at her bed and breakfast. Sushi on the menu in this Tennessee mountain town seemed, well, ridiculously out of place.

Still, she picked up a pretty salmon roll.

“What do you think of my little sushi girl?” The deep voice came from behind her.

Suzie turned to face Ralph Myers, the owner of the Piggly Wiggly. Rumor had it that he left the franchise and had gone independent. Recently, he’d been trying a lot of new twists to get Legendarians to buy their groceries local rather than driving the hour or so to Knoxville.

Hence, the sushi attempt.

Glancing at the raw seafood in her hand, she said, “The sushi looks great, Ralph. But whatever possessed you…?”

He cut her off with a wave of both hands and leaned her way. “She’s a gem. I stole her from a restaurant in Memphis. Just the thing Legend needs.” Then he stepped back and crossed both arms across his chest while nodding. “We’re uptown now.”

How can you doubt a man who is so pleased with himself? Suzie smiled and put the salmon roll in her cart. “I hope it works out for you, Ralph.” She glanced toward the meat counter. “Now, tell me about your beef sale. I need a couple of nice juicy rib-eyes.”

He led her to the counter and proceeded to tell Bart Shackler behind it to get her a couple of extra-thick cuts, the best he had.

“Now, Ralph,” she batted her eyes, “y’all don’t have to give me special treatment…”

He bowed and swept a hand in front him. “Ma’am, yes I do. If I keep you buying from me, Ms. Famous Cookbook Author, I can claim you as my own customer. See?”

He pointed behind the meat case and Suzie cast her gaze on the wall there. “Well, knock me over with a noodle. Ralph, what in the world is that!”

A huge poster graced the wall. On it was a picture of her—the same photograph on her just-released cookbook, The Best of Legend’s Landing Bed and Breakfast—with a tag line that read, “Legend’s Own Celebrity Chef, Suzie Matthews, shops at Myers’ Piggly Wiggly!”

“Oh my! Ralph, you shouldn’t have done that!” She was embarrassed, to say the least, but not one bit surprised that Ralph would try to capitalize on her celebrity. Still, she was homegrown Legend, and if he wanted to gain from her growing popularity, then that was fine with her.

Ralph leaned and winked. “Hope you don’t mind, Suzie. I’ll give you ten percent off your order if you let me keep it up. I’d like to put an ad in the paper, too.”

Now that made her a mite uncomfortable. She smiled sweetly. “Ralph Myers, I’ve shopped at The Pig all my life and I have no intention of shopping anywhere else. I’m honored to have my poster up in your store and you can keep your ten percent, because,” she reached out and grasped his hand and leaned forward herself, “that’s the way we do things here in Legend.”

He covered her hand with his and nodded in gratitude, she suspected. Then he left her and headed toward the front of the store, tossing a hand up at another customer coming down the aisle.
Sighing, Suzie looked back at the poster. “Oh boy,” she said under her breath. “Brad will get a kick out of this.”

Movement to her right caught her attention as someone else stepped up to the meat counter. She looked and saw Mary Lou Picketts staring at the wall, too. Oh dear, what will the rest of Legend think of this? Again, she was a tad embarrassed.
She followed Mary Lou’s gape, however, and realized that she wasn’t exactly looking at the Suzie poster, but yet, something else had caught the young woman’s eye.

A different kind of sigh exited Mary Lou’s lips and Suzie watched as she gazed up at a man pictured on another poster—tall, lean, dark and gritty, with a guitar slung over his shoulder—and then studied her face as Mary Lou took in the full-color and full-body likeness of Nash Rhodes, Nashville’s newest and up-and-coming country crooner.

Adoration. That was the look on Mary Lou’s face.

No, that wasn’t it.

Adolescent crush-like?

No. Mary Lou had to be close to thirty and was way past the adolescent crush phase of life. The look was something else. Like staring at something just out of reach. Perhaps lost and given up on.

Longing?

Love?

Suzie shook her head. Of course not. No one falls in love with a celebrity icon. Oh, they may think they are in love, but how could they truly be? You cannot fall in love with someone by reading their fanzines, watching them on CMT, scouring the Internet for tidbits of information, and going to their concerts.

Mary Lou heaved another sigh. Suzie watched her chest rise, her breasts lift, and then fall in a half-defeated motion. She felt a little sorry for her and wasn’t sure why.

She leaned Mary Lou’s way. “Hard to believe he’s going to be in Legend this weekend, isn’t it?” The poster was advertising the benefit concert to raise money for the children’s wing of the hospital. Nash was the star attraction.

The young woman swung her way and jumped back. “Oh! Suzie. I didn’t realize you were there!”
Smiling, she reached out to grasp her elbow. “No problem, honey. Thought I’d say hello. Came in to pick up some meat.”

Mary Lou rotated her gaze back toward the poster. “Yeah. Meat. A hunk of it.”

“Mary Lou!” Suzie chuckled.

Mary Lou’s hands fluttered to her neck. “Oh! Did I say that out loud?”

“Sure enough did, sweetie.” Suzie stepped up beside her and they stood and ogled the poster together. “I do have to agree that that man is definitely one prime choice of—”

“Beefsteak?”

The women rolled their gazes toward the meat case and Bart who was holding out Suzie’s rib-eyes.
“Ahem. Yes. Thanks, Bart.”

“No problem, dear.” A sly grin broke his lips and he left.

Suzie grabbed her steaks and Mary Lou waved as she headed in a brisk walk toward the produce aisle. Embarrassed, Suzie guessed.

A few years younger than herself, Mary Lou had always been one of the smartest girls in her class, but sad to say, had not dated that much. Suzie remembered a couple of boyfriends, but nothing significant—according to the Legend rumor mill—except that brief buzz recently that she had finally settled for Thurman Phillips who lived down the street. Suzie hoped not. She could barely picture the two of them together. Other than that, there was nothing to indicate a relationship of any significance. Too bad, she was an attractive young woman in a plain sort of way.

Still watching, Suzie took stock. Her clothes were rather baggy, but underneath, her frame was small with rounded hips moving beneath the jogging pants. Mary Lou turned and Suzie caught site of a rounded contour in the chest area.
Mary Lou Picketts was hiding a rack under those old clothes!

Moving to her face, devoid of make-up, Suzie took stock of a smooth, peaches and cream complexion hiding behind a mousy brown ponytail caught high on her head, which hung down to frame part of her face.
An interesting notion was growing in Suzie’s heart and gut. She glanced once more at the poster of Nash Rhodes, and then back to Mary Lou. Nash was doing that big benefit concert at the Lodge this weekend, and her husband Brad was hosting the thing…

Did she dare?

Yes. Consider it a gift to humanity. Besides, she had managed to incidentally hook her sister Chelly and her old boyfriend Matt Branson back up together, hadn’t she? And that was a rematch made in Heaven. Maybe she could work a little match-making magic on Mary Lou.

Lord knows, the girl could stand a break.

Determined, she tossed the steaks in the cart, gripped the handle, and ventured forth.

“Mary Lou? Wait!”
~~~~~
“No. Absolutely not.”

“It’s just dinner, Brad. It’s the least we can do.”

“Impossible.” Her husband stared at her. No, glared was more like it.

“Relax, Brad.” She stepped forward and smoothed her hands over his muscled chest.

“This will not be a problem, I promise you. Think what it would do for my career to have the famous Nash Rhodes to the B&B for dinner. I could even interview him for the Tennessee B&B Gazette. I need this chance, Brad! Please?”

He frowned. “This is above and beyond the call of husbandly duties, Suzette.”

With a wicked smile, she slipped a couple of fingers under his belt. “I’ll repay you later by going above and beyond the call of wifely duties, husband.” Brad groaned and grasped her waist. She continued, “All you need to do is wrangle him away from the lodge for a couple of hours, either before or after the show, and I’ll do the rest.”

Brad stopped her hands on his chest by placing his big paws over hers. Those dark eyes of his, always so mesmerizing, peered down at her. “Not happening. I have no control over his agenda once he gets here. He’ll be sequestered away in his bus most of the time, whisked in for the concert, and then back out again. It’s a benefit, one that wasn’t on their books and they aren’t making any money on this—Nash Rhodes is not going to be lingering in Legend long and I’m not asking for special favors. Especially for some lovelorn wallflower.”

Suzie dropped her hands and frowned. “Mary Lou is a very pretty girl under all that hair and fabric. She just lacks confidence and needs a little coaching.”

“Whatever. Still, I can’t do this.”

“He’s not staying at the Lodge?”

“No. He’s parking his bus behind it and staying there.”

“Crap. That was my Plan B.” She batted her eyes at him again. Thinking. “Could you get him here a day early, perhaps? Some sort of pre-concert event?”

He grasped her face in his hands. “You persistent little minx. No. The way his manager talks, he’s practically on 24-7 call.”

“But I bet you could arrange it. Give him the presidential suite and all the amenities you can muster. I’ll bake and have a ton of goodies there. I hear he has a sweet tooth. I can’t work magic in that trailer of his; I need to get him out of it.”

“My dear wife… I love you to pieces, but I am having no part of what you are planning.
The man is the current young gun of Nashville. Their shooting star. They’ve got him booked so heavily he doesn’t have time to call his mother without being scheduled.”

Leaning up on her tiptoes, Suzie smiled and kissed her husband’s salty lips, not to be put aside so easily. “I’m counting on you, Brad Matthews,” she whispered, and he drew her closer.

“Did I tell you about the pink furry handcuffs I bought in Knoxville the other day? And that strawberry flavored massage gel?” The groan came from deeper in his chest this time. “Now go call and see what you can do.”
~~~~~
“Yes. Yes. Truly. I need your help.” Suzie listened as Mary Lou rattled off excuse after excuse over the telephone why she couldn’t come to the B&B tomorrow. “We made a deal!”

Pause and listen.

“I know that Miss Pricilla is important to you, and I would never suggest that you forgo her needs to help me out, but do you think she could wait another couple of days for her shots? After all, she’s a cat, not a human.”

The gasp that came up on the other end of the phone was way too sharp in Suzie’s ear. Dammit, probably not a good tack. “Oh, I see. She has allergies?”

Crap. The damn cat was allergic to mold and it had been a rainy summer, even now, in August. The mountains were full of mold spores.

“But could someone else take her to the vet for you? My next cookbook deadline is looming, and I need a third opinion on these meal plans…”

There was a long pause on the other end of the line and Suzie waited, drumming her fingers on her granite kitchen counter. She thought she could hear mumbling coming through from Mary Lou’s end.

She perked back up at the sound of Mary Lou’s voice. “You did? Wonderful! Oh, yes, ten o’clock in the morning is fine. I’m so glad you were able to…”

Panic seized Suzie’s belly. “What? Wh-who agreed to take Miss Priscilla? Your fiancĂ©? Oh my, but Mary Lou, I didn’t know… Who?”

She breathed deep and learned of the recent engagement.

Thurman Phillips. The rumor was true. Mary Lou Picketts had settled for the loser down the street.
Wrong. This was oh, sooooo, wrong.

Her work was cut out for her and there was very little time. The Nash Rhodes benefit concert was Saturday night.

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