Book Three in the Grace Series
Shouldn’t Starting Over Be Easier?
Bailey Evans has moved her entire life from Colorado Springs to Cartersville in one weekend. After breaking up with her fiancé two weeks before the wedding, Bailey starts over with a new job, as the chef and co-owner of Taste & See Catering.
Andrea Cabot started the catering business but quickly discovered she didn’t love the cooking part and prayed for a chef. After a chance meeting with Bailey, the two women become close. They decide to start working together to make their dreams come true.
Life would be perfect if only Andrea’s son, Joshua wasn’t completely against the catering business and convinced Bailey was a scam artist, taking advantage of Andrea’s kind heart.
When Andrea is injured in a horrible car accident, Joshua sees his chance to prove Bailey isn’t the answer to Andrea’s prayers and now he can put an end to the catering business once and for all.
Continue Below for a Sneak Preview of the First Chapter in Trusting Grace: Book Three of the Grace Series:
“Hey, Grace. Wait a moment, please.”
Grace turned to see an older woman with gray hair rushing down the aisle to catch up with her. Grace stopped walking to face Noelle Adams. “Hello, Noelle. How are you and your family doing?”
Placing a hand on her stomach, Noelle took a deep breath and then smiled, “I’m good and thankfully the rest of my crazy crew is fine, too. I wanted to personally give you the photos of Maddy in her prom gown. We wanted you to have copies since you helped us so much with the dress.”
“It was my pleasure.” Taking the photos from her outstretched hand, Grace looked down to see a beautiful young woman in an emerald green prom dress from a few weeks ago.
“If you know who donated the money for Maddy to have the dress, please let them have a picture. I know how much Maddy wanted to go, and it’s been such a hard few months for her.”
“For all of you, I’m sure.” Grace put her hand on the woman’s shoulder. “I’m glad it worked out for her to go. I’ll pass the picture along to the donor.”
Tears welled up in Noelle’s brown eyes, even after almost three months of therapy to help her oldest daughter overcome an eating disorder, it was sometimes hard to face. “We’re working through things, and I know how important it was for her to go to prom and feel like a normal teenager with her friends. I’m so glad someone from church blessed us with the money since it’s still tight with Michael not working full time.” Pushing a few hairs away from her face, she tucked them back in her bun. “He’s been doing more and more jobs, but nothing permanent yet. Helping with the crew adding onto Pastor Cole’s house has really helped though and we’re still trusting God. That’s what matters.”
Hugging her, Grace said, “I’m still praying for all of you. If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.”
“That reminds me,” Noelle said while digging in her purse. “We just had a family move out of our rental property that isn’t too far from your place. When we were in your bridal shop, your assistant said she was looking for a place to live. Is she still looking?”
Grace took the flyer with a lovely little house on the front with FOR RENT in bold red letters across the top. “No, Lizzy moved in with a friend a few weeks ago. She decided to try a roommate to save on rent because she wants to get her master’s.” Seeing the worry flash in Noelle’s eyes, Grace quickly said, “But I’ll keep my ears open for anyone looking for a place.”
“Thanks, hon! I know God has someone in mind, especially since this family had to abruptly leave to move across the country for an ailing parent. I really felt He told me not to charge them for breaking the lease, even though the rental agreement says sixty days’ notice.”
Shaking her head a moment, Noelle smiled again. “The flyer has a small description and contact information if you find someone interested. It’s a really nice place with two bedrooms, two and a half baths and a nice kitchen. Michael went a little overboard with the kitchen, because of all the free time he had when he was first laid off. We had to bump up the rent to pay for the stainless steel appliances and granite countertops he put in, but it’s still cheaper than an apartment in Atlanta.”
Both ladies turned to see a small child waving at Noelle, who turned back to Grace with a smile. “I’ve got to run. My family’s waiting for lunch.”
The two ladies hugged, and then Grace moved toward her car, hungry and wanting to fix a quick lunch at home. She usually ate out with a group from church, but with her best friend getting married in Colorado in two weeks, she needed to do some work from home today.
Putting the AC on full blast for the already hot and muggy May they were having, she put her long copper red hair into a ponytail and drove home on autopilot. So wrapped up in making her to-do list, she didn’t notice the big black SUV in her driveway until she almost crashed into it, because it was blocking her garage.
Parking behind the hulking piece of machinery, she was puzzled by the Atlanta plates and didn’t know of anyone who drove such a big car. She grabbed her purse and Bible before moving to the front porch to see a small woman with auburn red hair in a cute pixie cut looking at a cooking magazine.
“Bailey! What are you doing here? I’m supposed to be flying out to see you soon!”
Grace dropped her things on the pavement and ran to hug her friend, already standing up to greet her. “Your hair, it’s so short… what happened to wearing it long for the wedding? You’ve been saying for months you were going to grow your hair longer than mine.”
Leaning back, Grace saw Bailey’s eyes were red-rimmed and pulled her into her arms. “Bales, sweetie, what’s wrong?”
Bailey hugged her back but didn’t look her in the eye when she stepped away. Instead, she picked up her bags piled high on the porch and said, “Let’s go inside to talk. It’s too muggy out here and I think it’s going to rain again soon.”
Grace could see the fake smile on her friend’s face and didn’t understand what had happened to her bubbly, happy personality. Recognizing she wasn’t ready to talk, Grace grabbed one of the bags on the porch. “You seem to have a lot of stuff for a visit.”
Huffing a little as she carried two large bags, Bailey said, “Yeah, this is just the stuff I didn’t want in the heat. I have more in the SUV and the moving truck arrives in less than two days. Umm. You don’t happen to know of any places to rent around here, do you?”
Grace thinking about her growling stomach took a few seconds to register what Bailey said. “What moving truck? Bailey Dawn Evans, WHAT’S GOING ON? You’re supposed to be getting married in two weeks!”
Bailey didn’t answer, but set her bags down and moved calmly to the kitchen. When Grace rounded the corner, she saw Bailey at the refrigerator taking out items for lunch.
I’m glad I stocked the fridge yesterday. Living with Bailey in college taught me a stocked fridge is essential for us to live happily together. I’m going to let her calm down and cook. That always worked and then we’re having a long talk about what’s happened. “Bales, I’m going to put your stuff in the guest room and change. When I get back we can talk.” Lord, please comfort Bailey. I know something’s happened and it hurts to see my friend like this. She’s always been the steady one, the fun one. Help me, help her.
Not bothering to answer, Bailey continued making a quick pasta salad, occasionally reaching up to touch the short hair that until recently had been as long as Grace’s.
Bailey didn’t have to watch Grace leave to know her friend was worried and would be back quickly to pry the story out of her. Don’t cry, he isn’t worth it. You cried the whole trip, and you promised to stop at the Bartow County line, and you passed that two hours ago.
Hoping she would keep her promise this time, she focused on cooking. She had never been the weepy type, but she had been crying for two days now, always extending the deadline to stop. She was so intent on chopping vegetables, she missed hearing Grace walk back a few moments later until Grace sat at the breakfast bar across from her and said, “Spill.”
Bailey looked down with a smile, remembering the many times Grace had demanded the same thing after a date or bad grade, which lead Bailey to cook and talk. Seeing the concern in her friend’s green eyes, she put her head back down and said, “I’m almost done. Thank goodness for the well-stocked fridge. I’ve taught you well.”
Grace raised an eyebrow. “I do know how to cook, Bales. I just chose not to when you’re around since you love it so much.”
Before Grace had a chance to say anything else, Bailey said quietly, “Preston and I are over. I dumped his sorry butt and have called off the wedding.” Moving to set the food on the table, she continued, “Well, I told him it was over anyway, but I don’t think he believed me. I still need to tell everyone else, but I’ve packed up my entire apartment, and I’m moving to Cartersville to be Andrea Cabot’s chef for her catering business.”
Grace’s eyes widen, but she only said, “Let’s start at the beginning. Why did you two break up? When did you break up?” Sitting down at the table, she put a napkin on her lap and waited for Bailey to continue.
Bailey heard the surprise in Grace’s voice and knew this was really impulsive, even for her, but didn’t want to go into too much detail, afraid she would start crying again. I’ve done enough crying for more than thirteen hundred miles.
“Preston and I were to have a quiet dinner after Friday’s dinner rush was over.” She sat down opposite Grace and picked up her fork to push food around her plate.
Bailey didn’t get anything else out, because Grace interrupted her, “Friday? You mean this past Friday as in the day before yesterday?!?”
“Yes, now let me finish.” Bailey took a bite of pasta and thought, Grace needs fresh lemons. It would make all the difference. Closing her eyes, she continued, “We were to go over last-minute details for the wedding. Plus, we haven’t been able to see each other for more than a passing moment for weeks. I was waiting for him in his office when the door opened. I heard him say, ‘Bailey will get over it.’”
Bailey smirked, “I don’t know who was more surprised, me or him.” Taking a shuddering breath she continued, “He quickly got off the phone and said ‘Hello, Cookie.’ A pet name he knows I hate, but he thinks is witty, because I’m a cook.”
Grace noticed she never looked her in the eye but kept telling the story with as little emotion as possible.
“When I demanded he tell me what was going on, he said he was talking to the chef he hired to replace me.”
Confused, Grace asked, “Replace you… do you meanwhile you’re on your honeymoon?”
Bailey shook her head no. “Preston was going to wait until we were back from our honeymoon to tell me he didn’t want HIS wife working outside the home and had hired a chef to replace me.”
Reaching a hand out to her friend, Grace asked, “Bales, didn’t the two of you talk about working after the wedding?”
Eyes tearing up, Bailey swiped at them with her free hand. “Of course, I told him my job was important to me when he mentioned once about me quitting. I naively assumed he was talking about when we’d be starting a family. I told him I wanted us to be married for a bit before we had kids… you know learn how to be a couple first. I’d happily stop working a bit to have kids at least until they were in school. He never…” I remember the exact day we had the conversation and he said we’d do what’s best for the family. Not for a moment did I imagine he was going to try to manipulate me.
Taking a bite of pasta to compose herself, Bailey’s mind went back to Friday night when she finally admitted to herself that Preston had always been manipulative and controlling. I’ve lied to myself for months and now I’m paying for it by having to pack up my whole life and move across the country to start over.
Realizing she had been quiet for a while, Bailey looked up and smiled at her friend. Grace hadn’t said a word but held her hand waiting for her to continue when she was ready. Taking a sip of water, Bailey picked up the story again. “After I realized what he had done, I told him we were over and called off the wedding…” Bailey’s voice cracked, but she continued, “He didn’t believe I was serious and said he’d let me cool off. He actually said this was better because now, I could get over it before the wedding. I tried to explain how serious I was, but he was treating me like an angry child upset over something she couldn’t have.”
Standing up, Bailey began to pace, “When I realized I couldn’t convince him, I walked out, but he called after me saying, ‘We’ll talk Sunday when we meet my parents at the country club to go over the final details for the wedding. Sunday became my new deadline. I had to be out of the state before Sunday at 5:30 when he would swing by my apartment to pick me up.”
Walking over to the kitchen sink, she began to scrub a pan. “When he arrives, nothing will be there. My sweet landlady had the movers pick everything up yesterday while I was driving to the airport. I had most everything packed for after we got back from our honeymoon.” It’s not really running if you have a job and a place to live, right?
Grace sat back from the table facing Bailey at the sink. “I’m sorry, Bales. Preston’s a jerk.”
Bailey only scrubbed the pan harder. Grace watched her a moment and said, “You’ve always been the more impulsive one in our friendship, but have you thought about what you’re going to do? I truly don’t mind you staying here with me, but I know you Bales, and you don’t sit still very long. This seems to be more than a long visit.”
“Don’t worry, Grace.” Bailey winked. “It’s all worked out. It’s one of your little miracles in fact because I have a new job I start on Wednesday. My stuff will be here Tuesday, which gives me tomorrow to find a place to live.” Looking around Grace’s immaculate kitchen, she knew her messy self and her tidy friend would not mesh living on long terms anymore.
“How in the world did you find a job here from Colorado Springs over a weekend?”
“You remember when I came down last September the weekend of the silent auction?” After Grace nodded, Bailey continued, “I met Andrea Cabot that Sunday. She sat behind us and when Pastor said introduce yourself, I turned around and said my name’s Bailey and I’m a chef. She smiled and said she was Andrea and she ran a catering business. While you went to see if we needed to help with cleanup, she and I exchanged emails to trade recipes.”
“Oh, yes, Andrea’s a wonderful woman. Her family only moved here three years ago and she started the catering company called…”
“Taste & See Catering, yes, well you’re looking at the new chef.”
“I thought Andrea was the chef?”
“She was, but it turns out she loves the planning and organizing the details, instead of the actual cooking and planning of menus, which I love. We stayed in touch and we’ve been talking weekly about recipes and ways to expand the business. I’ve never run a catering only business before, but love the idea of creating different menus for different events, expanding what I create by tying themes and party ideas to the food.”
“That’s great! But I still don’t know how this happened?”
“Three days before my engagement, Andrea called to ask me to be the chef, because she wasn’t cut out to cook for large numbers. I told her I was happy where I was, but would be on the lookout for someone who would be a good fit.”
Finished with the pan, Bailey moved to load the dishwasher, when Grace took the plates out of her hands. Bailey enjoyed the fact they still had their little ritual and moved to sit at the breakfast bar. “When things blew up with Preston, I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I just knew I had to get far, far away. I really wanted to come here, but didn’t want to arrive on your doorstep with only luggage and no job.”
Grace paused loading the dishes, tears in her eyes. “You could’ve Bales. You’re my best friend and I would’ve welcomed you with open arms.”
Bailey looked at her, tears falling down her cheeks, “I know, but that isn’t me.” Taking a deep breath to stop the tears, she said, “I don’t do helpless female and I refuse to start now.”
“I understand that.”
“I knew you would!” Shaking her head, Bailey said, “I called Andrea yesterday at an ungodly hour and asked if the position was still open and I’d be here by Monday.”
Bailey smiled her first genuine smile since Friday thinking about joining Andrea’s catering business. For months they had been talking and strategizing ways to expand the business to more than just making food. It wasn’t Andrea’s favorite part and showcase her talent for planning the entire event, taking care of little details to make any event special, unique, and on a budget.
Their phone calls were one of the highlights of Bailey’s week and she was only now realizing how much she already felt a part of the business. The two women had become friends, and Andrea was like a mentor because they often discussed more than business. Andrea had two young boys and figured her friend was close to her age.
When I called to tell Andrea I wanted the job, I finally realized just how much I wanted to be a part of Taste & See Catering.
Crushing the napkin she had been folding, Bailey said, “Andrea asked me to be her partner.”
Grace stopped loading the dishwasher to stare at her friend, “That’s wonderful, Bales!”
Nodding, Bailey said, “I couldn’t believe it when she asked, but I know it’s her way of showing she’s committed to this and after the Preston thing, I can’t tell you how much it means to have someone want to be partners.” Partners, a concept Preston knows nothing about.
“And we both know when you commit to something, you go all in. I would expect nothing less from you, Bales.”
Bailey winked. “Which is why I told Andrea I didn’t want to be partners in name only. I’m taking the money my Grandmother left me to have an equal stake in the business.” I want Andrea to know how committed I am and plus it lets me completely sever ties with Colorado Springs and the life I left there. What little money I have leftover will be to help me stay afloat until the business takes off.
“Andrea and I feel that with me taking over the cooking and her running the entertainment, décor, and business side, Taste & See Catering will become even more successful and fun for both of us.”
Closing the dishwasher, Grace said, “It sounds like a great plan, and I know Cartersville’s booming, so there should be lots of opportunities.”
“That’s what Andrea says,” Bailey stood up. “I’m meeting her on Wednesday to sign papers. After, I’ll see the kitchen set up for us to plan a baby shower, but I need to find a place to live before my things arrive on Tuesday. Do you have any ideas? It would help if it had a decent kitchen because I’ll do a lot of testing at my place since the catering kitchen is in Andrea’s home.”
“Actually, there’s a place just down the road from here that would be perfect. I just need to call the Adams to see if they can let us see it today. Oh, I have a flyer in my purse. It has a picture of the kitchen and it looks amazing. God’s timing is perfect because Noelle told me about it only this morning.”
Not waiting for Bailey to reply, Grace ran upstairs. She was excited to see Bailey was happier. It did look like God had His hand in this new adventure. The move, new job, and rental property are exactly what Bailey needed.
Lord, I don’t think I could’ve done what Bailey did, but thank you for working everything out so perfectly. Please let this be the right path for my friend, I know she’s hurting. Help her to turn to you during this uncertain time. Will you please bless this business venture?
Pulling the flyer from her purse, she grabbed her phone to call Noelle. Hopefully, we can look at the house today and have Bailey ready to move in on Tuesday. Things are certainly working out so far.
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