Authors: Zenina Masters
Tags: #Adult, #Erotic Romance, #Fey, #Fantasy, #Magic, #Paranormal, #Shapeshifter
“We can get that.”
“Thanks for the help, Tony. You are off the hook.” Yval smiled at Teal, and they headed into the reddening light of the Crossroads.
An hour later, laden with bags and exhausted, Yval stumbled into the lobby of the Open Heart Bed and Breakfast. Teal left her in the custody of the hostess and returned to the Meditation Centre. The blue woman came forward and introduced herself.
“Yval Maddox? I am Teebie, and I will send those bags up to your room.”
The bags disappeared and Yval stumbled. “Sorry. I am a little tired.”
Teebie helped her stand. “Did you want to rest, or did you want something to eat?”
Yval groaned. “I am too tired to head back to the café.”
Teebie smiled. “I can arrange something simple for you.”
“Done. It will meet you in your room. Come with me, and I will show you to your home away from home.”
“It sounds delightful. Lead the way.”
The trip up the stairs and down a long hall was a little disorientating. When Teebie opened the door, Yval felt she was looking at the afterlife. The bedding was black, white and looked exceedingly comfortable.
“Your sandwich is on the table under the dome. Feel free to take your time or eat it when you wake up. Would you like me to book you some spa time tomorrow?”
“I will take my chances tomorrow. I can’t think today.”
“Fair enough. Get some rest, and I will see you for breakfast.” Teebie nodded and retreated.
As the door closed, Yval was already stripping and looking into her bags for the nightshirt she had picked up. Dressed, tucked in and safe, she slept. Tomorrow was time enough to worry about elves and courtships.
Breakfast called her the moment she opened her door. The sandwich had been consumed in the wee hours, and she was now ravenous for more.
When she entered the dining room, ten pairs of eyes turned toward her; she couldn’t help it, she shifted into her half-form.
Her enhanced gaze took in the reactions of the eight fey males and the two women. Three of the males looked mildly amused, while the other five looked appalled. The women looked vaguely disgusted.
Embarrassed, she shifted back to human. “Apologies. I am not at my best today.”
Teebie came in from the back. “Everyone, this is Yval. She is the newest arrival.”
The djinn set down a platter of muffins and went to get Yval a cup of coffee.
Yval took a seat and started to reach for her breakfast; muffins, bacon, pancakes and fresh fruit all found their way to her plate.
When Teebie set the coffee down, Yval grabbed it with both hands, “Oh, where have you been all my life?”
The coffee didn’t respond, but it didn’t need to. She knew how it felt; it told her with every dark sip.
The fey male across from her chuckled. “Not a morning person?”
“It has been a weird couple of days. I am a little short on sleep.” She kept her focus on the food and kept going until she was full and the coffee cup was woefully empty.
The folks surrounding her peeled off and disappeared, but she only watched them out of the periphery of her vision. The food had her full attention until it, too, was gone.
Finally, it was just Yval, a pot of coffee and three fey looking at her with calculation in their eyes.
One of them stood, came around behind her and poured a cup of coffee for her. She added points to his score.
“It is an honour to serve a lady in desperate need, as you seem to be.” He winked.
She took one of the points away. “Right. Well, you know my name, what is yours?”
Lansing, Argo and Renaud introduced themselves in turn. While they were all interested in her, she didn’t reciprocate. Her beast was silent on the matter.
Yval stood and put her napkin down, lifting her plate. She took her plate and coffee cup back to the kitchen, startling Teebie.
“I was going to clear.”
Yval whispered, “I needed to get away from them. I was a little uneasy about how they would take it if I told them to bugger off.”
“They are remarkably resilient. If they can’t have you, they will wait for the next one. They have exceptional life spans; they are used to waiting.”
Yval wrinkled her nose. “Fair enough. Is it too late to go in search of a spa day?”
Teebie lifted a hand and a phone appeared. “I will call and see.”
Yval nodded, and she returned to the dining room. The elves were talking quietly.
“Gentlemen, I have consulted with my beast, and she isn’t interested.” Blaming the beast was always a safe bet.
They paused and Renaud asked, “May we try to change your mind?”
She blinked. “Uh, I don’t see why not, and I am really trying to come up with a reason.”
They grinned. It was disconcerting. The fey were stunning as a species. Each individual as different and lovely as a snowflake. Working with them, she could focus on the uniforms that they wore so that she didn’t mistake them for the predators she was hunting. Staring at the faces of men who wanted to make eye contact would have brought her beast roaring to the surface if she and her devil were on speaking terms.
Teebie came out of the kitchen, and she waved away the dishes and remains of breakfast. “Yval, if you head there right now, they can take you in for a top-to-toe workup.”
She couldn’t agree fast enough. “Definitely. Where am I going?”
Renaud grinned. “I can take you to the spa.”
Teebie sighed and put her hands on Yval’s shoulders. A moment later, Yval was looking at the front of an establishment that was both discrete and promised a full range of services.
She entered and was relieved at the scent of mint and lemon. “Hello?”
A woman came forward with a smile. “Welcome. I am Emmy, and my brother Stephan is around here somewhere. You are Yval?”
“Tell me what you want.”
“I want to not think for as long as possible.”
A man with an amused smile came out of a back room. “We can do that. Come this way.”
Yval went against her normal habits and surrendered herself to someone else’s control. The worst that could happen was that she would shift halfway through a treatment. She hadn’t accidentally clawed anyone open in a year or more. She was willing to take that chance.
Six hours later, Yval watched the glow of light announcing one of the fey arriving.
“Well, we have done all we can. You are on your own now.” Emmy smiled. “Oh, and the nail polish will shift with you.”
“Good tip. Thanks.”
“No, thank you. You look amazing.”
Yval chuckled and looked down. “If I had known that the makeover included personal shopping, I would have been here last night.”
Emmy laughed. “All part of the service.”
The new shoes were a surprisingly good fit and terribly comfortable for heels.
“I suppose I should get going.”
Emmy gave her a sympathetic look. “I suppose you should. Feel free to come back for another massage. Stephan is still getting the feeling back into his hands. You gave him quite the workout.”
Yval smirked. “It had been a while. I was tense. I am much better now. Thanks again.”
“Go and see what the fates have in store for you. I promise it will be interesting if nothing else.”
With that ringing endorsement, Yval left the spa and headed for the bar that was
two doors down and take a right.
She saw two shadows in the Meditation Centre speaking with Tony and Teal. One of the shadows looked familiar, but she ignored the sense of recognition for the sultry music playing in the bar and the couples swaying slowly to the tunes.
Yval leaned against the bar, and she smiled politely at the serpent shifter in front of her. “Chuck!”
He blinked and laughed in surprise, coming around the counter to give her a hug. “Evil! How good to see you!”
She laughed and kicked her feet until he put her down. “Where is your mate?”
He smiled. “At home working on our manuscript.”
“I love the new books you have been putting out. There is a lot more entertainment, less unrequited love.”
“All Ivy’s influence. She has an amazing effect on my mood.” He winked and returned to his spot behind the bar. “What can I get you?”
“Lemon soda with a splash of grenadine?”
When he presented it to her, there was an orange slice on the side and a cherry making its way to the bottom.
“So, Evil, what brings you here?”
“A transporter. Ha ha. No, I have been ordered to rest for two months, and they asked me to take the time off here.” She waved her hand around her as she sipped at her festive soda.
“Ah, how are you dealing with...things?”
She looked at him and blinked. “Oh, right. You haven’t heard. I bonded wild magic to my skin using a human mage, so now, I can call my half-form whenever I want and my beast isn’t talking to me. How is the family?”
“Good. Blooming actually. My brother married a woman with a head for finances, so now, the family is suddenly very sanguine about their future funds. We have more than we need.”
He paused. “How long have you been in a fight with your beast?”
She sipped again. “Three years now.”
“Since they found her.”
“You said it. Well, on to a more cheerful topic. Here, I have seen three candidates and none of them have gotten a rise from her. I was hoping the thought of mating might get her up and interested.”
“It would definitely do it for me, but those were in the days before my Ivy.”
Yval smiled. It was good to see Chuck happy. She had met him and his family when hers had camped near his family home when she was young. They had become friends across species lines, and the hugs were the only interaction they had ever gotten into. Snakes and Tasmanian devils didn’t mix well outside human forms.
“I hope I can meet her while I am here.”
“I hope so, too. I will ask her to come in tomorrow.”
Yval drained her drink, ate the orange and got a face full of ice when she went after the cherry.
Chuck had another one waiting when she finished picking chunks of ice out of her cleavage.
“No problem. Now, tell me about life as a hunter.”
She smiled, sipped her drink and kicked her feet in the air while perched on the barstool. Yval told him stories about hunting for those who thought that they would never be caught and certainly never be punished.
“How many of the fey have you killed?”
“Killed?” She twisted her lips. “None. Marked for life? About seven. That was part of the bargain with the mage. I wanted to be able to mark the guilty.”
Chuck was doing some housekeeping behind the bar. “So, you work with fey or just hunt them?”
“I work with four fey on my team with six shifters. We get out there, they keep the fey from escaping and in we go.”
“So, there are hunters that are fey?”
He nodded in relief. “Good, because two walked into the bar, and they appear to be hunting for
She turned in surprise and coughed wildly. It was Arrowheart and what looked to be a broader, meaner version of the same genetics. Her beast perked up and came to stare out of her eyes.
The two men came toward her, their wrists tagged with the same leather bands that the shifters wore.
“Hunter Maddox, I am delighted to see you looking so...different out of uniform.”
Arrowheart smiled and bowed low, taking her hand and pressing a kiss to the back of her knuckles.
“It is nice to know that you can speak in full sentences. I had my doubts, Arrowheart.”
He straightened slowly. “Call me Tovin, please. May I introduce my brother?”
“I can introduce myself. Drorik Bindingheart, guardian of the fey gateways. It is an honour to meet you, mistress.” He bowed low and took her hand, warming it in his before he brushed his lips against her knuckles.
Her devil was clawing inside her screaming,
Him, it is him, I want him!
She took a deep breath and inhaled his scent. It was wild and filled with the crackle of magic. Under that initial fey scent, there was something unmistakably male and that was the scent her beast wanted to get next to.
Yval could feel her heartbeat pounding in her neck, and she smiled weakly. “Nice to meet you as well, Drorik Bindingheart.”
Tovin looked from one to the other. “Damn. I really thought there was a chance.”
She looked at him. “What?”
“Hunter Maddox, I hope you enjoy my brother.” He leaned in and kissed her cheek.
She blinked as he turned and walked to the dance floor, chatting with his target as he cut in and left the other elf standing with a surprised expression on his face.
Drorik was looking down at her. “Would you care to dance?”
She blinked again. “Didn’t you just get in?”
“I did, but there is no reason to waste time in a polite dance that leads to the inevitable conclusion.”
“So instead of a polite dance, you want an actual dance?”
He grinned, and it turned him from physically imposing to aggressively sexy. “It is a start.”
She looked down, and he was still holding her hand. “Let’s try.”
Yval sighed when she stood and only came eye to shoulders. “Why are you elves so damned tall?”
“It makes us look mysterious and graceful when we are compared to humans. To shifters, we just look like scratching posts that heal quickly.” He escorted her to the dance floor, and she settled against him as the music moved them in a slow sway.
Yval held herself stiffly for a few minutes until his warmth called to her and her beast shoved her forward. A moment later, restraint was gone and she was pressed flat to him with only fabric between them.
His erection was obvious where it pressed against her abdomen, but he didn’t grind it on her, so she just enjoyed the heat coming away from his groin. Her beast was a fan of examining the soft parts first. Live or dead, it was a vulnerable area.
Drorik was staring down at her when she looked up. “Is there a problem?”