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DEATH OF A MASTER CHEF
DEATH OF A MASTER CHEF

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Excerpt of Meant-To-Be Marriage by Rebecca Winters

Purchase


Harlequin Romance
May 2006
Featuring: Sydney Taylor; Jarod Kendall
192 pages
ISBN: 0373038925
Paperback
Add to Wish List

Romance Series

Also by Rebecca Winters:

Billionaire's Second Chance in Paris, July 2023
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Falling for Her Secret Billionaire, February 2023
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Second Chance with His Princess, June 2022
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Reclaiming the Prince's Heart, October 2021
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Wyoming Country Legacy: A Cowboy's Redemption, September 2020
e-Book
Stranded with the Rancher, June 2018
e-Book
A Valentine for the Cowboy, January 2017
Paperback / e-Book
The Billionaire's Baby Swap, April 2016
e-Book
Her Wyoming Hero, October 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Home to Wyoming, September 2013
Hardcover / e-Book
A Marriage Made In Italy, August 2013
Hardcover / e-Book
The Wyoming Cowboy, May 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Along Came Twins, March 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Baby out of the Blue, February 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Christmas in Texas, November 2012
Paperback / e-Book
The Texas Ranger's Reward, October 2012
Paperback / e-Book
Her Desert Prince, May 2011
Paperback
The Nanny and the CEO, February 2011
Paperback / e-Book
The Bachelor Ranger, January 2011
Paperback
Miracle For The Girl Next Door, June 2010
Paperback
Walker: The Rodeo Legend, June 2010
Mass Market Paperback
A Mother's Wedding Day, April 2010
Mass Market Paperback
Cinderella On His Doorstep, February 2010
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The Greek's Long-Lost Son, October 2009
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The Ranger's Secret (Harlequin American Romance Series), September 2009
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The Brooding Frenchman's Proposal, July 2009
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The Chief Ranger, June 2009
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The Royal Marriage Arrangement, February 2009
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Crazy About Her Spanish Boss, September 2008
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The Italian Playboy's Secret Son, May 2008
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Mothers Of The Year, April 2008
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The Italian Tycoon And The Nanny, March 2008
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The Vow, January 2008
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Christmas Proposals, November 2007
Paperback
The Duke's Baby, October 2007
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The Lazaridis Marriage, July 2007
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Matrimony with His Majesty, April 2007
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The Bride of Montefalco, December 2006
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Having the Frenchman's Baby, August 2006
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Meant-To-Be Marriage, May 2006
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Father by Choice, February 2006
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The Daughter's Return, June 2005
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To Marry for Duty, March 2005
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Somebody's Daughter, February 2005
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Excerpt of Meant-To-Be Marriage by Rebecca Winters

"I ABSOLUTELY REFUSE to let the memory of a priest ruin my entire life! Since he'll always be forbidden to me, let this be the end of my pain."

So saying, Sydney tossed her sheaf of roses into the water and watched the waves carry it out to sea. Turning swiftly away, she hurried up the sandy path to the backyard of the Brysons' fabulous San Diego home.

Now that the honeymooners had gone, the grounds overlooking the Pacific Ocean had emptied of wedding guests. Except for the maids who were cleaning up, Sydney found herself alone.

Earlier, she and the wedding party had greeted a crowd of several hundred who'd congregated here after the Friday afternoon church service. The prominent Bryson family had spared no expense for their only daughter's nuptials.

Ranger Gilly Bryson King had been claimed as the bride of Dr. Alex Latimer, the legendary ranger in charge of the Volcano Observatory at Yellowstone Park.

Like the handsome prince and the beautiful princess in a fairy tale, the radiant couple in a black tuxedo and flowing white wedding dress had stood a little distance off with the pounding surf below providing the breathtaking backdrop.

Being the maid of honor, Sydney had wanted to look her best for her dear friend. As a result, she'd taken particular care to find the right pink-frost lipstick to highlight the mold of her wide, curving mouth. A little blusher on her cheekbones, the kind only a close friend like Gilly would say made her such a classic beauty, and she'd been ready to face guests.

Among them were a large group of rangers from Yellowstone and Teton Parks who'd flown down for the wedding, which had been a huge affair. Somehow Sydney had been able to get through the festivities without any of her former colleagues being the wiser concerning her latest plans.

Two weeks earlier, Chief Ranger Archer had reluctantly accepted her resignation as a park ranger. Per her wishes, he'd promised to keep quiet about it until she'd left the Park for good.

Sydney had already vacated her cabin, and had moved into a furnished apartment in Gardiner, Montana, before coming to the wedding. No one but the chief knew she'd be teaching school there for the next year. That was the way she wanted it. Otherwise people would ask questions she wasn't ready to answer.

Except for Gilly, her former co-workers wouldn't understand that her unexpected career change had been made out of a desperate need for self-preservation. It seemed that being a ranger hadn't brought the forgetfulness she'd craved.

After a quick visit to her parents in Bismarck, she would fly to Gardiner to begin her new life. Hopefully her teaching duties would force her not to dwell on a love that was never meant to be. Otherwise her whole future was destined to be an eternal punishment.

Once more she looked out at the sea. The late August sun was about to set. Its rays created a golden nimbus that gilded her jaw-length blond curls. Even without a breeze, they had a tendency to look a little windswept due to the expertise of a clever stylist.

As her gaze watched the fiery orange ball drop into the ocean and disappear, she noticed to her dismay that the undercurrent had brought her brilliant pink flowers back to shore. Their battered heads lay strewn across the sand, a frightening omen.

Normally the tiny flecks in her irises took on the color of most any outfit she chose to wear, like the hyacinth tone of her lace-trimmed suit. Once upon a time the man who was out of reach to her forever — the man she shouldn't be thinking about now — the man who'd ruined her for all other men in existence — had told her he counted half the hues of the spectrum in them ranging from gray- green to lavender-blue.

Right now her eyes were haunted and resembled a dark sky seconds before a tornado touched down. Sydney let out a frightened cry and dashed inside the house to change and pack for her early flight to Bismarck in the morning.

It was close to midnight when Jarod Kendall pulled the car into the driveway of the rectory in Cannon, North Dakota. After the grueling session at church headquarters in Bismarck, followed by the hour's drive home, Jarod didn't know how another priest in his situation would be feeling right now.

He couldn't speak for anyone else. All he knew was relief that the struggle was finally over.

"Father?" Rick's voice called to him from the bottom of the staircase after he'd let himself in the house.

"I didn't realize you were still awake."

"Welcome back. Kay's asleep. I wanted to clear a few things with you before we leave for church in the morning. It'll only take a moment, but if you're too —"

His deacon stopped talking midsentence. He'd drawn close enough to see that Jarod was wearing a man's regular business suit and tie. There was nothing about him to remind anyone even remotely that he'd once worn priestly robes.

Jarod had hoped to spare Rick the shock tonight, but since he was still up, maybe it was better this way. To have waited until morning would have made it harder on Rick, who'd be expected to carry on as if nothing was wrong. At least this way he'd have the rest of the night to absorb it and talk it over with Kay.

No matter how torn Jarod was to have left the priest-hood, the luxury to be able to turn to your wife, whether in passion or the need for comfort, was something he craved.

"Come in my study, Rick. I have some news for you."

Like a sleepwalker, Rick followed him inside. "Sit down," Jarod invited before taking his own seat behind the desk.

The other man sank into the leather chair, looking pale. "When you went on vacation this last week, Kay and I wondered if something was wrong. We thought you might be ill and didn't want anyone to know."

"I have been ill, Rick. So ill, in fact, that two months ago, I took the final step to get well and laid my case before the church. As of today, I'm no longer Father Kendall."

A gasp from the other man resounded in the study. "Tomorrow, Father Lane will be officiating as the parochial vicar until a new priest has been announced."

Rick's eyes filled with tears. "Why?"

"Before you and Kay moved here, I fell in love with a woman named Sydney Taylor who left over fifteen months ago. She was a high school English teacher who encouraged one of her students to get professional counseling through the church.

"Brenda Halverson was sixteen, and had just found out she was going to have a baby. Her first instinct was to end her unwanted pregnancy. Since she was terrified to tell her parents, she wrote about it in the daily journal she kept for Sydney's English class.

"From the moment I met Sydney, who accompanied the girl to her first session with me, my life has been conflicted. At Brenda's insistence, Sydney came to all the sessions with her, but the truth is, we couldn't stay away from each other.

"Sometimes I've noticed you watching me with concern. No doubt you were witnessing my struggle to try to forget her. A few months ago I made inquiries and found out she's still single.

"Before you attempt to dissuade me from the decision I've already made, let me assure you I've had fifteen months to search my soul for what is right for me. Fifteen months to consider what I'd be giving up. Fifteen months to realize that once I left, there'd be no going back.

"I'm not like some of the parishioners who've come to me because they've been suffering in a bad marriage and want a divorce. I love the Church. It goes without saying I love my life in it. It tears me apart to have to make a choice, but I love Sydney too much. Since I can't have both, I've left the priesthood to go after her.

"You have no idea how I envy you and Kay. As far as I'm concerned, seeing you together enjoying all the blessings of marriage while you serve the Church has to be the epitome of joy in this life."

Jarod noticed his friend's shoulders shaking in silent grief.

"The question of married clergy has always been out there, Rick. I don't know why I haven't been able to put her out of my mind and heart. We've had no contact in all that time. Absolutely nothing. And yet...I'm on fire for her," he whispered fiercely.

Rick's head reared. "Then she doesn't know what you've done —"

"No. But I'm convinced she hasn't married because she hasn't been able to put me out of her mind, either. Yet I could hardly go to her as an ordained priest.

"When I face her, it has to be as a free man. She has to see me as an ordinary male before her mind will allow her to peel away the layers of Father Kendall from her consciousness."

"I can understand that," he said at last. "When your petition is put through to the Vatican, will they grant you laicization?"

"Probably not. Leaving the priesthood without permission is something I'm going to have to live with. But as I've discovered, living without Sydney would mean I'd only half exist from here on out, which isn't fair to the parish. That's not the life I want to live."

"Heaven knows I don't blame you, Jarod. I thought I wanted to become a priest...until I met Kay."

"Thank you for your honesty, Rick. But not many others will be as understanding. You think I don't realize how many people I'll be letting down, who've grown to depend on me? The money the Church spent on my training? The effect my leaving will have on the other priests in the diocese when they learn that Father Kendall has left the priesthood?"

"But not the Church!" Rick's voice rang out.

"No. Never that."

Rick let out a pained sigh. "You're so certain she still feels the same way?"

"Deep down I believe she does, yes."

"What if she's changed?"

"That's a risk I have to take."

"Have you considered she might turn you down?"

"It's a real possibility. But no matter her circumstances, I have to go to her unencumbered if I expect her to listen to me."

"And if she doesn't, you'll have given up all you achieved in the hope that she still loves you."

"Yes."

By this time Rick was on his feet. He stared hard at Jarod. "Did you sleep with her?"

"No. We held each other for a brief moment when she told me she was leaving, but we didn't do anything but ache for each other."

A bewildered look crossed over his face. "Then —"

"It doesn't matter, Rick. There was this feeling between us that transcends my ability to put into words. Fifteen months are gone. I'm going to be thirty-eight on my next birthday. Every minute that passes is taking something away from us we can't get back."

Excerpt from Meant-To-Be Marriage by Rebecca Winters
All rights reserved by publisher and author

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