“I’ll pay you a million dollars to tell me I’m adopted,” Daisy Bennett said, flopping onto the velvety red couch in her aunt’s office at The Mating Game.
It was Friday, September 20th. Another beautiful fall day in downtown Cedar Park, North Carolina, and the sun was streaming through the window, and Daisy was, as usual, fighting an intense desire to change her name, run away and join the circus. Would there be an opening for a rather clumsy wolf shifter? Probably not. Daisy’s primary skills were baking, decorating, and arts and crafts. If she tried to leap through flaming hoops, she’d set her fur on fire and break her ankle.
Wynona Bennett was flipping through brightly colored files on her desk and didn’t bother to look up.
“You don’t have a million dollars. What’s the problem? Your mother is passive-aggressively insulting you about your weight? She’s making you question all of your life choices? She’s asking when you’ll give up this silly idea that you can make it on your own, and come back home?”
“Check, check, and check. The deadly trifecta. Except the aggressive is not all that passive.” Daisy leaned forward, folded her hands on her lap, and looked expectantly at her aunt. “So, tell me about how she found me on her doorstep as an infant.”
“Sorry, no can do.”
“Why not?” Daisy demanded in aggrieved tones. She reached into the glass candy bowl on the end table next to the sofa, and took a mini chocolate bar. “It could be true. I mean, I don’t look anything like her.” It was true. Daisy was a plump redhead with crazy, out-of-control curls that made a halo around her head. Her mother was a blade-thin socialite with glossy blonde hair flat-ironed to an inch of its life.
“Of course you don’t.” Wynona frowned and tossed a pile of papers into the trash. “She’s basically purchased an entirely new face and body, starting with her forehead and working her way down. And she eats a diet that’s not fit for human or shifter, just so that she can still fit into a size two at age twenty-nine.”
“I think I was an adult size two once…in kindergarten, for about five minutes,” Daisy said, helping herself to more candy.
Her aunt threw a crumpled-up ball of paper at her. “Leave some for the paying clients,” she said. “Your mother is also somehow twenty-nine when she’s got a twenty-three-year-old daughter, but never mind that,” Wynona added, tucking her files away in a drawer next to her desk.
“Yes, let’s not think about it – the implications are disturbing.” Daisy stuffed a final piece of chocolate in her mouth and threw the wrapper into the little gilded garbage can next to the couch. “So, tell me about the love of my life.”
“You don’t need to sound so skeptical,” Wynona chided her. “I can assure you, I thoroughly screened this man, and the two of you are a perfect match. He’s sick of the dating game, he’s ready to settle down and have cubs, and he’s a highly successful business owner. Don’t cross your eyes at me. He’s also funny and charming.”
“That would be nice if it were all true,” Daisy said doubtfully. She just didn’t know if she could ever get that lucky when it came to romance.
Her recent dating history had been so dreadful that it had left a permanent bad taste in her mouth – and that wasn’t even taking into account that the reason she’d finally left her pack lands in Majestic Oaks, Georgia was because her fiancé had cheated on her and her parents still expected her to marry him.
Ever since she’d moved to Cedar Park, each date had been worse than the last.
There had been the guy who’d asked to borrow money on the first date – and then snuck out the back door and stiffed her with the dinner check when she’d said no. There had been the guy who’d told her that he’d gone out with her because he’d never been with a “larger woman” before and he wanted to experiment. There was the human who’d wanted to check “shifter” off his bucket list.
“This guy is exactly what you’re looking for, believe me,” Wynona assured her. “You have a ton of things in common. You’re both wolf shifters. He bakes as a hobby, he loves musicals and Nora Roberts novels and rom-coms, he enjoys going shopping for clothes.”
“He what?” Daisy straightened up and stared at her aunt.
“What’s wrong? Those are all things you like,” her aunt protested. “It’s important to have shared interests.”
Daisy frowned. “Shared interests, yes, but this doesn’t sound like an actual dude. What it sounds like is too good to be true. I don’t trust things that are too good to be true.”