Bus ticket to hometown of Bliss Cove – $124.50
Purchase of old building and business license – $35,250
Thirteen orphaned cats – free
Finally proving to her family that she can be successful – priceless
Shaking off her past mistakes and fickle reputation, Aria Prescott is determined to start a new life with her latest venture, the “Meow and Then Cat Café.” Though the café is in the town’s most rundown neighborhood, Aria will let nothing stop her from success.
Then property developer Hunter Armstrong shocks the Mariposa Street shop owners with a buyout offer that threatens to destroy the old district. Aria refuses to let the ruthless businessman intimidate her into selling her beloved café, even if Hunter’s dark, glowering sexiness secretly makes her want to purr.
Aria and Hunter are soon locked in a fiery, tense war over the fate of Mariposa Street. But when Hunter starts falling for this sexy town sweetheart, he discovers that winning the battle might mean losing his heart.
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Excerpt – Chapter One
Good things came in large, thick envelopes. At least, that was what Aria Prescott had always believed. Wedding invitations, college acceptances, Christmas cards, love letters.
She sank onto a chair in her darkened café, crumpling the brown envelope in her fist. The formal letter was clipped to a stack of papers made heavier by the copious use of legalese—clauses, conditions, title. Financial terms.
Dropping the letter, she looked through the brick-and-glass partition separating the lounge from the front room of the café. Evening light illuminated the painted Meow and Then sign on the window. A chalkboard menu hung on the wall behind the counter. Wooden shelves held cat toys and cat-themed merchandise.
She’d created this. For the first time in her life, she’d gone the distance, gotten the job done, seen the plan through. She couldn’t—wouldn’t—let anything change that now.
Jumbo butted his fuzzy head against her arm.
“Sorry, sweetie.” Stroking the tabby cat’s ears, Aria got to her feet. “Thirteen orders of chicken bites in gravy coming right up.”
Cats of all sizes stirred from various lounging positions around the room. Tails swishing and ears perked, they padded over to the row of food and water dishes.
Pushing the letter out of her mind, Aria retrieved cans of chicken from the storage cabinet and prepared dinner for her thirteen charges. A few of them meowed and slithered around her legs, while others sat waiting regally for their meal to be served.
A one-eyed cat with patchy fur, a torn left ear, and a sharp fanged tooth poking out of his mouth crouched under a table.
“Come on, Fang.” Aria clicked her tongue at the old cat, who glared at her. “Yummy chicken.”
She filled a separate dish and set it close to him. Only when she backed away did he edge forward to eat.
After refilling the water dishes, she tied the full trash bag and headed out the back door to put it in the garbage bin. A thick layer of ocean fog and encroaching rainclouds covered the sky, blocking the sunset. Though the April weather had been temperate, evenings were cool in the coastal California town of Bliss Cove.
It was Aria’s favorite time of year—warm days bursting with color and new life followed by chilly nights of sweatshirts and bonfires. But this spring was more important than all previous ones because before summer arrived, Aria’s mother and two older sisters would see that she could not only follow through with a plan, but make it a success. She’d finally prove that she was stronger and smarter than anyone—herself included—had believed.
The backdoor of the café creaked. A large calico peered at her from the crack in the open door, which she never forgot to close.
Until now. Not the greatest start to smarter.
“Hey, boy.” Keeping her voice soft, she locked her gaze to his. “Go back inside. I’ll…Porkchop!”
Faster than a blink, the cat shot into the alley and ran.
“Porkchop!” Aria slammed the door shut so the other cats wouldn’t escape. She hurried around to the front of the café just as his swishing tail disappeared around the corner. “Who knew you could move so fast? Porkchop!”
Soon it would be dark and rainy. Breaking into a run, Aria followed the cat away from Mariposa Street. The rundown historic district was at least three miles from the center of downtown. Shops and restaurants lined the streets converging toward the popular and busy Starfish Avenue.
Annoyance flickered through her. In the two weeks she’d had Porkchop, he’d proven to be both wily and smug. He’d chewed rolls of paper towels, shoved other cats off the windowsill, and Aria swore he’d deliberately broken one of the cat figurines in the lounge.
There! A black-and-orange furball was just visible under a parked pick-up truck. She crept forward and extended her hand.
“Come on, Porkie Pie,” she crooned. “Come back home and I’ll give you some nice tuna fish…Porkchop!”
He darted away. Several passers-by paused to try and catch him. The overweight cat continued to move surprisingly fast, evading every grasp.
Aria’s lungs started to burn. Skidding in her flat, strappy sandals, she caught sight of him crossing the street to the ramshackle Outside Inn. The old Queen Anne building sprawled over an expanse of tree-dotted lawn with a trail leading to Pelican Beach.
Heavy raindrops started to fall. Aria hurried up the pathway leading to the wrap-around porch. Thick shrubs and overgrown weeds lined the foundation of the inn underneath the multiple lighted windows. Porkchop shot behind a dense boxwood.
“You little…” She pushed through the shrubs, cursing as her flowy cotton skirt caught on a wet branch and tore. “You’re lucky I took you on, you ungrateful little mouse catcher. If it weren’t for me, you’d be…Porkchop!”
Tail swishing, he bounded to the corner of the inn. If he took off toward the beach trail…she’d never find him on the dark shoreline. But under the awning, he was protected from the rain. Maybe he’d opt for comfort over risk and adventure.
Comfort is a far better choice, my feline friend. Trust me on that.
The cat stopped. His whiskers twitched. His yellow eyes gleamed. Aria gritted her teeth.
“You come here right now.” She clapped her hands sharply and raised her voice. “I work very hard to give you and your fellow feline brethren a nice place to live, and I do not appreciate being forced to race through the—”
A window slammed open right above her. “What the hell is going on out here?”
The deep male voice boomed like thunder. Aria’s heart jumped into her throat. Forcing an apologetic smile onto her lips, she straightened and looked up. Right into the scowling face of a man whose glare burned right into her.
She opened and closed her mouth. No words came out. Her heart raced.
“Well?” His black eyebrows snapped together over his intense dark eyes. He was still holding the window sash up, and the lifted position of his arms stretched his white dress shirt over impressively bulging biceps.
“What are you doing out here?” he barked.
“I….there’s a cat.” Trying to gather her scattered wits, she ran shaking hands over her dress. “Uh, I was just—”
“You were annoying the crap out of me is what you were just doing.”
Irritation stiffened Aria’s spine.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to annoy you.” She indicated Porkchop, who was still sitting at the corner of the inn, staring at the man as if he, too, were transfixed by his sheer potency. “I’m trying to save my cat.”
His mouth twisted sardonically. “Your cat.”
“My felis catus, if you want the Latin term.”
He expelled an impatient breath, his scowl deepening. Letting go of the window sash, he raked a hand through his disheveled dark hair. His sleeves were rolled up to the elbows, revealing tanned forearms corded with muscle.
Good God. Who was he, this man whose glower ratcheted up his sexiness by about a thousand degrees?
And what was she doing fixating on him when she still had to catch Porkchop? The rain was coming down harder.
“I apologize.” She drew her shoulders back and met his smoldering black eyes. “My cat escaped and made his way here, for some reason. I’m trying to catch him.”
He shot a glare at the animal, who was still staring and twitching his tail. “Given his size, it doesn’t look as if catching him should be that hard.”
Aria frowned, stung by the dig about Porkchop’s weight. “I’ll thank you not to insult my cat.”
“You named him Porkchop.”
“I didn’t name him. And he is on a metabolic feline weight management program.”
“Maybe that’s why he ran away.”
“I know this doesn’t look plausible, but he’s led me on a wild goose chase…or maybe I should say a wild cat chase…” She chuckled at the joke. Glowering Stranger did not. “Anyway, my point is that despite his girth, Porkchop can run pretty darned fast.”
He turned his scowl on to her. An oddly pleasurable shiver raced down her spine, which made no sense. Before she could move, or even think, he hefted himself over the window sill and landed onto the ground in front of her.
Aria’s breath stopped. Like, stopped, right in the middle of her chest.
In addition to being dangerously sexy, he was also big—well over six feet with wide shoulders and a broad chest that was no doubt a landscape of hard muscles. With him standing right in front of her, she practically felt the power and energy coiling through every millimeter of his body. The garden lights cast shadows over his strong features, emphasizing the cut-glass lines of his jaw and cheekbones, his thick-lashed eyes, and a beautifully shaped mouth that looked as if it were made to do dirty things to a woman.
Parting her lips, Aria forced air into her lungs before she started getting dizzy.
“If you’ll step aside, I’ll get my cat.” She managed to sound both haughty and cool, even though her blood was hot and her heart pounding.
“Been real successful at that so far, haven’t you?” Arching an eyebrow, he turned toward Porkchop.
After admiring the fact that his back was as appealing as his front, Aria edged backward. If he approached the cat from this side, and she darted around behind Porkchop, they might be able to box him in.
He took a few steps toward the cat. Porkchop blinked at him. Glowering Stranger made a deep, rumbling noise that was obviously meant to soothe the animal, but that also had the strangest effect on Aria—like a hot wave rolling over her skin and settling right into her core.
Suppressing the ridiculous sensation, she prepared to move around and surround the cat as soon as the man got close enough.
“Good boy.” Glowering Stranger bent and picked Porkchop up as if the cat were…well, a docile, pick-up-able creature who hadn’t just fled through the streets of Bliss Cove like an escaped felon.
Aria gaped. Porkchop just…curled into the man’s arms as if he didn’t have the slightest interest in getting away. In fact, the little traitor even nuzzled his furry head against Glowering Stranger’s chest.
Aria had the fleeting thought that she’d like to do the same thing.
AND I LOVE HER (Bliss Cove #2) – release date Oct. 2019
An expert on the hot, wild tales of mythology, Callie Prescott leads a tidy life. And that, thank you, is exactly how she wants it, despite her family’s pestering that she’s a control freak who needs to have fun. Callie prefers order and predictability. After her father’s death and her mother’s recent health scare, who can blame her?
Jake Ryan fights bad guys, jumps out of airplanes, and escapes disasters…on film. But when a scandal engulfs his career, he takes cover in his hometown of Bliss Cove while he puts out the fire. No one knows his true identity until a chance encounter with Callie ignites powerful flashbacks of their high-school years together.
Despite the threat of exposure, Jake wants some close-up action with the brilliant, beautiful professor. Callie’s structured life has no room for a sexy, muscular hero…until Jake shows her how thrilling it is to have fun and lose control (a little).
Jake and Callie surrender to a hot affair and the possibility of love. But with dangerous secrets, a public scandal, and a mother’s scheming plots, can Jake ever win the starring role in his leading lady’s heart?
LOVE ME TENDER (Bliss Cove #3) – release date Nov. 2019
Rory Prescott is desperate for a place to stay before she leaves Bliss Cove for her lucrative new tech job. Tavern owner Grant Taylor is desperate for a date to his brother’s wedding before his mother tries to marry him off next.
Grant makes Rory a deal—he’ll let her stay in his cottage if she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend. Though the two friends bicker over everything from her love of gummy worms to the horrible singing fish he has on the tavern wall, “pretending” to like each other isn’t a stretch.
As they share close quarters, argue about cell phones, and exchange more than one hot kiss, their fake relationship soon becomes passionately real.
But Grant’s family battles and Rory’s impending career move shut down any possibility of a happy ending. Their hot, tender romance is about to crash and burn…unless they’re willing to risk everything for love.
Nina Lindsey writes romances filled with heart, heat, and happy endings. She is delighted to introduce readers to Bliss Cove, California, a coastal town with an abundance of warm cookies, ocean breezes, and the ever-present possibility of love.
Nina loves all things spicy and sweet, with chili chocolates being at the top of the list. She is also a fan of glossy magazines, pop culture, Gilmore Girls, energy bites, Orangetheory, and the sound of silence.
She lives in Wisconsin with her meteorologist husband (yes, she asks him daily, “What’s the weather forecast?”), their two children, an overly energetic dog, and a snail named Pipsqueak.