Book 4 of the California Coast Romance Series
Mandy’s mother is a fading star with a mental illness. She hasn’t seen her father since he abandoned them when she was five. The last thing she needs is a Hollywood romance on a Yosemite Park set. But James, the director, makes her an offer that’s too good to pass up.
Caterer Mandy Parker doesn’t want to turn out like her mother, an aging bi-polar actress desperate for the love. Avoiding anything Hollywood-related is vital for Mandy’s sanity. Her ideal man has a nine-to-five job and coaches Little League—someone true to her and to their family, unlike her philandering Hollywood producer father. But when waitress shifts at Costanoa Grill are cut, she’s forced to find additional work as a movie caterer.
Since the woman he’d loved had married his best friend, movie set location manager James Lubbock has put women far behind advancing in his career. The assistant caterer is attractive, but he’s more focused on figuring out who is sabotaging his set. If he can’t determine the culprit, he’ll lose everything he’s worked for over the last five years.
Sparks fly between Mandy and James, but can they overcome their painful pasts to risk a chance for romance in Yosemite National Park?
California Thyme is a story about a new adult woman who needs to discover the truth about herself and her past to have a shot at a future career and more. If you like new adult romance with a touch of Hollywood, you’ll enjoy this book.
Books in the California Coast Romance series.
Read an Excerpt
Mandy dumped her discontent and walked into the Costanoa Grill for her evening shift. Waitressing in an upscale restaurant in a beach town in the summer was a decent job. One she was lucky to have in this economy.
As she entered the staff room, Carolyn, a fellow waitress, tapped her on the shoulder. “Good looker just sat down at table nine. He was here last week, too. No wedding band. Jill says he’s a good tipper. Lucky you.”
Mandy smiled. Big tips meant more money in her savings account. Her Subaru was still running, but the high mileage made her nervous. “If the tip is really big, I’ll share, but I’m not interested in anything else.”
“You should be. You’re not getting any younger.” Carolyn tossed her coffee cup in the overflowing trash and went back to work.
Twenty-five isn’t old.
Mandy glanced at the man seated at table nine. His lean profile and square jaw were classically handsome.
If I were in the market for a man, this one would do just fine.
Plucking a sweating water pitcher from the tray, she made her way through the scattered tables to a two-seater by the window. As she picked up his glass to fill it, she smiled at him and said, “Hi, I’m Mandy, and I’ll be your server this evening. Would you like anything to drink besides water?”
His lips curled into a grin, revealing the straight white teeth of a Hollywood smile, a smile that went all the way to his sea-green eyes. The wrap-around sunglasses perched on his sun-blond hair gave him a casual elegance belied by the Rolex on his tan wrist.
Her heart beat a little faster.
Good thing I’m a professional.
She put the water glass down without spilling a drop. “We have an excellent wine list if you’d like to see it.”
“How do you know I’m a wine connoisseur and not a Bud man?” he challenged.
She gestured to his pressed short-sleeve shirt. “A Bud man wouldn’t be caught dead in that.”
He laughed. “You’re right about that!”
Heat rose in her cheeks. “I’ll get you that list.” She brought the water pitcher back to its tray, hoping her face cooled on the way.
Moments later she was back with the thick, imitation-leather-bound book. “I don’t know if you realize this, but you’re at the edge of one of the oldest wine regions in California. We have a nice selection of local beverages on our menu. The Santa Cruz Mountains appellation is particularly known for Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, although there are a few outstanding Cabernet vineyards, too.”
She snapped her mouth shut, wishing she could cut down on her ability to over-share.
“Glad to see your enthusiasm for your job.” He gestured to the purple streak in her hair. “Neat color.”
“Thank you. I’ll return in a few minutes.”
She checked in with her other diners, all the while trying to squash her awareness of the masculine vibe emanating from table nine.
He was exactly the type of man she wanted to avoid—too handsome, self-important, and probably involved in a career that would expose him to women who had no care for the feelings of wives. The same type of man her father had been.
Not the kind she wanted at all. Her ideal was a man with a nine-to-five job, who coached Little League in the summers—a man who’d be true to her and to their family.
The memory of her mother’s tears as she told Mandy of her father’s final infidelity pained her. How could men be so unfeeling? This table nine guy was probably the same as every other man with money and power. Thought he could do anything he wanted.
By the time she got back to the table, she’d worked herself into a solid anger. How dare some Southern California snob come into her restaurant and sit at her table?
“What can I get you?”
Her indignation must have seeped into her voice, because he frowned before answering.
There goes my tip.
“I’ll have the Ridge Cabernet,” he said.
Might as well get dinner started, so he’d finish and leave, and she could begin again.
“Are you ready to order or do you need a few more minutes to decide?”
“Have I done something to offend you?” he asked.
“No. The specials are—” She rattled them off, then waited a few seconds, tapping her pen against the bill folder. “Well?”
She internally winced at the snippy tone in her voice. He didn’t deserve this—he seemed like a nice-enough guy. Once again, she was letting her anger over her past control her present.
He set down the menu and held out his hand. “We seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot here, although for the life of me, I don’t understand why. I’m James Lubbock.”
Automatically, she shook his hand, and electricity raced up and down her spine. He had the strong grip of a man in charge. For a moment she wasn’t sure she’d be able to breathe again.
This was so not good.
She jerked her hand back. “What can I get you, James?”
“Was it the hair?”
“Was it the remark I made about your hair that got you so mad?”
“No. No. It has nothing to do with you.” Her behavior shamed her. “What brings you to Costanoa?” She made an effort to add warmth to her voice.
He grinned at her. His damn teeth sparkled so much she expected a flash, like she’d seen in commercials for whitening strips.
“I’m an assistant locations manager. I’m working for a company filming a movie up toward Davenport,” he said.
Yep. She’d been right. He was a Hollywood guy. Just like dear old dad. “Oh.” She warred with her returning displeasure.
He leaned forward. “Do you think I could get my wine now?”
“Sure.” She fled the table and made a beeline for the polished redwood bar.
“Who’s the stud?” Lynn asked as she poured the wine.
The bartender chuckled. “Like him that much, do you? He might be good for a fling, you know. You can be as kinky as you want, and the rumors will leave when he does.”
Mandy’s cheeks flamed again. If the scuttlebutt about Lynn was true, her activities would make an erotic writer blush. Mandy’s sex life, when she had one, was far from walking on the wild side. She was too busy focusing on her side business, Momentous Meals by Mandy. Didn’t movies need caterers? The marketing book she’d read said to pass business cards out to anyone she met.
She settled the drink on James’s table and attempted to repent for her rudeness. “What does an assistant locations manager do?” She gave him one of her best smiles.
He returned it.
“Get permission to use a location, permits, and supplies, arrange for catering, that kind of thing,” he said.
Without thinking, she pulled a card from the pocket of her apron. “I’m a caterer.” She positioned her card next to his glass. “When I’m not working here, that is.”
“Sorry, we’ve got all the help we need right now.” He glanced at the card, grinned, and slid her business card in his shirt pocket. “Ambitious name. I’ll keep you in mind if a job ever opens up.” He picked up the wine glass. “Cheers.”
She pursed her lips and turned away from the table. What had she been thinking? The last thing she needed was to be anywhere around a movie set. She’d had enough of actors, directors, and hangers-on the first thirteen years of her life.
For the next few minutes she bustled around the small restaurant, deftly avoiding the twinkle-lit ficus trees, crowded chairs, and other tray-laden waitresses while her mind whirled.
Despite turning down her catering offer, he’d been nice to her, and she’d been rude. The man couldn’t help what he did for a living. He wasn’t responsible for her mother’s mental problems or her father’s infidelity. Mandy needed to stop treating every good-looking man as an enemy.
She straightened her spine, plastered a smile on her face, and stopped at table nine. “Are you ready to order now?”
“I’ll have the peppercorn steak.” He looked at her warily, as if trying to gauge if her mood had changed in the last five seconds.
“Good choice!” Mandy tried perkiness.
“Soup or salad?”
“Dressing? We have ranch, blue cheese, vinaigrette … ” Fortunately, her tongue remembered the selections, because her mind was snagged by a random thought of what it would be like to kiss the man from Hollywood.
Movies. Remember he’s in the business.
With James’s choices safely written down, Mandy escaped to the kitchen.
An influx of diners, famished after a long day of playing in the summer sun, kept Mandy focused. While she checked on table nine every few minutes, as she did for all her tables, the man was blessedly occupied with his meal and a magazine.
“What do you do when you’re not waitressing or catering?” James asked when she dropped off a dessert menu.
“I make breakfast at Sarah’s Inn. Dessert?”
He shook his head. “I’ll take an espresso.” As he handed her back the menu, he said, “About that inn. Do you know if they have openings? I’m going to be here for a while, and I’m getting tired of hotel living. I could use some home-cooked meals.” His grin was back.
“The inn only serves breakfast.” She did not need this man underfoot.
“I see.” He pulled her card from his pocket. “What’s the name of the inn?”
“I’ll bring you the inn’s business card with your coffee.” Mandy gestured toward the reception desk. “Sarah keeps a stack here.”
“That’d be great.” He stuffed her card back in his pocket.
After she delivered his coffee, Mandy concentrated on another wave of customers who’d arrived—a party of ten, including five animated children.
Mandy was wistful as she seated them. Would she ever get the chance to have some of her own? When was she going to meet the man of her dreams?
She glanced at table nine. He was the man of someone’s dreams.
She dropped his bill off and quickly walked away, concentrating on keeping the rest of her customers happy. She doubted she’d get a big tip from Mr. Hollywood after the way she’d treated him, so she needed to work the others for theirs.
The next time she looked over, he was gone.
She stormed over to the table. Had he done the unthinkable and left without paying?
No. Some cash stuck out from the folder.
She opened it and counted the bills, almost dropping them to the floor when she realized he’d left her a twenty-dollar bill for her tip.
Maybe James Lubbock wasn’t typical Hollywood after all.
End of Excerpt
“Casey Dawes is a rising star. California Thyme is a lovely, emotionally complex story with heart and passion, featuring two characters who deserve to find their happy ending.” ~ New York Times Bestselling Author, RaeAnne Thayne