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LOVE ON THE BOARDWALK
(Cinnamon Bay Romance series - Book 1)
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She’s hiding a broken engagement.
He’s concealing his true birth heritage.
They’ll have to trust their hearts even if they’re sure love is a lie.
Just for you...here's a preview of Chapters 1 & 2!
FOR AS LONG as Eva Halloway could remember, the menu at the Brewed with a View coffee shop had remained the same.
She’d learned by heart each specialty drink, hot drink, and pastry from her childhood days spent sitting on one of the stools along the antique counter and watching her grandmother tend to customers. Hands down, her favorite item on the menu had been the strawberry float. And even now, years later, just being in the coffee shop, the familiar smells and the atmosphere had her craving a strawberry float. Maybe if her grandmother had been on the other side of the counter, she would have indulged in the drink of her childhood.
Instead, Eva stood on the other side of her counter, filling the shoes of her late grandmother, Lilith. It hadn’t been a surprise that Lilith had left her only granddaughter the family business, but rather a surprise that her spry nana had passed away so suddenly.
Eva hadn’t asked or been looking for a new beginning, but at the same time, the change had been exactly what she needed. She’d moved back to her summertime playground of Cinnamon Bay, North Carolina and took over Brewed with a View.
And with new beginnings, she decided the menu could use some spicing up—or rather an entire revamp. After weeks of research, she’d narrowed down the specialty, hot, and cold drinks. She’d added a fruit and smoothie line as well as a “grab-n-go” snack line. All having funky new names. And today was the day she’d introduce the new menu to the town.
Balancing on the ladder, she finished writing the last drink on the oversized chalkboard—her grandmother hadn’t modernized with digital screens, and Eva quite liked the cozy feeling of the old chalkboard.
She leaned back to admire the white-and-blue chalk words she’d scripted and was confident the sweet maple cold brew would be the perfect replacement for the town’s legendary Café Amour.
The antique clock chimed six times, telling her it was time to open. She climbed down the ladder, rinsed the chalk from her fingertips and dried them on her apron as she crossed the room and flipped the open sign.
The foggy morning seemed appropriate for the tiny touch of dread inside her. She knew taking Café Amour off the menu might not fly with the town, but this was her coffee shop and if she wanted to remove a silly drink that gave people false hope and foolhardy expectations she didn’t believe in, then so be it. And if she had to stand up to every single person who lived in Cinnamon Bay, bring on the torches and pitchforks of the angry mob townsfolk.
The lock clacked as she slowly turned the deadbolt. Through the glass door, she could see three shadowed figures walking down the boardwalk, the fog rising around them set the scene of a horror movie.
Chills crept up her spine.
The whole town in mob form wasn’t nearly as scary as Hattie, Trixie, and Birdie, the resident matchmakers, and her late grandmother’s best friends.
Eva’s gaze flitted over her shoulder to the chalkboard. There was still time to add the Café Amour back on.
No. She refused.
Taking a deep breath of confidence, she walked back behind the counter. Kolby Reeves, her newest—but the coffee shop’s oldest—employee, made it to the ladder first and unhinged the sides to flatten it.
She admired his thick dreadlocks wrapped in a fancy bun atop his head. He spent more time on his hair than she did her entire morning regime. She glanced down, second-guessing her jeans and T-shirt and wondering if she should have decided on a dress for today, to give her a softer, sweeter side.
Not to impress Kolby; they batted for the same team.
No, her mind was still on easing the new menu to the ladies getting closer. She could see the outline of Trixie’s and Birdie’s hats. Hattie refused to wear a hat because of her name, which spoke volumes to her stubbornness.
“I see the matchmaking posse is on their way bright and early today.” Kolby hitched his eyebrows upward as he walked past her with the ladder tucked under one arm. “Almost as if they sensed what you’ve done.”
“Not you too.”
He continued walking as he spoke. “Sweetheart, you know it’s true. I warned you about taking Café Amour off the menu. But I won’t abandon you to three little old matchmakers.”
The bell above the door rang, and the tap of heels clicking on the hardwood floor warned them the matchmakers were in the coffee shop.
“Then where are you going?” Eva hissed at Kolby in a low whisper for only him to hear.
“I have to put the ladder away and…count the forks,” he said.
“Count the forks?” Lies, all of them.
He glanced over his shoulder. “Honey, one of us needs to survive to be able to serve the customers. I’ll be back after the wrath of what you’ve created has passed.” His fingers spun in the air for effect.
“Chicken.” But her hiss was only met with an amused chuckle as he disappeared into the back.
Deep breaths. Deep breaths.
It was her coffee shop, and she had this.
Plastering her best smile on her lips, she turned toward the powerful three. “Good morning, ladies.”
None of them responded. Their eyes zeroed in on the menu.
Eva grabbed three coffee mugs and a pot of freshly brewed java and made her way around the counter. “The usual, ladies? And the usual table?”
She filled the mugs over at the bistro table by the window where the trio sat every morning, ordering the same thing. Being Eva’s grandmother’s best friends, she didn’t make them wait in line to order their drinks. Even Kolby knew to spoil them by delivering their drinks to their table.
“I never thought the day would come,” Trixie said, her regular bubbly demeanor lacking.
“Lilith would roll over in her grave.” The bracelets on Birdie’s wrists clanged as she pointed at the menu.
Hattie, the unsaid leader, remained silent, and Eva sensed that was by far worse.
“Now, ladies…” Eva turned to face them and found Trixie already behind the counter, chalk in hand and trying to hoist herself up the ladder.
“Trixie! Get down from there!” Eva left the coffee pot on the table and rushed to the old woman’s side before she slipped and broke a hip. Cautiously, Eva drew Trixie’s foot down and steadied her on level ground.
Eva planted her hands on her hips and sent the old lady a glare. “What are you doing?”
Trixie pointed the chalk at her. “You’re missing a drink.”
Eva snatched the chalk away. “I’m not missing a drink. I purposely didn’t add the drink.”
Trixie gasped and covered her mouth. “Oh my word.” Her eyelids closed, and she tilted her head upward. “I’m hearing things. Good lord, I’m hearing things. This child claims she’s not putting Café Amour back on the menu.”
“You’re not hearing things.” Eva kept a firm tone. “I’ve revamped the menu, and that’s all the coffee shop is serving from now on.”
“All?” Hattie asked in her calm and composed manner.
Eva’s gaze locked on Hattie’s forceful stare. “Yes, all.”
The older woman was trying to crack her and break her down.
It wouldn’t work.
Eva stared back.
A thick tension grew around their silence for what felt like minutes before the bell sounded and customers entered the coffee shop.
“Let’s let Eva tend to her customers,” Hattie said. No mention of the drink, no attempt to put it back on the board. Eva would feel success, but she knew better with these old gals.
She watched the three ladies whisper about the missing drink not as quiet as she assumed they’d meant to be.
“That didn’t go as badly as I thought it would.” She jumped at Kolby’s voice beside her.
“Your timing is impeccable,” she told him before she smiled at the customer waiting by her counter. “What can I get for you today?”
“I was told you sell Café Amour.”
THE MORNING WAS a confusion of new drink names and explanations, but the laughter and interaction with the customers left everyone smiling. Even the trio of matchmakers couldn’t argue that the morning had been a fun, eventful few hours.
And there the ladies still sat, at their table, as if they had nothing else to do today. Which was quite the opposite. Eva knew all about their daily routines, not by choice; her grandma had been as much a gossiper as they were. She knew Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays they did yoga at Zen Bodies. And Tuesdays and Thursdays were left for Zumba.
She also knew about their Saturday danceathon at the retirement home and knitting on Sundays. Not to mention, their book club, which they’d named Coffee Talk on the Boardwalk. The trio kept busy, but today, they hadn’t budged. They’d moved from drinking coffee to water. She was making no money off their table, which was less worrisome than whatever plan they were constructing.
“They’ve got the look.” Kolby was folding a paper napkin into one of his funky, unique origami creations, with one eye peeking up at the trio.
“Stop it. You’re being paranoid.” Eva peeked up from the cup she was scribbling a name on to find they did indeed have the look.
“See, the look,” he whispered in her ear.
He was right. There was no denying it, and as soon as her lineup cleared, the trio was standing on the other side.
“Ladies, is there anything else I can get you?”
“Eva Halloway, you may have been raised in Boston, but you spent every summer here in Cinnamon Bay. You’re a Halloway. If anyone would believe the legend, it should be you. Your blood is part of the legend.”
She sighed, tired of the same old story. “It’s just a drink.”
“If it’s just a drink, why take it off the menu?” Birdie perched her eyebrows high enough they disappeared under her beige beret.
Eva wasn’t about to start a conversation on the false hope of Café Amour that had led her mother to make the worst decision of her life—marrying Eva’s father.
“I love you ladies like you’re my grandmothers, but this time, I don’t need your support. It’s staying off the menu. End of story.”
She turned and grabbed a washcloth to wipe the already sparkling clean counter.
“On one condition,” Hattie spoke for the first time, and Eva had prepared herself for this fight.
She tossed the washcloth in the sink and turned around, leaned her back against the counter and placed her flat palms on top of the cool surface. “Name it.”
“You make a Café Amour and drink it yourself.”
Eva scrunched her face together. “What?” She hadn’t expected the strange request.
“I think that’s fair.” Kolby came to her side, with his traitorous words.
“What? No,” Eva repeated.
“If you don’t believe in the drink, what harm can come from it?” Hattie dared her.
“If I make the drink, and drink it, you’ll drop putting it back on the menu?” Eva asked.
“If, after you drink it, you don’t find your true love, we’ll drop it.”
That wouldn’t be a problem. Eva was destined to be alone, didn’t want to find love after seeing how it destroyed her mother.
“Fine.” She wiped her hands on her apron. “I’m in. I’ll grab the ingredients.”
She knew the recipe by heart as she’d watched her grandmother prepare it for the tourists who came into the shop looking for the legendary Café Amour.
“And, Trixie, put the chalk down.” Eva pointed a warning finger at her before she gathered the ingredients.
“This is exciting.” Birdie climbed on the stool at the end of the counter, rubbing together her hands anticipatively. “I’ve dreamed of the day you finally down the drink.”
Eva rolled her eyes. “It’s only regular ingredients mixed together. There is nothing special about it.”
“You know that’s not true,” Hattie said. “Made by a Halloway, with Cinnamon Bay’s cinnamon, and the recipe turns into a love potion.”
“A potion for disaster,” Eva muttered.
“Oh, thee of little faith,” Birdie said.
Eva pointed her teaspoon at Trixie, who had pulled a chair to the counter. “I swear