Authors: Rachel Hauck
Tags: #ebook, #book
Dining with Joy
Other Novels by
Love Starts with Elle
Lost in Nashvegas
Novels Coauthored with Sara Evans
The Sweet By and By
Dining with Joy
A Lowcountry Romance
Â© 2010 by Rachel Hayes Hauck
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any meansâelectronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or otherâexcept for brief quotations in printed reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Thomas Nelson, Inc., titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, e-mail [email protected]
Scripture quotations are taken from THE NEW KING JAMES VERSION. Â© 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Publisher's Note: This novel is a work of fiction. Any references to real events, businesses, organizations, and locales are intended only to give the fiction a sense of reality and authenticity. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hauck, Rachel, 1960â
Â Â Â Dining with Joy / Rachel Hauck.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â p. cm. â (A lowcountry romance ; 1)
Â Â Â ISBN 978-1-59554-339-4
Â Â 1. Television cooking showsâFiction. 2. South CarolinaâFiction. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
10 11 12 13 RRD 1 2 3 4 5
For my mom
Driving the Sea Island Parkway with her windows down, the nose of her Dodge Ram cutting through the swaths of shadow and light cast through the limbs of shading live oaks, Joy surfed her hand through the textured, saline lowcountry breeze.
Yesterday she'd been at peace, finally home from three months on the road, guesting on radio and morning talk shows, hosting food fairs, judging cooking competitions, riding in convertibles as a parade marshal, waving at the crowds standing on the curb, acting the part. Always acting the part.
Joy Ballard, host of
Dining with Joy
But when she returned home to Beaufort from the spring promotional tour, she ached to sink back into being plain ol' Joy Ballard: lowcountry girl, softball player, aunt, daughter, friend.
This morning she'd planned to sleep until the noon sun spilled through her window with a golden heat. Then she'd tug on a pair of baggy shorts and a tank top, wrap her hair in a ponytail, mosey outside with a lawn chair, and sit under the ancient live oak with her feet pressed into thick blades of green grass, wiggling her toes down to the red South Carolina dirt.
After a few hours in the shade, Joy would move to the backyard dock, catch rays from the afternoon sun while dangling her legs over the side, breaking Factory Creek's velvet surface with her red-stained toes.
What she hadn't considered was a predawn call from her executive producer, Duncan Tate.
“I'm driving down from Atlanta. I'll see you around four.
“Duncan, it's my first Monday home.
“We need to talk.
“If this is about Omahaâ
“See you at the studio.
“I need a Big Mac.
And that's how she found herself driving the parkway toward the Boundary Street McDonald's. Served old Duncan right. Disturb her vacation with business. She'd disturb his diet with McDonald's.
Her cell chimed from where she'd propped it in the cup holder, displaying Mama's smiling faceâtanned and linedâon the phone's rectangle screen.
“Joy, I know you won't forget the girls' softball game this afternoon.”
“Duncan called, said we needed to talk. I'm on my way to meet him. I'll try to get there.”
“Doesn't he know it's your vacation?”
“I think this is about Omaha.” Over the drawbridge, Joy peered right toward the Atlantic, catching a glint of sun off the mast of a drifting schooner.
“Serves him right. He should've watched your back.”
“Maybe he didn't know.”
“As your producer, it's his job to know. It's his show, Joy. You'd think the man would know the fine details.”
“All right, thank you, Mama. I'll see you at the game.” Mama wasn't a big fan of Duncan Tate since he finagled the show away from Joy's father.
“Four o'clock. They only play five innings, so don't think you got gobs of time.”
“I know how many innings they play, Mama.”
“Bring Duncan, let him see you have a life outside his show.”
show affords us some of the nicer things. In case you forgot, my income made up the difference last year when Ballard Paint & Body ran into trouble.” Joy braked for the traffic light, switching to red just as she exited the bridge. Her irritation over Duncan's surprise visit eased up as she gripped the steering wheel of her own truck, inhaled the scent off the Beaufort River, and gazed over the familiar landmarks of home.
“Yes, and I'm grateful, but it don't give him no right to own your time off.”
“I'll tell Duncan to talk fast. See you in a bit.”
Joy ended the call, set her phone back in the cup holder, and tapped the gas when the light turned green.
Mama. The woman had definite ideas. Like the notion Duncan stole
Dining with Charles
from Daddy. But during Joy's brief stint as an associate producer on the show, watching Daddy from the studio shadows, she suspected Daddy didn't care much for the business and production side of television. The man merely wanted to share his cooking creations with America, or his segment of it. How and when, why and where didn't matter much to him.
Then he died. Joy resituated in her seat, hands tight around the wheel, taking the bend of Carteret to Boundary, the aroma of sunbaked pine and steaming palmetto leaves saturating the air blowing through the cab. And
Dining with Charles
Dining with Joy
A sliver of light glanced off the edge of the Bible verse Joy had clipped to the truck's dashboard. Old Miss Jeanne had passed the verse to her one Sunday after Daddy's funeral, the week she'd agreed to take over the show.
“God's got your back,” Miss Jeanne had said, handing her the slip of paper, her lively blue eyes sparkling from their high perch above her round, crinkled cheeks.
Three years later the square ends were bent and cracked from years of sitting under the windshield, the words on the old, lined notebook paper dim and sun-faded.
Y FOOD IS TO DO THE WILL OF
IM WHO SENT
In the McDonald's parking lot, Joy eased into the spot next to Duncan's Lexus. Cutting the engine, she angled down for her Alabama ball cap tucked inside the door's side pocket.
“Sure you want to eat here?” Duncan asked, watching her, propped against the polished hood, dressed in crisp khakis and a stiff, blue button-down, the wind tousling his silver hair.
His blue eyes communicated nothing but disdain for fast food.
“I've been hankering for a Big Mac.” Joy peered over her shoulder as she tugged open the restaurant's door, Duncan stepping up behind her. She scanned the horizon for a glint of light off a camera lens or a shadowy movement among the trees. “No cameras?”
Duncan liked to send the show's cameraman, Garth, into Joy's everyday life sometimes to film spontaneous clips for the show. It'd become part of their unique brand.
But Garth had been with her on the road gathering footage for a new opening segment, and he'd probably had enough of her. In fact, he was probably enjoying his first day of vacation. Unlike the show's host . . .
“What's with the hat?” Duncan followed Joy to the front counter, a bit of sarcasm lacing his voice. “Hiding?”
“Yes, my dirty hair.” But if the hat obscured her identity too, then so be it. When she first became the host of
Dining with Joy
, someone snapped a picture of her eating Cheetos in front of a 7-Eleven and a headline ran the next day: T
The shiny-faced teen behind the counter eyed her as she ordered a Big Mac Extra Value Meal, tipping his head to peer beneath the cap's bill. “Hey, aren't youâ”
“The hungriest woman in Beaufort County? You bet.”
“Yes, she's Joy Ballard, the cooking show host.” Duncan tossed a twenty onto the metal counter. “I'll have a grilled chicken salad and a water.”
The teen grinned as he punched in their order. “My mom can't stand your show.”
Joy's sigh slipped through her puckered lips. She'd heard similar comments dozens of times, if not hundreds, but the words stung fresh every single time.
“Tell you what.” She tugged a napkin from the dispenser and signed it with the Sharpie she kept in her handbag. “Tell your mom I'd love for her to come by the studio next month when we start filming our fourth season. We can give her a behind-the-scenes tour, show her around.”
He laughed as he took the napkin, jamming it into his pocket. “She won't go, but I bet my dad will.” The counter jockey handed Duncan change from his twenty. “Mom says she feels like a bloated tick when she watches you on TV.”
“Just give her the napkin.”
“How come the host of a cooking show eats at McDonald's?” The teen set Joy's Big Mac on a tray next to Duncan's salad.
“Because a foodie loves all kinds of food.” Joy tugged her cap low and snatched up her drink cup. “But let this be our little secret, okay?” She aimed two fingers at her eyes, then swung her hand around to his face. “You and me, eye to eye, our secret.” She nodded once, giving him a good, stiff stare.
Duncan mumbled, “Good grief ” and picked up the food tray, leading Joy to a booth by the front window, the teen's voice billowing through the dining room. “The cooking show ladyâJoy Ballardâis eating a Big Mac.”
“You'll be on the front of the
tomorrow.” Duncan drizzled low-fat dressing over his chicken and lettuce.
“I haven't been on the front of the
since Daddy died and I took over the show.” Joy peeled the paper from her straw and wiggled it through the top slit of the cup lid. “People around here don't really care about my claim to fame. Just another hometown girl trying to make good.”