Sprinkled with Love by Jennifer Faye
What does one do with a matchmaking cat named Romeo?
Spirited and beautiful, Jillian Parker is one of Marietta’s newest business owners. Still, her mother worries about Jillian’s bare ring finger. So in order to give her mother something else to fuss over, Jillian adopts a cat named Romeo. He turns out to be anything but a docile lap cat.
One snowy night, Romeo makes a break for it. With Jillian right on his heels, they have a near miss with a passing pickup driven by Avery Wainwright, one of Jillian’s closest friends. A rodeo accident has the sexy cowboy returning home to recuperate, and he’s not happy about it.
So when Avery finds himself lassoed into the Bachelor Bake-Off, he turns to the one person who has always helped him out—Jillian. But will teaching him to take chances outside of the show ring have them both discovering that their feelings for each other run much deeper than they ever imagined?
EXCERPTS – Please choose 1 and delete the other 3 prior to posting.
What in the world? There was something in the road. Avery tramped on the brakes. He squinted. Between the falling snow and the long shadows of evening, he was pretty certain it was a person.
The pickup hit a patch of black ice. Though he hadn’t been going very fast, the vehicle refused to stop.
Avery’s heart slammed into his ribs. “Move!”
It wasn’t like the person could hear him, but he felt as though he had to do something to gain their attention. The distance between them was shrinking with every beat of his heart.
And then the truck slid to a stop.
The breath that had been trapped in Avery’s straining lungs rushed out. The surprise, worry, and fright all ganged up on him. In turn, anger pumped in his veins. What had this person been thinking to run out in front of a moving vehicle?
He threw the pickup into Park. Ignoring the pain from his injured leg, he alighted from the truck. “What do you think you’re doing? I almost hit you—”
“You almost hit my cat.”
He immediately recognized the female voice. It was Jillian. What in the world was she doing in the middle of the road in the dark?
With his heart still pounding, Avery stepped around the front of the idling vehicle. A cold breeze rushed past him, but it wasn’t enough to cool his temper. “Do you know how close you came to getting hit?”
“I had to save Romeo.”
Avery shifted his weight to his good leg. “Who? I thought we were talking about a cat.”
“Romeo is a cat.” Jillian stepped in front of the pickup’s headlights and then she lowered her hood.
His next words stuck in his throat. He hadn’t seen Jillian since his brother and sister graduated high school eight or so months ago. Since then he’d been in Marietta infrequently, spending all of his time going from one rodeo to the next.
How was it possible that Jillian had grown even more beautiful? Her long hair was like spun gold and her ivory complexion was flawless. One of the things he admired about her was how she didn’t hide her beauty behind a bunch of makeup. Sure, she wore a little, but not too much.
And this was the first time he’d been alone with her since she’d worked for him. Normally, he had no problem speaking to her, but suddenly things felt awkward. What was up with that?
Jillian went to move past Avery, but with him standing behind the couch, there wasn’t much room between him and the wall. Not about to let on that it bothered her being this close to him, she forged ahead.
As she did, she got a whiff of his woodsy cologne. Mm… She kept moving, but her thoughts centered on the pleasing yet complex scent with its hints of fresh-cut cedar and other earthy tones mixed with his unique scent. It was quite a heady mixture.
Realizing she was letting her mind drift into dangerous territory, she reined it in. She focused on retrieving the cat. Knowing every inch of Avery’s family home, Jillian made her way to the back bedroom. Painted in purple and trimmed in white, it too was mostly as she remembered it. A new white comforter with large purple polka dots was the only notable difference. And there on the bed sat Marshmallow on a pillow while Romeo was curled up in the middle of the bed.
“There you are. You look mighty pleased with yourself.”
Romeo blinked his golden eyes.
Behind her, Jillian heard Avery’s uneven footsteps. She turned to him. “I thought Romeo was hiding?”
“He was. I swear.”
“Uh-huh. Then how do you explain this?” She moved aside so Avery could see both cats on the bed.
“Seems as though Romeo is making progress.”
Avery nodded. “It appears he has the hots for Marshmallow, but she isn’t having any part of it.”
Jillian’s gaze moved back to the cats. Romeo had turned his head to stare at Marshmallow. If a cat could make facial expressions, then Marshmallow was definitely frowning at Romeo. Jillian couldn’t hold back a laugh. This night was like one long, strange dream, ending with a budding feline romance. Is this what her life had become? Playing chaperone to cats?
Avery stopped petting the cat and sat up straight. Alarm bells rang loud and clear. His sister had tried more than once to set him up on blind dates. He’d successfully avoided all of them. He wasn’t about to get caught up in Beth’s matchmaking now.
“I’m not going on any blind dates.” His tone was firm.
“Okay. But I haven’t set you up.”
He swallowed hard. “Then what exactly have you arranged for me?”
“Why do you sound so worried?”
“Because I am. You don’t exactly have the most conservative plans. And you do know that I’m not as mobile as I’d like to be.”
“You worry too much. Sometimes you act more like our father than our brother. You really need to loosen up and act your age.”
In truth, he did feel quite a few years beyond his biological age. After all, he’d been a guardian to his brother and sister since they were twelve. For six years, he’d been raising them. And those teenage years were not easy. His sympathies went out to his parents over what he’d put them through. He’d had no idea of the worries that were involved in parenting. He was not planning to repeat the experience—ever.
“Enough with picking on me,” he said. “What exactly have you done this time?”
“Something that will keep you from sitting at home and sulking over missing out on the rodeo—”
“Beth,” he prompted. His patience was at an end.
“I entered you in the Bachelor Bake-Off.”
Spotting Suzanna, her business partner and best friend, already inside, Jillian grabbed the brass door handle and opened the door to Tangled Charms. “That man can be so frustrating.”
Suzanna glanced up from where she was arranging baked goods and fresh brewed coffee on a small table with a white tablecloth. “Good morning to you too. I’m guessing you didn’t have such a good weekend.”
“My weekend was fine until I ran into him.”
Suzanna tucked a lock of her short dark hair behind her ear. “I take it Glenn was in town again.”
“Glenn? Why would you think that?”
Suzanna’s eyes widened. “I just thought…well, you were going on and…never mind. Who are you talking about?”
“Oh.” Suzanna’s pink glossy lips stayed in that ‘O’ shape as though she were surprised by this news. She held out her hand for Jillian’s container of muffins.
Jillian relinquished the baked goods. “You mean you didn’t hear that he arrived home last night? I didn’t think anything happened around this town without everyone knowing.”
“Yeah, I heard, but I didn’t know you two had run into each other.” Suzanna placed the muffin container off to the side of the table.
“We ran into each other all right. He practically ran me over.”
Suzanna’s brows rose. “Really? I can’t wait to hear this.”
Suzanna frowned at her. “You know, whatever he’s done now to get you all fired up.”
“He didn’t do anything.” Suddenly she regretted bringing up the subject. She’d promised herself that she wouldn’t let him get under her skin. “It’s nothing.”
“It sure sounded like something.” Suzanna stared at her as though trying to read her mind. “Come on. Spill. It’s me. We’ve told each other everything since we were kids.”
Author Jennifer Faye
Award-winning author, Jennifer Faye pens fun, heartwarming contemporary romances with rugged cowboys, sexy billionaires and enchanting royalty. Internationally published with books translated into nine languages. She is a two-time winner of the RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, the CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award, named a TOP PICK author, and been nominated for numerous other awards.
Now living her dream, she resides with her very patient husband, amazing daughter (the other remarkable daughter is off chasing her own dreams) and two spoiled cats. When she’s not plotting out her next romance, you can find her curled up with a mug of tea and a book.
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