“Two Last First Dates” by Katie O’Keeffe
Blurb: To Paige Miller, Two Last First Dates sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
Paige is having a rough time. She’s unhappy in her career and her One Last First Date ended in total disaster. Now, she has to figure out what to do professionally and personally. Life as a spinster with fifteen cats doesn’t sound too bad, though.
Deciding to give up on love, Paige begrudgingly befriends Josh Bentley, the friendly coffee delivery guy, while helping out at the Cozy Cottage Café. His T-shirts make her eyes roll, but their runs have become an important part of her day and a blessing to her waistline, because Bailey’s cakes are too good to pass up.
Meanwhile, her best friends offer to find Mr. Right for her, and all Paige has to do is let them. Then, the man of her dreams walks through the door. Marcus Hahn is as good-looking as he is charming, and any thoughts Paige had of being alone with those fifteen cats, fly out the window. Now, she just has to hope her friends choose him as her Last First Date.
But in the end, are Two Last First Dates enough to find The One?
**While this is the second book in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone or as part of the series. The protagonist is different from book one, although all lead female characters appear in each of the books.
“I’ve got some paperwork to get through, and then we need to talk about finding you your Last First Date.”
“Ah, no, we don’t,” I said, shaking my head. Had she forgotten my decision? It was infinitely better to die an old-maid-slash-reclaimed-virgin than go through that heartache again.
“Yeah, we do. Marissa and I had a meeting and we’ve decided—”
“You had a meeting?” I asked, incredulous, my eyes wide.
“We’re going to do this properly, Paige.”
I bit the inside of my lip. “Look, I told you at the beach. I don’t want to find a man. I’m over the whole Last First Date thing.”
Bailey looked at me, a smile on her face. “Is that so?”
“Yes!” Why was she persisting with this? My mind was made up; I had given up on love.
“Hold that thought,” Bailey said as she jumped out of her chair.
I’d been too lost in exasperation to notice there were a couple of customers standing at the counter, perusing the cabinet food. I stood up, collected our plates and coffee cups—with two hands and not Bailey’s skillful one yet—and headed to the kitchen.
Once behind the counter, I looked across at the customers to give them a welcoming Cozy Cottage Café smile. My eyes met a man’s at the counter, and I swear the breath was sucked right out of me.
Oh. My. God.
This guy was beautiful. Tall, broad, his olive skin set off by his crisp, white, open-necked shirt, cropped black hair, and an I’m-sent-down-by-the-Greek-gods face. Angels sang, harps were strummed, and everything around me fell into nothingness as I stared into his dark eyes. He smiled back at me, holding my gaze for a beat, two. I could hear my heart thudding in my ears, and I had to stifle a nervous, girly giggle.
Too late, I felt the crockery in my hands begin to wobble. I took a step, tried to right them, but both my hands were full. The dishes came crashing to the floor, smashing into one hundred pieces, the dregs of our coffee splattering against my legs and the floor.
I quickly squatted down and began collecting up the shattered crockery, my face burning. This was mortifying!
“Paige! What happened?” Bailey looked at me down on the ground, startled.
“Sorry. I . . . I don’t know.” Which was, of course, not entirely true. I knew exactly what had happened. I’d been too busy staring at Adonis Guy and not concentrating on carrying the dishes to the sink. I shook my head, angry with myself.
I’d let womankind down miserably; my lack of multitasking ability was clearly equal to a man’s.
A dark head poked over the edge of the counter. “Are you all right down there?”
I stopped what I was doing and looked up into those mesmerizing eyes once more. My mouth went dry. “I . . . yes, thank you.” I stood bolt upright as the heat in my cheeks intensified.
Adonis Guy pushed himself up off the counter and shot me a gorgeous grin. “What did those dishes ever do to you?” He turned to his friend. “Is this the reason you like this place? The hot waitresses throwing dishes around?”
Adonis Guy just called me hot?
Bailey laughed. “Usually we just try to dazzle you through our excellent coffee and food. So that was two lattes. Anything to eat?”
Adonis Guy looked back at me. I hadn’t moved an inch. “What do you recommend?”
“Oh, ah, me?” My blush deepened. “The, ah, carrot cake with the cream cheese frosting is out-of-this-world good.”
“That sounds delicious. Sold.” He turned to Bailey. “I’ll have a slice of that, thanks.” Adonis Guy returned his gaze to me.
His much less godlike friend shook his head good-naturedly, watching Adonis Guy quite obviously flirting with me. “I’ll grab one of those spinach and feta muffins.”
Bailey rang up their order. “I’ll get this, Marcus. I owe you one,” Non-Adonis Guy said.
I squatted down to collect the remaining broken dishes in my hands. Try as I might, I couldn’t get my heart rate to return to normal, and you could have roasted s’mores on my cheeks, they were so hot.
Marcus. His name was Marcus.
“Thank you. We’ll bring those over for you,” I heard Bailey say from my position on the floor.
I peeked over the top of the counter. Marcus and his friend had walked over to the window and were now sitting down at Marissa’s, Cassie’s, and my usual table. Of all the tables in the café, he chose my favorite. Was it a sign?
No, it’s not. I’d given up on love. I needed to remember that, difficult as it may have been in the presence of such manly perfection.
While Bailey expertly worked the coffee machine, I put the fragments of the dishes onto some newspaper, wrapped them up, and placed them in the trash. Once I’d swept up the shards, I washed my hands and paused, deep in thought. I may have given up on love, but I was still a woman. And women liked to look good, right?
I pulled my lipstick out of my bag and slipped the lid off. I held it up to my lips, peering in my small compact mirror, and stopped dead. What am I doing? One hot guy shows an interest in me and I’m throwing that all away? Talk about being flakier than one of Bailey’s cheese filo puffs.
I snapped my compact shut and wound my lipstick down, unapplied, returning it to my makeup bag. I couldn’t let the first cute guy I saw dissuade me from my new path. I’d made up my mind; I was a man-free zone.
My jaw clenched, I returned to the counter. “I’m really sorry about that, Bailey. I don’t know how it happened. You can dock my pay.”
The steamer on the coffee machine made a loud screech as she fluffed the milk for the coffee in a jug. “Don’t worry about it, Paige. Accidents happen. Just don’t let it happen too often, okay?”
“Of course.” I pulled out a couple of plates and put a slice of the cake and a muffin on each. I glanced over at Marcus. He and his friend appeared to be deep in conversation.
Bailey nodded at the plates. “Can you please take those over? I’ll bring the coffees when they’re done.”
Part of me wanted to leap at the opportunity of talking with Marcus again. Another part of me wanted to squirm out of it, come up with some sort of an excuse to avoid the temptation. I told myself I needed to be strong. It was inevitable I was going to meet cute men. I simply needed to learn to deal with them. My inevitable spinsterhood demanded it.
After all, my track record with men had been a miserable failure.
I smoothed my shoulder-length hair behind my ears, took a deep breath, and walked out from behind the counter over to the men’s table. “Here you go, gentlemen,” I said brightly as I placed their respective treats in front of them on the table.
“All recovered from your plate smashing ordeal?” Marcus asked with a cheeky half smile on his face, looking up at me from his seat.
“Oh, yes. It’s all fine, thank you.” I tucked my hair behind my ears. “Right. I’ll leave you to it.” I turned on my heel without a second glance and walked on wobbly legs back to the counter.
Done. Easy. Well, okay, not easy exactly, but done all the same.
As Bailey took advantage of the lull and got on with some paperwork, she left me to clean up the counter and wipe down tables before my shift ended. There was only Marcus and his friend in the café, and I was thankful they were so deep in conversation they ignored me, so I had free range to make the place spick and span, ready for us to do it all again tomorrow.
I was putting some things under the counter when someone cleared their throat next to me. I bobbed up, ready to serve like the good Cozy Cottage waitress of almost two days I was. My tummy did a flip when I saw who it was.
“Just checking you’re not abusing any more defenseless crockery down there,” Marcus said with a fake brow furrow.
My blush returned faster than you could say hot-guy-flirting-with-me. I let out a laugh. “No, no.”
“That’s good to hear. I’m from the Society for the Protection of Dishes, and we take these matters very seriously, you know.” His face broke into a grin.
Wow, this guy looked like Channing Tatum when he smiled. This was so not a good thing right now.
I let out a light laugh, putting my hand on my heart. “I swear to give the dishes the respect they deserve in future.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet.
“Oh, I think you already paid,” I said.
By way of response, he offered me his business card. Dumbly, I took it in my hand, looking down at the words. Marcus Hahn, Attorney-at-Law.
“I would urge you to get in touch if you have any dishes-related concerns.”
“Oh, I . . . thank you . . . Marcus.” I blushed as I said his name.
He flashed me his Channing Tatum grin once more and I swear my legs ceased to function for a moment there. I watched as he sauntered out of the café, turning to shoot me one last smile before he disappeared out onto the street.
Resisting this guy was going to be trickier than I thought.
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**About the author: Kate O’Keeffe is an award-nominated author of fun, feel-good romantic comedies. She lives and loves in beautiful New Zealand with her family, two scruffy dogs, and a cat who thinks he’s a scruffy dog too. He’s not: he’s a cat.
To date, Kate’s written the chick lit series, the Wellywood Romantic Comedy Series, and the new Cozy Cottage Café Series.
**Read the Cozy Cottage Cafe series:
Book 3: “Three Last First Dates” – coming October 31, 2017, click HERE to pre-order!
Book 4: “A Final Last First Date” – coming early-2018