Authors: Nicola Marsh
“Forthright. Funny. Interesting.”
“So city folk are lying, serious, boring types?”
“Not all. Just the ones I usually meet.”
“Well then, you’ve come to the right place. Love will get under your skin quicker than you think, leaving you wanting more in the end.”
A strange expression, part-revulsion, part-fear, flickered across his face though it vanished so quickly she must’ve imagined it.
“I doubt that. Now, about dinner?”
Nice change of subject. Marc Fairley was uncomfortable with the L word? She’d have to remember that. Playing on a man’s weakness was a sure-fire way to bring him to his knees, especially if he got her riled like he had earlier.
“Love Shack it is. The old diner serves a mean burger, the Mexican is authentic and their soda fountain malts are to die for.”
He stood, dwarfing her office in an instant. This guy was seriously big and if everything was in proportion…
Stop right there. Don’t think GOLF, not in relation to him. Bet he has a lousy swing, a dented club and balls that are skewed
However, the more she tried not to, the more her mind drifted south and she struggled for her eyes not to follow suit.
“Soda fountain? You’re kidding, right?” Shaking his head, he chuckled. “I’ve stepped into a time warp and ended up in a rerun of Happy Days.”
Before she could respond his intense gaze swept her body, sending a sizzle of heat from her fingertips to her toes, as she wished for a chunk of Kryptonite to stop from melting.
“Though you sure as hell don’t look like Joanie. See you there around seven?”
She nodded and he sauntered out the door, leaving her squirming like one of Uncle Hank’s worms on the end of a hook.
She tore the Post-it note out of her drawer, screwed it into a tight wad and lobbed it into the trash, muttering “damn golf” and other atrocities as she tried to refocus on work.
After her fourth attempt at analyzing Cupid’s latest data matches, Sierra pushed away from her desk and grabbed her bag. Her concentration was shot and she needed a caffeine injection, pronto.
The cappuccino she’d sculled thirty minutes ago didn’t have her half as wired as her run-in with City Boy and while another coffee mightn’t be the best idea she could do with the walk to Aphrodite’s.
She inhaled as she stepped out into the sunshine, calmed by the sweet, heavy scent of freesias in the air. She loved the delicate pink and white flowers tinged with gold, their heady perfume a reminder of the first time she’d set foot in town and been captivated by the abundance of bright flowers in pots along Main Street.
With Dolores hanging onto her hand for fear she’d bolt she’d been dragged up this street, sullen and silent while her mom grinned at everyone like a newly crowned Miss California greeting fans.
While mom had done the royal wave, Sierra had avoided eye contact and counted pots outside the shop-fronts, focusing on the thin stems and delicate petals to curb the rising panic with every step into town.
She’d lost her dad, her hometown, her school, and her friends in the space of a week. Arriving in Love sucked.
Fear had numbed her feet, anesthetized her heart and produced a healthy distrust of males that lingered to this day but Love had grown on her, had become a comfortable fit and every season the freesias bloomed she was reminded how far she’d come from that scared, lost little girl.
She loved Main Street, its eclectic shops a draw for tourists and locals alike. She regularly shopped at the organic grocer, the toffee store and the coffee house, partial to the freshly ground beans from around the world.
Tourists preferred the funky fashions in a string of tiny boutiques stocking everything from kaftans to love beads, loitered in the aromatherapist’s and spent a squillion on souvenirs in Amor’s Corner Shop.
The town hadn’t lost its cozy charm despite the constant influx of rubberneckers and while there were regular complaints about the lack of restaurants and bars, she liked knowing everyone when she headed to Venus for a Margarita or a delish meal at the Love Shack.
She reached the end of the block, turned left past the grade and high schools, crossed the town square and passed the town hall, following her nose and the scent of soul-reviving coffee as she pushed aside a curtain of hanging beads and stepped into Aphrodite, the best café this side of LA.
While the faded linoleum floor, mismatched tables, wobbly chairs and gingham curtains weren’t as aesthetically pleasing as a shiny new Starbucks or Gloria Jeans, the coffees were to die for.
“The usual, love?”
Sierra shook her head at Cythera, the owner. While the forty-something woman with a penchant for dreadlocks and crystals denied it, everyone reckoned she’d changed her name to that of a Greek-Cyprian love goddess to fit in with the town’s theme.
“I’m in the mood for something different, Cy. Something cold.”
“Is that your fancy iced coffee?”
“With an extra dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream on top.”
Sierra glanced at her watch, remembering the stack of data matches she had to process before knocking off for the day. “Make that to go, please.”
Cy fiddled with the espresso machine and the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans made Sierra salivate. “How’s the dating business these days?”
“You remember my preferences?”
Sierra bit back a grin. Cy regularly interrogated her on likely prospects when she came in for a caffeine fix but Sierra hadn’t yet come up with a six-five Nordic god who played the harp, debated philosophy and read tarot.
“I’m keeping my eyes open,” Sierra said, sliding her money across the counter as Cy handed over a tall iced coffee. “Promise I’ll let you know when the man of your dreams pops up.”
“Is that what you told my mother?”
Sierra stiffened, the deep voice perilously close to her ear, her skin prickling exactly like it had earlier when City Boy had strutted into her office.
Damn his soulful, all-night-dirty-talk timbre designed to melt. Like his looks weren’t enough.
With Cy riveted to their every word, Sierra forced a sassy smile and turned to face him.
“Sorry, can’t disclose that kind of information.”
Rather than backing up and giving her room to move, Marc leaned closer, invading her personal space, reinforcing exactly how tall he was.
“Why am I taking you to dinner then?”
“You’re buying? Great. See you then.”
She edged around him, only to be halted by an arm that shot out and braced behind her, effectively pinning her between a wall of broad chest and a stainless steel counter.
“Where’s the fire?”
Burning her up from the inside out as a startling desire ripped through her, fierce, potent, out of control.
She swallowed and resisted the urge to run her iced coffee across her brow as he smiled. A triumphant smile that said he knew exactly how his nearness affected her and was loving every minute of it, a sexy smile that drew her gaze to the groove in his cheek.
Her hand clenched with the effort not to reach out and touch it, dip her finger in it and by the time she registered the crackle of crumbling Styrofoam, it was too late. He yelped as creamy froth exploded from the top of her take-out cup and sprayed his shirt.
He leaped back and muttered a curse as he grabbed a bunch of serviettes from the counter and dabbed at the mess while she deposited the offending iced coffee on the counter.
The harder she tried not to laugh, the more her mouth twitched and when a few stray milk foam blobs landed on his shiny shoes in the shape of a smiley face, she lost it.
“You’re nothing but trouble,” he said, resident frown back in place as she howled with laughter, great loud belly laughs that had Cy darting concerned glances their way while serving the other lone customer in the café.
“Sorry,” she managed to say between guffaws, swallowing a chuckle, only to find another bubbling up in its place, tickling her throat, irrepressibly infectious.
“If your apology was genuine, I’d accept it. As it is—” he shrugged, dumped the sodden serviettes in the trash reserved for empty sugar packets and stick stirrers, “—you owe me.”
“What did you have in mind?”
His heated stare had her wanting to dunk in a vat of iced coffee to cool off.
“I’ll think of something.”
“Dinner for starters?”
“Looking forward to it.”
She bolted before she told him exactly what kind of payment system she’d like to instigate to make up for her clumsiness.
“Hey. You forgot your coffee.”
With her hand on the door, she turned, her gaze sliding down his drenched shirt. “It’s on you—uh, I mean the house.”
He laughed as she’d intended and before he tempted her to flirt some more, she made a run for it.
To read on
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About the author:
USA TODAY bestselling author Nicola Marsh writes flirty fiction with flair.
She has published 33 books with Harlequin, a fun, flirty contemporary mainstream romance BUSTED IN BOLLYWOOD with Entangled Publishing (nominated for Romantic Book of the Year 2012) and sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide.
Her first category romance for Entangled Publishing’s Indulgence series, NOT THE MARRYING KIND, released July 2012. Her debut young adult thriller VIRTUAL INSANITY will release with Harlequin Teen August 2013, and her YA urban fantasy series kicks off with SCION OF THE SUN, November 2013, with Month9Books.
Her first indie romance, CRAZY LOVE, is a 2012 ARRA finalist.
She’s also a Waldenbooks and Bookscan bestseller, has finalled in a number of awards including the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, HOLT, Booksellers’ Best, Golden Quill, Laurel Wreath, More than Magic and has won several CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Awards.
A physiotherapist for thirteen years, she now adores writing full time, raising her two little heroes, sharing fine food with family and friends, and her favorite, curling up with a good book!
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