Life was great.
I loved my bachelor life and working my dream job with the Colorado Springs SWAT team.
That all changed the day I stepped into her bakery. Her smile swept me off my feet, and her panna cotta was heaven.
Cue my very traditional Greek family.
Then all hell broke loose.
The woman I was falling in love with was Italian, and my mother was hell-bent on proving to the world she was the better cook.
If my meddling family wasn’t bad enough, for the last six years Gabi had been on the run from a past she tried desperately to escape from.
Between a beautiful woman on the run, and a crazy family constantly in my business, would I be able to show her I’m the only one who can keep her safe … or will her past steal her away from me?
My eyes swung over to look at my mother standing there with my aunt Maria and Aunt Agnes.
“Shit,” I whispered.
“Oh God. This is not happening. This is it!” Gabi exclaimed as she covered her mouth.
I placed my hands on her shoulders and leaned in closer. In a whispered voice, I asked, “What is wrong?”
Her eyes met mine. “This is her challenge! I thought it was that day in the bakery. That was a merely a test! She’s here to take me down!”
I laughed. “My mother is not here to take you down.”
She slowly shook her head and asked, “How did she know?”
Then we both turned to look at Liza. She took a step away. “You didn’t.”
Liza’s eyes were everywhere. Me, my mother, back to Gabi, back to my mother. “I might have mentioned it that day in the bakery when she was there. But she saw the registration form and asked if you had entered! I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to say.”
“Nicholaus, don’t be rude. Introduce your Gabriella to your Aunt Maria and Aunt Agnes.”
Gabi took in a slow deep breath before turning and facing my mother and aunts.
With my hand on her back, we walked closer. “Mama, this is a surprise to see you here.”
She looked taken aback. “Why? I love to cook, this is a cooking competition. Why wouldn’t I be here?”
“Because you’ve never entered one before.”
The three of them laughed. “Please. Your mama has won more cooking competitions than anyone in this room.”
Gabi swayed, and I tightened my grip on her.
When my mother turned to look at Gabi, she wore a wide smile. “So, with you being a part of our family, I want to make sure you come in second so I’ve brought you some help.”
Oh for shits sake.
“Help?” Gabi asked with a strained voice.
And before our eyes appeared my cousins Sophia and Angie, and just when I didn’t think it could get worse, cousin Maria walked up carrying a giant bag with some rat looking dog in it.
“Um, I don’t think you can have a dog in here,” Liza said.
Everyone turned and looked at cousin Maria. “Are you shitting me? I don’t go anywhere without my Nikky.”
“Gabriella, this is Aunt Maria and Aunt Agnes.”
Gabi reached her hand out to theirs.
“Ahh! You made it!” my mother called out as her best friend came walking up. I couldn’t help but groan.
“Gabriella, this is my very dear friend, Maria.”
I didn’t think Gabi could look any more confused. “Oh, um, another Maria! That’s a lot of Maria’s under one roof.” They all stared at her like they didn’t get it.
They fucking got it.
“All right, well now that the gang is here, Mama you should be heading on over to your station.”
“You’re not coming over there with me?”
Gabi’s head jerked to the side to look at me. Oh shit. What the hell do I do?
I did the only thing I knew to do. I looked for guidance from Liza. My eyes were wide as she motioned to Gabi.
Right. Right. I needed to stay with Gabi.
“Well, Mama, I was planning on helping Gabi and being here for moral support with this being her first competition and all.” Gabi glared at me.
Shit, what did I do now?
Then my mother turned back to Gabi. “First, huh?” My heart dropped in my chest. That’s why Gabi shot me a dirty look. “Well, I better let you get going then. Good luck.”
With a full-on smile, Gabi nodded. “Thanks! You too. And may the best cook win.”
Tossing her head back and laughing before looking back at Gabi, my mother said, “Oh, I will.”
Kelly Elliott is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling contemporary romance author. Since finishing her bestselling Wanted series, Kelly continues to spread her wings while remaining true to her roots and giving readers stories rich with hot protective men, strong women and beautiful surroundings.
Her bestselling works include, Wanted, Broken, Without You, and Unconditional Love, to name just a few.
Kelly has been passionate about writing since she was fifteen. After years of filling journals with stories, she finally followed her dream and published her first novel, Wanted, in November of 2012.
Kelly lives in central Texas with her husband, daughter, and two pups. When she’s not writing, Kelly enjoys reading and spending time with her family. She is down to earth and very in touch with her readers, both on social media and at signings.
To find out more about Kelly and her books, you can find her through her website.