But that was before they’d understood each other. Knowing what she did now, Fila could put aside her animosity toward Camila, too. Camila wasn’t so brave after all—she was just another woman who was trying to make her way in the world. She stepped forward to hug her.
“I don’t want to break up this little lovefest,” Luke drawled, “but are we ever going to have lunch?”
As Ned stumped over to the kitchen table and sat down, his heart was beating double-time in his chest. For a minute there he thought he had lost Fila. Camila had called him to check up on his missed appointment and suggested she come over right away to make up for it. Since there was no way for him to get to town without someone else’s aid—which would expose what he was up to—he said yes. He was already sick of television, sick of sitting still. He might as well have something to do.
He could tell something was bothering Camila right from the get-go, however. She’d come in, sat down on the edge of his bed, as far from him as she could get without falling off the side of it, and had taken far too long to find her place in the materials she used to teach him.
He’d waited as patiently as he could for her to spill the beans, but when she started in on the lesson, jabbing her finger at each grouping of letters she wanted him to try to decipher, he decided he’d had enough.
“What’s going on?”
“Nothing.” She kept her attention on the book she’d placed in the wide space between them.
“I’m not going to bite—you can move a little closer.”
“Why? It wouldn’t do me any good.”
He hadn’t understood her meaning at the time—not until Fila and Mia’s dramatic entry.
Camila had been interested in him all this time, and he hadn’t even noticed because his attention was squarely on Fila. He supposed he should be flattered, but all he felt was relief that Camila hadn’t inadvertently run his engagement right off the rails.
He felt bad for her—new in town, broke, her family dead set against her chosen profession. Families sure did find all kinds of ways to screw with each other.
Now he watched Fila move swiftly around the kitchen, assembling a meal with Mia’s help. She peppered Camila with questions and he realized that if he’d thought he’d found himself a quiet, meek wife, he was definitely mistaken. The way she’d issued orders to everyone about keeping his secret was startling, but gratifying. She’d made huge strides when it came to self-confidence.
She was finding her voice.
“Camila, can you give Fila any hints about how to handle a constant flow of customers?” Mia asked when they were all seated. “She knows how to serve a meal to a large number of people if they’re all eating at once, but she doesn’t have restaurant experience—if it’s not too hard for you to talk about,” she rushed to add.
“It’s okay.” Camila seemed resigned. “It’s a matter of getting things prepped ahead of time so the final cooking takes as little time as possible. Depending on what you’re serving, the dish might be almost done except one last cooking stage. Or you might have all the ingredients chopped and ready, but not be able to assemble or cook the dish until the customer places their order. I could look over your menu items and talk it through with you after lunch.”
“That would be great.” Fila passed her a bowl of salad.
“Why don’t you two just join together?” Luke said, helping himself to three pieces of naan—another type of flatbread Fila liked to make. “You could serve Mexican-Afghan food.”
Mia dropped her fork onto her plate with a clatter. “That’s an awesome idea! You should totally do that!”
Fila turned to Camila and saw the same trepidation she felt mirrored in the other woman’s eyes. Ned began to chuckle. “I don’t think either of these ladies could share a kitchen.”
“It’s still a good idea. Then you wouldn’t be competing for customers—you’d be sharing them,” Mia said.
“More hands make lighter work,” Luke said.
“You could each be in charge of your own menu items,” Mia added. “There are already two stoves—what if you added some more prep space and had two of everything—maybe you could split the kitchen.”
“Maybe,” Fila said slowly. She tried to think it through. Now that Camila wasn’t trying to impress her, she had decided she liked her a lot more. Could they work together? Did she want to? Camila certainly had a lot of experience she could learn from.
“I know!” Mia sat forward. “You can do a double test run tomorrow—both of you serve your dishes at the same time, working in the same kitchen. If it’s a success, you can move forward together. If you hate it—you’ll forget all about it.”
“That makes sense.” Fila turned to Camila. “What do you think?”
“Tomorrow?” Camila hesitated. “I have some ingredients I would need for that, but not everything—not the fresh ones.”
“Give me a list,” Luke said affably. “I’ll pick up what you need. You can either pay me back from your restaurant earnings, or when you get a new job.”
“You’d do that? Why?”
“Because that’s how we roll around here,” Mia said happily. “Everyone helping everyone else.” She slipped her cell phone out of her back pocket. “All right—let’s spread the word about this new development. Fila and Camila’s Restaurant. Huh, that’s kind of clunky.” She chewed her lip. “Famila’s. Families…”
“Familia! That means family in Spanish!” Camila’s face fell. “But it’s Fila’s restaurant—and you already have a sign. You should keep your name even if we do work together.”
“Fila’s Familia,” Mia suggested. “I like the sound of that.”
“I like it too,” Fila said. She did—she was beginning to feel like she had a family here in Chance Creek.
“Let’s get through the test run and make up our minds later.” Camila stood up. “I’d better get to work!”
“Me, too.” Fila couldn’t wait.
“Are you ready to tell the whole world that you’re going to be Mrs. Ned Matheson?” Ned lay back in his bed and braced Fila in his new favorite position—her straddling his hips, him pressing inside her, urging her on to ecstasy.