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Wrapped Up in Stripes (Blue Valley Shifters Book 1) by Sarah Marsh (1)

Chapter One

 

Heidi sighed as her older brother Hector waltzed into The Watering Hole with a few of his friends and found a table at the back of the bar. Good grief—there went her plans on flirting a little with some of the non-local cuties in the hopes of seeing a little action tonight.

How was a girl supposed to scratch an itch with her brothers and their friends always showing up to threaten any interested male in a fifty-yard radius? Here she was, twenty-two years old, with the same needs as any other red-blooded shifter, and her three older brothers had ensured that none of the Pride males would risk touching her. Her best friend Julie had once overheard Derek telling the entire high school football team that whatever they thought about doing to Heidi, Derek would do to them … and not in a fun way. Not many of the other shifters who lived in their small community of Blue Valley wanted to risk the wrath of the lion pride Alpha’s three sons—Heidi’s brothers were extremely large.

“Hey, kiddo, just four pitchers to start,” he said, giving her a kiss on the forehead when she arrived at their table.

“Sure thing, Hector,” Heidi made a point to smile and look around the table at her brother’s friends, “Hi, guys. How’s it going tonight?”

Not one of them would make direct eye contact, and all she got back were mumbled ‘Heys’. Good Goddess. Her brother could be such a dick sometimes. Not only was he here when she knew they usually went to the strip club across town for their boys’ night out, but since he’d so blatantly kissed her and rubbed his chin across her forehead, many of the prospects she’d been flirting with all night would bow out rather than risk challenging her brother. Which was exactly what he’d intended.

She went back to the bar to get their drinks and was happy to see Julie sitting and nursing a beer with a disgruntled look on her face.

“Did that A-hole just mark you in front of the entire bar?”

“Yeah.”

“How in the hell are you supposed to get laid when he struts in here rubbing his alpha lion shit all over you?”

Julie was pissed, although for the last couple of years it seemed that Julie was always pissed when it came to Hector. And he avoided Heidi’s best friend like she was a leper. She’d once asked Julie what was going on with them, and of course, the sneaky wolf just shrugged it away, but there was something going on, that was for sure.

“I kinda think that’s the point, Julie,” she sighed, “I don’t think that he wants anyone ‘defiling’ his baby sister, as he keeps putting it. Damn, I really need to get some action.”

Heidi went to deliver her orders, and when she returned to Julie, she was mildly alarmed. The smile that was now on her friend’s pretty face was nothing short of beaming, and she held a large envelope in her hands.

“Happy early birthday, baby!” Julie squealed, practically vibrating in her seat, “Open it!”

She couldn’t help smiling at her friend’s enthusiasm as she took the expensive-looking envelope from her, carefully opening the thick paper. When she slid out the letter inside and read it, her heart almost stopped in her chest.

“Oh, my Goddess, Julie! How did you do this?”

It was a confirmation letter for both her and Julie’s booking on a vacation with the most exclusive cruise line in the entire shifter community. Wild Desires was a shifter-only cruise line catering to the wealthiest of their kind, where shifters of all types could strip away their inhibitions and completely be themselves in all ways without worrying about humans seeing them. It was also known to cater to all types of fetishes, and that thought had Heidi’s curious blood heating up.

“Well, obviously, I could never afford to book regular packages for us, but my cousin Lindy works for them, and she was able to get us booked on as sensual volunteers. We leave on Monday!”

“Sensual volunteers? What does that mean?”

“Well, basically we’re there to have a good time and meet some of the paying passengers. We don’t have to spend time with anyone we aren’t into, and we don’t have to do anything we’re not comfortable with, but we still get to enjoy everything on the cruise.”

“Oh, man, are we really going to do this?” Heidi smiled up at her crazy friend. She’d always told Julie the things that she’d fantasized about, and a couple times they’d considered going to a fetish club, but the shifter community around here in Blue Valley was close-knit. She could only imagine what her father and brothers would say if they ever found out, “Holy crap, Julie.”

“Hell, yeah, we’re going to do this!” Julie whooped out right before the smile slipped from her face and turned into a smirk aimed behind Heidi’s right shoulder.

“What exactly are you two deviants going to do?”

Heidi groaned at the booming voice of her second-oldest brother as it came from behind her.

“Just a little girls vacation, that’s all, Derek.” She tried to tamp down her excitement as she spun around to face him, giving him her most innocent look. “Julie bought us tickets for a cruise for my birthday. We leave on Monday.”

“A cruise, huh, Sprout?” his narrowed eyes took in both of them with suspicion, “Like one of those spa things where you spend all day getting your nails painted and mud put on your face?”

“Yes, exactly like that!” It was times like this that she loved her middle brother’s naïve tendencies when he thought about his little sister. Derek would go forth and plant that idea with the rest of the stubborn males in their family like her very own Trojan horse made out of chicken wings and beer. His little ‘Sprout’ would never do anything like go on a sexy cruise full of fetish clubs … no, sirree.

Heidi could hear Julie snickering from behind her. She tried to kick back at her, but ended up hitting the bar stool instead, causing Julie to swear as she spilled beer down the front of her shirt.

Derek just shook his head with a disapproving look at Julie, and kissed Heidi’s cheek before wandering over to join Hector and the rest of their group.

“Julie. You almost blew it,” she swung around and snatched the beer from her girlfriend’s hand as she took a long swig to calm her battered nerves.

“Hey! Get your own beer.”

“It's not like you paid for it, you heifer!” she snapped back with a smirk before she went to cash out her shift.

“That’s true.” Julie answered, “Now hurry that ass up and serve the rest of these drunk bastards. We’ve got packing to do.”

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