March 19, 2019

Off the Grid (To Catch a Thief Book 3) - Second Chapter Reveal!

Happy #TeaserTuesday!

To help ramp up the excitement for Off the Grid, I'll be revealing a new chapter on the blog every week leading up to on sale! YAY!

Last week, I revealed the first chapter, which is told in Leo's point of view. This week, you'll get your first glimpse of our leading lady, McKenzie! PS: The meet-cute-turned-ugly starts at the very end of this chapter :) These two definitely embody the idea that first impressions don't mean everything!

💚Hope you enjoy! 💚

And if you're counting down the days until April 8th (like me!), don't forget to pre-order your copy :) The ebook is available on Amazon!

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- 2 -

McKenzie


McKenzie Harper woke up the same way she did every morning—to the beep of her 6 a.m. alarm. She didn’t press the snooze button. She didn’t grumble or groan. She simply reached over to her nightstand, pressed the off button, and sat up, ready to begin the day.
Though she’d been born in Connecticut, New York City was her soul mate—it never slowed, never stopped. It was always go, go, go. Yet there was an order to the chaos, meticulous planning that went on behind the scenes to make sure each detail ran smoothly. The trains worked on a strict schedule. The architecture followed a specific scheme. The natives moved to a set of unwritten rules. And McKenzie liked to think she was the same—structured, precise, and constantly moving forward. Which was why she always began her day the exact same way, like clockwork. First, she eased out from underneath her covers and slid her feet into the slippers waiting on the floor. Second, she made her bed and fluffed her pillows, using an old design trick her mother had taught her to give them extra volume. Third, she brushed her teeth, allocating twenty seconds for her top left molars, twenty for her front teeth, twenty for the top right molars, then repeating on the bottom. As a pastry chef, she could never be too careful. Fourth, she changed into her workout clothes and neatly folded her hair into a braided high ponytail. Fifth, she repositioned her slippers by her bed for that evening. And sixth, she ate breakfast before her daily five-mile circuit through Central Park. Since it was the beginning of summer and the sky was a beautiful clear blue, she stepped out onto her private balcony with her morning meal—overnight oats she’d prepped the day before and a single-serving carton of orange juice.
Her true one-bedroom apartment would be considered a luxury size and location to most New York City residents, but this little four-by-ten sliver of paradise with a table for one was her favorite part. Even at six fifteen, the streets were alive with beeping taxis and barking dogs, with bicyclists and early morning risers. The gentle rustle of leaves provided a subtle background and a reminder that Central Park was only one avenue west of her building. She took a deep breath, pulling the energy into her lungs and letting it linger as a smile rose to her lips. A lot of people came to New York to be discovered, but McKenzie didn’t mind staying hidden. In a smaller town, her isolation might’ve been suffocating, but not here. New York was too alive, too bustling, too vivacious. Here, she never truly felt alone.
Her phone vibrated against the wrought-iron tabletop.
McKenzie pulled her gaze from the street and glanced at the screen. Her grin widened as soon as she saw the message flashing across it, even as her brows scrunched together in confusion. Addy? At this hour?

@Sprinkle-Ella: HELP!!!

Addison was one side of what McKenzie liked to think of as her little baking trio, a threesome that was completed by their other friend, Jo. Addison was a cake designer in the south, and though her fixation on flowers, the color pink, and all things frilly made McKenzie roll her eyes on a somewhat daily basis, her heart was pure gold. And Jo, well, Jo was the entertainment. She was an at-home baker longing to turn her hobby into a profession, and though McKenzie was at the complete other end of the spectrum—a French-trained pastry chef with a bachelor’s degree from the Culinary Institute of America—Jo’s drive and enthusiasm were nothing if not admirable, and completely infectious.
They’d met about two years ago in an online forum for fans of a baking competition. Even though they only chatted online, McKenzie still thought of them as her best friends. In some ways, her only friends. The food industry in Manhattan, like every other industry in this city, was cutthroat. She regarded her coworkers as competition instead of as colleagues, and the backwards hours of working in the evenings instead of the mornings didn’t exactly make socializing outside of her job easy. She didn’t mind being alone though. McKenzie was fine by herself. She was used to it. An only child with two absent parents didn’t have the luxury of acknowledging loneliness.
Her phone vibrated again.
One more time. 
Whatever was going on, McKenzie was sure it could wait a few more seconds while she finished her oatmeal. Addy and Jo were both prone to dramatics, while she was more practical—she liked completing one task before moving on to the next. But her curiosity got the best of her, because McKenzie honestly couldn’t for the life of her remember the last time either of her friends had texted before noon. She liked to keep to her morning-run routine, Jo was perpetually sleeping in, and Addy never liked to text while she was at work. The afternoons and the evenings were usually their sweet spot.
Okay. What the hell is so important?
Putting her spoon down, she lifted her phone and opened the group chat.

@Sprinkle-Ella: Baking emergency!
@Sprinkle-Ella: This chocolate-obsessed bride is driving me crazy. She wants some sort of soufflé style cake, with a gooey exploding center, covered in a rich, melty ganache…on her wedding day!! Does she not understand she’ll be wearing white??
@Sprinkle-Ella: It’s a total code brown situation!

Oh, come on! I’m eating. McKenzie nearly spit out the bite of oatmeal she’d been chewing. This conversation was wrong on so many levels. Was Addy serious right now? The last things she wanted to start the day thinking about were code brown situations—of any variety. Not the chocolate kind (that bride was deranged), and especially not the other kind.
Before she had time to respond, a message from Jo came through.

@TheBakingBandit: Code brown?
@Sprinkle-Ella: Code brown.

McKenzie shook her head, unable to quite believe what she was reading. Her friends were…unique. But this was special, even for them.
She opted to give them the benefit of the doubt.

@TheGourmetGoddess: Do either of you actually know what code brown means?
@TheGourmetGoddess: I really don’t think you do…

After a moment, a response from Addy came through.

@Sprinkle-Ella: Chocolate emergency…?

McKenzie barked out a laugh, unable to hold it back. The sound gave way to a sigh. Typical, so typical. She took a sip of orange juice and another bite of oatmeal before she sank into her seat, eagerly typing into her phone.

@TheGourmetGoddess: You’re too pure for this world.
@TheBakingBandit: Email me your recipe for the melty ganache and I’ll see if I can think of a way to make it less messy!
@TheGourmetGoddess: You? Help make something cleaner? Am I in an alternate universe?
@TheBakingBandit: I’m a whole new Jo! ;)
@TheBakingBandit: Send me the recipe…
@Sprinkle-Ella: Will do!
@TheGourmetGoddess: Do you actually need my advice? Or do you just enjoy putting me through mental torture?
@TheBakingBandit: The second one!
@TheBakingBandit: Definitely the second one :P

McKenzie snorted under her breath and shook her head. If being neat and orderly and not wanting to discuss code-brown situations at the crack of dawn was a sin, she’d be going straight to hell. But she was pretty sure her friends would be right there with her—for other reasons, of course.

@TheBakingBandit: I’ll help Addy out! Don’t you worry! Good luck with that presentation today, I know you’re going to kill it!
@TheGourmetGoddess: Thanks! If either of you need help with that ganache, just holler. If any other code brown situations come up, leave me out of it.

McKenzie turned her screen off and gathered the trash. It was already six thirty, and she needed to be at the restaurant by 8 a.m. to start preparations. The head pastry chef had gone off on a rant last week and quit. He’d done it before—like she’d said, the food industry in this city was enough to drive anyone insane, and the French seemed predisposed to dramatics, at least the ones she’d met. This time, however, his dismissal had stuck. The head chef and the owner were done putting up with his bull, and now there was a job opening she intended to fill. Given that she was only twenty-five and a woman, the odds were definitely stacked against her. But she could do it. She’d been the pastry sous-chef in this kitchen for three years, she knew the menu inside and out, and the rest of the kitchen staff loved her—well, tolerated her, anyway. This job was hers to lose. All she had to do was knock her presentation out of the park.
The head chef had been interviewing candidates all week, and today at noon, it was her turn—her do-or-die moment. She had to prep six brand-new desserts for a taste-testing with the head chef, his chief sous, the owner, and two investors. The menu was one she’d been working on for a year, just in case an opportunity like this presented itself, and it was good. French-inspired, but with a creative twist, which was exactly what she did best. Her favorite dish was probably her high-end take on the classic s’more—marshmallow crème brûlée with a caramel-chocolate drizzle served flaming with a cinnamon biscotti on the side. The owner would probably like her traditional croquembouche the best—an impossibly high tower of profiteroles held together by a butterscotch drizzle, stuffed with chocolate buttercream, decorated with spun-sugar poufs and gold-leaf accents. He liked to display one at the front of the house every Christmas season, and McKenzie had never found the prior head pastry chef’s to be particularly inspired. Along with those two was a peanut-butter-cup-inspired soufflé, an assortment of éclairs (her absolute favorite dessert—to make and to eat), a berry torte perfect for the summer, and a colorful selection of elegant macarons to complete the set. McKenzie had prepared as much as she could earlier in the week, but the few remaining hours in the kitchen this morning were when the magic would happen.
She’d considered forgoing her run altogether for the extra hour in the kitchen, but in the end, McKenzie knew she needed the time to think. Which was exactly what she did as she laced up her sneakers, turned her phone to airplane mode, and took off toward the park. For forty-five minutes, as her feet pounded down a trail her body knew by heart, McKenzie went over every meticulous detail of the day—a down-to-the-minute schedule, from the time it would take her to shower and travel to the restaurant, to how long she would need to bake each aspect of each dessert, to the exact minute she’d need to take them out of the oven before presenting them to the chef. Her focus was acute. On her run, in the shower, as she dried off, got dressed, and gathered her hair into a tightly coiled bun, she thought of nothing but the details spinning in her head. McKenzie was a pastry machine and today, not a single thing in the world would get in her way.
At least, that was the goal, until the doorbell to her apartment rang.
What the hell? McKenzie looked at the clock on her microwave. It was 7:34, which meant she had exactly ten minutes to catch the subway downtown if she wanted to roll into the kitchen on time. The walk to the station would take two of those minutes, the wait for the train anywhere from two to five more, which left her three minutes to answer the door. Her mysterious caller would be lucky to get even that.
McKenzie took five seconds to glance through the peephole. A man wearing jeans and a plain black T-shirt stood before her door with what appeared to be a backpack slung over his shoulder. He was attractive, there was no denying it, with his bronze skin, hazel eyes, and scruffy black hair, but he was also a complete stranger, which meant she simply didn’t have time to deal with him right now.
“Please go away,” McKenzie called through the door.
“Miss Harper?”
At the sound of her name, an odd spike of fear flared in her chest. McKenzie was used to New York. There were stalkers, criminals, harassers, and plain-old crazy people, and she’d seen them all, but none of them had ever called her by name.
Whoever this guy was, she wanted him gone—now.
“I’m—”
He stopped talking and widened his eyes as soon as she opened the door, which suited McKenzie just fine. It gave her the opening to fill the silence. “Hi. Whatever you’re selling, I’m not interested. I don’t know how you know my name, and I don’t know how you got past the doorman downstairs. If you come here again, I’ll report you. Have a nice day. Goodbye.”
Then she closed the door in his face and looked down at her wrist. She still had two minutes spare. If he’s not gone in one, I’m calling the cops. Nothing—and I mean, nothing—is getting in my way today.



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Thanks for reading!

The third chapter will be posted next week, so stay tuned :)

For now, you can check out Off the Grid on Amazon for more info!


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