ALEXANDRA MCKNIGHT opened the door to her dream-come-true restaurant and held her breath.
She loved this place already and she wanted her dearest friends to see beyond the sawhorses and scaffolding and unfinished surfaces to the potential awesomeness of it.
The members of her book club filed in, a little out of breath after walking up the hilly Main Street from her sister Maura’s bookstore in downtown Hope’s Crossing. At least they had a lovely April day for the walk, sunny and pleasant, with only a few puffy clouds overhead.
Claire McKnight, Alex’s best friend and now sister-in-law, was the first one inside. She moved past the new double-sided river-rock fireplace that separated what would be the reception area from the first-floor dining room.
Claire whirled around to take in the walls, peeled back to bare brick, the original wood flooring and the intact fire pole that descended from the second-floor dining area that used to be the sleeping quarters of the old firehouse, back in the days when Hope’s Crossing was a rough and rowdy mining town.
“What a fantastic space,” Claire exclaimed. “I’ll admit, I was more than a little nervous when you told me Brodie and Jack were cooking up this idea. I mean, this old place has been an eyesore in town forever! I thought they should have torn it down years ago. Now that I see the renovations, my mind is racing with possibilities.”
“I know, right?” Alex beamed at Claire and her other friends and several family members gathered beside them.
“Pure genius to replace the fire-truck doors with that big sliding wall of windows,” Charlotte Caine exclaimed, her pretty features alight. “What an incredible view of Woodrose Mountain and downtown. You can see everything from here.”
“I know. And on summer days, we can roll the windows to the side and make the whole thing a big outdoor space.
“Oh, darling. This is fantastic,” her mother exclaimed. Mary Ella squeezed her hand, and Alex was so glad she had brought them to the restaurant for the quick tour and an impromptu picnic dinner to take care of the Bites part of their Books and Bites name.
“Brodie is so excited about Brazen.” Evie Thorne tucked a strand of long blond hair behind her ear. “I haven’t seen him this enthusiastic about a project in a long time.”
“Jack really did a fantastic job with the design,” Mary Ella said, looking around.
“Of course he did. He’s Jackson Lange.” The wife of the man in question smiled with a contentment Alex never thought she would see again on her older sister’s features, after the hellish time two years ago. She owed Jack so much. The creative architectural genius that had gone into designing this space was the very least of her debts to him.
She smiled at this group of women she loved dearly. “I’m am indeed blessed to have friends and sisters who are not only brilliant and talented in their own rights, but who also have the good taste to marry well...so I don’t have to.”
As she might have expected, her words earned a laugh from nearly everyone except her mother. Alex didn’t miss the spark of worry in her mother’s eyes behind their trendy little glasses.
She ignored it, as she customarily did. She wasn’t going to let her mother’s concern bother her. Not when she was so relieved at their excited reaction to the restaurant, even at this embryonic stage.
“Thank you for walking all the way up the hill for lunch today. As a reward, you get to be the first to enjoy a meal here at Brazen, of sorts. I packed a picnic for us. It seemed appropriate, given the infamous picnic in this month’s selection.”
“I still say we should have picked Pride and Prejudice instead of Emma. Mr. Darcy is a much sexier hero than Mr. Knightley,” Brodie’s mother, Katherine, opined, a distinct gleam in her eyes.
“We read P and P two years ago, remember?” Mary Ella reminded her. “Alex made that fantastic white soup and the trifles.”
“I do hope you don’t have pigeon pies and cold lamb in that hamper you lugged all the way up here,” Alex’s oldest sister, Angie, said.
“How do you remember what they ate at the picnic in Emma?” Charlotte asked with a laugh.
Angie grinned. “I’m all about the food. You should know that by now.”
“No pigeon or lamb. Boring cold fried chicken, potato salad and fruit. But I do have pie. And other things.”
She pulled open the large hamper, reached inside for the blanket and spread it out on the wooden floor. “Sorry we don’t have tables and chairs yet. They’re on order but won’t be here for another few weeks. If you prefer not to sit on the floor, you can sit on the stairs. Katherine, Mom, Ruth, you three can sit on the hearth ledge.”