From the moment Paige Baxter, owner of Two Sisters Cupcakes, catches wind of a new rival in town, she’s on high alert. When she discovers that this new shop is owned by none other than her ex-boyfriend, Tanner Mann, and his twin brother, Garrett, she knows she has to take action. Tanner’s already broken her heart once. She’s not about to let him sabotage her business.
If you love sexy romantic comedy, you’ll love Mann Cakes, coming out on May 11! This excerpt captures the chemistry-charged rivalry that drives the story. Enjoy!
An Excerpt from Chapter Five
Tanner & Paige square off, and the competition is on!
Ten minutes before closing time at five o’clock, Tanner counted receipts. They’d done well for the first day. Garrett was on his fifth cup of coffee and looked twitchy.
“What’s the matter?” Tanner asked.
“All day, we’ve had a bunch of women and a gay couple, but not a single straight man has stopped in. What’s the deal?”
“I don’t know.” Okay, so he knew the answer to that. He suspected Garrett did, too, but he was probably in denial.
The door opened again, and in walked another woman, but not just any woman. Tanner dropped the receipts on the countertop. They fluttered across it, some hit the floor, but he couldn’t care less.
“Hmm, so it’s just like Morgan described,” Paige said. Her eyes took in everything.
For a moment, he was transported back to the first time he saw her. Paige and her sister Morgan had just moved from North Carolina. They were your perfect girl next door examples—hair in neat ponytails and braids, wearing no-nonsense jeans and T-shirts. Not his type at all. At least he didn’t think so. He had needed serious help with math if he wanted to graduate, and Paige had just happened to be his tutor. He annoyed the crap out of her. She said he was hopeless. But one afternoon, the math finally clicked, and their eyes met. Hers were big and brown, some would say doe-like, but no. This girl was anything but meek. She was intelligent and could hold her own in a fight. He hadn’t realized he wanted a girl like that until then.
Paige crossed her arms. She stared at Tanner for one painful second before turning to Garrett with a smile. “It’s good to see you again. Welcome back to Beach Pointe.”
“Thanks. It’s good to be back,” Garrett said, sliding his gaze toward Tanner. “Right, bro?”
She shook her head with a slanted smile and a brief laugh. “I didn’t think I’d see you again.” That time, she was looking right at Tanner. Clearly, the old wounds he’d inflicted still festered.
“I guess you were wrong.”
Her dark eyes narrowed into slits. Shit, he’d already pissed her off and hadn’t even said ten words to her yet.
“I’ll just… Dishes… See ya, Paige.” Garrett retreated to the kitchen.
Now what? Was she going to tear him a new one?
She walked up to the counter and scanned their nearly-empty display. “Seems like your opening day was a success.”
She nodded, focusing blindly on the few remaining items in the display case as though trying to find something else to say.
Tanner broke the silence. “You’re looking good, Paige.”
She huffed through her nose and scratched at the back of her neck. “If you call tired and stressed good, then yeah.”
“No, really. The short hair works on you, too.” He wasn’t lying. She did look tired, with dark circles under her eyes that said she hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in ages. But she still had a smoking hot figure, flawless skin, shiny hair. If anything, she was even more beautiful than before. Plus, he couldn’t help but be a little relieved that she was still Paige and not Peter.
She held up her hand and shook her head. “Don’t try to… Look, I’m not here for small talk.”
“Okay, so why are you here?”
“We’ve lost customers, and it’s because of you.”
“Oh, come on, how do you know that? We just opened.”
“Several orders have been canceled, including Glen and Jeff’s. I had to guilt them into telling me they’re ordering from you instead.”
“We’re not trying to be competition. We wanted the opposite—all the guys who don’t like the sugary, pink stuff.”
“Well, that’s not what you got, and I think you knew that going into it.”
“How would I know that?”
Paige slung her arm out, pointing toward the door. Her voice rose, along with the angry red in her cheeks. “The billboard, the TV ads, even a front-page article in the paper. I think you knew exactly who you were attracting, and what it would do to our business.”
Tanner would’ve had to pick his jaw off the floor if it hadn’t been attached. Fists clenched, he had to force himself to stay behind the counter. Not because he wanted to throw her out, but because he wanted to hold her and say he was sorry. Hell, he kind of wanted to kiss her, too. But she wasn’t having any of that. He’d have rather faced a badger with an axe to grind than Paige Baxter at that moment.
So, he held his ground. “If some son of a bitch hadn’t burned our business and our friend to the ground, we’d still be there. We needed to pay the bills. This place was available, so we took it. That’s all. We wanted to draw the men in—the straight men, the ones who wanted Cheez Whiz instead of a mound of sweet icing. I can’t help it if we drew a different crowd. Maybe you need to step up your game, if you’re so worried about it.”
“Yeah? Well maybe we will.” Paige yanked her car keys from her jacket pocket. She opened the door so hard, the wind blew Tanner’s fallen receipts across the floor. “If it’s war you want, it’s war you’ll get.”
She stormed out, slamming the door behind her. The pictures on the walls and the napkin holders on the tables rattled.
Garrett poked his head out of the kitchen. “Has there been a cease fire, or should I duck and cover?”
“Oh no, it’s on like Donkey Kong, bro. Paige thinks we’re stealing her customers. Let’s show her what real competition looks like.”
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