Read A Life Less Pink Online

Authors: Zenina Masters

Tags: #Adult, #Erotic Romance, #Paranormal, #Shapeshifter

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BOOK: A Life Less Pink
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The woman smiled and there was relief in her gaze. “I will check up on you in the morning.”

“Thank you. I apologise again for the unannounced arrival.” Cori retrieved the documents that were her copies.

“It isn’t a problem. We just don’t get caught by surprise often.”

“Good evening, enjoy your dreams.” Cori swished out the door with her skirts rustling around her. It was a great costume but didn’t seem to be the type of thing to wear while seeking out a mate, at least not this century.

Her black and red locks were pinned high on her head in a modified Gibson-girl style. Having her hair out of the way made for a full range of vision, and she could see several people moving about on the streets, and the moment that they saw her, they froze in place.

Smirking a little, she headed into the general store to do some shopping. It was time to get her clothing selections back into the current decade.

 

Andy was most helpful, and ten minutes later, Cori had what she needed and was off to the Open Heart to pry off the corset and climb into some pajamas for the evening.

Cori’s slow pace took her past the bar, and a man, who was about to enter, paused.

“Am I seeing what I think I am seeing?”

She smiled and paused in return. He was huge, muscular and had tattoos climbing up his arms and in the small vee of his open shirt.

“What do you think you are seeing?”

“A woman so stunning she would fit in any century with clothing that was designed just for her.”

Cori blushed. She was so used to folks only seeing the costume that someone seeing
her
took getting used to. “Well, you are seeing me, but I am on my way to locate a good night’s sleep.”

“May I walk you there?”

She really didn’t have a reason to say no. This was a safe place, and his harshly carved features seemed friendly enough.

“Please. That would be very kind of you.”

He moved toward her with an easy grace and offered her his arm.

She placed her hand on his and he asked, “Where am I taking you?”

“The Open Heart Bed and Breakfast.”

“Excellent. My own home away from home.”

Cori smirked. “Of course it is. That is some lovely ink you have.”

He brightened. “Thank you.”

His hair was a dark brown with golden streaks, and his pleased smile was boyish.

“Do you have any?” He asked it with honest curiosity.

“No. I have never been able to settle on a design.”

“Fair enough. May I ask your name?”

She grinned. “Coriel Flisk. And yours?”

“Arturat Darling. My family just calls me Arty.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Can I call you Artur?”

He grinned. “You can call me Darling.”

“Not tonight I can’t. That transport flattened me.” She smiled.

“Artur it is then, Coriel.”

“Cori. Coriel sounds like a fallen angel.”

“You definitely have the look of an angel. Fallen or otherwise.” There was an openness to his words and expression that charmed her.

Their feet were crunching on the gravel paths, and all too soon, they were at the Open Heart.

She lifted her skirt with the hand holding the shopping and made her way up the steps.

“What did you purchase tonight?”

“More socially acceptable clothing. This costume is fun, but I would rather have something I can move in.”

He sighed. “A pity. It is striking.”

“And, yet, I can’t even touch my own toes in it. Not very practical.”

“You will be striking no matter what you are wearing.” He smiled and pressed a kiss to the back of her hand. “Now, I must return to my appointment. I wish you good evening and happy dreams.”

As he walked down the sidewalk, he called out, “Welcome to the Crossroads.”

Disappointed, Cori turned to open the door when it was opened for her.

A woman with blue skin, dark blue hair and sparkling eyes was holding the door. “Welcome to the Open Heart. I am Teebie and I am your host.”

“Cori Flisk; I will be your guest.” She smiled and let herself be escorted into the custody of the first djinn she had ever seen.

“Come in, Cori. I have your room ready and some herbal tea to warm you up. That is a lovely gown, by the way.”

“Halloween party. I won the trip to the Crossroads and the portal was in alignment, so it was either tonight or wait six weeks, and if I waited that long, I would chicken out.” She would also be in the middle of the New Year’s Eve rush for costumes and it would be a little awkward for her.

The Halloween rush was in the hands of her assistant. Cori always took a few weeks off beforehand to avoid those last-minute elaborate costumes that everyone wanted. Cori’s Costumes would be cleared of stock by Halloween, and then, Cori would start all over again.

Teebie laughed. “You won a trip to the Crossroads?”

“I did. My cousin bought the tickets and put my name on them.”

“What if someone else had won?”

“They would have handed it off to a single relative, and I would have come here on my own in time, or I would have just stuck it out for another year.” Cori shrugged.

“Well, we are glad to have you here. Your room is this way.”

It took a bit of doing to climb the stairs while holding her shopping bag, but she managed it.

Teebie opened the door marked with feathers and smiled, “I will be up with some herbal tea in five minutes. Do make yourself at home. Do you need help with your costume?”

With a grin, Cori put down her bag and reached behind her to loosen the central tie on the corset. “No, I will be changed by the time you return. Thank you for the offer of assistance though.”

Teebie left, and with a few practiced tugs, the corset loosened. Cori unclasped the busk and set the corset aside before removing the feathered bolero she had been wearing, the silken gloves and the chemise that had kept the corset from chafing.

The skirt rustled to the ground and she pulled the long camisole over her head, slipping on the matching robe while she sat to remove her heels and stockings.

Teebie came back as she was wiggling her toes and folding the stockings. The garter belt was lying next to the corset.

There was a knock, and when Cori called out, Teebie came in with a tray. She blinked. “You weren’t kidding.”

“I get people in and out of costumes for a living. Stripping myself is easy.”

There was a small bistro table in the corner, and Cori sat with Teebie, inhaling the scent of the tea in the cup she was handed.

“I have never seen a flamingo with hair your colour.”

Cori made a face. “I know. They are usually blonde or straight brunette.”

“Indeed. If I didn’t know that the streaks didn’t hold up through shifts, I would think that you dyed it.”

“Nope. It grows with red locks randomly in the mix. My dad blames one of his great-great grandmothers for it. My mom just pretends that it is something I do to my hair after every shift.”

“Parents need illusions now and then, or so I have been told.” Teebie lifted a plate. “Cookie?”

“Thank you. I am not sure how one goes about finding a mate, but I am willing to put myself out there in an effort to find out.”

Teebie chuckled. “And we are here to help you.”

She lifted her cup, and Cori met it with her own in a toast. She may be in the unknown, but she wasn’t alone.

 

Chapter Three

 

 

The smell of coffee hauled Cori out of bed and drove her into the shower. Once she was dressed, she braided her hair into a thick column and headed downstairs. Dimensional travel was good for the appetite.

A small group of people were in the dining room enjoying the coffee she had come down in search of.

Artur was speaking with an obviously freshly minted couple. He paused and smiled at her as she entered the room. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Cori. She arrived last night.”

The group at large greeted her, and when Teebie poured her some coffee and set it on the table, she followed the heavenly smell.

She added sugar and cream, stirred twice and started to gulp it down. When she came up for air, she smiled blissfully. “Good morning, everyone.”

Laughter rippled through the room, but Cori just sat back and let Teebie pour her a second cup of coffee.

As she sipped, Teebie fixed a plate for her and put it in front of her.

Artur cocked his head. “You look very different this morning. You are still stunning, but you are slightly less ethereal now.”

Cori settled in to eat. “This is how I look about eighty percent of the time. I own and run a costume shop, so costumes of one sort or another are always around me.”

He propped his chin on his fist and smiled. “So, you dress in corsets often?”

She gave him a narrow-eyed look as the men at the table perked up and the women looked interested. “Often enough. I am no tight-lacer, but I have a lot of practice.”

As she ate, she answered questions about where to get corsets and how to fit them. Teebie kept her coffee full, and when Cori was finished, she felt marginally more awake. She was also in the room with only Artur and Teebie.

“Did I talk them into ash?”

Teebie laughed and cleared the table. “No, they are off to pack and make their transfer back to the normal world. They have had the privacy that they needed.”

Cori sat back with her cup between her palms. “So, one night and they are out?”

Teebie grinned. “Those are the rules. A mated couple causes tension in the gathering places. Well, a newly mated couple does. They are all wild pheromones.”

Cori blinked. “You mean the mammals.”

Her host nodded. “Your kind are usually fine. You only start dancing at inappropriate moments.”

Artur grinned. “So, I am guessing you are a bird as well, Cori?”

She nodded. “Yup. You too?”

He inclined his head. “Guilty. You hide it very well. I would have thought you were fur and not feather, though you were wearing them last night.”

“You as well. Normally birds don’t carry your particular build.” She gestured to the muscles that were bulging against the snug black t-shirt he was wearing.

“It takes a little effort, but in my line of work, you have to hold the needle for hours. Muscles help with that.”

“You are a tattoo artist?” Cori smiled and cocked her head.

“I am more of a general artist, but I have been known to design a few striking works.” He winked.

In the light of day, his eyes were a soft grey-blue under the dark wave of his hair and that gaze met hers with pure amusement.

She let her focus drop to the images creeping out from under his shirt. “Your designs?”

“Some of them. Others were designed by friends that I trusted and executed by artists I admire.”

She wanted to see them all but that might be a little forward. Cori sighed. “Well, I had better go exploring. It has been nice seeing you again, Artur.”

He winced. “Ouch. A very forward dismissal.”

She blushed as she got to her feet. Teebie remained quiet and whisked everything away.

“I wasn’t dismissing you, but last night you mentioned an appointment and I thought it was in reference to a date.”

“It was, of a sort. I am designing a new tattoo for one of the bartenders, and he had a finite window of opportunity while he could get his shift covered.”

“Oh. Well, now that I have put my foot in it, I am sure that you have better things to do.”

He got to his feet and offered her his hand. “I will tell you if one of those things comes along. For this morning, I am offering myself as your tour guide.”

She couldn’t tamp down the heat in her face, but she slipped her fingers into his. “Thank you for the offer. I accept.”

Teebie called out, “Have fun.”

As they stepped out into the Crossroads morning, Cori smiled. She was already having fun.

 

They had checked out the forest, caught two couples coupling and had simply walked on, grinning.

Finally, she asked the question she had been dying to ask. “What kind of bird are you?”

“I will tell you if you will tell me.”

Cori made a face. “Fine. I am a flamingo.”

He laughed in delight. “No way. Have you ever been followed by conservationists?”

She muttered. “I have been banded twice.”

He hooted and hugged her against him.

“Three times for me. I am a white stork.”

She giggled at the thought of him turning into a gangly bird with delicate limbs. “You are kidding.”

“I would never kid about the type of bird I am, just like I would never lie about my name.”

His hand moved over her back as he held her to him. His touch was light; she could pull back if she wanted to. Against her better judgement, she did.

He sighed and resumed their walk as if they had not stopped. “So, as a flamingo, do you dance?”

“You mean that weird little group march where we flirt with each other? Yes, I have done that. It is an annual thing. We all have to do it.” She snorted.

“I have seen it on wildlife documentaries. It is wild. How about that stomping thing you do in shallows?”

“Yeah, I do that. It kicks up the silt and I filter it through my beak.” She wrinkled her nose. “Anything else?”

“You are pink?”

She exhaled with a gust of frustration. “Usually. Right now, I am closer to white. I haven’t been feeding lately.”

“So, the food changes your colour?”

“Yup. Now my turn. Do you really bring babies?”

He gave her a heavy-lidded look. “You will have to buy me a drink first.”

And just like that, her blush was back in full force.

Sitting across from him in the café, she propped her chin on her hands. “Now, for the big question. Why did you come to the Crossroads?”

“A good friend of mine found his mate here, and if he can find a woman as solid as Tyla, then I can scope around for a mate of my own who doesn’t just want me for my artistic sensibilities or my ability to design covering on her from forehead to ankles.”

“Does that happen a lot?”

He shrugged. “More than you would think. A lot of modern women are appalled at the idea of paying for a tattoo with money. The sexual contract is one that is on frequent offer.”

BOOK: A Life Less Pink
2.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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