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Author Katie Mettner

Chapter One ~ Meatloaf and Mistletoe & New Cover!

I'm sharing the first chapter of Meatloaf and Mistletoe along with the new cover! With the release of the second book in The Bells Pass series in November, I struggled to find a cover that would work with the one for Meatloaf and Mistletoe. Since I couldn't, I had my cover designer create a new cover for each! I hope you enjoy it, and get ready for the second book coming soon!

Shepard Lund:
Age: 26
Looks: Tall, blond, and skinny
Favorite Food: Meatloaf
Status: Single, but secretly in love with his best friend

Ivy Lancombe:
Age: 25
Looks: Short, chestnut brown, and buxom
Favorite Food: Blackberry Pie
Status: Single, but secretly in love with her best friend

Shep and Ivy are the biggest dating disasters of Bells Pass. They’ve spent years ignoring their feelings for each other, but this Christmas, the townspeople of Bells Pass, Michigan have a plan. It won’t be easy, but they’ll work together to teach Ivy and Shep to stop ignoring their hearts’ desires and explore their love. It will take an old spinster, an infamous diner, a mysterious man, and a hefty dose of Christmas wishing to get them under the mistletoe. Once there, they’ll let a dash of good old Christmas magic do the rest.

Chapter One 

The soup was hot, which makes sense; it’s soup after all, but after spilling two cups of it on myself already today, I was nervous. Working in a diner is usually fun, but the last two shifts had been hell. It was as if the stars and the moon aligned to say, ‘Let’s mess with Ivy, it’s been too long!’. My real name is Susanna Ivy Lancombe, but after two weeks of kids calling me “O’ Susanna” in kindergarten, I decided Ivy would be my moniker to roll with. I’m twenty-five, single, and currently almost to table ten with the dreaded cup of broccoli cheese soup.

I set it in front of the woman who by all rights should have been kicked out of the diner, and lifted my hands off the saucer in celebration. It was over. I managed to carry a whole cup to a table and not spill it. “If I can get you anything else, let me know,” I said as I turned to make a hasty retreat.

Soup Woman raised a finger and spoke. “There’s soup on the edge of this cup,” she said in a nasally, snooty, know-it-all voice. “How do you expect me to eat this?”

I had my fake, plastic, scary Joker smile turned on high wattage. “With a spoon?”

Her lips thinned and she shoved the cup toward me, causing it to splatter broccoli and cheese over the side onto the saucer. “I want a new cup, and make sure you don’t spill it down the side this time.”

Deep breath, Ivy, I reminded myself. Deep breath.

I lifted the cup from the table. “Fine, but you’ll have to wait while I take an order.”

I spun on my heel and carried the soup back, not caring about spilling it this time as it was already dripping down the side in gooey globs. I threw the cup and saucer in the dish bucket and my fellow waitress, Melissa, was already ladling out another cup.

“I’ll get it,” she said from the corner of her mouth. “One more trip to her table and you’ll dump it on her head.”

I shoulder bumped her once she set the cup down. “You know me so well.”

I yanked my order pad from my blue, double pocket apron and fumbled for my pen. I had another table sit down a few minutes ago, and I didn’t want to keep them waiting too long. Time is money in my business. I stopped in front of the table and poised pen to pad. “Hello, welcome to Nightingale Diner,” I said, finally lifting my eyes from my pad.

A familiar face smiled back at me from the red and white booth. “What’s happening Suzi Q?”

The familiar face was my best friend and only confidant, Shepard Lund. He’s been the most important person in my life for twenty of my twenty-five years. At twenty-six he’s lanky, and adorable like a golden retriever puppy. He trips over himself constantly, and loves to cuddle. He’s adorable and makes you want to pinch his cheeks and rub his furry head. Okay, so his head isn’t exactly furry. As a snowplow driver, and city worker, for the City of Bells Pass, Michigan, he keeps his locks professionally coifed and his fingernails clean. He also likes to annoy me with a nickname I’ve hated since day one. Suzi Q.

I swiped a tear off my face and huffed. “Meatloaf again, Shep?” I asked and he leaned in, staring up at me.

“Uh oh,” he said at the speed of molasses in January. “Did someone make you mad?”

Like I said, Shep has been part of my life for years. He knows if I’m crying he better take a few steps back. I’m a crier, but not in the sense most people are. When I get angry, I don’t yell or throw things, I cry.

My eyes flicked to the right. “Table ten. Soup Woman acted put out as if a little bit of soup on the side of the cup was the end of the freaking world.”

He snortled and wagged his finger at me. “I can’t believe you expected her to eat soup from a cup with soup in it. Geez, what’s wrong with you?”

I stuck my tongue out at him to keep from laughing. He always knew how to make the tears stop and the smiles start.

He wagged his finger again. “You shouldn’t stick your tongue out at the customers. I don’t think Miss Bevvywetter would approve of it.”

I didn’t want to admit it, but he was right. Lucille Bevvywetter, or as some of her ex-employees liked to call her, Miss Bedwetter, was about as stuck in the mud as a stick. I was surprised she let us wear waitress uniforms that came to the knee and not to the ankle. She was set in her ways, and her ways were from the sixties, but she had a good heart if you took the time to get to know her. A few months back she had a stroke, and she’s in a long-term care facility now. Since we didn’t know her wishes for the diner were she to fall ill, the kitchen is being managed by our head cook, Mason, and I’m managing the front of the house, for now. Upon her death, which the doctors say is imminent, I’m sure her last will and testament will direct her lawyer to sell the place and be done with it. I’ve worked here since I was sixteen, and I don’t know what I would do if the diner was sold and closed. I might have to go outside the city to look for work, which wasn’t ideal. I liked working at the diner. It was safe. It was home. It was my life, even when it involved slopping soup in a cup all day.

I finally remembered to huff at Shep out of frustration with the situation more than annoyance with him. “She’s drooling out the side of her lip, I don’t think she’s too worried about the soup. Wait, I thought I saw a couple people take this table.”

The words were no sooner out of my mouth than he pointed behind me, his voice dropping to near conspiracy level. “I’m on a date.”

“Oh boy,” I said, my eyes rolling upward. “Your mom set you up again?” I asked, already knowing the answer. He always brings his blind dates here as a rule. He knows I’ll make a fake call to his pager so he can pretend work needs him and he has to end the date early.

He rolled his eyes just as a blond woman, half his height and twice his weight, approached the table. When she slid into the booth she made sure to join him on his side rather than sit opposite him.

She addressed me with disdain. “What do you have vegetarian?” she asked, as if she’s never touched a disgusting hamburger in her life.

I used my overly friendly customer service voice to answer. “Spinach lasagna or a veggie burger with sweet potato fries.”

“Is that organic spinach?” she asked, her snippy tone making me belly laugh on the inside. Like laid back, super chill Shep is going to enjoy this date. Not a chance in hell. He is kind of a pain though, so I’ll make sure not to rescue him too soon. He shall suffer through at least half the meal, I decided.

“As organic as it gets. We grow it here,” I answered as I swung my head toward the kitchen. “Hey, Mason. A customer wants to see our organic, kitchen grown spinach,” I called out.

His head popped around the window and he grinned. “I just picked some!” he yelled back, holding up his hands filled with green leaves.

I turned back to his date and noticed Shep cough into a napkin. I knew darn well he was laughing. Organic, vegetarian, and vegan don’t belong at Nightingale Diner. Spoiler alert: we don’t grow our own spinach either.

“Fine, I’ll have the lasagna then with a side order of garlic bread. Oh, what the heck, make it two sides.” She laughed demurely and brushed her hand at me as if to say, ‘You only live once, right?’

I craned around her to see Shep. “And for you, sir?” I asked, the consummate professional.

He was trying hard not to laugh and finally cleared his throat, though I saw a shimmer of tears in his eyes. Tears of laughter I hoped. Sometimes he got down about how hard it is to find someone normal to date. “I’ll have the meatloaf, extra gravy, with mashed potatoes and green beans.” He brushed his hand at me the way she had. “Make it a double order of the meatloaf. Give me lots of meat.”

Oh yeah, they were tears of laughter, without a doubt. I tucked my order pad in my apron and picked up the menus, flipping them under my arm. “Of course, anything to drink?” I asked straight-faced even as I struggled not to crack a smile.

“Water,” she answered. “It’s good for the body. Flushes all the toxins out.”

Shep looked to the ceiling in a ‘give me strength’ kind of plea. “I’ll have a Coke, four cubes, with toxic carbonated water and caramel coloring.”

I flipped my thumb up on one hand as a response and practically ran to the kitchen to put in the order. “Give me a chunk of noods and grass, two sides of vampire deter, a double helping of square cow with mashed greens and extra sauce,” I yelled as I filled a glass of water and counted out four cubes before I held it under the pop machine. I saw Mason’s thumb go up from the window and I carried the drinks back to the table.

“Noods and grass?” Shep’s date asked disdainfully.

I patted her on the back when I set the glasses down. “We have our own special lingo here, honey. If you hang out with Shep enough you’ll learn. Shep loves it here,” I said, winking.

He nodded, joining in the game. “I eat here at least once a day.”

“Sometimes twice. Always the meatloaf, unless it’s breakfast. Then he has a three-egg omelet piled high with ham and cheese. Mmmmm,” I added before I sashayed back to the waitress station.

I bit my tongue to keep from laughing at Shep. The poor guy. His mother was the worst matchmaker in all of Bells Pass. I kept one eye on the tables, as I filled salt shakers and rolled silverware. I would make him suffer while their food cooked, then deliver it, wait for them to take about three bites, and finally rescue Shep with a call to his pager. Getting him out of these horrible blind dates was the least I could do considering everything he’s done for me. I loaded the freshly wrapped silverware in a busser’s tray and carried it to the front, sliding it under the counter near the register.

The Nightingale Diner was designed to look like a train’s dining car, but think Amtrak not Orient Express. The booths sat four easily, six if the diners were little, and each table overlooked the street. There was room for eighteen booths, but unlike a train car, it wasn’t as narrow. There was room for a full counter that seats eighteen people. I don’t know much about the original owners other than they liked the number eighteen. A tiled aisle ran between the booths and the counter. Every five years we retile it when the waitresses and customers wear a groove down the center. The Nightingale Diner was always busy, but I never complained. It meant job security for me, at least for now.

I no sooner walked to the end of the counter when the bell above the door tinkled, announcing another customer. The man who stalked in didn’t exude a Bells Pass aura. He was dressed in a suit and tie, had a meticulous manicure, and carried himself as someone from the big city would.

“Good afternoon,” I said as he approached. “Welcome to Nightingale Diner. What can I help you with?”

He glanced down at an envelope and back to me. “Are you Susanna Ivy Lancombe?”

This was a little too official for me and I swallowed hard. “Uh, yes sir,” I answered nervously.

“Then this is for you. Have a nice day, miss.” He spun on his heel, exiting the diner as quickly as he came. I could tell he thought being here was the most disgusting thing he’d done all day.

I flipped the envelope over in my hand a couple times, afraid to open it. Whatever was inside probably wasn’t good news considering the way it was dumped on my doorstep, so to say.

“Order eleven up,” Mason called, as the plates made a ting on the metal ledge.

I tucked the envelope in my apron, grabbed a tray, and loaded the food onto it, carrying it double time to the table. I passed it out in a hurry, which made Shep’s eyebrow furrow, but I didn’t care. I wanted to jump in the back and read what was in the envelope. No sense putting off the inevitable.

“If you need anything else just let Melissa know. I’ll be on a break for a few minutes,” I informed them, then twirled around, and beat it from the table before Shep could question me.

I motioned to Melissa I was going in the back room for a moment and she waved me off. I burst through the swinging doors and stood in the hallway near the back entrance. After a few deep breaths, I tugged the envelope from my pocket and futzed with the well stuck top. Once open, I pulled out several sheets of paper. My eyes drifted to the first line and I gasped in shock. This can’t be right, I thought, shaking my head. But if it is right, life is about to get a whole lot more complicated.

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