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Marriage Made in Monte Calanetti

Written by Susan Meier

First love, second chance?

Monte Calanetti, nestled in the Tuscan countryside, is famed for its vineyards and beautiful Palazzo. But for Lily Norelli it will always be where she said no to her first love's proposal and broke her heart.

Now Michele Patruno is back. He's a renowned chef, more gorgeous than ever and waitress Lily's new boss! How long can Lily stand the heat of their attraction before risking her heart again?

The Vineyards of Calanetti Saying 'I do' under the Tuscan sun…

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Chapter One

Michele Patruno walked into the kitchen of Mancini's, the new Tuscan restaurant in Monte Calanetti owned by his friend Chef Rafe Mancini. The scents of risotto, sweet sausage, succulent lamb hit him as he stepped into the ultra-modern, stainless steel kitchen.

At the sound of the door closing, Rafe spun from the prep table. His silver-gray eyes widened. His turned-down lips lifted into a rarely seen smile.

"Michele!"

He bounded over, enfolding Mic into an embrace that could only be described as the hug of a bear. Then he pushed him away. "What are you doing here?"

"You don't think my favorite mentor could open a restaurant and I would stay away?"

Rafe studied him, those gray eyes always astute. "It took you long enough to come by."

Michele deliberately avoided the unspoken question of why he never returned to his hometown. "I wanted to make sure you had at least one Michelin star before I tested the food."

"One?" Rafe batted a hand. "Bah! You underestimate me. Everyone underestimates me."

No one underestimated Chef Rafe. Aspiring chefs emulated him. Apprenticing chefs wanted to be him. Secretly in love with the tall, handsome chef, critics worked to find things wrong with his food, his restaurant, so they wouldn't be accused of favoritism. Chef Rafe's star was on the rise…as long as he could keep his temper in check.

"So you are here for food?"

"My aunt and uncle moved south. While I have a little time, I told them I'd stay in their condo until it sold." He glanced around. "But that risotto does smell nice."

"Nice! I will have you arrested for insulting me."

Mic laughed. A feeling of normalcy, rightness, rippled through his blood and muscles. He loved teasing his friend. "Okay. It does smell amazing."

Rafe dropped his arm to Mic's shoulders. "It is good to see you, Mic." He turned them to the door. "Now, we find you a table. And I will treat you to food so tempting, so brilliant, you will fall to your knees and thank your maker."

Mic laughed again.

He followed Rafe to the dining room. It was exactly as Mic pictured it would be. Though Rafe had added a modern kitchen to the back of the old farm house he'd renovated, he'd kept the dining room true to the house's origins. Antique tables covered in white linen clothes sat on earth-tone ceramic tile floors. The rustic shutters on the huge window in the back were open, revealing the resting countryside of Tuscany in January. The bar by the kitchen bustled with business as waitresses shouted wine orders.

"Are you the chef?"

Rafe stopped at the question from the customer. Behind him, Mic stopped too.

"Si."

The customer smiled. "Your spaghetti sucks."

Rafe scoffed. "My spaghetti is superb. If you disagree, your pallet…how you say? … Sucks?"

Rafe's response didn't surprise Mic. Rafe was so good at what he did that he sometimes couldn't relate to ordinary people. What shocked Mic was the laughter that quietly rippled through the dining room.

Rafe moved on as if unconcerned, marching Mic to a table in the back as he waved over a waitress. "Tonight's dinner is on me. Give me twenty minutes and I will make you the happiest man on earth."

Watching Rafe leave, he didn't see the waitress who'd appeared at the side of the table and slid a menu in front of him. He opened it, as he glanced up with a smile, then his breathing and – he was sure – his heart stopped.

"Liliana?"

Her waitress smile faded. Her brown eyes darkened. "Mic?"

He tried to think of something clever to say, but words failed him. After two years of teaching himself to forget her and another six years of believing he had. Here she was.

The question was could he be polite? Or should he demand the answers he should have gotten eight years ago?

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About the author

I was raised on a small farm in western Pennsylvania and attribute my ...

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Susan Meier

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