Authors: Zenina Masters
Tags: #Adult, #Erotic Romance, #Fey, #elf, #Paranormal, #Shapeshifter
Lima went cold, grabbed her mother by the arm and led her to the back room as casually as she could. She locked the door and rounded on her mother. “If I hear of you even whispering something like that with Tammy in the vicinity again, I will rip your throat out, destroy your territory and scatter the rest of the family. Is that clear?”
Lucinda Pellin backed away. “You can’t speak to me like that.”
“I will not humiliate you in front of the gathering, but you will show respect and gratitude to your new daughter. She is a coyote, and she is much beloved by her people for her wit and wisdom. You will respect that.”
Her mother flinched. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
Lima flexed her hands and noted that she was keeping herself in control.
Today was not the day to lose control.
“Don’t let the pink dress fool you. I am far more serious than I ever was under your roof. I can and would snap you in half and rip your tail off without having a second thought. Behave, Mother, and greet your new daughter fully into the family. I will be listening.”
Lima patted her hair and checked the drape of her dress. She still looked like a pastel virgin sacrifice. She had taken two steps when the rustle of taffeta made her turn. She caught her mother in a steely grip and wrenched her extended arm up behind her back with an easy movement.
“Attacking from behind is your signature move, Mom. I know all of your moves. Just remember that.”
Her mother’s face was flushed and pale at the same time. “Your father will hear about this.”
“He is just going to commiserate to your face and laugh in private like he always does. I can take everything you have the moment you disrespect your other daughter. I won’t do it for my sake, but I will do it for her and her children.” She kept her voice low. “Do we understand each other?”
Lucinda nodded slowly. “I understand. I will treat her as I would any woman who married my son.”
Lima torqued Lucinda’s arm upward. “You will treat her as an honoured guest at all times. She will be the honoured daughter in your home when they visit. Are we clear?”
A slow nod and Lima let her stagger free.
Lucinda left the room, and Lima waited for ten heartbeats before she followed. The party was in full swing and no one had noticed her little side trip.
Her mother was laughing with her closest betas and back to enjoying the party. Nothing stopped Lucinda from enjoying a party, ever.
Lima wandered back to the dance floor and did rounds with all of Tammy’s uncles, brothers, cousins and family friends. By the time she was ready to drop from exhaustion, Tammy was launching the bouquet, and it was spiralling through the air directly toward Lima.
She tried to dodge the floral missile, but there were too many men behind her and women rushing in from the front. She was pinned.
As the crowd of sweaty women bore down on her, Lima caught the bouquet, leaped into the air and flipped over the incoming horde. Women collided with men as she catapulted herself over their heads. She landed heavily but intact on the other side of the wave and looked down at the flowers in her hand.
Tammy was applauding wildly. “Way to go, Lima!”
The disappointed ladies were finding solace with the men brave enough to sooth them. A few of the single men were looking at Lima with new appreciation in their eyes, and Lima grimaced. She knew that look. Her mother was about to be bombarded with requests for her as a mate.
With what Lima had done tonight, her mother might just hand her over. It was time to take steps.
She hugged her brother and new sister, wishing them bon voyage for their honeymoon. The entire time that she remained at the reception, a chant went through her mind.
I guess I am going to the Crossroads.
* * * *
Lyros sat across from the pale seers and cocked his head. “You are sure?”
“Yes, my lord. You have a match. A strange dog with a deep chest and wild bark.” The two seers spoke as one.
They blinked and smiled. “That would be it. We have not seen one before, so it was a difficult identification. She moves very quickly.”
Lyros chuckled. “Yes, she does.”
“You know who she is?”
“I believe so. She is the one who rescued me.” Lyros nodded. “Thank you for the information. I will put things in motion.”
The one on the left cleared his throat. “You do not need to. Your lady has just entered the Crossroads.”
Lyros flinched. He was still not completely recovered from his time in the bunker. The timing was not ideal.
“You are sure?”
The two looked at each other and nodded. “We are sure. She has entered the Crossroads with the standard payment of genetic material from her family and herself. As the fey did not offer to pay for her stay, she has booked space at the hostel.”
Lyros blinked. “How do you know all that?”
They stared at him and laughed in unison. “We are seers. We have seen it.”
“I suppose that I am going to the Crossroads.”
“You are wise as always, Lord Lyros.”
The seers inclined their heads in dismissal, and Lyros took the hint. He left. He had packing to do.
Three days after she had arrived, Lima was no closer to finding a mate.
Spike poured her another drink. “You don’t have to challenge them all, you know.”
Lima wrinkled her nose and sipped the orange and grapefruit cocktail. “I sort of do. It is ingrained.”
Spike chuckled. “I guess I got away easily with the instincts. Rolling into a ball and being unpleasant to chew is easier than constantly fighting for supremacy.”
“Being in charge is necessary, but having a mate who can hold his own is essential. It is a bit of a corner to be backed into. Female-dominated shifter cultures are not that common.”
Spike nodded. “Well, you are lucky that the population here is ever changing. How are you enjoying the hostel?”
“It is quiet. It makes sure that I spend most of my time out and about, which is nice but annoying.”
“Well, I enjoy the company.” Spike grinned.
It was late afternoon, and the guests of the Crossroads were slowly making their way into the Crossed Star.
Ivy came in and held up a deck of cards.
Lima grinned. “I think my date is here.”
“You are going to have to try the next batch of guests. Some arrived a few hours ago.”
Lima nodded. “I know; I saw a blaze of fire coming down just after noon. It was impressive. Must have been one of the new fey.”
Spike raised her brows. “You saw fire?”
“Fire, light, something bright that got my attention.”
“Ah. That was probably your mate arriving. Have a nice game.” Spike waved merrily.
There was a change in Spike’s attitude. She had gone from commiseration to smug knowledge in the course of those few sentences. Lima’s beast wanted to get the information out of her, but Lima turned away and went to play Go Fish with Ivy.
With her fruit juice in one hand, she walked to Ivy’s table, and the moment she was settled, she started shuffling the cards. Whatever Spike was smirking about could wait.
Three hours later, Lima was starting to get hungry. She was about to conclude their last game when her hackles stood up. Someone powerful had just wandered into her territory.
Ivy smiled. “It is just one of the fey. They affect some of the shifters quite strongly.”
Lima frowned and shook her head. “No, this is different.”
She slowly turned her head to look for the interloper, and she felt her cards waver in her grip. She had last seen the male who had just entered the Crossed Star while he was bloody and broken. He was definitely in much better form now.
She settled the moment that she identified him. “Ah, I have seen him before. That was it.”
Ivy smirked. “If you say so.”
The fey’s dark hair cascaded down to his shoulders, his pointed ears peeked out from the dark locks and his gold and brown eyes were scanning the room. He appeared to be looking for someone.
He looked like a tall, handsome human. It must have made his job easier when he met with governing bodies.
Ivy’s table was situated in the shadows. They had enough light to play cards but not enough to illuminate their faces as he scanned the crowd.
Ivy chuckled. “Did you get the gem to authorize the fey to flirt with you?”
Lima shrugged. “No. I didn’t know it was an option.”
Ivy scowled. “You are kidding.”
“No. I came through a transport, and Teal got me squared away while Tony got ready for the next arrival.”
“That is weird. I thought they were trying to get everyone to sign up for the program.”
“They may have been, but I am a wee bit different than other alpha females.” Lima shrugged. “Perhaps they thought I wouldn’t have been interested.”
“Would you have been?”
Lima chuckled and turned back to the cards in her hand. “I guess we will never know.”
She focused on the game, but her heart wasn’t in it. “I am going to call it a night, Ivy.”
“Go for a walk and clear your head. You look a little stressed.” Ivy collected the cards and shuffled them expertly before tucking them into the pack.
Lima got to her feet. “Thanks for the evening’s entertainment. I think a walk will do me good.”
She turned her back on the elf and his dance partner. She walked out of the bar and down the street, toward the open meadow and the rising moon.
It was a crescent moon, and it glowed enticingly. Lima walked down the path that she had become intensely familiar with and tried to blank her mind. Some light communication had resulted in her finding out that her mother was attempting to sell her off to the highest bidder. As the technical alpha, she was within her rights to sell her daughter. Those rights were suspended as long as Lima was at the Crossroads, but the moment she set foot in the human world, she was under her mother’s jurisdiction. A mate from the Crossroads would change that dynamic. She just had to let her guard down long enough to find a male to call her own. Or a female. The rules weren’t fussy.
Lima debated the pros and cons of finding a female of her own before she discarded the idea. She liked sex with men a little too much to just pick a female for her subservient attitude. It was a sacrifice she didn’t need to make, and it wouldn’t be fair to the female either.
Lima sighed and kept walking until she felt the first waves of fatigue stirring in her limbs. The moon was high, and she slowly wandered back to the lane where the hostels were situated.
By choosing a hostel, she extended her stay at the Crossroads from weeks to months. She had two months to find a mate, and she couldn’t lose hope just because three days had passed with no luck. Something had to change.
* * * *
Lyros could have sworn that he felt the familiar energy of the woman he was looking for, but when he finished his first dance with the young woman who had plastered herself to him, the familiar energy was gone.
He scowled and went to the bar to request a beer.
“You look confused or perturbed; I can’t decide which.” The perky bartender grinned at him.
He chuckled. “File me under confused. Can I get one of those delightfully dark beers?”
“Of course.” The woman went and pulled the beer with practiced motions.
When she returned, she put down a coaster, extended the payment plate, and when he had swiped his charm, she asked, “Why the confusion?”
“I could swear that I sensed a woman I knew when I came in here, but I couldn’t see her, and now, all traces of her are gone.”
The bartender nodded. “It sounds like she isn’t registered for fey interaction. If she didn’t come in here on the program, they might not have registered her with the charm that would let you see her properly.”
Lyros blinked. “She would have refused to consider an elf as a mate?”
“That or they were busy and didn’t ask. Despite what some folks think, it happens. We get a rush from a large metropolitan area and Teal and Tony are catching and guiding as fast as they can. They don’t have time to offer additional contracts.”
“If she isn’t registered for fey interaction, how do I find her?”
The woman grinned. “You don’t. Go back to the Meditation Centre and ask Teal or Tony to do it, or if you are at the Open Heart, ask Teebie to do the work for you. She and her mate are eager to help others connect.”
“So, I can’t see her properly because...”
“Because her charm doesn’t let you. By that, I mean the pendant on her wristband. The crystals on the ladies you can see in here are designed to make the resonance easy for you. They practically glow in front of your eyes for a very good reason.”
Lyros looked around the room and saw a few shadowed spots and many women who nearly blinded him with their brightness. Knowing what was going on, it made a certain sense.
“Thank you.” He sipped at the beer and kept his gaze casual as he watched the women who were alternately pursuing and retreating from the males.
None of the shifter males became overly aggressive. They held back even when two collided over one female.
Lyros kept his post at the bar as the aggression built on the dance floor. To his surprise, the tiny bartender leaped over the polished wood and got in between the men. When they got too close to her, she burst into spikes.
Both of the men pulled back with wounds on their hands and apologising profusely. The woman inclined her spikey head and returned to her spot behind the bar. She casually removed the shirt with holes in it and pulled another on over her sports bra.
Lyros smiled slightly. “That was impressive.”
“That was a Wednesday night. It gets worse on weekends.” The woman inclined her head. “You can put the blade down. No one needs stabbing.”
He glanced down and saw the soul blade that he had drawn. “I didn’t know I had it out.”
“Ah. Well, I suppose introductions are in order. My name is Spike.”
He chuckled and nodded to the silver band on her wrist. “Appropriate. I am Lyros. Where is your mate?”