Love's Recipe - Mila Nicks

Prologue

“Got everything?”

Rosalie Underwood answered Clyde’s question with an enthused smile. They met each other halfway, kissing under the rising Louisiana sun. Next to them on the sidewalk, Rosalie’s single suitcase tipped over onto its side. She had spent the better half of last night stuffing it with as many belongings as possible. She needed to be packed and ready to go come dawn.

Clyde hadn’t given a time, and she didn’t want to leave him waiting outside.

Worse, she didn’t want to alert Ma. It would only lead to another heated confrontation. Their fourth in less than a week. The most recent one had shoved Rosalie over the edge. She reached her breaking point and snapped. She made a decision she had threatened in the past, but never gone through with: she was running away with Clyde.

“Get in,” he said in his deep baritone. He clicked the tiny remote on his key chain and walked around to the car’s driver side. “If we roll out now we’ll be halfway there by tonight.”

Rosalie paused for a quick second to release a tremor of excitement. She had never crossed the Louisiana state border, let alone traveled to a big city like Baltimore. For the seventeen years she had been on this earth, she had been stuck in St. Aster. She assumed she would be for the rest of her life. Just like her ma and her grandma before her.

But now everything was changing. Within the next two days, she would be starting her life over again with Clyde.

“My wallet,” said Rosalie. She glanced in her crossbody bag and found only her lip gloss and cell phone. She looked over her shoulder at the narrow shotgun house Ma was proud to own. The house was silent and the curtains were drawn. If she snuck inside really fast, the chances of being heard were slim to none…

“I’ll be back.”

Clyde shook his head but said nothing. He didn’t need to in order to express his opinion of Ma. He hated her. And she hated him. The relationship between her boyfriend and Ma was contentious at best. Downright hostile at worst. Ma hated the rebellious streak Clyde brought out of her. Clyde hated the rules and boundaries Ma set. Ma thought Rosalie had no business running the streets with a guy six years her senior. Clyde thought Ma was a hypocritical, mean-spirited nag.

Rosalie agreed with Clyde. Ma’s primary goal was to keep them apart. She refused to give in to the dictatorial rule. She was a grown woman—sort of. In another four months she would turn eighteen. That was close enough.

She squared her shoulders, stepped forward toward Ma’s house, and didn’t look back. Her key twisted in the lock and the door clicked open. Her petite body slipped between the thin crack and she hesitated for a second longer. The living room and hallway were both empty. She slunk toward the staircase, moving lightly on her feet like a dancer.

Every other step she stopped and listened. No sound. Ma was either asleep or in the bathroom. She continued onto the second floor landing, tiptoeing by Ma’s room. In her own bedroom, she found her wallet under her bed and stuffed it into her purse. She crawled to the window and peered onto the street below. Clyde waited in his car, bobbing his head to his music. She smiled watching him.

“You’re really leaving with him.”

Rosalie froze on her knees by the windowsill. The smile dropped from her face and she avoided turning around. The stern but syrupy voice contradicted itself, but then again, so did Ma.

“You’d be stupid to go,”