Title: THE PERFECT RECIPE FOR LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP
Series: O’Bannon Sisters, #1
Trade Paperback: $14.99 USD
The first book in New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump’s new series featuring the O’Bannon sisters.
Bridget O’Bannon is ready for a do-over. After years of pretending she had a happy marriage and denying that she missed the friends and family she’d left behind, she’s headed home to restart her life.
But working alongside her family every day at their bakery isn’t as easy as whipping up her favorite chocolate peanut butter cake. Her mother won’t give her a moment’s peace, and her sister Abby is keeping secrets of her own. And there doesn’t seem to be enough frosting in the world to smooth over the cracks forming between them.
Bridget can see the recipe for a happy life—including the possibility of a new romance—written out before her, but first she and her family will need to lay bare their secrets and rediscover the most elusive ingredients of all: forgiveness, laughter, and love.
The door let out a little tweet-tweet when Bridget entered the shop. She wandered the aisles, past the stacked bags of birdseed, the elaborate concrete birdbaths, enough binoculars to stock a Peeping Tom convention, and hundreds of birdhouses, in every imaginable shape, size, and color. There were mini replicas of the White House, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and even Windsor Castle.
“There’s enough here that you’d never have to leave your house to visit the seven wonders of the world.”
Bridget turned. A tall man in a dark suit stood beside her. He held two different bird feeders and had a book tucked under one arm. But it was his smile she noticed—nice, warm, friendly.
“How do you know which one to buy?” she asked.
“I don’t. That’s why I got two.”
Bridget laughed, the sound still feeling foreign and wrong. She sobered and turned back to the long row of bird feeders. They all looked like different versions of the exact same thing. Birds of all shape and feather were pictured on the boxes, but none of them looked like hummingbirds.
“What are you looking for?” he asked.
“I have this hummingbird in my yard, and I wanted to feed him,” Bridget said.
“Hummingbirds are something I know a little about. Blue jays and wrens, not so much, which is why I’m hedging my bets with a double purchase.” The man held up the two different feeders in his hands. “I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself.” He put one of the bird feeders on a nearby shelf and then extended his right hand. “Garrett Andrews.”
She shook his hand and realized it was the first time she had touched a man since her husband had died. It was weird, but nice too. Garrett had a firm, warm handshake, over a second after it began. “Bridget Masterson…uh, O’Bannon. No, Masterson.”
His grin quirked. “Are you in WitSec or something?”
“Witness protection. Considering you’ve forgotten your last name.”
“Oh, no, it’s not that. I just…well, my husband just died and well…” She shook her head. Why was she telling a perfect stranger all of this?
“I’m sorry.” His gaze softened. “My wife died two years ago. When something like that happens, it’s as if your entire identity is ripped away. Who are you, when you’re just one of a half?”
“Exactly,” she murmured, and then turned back to the feeders. “So…hummingbirds?”
He took the change of subject in stride. He stepped forward and waved a hand across the displays, like one of the models on The Price Is Right. “Okay, you have a few options here. This one hangs from a copper swing and has a weather shield. That’s really just a plastic umbrella. You can put it in a tree—”
“I don’t have a tree close to the house. Is there something I can put on the window maybe? He seems to really like my kitchen window.”
“This one would be great for that.” Garrett handed her another box. A quartet of happy hummingbirds swarmed the feeder while a family watched from inside, all wearing delighted smiles. Buy the Window Wonder Feeder, the box said, and your family will be entertained for hours! “It’s got a weather guard, a removable ant moat, and holds eight ounces of nectar.”
She turned the box over. “Nectar?”
“Hummingbirds drink sugar water. You can make it yourself or”—he gave her a long glance—“if you’re not up to that yet, this stuff is already mixed.”
She took the red liter bottle from him and scanned the label. “I just pour this in and that’s it?”
“Well, not exactly. You have to clean the feeder a couple times a week. Wash it well, so it doesn’t get any mold in it. Then refill it and check it every day or so to make sure there’s still some nectar in there.”
She had yet to get her act together enough to do laundry. The whole thing seemed daunting, overwhelming. “That seems like a lot to worry about. Maybe I should forget it. Or wait until a better time.” She reached to place it back on the shelf.
Garrett put a hand on the box, stopping her. “I know right now that even the simple act of picking out a shirt to wear takes more mental energy than you think you have.”
Her eyes started to burn. She flicked her gaze to the tiled floor.
“But this will be good for you.” Garrett covered her hand with his own. His touch was tender, understanding. Like they were the only two in the world who knew this foreign language of widowhood. She didn’t move her hand, not right away. For a second, she let the empathy wash over her, rush in to fill the gaping holes in her mind.
“I don’t know.” She slid her hand out of his, pretending she needed to brush a hair off her forehead.
“I do.” He reached in his jacket pocket with one hand and then slid a business card between her fingers. “There’s my number. Text me, email me, call me, any time of day, if you want any tips on hummingbirds or if you just want to talk about how this whole thing sucks.”
“I’m not trying to hit on you. I’m trying to help.” He gave her that smile again and nudged the box toward her chest. “Buy the feeder. Hang it up. Because it’s okay to let a living thing depend on you again, Bridget.”
When she’s not writing books, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump competes in triathlons, mostly because all that training lets her justify mid-day naps and a second slice of chocolate cake. She’s published more than 60 books in 24 languages, although she’s too geographically challenged to find any of those countries on a map.
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