Willa, answer me. I need to know you feel the same way I do.
With her anger growing, she tapped number three.
I can’t take this silence. I’m coming to Nocturne Falls so we can work this out face to face.
She sat hard on her desk chair and stared at the screen, her heart pounding in her veins like a warning. What on earth was she going to do? She’d thought the fountain had done its thing and that her problem was solved. Now this?
There was no denying the town had magic. She just hadn’t imagined it would be so temporary. She took a few breaths to calm down. There was nothing to freak out about. If Burnside showed up at the store, she’d hit the panic button tucked away under the counter near the register. All high-end jewelry stores had one. Hers alerted both the sheriff and the Ellingham brothers.
And if she ran into Burnside outside of the shop… Her pulse kicked up again. Then her anger returned. If he showed up, she’d demand the ring back and she’d melt it down. That would put an end, once and for all, to whatever corrupted magic she’d accidentally done.
She skimmed through the email conversation between her and Burnside, looking for a clue that might tell her how to keep him from coming. No such luck, but a line from one of her replies caught her eye. An unexpected smile curved her mouth. How about that? She’d given herself an out and forgotten all about it.
She’d told Burnside she was seeing someone. And now, thanks to Nick, that wasn’t entirely untrue.
Her head bobbed as the plan unfolded in her mind. If Burnside came to town, she’d get the handsome and oh-so-intimidating Mr. Hardwin to play the part of the protective boyfriend.
If anyone could scare away a troll, it was Nick. His size alone would send most men packing. With a little well-directed jealousy, something she was sure the former Army Ranger could muster, he’d be the perfect unwanted-suitor deterrent.
And outside of getting him a new watch band, it was the best excuse that she could think of to see him again.
For that stroke of luck, she might actually send Burnside a thank-you card.
With a new sense of calm, she went back to work. The day flew by with customers, a special order engraving, and inventorying the watch bands so she could get the order in. By the time she got home, she hadn’t given Burnside much more thought.
Nick, on the other hand, had managed to stay on her mind in some shape or form throughout the day. Actually, both his shape and form had stayed there. She giggled as she fed Jasper and drank a glass of wine. Holy stars, the man might be a little intimidating at first, but after getting to know him a little, she’d found he was fun and as easy to talk to as he was easy on the eyes.
She couldn’t remember what kind of shifter he’d said he was. By his size, she’d guess bear maybe. Dragon could be another possibility. Really, it didn’t matter. Shifters and fae got along well as far as she knew. Now to see how things went between them in real life. Maybe she’d invite him over for dinner some night.
She opened the fridge. Dinner might not be such a hot idea. She could handle basic stuff, but she wasn’t the kind of cook who could woo a man with food. Most nights she ate takeout in the office of the store. Hard to develop any real cooking skills when she worked until nine every night. Not that she’d change that. She loved her shop and loved her life. But if things with Burnside got out of hand, forcing her to leave Nocturne Falls…the thought of abandoning the life she’d built here made her instantly sad.
She couldn’t let that happen. She wouldn’t. She had a plan. And a potentially pretend, and maybe not-so-pretend, boyfriend. It was all going to work out. She refilled her glass of wine and headed for the couch to veg and watch one of the many shows piling up on her DVR.
One show and another glass of wine later, and Nick returned front and center to her thoughts. She scrolled aimlessly through the list of recorded shows, looking for the next thing to watch, but Nick was all she could think about.
Maybe she could invite him over to watch a movie, and they could get dinner delivered. Pizza wasn’t exactly romantic, though. Or was it? All that gooey cheese sure seemed romantic to her. And really, if Nick didn’t like pizza, he probably wasn’t the man for her anyway.
Huh. She was already thinking about him as a possibility, but she barely knew the man. Maybe that was just her desire to be involved with someone. Or maybe it was because Nick was not just nice and funny and built like he’d been carved out of really sexy stone, but he seemed genuinely interested in her. He’d spent most of lunch asking her questions and listening intently.
Even when she’d asked him a question in return, he’d turned it around to focus on her.
It was a rare guy who did that.
Sure, she saw a lot of sweet, genuine men come through her store, but that’s because they were shopping for presents for their wives or girlfriends. Selling engagement rings wasn’t a great way to meet eligible men. She finished the remainder of the wine in her glass, knowing she shouldn’t have another but seriously considering it.
Maybe just half. She walked into the kitchen, got a little more wine and a bag of cheese popcorn, then returned to the couch, where she settled on a sci-fi series she was woefully behind on and hit play. As the opening rolled, she set her glass down to check email on her tablet.
Another. Freaking. Email. From. Burnside.
She punched pause on the TV remote, then grabbed her phone and found Nick’s number in her Favorites. Technically, she had it only so she could call him when his watch band came in. Adding him to her Favorites had just seemed like a reasonable thing to do. She tapped the call button, but after a few rings, it went to voice mail. Crap. She hadn’t planned on leaving a message. She hung up without saying a word, instantly regretting that decision. He’d see that she’d called but not left a message. What would that say to him? She was desperate? Squirrelly?