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It seems like the perfect solution: hotel mogul Alex Porter will manage his sister's small-town bed-and-breakfast while she honeymoons. But he gets more than he bargained for when he finds himself clashing with feisty café owner Kate Nichols. Suddenly he's organizing church outings and playing surrogate dad to the foster children Kate takes in. Alex is used to taking charge—but not like this! If he isn't careful, this big-city executive just might lose his heart to Mirror Lake's favorite hometown girl.
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Carol Award winning author Kathryn Springer grew up in a small town in northern, Wisconsin. She credits her parents, who owned a weekly newspaper, for instilling in her a love for books--which eventually turned into a desire to tell stories of her own. Her Love Inspired debut novel, Tested by Fire, was published in August of 2004.
Kathryn loves inspirational romance because she can combine her faith in God with her love for a happy ending!
"Sit." Kate Nichols took one look at her best friend's face and pointed to an empty booth by the window. "I'll be right back with a piece of pie."
"Just bring the whole thing." Abby Porter's sigh stirred the wisps of honey-blond hair on her forehead. "And a fork."
Kate shot her a sympathetic look. "That bad, huh?"
"Let's put it this way—for the past twenty-four hours I've been seriously contemplating a destination wedding," Abby said darkly.
"Mmm. Could be fun," Kate mused. "What's the destination?"
"Oh, possibly a tent in the middle of the Sahara. Maybe a remote tropical island." Abby's silver-green eyes narrowed. "Jupiter."
Kate tried not to smile as she retrieved a piece of triple berry pie from the revolving dessert case near the cash register and topped it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
She set the plate and a carafe of fresh coffee down on the table in front of Abby before sliding into the opposite side of the booth. "Interesting choices but I'm not sure I see a pattern. What's the criteria?"
"There's only one," Abby admitted as she attacked the pie. "Somewhere my brother can't find me."
Kate suppressed a smile. "I hate to be the one who breaks this to you, but I'm pretty sure the 'tent in the Sahara' thing won't work."
"Because Alex probably holds stock in some high-tech spy satellite. He'd track you down in no time."
Abby frowned as she considered that. "Scratch that one, then. Tropical island?"
"Definitely a no go unless you're willing to choose a new maid of honor. My hair and humidity are sworn enemies." To prove her point, Kate tweaked a flame-colored curl that seemed to have doubled in size since she'd unlocked the door of the Grapevine Cafe at six o'clock that morning. "Not to mention that Alex has a yacht."
"You're right." The words tumbled out with Abby's sigh. "I guess that leaves Jupiter."
"Uh-uh." Kate leaned forward and lowered her voice a notch. "He owns it."
"Kate!" Abby choked back a laugh.
Kate simply looked at her.
"Okay, because there's a slight—very slight, mind you—chance that you're right, I'll take Jupiter off the list, too," Abby grumbled.
"And several other planets in the solar system," Kate said under her breath. They shared a grin.
"All right." Abby gave up. "It looks like I'm back to where I started. Getting married at the inn."
Which was, Kate knew, exactly the place that Abby and her fiance, Quinn O'Halloran, wanted to exchange their vows.
Shortly after the couple announced their engagement, Alex Porter had done his best to persuade Abby to hold the wedding in the grand ballroom of a swanky Chicago hotel. One of—count them—four swanky hotels the Porter family happened to own in the midwest.
It was clear the wealthy executive didn't think that a small ceremony and outdoor reception were good enough for his only sibling.
If she were Abby, Kate would be contemplating Jupiter, too. Either that or sending the guy on a one-way trip to the moon.
Not, Kate thought, that it would do any good. The man possessed both the ways and means to find his way back.
Alex Porter was nothing if not...resourceful. Creatively, ingeniously and, yes, sometimes even scarily resourceful.
He'd proven that the previous summer when he'd secretly hired Quinn O'Halloran, a local security systems expert and former bodyguard, to keep an eye on Abby when she'd moved to Mirror Lake.
Kate had found out the whole story after she and Abby became friends. How Alex had hoped his sister would give up what he considered to be a foolish dream—turning an old Bible camp on the lake into a bed-and-breakfast—and return to Chicago where she belonged. How the plan had backfired when Abby and Quinn fell in love.
Abby had patiently held her ground over the past few months when her brother made his opinions known, but Kate had doled out enough slices of pie to know it wasn't always easy. For all Alex Porter's bossy ways, the two siblings were close and Abby hated to be at odds with him. In spite of their obvious differences, Abby talked about her older brother with exasperated but genuine affection.
Kate totally understood the exasperation. The affection, not so much.
Secretly, she figured the bond between them had more to do with Abby's sweet, generous nature and her strong faith rather than some unseen quality that might lay buried like a vein of gold in the heart that beat beneath Alex Porter's Armani suit.
"So what is big brother's problem now?" Kate asked as she filled two coffee mugs to the brim. "The wedding is less than a week away. There can't be anything left at risk for a hostile takeover."
"You'd be surprised," Abby muttered.
Kate silently scrolled through the list of wedding details she knew Alex had taken issue with. "Is he still upset that Jessica and Tony will be running the inn while you're gone?"
"It was hard for Alex to give up one of his favorite managers and head pastry chef for two weeks, but he hasn't said anything about that for a while. Probably because he knows they'll do a great job." Abby smiled. "Jessica plans to cut back to part-time until she has the baby but she insists that taking over my kitchen will feel like a vacation. And Tony is hoping to do a little fishing when he isn't manning the desk."
"So Tony and Jessica are safe." Relieved, Kate mentally crossed that one off her list and went onto the next one. "He doesn't approve of your decision to carry a bouquet of wild-flowers so he hired his personal florist to change your mind?"
"He doesn't have a..." Abby paused. "Never mind. But, no, I'm happy to report that my Queen Anne's lace and daisies are safe at the moment."
"So what is it now?"
"He thinks...oh, it doesn't matter." To Kate's astonishment, Abby's smile faded and she averted her gaze. "You know Alex."
Kate didn't. Not really. She had only met the man once, a year ago, when he'd driven up in a silver Viper to check on Abby and make one last-ditch effort to convince her to leave Mirror Lake.
But because Abby talked about her brother a lot, Kate felt as if she knew him. And what she knew—other than the fact that Alex Porter oozed confidence out of every pore and happened to be quite unfairly, in Kate's opinion, drop-dead gorgeous—didn't impress her very much. As far as she was concerned, Alex tried to control peoples' lives the same way he did his hotels. With a lift of one autocratic eyebrow. That it seemed to work for the guy was another cause for irritation.
"Well, he must have said something or you wouldn't be threatening to elope five days before your wedding," Kate pointed out.
"It's nothing to be concerned about, really. Alex had some...questions...about the reception dinner," Abby finally admitted.
"It's all set. You and Quinn approved the menu. I have everything ready..." Kate stopped. Something in Abby's expression set off warning bells in her head.
Alex Porter didn't have questions. He had doubts. Doubts that a woman who operated a small cafe had the ability to cater his sister's wedding reception.
"He doesn't think I can do it." Kate wasn't sure why, but the thought stung.
"That's not it," Abby said quickly. "Alex just wondered whether you had the time to act as my maid of honor and handle the food for the reception."
No doubt he wondered more than that, Kate thought grimly. But just because the Porter hotels boasted award-winning restaurants didn't mean they were the only ones capable of creating a memorable reception dinner.
"I told Alex that I trust you completely," Abby continued. "Not only are you the queen of multitasking, you're a wonderful cook."
Kate was touched by her friend's loyalty, but Alex's assumption still rankled. She was forced to take her own advice when it came to dealing with stressful situations. Keep your sense of humor.
"So what does he think is on the menu? Hamburgers and French fries?" Kate even managed a weak laugh. Abby joined in. Sort of.
Kate's mouth dropped open. "He thinks that all I'm capable of making are hamburgers and French fries?"
"Not really," Abby murmured. Unfortunately, the look in her eyes flashed the words "yes, really."
Kate could feel the freckles on the bridge of her nose start to glow. "He thinks the Grapevine is a greasy spoon."
"It doesn't matter what Alex thinks." Abby's chin lifted. "He's never eaten at the cafe."
So, yes! A greasy spoon!
"I told him that you've won awards at the county fair..." Kate stifled a groan. She knew her friend meant well, but a first-place ribbon for her triple berry pie and sour apple salsa wasn't going to impress someone like Alex. "...and just because the cafe is small, it doesn't mean that you deep-fry everything and sling hash—"
"Hash?" Kate squawked.
"Maybe he didn't say hash." Abby bit her lip.
The familiar gesture, the one Kate saw whenever Abby was trying to find a tactful way to say something—or not to say something—only led to one conclusion.
He'd said hash.
Abby must have recognized the look on her face. "Don't change your mind about catering the reception," she pleaded.
"Alex will eat everything you prepare, and he'll love it. I promise."
The corners of Kate's lips curved in a slow smile. "Oh, don't worry. I'm not going to chang...
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Book Description Love Inspired Large Print, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110373815956
Book Description Love Inspired, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Lgr. Seller Inventory # DADAX0373815956
Book Description Love Inspired, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Lgr. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory # 0373815956n