manster_LG.jpg
 

CHAPTER ONE

Piper

 

September

 

Some pussies were better than others.

I climbed up my step stool for what felt like the hundredth time today. Mostly because my insane cat, Rosie, kept leaping up to tear down the decorations I’d put up for Callie Blackwell. Hence, my current disgust with my pussy—err, cat. I really wanted my place perfect for Callie’s baby shower, and Rosie was not helping.

Callie had been one of the first people who had befriended me when I moved to Los Angeles. Now here she was, married and having a baby. Our lives had changed drastically in just a few short years.

I had my place—Rosie & Hank’s Pussy Palace Cafe. But, well, it had just become The Pussy Palace by default. It had cracked me up when I named it, and occasionally I got a whole different kind of customer walking through the door, but I’d become a staple on this crazy corner on Santa Monica Boulevard.

West Hollywood was my kind of place. I’d lucked out getting this crazy property at an auction. The building had been downright offensive when I bought it. Infested with rats, roof in shambles, windows dingy.

But I was Frank Lockwood’s daughter. I could fix anything.

And while my dad had been shocked and appalled when I put my life savings and a soul-crushing mortgage on the building, he’d been there with me every day until it was safe, secure, and the windows gleamed.

It had become one of the prime properties on the block and I’d been able to parcel out two storefronts—The Pussy Palace and a little bakery named The Truffle Shuffle. Levi, the owner of the bakery, and I traded wares and it made for a really nice partnership.

I wound the green ribbon around the huge pipe that snaked its way around the main entertaining area. With any luck, Rosie was at the opposite end of the huge cat crawlspace.

When a rust-colored arm swiped out and went for the ribbon, I made the universal sound for “Back off, buddy” in cat-speak and Rosie’s arm slunk back into the carpeted darkness.

As usual, I had no luck. At least when it came to getting anything done in a timely manner with my insane Abyssinian cats. Then again, they were the reason I had this cafe, and my secondary job of creating cat furniture.

I hopped down off the step stool and picked up one of the scraps of the ribbon. I grabbed Rosie’s favorite catnip snake and wound the ribbon around it, making little knots so she couldn’t get it free, and climbed back up just in time to see her tear through another line of crepe paper and ribbon.

“Rosie, you little shit.” I tossed the snake into the hole of the pipe and got a growly chirp, followed by a rolling purr. “Yeah, I thought so.”

Catnip had very different reactions for Rosie versus Hank, my other Aby. Hank would be blissed out and staring into space. Rosie would be meowing and arching in semi-orgasmic bliss for the next fifteen minutes.

Enough time for me to finish up the last of the decorations.

I’d closed the cafe for the morning to do the Jack and Jill baby shower. I’d done plenty of parties thanks to the dozen cats roaming in my cat cafe. It made the perfect atmosphere for an adoption party, or a kids’ birthday party.

Especially when the stars of the cafe cooperated.

I glanced over at the highest cat cubby on the huge climbing wall I’d created. Hank was currently in a coma. But his current level of sedation was only because he didn’t have an active audience. He’d be ready to go as soon as the first person walked through the door. He loved to perform for anyone who gave him attention. Which of course got Rosie going.

Then Mercy, my Bengal, would come out with her regal stare and steal the show with her striking markings. Damn showoff.

I had currently adopted out a good number of the last crop of cats. Working with Love ‘n Paws meant I had an eternal number of cats on the premises, and some in quarantine in the back that needed to be cared for.

Callie and her husband’s bandmate, Keys, were volunteers for Love ‘n Paws along with Hammered’s lead singer’s wife, Kennedy Jordan, who was a huge activist for the community.

All in all, they were a wonderful bunch of women whose word of mouth had definitely helped push The Pussy Palace into one of the trendiest places on the Strip.

Which made me want to make this baby shower even more special.

The door between my shop and Levi’s opened with a blast of music. Hammered music to be exact. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me I was making a baby cake for Owen Blackwell’s baby mama.”

“Wife, Levi.”

“Semantics, dear Piper. She’s got the bambina, so she’s got all the power. At least for now. Then the baby will be the ruler of the household. At least that’s the way it worked with my ma.”

I rolled my eyes. Only Levi would think he had control in a Spanish woman’s household. Especially one as strong willed as Martine Vega. Most of Levi’s recipes had been handed down through the Vega family and then he’d bastardized them with his culinary school skills.

Which made Truffle Shuffle one of the best bakeries in the area. And why I had an extra five pounds on my ass. Damn chocolate empanadas were going to be the reason I had to go up a size in jeans.

I rushed over to the table I’d set up for the desserts. He’d already brought over the damn empanadas in both chocolate and jam filled, as well as a host of other ridiculously rich things. But man, that cake. “That’s gorgeous, Levi.”

He preened a little. “I added the lattice buttercream this morning.”

Two tiers of midnight buttercream frosted chocolate cake with Levi’s famous orange zest filling dominated the funky Halloween pedestal I’d ordered. My mouth was already watering. Maybe I’d just order those jeans anyway.

Huge sugar flowers spilled from the top tier onto the second in the ruby and orange tones of the autumn season Callie loved so much. A little scarecrow family was perched on the edge of the top tier.

“At the risk of inflating your ego any further, I’m going to gush all over you.” I hovered around him as he placed the pedestal on the table.

Levi glanced over his shoulder as his eyebrows shot up. “Well, then.” He moved over next to me. “Allow me to enjoy the gushing.”

I elbowed him in the gut. “Ass.”

“I do have a superior culo. Not as nice as yours though.”

My ears flamed and I tucked a hank of my ridiculously thick hair back into my messy bun. I had no idea what to say to that. I never did. Football scores, baseball stats, hell, even soccer scores—that I understood. I could talk to guys all damn day.

What I could not do was speak girl. Especially to a member of the opposite sex.

I cleared my throat. “You didn’t post a picture, did you?”

“No.” Levi crossed his arms over his gray pinstriped chef’s jacket. “It was difficult, but I didn’t share it on my media accounts.”

“I know. I’m sorry. As soon as the party is over, you can post it everywhere. I just don’t want the fans figuring out the guys and girls are going to be here. I want everything—”

“Perfect for Callie. Yes, I know.”

The bell over the door chimed and about six cats zipped around the room and headed for hiding spots. My newest acquisition, an adolescent tuxedo male, scampered around the top of the climbing wall and dove into one of the cat cubbies. The one problem with rescue cats was they were a little shy sometimes.

I understood all too well.

“Do you want to meet the band?”

Levi stood up a little taller. “They’re going to be here?”

As usual Levi only half listened to anything I said. “Yes. It’s a Jack and Jill baby shower, remember.” I pointed to the huge chalkboard drawing I’d stayed up all damn night coloring in. “Callie and Owen.”

“Oh. For all I knew, you were just incorporating the dad stuff into the festivities.”

“Yes, because he’s coming,” I whispered out of the side of my mouth before heading to the front of my shop. I slipped through the huge glass partition I’d created between the cafe and the cat lounge. It served two purposes, separating the food from the animals to follow the letter of the law, and to stop sly little Houdini cats from escaping.

“Stay here.” I automatically checked for any escapees and closed the door behind me.

The front of the cafe was decked out in more of the purple, orange, and black color theme I’d discussed with Keys. Callie and Owen had an affinity for Halloween. And even though it was barely September, we went with it.

Keys was hopping up and down next to a quietly amused Kennedy. She waved. “Hurry. They’re coming.”

“We’re all ready.” I said through the glass as I unlocked the door.

Keys looked over her shoulder. “Callie’s waddling pretty damn fast. Stupid yoga keeping her all active and shit. She’s exhausting.” Keys picked up two bags off the sidewalk and pushed her way inside.

Kennedy smiled and gave me a warm hug. “Don't mind Crazy. She’s on her third cup of coffee.”

I hugged her back before stepping back and making room more bags. I hurried forward to help Kennedy. Another four bags were outside. “So I should put together a herbal tea for her?”

“And I need one of those Rosies,” Keys called as she sailed through the back of the cafe to the cat room. The Rosie was an espresso shot—aptly named after my insane Abyssinian cat.

My eyebrows climbed up my forehead. They matched Kennedy’s. “Is there such thing as a decaf espresso?” she asked.

“No.”

Kennedy sighed. “Thought not. Can you name it coffee and use decaf?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” I said with a laugh.

“Bless you.” Kennedy took the bags from me. “There’s a ton more coming with the men.”

A streaking cat darted through the cafe and made for the door.

“Maya, don’t you dare,” I shouted, but it was too late.

The Siamese cat stalled in her tracks as she was blocked by a pair of huge feet and legs that seemed to go on forever. As well as the endless miles of dark pants in some insanely expensive blend. Not because I knew fashion. I was a jeans girl after all, but I lived in LA.

I knew money when I saw it.

If the clothes weren’t expensive enough on their own, they’d obviously been tailor-made for the ridiculously oversized man standing in my doorway. His perfectly styled cinnamon hair was pushed away from his face, but even the cut couldn’t hide the stubborn curl to it. Or the light streaks of sunlight that might be from a stylist’s chair. Even if something inside me said nope.

I had no basis for fact there, but there it was. Only the feel of his personality colored by Callie’s words.

His name was Hudson Wyatt, and he was a sexy, arrogant jerk, judging from the bits and pieces I’d gathered from Callie. Except when it came to Callie. Then Wyatt seemed sweet.

Callie talked about her best friend all the time, and yet he’d never come into my shop. Probably because of the feline persuasion that ruled my life. According to Callie, he wasn’t an animal lover.

That little fact should have tempered my inner clench. Then again, he was wearing aviators so I didn’t really have a chance. Shallow, maybe, but damn if a man didn’t look deliciously fine when he wore them.

Though I wished he wasn’t right then because I couldn’t see what his damn eyes looked like.

However, the flat line of his lips certainly backed up Callie’s words. I was pretty sure he wasn’t wild about the cat mewling adoringly at him.

Maya and I were both staring, dumbstruck. At least Maya was allowed to purr out loud. And she did. Whoa boy, did she.

So much so that I shot a startled look down at the shop cat. She usually had two moods. Hate and disinterest. She’s been a resident since I’d opened my doors and never took to anyone. Not even me, no matter how hard I tried.

Figured the Adonis of a man filling my doorway would do it.

Damn traitorous cat.

“I feed you, you know,” I muttered. But as usual, Maya ignored me. This time with an ulterior motive in mind.

The hot ginger.

Maya wound herself between his legs and her purring came with an extra bit of talking in between.

The man stiffened. “You do know that’s cashmere you’re slinking around, right, cat?”

“Sorry about that.” I tried to scoop her up, but the cat darted out of reach then returned to head-butt Wyatt’s calf as he walked in the door.

“You’re the idiot wearing cashmere to a Cat Cafe.” Came a familiar voice behind him. “Don’t mind Wyatt. He’s a grump.”

“Only for you would I come into a place like this, Sunshine.”

I closed the door after Callie came through and pushed the big dude out of my way. Hot or not, I was proud of my place. “Oh, sweetie. Look at you.”

Callie patted her well-rounded belly. “Everyone in a five-block radius can look at me.”

“Oh, stop. You’re beautiful.” I awkwardly hugged her. Mostly because my short self and arms couldn’t get around her. So I moved to the side instead and pulled her down so I could get an arm around her neck. “So beautiful. I can’t believe you changed so much in just a month.” I stepped back.

“Yeah, well the kid decided to expand his or her horizons here at the end.”

“Still don’t know the sex?”

“No. Keeping it a surprise. Though a certain Irishman is driving me crazy with questions. He’s sure I must be able to tell somehow.” Callie’s smile wreathed her face, and I felt a twinge in a place I should not.

The area labeled “love and romance and family” that I resoundingly ignored.

“Aww, that’s sweet.”

The bell rung again and another wave of people came in. “What did you all do, carpool?”

“Used the bus actually,” Owen said as he came through the door.

“No, you didn’t.”

“Need it for me. I can barely fit in the front seat of the sports car this one loves so much.” Callie nodded to Owen.

“If you’d decide on a family car, we’d be done with it, yeah?”

“I’m not a minivan girl. I don’t care what you say.”

“Doesn’t have to be a bleedin’ minivan.”

“Or a boat of a SUV. It’s not good for the environment.”

Owen rolled his eyes. “I offered to buy you a hybrid.”

“And then there’s no power. Right, Wyatt?”

Wyatt pushed up the sleeves of his sage green sweater. “If I had my way you’d be behind a five-point harness pre-kid and both of you after kid. I know a guy.”

Callie groaned. “God save me from all the testosterone that has surfaced since I’ve been with child. I thought these guys were bad before, now? God. Unbearable.” She pushed her sunglasses on top of her head. “Oh, Piper.”

“What?” I looked around the room. “You don’t like it?”

“Don’t like it? I match.” She looked down at her empire waist dress that had an airbrushed Halloween scene across her belly. The bright, fun oranges and purples of the material matched my decorations almost perfectly.

Her huge blue eyes filled. “You did all this for me?”

“Of course I did.” I winced when one of my newest acquisitions leaped from the huge black pipe that ran around the ceiling of my place and dive-bombed one of the bats I’d hung.

“What the hell?” Wyatt ducked.

The fact that he had to duck made a little piece of me flutter that hadn’t fluttered in a damn long time.

Now is not the time.

I spun around and sure enough the enclosure was open. “Oh, crap.”

“Levi!”

“Got it!” Came his voice from the enclosure. The door shut behind the first group of men and women of Hammered and their significant others.

Thankfully, only two of the cats had made it into the main cafe.

“Dammit, BJ.” The orange tabby was a menace. Cute, but a menace.

He yowled as he hung from the crepe bat. Luckily, I’d used heavy duty fishing line just in case this happened. If it could hold a fifty-pound marlin, it should be able to hold a fat tabby. That is, if he didn’t shred the decoration with his flailing.

I ran for the large step stool I used for just this purpose, but before I could wheel it out, Callie elbowed Wyatt. “Don’t just stand there.”

“I’m not getting bitten.”

“Wimp.”

He rolled his eyes as he pushed his sleeve up farther. “If I get rabies, I’m suing you.”

“None of my cats have rabies.”

“Tetanus?”

“Shut up and rescue BJ.”

“Do I get a BJ for rescuing BJ?”

Callie’s face flushed. “You are a jerk. And no, you do not. Unless you can bamboozle one from some willing victim.”

As if on cue, a pair of women came through the door holding baby bags. Wyatt grinned. “Hello ladies.”

“Contain yourself. Focus, man.” Callie moved out of the way. “Don’t drop him.”

“Watch the door, please!” I yelled. Not that I needed to. For once, Maya wasn’t trying to escape. She was too busy trying to become one with Wyatt’s gray trousers.

“If I trip on this other cat, I’m going to sue the proprietress.” Wyatt reached up—only a little bit of a reach, mind you—and plucked BJ off the bat. Of course BJ freaked out and wound himself around Wyatt’s arm with full claws.

“You little fuck,” he growled.

But bless him, he didn’t drop the cat. Well, at least not until he got it to about chest height and the tabby leaped out of his arms with a petrified yowl.

“Serves you right for going up there.” I quickly scooped him up and brought him to the door to the back of the cafe. “In you go.”

He leaped down with a swish of his tail and headed to the carpeted wall with ramps and cat cubbies.

“Everyone okay in here?”

Keys was on the floor with three kittens climbing all over her. “Oh, we’re good.”

Kennedy laughed. “Want me to guard the door until everyone arrives?”

I let out a relieved laugh. “That would be great, thanks. I should have told one of my employees to come in today, but I’ve been trying to keep this party low key.”

“And we appreciate that more than you know.” Kennedy patted my arm. “A slice of normalcy for these guys is just what the doctor ordered.”

I slipped back into the cafe to see Callie trying to talk to Maya, but as usual the Siamese was being a snot.

“I thought maybe she was high on catnip or something since she was being so friendly with Wyatt here.” Callie snatched back her hand when Maya swiped at her. “But Maya’s being her ornery self.”

“Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with her.” I frowned down at the cat as she reached up a paw toward Wyatt’s slacks.

“Do it and you’ll be declawed, cat.” Wyatt’s voice had enough bass that even Maya listened. Though she wasn’t really deterred. She just chose to lean against his leg and wash her paw.

“Good thing I love you, Cal. I shed blood, for God’s sake.” Wyatt held out his arm and sure enough there were welts down the underside of his forearm. “Do I need peroxide or something?” He took a step to the left and Maya followed.

“Boo hoo. You’ve gotten deeper scratches from one of your skanks. Not to mention hello, race car driver.”

“Former,” he muttered.

 “I need cake. I was told there would be cake.” Callie brushed a hand down her dress and patted her belly. “Little one really wants cake.”

I laughed. “Go right into the back and you’ve got tons of food.”

“Good. Then with food in my massive belly, I can then think about all the baby stuff. I even brought my own tissues and wore waterproof mascara. It’s a banner day.”

Owen rested his hand along her lower back and urged Callie forward. “Let’s get you set up in the princess chair.”

“There’s a princess chair?” She blinked up at her husband. “Did you do that?”

“I may have had a hand in it. You might even be able to take it home.”

“I can?” Callie tucked her arm through Owen’s. “Lead me to it.”

Wyatt wandered over to the windows in the cafe half of my place. He filled a mug with coffee and made a humming moan before refilling it and taking it to one of the chairs by the windows along the side. Those didn’t face the main part of Santa Monica Boulevard. He stared out at the traffic, his sunglasses still in place.

Why I was obsessed with his damn sunglasses, I did not know.

And I really didn’t want to think about the moan he made while he drank my coffee. Yeah, not going to think about that at all.

I rushed to the door to welcome the next flood of people. This time, the crowd partially consisted of women I didn’t know. Surprising since I’d known Callie for a few years now.

Wearing a bright smile, I pointed. “Everyone’s right through that glass door.”

“Are there really cats here?” A woman with huge dark eyes kept peeking around me and looking under furniture.

“Yep.” I laughed and bent to meet her gaze. “But not out here. This is just the cafe part.”

“Oh.” She nibbled on her scarlet, bee-stung lower lip. Her lips were as sensually full as the rest of her. She had serious curves, and obviously a little bit of daring to go with them.

I wished I had the guts to wear makeup colors like that. Actually, it was more like I forgot to even think about makeup, but that was neither here nor there.

The tall blond at her side hustled the shorter, stacked woman forward. “C’mon, Lo.”

Behind them, a dark-haired woman looked around. She had knee-high boots over skin tight jeans and an off the shoulder shirt. “This place is cool.” Her warm eyes lit with pleasure. “You must be Piper.”

“Guilty.” I smiled.

“I’m Jules, this is Lauren, and the Amazon is Molly. We’re friends through Tristan.”

“Oh. Okay.” She said it like I should know them, but I couldn’t keep all the people in Callie’s life straight.

Jules tucked a glossy lock of hair behind her ear. “Poor thing. You are probably being inundated with crazy rockstars and other artist types today.” Jules rubbed my arm. “Tris is Hunter’s best friend.”

Names clicked together. “Oh, the chef.”

“Yes. That’s the one. He’s mine. Well, one of mine.” Jules’s smile was dazzling.

“One?” I blinked.

Lauren’s eyebrow lifted. “She likes to brag.”

Another man sauntered into the café with a sullen dark-haired man at his side. “Hi.”

“Hunter!” Jules leaped on the man as he came through the door.

“Hey, J.” He caught her mid pounce and lifted her off her feet. “I didn’t know you were coming.”

Jules turned her cheek for a kiss before dropping back to the floor. Were all the men in Hammered tall? It didn’t seem statistically possible.

“I think the entire world got an invitation to this one. First band baby.”

Jules was stupidly pretty. Stunning, actually. I suddenly felt very frumpy in my jeans and crazy cat lady shirt. I’d meant to go change, but then I’d run out of time. Shocker.

I wandered away to help with bags and passed them off to Kennedy who had emerged when she spotted her husband.

“Now they’re all going to get the fever.” Hunter rubbed the back of his neck.

“You and Kenny thinking about it?” Jules asked.

Hunter slung his arm around Kennedy. “Hi, babe. We keep collecting dogs. I think we’re good.”

“Uh huh.”

Kennedy looked a little sick to her stomach. “Furbabies are more than enough for me right now, thanks.”

I swallowed. Forget babies. There were a lot of hot men in my shop. It was very disconcerting.

“Everything okay?” Kennedy asked her husband out of the side of her mouth.

“Oh, yeah. Zach’s just pouting because he has to come to a baby shower.”

“Bats didn’t have to come.”

“He was supposed to come. He’s just an asshole.” Hunter grunted.

“Truth.” Zach pushed his hair out of his face. “Nice place though.”

I gave him a tight smile. “Thanks.” I couldn’t tamp down the pride, even if it was more of a polite compliment. Then again, I was used to that. Some people didn’t know quite what to make of The Pussy Palace. “Well, you may not want to deal with baby games, but at least there’s some cats to play with. We got a new litter of kittens in last week.”

“Kittens?” Zach’s face lit up.

Hunter shook his head. “I’m more of a dog guy, but they’re cute enough.”

“You’ll be won over when you see Rosie and Hank.”

Hunter’s eyebrows shot up.

I laughed. It was often the reaction I got from newcomers. I threw a glance over my shoulder and sure enough Rosie and Hank were showing off their aerial dynamics. “They’re Abyssinian cats. And they really like to show off.”

“That’s cool.” Hunter gave me a distracted smile and crossed the room.

“Don’t mind Hunter.” Kennedy took another two bags. “He’s got a one-track mind when it comes to animals.”

I huffed. I didn’t want these women to worry about the party stuff. That was why everyone was coming here so I could take care of them. “It’s okay, I can bring these back.”

Kennedy waved me off. “Got it. Come on, girls. I know you’re dying to get to the kittens.”

Lauren laughed. “Kinda. I’ve never been to such a cool place.”

“I’m glad you like it. The kittens will enjoy meeting you too. I like to get them as socialized as possible so they make good pets.”

Kennedy smiled wide. “I’m so glad you’re working with Love ‘n Paws. You’ve done wonders for our adoption numbers.”

Half my sales and name recognition came from word of mouth thanks to a few famous friends. The other half was due to the cat cam staring my two favorite idiots. “I’m just glad to help.”

“Okay, ladies,” said the tall blond with the assessing eyes. “Let’s move it along.”

As soon as they ambled through on their way to either the room where the shower was being held or the cat enclosure, more people entered. I bustled around the next group coming in, my gaze wandering toward the table tucked against the side window.

I’d expected Wyatt to head off with the rest of the men, but he seemed content with his coffee as people wandered in and out of the cafe. Even the three or four women who were dressed more suitably for a club than a daytime baby shower didn’t draw his attention.

Then again, I wasn’t exactly a fashionista.

I felt even frumpier as I got sweaty from running between the cafe and the cat enclosure. Callie was in her element with everyone around her. Her sister, Ava, made an appearance right before the gifts were to be opened.

And still he filled the cafe area. I nibbled my lower lip.

“You seem to have something going on in that pretty little head of yours. Got a question for me, darlin’?”

“I’m not your darlin’.” I wanted to bite my tongue off. It was such a knee-jerk reaction. Working in the food industry, I had been called far worse, far more often. But something inside me rebelled at the thought of being called a pet name by this man. Especially the kind of name men gave when they couldn’t be bothered to learn a woman’s real one.

And I’d definitely heard him use the same endearment three separate times with the various women who kept making excuses to come into the cafe for the coffee station—followed directly by a stop at his table.

Cripes, what was I doing? I had no room to think about any of that. I had a baby shower to worry about.

Worrying about men wasn’t even on my radar.

Especially this man. He had player written all over him, and I didn’t have a clue how those sorts of games worked. Didn’t want to know.

“No, I don’t suppose you are.” He sprawled out in his chair, his long legs well past the legs of the square table. His large fingers made the oversized ceramic mug look like a damn thimble.

Not to mention the green polka dots and whiskers should have looked ridiculous as he tipped up the cup to his mouth for a drink. Not a sip, no. It was a full-on gulp of my coffee. The kind that made his stupid throat work to swallow. All those tendons and delicious lines that were scraped clean of hair shifted and rippled.

Many men had been embracing the beardy look, some going for more caveman than others. Not Hudson Wyatt. No, his neck and jaw were closely shorn to show off angles and freckles no woman could resist.

The fact that I was one of the hoard didn’t make him any less attractive or magnetic.

Annoyed, I wiped the table off in front of him. “Can I get you anything else, Mr. Wyatt?”

He leaned back even farther as he hooked an arm around the back of his chair. In a moment, he’d be reclined like a big jungle cat. “If I have one more of those chocolate and orange empanadas, I’ll need to get my suits tailored again.” He took another lazy swallow, the mug’s cat ears poking up from behind his elegant finger.

Unfortunately, the move was just plain hot. When I’d picked out each and every one of the tongue-in-cheek cat mugs, I’d never expected one to look so good against a pair of lips like his.

And dammit, his sunglasses were still on.

I licked my lips. Because they were dry, and not because he was so fascinating.

Lies.

Lies, Piper Lee.

“More coffee?”

He held out his mug. “Please.”

I took it, being careful not to touch his skin. Not sure I could handle that right now.

I turned to the coffee station to refill his cup. Suddenly, my heart skipped around in my chest like Rosie during her 3AM crazies. The heat of his body invading my space was first, then the spicy scent of ginger and rich leather teased my senses as acutely as a touch.

“Tell me, kitten.” His voice was a rumbling bass. “What makes one open a cat cafe?”

Well, fuck.

I elbowed him back a step and he grinned down at me, rescuing the mug from my instinctive outburst.

“Sorry,” I muttered.

“Didn’t mean to crowd you.”

I peered up at him. “Yes, you did.”

His easy grin slid into a maddening smile. “Yes, I did,” he agreed.

“Piper?” I took another step back at Owen’s voice.

I resolutely put the annoying surge of hormones in a box. Had he called me kitten? Yes, he had. And no, he most definitely couldn’t call me that.

It was demeaning. Probably. Wasn’t it?

Ah hell.

I slid away from the hulking jerk who had no business making my damn girl parts get all flustered.

Owen looked between us with a quick arch of a brow. “I’m sorry, love. I know you’re running around like crazy, but my lovely and very particular wife is hoping for a cup of hot chocolate. Do you think we could get some?”

“Of course.”

“Perfect, thanks.”

I crossed the room, hurrying away from the very large, very distracting man who had definitely not been on my agenda for the day.

Any day.

 

PREORDER NOW

AMZ | iBooks | BN | Kobo

International