All Nia Reynolds has known is being seen and not heard. Being the only one in her family to not have magical ability is hard. On her thirtieth birthday, all Nia wants is to do something different. When she enters Sensual Were on a dare from Jacinda, she doesn’t expect the instant attraction to sexy store manager Bishop Steward.
Bishop has had his eye on the sweet and innocent Nia since he first came to Strange Hollow. After being publicly shunned by his pack and his mate, he came to Strange Hollow to recuperate and be among outcasts like himself. Now that his heart is mended, he wants to go after love again and has Nia in his sights. This wallflower doesn?t stand a chance against his onslaught. So what if he insists of public displays of a sexual nature, can?t stop whispering sweet, dirty nothings in her ear, and gives her a birthday to remember? It?s only for a night, right? A sexy werewolf like him wouldn?t want a shy girl like her? Right? Wrong–and he’s got a lot of tricks up his sleeve to convince her she?s just what he wants.
Thirty. The big three-O. Another year older. Nia sighed heavily and contemplated the looming specter just a few days away. Birthdays weren’t a bad thing per se, but when you lived such an unremarkable life, as she had, there wasn’t really much to celebrate. She was an anomaly in her family, the only one lacking magical ability. Nia couldn’t even perform the most basic of spells like warming water or levitating a feather.
Isolation became a constant companion when she mingled in magical circles. Everywhere she turned, her contemporaries were doing extraordinary things. All Nia could do was fade into the background like a wallflower. She got so used to being invisible that she automatically hid in a corner at social functions. She had lived her life in corners and it was starting to wear on her.
She’d broken out of that life nine years ago when she stumbled upon an Internet ad for Strange Hollow. The town was for outcasts and anomalies of the paranormal variety like her–people who just didn’t fit in. So on her twenty-first birthday she packed up as many of her things as she could carry and left in the middle of the night, without even leaving a note to her parents. Now she had a life of her own. Nia owned her own teashop, Pot Luck, had a cottage that she loved and a few friends that accepted her. The one thing that was missing was someone to share her life with.
She sighed heavily, and had just begun to clean the counter when the bells over the door jangled. Nia glanced toward the entrance and smiled. Jacinda, the town’s founder, strolled into the shop. The fairy’s energy sent a soothing wave toward her, and she instantly felt at ease.
“Hello, darling, how’re you doing? I’ll have a green tea latte.” Jacinda sat down on a stool at the counter and leaned forward, mischief sparkling in her eyes.
Nia immediately got to work, hoping Jacinda wouldn’t bring up her upcoming birthday and anniversary. If the events weren’t mentioned, she wouldn’t have to admit she had no plans.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be. “So, your birthday and anniversary are on Friday. Doing anything special?”
“Nothing.” Nia stiffened.
“Not even ice cream and cake or a movie marathon of your favorite films? What about a small party with some friends? No? We can’t let this momentous event pass without any acknowledgement. Let me think. What can we do?” Jacinda put her elbows on the countertop and rested her head in her hands.
Nia didn’t want to know what Jacinda was thinking, it could mean trouble. There was a mischievous sparkle in those violet eyes that she didn’t want to read too much into.
“Have you been to Sensual Were?”
Nia wasn’t sure where Jacinda was going but she had an uneasy idea. “No,” she said softly.
A wicked smile curved on Jacinda’s lips. “Idea! I dare you to go to Sensual Were and pick up a sexy toy for yourself. Do something daring for once. Honey, you’ve lived in a corner for far too long, it’s time to drag this wallflower into the light.”
“But–” Nia started.
“Why but?” Jacinda gazed at her in question. “You’ve lived your whole life not interacting with people for fear of the disappointment and rejection your parents and others have handed you. Isn’t it time you lived for you? Come on, Nia, when have you done something for yourself? I’ve seen the way you interact with others. You let them tell you what to do, how to do it. You don’t do what you want to do. What’s there to be afraid of? All I’m suggesting is to check out Sensual Were. Go in there and get something sexy for yourself. You deserve it. Look at you.”
Nia knew what she looked like and she was nothing like the gorgeous Jacinda, with her luminescent skin, violet eyes, long dark hair and curvaceous figure. Last she checked, Nia was plain, with unremarkable dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, milk chocolate skin and an average figure. Her simple clothing did nothing to flatter her body. She also wore glasses, and in her book that screamed nerdy and unsexy. To hide her reaction, she said nothing and finished making Jacinda’s drink.
“Have you ever felt sexy? What makes you feel good about yourself?”
Heat flushed her cheeks as she thought of her fantasies, which usually involved sexy men who were good with their hands and other things and wanted her unabashedly.
“Come on, sweetie, you can tell me. What makes you feel sexy?”
“Well, um, a sexy, gruff voice–”
Jacinda cut her off with a laugh. “No, no, no, babe, not what is sexy but what makes you feel that way.”
The blush encompassed her face, and Nia found herself floundering for a response. “Um, well…”
“Lingerie, perhaps? Or maybe sensual music? How about an erotic story? This is about making you feel desirable and good about yourself. I’m not saying we give you a makeover, you’re beautiful. I’m talking about doing something sexy for you and only you, no guy required.”
Jacinda smiled, and Nia felt unsure. “I’ve never… That is to say, I don’t know…”
“How about this? Friday you go to Sensual Were and poke around, see what you like, explore and find what intrigues you. Then we meet on Saturday for brunch and talk.”
“Talk?” Nia put Jacinda’s latte down before her.
“Yeah, we talk about what you thought of your little trip. Honey, you’ve been here for nine years and you haven’t stepped out and explored this place. Including me, Tanya and Ryana are your only friends here.” Jacinda took a sip of her drink.
Nia became very interested in her shoes.
“Ry is out of town and Tanya is visiting relatives. Neither woman will be back by Saturday, so it’s up to me to coax you out of your shell for your birthday. So, here’s the deal. Barring an emergency, I dare you to go to Sensual Were and pick out something sexy for yourself. Thanks for the latte, hon. I have to go welcome a new resident to Strange Hollow. I’ll see you on Saturday.” Jacinda stood and picked up her cup.
“Bye,” Nia called out as Jacinda left with a backward wave. Once the door closed and quiet settled on the shop, questions and humiliating scenarios swirled around in her head. What if I break something? Her palms began to sweat at the thought of picking up a vibrator and have it start shaking and then shatter in her hands. She’d never been in an adult toy store before. What if it was filled with pictures of naked people? She didn’t like looking at herself naked, much less see anyone else in the buff. Well, except for sexy men. Part of her wanted to take up Jacinda’s dare and go to Sensual Were. On the other side of the coin, she was terrified of the unknown.
I know, I’ll pass by the store and check it out. I won’t go inside. Her heart hammered in her chest. A surge of excitement rushed through her. Yes, I’ll go there tonight and check it out. It can’t be that bad, right? People wouldn’t go there if it was bad. Nia had always been cautious. The most adventurous thing she’d ever done was come to Strange Hollow and open her own teashop. She felt that if she could do those things, then she could handle checking out Sensual Were. She hoped.