Authors: Zenina Masters
Tags: #Paranormal, #Shapeshifter, #erotic Romance, #Magic
A panda and a bearcat are assigned to the same target…again. They are both ensnared but will clinging to each other get them out?
Ty was raised by a mage who took her on as a favour to her mother. She can read magic, feel magic but not use it. Her skills come in handy while working for the Shifter Council as a hunter or bounty hunter for misbehaving shifters.
On assignment to find a man guilty of the ultimate betrayal to their kind, she is doped and caged by some mages, and what a shock, so is her opposite number, Alatas.
Al has been trying to get himself assigned to every job that Tyanna does. He has been enthralled with her, but he has known from the outset that he was punching above his weight class. What use could a panda have for a binturong after all?
The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents
either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Black and White
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.
Published by eXtasy Books
Look for us online at:
Black and White
Shifting Crossroads Book 15
Tyanna Willow Wu stretched and wandered inside to see who had called. Her afternoon in her greenhouse had just gone down the tubes.
Tyanna, we have a line on the scout responsible for the lion incident. His name is Jeremy Wax. We are sending you his picture and the last point of contact. Hunter Whipping is already looking for him, but you have far better luck with this sort of thing. Wax looks for exotics and you are right up his alley. Call us back if you are on the case.
Ty made a face at the answering machine. There went her day off. She picked up the phone and made the call. Getting all the bastards who had sunk their teeth into the vulnerable and beautiful shifters was her priority. She had lost a friend in those underground chambers, and she was going to find everyone who had profited in any way and make them pay.
She opened the computer and checked out the image of her target. He was prone to visiting the same watering hole every evening and that left her three hours to contact her transporter and have a nice snack.
Making arrangements with her transporter took moments, and when she finished, she headed into her bamboo forest and shifted into her bear form. She sat on her ass, grabbed a young bamboo stalk and started munching. Bamboo was to her what corned beef and cabbage was to the Irish on St. Paddy’s day. It was the taste of home and childhood and it calmed her right down.
She considered her options when tracking down Mr. Wax. Either she could go after him directly, or she could see if he was still stalking exotics and make herself a target.
She munched on the bamboo for an hour, plotting and scheming. When her time was up, she rolled to her feet and lumbered to the door, shedding her fur on the way into the house.
Spending a day at home in her own skin was a luxury, and it had just been snatched by the Shifter Council and a jackass. She stretched before getting dressed and packed for a run through the wilderness. It was doubtful that she would need the leather and canvas, but she was prepared nonetheless.
She checked for funds and identification, put them against her skin and verified the homing charm was active in her hands. When she was certain that she was ready, she got on her bike and headed to the transporter’s office. Business was business and being sent halfway across the country was better achieved with her in a neutral location than if she was being sent from her own home.
Her house was her sanctuary and no one that wasn’t family ever entered.
She enjoyed the feel of the sun and the breeze on her cheeks as she whisked her way through the streets.
Ty pulled up at Heloise’s office and she brought her bike inside. “Hiya.”
“Right on time, fifteen minutes early as usual.” Heloise grinned and finished selecting the objects she would need for the transport.
Each transporter used different means to channel their talent. Heloise Lock used soil from different areas around the world to make a path to the appropriate destination.
Ty had never been placed wrong yet.
There was a large measure of trust between a shifter and their transporter, but knowing Heloise from elementary school had created that trust without any outside influences. They had never been friends, but they had never been enemies either. When circumstances had thrown them together, they had recognized each other for what they were for the first time. The friendship had begun at that point. The loss of Emery Wilkes had cemented it.
Emery had been a friend to Ty in school and more than a friend to Heloise afterward. He hadn’t cared that she was a human mage and he was a shifter. He had been in love and they had been planning a future together until he disappeared.
Ty had gone looking the moment that Heloise called her, but there was nothing to find. He was gone.
Seven months ago, the lions were captured and their prisoners freed, but Emery wasn’t there. There was no sign of him and mage craft couldn’t trace him. He was presumed to be among the dead, but no bodies had been found, though everyone was looking.
Ty watched Heloise putter around the shop and sat on the office chair, rotating slowly in a circle. “Busy day?”
“Oh, the normal. Arranging shifters’ honeymoons and working on trips to the Crossroads.” Heloise glanced over her shoulder. “And then there is you.”
“Sorry. I know the council contract is annoying, but what can you do? At least I can cycle to your place. The next nearest transporter doesn’t have security clearance.”
“Poor you, you would have to drive your car.”
“Yup. As you know, I am exceptionally lazy.”
“Well, the council does pay very well, so I don’t mind. At least you don’t have any weird expectations. Some folk don’t seem to grasp that I can’t send them to the Crossroads at any time. It is a travelling dimensional bubble. I have to wait until it lines up.”
This was an old complaint so Ty kept spinning. “I know, Heloise.”
She was balancing a pen on her upper lip a few minutes later when Heloise snatched it away.
“I am ready, Tyanna.”
Ty got to her feet and walked over to the small worn patch on the floor. “Ready when you are.”
“Come home safe. I give you two weeks, then I sell your bike.” Heloise held out her hands, wearing the small amulet around her neck that contained the soil of Tyanna’s destination.
Tyanna held her breath for a moment, exhaled quickly and inhaled sharply as energy surged up her body in a tingling wave. Heloise had mastered the blackout transport and Ty was always grateful. There was no flash of light, she just appeared in her destination.
A deep breath brought the scent of beer, gravel, concrete and deep-frying oil. The underlying scent of vomit told her that she was near a bar.
She looked around her and noted the non-descript industrial walls and the abandoned expanse surrounding her. It was safe, empty and not even the rats made it past the heavy warding that kept her from prying human eyes. Council safe houses took up a myriad of incarnations, but they all had features in common, including the hidey-hole for her to place her bag in. She kept her ID and her wallet but left the bag sealed in the safe place that sprang open when she ran her hand along the wall. She closed it with a soft click and licked her thumb to mark the spot with her own scent.
Transporters had taken some of the stress out of travelling, but it still took her a couple of hours to feel normal. Since she already knew that her target’s last point of contact was nearby, she figured she could pass the time nursing a cocktail or a beer instead of putting off the inevitable.
She straightened her shoulders and headed out into the dimming streets just in time to see the two working lights come on just outside the very building she was looking for.
The door had the soft sheen of oiled wood, carried the scent of thousands of partially clean hands and several brands of beer.
She settled her shoulders into a curved slump and altered her posture to reflect fatigue and hopelessness. She wanted to blend in.
When she stepped inside, several heads turned toward her but most of them turned away. The few that continued looking at her had a predatory gaze. She hid her grin. This was going to be an entertaining evening.
Tyanna had settled on a corner stool near the wall. The few men who had looked interested calmed down when better prey entered the bar in the form of a delicate blonde who seemed to be having car trouble. She was fresh meat and the men were nearly growling while their female companions hissed.
Ty was putting it into terms that she could understand. The mating behaviour of humans never failed to baffle her. Being a shifter was socially awkward, but she knew where she stood when it came to seeking out members of the opposite sex. Scent was a powerful indicator, so was her personal cycle. Fortunately, condoms were just as effective with a shifter as with a human because oral birth control wasn’t.
She could still feel a gaze on her from somewhere in the bar, and after a few low looks from under her lashes, she spotted him.
Alatas Whipping, hunter of all things in the rodent family was sitting in a corner and slumped over with only his sharp, dark gaze giving the impression that he was not as hammered as the empty beer glasses indicated.
He jerked his head toward her, and she did the same. So, the council had set both of them on this wild weasel chase. How surprising.
They had been sent after the same prey many times before, but usually, Ty didn’t give a damn who brought the person in. This time, it was very personal and she wanted a nice long talk with Jeremy Wax.
A young man took up the seat next to her. “I haven’t seen you in here before.”
“Observant, aren’t you?” She grumbled and kept her head down.
“Are you looking for someone in particular?”
She turned and gave him a tired stare. “This doesn’t look like a singles bar. I came here to drink and this is the one place I know my ex won’t go back to.”
The young man had sandy hair but a calculating glance, and her sense of smell told her it was dyed and that caught her attention like nothing else would, but she kept her bland expression on her features.
She nodded to the bartender and another beer was placed in front of her. She hated beer but drank it anyway. It would take far more than a human’s intake to get her inebriated, but he didn’t know that.
“Well, may I buy you a round? You look like a woman with things she needs to forget.” He raised his hand and the bartender paused for a moment before nodding.
Ty watched out of the corner of her eye as the bartender spiked her next beer.
She took the new beer with a nod of thanks and turned to her benefactor. “Thanks. It has been a helluva week.”
“Have you been in the area long?” He moved closer to her, crowding in on her personal space. She felt the crackle of magic and the hair on the back of her neck stood up.
“No. I am just passing through. After the breakup, I couldn’t stay in my hometown, so now, I am looking for a place that feels like me.” She slugged down the remainder of her second beer and took the spiked one in her hand.
She ran it between her palms. “You should be out in search of that young blonde thing who is waiting for her taxi. She looks more your sort.”
“She is a dime a dozen. You have a lovely exotic allure that captured my attention the moment I walked in.” He made himself sound sincere and that assured her that this was a setup.
Ty laughed loud and long, sipping at her beer and wrinkling her nose at the taste.
She made a face and pushed the beer away. “It tastes funny.”
The bartender looked relieved and came over. “Is something wrong?”
“I think you have a problem with your taps or there was something in the glass before you poured it. That beer tastes weird.”