What does it take to capture the queen’s heart?
Kenya “Shanni” Powers had a past full of terror but is moving on. She’s found a new home and started a new life. One rainy winter night, a stranger walks in—that despite her typical suspicion—makes her want to help him. She offers him a place to stay until the weather clears and he accepts. An act which puts her in danger from her ex.
Lane “Cam” Camden is a country music star who’s had enough of the bodyguards his manager assigned to him. In the Pacific Northwest he meets Kenya, who opens her home to him. They grow close during their time together and he vows to look her up after he leaves. Reunited in Tennessee, he tries to pursue a relationship with her, accepting solely friendship at first.
She wants to allow him in but she’s terrified. Will her fear cause her to lose her chance at a future with him? Can Cam move them beyond her hesitations and his misdirection from when they first met?
The tinkling of the bell placed over the door by design alerted Kenya that someone had arrived in the store. The force of the noise told her the person was in a rush. It was unusual for people to come in this time of night, for she was closing in fifteen minutes. Not to mention, the wrath of Mother Nature was going on outside.
Although mighty, Mother Nature herself hadn’t been able to discourage the people roaming the streets during the Festival of the Spirits. Granted, most people were remaining inside shops so all through the day her place, along with every other store, had been busy. Only with the onslaught of the sleet and the night had it slowed.
Her shop was full of antiques and hard-to-find collectibles. If it was that blasted group of kids again she was going to lose her thin hold on her patience. They had already cost her close to five thousand dollars in damages. And getting cash for an item just didn’t work well for her; some of these antiques were one of a kind.
She peered around the counter as the beating rhythm of Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens played throughout the shop. Not seeing anyone, she moved quickly to see the other half of her shop. There.
Well, it wasn’t the group of troublemakers, that was for sure. It was a man, a very wet man. Tall and imposing, he stood dripping, creating puddles on her tile floor. His shoulder length dark hair lay plastered to his head from the fury of the sleet that pounded down outside, demonstrating to all life forms the magnificent power of nature.
He wore a floor length overcoat that most likely cost him as much as one month of bills for her. Something in the way that he was checking behind him told her that someone wanted him and he didn’t wish to be found. His movements became more and more agitated. The faint reflection that he threw on the glass showed the desperation he tried to keep hidden. But, for all his nervousness, she didn’t detect harm from him, only a silent cry for help.
“Perhaps,” she said, breaking into his concentration and making him jump, “what you are looking for is in the back.”
When he lifted his head and met her eyes she was swallowed by the raw power of his green eyes. He had a classically handsome face—tanned, not pale white, and very handsome nonetheless. In fact, he looked almost like a Nordic god sans the blond hair.
“There’s hot water for hot chocolate or tea back there if you need something to warm yourself up. I’ll be closing soon so you can hide out here if you need to.” She gave him a small smile as she tried again.
One half of her mouth slid up slightly as he moved towards her and the back room. “Thanks,” he muttered in a deep tone that stroked her body the same as if the man himself were touching her. Silently he disappeared into the back.
As the stranger vanished to her storeroom, Kenya Ashanti Powers shook her head. Here she was, a lone woman allowing an unknown man in her store as she closed up for the night. It was so not like her, but there was something about him that called to her.
Kenya ignored the fluttering feelings he sent through her body. As she focused on her work the bell tinkled, bringing her head up to once again see who entered her shop. In from the cold and wet came two men in power suits.
“I’m just closing, gentlemen, can I help you with something?”
“We’re looking for someone,” the larger of the two men spoke. He had a scowl on his face that would have scared her had she been a woman who’d not been through real terror.
“Well, sorry, but aside from me there is no one else in the store.”
“Are you sure?” the second man asked. He was huskier than the first but their scowls were fairly matched.
“Yes. As you can see, the store isn’t all that big so I know when people are here.”
“What about in the back?” Crab Number One asked.
“Nope. That’s my storage room. No one there.”
“We will just check if you don’t mind,” Number Two said.
“Actually I do mind.” Her voice got hard. “This is my store and I don’t know you from Adam. So, if it all the same to you, I think you’ll stay out here.”
“Who’s to stop us?” One asked.
“Well, that would be Suku and Odin. Considering they don’t let anyone into the back.”
She chuckled. Some people just didn’t get it. “Suku and Odin—creator gods from mythology. Odin, king of the Norse gods, and Suku, king of the…oh never mind.”
From their blank stares she knew they were clueless. Kenya gestured to her left, directing their attention to the bead-covered doorway that led to the back. There, on either side, were two German shepherds, both big, both serious-looking.
Number One swore, “Shit, those are some big ass dogs. Well, he wouldn’t be back there, he don’t like dogs. Come on, man, he isn’t here. Let’s go.”
The other man nodded as they both slowly moved towards the front door and back out into the horrible weather. Kenya followed and flipped the sign to closed before locking the door, pulling down the metal shades in case of a break-in. Shutting off most of the lights, she walked back to her counter, fronting some shelves on the way.
“Some people,” she muttered to herself as she opened her till and began to close out her day’s take. Wow, it was a good day. This festival always opened people’s wallets. Made up for the slower times of the year.
“Thank you,” a deep voice broke into her counting, making her jump and almost drop the cash she held in her hand.
How the hell had she forgotten he was in the store?
“Jesus.” She panted. “You scared me.” Kenya turned and met the gaze of the man standing slightly behind her. Those green eyes of his held so much power and yet a hint of sadness. That same tremor of lust shot through her body.
“Sorry.” His voice held a slight southern accent and she could tell that he was trying to hide it.
“No worries.” She sent him a smile to show there were no hard feelings. “My name is Kenya. Kenya Powers. Those two behind you are Odin and Suku.”
Those intense green eyes swung around to glance at the two large dogs who just sat motionless watching him.
“Don’t worry, they won’t hurt you. Except to protect me.” Her smile was only semi amusing. “So, do you have a name or should I make one up for you?”
He smiled. “Forgive me, my name is….” He paused for a moment then said, “Cam. My friends call me Cam.”
“Well.” She reached for his hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Cam.”
As his hand closed around hers she felt the sparks. It was as if electricity flowed freely between them.
“You’re right, it is a pleasure,” he said in a deep timbre.
Letting go for a moment in time, they both just watched one another.
“Thanks for not telling them I was here.” Kenya inclined her head at his words. “How come you helped me?”
“You seemed as if you could use a friend.” Kenya finally turned away from his unnerving stare. It had turned her belly into a quivering mass of jelly.
“Well, thank you.”
He had a very seductive voice.
Kenya swallowed hard and met his gaze again. “Can I take you somewhere?” She paused. My bed perhaps. “Airport, bus station, train station? Maybe a hotel?”
Those green eyes moved from her eyes down her body, setting it on fire like no man had ever done to her, before they slowly traveled back up to once again reach her eyes. “A train station…if it’s not out of your way.”