Authors: Zenina Masters
Tags: #Adult, #Erotic Romance, #Fey, #Magic, #Paranormal, #Shapeshifter
A tiger born to prairie dwellers is seduced by a djinn who has never set foot in a burrow, but he does like her stripes.
Maddy is a random. She is a tiger born to a community of prairie dogs who can only encourage her, love her and ask her to stand guard when they hit the burrow. She works with family, lives with family, and when she is asked if she would consider joining the Crossroads to mate with a fey, she asks family for advice.
Suran has been in exile, content to live out his days at the side of the fey king. When he is ordered to consider a shifter as a mate, he hesitates, but an order from the king and the promise of a mate by the seers convinces him that he should stiffen his resolve.
Maddy decides that she is willing to take a chance and that decision almost costs her her life, sanity and body, all before she arrives.
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Waking Her Tiger
Copyright © 2015 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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Waking Her Tiger
Shifting Crossroads Book 28
Maddy brushed at the smooth silver gown that she was wearing for her first shift. Her mom and sisters had worn it when they did their first transformation, and now, it was Madeline’s turn.
Her family gathered around her and walked her to the edge of the burrow. They were an insular community, but they had to be. It wasn’t just their human nature at risk, their second lives as prairie dogs were susceptible to disease and illness.
Maddy watched the moon rise, the guards that the burrow had on duty were visible against the hills that surrounded the lands of the colony. She was safe here. No stray human would get a look at her.
Her mother smiled. “It’s time. Can you feel it?”
Maddy nodded and slipped her robe off her shoulders. She had trained for this. She pulled her inner beast around her and wore it on her skin for the first time in her life. It hurt as she was stretched and pulled; her skin rippled and she was soon sitting on her haunches and looking at her family.
The horror in their eyes made her look at her hands, and she heard a whining roar from her throat. Stripes. Orange fur with black stripes. She looked at her mother, eye to eye, and the shock was apparent.
Her cousins shifted quickly and made for the safety of the burrow.
It was to their credit that her mother, father, sisters and brother all stayed with her, smoothing their hands over her fur and keeping her calm until she gathered enough energy to transform back to human.
When she was back in her skin, her sister Adeline put the gown around her and tied it at the waist.
Maddy caught her breath on a sob. “I am not a prairie dog.”
Her mother shook her head and stroked her hair. “No, darling, you aren’t. You are much grander, and we appreciate that you are different.”
Maddy put her hand on her forehead. “I will never fit in the burrow.”
Her brother snorted. “I certainly hope not. You will make an excellent guard, though. You look scary as hell.”
Maddy looked around and listened to the beast in her mind. She wanted to run, she wanted to hunt and she wanted to hide. This was the worst sixteenth birthday in the history of the colony. She didn’t even get cake.
* * * *
Maddy watched over the burrows as her people gathered underground for spring celebrations. The moon was high, and her perch in the trees gave her an excellent view of the flat expanse of the meadow that concealed the party.
Her tail lashed slowly back and forth as she watched the edges of the meadow for any incursion by animal or shifter. Being the sole guard for the gatherings suited her fine. Maddy could never fit in the burrows below, but she could keep her family and friends safe. That was what their community was all about. They worked toward survival.
She kept her senses alert until her people emerged from the burrow and headed for their homes.
She shuddered as she fought her instinct to hunt down the small creatures and wrap her teeth around them. It was an urge that she hadn’t dared confess to her family in the decade since her change, but she desperately wanted to hunt them down.
When the last prairie dog exited the burrow and barked, Maddy hopped down from the tree and paced back to her family home at the edge of the wide cul-de-sac.
The small animals that made up her family moved with her, and they paced back to the yard before stretching and taking on their human forms.
Maddy slipped on her robe and opened the door, there was an odd smell coming from inside. A stranger was waiting inside the house, and she let her claws and teeth pop as she faced the intruder.
The woman held her hands up, and she didn’t move from her seat at the table. “I am here to speak to Madeline.”
Maddy’s mom moved between them. “I am her mother. I am afraid you have us at a disadvantage. We were enjoying our spring festival and are all a little tired.”
“Of course. I am a representative from the mage guild. There has been a situation, and Madeline is being offered a trip to the Crossroads, free of charge.”
Maddy let the fangs recede, but she kept the claws. Her sisters and brother were watching with intense attention.
Her father ushered her family into the other room, but Maddy knew they would be listening. She and her mother sat at the table with the strange woman who had piercing blue eyes and hair that was just on this shade of navy. Maddy kept her hands on the table and her claws visible.
The woman smiled nervously.
“I am Leanne Black and Madeline is my daughter. Please explain why you are here.”
The woman swallowed. “Um, I was told to transport Madeline to the Crossroads as soon as I could.”
Her mother asked, “Why?”
The transporter blushed. “Have you heard about the fey acquiring shifter mates?”
Leanne nodded. “I have.”
“Madeline has come up on the seers’ visions. One or more of the fey have come up as a possible match for her, and she has been chosen for the honour of the free trip to find her match.” The woman’s mahogany skin darkened again.
Leanne leaned forward. “Are you demanding that my daughter mate with a fey? If that is the case, I am afraid I would have to put my foot down.”
The woman’s eyes grew wide. “No, nothing like that. I mean, I am new to this and thought that all the shifters had gotten the memo that we would be asking your unattached females to at least see if there was the chance of a match.”
Maddy listened to her mother bark a short laugh.
Leanne muttered, “Do you think we are all on a psychic frequency? No, we did not all get a memo.”
The transporter shifted in her seat. “I was told that you had been informed. The shifter guilds and councils agreed to allow certain fey to approach a shifter for the purpose of pair bonding. The mage guild agreed to create a bonding spell that would allow for reproduction and an equal footing. If she found a mate among the fey, she would get half his lifespan and he would get his own beast.”
Maddy leaned forward and tapped her claws on the table. “What is your name, punkin?”
The woman jolted. “Mary Alice, fourth generation transporter.”
Maddy smiled. “Mary Alice, while we all live in the town, we live in individual pockets. We don’t inform anyone on anything unless it is relevant to our survival. Why would a fey want me?”
Maddy flicked her eyes to feline and watched the shocked expression on the features of the transporter.
“Um, I don’t think I am up for this conversation. I will tell my supervisor and someone else will be in touch.”
Light flashed and the scent of cinnamon hung in the air. Maddy sneezed.
She looked at her mother and shrugged. Her father came in and his brows and shoulders were high.
“What was that, pet?”
Maddy leaned back in her chair. “Honestly, I have no idea.”
A voice in her mind whispered,
* * * *
Mary Alice ran a hand through her hair and shifted back into her half-djinn form. “She has no clue. No one has told them. No wonder they have ignored our requests, Your Majesty.”
Larion, king of the North American fey, grunted. “Well, as he has been reluctant to go himself, it will do him good to be the one to convince her she needs to go where they can meet on equal terms.”
“I have her full name and address now. We can find out where she works, and Suran can meet her there.”
“Who am I meeting where?” The dark tone rumbled through the stone around them.
Mary Alice bowed as her uncle entered the room. He stood at the king’s right hand as he always did. It was his place.
Larion chuckled. “We have found you a mate, Suran.”
Suran snorted and crossed his deep-blue arms. “Very funny, Your Highness.”
Larion raised his brows. “Do you know me to joke about this sort of thing, Suran?”
The djinn scowled. “No, Your Highness, but we also know that I am not a fit match for any fey.”
Larion smirked, “That is true. You have been singled out by the seers, and they have found a match for you.”
Mary Alice watched her uncle stiffen in shock. She couldn’t decide if it was delight or confusion. Suran Yffa was a hard man to read.
“I am not sure that is wise, Your Highness.”
Larion snorted. “Wise or not, you have been seen in a vision, as has your mate. She is unaware of our current agreement with the shifter council and she may be resistant to the idea of mating with you. You will have to convince her to go to the Crossroads.”
Suran laughed, and the walls of the hall shook at the sound. “You have to be kidding. I am not the most convincing of your court.”
Mary Alice smiled. Her uncle was charming in his own way, but being subtle was not part of that way.
“Your niece can help you to find the woman. After you meet her, it is up to you to convince her to go with you. Once in the Crossroads, you can be your normal charming self.”
The subtext was that Suran should hide his gruff nature. Mary Alice winced. It wouldn’t be easy. Her uncle liked to share what was on his mind.
Mary Alice cleared her throat. “I need to look her up, Uncle. When did you want to go?”
He narrowed his eyes. “You have seen her with her family?”
“I have. They are prairie dogs, but she is not.” Mary Alice looked into his pale-grey eyes. “She is something a little more ferocious.”
Larion looked relieved.
Suran looked intrigued. “Find her at work then, niece. We will use his royal highness’s tour to check security wherever she is.”
Mary Alice nodded and bowed to both of the men. She wasn’t sure which one frightened her more, the king or her uncle. Both had hidden agendas and bristled with power. Larion’s power was that of confidence and complete possession of all around him. Suran’s power was that of the elements. When he spoke, the earth shook. After meeting Maddy and assessing her, she could only imagine it would be a surprisingly fair fight.
Maddy heaved the heavy luggage from one conveyor belt to the transport. The small, bright
tags meant that they were for her to lift, alone.
All shifters were stronger in their human forms, but Maddy was the strongest shifter in town. Working at the airport and handling heavy baggage with her cousins and uncles had seemed like the most logical career for her. She wasn’t cut out for secondary education. She liked reading, but her senses sought out the small sounds in a room. Concentrating wasn’t her strong suit.
Baggage handling wasn’t a calling, but it was a job and the prairie dog town was looking at expanding soon. There was a baby boom that would need more property in a few decades, and laying the groundwork now was the best chance for the expansion. She would put her money into the family account, and the town would grow from there.