Authors: Zenina Masters
Tags: #Paranormal, #Fantasy, #erotic Romance, #Shapeshifter
Fey enchantment has marked her life until she finds the truth about herself and locates love in the strangest of ways.
Eileen has always known she couldn’t control her shifts. She also knows that it is not normal to shift into hundreds of different animals.
When she is declared close to her heat, she is ordered to the Crossroads and her payment for the transport causes a stir. Her claw is that of a chimera and the enchantment that she thought was binding her, in fact, wasn’t doing anything at all.
Harris has been at the Crossroads for a few days, and when he sees a woman dressed to the nines in a classic manner, he is enthralled. When she is spunky and direct, he is charmed, and when she touches his hand, he is smitten.
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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.
Copyright © 2014 Zenina Masters
Cover art by Carmen Waters
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Shifting Crossroads Book Seventeen
Eileen staggered through the door with her arms loaded with test papers and textbooks. The scent of dinner was hanging in the air, and she groaned in appreciation when she noted the glass of wine on the counter.
“Thanks, Mom.” She set her papers down with a huff and took the glass of wine, going in search of her adoptive parent.
Amy was in the greenhouse, misting her plants. Here at home, she had her hair in a ponytail that exposed her rather delightfully pointed ears. “Your text sounded wiped out.”
Eileen laughed softly before sipping at her wine. “I am; the life of a sub is to be despised and harassed. Is this the malbec?”
“It is. Well done. Lots of papers to grade?”
“Yeah, and an unexpected shift in the middle of the day. I had to jump into the janitor’s closet and was just lucky that the animal was small. I am pretty sure I was a gerbil.”
Amethyst Heller shook her head. “I am getting worried. They are becoming more frequent. I think we are going to have to call him in.”
Eileen groaned. “Do we have to?”
Amy laughed, “Are you the teacher or the student? That whining is impressive.”
“I have learned over the last two years. I can also make small armaments with office supplies and smile at my crotch when I text. It is a lovely learning exchange; I teach them and they teach me.”
“Come on, there is a pot roast in the crock pot. Yes, I put plenty of wine in it.”
Eileen watched as her caretaker for the last sixteen years took off her gloves and set the spray bottle aside.
“You really don’t need to call him.”
Amy reached out and ruffled her hair. “Sorry, honey. It is already done.”
Eileen groaned. “When is he coming?”
“Moonrise. You have a few hours.”
She nodded and began marking her students’ papers before she ate.
Adros Heller was a full elf and he tended to blast things when he was in a mood.
She wanted this work out of the way so that he wouldn’t have reason to set them on fire for contaminating his daughter with the human world.
Eileen was sure that she ate somewhere along the way, but she doggedly plowed on with her homework. When the last paper was graded, she took the pile out to her car and locked them in the trunk. It was Friday night, so she still had the chance to put the grades into the computer before Monday, though it wasn’t due until the following week.
The teacher had gone on another sudden vacation, and Eileen had swept in to the rescue as she always did. With seven schools having her number, she tended to drop everything and sweep off at a moment’s notice. She liked to get paid, so she answered every call she got.
When the paperwork was safe, she trudged back inside and flopped on the couch. Amy was working on a tapestry for one of the elven court, and she chuckled at Eileen’s exhaustion.
“Judging by your complete bonelessness, the class was high school and mostly male.”
Eileen held up one thumb. “Correct.”
The sunlight faded and the house hummed.
Eileen made a face and sat up, running her hands through her hair.
Amy seated her needle and put the hoop and frame aside. She folded her hands in her lap and watched the cyclone taking shape in the centre of the room.
Eileen watched from the couch and kept her hair from blowing into her mouth. When Adros Heller fully materialized, Amy got to her feet and greeted him with both hands extended. “Hello, Father.”
“Daughter. You are looking well.”
“Thank you. You are devastatingly handsome and elegant as always, Father.” Amethyst smiled.
Eileen got to her feet and approached. “Welcome to our home, benefactor.”
Adros looked at her and sighed. “What is happening to you, shifter?”
She waved him toward the couch. He took the high-backed chair instead and sat in it as if the silvery green upholstery covered a throne.
She stifled a snort. “The crux of the issue is that I am shifting randomly and without control. I am starting shifts in front of the humans I teach, and that is not a good thing.”
He leaned forward and extended his long, pale fingers, the white silk of his hand slid over the side of his impeccable suit as he moved. He was grace and delicacy; Eileen had dirt under her nails and ink on her skin.
He wrapped his fingers around hers and closed his eyes. She felt the cool wash of fey magic over her skin, measuring and assessing her.
The contact between them was enough of a catalyst, and she felt her body starting to go.
Adros released her hand suddenly. “Good lord.”
She rubbed her fingers as they normalized. “What?”
Amy came in with two glasses of wine, and she stopped in her tracks, staring at Eileen. Her hands wobbled, and Eileen was at her side in a moment, taking the glasses and putting them safely down on the table. “What is it?”
Adros made a face. “You are going into heat. You are attaching to any male in your vicinity and becoming their species.”
“Oh hell.” She touched her hair and found it absurdly silky then gripped her ears. Pointed. Her nose was even smaller and her lips were a soft pout. She sat down with a graceless thud.
They sat in silence, and ten minutes later, the change reverted and she was back to normal.
Adros exhaled sharply. “That was unexpected.”
“Currently, Lord Heller, my life is unexpected. How is this happening?”
“As you know, my magic did not penetrate your body, it rides your skin. It has been triggered by unattached males seeking mates, and it will continue to do so until you have one of your own. I am afraid your time in the human world has come to a halt. You need to resolve this before the reaction becomes more violent.”
“How much more violent could it get?”
“Instincts could come along with the form, and since you are around immature humans all the time, a hard mating instinct could be a tragedy for your career.”
She winced at the horror of that thought. “Right. What should I do?”
Amy was at her side in a moment with a business card. “Call this number and explain who you are. They will put you where you need to be.”
She gave her adoptive mother a shocked look. “Where do I need to be?”
“The Crossroads. You have to go there if you are to have any chance of finding a proper mate to cool the heat. You will be a special case, so you will not wish to keep the man after you have what you need.”
She looked at Adros with distaste. “What do you mean?”
“Mate and leave them. Return to your mother.”
Shocked, she sat back and shook her head. “We don’t do that. I won’t do that. The Crossroads is a serious matter. If you go there, you are surrendering to the idea that you will be available as a life mate. There is no lying. They will know.”
He sneered. “How will they know?”
She lifted her gaze and glared at him. “The same way my parents knew I was not a coyote, but they kept me from exposure until I shifted the first time. Scent, Adros. Shifters do it by scent.”
He backed away as she got to her feet.
Eileen let her animals, her inner beasts roll across her body in a carnival of horror for the elf. She spoke with difficulty. “These are the faces I have worn since I was seven. This is the legacy of the tampering of your magic upon a shifter.”
His disgust was obvious. “Perhaps you were at fault. Another of my kind has put their magic into a shifter. It worked well.”
Eileen sighed. “I know about that case. It was done in utero with the mother’s consent, not on a seven year old who had already shifted once.”
He recoiled. “How do you know about that?”
“I am neither blind nor stupid. Elves love to gossip, and as your adoptive granddaughter, I have heard tales of tampering at every gathering I have attended since I was old enough. Everyone was talking about it.”
He scowled. “I was not aware that anyone had mentioned it to you.”
She snorted. “It is the only subject that the elves will discuss with me.”
Her body kept rotating through the half-human half-animal forms, and Adros continued to back away. When he bumped into Amethyst, she stopped and calmed herself.
“Thank you for confirming what I was beginning to suspect, Lord Heller. I will make the call and return to my own kind, but remember, it was at your behest that your daughter took me in, made my blood her own. She is and will always be my mother and you need to remember that. By your own actions, it makes us family. I will take the respect that the position as your granddaughter earns me.”
He flinched at that but he warily nodded. “What are you going to do now?”
She held up the card. “I am going to make a call, when I have a mate, I will bring him home to meet my family, and I will expect you to be at that dinner, Grandpa.”
He formed the vortex and disappeared from the living room.
Amy looked at her and smiled. “That went well.”
Eileen laughed and hugged her. “I thought so, too. I will make the call, and then, we are going to get plastered.”
“That sounds like a plan I can get behind.”
Eileen hadn’t realised that her transport to the Crossroads would involve security protocols, but the last person mixed with fey magic had blown up the entry point.
Krisia had her apprentice with her and was walking the nervous man through the details of layering human magic around a shifter covered in fey magic over wild magic. It was not a simple procedure, so while they figured it out, Eileen baked cookies.
There were glyphs, charms and fragments of her body required for the event, so she partially shifted and clipped her claws.
Krisia took the samples gingerly and looked at them from every angle. “Do they always look like this?”
Eileen examined them. “Yup. When I clip living claws, they look like that.”
The transporter smiled. “Can I call someone else in? My husband has to see this.”
Eileen shrugged. “Sure. The second batch of cookies is ready to go in, so no worries. If you aren’t pressed for time, I am not in a hurry.”
Delighted, Krisia fished out her phone and made a call. The words, “No, you really need to see this,” were used frequently.
Eileen ate the first hot cookie off the pan then exhaled and tossed it from palm to palm. “Why do I always do that?”
Amethyst poured her a glass of milk. “Because you are a creature of habit.”
Eileen gestured toward Krisia and her apprentice poring over her claw clippings. “I am guessing that I am about to find out what kind of creature I actually am.”
“You think that you weren’t just a random?” Amy smiled and took a cookie.
This was a conversation they had had hundreds of time over the years. “I am getting that inkling. It is nice to have it confirmed, though.”
There was a flash in the backyard and a man appeared with a serious look on his face and an eye for Krisia as she approached him with the samples.