Chapter 1

 

     Mac jogged on the treadmill, sweat trickling down his forehead into his eyes. He dragged the back of his hand across his face. Even though he’d reached his goal, he decided to keep running. His two kittens tumbled around on the floor, enjoying their own form of exercise.

     The exertion focused him.

     He’d sold his company, dedicated to pursuing a dream, but he’d done almost nothing to make it happen. He’d ordered the truck, but nothing else.

     Tomorrow, that would all change.

     Staring out at the San Antonio skyline, he pushed himself, continuing for another mile or more. As the sun sank toward the horizon, he shook off his trance. He’d lost track of time. His shower would have to be quick.

     He left the exercise room, wiping his face as he walked into the kitchen. Once his hands were clean, he slid a baking dish out of the refrigerator and set the mac and cheese on the counter. Next, he arranged bacon slices on a baking sheet and set the oven to preheat.

     Leaving the food on the counter, he ran back to jump in the shower and wash off the stink. He scooped up the kittens and carried them into the bedroom. “I don’t trust you guys to stay away from the food. So, you get locked in here. Don’t scratch on the bed.”

     The claw marks and hanging threads were proof that they hadn’t heeded that advice the last few times he’d confined them to the bedroom.

     Drake would arrive soon, and Mac hadn’t even started dinner.

     After one of the quickest showers on record, he tugged on a shirt as he ran into the kitchen. The kittens skittered along beside him, happy for the freedom and hopeful for food. The baking dish went into the oven. The timer got set, a reminder to slide in the bacon. While the heat worked its magic, Mac looked over his business plan, which basically amounted to a list of bullet points.

     The kittens rubbed against his ankles, their silent form of begging.

     “You have already eaten and had treats. No one is starving you.” He’d talked to the kittens more and more as the weeks passed. Soon, he’d have to name them.

     If he was going to chase the dream, he wanted to do it without people knowing who he was. The billionaire label might garner him attention, but he wanted success on the merits.

     Someone knocked just as the timer dinged.

     “Be there in a sec.” Mac slid the baking sheet into the oven then ran to the door. “Come on in.”

     Drake held up a six pack. “Wasn’t sure what you had, so I brought some local brew.”

     “I’ve got mugs in there.” Mac pointed the at freezer before peeking inside the oven. “Dinner won’t be ready for a while yet. At least twenty more minutes.”

     “I’m not in a hurry. It’s not like I have anywhere to be.” Drake grabbed a frosty mug from the freezer and filled it with a summer ale. “What do you do with your day now that you sold off your company?”

     Mac pulled in a long swig of beer and sat on a stool, pushing another one toward his friend. It was time to let Drake in on the big plan. “I’ve always wanted to have a place to serve my own food. For a while, I contemplated opening a restaurant, but I don’t want people to come because it’s the billionaire’s restaurant.”

     Drake set his mug down and scratched his head. “People coming to a restaurant is good business. Why—”

     “I want them to come because they like the food.”

     “It’s a missed opportunity. You could make bank off your billionaire title. The Billionaire Chef. Has a nice ring to it.”

     “That’s exactly what I don’t want.” Mac wasn’t sure he’d be able to make Drake understand.

     Drake shook his head. “I don’t get you sometimes. Money is a good thing. Use it.”

     “There is more to life than money.” Mac finished off the last of his beer. He needed to slow down. Drowning his irritation would be counterproductive.

     “You just don’t get it, do you? That money is the ticket to more. With the kind of money we have, nothing is impossible. We get what we want—a great place to live, a fancy car, women.” Drake popped the top on another bottle, the cap clinking as it landed on the counter. He didn’t even bother pouring it into the glass.

     “You say that, but what about happiness? I’ve got more money than I need, and I’m not happy.”

     “Are you unhappy?”

     “No. Not really. That’s not my point.”

     “Well if you aren’t happy, then you’re unhappy. We can fix that.”

     “I want to date a woman who likes me and isn’t contemplating how she’ll spend my money if I propose.”

     “What does it matter what she’s thinking?”

     “Drake, stop. I just mean that life is kinda—I don’t know—meaningless, I guess. But listen to you. Women? Really? What would Nancy say if she heard you talking that way?”

     “I didn’t mean me. I’m a happily engaged guy. Besides, she’ll put up with a lot because of the money. It works both ways. But, back to the point, I meant you. What are you going to do? Sell the penthouse and pretend you aren’t a billionaire? Go find meaning some other way?”

     “That’s exactly what I’m going to do.” Mac laid a business card on the counter. “Realtor will be here in the morning.”

     “You’re selling this place?”

     “I am. Moving to the edge of town. Getting a house on a few acres.”

     “A ranch like mine?” Drake grinned.

     Mac rolled his eyes. “No, cowboy, just a few acres.”

     Drake didn’t have an ounce of cowboy in him. Why that city boy had bought a ranch Mac couldn’t figure out.

     “How will that make you happy?” Drake tilted his bottle in a circle, tipping it more and more with each loop around the edge.

     “That’s what I was trying to tell you. Instead of a restaurant, I’m going to open a food truck, but I won’t plaster Douglas McAllister all over it.” Mac set a skillet on the stovetop and cranked up the heat.

     Drake guffawed, spraying droplets of ale all over the counter. “Seriously?”

     “I’ve already ordered the truck.” Mac slid an oven mitt on his hand and pulled a baking dish out of the oven. “I want you to try something.”

     The smell of baked cheese filled the kitchen, making his mouth water. If there was one thing Mac loved, it was cheese.

     “What about your Aston Martin? Going to sell that too?”

     “Do I look crazy?” Mac set the cheese-topped dish on a hot pad.

     “Macaroni and cheese? Really? I come over and you make mac and cheese?”

     “I’m not done yet. And I made this from scratch, not from a box.” Mac pulled a loaf out of the bread box and sliced off four thick pieces of the homemade bread. After buttering one side of each, he laid them in the hot skillet before sliding the bacon out of the oven.

     “I thought I smelled bacon.”

     “Just wait.” Mac laid a slice of crisp bacon on top of each piece of bread followed by a slice of smoky cheddar before adding a scoop of mac and cheese to two of them. He topped each sandwich with a second slice of bread and plated them, adding a kosher dill on the side. “Taste that.”

     Drake eyed the sandwich, seemingly unsure how to pick it up. “Smells pretty good.”

     “Take a bite.”

     When Drake bit into his sandwich, his eyes widened. “Wow. Just wow. People would buy this.” Cheese sauce dribbled down his chin. “You’ll need to hand out lots of napkins.”

     Mac laughed. “I’m hoping people like it.” He leaned over the counter, eating his sandwich. “My big plan is to serve lots of cheesy things. Maybe that’s what I’ll call the food truck. Cheesy Things.”

     “Cheesy Things? I’m not sure that’s going to bring people running. How are you going to keep your name out of it?”

     “Meet Mr. Douglas, aspiring food truck chef.” Mac bowed before taking another bite. “Maybe I do need a different name for the truck.” He caught a slice of bacon as it slipped out of the sandwich. “And maybe I should crumble the bacon and add it to the mac.”

     “I like the sound of that.” Drake set his sandwich back on the plate. “How long have you been planning this? I had no idea you wanted to do this.”

     “I’ve wanted to do something like this for years.”

     “Why now?” Drake was rarely as serious as he was in that moment.

     Mac grabbed a Coke out of the fridge, delaying the truth. “Dad’s been gone a little over a year. I can’t spend my whole life living it the way he wanted.”

     “And your mom?”

     Mac wondered what she’d think of his adventurous idea. “I haven’t told her about it, but I doubt she’ll care. It’s hard to know with her.”

     “She just wants you to find a nice little wife. Am I right?”

     “I guess.” Mac wasn’t sure what his mom wanted, but he should probably let her in on his plan if for no other reason than to let her know he was moving.

***

     Mac rolled out of bed before the sun, ready for the next chapter to begin. He tackled his to-do list, adding to it as he thought of things that needed to be done to start the food truck.

     At precisely eight o’clock, he answered a knock at the door.

     The realtor stepped in, smiling, her hand extended. “Marisa Torres. So nice to meet you.”

     “Douglas McAllister. Come in.” He waved her inside.

     “I’m excited to see your home.”

     “Let me show you around.” He guided her on a tour of the two-story penthouse.

     Marisa clicked through the house, commenting on the paint, countertops, and flooring. “This is amazing. Beautifully decorated. I don’t anticipate any trouble finding a buyer. I printed some comps from the area. Would you like to take a look?”

     “Let’s sit in the kitchen. Can I get you a cup of coffee?” Mac pulled a second mug out of the cabinet.

     “No thanks. I don’t need another cup. I’ve already had two this morning.” She spread paperwork out on the counter.

     During the next half hour, Mac and Marisa looked at comps, discussed closing details, and settled on an asking price. Once she had the paperwork completed, he signed on the dotted line.

     “Thank you so much.” Mac walked her to the door.

     “As soon as I get back to the office, I’ll add the listing. This place will show beautifully. The view is incredible.” She shook his hand before heading out.

     He stood by the door and watched as she caught the elevator. A myriad of emotions tugged at him. He’d turned his life upside down for this little dream, but what else could he do? The idea wouldn’t leave him alone. His sanity required that he at least try his hand at the cheesy food truck.

     Ideas for logos and slogans bounced around in his head. He’d need to find someone that could help with that. But first, he focused on settling the menu and researching suppliers.

     His long-time dream began taking shape.


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