Country music hopeful, Lolly Winston, is in Alaska, seeking inspiration for her debut album. And when a hot tip says an agent's in town, she's convinced her big break is near.
Meanwhile, Oscar Rockwell, a local veterinarian with a matchmaking mom, is one blind date away from freedom. He just wants peace, and for his mom to take in a pregnant cat.
But a hilarious mix-up throws Lolly into Oscar's path, turning both their dreams upside down. Can these two mismatched souls find a new harmony together?
Dive into this sparkling sweet romance by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Storm. It's bound to strike a chord!
Oscar Rockwell drove slowly as he navigated the roads of residential Anchorage. When he hit a bump, the stowaway cat mewed from somewhere in the back of his car.
“I’m being as careful as I can,” he explained in a soothing voice. “You wanted help. Well, you’re going to get it.”
He turned left and caught a flash of dappled fur as it rushed from one side of the vehicle to the other. Oscar wasn’t really a cat person. Then again, he wasn’t quite a dog person either. He loved all animals, which is why he’d worked hard to finish veterinary school and open his own practice downtown. The feline passenger—currently pitching a fit as he drove—had shown up that morning on his doorstep, matted and angry with a practically bursting pregnant belly.
Seeing as she was going to be a mom soon, he decided to take the cat to his own mother to learn the ropes. At least, that’s what he’d told her, emphasizing how big a favor she’d be doing him if she kept watch over kitty until those babies were born.
Truth be told, his mother needed a project to keep her attention firmly focused somewhere outside of Oscar’s love life. Seriously, any project at all. The cat had found him at the perfect time, because he was this close to booking her and his father a cruise he couldn’t afford just to be rid of them for a couple weeks.
“We’re here,” he told the cat as he pulled down the slope into his parents’ driveway.
His mother Kelly ran to greet him the moment he stepped out of the car, peppering his cheeks with kisses. “You stayed away too long. Your father and I missed you!”
“Uh-huh,” he said with a groan.
“What uh-huh? We did!” she insisted, giving him a quick, tight hug as if she hadn’t just seen him a couple nights back.
“Work keeps me busy,” he explained, wriggling free from her arms. “Speaking of which, I need your help.”
“With work?” She moved her tongue to the side of her cheek as she did whenever she was perplexed. His father often said it was one of the “cute Kelly things” he loved most, but Oscar found it irritating.
“Sort of. Hang on a sec.” He opened the rear door of his car, then fished around until he found the cat. She dug in with her claws, but he managed to extract her without causing either of them too much harm. “Mom, meet… this cat.”
She crossed her arms and eyed Oscar suspiciously. “This cat? What’s her name?”
“She doesn’t have a name.” He frowned for a moment before coming up with an idea to turn things around. “Yet. She doesn’t have a name yet. Maybe you can give her one?”
“I’m going to name her Sadie,” his mother declared without a second thought. She came closer and scratched the stray between her ears.
“That’s actually a really great name” Oscar handed the cat over to his mom, who quickly nestled the furball against her chest.
“I’m glad you think so,” she said without missing a beat. “Because I met a very nice girl named Sadie at the pharmacy this week and you’re taking her out on Friday.”
Of course. “No, Mom. No way.”
She scowled at him, then spoke to Sadie in a soft, sweet voice. “He brings me a cat with no warning and that’s fine, but try to find him love and he argues.”
“Yes, you try. And you try. And you try. Haven’t you noticed that none of your setups ever work?” He grabbed the newly procured litter box and other supplies from the trunk, then led the mom and mom-to-be into the house.
“This one will,” she said confidently once they’d shut the screen door and she’d set the cat on the floor.
Oscar rolled his eyes. “Sure it will.”
“Do you want me to take this cat or not?”
“Mom stop threatening me over the cat. Are we really calling her Sadie?”
His mother nodded and took a seat on the sofa. The cat came over to sniff her feet. It seemed the two were equal parts cautious and intrigued by one another.
“Fine. Sadie is going to be having kittens soon. She showed up at my doorstep this morning, and I thought, ‘Who knows all about being a mom?’” He arched an eyebrow at her and waited until her features softened a bit. “You did such a great job raising me. I bet you could do an equally great job helping Sadie when the kittens come.”
“I guess I do need a project. I’ve been kind of lost since taking sabbatical, and my research is stalled,” she said with a sigh. “And this particular project doesn’t sound so bad, especially since she’s named after my future daughter-in-law.”
“What is with you? Why can’t you bug Noah or Sebastian? Why do you always have to be after me?”
She raised her hands to her chest in mock indignation. “I bug you? Bug you? This girl is too good for Noah or Sebastian. Besides, they’re not settled with what they want to do yet. You, you have the education, the practice, everything in place except a family.”
“How about a compromise?” he offered.
“I take the cat and you take out Sadie? Deal!” She reached down to pet the cat, a look of triumph splashed across her face.
“Listen, would you?” he grumbled. “I’ll go on this date with Sadie if you promise it’s the last time you’ll try to fix me up.”
“If you’re really so convinced Sadie is perfect for me, then who knows? Maybe we’ll end up getting married and you can tell me ‘I told you so’ for the rest of my life. If not, then you need to stop setting me up.” He fixed a firm eye on her. “I mean it.”
“And what about the cat?” his mother asked, patting for the cat to join her on the sofa.
“You’ll still take care of her, won’t you?”
They both watched as the cat tried and failed to jump up. Her belly was just too big, gravity just too much of a constant law of the universe.
“Look at her,” he said with a sad voice. “She needs you, Mom.”
“Well, when you put it like that…”
* * *
Lolly Winston kept her grip loose on the steering wheel as she drove through her new temporary home of Anchorage. Mountains dotted the horizon as far as the eye could see, and the crystal sky seemed to climb forever toward the heavens. It was a far cry from her hometown of Cleveland, but still she was happy to be there.
Her whole life, she’d always done exactly as expected. She’d listened to her parents and minded her P’s and Q’s with everyone else. She’d gotten straight A’s in school and paid her own way through college, and now she kind of—okay, really—needed a break. Her Great-Aunt Ann had recently undergone hip replacement surgery and needed a live-in aide to help her out for a while. Even though Lolly had only met her aunt once or twice at family reunions over the years, she’d jumped at the chance to come help.
No one else in the family had the time to take out from their busy lives, let alone the desire to temporarily relocate to the frigid north. Lolly, on the other hand, saw it as the perfect opportunity to finally take a chance at the dream she’d always put on the back burner waiting for some day. Well, that day was today.
If she didn’t try to chase her country music star dreams now, she’d find herself married, with kids, in some dead-end office job, and never able to go for it again. Lolly was not about to live a life of regrets. That’s why she’d decided to take a post-college gap year. Tending to her aunt would also take care of her room and board, which meant she could spend the rest of her time writing songs, recording tracks, and performing gigs.
How sweet it would be to live life to her own beat for once.
She’d always loved to sing, and others loved to hear her sing, but her parents told her she’d only be disappointed if she expected to make a living from her music. And ninety-nine times out of one hundred, they would be right. The music business was tough to break into, but Lolly just knew if she worked hard enough and stayed true to herself, she could make it work.
Yes, everything seemed to be falling into place. She’d even met an agent online who summered in Alaska and was keen to meet with her during her stay. If things worked out the way she thought they might, then the two of them would be in Nashville at the start of the new year, ready to debut a multi-platinum album with songs written by Lolly herself. She’d be the next Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert or even Reba McEntire. She could touch people—heal people—with her words and melodies, and she’d at last live a life that was true to who she’d always been but had rarely shown to the outside world.
Lolly Winston was made to be a star, and if she had to lose herself in the harsh wilds of Alaska to get there, then that’s exactly what she intended to do.
Okay, so maybe Anchorage wasn’t exactly wild or crazy—or even cold this time of year—but it was new and uncharted territory for Lolly. All of this was. An agent had scoped her out once before during her college days. In the end, he’d turned out to be little more than a scam artist who wanted her to pay him all kinds of money upfront—or to pay him a visit in his motel room—before he’d even consider introducing her to the right people.
But her new agent Kelley Lux hadn’t asked for anything apart from an in-person meeting to discuss how they might work together. A friendly middle-aged woman felt much more appropriate than a slack-jawed shark of a playboy, and that was another sign that Lolly was on the right track, that she was meant to venture to Anchorage and her whole life was about to change for the better.
First, she just needed to get through this one little meeting, and then everything—everything—would fall into place, the way she’d always dreamed but never expected.
Lolly parked her aunt’s old car outside Hunter’s Ridge Tavern, took a deep breath, and headed inside to meet her destiny face to smiling face.