Release Date: September 26, 2019
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 – pricelessShaking 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.
came in large, thick envelopes. At least, that was what Aria Prescott had
always believed. Wedding invitations, college acceptances, Christmas cards,
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.
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.
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.
butted his fuzzy head against her arm.
sweetie.” Stroking the tabby cat’s ears, Aria got to her feet. “Thirteen orders
of chicken bites in gravy coming right up.”
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.
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
cat with patchy fur, a torn left ear, and a sharp fanged tooth poking out of
his mouth crouched under a table.
Fang.” Aria clicked her tongue at the old cat, who glared at her. “Yummy
a separate dish and set it close to him. Only when she backed away did he edge
forward to eat.
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
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.
backdoor of the café creaked. A large calico peered at her from the crack in
the open door, which she never forgot to close.
Not the greatest start to smarter.
Keeping her voice soft, she locked her gaze to his. “Go back inside.
a blink, the cat shot into the alley and ran.
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!”
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.
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.
black-and-orange furball was just visible under a parked pick-up truck. She
crept forward and extended her hand.
Porkie Pie,” she crooned. “Come back home and I’ll give you some nice tuna
away. Several passers-by paused to try and catch him. The overweight cat
continued to move surprisingly fast, evading every grasp.
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
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
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!”
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.
friend. Trust me on that.
stopped. His whiskers twitched. His yellow eyes gleamed. Aria gritted her
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—”
slammed open right above her. “What the hell is going on out here?”
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.
and closed her mouth. No words came out. Her heart raced.
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.
you doing out here?” he barked.
a cat.” Trying to gather her scattered wits, she ran shaking hands over her
dress. “Uh, I was just—”
annoying the crap out of me is what you were just doing.”
stiffened Aria’s spine.
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.”
twisted sardonically. “Your cat.”
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.
his sexiness by about a thousand degrees?
was she doing fixating on him when
she still had to catch Porkchop? The rain was coming down harder.
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.”
frowned, stung by the dig about Porkchop’s weight. “I’ll thank you not to
insult my cat.”
“You named him Porkchop.”
name him. And he is