To coffee-shop owner Eva Meyer, the California coast is beautiful, mellow and boring. The solution? Swapping livesand coffee shopswith her twin sister for one month. Now Eva's settled in the bustling Big Apple, where she can order anything anytime.
And what Eva really wants is the extra hot, topped-with-whipped-cream sexiness that is Ames Cooke.
While Eva is convinced she's found her perfect cup of Delicious Man, Ames isn't quite sure what to do with the quirky little number who's charged into his life. He's supposed to be attracted to someone cool and reservedlike her sister. But Eva has the unnerving ability to turn things seriously hot and steamy. Besides, it's only for one month. And like every good coffee addict, Ames can stop whenever he chooses .
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"Chris! I'm here. I'm calling from your apartment!" Eva dumped her bags in Chris's tiny foyer, which wasn't really more than the beginning of a narrow hallway. She'd visited her sister only once in New York, shortly after Chris moved here. Generally they saw each other in Wisconsin when they got together with their parents for the holidays.
"Let me guess. It's much bigger than you remember." Chris's voice dripped sarcasm.
"Uh not really." Eva peeked around a corner toward the kitchen, the size of her closet, and the living room, which struggled to contain a chair, love seat and coffee table. "But it's got so much charm!"
"Oh, is that charm? I thought charm was your house, with the plants and flowers growing everywhere and the ocean smell outside. Try and see how charming my place is in February when it's dark and freezing for weeks on end. I can actually run from one end of your place to another. Run! It's a real house!"
"A tiny house. Which you have to take care of." She hoisted her bags again, phone between her chin and ear, and marched down the hall, then pushed open the first door. "Your bedroom is adorable."
"You can barely turn aroundyou call that adorable? I can do jumping jacks in yours! I can see an expanse of floor! And then I can take a dozen steps and be outside! And to the beach in five minutes! No elevator, no sirens, no taxis, no"
"Concerts or museums, no theater, no"
"Traffic jams, no hurricanes, no impatient rude people"
"No excitement! No energy!"
"Huh?" Eva hauled her suitcase onto the twin bed.
Chris made a noise of exasperation. "A regular at NYEspresso. Also an arrogant pain in the ass who doesn't seem to hear me when I tell him I'm not interested. He's this complete rich-boy spoiled brat who's never heard 'no' in his life."
Eva chuckled. Men came after Chris pretty regularly. All she had to do was green-light the ones she wanted and ta-da, she had a boyfriend. Eva's quirks meant it was usually the other way around for hershe'd see someone and go after him. So far neither approach had worked long-term for the sisters, but they were happy to keep trying. "I'll tell him you've eloped. Maybe he'll fling himself off a building."
"Please encourage him."
"You'll have to deal with surfer dudes and lost tourists and retired hippies who order a cup of coffee and stay for hours thinking you have nothing better to do than chat. Which, sadly, you often don't. Though Zac will be there most days and he's awesome."
"So you've said. Though I still think your arrangement is weird. Who agrees to get married when they hit thirty only if nothing else works out?"
"We did." She didn't expect Chris to understand. Eva had begun to realize that while love affairs were a fabulous, fireworks-filled pleasure, when it came to choosing a life partner and future father of her children, she wasn't going to get much better than her best male friend, Zac, master's candidate at Cal Poly and regular at Slow Pour. It was precisely because they didn't burn so hot that she knew he'd be a good solid match, one that actually lasted.
But they still had a year and a half before that commitment. And as much as she adored Zac and he adored her, neither of them had yet given up hope they could find another soul mate they could also be frantic to tangle up the sheets with.
"At NYEspresso you'll have to deal with people screaming at you because you aren't moving fast enough or the line isn't moving fast enough. People act as if you're put on the planet only to serve them."
"I look forward to the challenge."
Chris giggled. "I can't believe we're doing this!"
"What, turning our hometowns into horrific stereotypes?"
"Well, yes, but I meant switching lives. Are you heading over to NYEspresso tonight?"
"Uh-huh." Eva couldn't wait to be in the place, knowing it was hers, however temporarily. "I think I can just make it over there before closing."
Chris snorted. "Yeah, figure how much time you'll need realistically, then add half an hour for delays and waiting and crowds and"
"At least I get to go somewhere." At home her commute was down the hill and around a corner. Not a lot of sights to take in. "I want to meet your staff, make sure they're ready to have me take over for a month."
"They'll be thrilled. I've been such a bitch lately."
"You?" Eva scoffed. "Never!"
"Uh-huh. You take care, twin."
"You, too." Eva hung up the phone, bursting with excitement. Traffic and street noise reached her window. Civilization actually happened herethis was real life! She couldn't wait to get started. But first, deep breaths, a little meditation to get the nerves under control, calm her down so she didn't appear too frazzled when she met her crew at NYEspresso.
She sat cross-legged on the scuffed hardwood floor and closed her eyes, loosened her consciousness from her surroundings, swaying slightly to keep herself off balance, clearing her mind, trying to connect to the wise voice deep inside her that never failed to
The apartment door burst open, making her jump. Must be Chris's roommate, new since Eva had last visited. Natalie worked near NYEspresso and had mentioned to Chris one day that she needed a roommate. According to Chris, Natalie was either trying to get into bed with a guy or getting kicked out of bed by a guy in one of the most misguided searches for love Chris had ever seen, but she was good-heartedonce she got to know you.
Eva was totally curious to meet her.
"Yeah? Well, screw you, Edward." Heels clunked furiously down the hallway. "Yeah? You really think that? Dream on, buddy, and guess what, you suck in bed."
Uh. That was not a person connected to her wise inner voice.
"No, let me tell you, you son-of-a Oh. Hi." She stopped outside Eva's doorway, nearly six feet of stunning brunette, who probably weighed less than Eva, all of five-four. "I'll call you back, Edward. No? Well, fine. I won't. Ever. Up yours."
"Hi." Eva was having a hard time not giggling. Not that no one ever got pissed in Carmia, but that tirade seemed so New York to her.
"You're Chris's sister." Natalie looked Eva over curiously, taking in the turquoise ballet flats and tiered floral skirt, up to her colorful layers of loose-fitting tops, multiple ear piercings and assortment of butterfly clips in her hair. "She wasn't kidding. You're her total opposite."
"Close to it." Eva sat as tall as possible, looking Natalie over right back, from her black ankle boots over crimson leggings and black microskirt under a stylish wrapped coat with big leather fastenings, then to top it off, a wide-brimmed black hat. The epitome of fashion chic. She and Chris must turn every head in New York when they went out together.
"You meditating or something?"
"Yes." Eva smiled. "It keeps me centered and calm. You might want to"
"Uh-huh." Natalie didn't smile back. "My stuff in the refrigerator is marked, and I need the bathroom from five to six a.m. every morning."
"Not a problem." Eva bunched her mouth to keep from smirking. Nice to meet you, too. "So you work for an interior design place?"
"Oh. Yeah." She said it as if it was the most boring job in the world. "I guess."
"It's okay." She glanced at her watch, obviously anxious to move on.
Perversely, this made Eva want to keep her talking. "How long have you lived in New York?"
"Your parents, too? What did they do here?" Her demeanor thawed a tiny bit. "Mom was a Broadway chorister. Dad is a music professor at Juilliard."
"Wow! Cool family. Are you musical?" Natalie leaned against the doorjamb, though her body stayed stiff. "I played clarinet for a bunch of years and took dance lessons. Had a few parts in school plays and musicals, nothing big. I still love going to shows. I probably saw all of them growing up."
"That's great." Eva studied her new roommate, wondering how much further she could pry. "So I'm sorry about the awkward conversation with Edward."
"He's a jerk. They're all jerks." Natalie shoved away from the door. "I gotta go get ready. I have a date."
"Oh." Eva frowned in confusion. "Not with Edward "
Natalie gave her a withering stare. "As. If."
"Ah. Well, okay, then." Eva waved cheerfully. "Have fun with whoever."
Natalie stalked off.
Eva was pretty sure they'd never be best friends.
And it was a little hard to continue her meditation with her new not-best-friend crashing and muttering around the apartment, but Eva did the best she could. At least when she stood again, she felt more centered, less scattered, though still eager to get to NYEspresso.
Just under an hour later, Eva was standing outside her sister's shop on Tenth Avenue and West Forty-Third Street in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Hudson Yards. Yes, she'd misjudged how long it took to get there, but the store didn't close for an hour yet, and what a smorgasbord of faces and auras and interactions to keep her entertained during the walk and subway rides!
Around her was a population in suits, jeans and office casual, mostly denim and black, practically everyone in dark shades, and her in her wild flowery skirt and magenta hoodie. Not that anyone gave her a second glance. You could get away with pretty much any look in this town.
She pushed open the front door and was immediately hit by her favorite smell in the worldsecond only to the aroma of roasting beansfreshly brewed coffee.
NYEspresso was different than she remembered, though it had been over a year since she'd visited. Chris had obviously put her own stamp on the place after buying it from the previous owners with the money she and Eva had come into at age twenty-five from wealthy grandparents on their mom's side. The space was sparer than it had been, more efficiently organized, with snappy clear plastic seats and bright white oval tables with chrome supports. The counter was also bright white, a long, sharp rectangle with ordering and cashier service at the far end and pastry behind a glass case closer to the entrance. The walls had been painted deep red and left bare except for white glass sconces surrounded by black iron cages that looked like chain mail.
Chic. Edgy. Not the most relaxing space. But this wasn't Carmia, this was Manhattan.
Eva approached the counter with a smile, held out her hand to the barista on duty, a handsome kid with three eyebrow rings and a necklace tattoo, whom she vaguely remembered had a weird nickname. "Hey, there. I'm Eva. Chris's sister."
"Yeah, hey. How are you?" Only with his thick New York accent it sounded like Ha-wa-ya? "I'm Jinx."
"Jinx, right. Just stopping in to say hi tonight. I'll be on the bar officially in the morning."
"Cool. Glad to have you. It's cool what you and Chris worked out." He looked toward the door and rolled his eyes. "Oh, brother, here we go."
Eva swung around. A large bouquet of flowers was walking toward her on male legs.
Jinx snorted. "The dude does not give up."
The flowers lowered.
Eva's heart stopped. Okay, not reallythat would be ridiculous, because she'd collapsebut it sure felt as if everything inside her and in the whole world had paused to note this auspicious occasion.
Thick, short, dark hair that looked as if he'd tried hard to style it but the strands refused to lie flat. Deep brown eyes under dark brows. High cheekbones, a lean jaw. Full mouth, with a faint groove on either side. The shadow of masculine stubble. A small gold stud in one ear. Expensive dark suit, subtly patterned silk tie in blue, burgundy and beige. Gold watch. Perfectly shined shoes.
That was him. Her soul mate. Her man, her One Great Love Eternal, acronym OGLE.
Or at least he was her next hot fling.
"Chris here?" Her soul mate put the flowers on the counter, glancing at Eva before he addressed Jinx. She was used to making no impression on a guy like this. But that wouldn't last long,
"Chris is not." Jinx beckoned over another customer. Clearly he wasn't a fan.
The perfect man yanked an iPhone from his pocket and poked at it.
"Hi." Eva stepped forward, her hand out. "I'm Chris's sister, Eva."
"Uh-huh." He continued to peer at his phone, reading intently.
"The woman you're going to marry. We'll have beautiful children. I'm thinking five or six. We should get started on that soon, since I'm already twenty-eight."
He lifted his head suddenly. Their eyes locked. Well, hers locked. He kind of glanced at her, then did a double take, like, What are you looking at? "Sorry, what were you saying?"
"Nothing important." She smiled sweetly, held out her hand again. Just concerning the rest of our lives together. Or, more likely, the rest of the month. "You were busy."
He made a sound of frustration. "Sometimes I'm not sure if I own the phone or it owns me."
"What's your name?" She'd bet this was
Yup. The pain in Chris's lucky ass. The entitled, arrogant rich boy, who Chris had neglected to mention was devastatingly sexy.
Was he cocky businessman through and through? He certainly looked the part, but there was that gold stud glinting in one ear, and his slightly spiked hair. She was already thinking maybe a tattoo in a hidden place.
A place she couldn't wait to discover.
"You visiting?" Ames was looking around, undoubtedly still hoping Chris would emerge from the back of the shop.
"I'm taking over for Chris for a month."
His attention zoomed back to her. "Chris? What's wrong? Where is she?"
Look how nice of him to be concerned. A thoughtful guy. "She's at my place in California. We switched lives for a month."
"You switched" Ames was clearly having trouble processing that one. But maybe the fact that his supposed beloved had left town without letting him know would help him understand that he and Chris were not destined to be together forever.
Whereas he and Eva
At least for a month.
"Well, crap." He stared forlornly at the flowers, a stunning and almost laughably huge bouquet of pink roses, burgundy and white alstroemeria, white tulips, freesia and God knew what else.
"You could take them back to the shop. Or leave them here." Eva gestured around. "A little color and life wouldn't hurt."
"Oh." He stared as if he'd forgotten her. "Yeah, okay."
"Thank you." She took the vase into her arms as if she were cradling a baby and beamed at him. "So what are you doing tonight, Ames?"
As she expected, he looked startled, glanced at his watch, face reddening slightly. "I'm due at I'm I have."
"Wow. That sounds fabulous." He laughed in surprise.
"I just arrived today from California, so I'm going to take it easy tonight." She put the vase on the counter over the pastry. "Maybe order takeout, because I hear you can get anything delivered in this city."
She threw him a flirty look over her shoulder. "Even you?"
"Even me what?"
"If I was home bored and wanted company, could I order you for delivery?"
"I don't " He took a step back. "That is "
Eva waved dismissively and moved the vase farther down the counter. "Don't worry, I was only flirting. Cup of coffee on the house?"
"Uh." He laughed uncertainly. "Actually, I'm"
"Jinx." She inclined her head toward the barista. "Give this man whatever he wants."
"Okay." Jinx stared coolly at Ames. "What'll it be?"
"Hmm?" Ames was lost in poking at his cell again. "Uh a red eye. Room at the top. To go."
Eva took half a step closer to him. "We call those hammerheads in California."