Authors: Zenina Masters
Tags: #Adult, #Erotic Romance, #Paranormal, #Shapeshifter
A flamingo tired of the pink life is romanced by a stork with a passion for the details of her body.
Raised by a mother who loved everything pink, Cori has decided to give up her colouration and go pale. Rejecting pink, she makes costumes in any other colour for a living. A ball, a prize and a trip to the Crossroads change everything.
Artur has decided that he wants a woman who doesn’t want him for what he can do or how much money he has. He wants to fall in love and sweep a woman off her feet.
When they meet, they get along just fine, but it is an evening of dance that locks them together. The first flamenco in the Crossroads draws a crowd but wakes the knowledge that dance isn’t the only thing they have in common.
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A Life Less Pink
Copyright © 2014 Zenina Masters
Cover art by Carmen Waters
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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Devine Destinies, an imprint of eXtasy Books Inc
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A Life Less Pink
Shifting Crossroads Book 21
Coriel Flisk pulled up to the meeting hall where her parents were waiting for her.
“Cori, did you bring them?”
Cori gave them a thumbs-up and closed her window before turning off the van. She stepped out of her delivery vehicle and walked around to the side door. “Thirty costumes for the ball this evening in case someone shows up in something boring.”
Her mother wrapped her in a warm, scented hug. “Thank you, darling. What are you going to wear?”
Cori stood back as her cousins loaded the fantastical dresses and suits onto the racks they had brought from the hall.
She snagged a brilliant blue gown with gold trim. “Is this good enough?”
“With a mask?”
“It is in that box over there, with the others.”
“Get it so it doesn’t get lost.” Her mother frowned. “Can’t you pick something brighter?”
“It is electric blue, Mom. It is plenty bright.”
Her mother wrinkled her nose. “You know what I mean. There are so many shades of pink you could wear.”
“And you have them all. I wear pink when I shift, Mother. Not when I am in human form.” Cori sighed. “I attend your annual ball because it is a family event, not because I am interested in finding one of our kind to set up housekeeping with.”
Her father came up and lifted one of the boxes of accessories out of the van. “Your mother means well.”
Cori grinned at him. “Brave words from a man about to put on hot-pink tights for the ninth year in a row.”
“The things we do for love.” Her father winked as he passed her and proceeded into the hall.
She caught the mask that he flipped toward her as he turned to move through the doorway. Laughing, she put on the electric blue flamingo mask that she had crafted for this day. “Good enough, Mom?”
“It would be better if it was pink, but at least you are the right species this time. I will take it.”
Cori got a one-armed hug, and she returned it as they walked into the hall to check on the rest of the Flisk preparations for the annual Halloween ball.
It was going to be a vivid and raucous evening for flamingos to mingle and mix with their own species, swamp-bird shifters. Cori made a face. Maybe she would meet a nice duck.
Two hours later, she was standing near the punch bowl and watching the mating dances on the dance floor. It was tricky to drink with her mask on, but she managed to get a straw under the beak of the mask.
Her cousin Randolph sidled up to her. “Great costume, Cori. Steampunk?”
“Steampunk Flamingo. It was a slight nod to my mother.”
She tapped the bronze corset above the flounced upper portion of the skirt. “Surprisingly comfortable as long as I don’t try and breathe or move suddenly. How did you know it was me?”
Randolph laughed. “You have a certain posture when you are thinking.”
She looked down and slowly lowered her leg, evening her stance. “Damn.”
“Don’t worry about it. You know you always do it when you are thinking; the question is what were you thinking about?”
“Life, the universe, why none of these guys do anything for me.” She sipped at her punch.
“First, most of them are your cousins; second, they are mainly flamingos and you have never been one to stand in the swamp waiting for prince charming. You need to go and be somewhere that no one knows what you are and you can represent the real you from the start, without all the social layers.”
He reached out and pressed a wad of tickets into her hand. “Take these. They may be of use to you.”
“These are for the event prizes.”
“I know. I bought all the tickets for a very specific prize for you.”
Cori looked at the clock. “There are still two hours before the draw. You can change your mind and take these back.”
“I won’t, but thanks for the offer. I have already found the woman of my dreams and I think it is time for you to do the same.”
“Find the woman of my dreams? It isn’t really my thing.” She chuckled.
“You are pinker than I am, buddy.”
“Yes, but I don’t mind it, and she likes me pink.” He grinned and waggled his eyebrows.
“That cavalier outfit suits you. Did I put that feather on or is it one of yours?”
Randolph turned slowly in his black velvet and silver costume. “Oh, it is ostrich as you well know; my feathers are far more erect.”
She winced. “Eww. Too much information.”
“If you don’t want to work blue, don’t tease. You know it is my default.”
Cori sighed. “Fine. Thank you for the tickets.”
She took the wad, organized it and stuffed the tickets into the front of her corset. Her cousin watched with appalled amusement.
“What? This costume doesn’t have pockets.” She grinned. “Go dance with your ladylove.”
“As you wish.” He removed his hat from his dark hair and bowed with a flourish before replacing his dramatic headgear and moving through the crowd.
Cori looked over at the gathering and smiled; friends, family, neighbours, they were all here and all having a good time in costume. A third face for those who already wore two. Working as a costume designer had reaped benefits for her mother, and Cori enjoyed the challenge of finding patterns that could be adapted to a variety of body shapes. All of the costumes she brought with her were highly flexible when it came to fittings, and they were all her own design. The key was in the closures and the small lacings she put against the interior seams. The customer put the costume on, and it could be drawn to fit in a matter of a few tiny adjustments that were not visible on the outside of the clothing.
The annual Halloween ball was the perfect time and place to test out her new designs and over half of the costumes had been purchased by those who were currently wearing them or their spouses. It was enough money to keep her shop up and running for another year.
She hummed to the music, swayed from side to side and enjoyed the party in her own way.
“And now for our grand prize; we have an all-expenses paid trip to the Crossroads for one lucky single. It is fully transferrable and can be used anytime in the next year.” Her mother smiled and rummaged in the glass bowl for the halves of the tickets.
She pulled a ticket out. “Oh, there is a name on it.
. Oh, my. Cori? You have won a trip to the Crossroads.”
Cori froze in place with a cheezie halfway to her mouth. “What?”
The crowd of two hundred turned and cheered her on as they urged her to go and collect her prize.
She dropped the cheezie and wiped her hands on her napkin before placing it on the edge of the table. With deep breathing and slow steps, she walked up to where her mother waited.
Her mom leaned in with a fixed smile. “Did you enter this?”
“No. I was given the tickets.”
“Will you go?”
Her mother sighed in relief. “Thank goodness.”
Their quiet conversation was over.
“Congratulations, Coriel! Enjoy your trip to the Crossroads and may you find what you seek.”
Her mother grinned and pressed a folder into her hands. “Use it well.”
Cori blinked under her mask and nodded her beak. “I think I just might.”
“Good. The transporter is here in the Red Riding Hood costume. Go and have a word with her.”
Cori nodded. “I will. Thanks, Mom.”
“You are welcome, now go before the unmasking.”
Coriel chuckled and made her way off the stage, clutching the folder to her corset as she wove through the crowd to the stunning representation of the fairy tale figure.
“Red Riding Hood, I presume?” Cori bobbed a curtsy.
“I have never seen a blue flamingo before. You pull it off wonderfully.”
“My mother has said you can help me use my prize?”
The woman in the scarlet mask nodded shortly and smiled. “Come with me. The masks are about to come off and not all those attending are willing to admit that they danced with a mage.”
There was a private office off the hall, and they settled in with the door firmly locked. Cori removed her headgear and Red Riding Hood peeled off her mask.
The reason behind them knowing that she was a mage was quite clear. The mask had hid fantastical designs around her eyes, but now that they were out in the open, they were moving and telling a tale.
“What is that?”
The transporter sat gracefully behind the desk. “It is a living tattoo, a speciality of one tattoo parlour known to the mages. One of your kind designs them, or so I have been told. We never meet them; we simply pay and hope that we can do the pattern justice.”
Cori watched with fascination. “It is the fairy tale you are dressed as.”
“Yes, with a twist if you watch to the end.”
“How does it work?”
“The ink is in ideal suspension between layers of skin and my magic and impulses make it move. I have it set to Red Riding Hood for now, but I can pull it into standard day makeup if I need to.”
“May I ask your name?”
“Of course. I am Stella Winters, transporter for this region. I am a fairly new arrival. I have only been in the neighbourhood for three months.”
The brunette with the amazing tattoo smiled. “I know. Please, have a seat and ask me what you want to know.”
Coriel settled in the chair easily, her back straight and the corset holding her tight. “I really just have one. When can I leave?”
Stella leaned forward and raised her brows. “How do you feel about now?”
Five minutes of negotiations and a text to her mother later, Coriel was on her way in a flare of light.
She stumbled as she arrived and did what Stella had told her. She put on the charm from the file and waited for the guardians to come and get her.
It took a minute, but a woman in a black robe who had snow-white hair came in and blinked. “I am sorry. I wasn’t expecting an arrival.”
Cori curtseyed. “I apologise. It was a last-minute decision.”
“Did you travel in time as well as space?”
Cori chuckled. “I won a transport and expenses to the Crossroads at a costume party and the next window was in six weeks. I am never one to pretend fate did not smack me in the face, so here I am.”
She extended the paperwork to the guardian, and when a man stumbled in a moment later, she curtsied again. “Good evening.”
He smiled sleepily and walked up to what was obviously his mate. She filled him in and made a few calls.
“Teebie is waiting for you at the Open Heart. Give me a minute and I will get dressed.” The guardian ran a hand through her hair.
“Don’t bother. I will stop at the general store and get some regular clothing before I make my way to the Open Heart. I should be there in under twenty minutes if the map was accurate.”