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It Happened at Cafe Nix

It Happened at Cafe Nix

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It Happened at Cafe Nix

213 pages
2 hours
Jun 2, 2015


Fourteen Escape authors, one contemporary romance, fifteen happy endings.

Long distance relationships don’t work

Nix Sutherland is at a crossroads. She loves running the family business, the famous Sydney Harbour-side Cafe Nix, and she also loves Linc, whose vet practice is in Melbourne.

After months of jumping on planes and swapping cities, both of them too stressed and tired to enjoy being together, it’s all come to a head. In the middle of a typically busy day at the cafe that includes everything from broken hearts to breaking waters, cops to canoodling couples, Nix realises that loving the cafe means giving up Linc.

Meet Nix and characters from the novels of favourite Escape authors in fresh original shorts, and experience a day in the life of Cafe Nix.

Authors in order of appearance:
Elizabeth Dunk
Juanita Kees
Sandra Antonelli
Jane O’Reilly
Nicole Flockton
Cate Ellink
Ros Baxter
Jenny Schwartz
Ainslie Paton
Jennie Jones
Lee Christine
Lily Malone
Rhian Cahill
Amy Andrews

Jun 2, 2015

About the author

Ainslie Paton always wanted to write stories to make people smile, but the need to eat, accumulate books, and have bedclthes to read under was ever present. She sold out, and worked as a flack, a suit, and a creative, ghosting for business leaders, rebel rousers, and politicians, and making words happen for companies, governments, causes, conditions, high-profile CEOs, low-profile celebs, and the occasional misguided royal. She still does that. She also writes for love.

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It Happened at Cafe Nix - Ainslie Paton


The crash in the kitchen and the burst of swearing made Nix rub her forehead. It was going to be a long day and they hadn’t even opened the cafe doors for breakfast yet.

After six months running the cafe restaurant named for her twenty-six years ago, she still wasn’t used to these 5.30am starts, and the days when she needed to work a double shift, not stumbling to her car until after 11pm, were a rare kind of hell invented for family members of successful restaurateurs. And maybe trauma surgeons, soldiers in battle, police at a standoff, and probably mothers of twins.

There were no medicos, Special Forces or twins running around the Sutherland family tree, but today was going to be a hell day anyway, so why not start it with a small fire in the kitchen.

Coffee first, said Ramon. He put a long black in front of her. He looked over her head towards the kitchen hatch. Alvaro’s got it. Don’t think we’ll need the fire brigade. Drink and then yell.

Nix picked up the cup and sipped. The alarm hadn’t tripped, so it was clearly under control, judging by the speedy Spanish interspersed with the sound of the fire extinguisher spraying foam over the offending flame. She could save yelling for the lunch shift.

Ramon laughed, his white teeth flashing, his dark eyes delighted.

Nix glanced towards the kitchen. What did he say?

Sydney’s best barista shrugged. He was Filipino but had grown up on Bondi Beach and had the tan to prove it, though Nix knew he had enough Spanish to understand what Alvaro was going on about. You don’t really want to know.

Probably not.

And that was despite the distinct stink of burning plastic that was worse than the smell of the homeless guy Nix had given a bacon roll to and moved from the doorway when she arrived.

It was going to be a long day. After a sleepless night. After too many tears.

The homeless man had come back five minutes after Nix moved him on, asking if she could spare another roll. He got his second breakfast and ambled off, but as the door clanged and Tamsin walked in, Nix could see he was back.

Jesus needs coffee, the newly arrived waitress said.

Ramon quirked an eyebrow at Tam. You need it so bad you can’t form a proper sentence, babe. He moved behind the counter to his barista station.

Tam shook her head and jerked her thumb over her shoulder. No, Jesus needs coffee. At the end of this double, I’ll need alcohol and a good foot massage.

I thought his name was Henry, said Nix, looking at the homeless man in his torn overcoat with his greasy, whiskery face pressed against the glass. She was going to need to clean that door. And how did you get the smell of burning plastic out of a room? That’s not a situation she’d faced when she’d worked shifts here as a student, and toxic smell removal wasn’t in the handover brief her father had left her either.

Yeah, it is, but today, apparently he’s Jesus, said Tam. She made grabby hands at Ramon who was still working the coffee machine.

The words, "Estúpido bastardo," came from the kitchen, followed by annoyed banging on the glass door. Alvaro was in a temper, someone in the kitchen was copping it, Jesus was fractious, the smell was nauseating, and the coffee wasn’t cutting through Nix’s headache.

There was nothing in Steven Sutherland’s handover notes about what to do when it was clear he wasn’t going to be able to come back to running the restaurant either. Nothing about the fear of losing him to cancer, or the disappointment of having to leave a job she loved in Melbourne to come back home to the family business.

There was most certainly nothing in those carefully crafted notes, made with the expectation they’d help a temporary manager make do in an emergency, about having to decide whether to sell the business.

And not one word about what to do with a broken heart.

Tamsin delivered Henry Jesus his beverage, sipping her own. Ramon did something behind his station to make the scent of fresh coffee beans permeate the room, twining with the smell of bread baking, and the other floor staff arrived to join the kitchen staff, ready for work.

Nix had time to check the day’s bookings, including the private function in the upstairs dining room for a prominent firm of lawyers who’d recently been involved in Sydney bikie wars and were bringing their own security. She revised produce orders for the remainder of the week and reviewed the roster.

She needed to interview new staff, she especially needed to think about appointing a manager to share the load with her. She’d worked too many hell days and until she re-staffed she always would.

Unless she sold.

That was the reason she’d been reluctant to take more staff on. On average her father received an offer to buy the cafe, with its prime position overlooking Sydney Harbour, the bridge and the Opera House every other month, so selling it wouldn’t take long and a new owner might want to bring on their own staff.

If she sold, maybe Dad would stop worrying and focus on his recovery.

If she sold she could go back to Melbourne. She’d had to quit her old job but there’d be another, and there’d be Linc.

If that’s what she wanted.

But it’d break Dad’s heart to lose the business.

And it might break her own.

She wanted Linc. But Linc meant Melbourne where his vet practice was.

She’d told Linc she didn’t know what she wanted, that she needed more time to decide. He told her he couldn’t keep flying back and forth on weekends for forever, especially when she hardly had more than a few hours at a time to spend with him. There was always something she needed to do at the cafe.

She couldn’t think about Linc now, about how they’d argued on the phone late last night. How she’d shouted at him. Then cried herself to sleep.

She looked up from her place behind the bar. The day outside sparkled, Sydney doing her flirty best to beguile, and succeeding. It was fifteen minutes to opening time, the only ambience coming from the kitchen was regular breakfast service sounds, Tamsin was windexing the door and Nix had lied to Linc. She didn’t want to sell and that meant staying in Sydney. She just didn’t know what telling him the truth would mean.

She moved out to the front of the cafe and helped Tamsin and Alicia fold back the big glass doors that separated the tables on the deck from those inside. It was show time and her headache was forgotten. As she straightened a chair and adjusted a table so it sat evenly, she felt the now familiar thrill of opening Cafe Nix to let Sydney, and all who visited her, in.

Satisfied they were ready, she looked across at square-shaped Circular Quay where the ferries docked, bringing hundreds of city workers in from the northern suburbs. On a bench near the iron guard rail a woman sat hunched in on herself, as though cold. She was there when Nix first arrived and she’d noticed her again when she’d given Henry Jesus his first breakfast.

She stepped out into the walkway and called to the woman. Hey, are you okay?

The woman turned and oh she clearly wasn’t okay at all. She stifled a sniff. My handbag is in the hotel room of my cheating fiancé and I don’t know what to do.

Hell day had a way of getting around. You need a good cup of coffee. Come in.

The woman lifted her empty hands to remind Nix she had no money. Your boss won’t mind?

I am the boss, Nix said, and she heard pride in her voice, pride she needed to stop denying. Come in.

The woman’s name was Maria and Nix knew how to solve at least two of her problems. Coffee, maybe a hint of breakfast, and the liberation of Maria’s possessions from the hotel next door.

If only solving her own problems was as easy.

The Silver-haired Saviour

Elizabeth Dunk

Maria thought she was coming to Sydney to surprise her fiancé, but it turns out she was coming to Sydney to find out the truth and change her life forever…

The Silver-haired Saviour matches the style and tone of The Lies We Tell, published by Escape Publishing in August 2013.

2: The Silver-haired Saviour

The sun had risen, the sky was blue, ferries were shuffling in and out of the terminals and people moved past. Some rushed, suits and jackets on, either on their way to or from work. Some ran, getting in the daily exercise. Some ambled, looking around, enjoying the incredible sights and sounds of Circular Quay, Sydney.

Maria Teroso looked at her watch. Seven am. Had she really sat here, wrapped in her misery, uncaring of anything, for nine hours? It seemed just a heartbeat ago that she’d been at the hotel door, sliding the card into the lock. Putting her bags by the door, tiptoeing through the dark apartment—it was nearly ten, and it looked like Bob had already gone to bed. Good, just the place she wanted him.

Then she was pushing open the bedroom door and seeing Bob, on his back. A blonde on top of him. The movements of their bodies, the sounds, the smells making it very clear what they were doing.

A veil of blankness settled on her eyes but Maria pushed it away. No, she’d already lost nine hours. She wasn’t going to lose any more. She was going to face the fact she’d caught her fiancé in bed with another woman and then she was going to work out what the hell she was going to do to fix her broken life.

A tear dribbled down her cheek and she pushed it away. She couldn’t cry out here, sitting on a bench on Sydney Harbour. She stood, and realised she didn’t have anything with her. Handbag, suitcases, everything was still up in Bob’s room, left in the wake of her devastated flight from the room.

The tears started in earnest.

Hey, are you okay?

Maria turned around. A woman stood at the potted plants that marked the entrance to the outdoor dining section of one of the cafes. She was small, dark-haired with piercing blue eyes.

Maria hated that she was in this position. She was a successful businesswoman, ran her own conference organising company. She’d just triumphantly completed a five day medical conference for nine hundred people. But she had no other option, nowhere else to turn. My handbag is in the hotel room of my cheating fiancé and I don’t know what to do.

You need a good cup of coffee. Come in.

Maria took a hesitant step forward. Her back ached from sitting on the bench all night. The offer of a coffee was tempting. Your boss won’t mind?

I am the boss. Come in.

Wow. The woman was young, and cafes on this stretch of water were at a premium. She was doing well.

As Maria approached, the woman held out her hand. I’m Nix.

Maria looked at the cafe sign. Cafe Nix. I’m Maria.

Come in and I’ll get you that coffee.

Nix led Maria through the outdoor tables into the main part of the cafe. It was very modern—white tables, steel and black chairs, but the walls were wooden cabinets showing off wines and sheaves of wheat and displays of fruit and vegetables. The air was redolent with coffee beans roasting and bread baking. It was simple, but classy.

Maria sank into one of the tables against a black upholstered bench seat and relaxed back with a moan. She closed her eyes and listened to clangs in the kitchen as the chefs started preparations for the day’s meals.

A cough, and Maria opened her eyes. Nix was standing there with a tray. Coffee, milk, sugar, make it how you like. Which hotel is the cheating bastard boyfriend staying in?

The Q, next door. Maria picked up the cup and lifted it to her nose, taking a deep breath. There was something about a great coffee that could, in that moment, make all your troubles melt away. She took a sip and her eyes widened at the unmistakable bitterness of alcohol.

Nix winked. Don’t tell anyone, but I added a little kicker. You needed it. I know the concierge at the Q. Let me get your things for you. Cheating bastard’s name?

It froze on Maria’s tongue for a moment. Robert Sampson.

I’ll look after it. You relax. Nix walked away.

Maria took another sip of the very naughty, very welcome liqueur coffee. It was nice to know there were still good people in the world.

The cafe began to fill. A mix of all the types she’d seen outside—businesspeople, exercisers, tourists. One businessman who came in caught Maria’s eyes—there was no way he couldn’t, he was absolutely gorgeous. He was tall, with silver hair, but his face was still strong and unlined. The suit showed wide shoulders, strong chest and a flat stomach. Bet he’s as much a bastard as Bob, Maria thought.

How had she not seen he was cheating on her? The answer came immediately—Bob just hadn’t been that much into sex, so it had never occurred to her he would cheat. But that meant… It wasn’t sex Bob had a problem with, it was sex with her.

Oh, God.

Here you go. Nix appeared by her table. Two young waiters put down her suitcases—one carry-on, one huge hard case that contained a lot of the equipment for the conference. Nix put Maria’s handbag on the bench next to her.

Thank you. Maria pulled the handbag onto her lap and clutched it. Amazing how such a small thing could become

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