Loss, Lies, Love.
Loss: Vince Lomelli lost the job he loved and cooks at the family restaurant. His daughter lost her hearing. He lost his wife, perhaps not a great loss since she lied constantly.
Lies: Hope Henderson renews her friendship with Vince Lomelli by teaching his daughter sign language. Just when it looks as if he might see her as more than a friend, he accuses her of lying to him.
Love: When Vince’s family urges him to go for Hope, he refuses to be pushed. Then Hope has a new suitor and Vince must listen to his heart, confess his love, or lose her.
Hope Henderson walked from the horse car to Lomelli’s Restaurant and Deli wishing she would see her old friend Vince tonight. It had been ten years since she had seen his handsome face, but he had been cooking in his family’s kitchen for a month now since his brother Bruno died. Even though she stopped in every Saturday night to get lasagna for herself and her aunt, she had not caught sight of Vince yet.
Light shone through the many-paned windows of the restaurant, brightening the foggy evening. The restaurant was even more crowded than usual when she opened the door to the familiar smells of garlic, onion and oregano. She entered the room, smiling and waving at people she recognized.
Lauretta, Vince’s older sister, beckoned her toward the kitchen. "I haven’t had time to get your order ready. Vince will get it for you."
Hope stood in the door to the kitchen and watched Vince deftly move from stirring sauce to lifting spaghetti out of boiling water. His shirt pulled tight over his muscular shoulders as he worked.
Papa Lomelli nodded at her as he worked over a second stove. "Vince, Miss Henderson is here for her lasagna."
Vince dropped spaghetti onto a place, added sauce then turned. His dark brown eyes filled with pleasure and a smile lifted his matching mustache.
"Hope, it’s good to see you again. You're looking great."
Her cheeks heated and she hoped the men would think it was the kitchen warmth that brought a blush to her cheeks rather than a reawakening of her old longing for the man at the stove.
"You, too. You look as if you're settling in here well."
"He has been a godsend," Papa said.
“I’ll get your lasagna,” Vince said.
A scream interrupted.
Hope turned toward the dining room as a small girl, about six, came barreling toward her. "I’m hungry," the girl, whose curly brown hair matched Vince’s, yelled.
A boy, a little older, with the same hair, followed her.
Vince came to block the doorway.
The girl looked up at him, her brown eyes full of tears. "You forgot us."
Vince’s eyes filled with anguish. "I’m sorry."
The girl pushed against Hope, which shoved her almost into Vince’s arms as he braced them against the sides of the doorway.
She looked up at him.
He was too close with his big brown eyes and his sensual mouth under the neatly trimmed dark mustache.
"I’m hungry," the girl screamed again.
The boy tried to pull her away and she flung her arms around Hope, looking up at her with a red face and tears streaming down her cheeks.
Hope patted her back, and murmured softly, trying to calm the child.
"She’s deaf," the boy said.
"Can you maneuver Sofia into the dining room?" Vince put a warm hand on Hope’s shoulder.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed memories of him aside and pulled a flick of humor from somewhere. "You do have something to feed her, don’t you?" she asked with a smile.
Vince grinned. "No one ever goes hungry at Lomelli’s." Then he glanced at Sophia and shook his head. "Except my daughter. I lost track of the time since she last ate. She and Dominic stay upstairs while I cook."
Hope’s heart ached for the girl and for Vince. "I’m sure she'll be better when you bring some food."
"Right away." He disappeared into the kitchen.