Bryanna, a Witch from the Asheville coven magic is on the fritz. Shunned by her coven and her boyfriend, Layton for her unruly magic, she seeks a new life for herself. Just so happens, fate steps in and brings her to Strange Hollow–a place where being different is not only acceptable, but encouraged.
When Bryanna arrives in Strange Hollow, Zeke, a demon gone good, is burning with Hell’s fire over her. Not only has she set his world ablaze, but he’s found one soul he can save. He’s determined to free her from the insecurities that have damaged her soul.
Together, they experience lava hot passion as they weave their way through a tornado of emotions. But when Layton returns for her, will Zeke’s attempts to break the unworthy cage woven around her be enough to keep her in Strange Hollow forever?
A thump, followed by a ga-jug sounded loud within the car, after which, silence filled the air. Bryanna reached down and turned the ignition key of the metallic silver Volvo. It clicked. She tried again. Nothing. “Oh Blessed Be, this cannot be happening.” She tried again. Nada. No spark of the engine igniting, no purr from the muffler, only silence. The car’s nine lives had been used up and then some.
Bryanna nearly wept as she dropped her head against her hands that rested on the steering wheel. Just as tears rimmed her eyes, she straightened up. No, she wouldn’t cry. She opened the car door, got out and cursed the now dead car, and grabbed her handbag from the passenger seat before she slammed the door and walked away.
The GPS indicated her journey led her to the base of Mount Mitchell–well, it did, before it crapped out on her when the car died. The highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains was covered by thick, rich forests and rocky peaks with blue sky and white clouds floating above. It might have been a beautiful sight if it weren’t for her wretched mood. She might even enjoy the rich earthy scents around her, feel rejuvenated by leaving the busy city behind her and bask in the gloriousness of Earth. That is, if she felt connected to the elements.
Being a witch, this atmosphere should overwhelm her as Earth was her element. But her connection to Earth had been lost long ago. In truth, she’d never really found it. Her abilities as a witch were embarrassing at best. But those kinds of thoughts weren’t important anymore. Nothing mattered. Least of all, what she could or couldn’t do with her powers.
Her black satin, ankle-length skirt dragged along the ground. It appeared to have recently rained, which only added to the strength of the scents around her. Rich moss thrived on the forest floors. Birds chirped in welcome, but she didn’t know to where.
None of it really mattered. The only thing that did was the fact she could never turn back. This day had been drawn years ago. However, days ago, it got written in permanent marker. Her life needed to change. One reason brought her to this conclusion, and his name was Layton Brimley. A man built of romantic dreams–beautiful on the outside, blue-eyed, blond-haired, and sexy as sin. But the pretty packaging was deceptive as the inside was as ugly as an ogre. He was the reason she’d been on the road for two days now. And the reason she’d never go back.
A hawk squawked high above. She raised her hand to her eyes to provide a shield against the sun. The hawk soared on a thermal as it searched for its next meal. She sighed. If only she was that hawk and Layton was a little mouse she could rip to pieces. Oh, what revenge that would be.
Suddenly her knee gave out as she missed a step and fell forward. “Oh, for the love of magic.” Her hands scraped against the pavement as she fell into a puddle, the dirty water plastering her skirt to her skin. She pushed herself up, stood, and wiped her injured hands on her skirt. She took a cautious step, but wobbled. When she glanced down, she saw the heel had broken off her leather boot. She drew in a deep breath willing herself not to lose it as she removed her boots and threw them in the ditch.
Things were bad and only getting worse on her travels. She’d need four sets of hands to count all the mishaps she’d encountered along the way. Limping forward, she continued on, determined to get to … well, she hadn’t quite figured that out yet. But she knew she had to go somewhere. Anywhere but the direction she came from.
As she continued to limp down the road, a car approached from behind and drew closer with each ridiculous limp. A moment later, a loud bang grabbed her attention when the car hit a pothole. She turned around just as the car’s tire hit a puddle and sent a large wave of water toward her. Now, if she were a normal witch, she could use her abilities to stop the water. Sadly, she was anything but normal. So instead, she braced herself, shut her eyes, and waited for the deluge.
The frigid water hit her dead center, as expected. “That’s it! Really? Seriously? Don’t you think I’ve had enough?” She ran her hands over her face to remove the water. Her long, black hair streaked with violet highlights dripped around her. She looked down at her black corset laced with red ribbon to find it completely soaked and dirt particles marring her creamy skin.
A quiet laugh interrupted her examination. She raised her head to find a woman exiting a black limo. A pretty woman, about a foot shorter than Bryanna’s five-five feet frame. Not skinny, but not chubby either–healthy. Her hair, long and brown, reached down to the small of her back; her violet eyes were friendly, but wounded. Clearly, she had a history, one that Bryanna suspected didn’t have a happily ever after.
“I must apologize for the little splash,” the woman said in a soft voice that held reservation.
A small splash? Bryanna snorted. “It’s all right. Trust me, it’s only been the umpteenth disaster that’s happened in the last two days.”
The woman gave a small smile, reaching her hand out in greeting. “I’m Jacinda Fergus, and you are?”
Bryanna extended her hand and shook Jacinda’s, receiving the lightest of handshakes. “Bryanna Wiggins.”
Jacinda, removing her hand almost immediately as if touching others displeased her, raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “Wiggins, the Asheville Coven?”
Bryanna rolled her eyes and sighed at the connection. “Yes, that would be my coven.”
“You’re a bit far from home, are you not?”
Water continued to drip off Bryanna’s face. She blew out a deep breath of air to send away the drips that hung on the tip of her nose. “It’s not my home anymore.”
“Oh?” Jacinda examined Bryanna from head to toe, and raised her gaze again with a grin. “Why don’t I take you to my home, and we can at least get you a change of clothes.”
Bryanna pondered the thought. Being a supernatural herself, a little radar had been built into her soul. It could be the smell of a shifter that made it obvious as to what they were, the overall strength of them, but with Jacinda it was the subtle power that lived in her eyes that declared this woman wasn’t a human, and was, in fact, Fae.
Should she get in the car with a powerful Fae that she knew nothing about? Or stay in these soaked clothes, with a broken heel on her boot, and no way to get anywhere? The decision wasn’t a hard one. “Lead the way.” Jacinda smiled, turned on her heel and strode back to the car. She entered first and Bryanna followed without hesitation. The backseat was not typical of a stretch limo. Simply two seats that appeared expensive–too expensive to drip water on. “I’m really sorry. I hope I don’t ruin your seats.”
Jacinda dismissed the concern with a wave of her hand. “It’s only a car.” She smiled at the driver. “Off we go, Zeke.”
Bryanna examined the driver herself, and immediately her breath sucked back into her lungs. It wasn’t his short, dark brown hair, the broad set of his shoulders. Nor was it his arms that filled up his pale blue long-sleeved cotton T-shirt, which showed defined muscles lying beneath that had her flustered. It wasn’t even his coal-black eyes that stared at her in the rear-view mirror that caused this reaction. It’s what lay in those eyes that startled her. A demon.
Zeke winked before starting off down the road, and flashed a grin that, if she hadn’t been frightened, might have been sexy. “Surprised to see a demon driving a car?”
“Um…” She stumbled over the words, unable to form a single coherent thought. “Um.”
Zeke and Jacinda laughed. Bryanna couldn’t find it in herself to do the same. Demons are underworld creatures, not meant for this realm. Stealers of souls, spawns of Satan–the very worst type of beings. What kind of trouble had she landed herself in? “Stop the car!” she shouted, blindly grasping for the door handle as she was too afraid to look away from his dark eyes. “Let me out of here. Oh my elements, you’re going to eat me.”
Zeke laughed louder. “I’m nothing to fear. I might be a demon by right, but I have chosen a different life for myself.”
His reply knocked her off her axis, forcing the fear within her to be replaced by shock. Was what he suggested even possible?
“Bryanna,” Jacinda said in a calm voice. “The only things we eat are elitists.”
Now, her laugh couldn’t be withheld. “You eat elitists?” Not that she wouldn’t agree. Elitists were arrogant folk. With her being a bit different she wasn’t opposed to the notion of seeing a couple of them taken out of the population.
Jacinda nodded. “One of the rules within Strange Hollow.”
“Strange Hollow?” Bryanna repeated.
Intrigue flashed across Jacinda’s face. “You’ve never heard of it?”
“No, never.” Not that it really surprised her. She’d lived a sheltered life. The farthest she’d ever gone was to the corner store. But what stuck with her was the contentment that settled over Jacinda. She didn’t mind hearing this place was unknown to someone. “Where is this Strange Hollow?”
Jacinda pointed out toward the front window. “There.” She sighed with a sense of pride. “There is Strange Hollow.”
Bryanna followed Jacinda’s pointed finger to see an old wooden sign, painted in colors that had faded with time, hung on a wrought iron stand. Strange Hollow was carved within the wood. As they followed the narrow stone road they passed a large gate and a wooden street sign that read, Main Street. To the east was 6th Avenue.
As the car travelled down the old road, shops of all kinds appeared. Duncan’s Dungeons, Scaredy Cat Cafe, Little Shop of Potions. It didn’t seem like a town she’d been to before, but something about it felt right. Like it was so memorable, if she left, she’d definitely want to visit again.
The car slowed before it stopped completely. Bryanna dragged her gaze from the shops and the few shifters who walked the street, and glanced out the front window. An old stone building sat in front of her and resembled a medieval court house. Stone met ivy in places so it appeared leaves grew from within.
Jacinda opened the door and smiled. “This is the Town Hall here in Strange Hollow, and it’s also my home.”
She heard that message loud and clear as she followed Jacinda. “So, this is your town?”
Jacinda nodded as sadness filled her eyes. “My family cast me out of the Fae court long before your life began. This is where I settled, and have welcomed outcasts such as myself. We have created a home here.” The words were said simply enough, but the pain in those eyes only grew. “Zeke will get you what you need.”
Bryanna marvelled for a moment. The town felt old. Shops were huddled together with no sense of organization that she’d seen–little houses, all with a different appearance, full of character and charm. “It’s really quite neat here.” She looked back toward Jacinda, only to find the older woman had vanished. She turned in a circle, stopping when a figure appeared in front of her.
Dark, dangerous, but gorgeous. Now, seeing Zeke in front of her, she got a full view of him. He was well over six-four and towered over her. His dark eyes peered down at her in a way that should send her running, but instead she found herself captivated. The small smile on his face was as dangerous as his evil roots. She blinked a couple times to gather herself, focusing back on the matter at hand. “Where’d she go?”
“Jacinda is private, no one sees much of her,” Zeke replied. “Even I, who helps her when she needs it, only see her for short periods.” He gave her the once-over before curiosity filled those dark eyes. “May I ask, if you’re a witch, why you haven’t just,” he waved his hand over her, “changed your clothing?”
A blush rose to her cheeks. Yes, it’s simple magic. She could have told a lie here to hide her flaws, but Zeke was a demon. She had no reason to feel ashamed. How could a demon judge her? “Well, that would be because I’m terrible at being a witch.”
He arched an equivocal brow. “How so?”
“My powers are on the fritz. They don’t work how they’re supposed to. I can command the elements, but when I do, something happens that I don’t want.”
He grinned and waved her on with enthusiasm. “Show me.”
“I’m not so sure I should do that,” she answered honestly. “I was sworn to stop using my powers a few years ago by my ex-boyfriend Layton.”
“But you are a witch,” he retorted.
To say she was a witch was akin to calling a black cat white. “Yeah, that’s the problem. I’m only a half-witch.”
He snorted, his expression shifting to an unhappy one. “There’s no such thing as a half-witch.”
She snorted back at him. “Wanna bet?”
“Go on.” He waved her on before he crossed his arms over his strong chest. She couldn’t deny that seeing his muscles clench and bulge didn’t send a little tingle in her belly. “I’m not worried, show me.”
Resolved that he wouldn’t let it go until he witnessed it for himself, she focused inward. It’d been so long since she called to the elements, she wasn’t quite sure they would even listen to her now. Guilt hit her in spades. Abandoning her gifts was like losing a limb. But at the time, Layton had been right. She was dangerous and her magic was worthless and only caused trouble.
The warmth in her belly began to grow as the elements acknowledged their presence. Happiness spread through her as she felt the tender touch of her magic return. Air began to whip around her as the powers grew. She focused on what she wanted–new dry clothes. With the heat in her blood, she released the magic and called it forward to work its charm.
Instantly, Zeke laughed. It was loud enough to startle her and she opened her eyes to find a tiny container on the ground in front of her. Shame stole her breath as embarrassment made her feel sick. Well, she’d proved her point. “You see.”
“I do see.” He stepped forward to pick up the container. After he snatched it up, he opened it, raised it to his nose and sniffed. “It’s a skin cream of sorts.”
She nodded. “Yes, I know. My magic always comes out in whatnots and doodads.”
He chuckled, arching an eyebrow. “Whatnots and doodads?”
“Mm-hm. All sorts of thingamajigs.”
He continued to chuckle, sealing up the container before handing it to her. “Well, it appears that the cream has done wonders for your skin. It’s beautiful.”
She blushed and dropped her gaze to the ground, unsure if she should thank him or ignore him. She chose the latter. He was a demon, after all. Sure, a sexy demon, but a demon nonetheless. Surprised, she had a moment to wonder what it’d be like to make love to a demon. Would he be gentle? Or would he be a devil between the sheets? It stunned her to realize she was interested to find out.
Zeke’s chuckle came around her just as smooth as the cream in her hand. “Come on, I’ll take you to a store near here and we can get you new clothes. I’ll buy you whatever you need.”
Still red-faced, she gave her head a shake to chastise herself for thinking such things. “No, I don’t need your money, I’ve got it.” Money wasn’t the problem. She had oodles of it. She’d worked hard, saved every penny, and besides, her family was well-off. To them, she was damaged goods. Once they had disowned her, her only family had rested in Layton. She’d agreed to stop using her magic, even agreed to stay out of coven meetings, but when Layton suggested she no longer show her face around Asheville because he was afraid of what the other witches would say to her, she’d had enough.
And now, she was here, in Strange Hollow.