Authors: Zenina Masters
Tags: #Adult, #Erotic Romance, #Fey, #Fantasy, #Magic, #Paranormal, #Shapeshifter
“You are on leave, and the fey would like you to take that leave at the Crossroads.” He looked a little uncomfortable.
Confusion took over and she blurted, “Why?”
“They have seers working to find matches for available fey, and they pull them up by animal. They had to ask several of us when they described your devil, but it is the only beast that matched.”
Yval grimaced. “They are probably mistaking me for some kind of weasel.”
“You are some kind of weasel, but they were very specific about the sound that you make. Apparently, it is described as a ravenous zombie feasting.” Veeran looked sheepish.
She was going to refute it, but it was a pretty accurate assessment of the noises her beast used to make.
“Do they know that I am no longer an active shapeshifter?”
Veeran nodded. “They know and do not care. You are the one that was seen; you are the one that is a likely candidate. From what I have heard, personal energy has to match, and the seers are using every trick they can to get a good match on their selections. Come on, Yval, what can it hurt? They are picking up the tab, and all you have to do is go there with an open mind. Simple. Eat, drink, enjoy yourself and then get your butt back to work.”
Yval ran her hand over her hair. “I need to think about this.”
“Of course. Take this number and call it when you have made a decision. Either way, I don’t want to see you back here for two months.”
She gasped. “What?”
“You heard me.” He leaned forward. “You need to get in touch with your beast. Do whatever it takes, but get her back on your side.”
“She isn’t speaking to me.”
“Then, find a way to get her attention. Looking for a mate might just be the thing that gets her back on your side.” He gave her an innocent look and waved the card at her.
She snatched it, and her growl warbled out of her. With as much dignity as she could muster in her exhausted state, she left her team leader and stalked toward the change rooms. She needed her normal clothing, and then, she needed a drink.
Two hours later, she stared at the card and thought about the Crossroads. She sipped at her drink, and the milkshake improved her mood.
Her teenaged nephew looked at the card. “So, Auntie. You have a choice in front of you. Fries and gravy or poutine.”
“That is not the big type of choice I am contemplating.”
“Yeah, I know, but since you still have to mull that one over, you might as well do it with food.”
Yval slurped at her strawberry milkshake and tapped the poutine on the menu. Jesser summoned the waitress, flirted a bit and ordered some poutine for his poor auntie who was having a rough day.
Yval glared at him but didn’t say a word. He was scoring points with the classmate who was taking their order, and so, Yval exaggerated her tired look.
The young woman, whose name badge identified her as
quickly jotted down the order and smiled shyly at Jesser.
When the waitress was out of earshot, Yval chuckled. “Well, you are definitely scoring points taking care of your poor auntie. Shall I develop a limp or bring a cane in the next time?”
He gave her an unrepentant grin. “Perhaps wear a sling next time, and I can help you eat.”
“You are such a jerk.”
“My mother raised me right.”
Yval sighed. “Your father did pitch in, you know. Your mother is just a bossy boots.”
“You are just on his side because he is your brother.”
She smiled and sipped at her milkshake. “It could be.”
Jesser sat back. “What’s up, Auntie?”
“I have a decision to make, and you are the smartest person I know, so I came to you for advice.”
She drummed her fingers on the table before blurting out, “I have been forced to take two months off.”
Yval looked around and leaned forward. “I have been running a little close to exhaustion, and they finally noticed.”
“Ouch. Did you get stuck again?”
“No. Nearly.” She ran a hand through her hair.
“It is not great for you but not horrible. What else? You look like I did the day I learned that going to school meant homework.”
“I have been offered a sort of paid vacation.”
“It will be paid for by that group I have been working with. The Crossroads.”
Jesser whistled softly and their food arrived.
When Erin, the waitress, left them, Yval stabbed her fries, gravy and cheese with a fork. “So, what do you think I should do?”
“What do you think of the new group?”
She frowned and munched. “They are okay. I mean, I have never considered a merger with one of their kind before. It is a pretty big deal. How would you feel about an uncle from the other side of the tracks?”
“He would be gay?”
She slapped her free hand over her eyes while he chortled.
“Auntie, I know what you mean. I wouldn’t mind as long as you were happy. There would be some period of adjustment, I am sure, but if he makes you happy, it would all be worth it.”
She smiled slightly and kept working on her meal.
“So, when would you leave?” Jesser tried to look casual.
“I don’t know. I have to contact a transporter to get myself there.” Yval blinked. “You really want me to go?”
“I think you have been alone long enough. I don’t need you to be there for me twenty-four seven anymore. I appreciate that you were there when Mom and Dad were going through their issues, but we are all stable now. You don’t have to put your life on hold for us.”
“It wasn’t a problem. I enjoyed being able to be there for you.”
“I know you say that, but I also know that you would have felt better if you had been able to look for your cousin Nara right away.” His normally cheerful face was sober.
She reached out and tapped the back of his wrist. “I could not have found her, could not have helped her. We started looking right away, and based on what the team found, she had not survived more than a day. It had nothing to do with what was going on at your house or with you or your parents. It didn’t even have anything to do with me, and it has taken me a while to admit that.”
“We don’t do well in captivity, do we?”
She shook her head. “No, we don’t. It is bad enough that we start eating prey at an unfortunate angle.”
He grinned. “It does take getting used to, doesn’t it?”
“It really does.”
Jesser gave her a serious look. “Make the call now. You have your phone, and I know you have the number with you. I will still be here when you are done.”
She twisted her lips. “Bossy.”
“I have to learn. I am going to lead our family one day. I need the practice.” He winked.
She pulled out her phone and the business card. The phone rang twice before a laughing woman picked it up. “Hello?”
“Hello. Is this Pansy?”
“My name is Yval Maddox, and I was given your card.”
“Excellent! Is there somewhere I can meet you? I can be there in half an hour.”
Yval looked at her nephew and rattled off his address. “I will be there in ten minutes.”
Jesser reached for his wallet and paid the bill.
She smiled, and Pansy agreed to meet her.
Erin got a tip, Jesser got her number and Yval got to drive him home as he admired his prize.
Her brother was just arriving home from work; his suit and tie were immaculate, as always.
“Hey, sis. Why have you taken custody of my eldest?”
She twisted her lips in a grimace. “Well, bro...dang that sounds wrong. Ron, I needed to work some stuff out, and Jesser is better than you are at this stuff.”
“Does Linnea know you are coming?”
Jesser nodded. “I texted her from the restaurant.”
Ron’s shoulders relaxed slightly. “Thank goodness. Come on in.”
Yval grinned. “We haven’t bitten each other in ages.”
“Yeah, but the magic still sets her hackles on edge.”
“I know. I wish there was something I could do about it, but it is fused to me now.” Yval hugged him and slung her arm around her nephew while they headed into Linnea’s territory. It was dangerous, but Yval was more than willing to sacrifice the menfolk while she made a getaway.
“Hello, Linny.” Yval smiled.
Linnea took a deep breath, braced herself and came in for a hug. Yval could smell her beast, but all Linnea could smell was magic. She sighed and stepped back.
“Yvy. It is good to see you. You look tired.” Linnea frowned.
“That brings me to why I am here. I am moving in.”
Everyone in the room froze, and Yval counted to five before she burst out laughing. “Joke. It is a joke. I am looking into travelling to the Crossroads.”
The relief that filled the room made her giggle all over again.
Linnea smiled hesitantly. “Are you being serious now?”
“I am. The transporter is meeting me here in a few minutes for a consultation.”
“Do you have money for that?”
Yval winced. “That is where it gets a little weird. The fey want me to go. I have appeared in some seer’s visions somewhere, and it makes me a likely candidate for one of their species. The fey are picking up the tab.”
Linnea scowled. “More magic?”
“If I blend with a member of the fey, magic would be part of it, but having worked next to them, it is like breathing in cool mint.”
Her sister-in-law looked sceptical, but a rush of magic in the back yard warned of the arrival of the transporter.
Yval excused herself and headed toward the glow that contained the woman with the energy of a shifter mixed with the magic of the fey.
The woman fluffed out her hair and smiled. “Hello. You are Yval?”
“I am Pansy. Part-time porcupine, part-time transporter.” The woman extended her hand.
Yval shook the hand and blinked at the crackle of energy that ran through her skin. “That isn’t precisely fey magic.”
“Perceptive. I am dosed with wild magic. It appears fey at a glance, but when you get into it, there is quite a difference.”
“Like a blue duck.”
Pansy’s eyes widened. “Exactly!”
Linnea called out, “Would you two like to come inside? I have made some snacks.”
Pansy smiled. “I love snacks.”
Yval waved her ahead and asked herself if she was really going to go ahead with this. She was terrified when her beast rose and said yes; it was the first thing her devil had said in three years.
The discussion was quick and involved her family; everyone agreed that it was time for her to move on, including her beast.
Pansy had smiled and taken her to the aligned spot, transporting her to the Crossroads in under an hour after the decision was made.
Yval staggered a little as she arrived, but when a dark-haired man came toward her, she extended her handful of paperwork. “Tony, I presume?”
He grinned. “One of Pansy’s transports, I presume?”
“Yup, magic contaminated, so I needed to come in through the back entrance.” She stepped forward. Her legs were still wobbly.
“Teal is taking a new arrival on a tour, so I will process you if you don’t mind.”
“Go ahead. I am still getting my sea legs.”
He put his hand under her elbow and supported her over to a seating area with a desk and two chairs.
“I am here on the fey vacation plan. They are picking up the tab.”
He blinked and checked her paperwork. “Oh. Great. There it is.”
It was a little obvious that his partner probably did most of the paperwork; either that, or he was thrown by her personal energy. Whatever the issue was, Tony worked through it, and soon, he put a small charm on a leather thong and attached it to her wrist.
A small gem glinted as she examined the charm. “What is the stone for?”
“It lets the fey see you and you see them. You can look for a mate among any of the guests here, but the fey are restricted to working within those women who have agreed to consider them.”
“How many of the fey are here?”
“About eight right now.”
“How many agreeable women?”
“Three, including you.”
“Ah. Well, that does narrow it down.”
“If it makes you feel better, there are three more coming in the next two days.”
“Men or women?”
Tony’s colour got high. “Um, men?”
“So it will be eleven to three.”
“It will be less if there is a match made. I do apologise. They have been sending anyone remotely suitable for a mating here, just to make sure that the ladies feel they have been given a reasonable selection.”
Yval pinched her nose and felt the fatigue in her bones. “Well, I will just have to deal with my options. The charm will work to purchase anything here, food or services?”
“Indeed. We have a new spa that you may enjoy?”
She smiled. “Tempting, but for now, I just need to relax. I haven’t quite recovered from my all-nighter.”
“Well, when Teal gets back, I will take you on your tour.”
She chuckled. “Forget the tour; just show me where I am staying.”
“Fair enough. So, you work for the Guild?”
Yval blinked. “Yes. I am a hunter and retriever. I specialise in dealing with the fey who persist in keeping our folk in their collections.”
“I see. So, you don’t like fey, but you are willing to take one as a mate?”
“I work with them. I have no objection to them as a species. The collectors are aberrations, not the rule.”
Tony had an expression of relief in his expression. “Good. Great. Ah, here is Teal. I will just catch her up, and we can be on our way.”
Yval watched the obvious couple reunite for a moment, and Teal smiled and waved them along.
“I am sure I will see you around. The fey are fairly accurate at their targeting, but I think you need sleep more than an evening of dancing and flirting.”
Yval shrugged. “I think you are right, but first, I need some shopping.”
Teal looked at Tony and back to Yval. “Would you mind if I took over for my mate? He tends to fidget while shopping.”
“Sure. I don’t care. I just need something to sleep in and a change of clothing for tomorrow. I am here with the clothing on my back.”