Authors: Zenina Masters
Tags: #sci-fi, paranormal, erotic romance, shifter
Table of Contents
Running toward a better option in life, a lioness finds herself right in the tiger’s clutches.
Lee was raised to be subservient, but her soul was screaming in agony with every moment in her household. Her mother helps her escape to the Crossroads the very night her father begins proceedings to sell Lee to one of his companions as third wife in a pride.
She was unprepared for the dating scene and shocked by the mating scene at the Crossroads, but the moment she sees something wrong, her shock turns into action and she does what she has to do.
James watched the lioness in his bar, but despite her body being exactly his type her shy demeanour is a turnoff. He wants a woman who can hold her own with him, a woman who can stand at his side, not behind him. He is convinced that she is too timid for him until she follows two thugs out into the night and claws them bloody before they can attack their vulnerable target.
Watching her go from timid to ferocious, he has to reassess his first impression, and he has to admit, the claws are a bit of a turn on.
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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 © 2012 Zenina Masters
Cover art by Martine Jardin
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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Shifting Crossroads book 2
When she pulled up to the house, Lee knew something was up. The potted plants near the entryway of the pride house were turned ninety degrees to the right. It was a signal she and her mother had worked out when Lee first started her second life.
Lee left her car, got her bag and changed clothes right in the middle of the driveway. A strange car was parked nearby, and her mother’s warning was taken seriously. When she was wearing the same clothing she had left in, she locked her uniform in her trunk and walked into the home that she had grown up in.
“Leandiir, I am so glad you are home.” Her mother rushed at her and quickly scent-marked her.
“Hi, Mom. Well, it was a hectic day at the card shop. I have my pay stub for this week.” Lee handed the stub to her mother and looked over her shoulder to the living room.
Her father’s three other wives were sitting and attending to her father and his guest.
Lee tensed when her father called out, “Leandiir, come in here.”
She straightened her blouse and slacks, removed her shoes and walked into the living room. “Hello, Father.”
The other man perked up and looked her over.
“Leandiir, this is my friend, Carloth. He is looking for a third wife, and I have offered you as his mate.”
Shock rippled through Lee, and she had to fight to keep her inner lioness from ripping his throat out. “I am flattered.” Her voice was flat.
Carloth came up to her, and it took every ounce of self-control she had to not claw him open.
He circled her and touched her shoulders, back, buttocks and breasts as if he had a right to. “A little more meat on you than I like, but since you are capable of working and bringing funds into my pride, I will overlook that. Yes, you will do fine.”
He pressed a kiss to her lips, and Lee jerked her head away from the slobbery contact.
Her father spoke up. “Not so fast, Carloth. You have to come up with the bride price, and my little Leandiir does not come cheap. Child, you may go to your room while we hash out the details.”
Trembling with suppressed rage, Leandiir passed her mother. Her mom grabbed her hand, and when she released her, there was a small card in Lee’s palm.
She walked up the stairs to her room, past her siblings who were arranged in the hall with their leonine ears perked to hear every detail. Eleven half siblings, they all looked at her with sorrow in their features as she passed. They would be next, one by one.
Lee sighed. Well, the girls would be able to finish school at least. The boys would be thrown out when they were eighteen minus one day.
In her room, she looked at the scrap of paper in her hand. A phone number. She walked to her bed and slid her hand under the pillow that carried her mother’s scent. Aha. The burner phone.
With calm deliberation, she dialled the number and waited while it rang. When a woman’s voice answered, “Hello?” Lee spoke quickly and quietly. “Hello, my name is Lee, and I need to find a mate…fast.”
“My name is Kris, and is there somewhere we can meet?”
Lee thought about it for a moment and rattled off an address.
“Be there in two hours.” Kris hung up.
Lee stayed in her room until her mother came in an hour later. Ariil Aflai slipped a small packet into her hand, kissed her forehead and left the room.
Lee was used to the silent communication. It meant that her father was nearby and Rasson Aflai was not a man who would support her choice to run like hell.
She waited until the house was settling for the night and slipped out her window and onto the trellis that she and her mother had quietly reinforced when she was fifteen. Her first job had meant early mornings and bathing in an icy stream before she went home again, but it was money in her pocket and that money had sent her to night school.
She had fought for her education, and when she managed her nursing degree, it took all of her skills at sneaking around and her mother’s help to keep her from being found out by her father.
Lee slipped away from the house and engaged in a partial shift. She ran to the local vet’s compound and slipped into the empty large-animal barn in the back.
A quick check of her watch showed that she was three minutes early. Lee paced, gradually letting her lion legs shift back into human. Her feet were bare, and she was wearing only the slacks and blouse that she used to hide her nursing gear. Lee sighed. She was not prepared for this.
A glowing doorway opened and two women walked through. One had all the hallmarks of an avian shifter, and to Lee’s senses, she smelled like an owl, with the musk of a bear. Feathers and the night were on the wind with the warmth of fur in the nuances. The other woman smelled of lightning, ozone and cookies.
“Hello?” Lee didn’t know what she was supposed to do.
“Do you have something for me?” the cookie woman smiled, and the voice was familiar to Lee.
“Yes, Kris. My mother handed me this.” Lee extended the small packet and waited while Kris examined the contents before handing it to her friend.
“Do you know why you are here?”
Lee blushed. “I need to find a mate…fast. My father is trying to sell me to one of his work buddies, and I just want to find a man who will want only me. My mom has told me about the Crossroads, and I want to try going there.”
Kris smiled but she asked, “What do you mean, only you? Does your father sleep around?”
Lee shook her head. “No. My father is a fundamentalist lion. He believes that the women in the pride should take care of him, and he has four wives to make sure that it is a comfortable life for him.”
“I thought you said he worked.”
“He does, he has a job to keep up appearances in the human world, but all the homes, cars, vacations, land, were bought by my mother and the other women of the pride. He only owns the big screen television and beer.”
The owl was staring at Lee in surprise. “The women allow it?”
“He was young and strong once, and that is when the abuse was most prevalent. If I get married to my father’s choice, I will be starved and beaten to show me my place. I will fight back eventually, and then, things will go badly for everyone around.”
Kris nodded. “Let’s make sure that it doesn’t come to that. Now, you are heading to the shifters’ Crossroads. It is a dimensional bubble that can only be reached by folks with my sort of talent. You will be safe there.”
Lee nodded and listened to the description of the entry gate, the Meditation Centre and the hostel where she would be staying. An account was set up for her, and she need only use the icon that Kris handed to her to buy food and clothing. She could stay as long as it took, but it would be best if she forced herself to socialize as much as possible to increase her chances.
Lee nodded and touched the wristband with the small icon on it. “Is that it? Don’t you need money from me?”
“Your mother provided us with hair from as many of your relatives as she could, claw trimmings, too. Those hairs will be used in spells for courage and valour.” Kris smiled. “Are you ready?”
“No time is better.” Kris closed her eyes and opened the gateway.
Steeling her nerves, Leandiir stepped through the energy and into the last chance for freedom.
“I have you. Relax and breathe.” The woman with the pale eyes smiled at her. Lee could smell bird on her, but there was more of the scent of magic than usual in a shifter.
“I am sorry. My legs are numb.”
“It is a side effect of the transport for some. Usually predators suffer numbness. I am Teal, and I will be your guide to the Crossroads.” Teal lifted her carefully. “Take a few steps, it will dissipate.”
Lee stumbled forward, and the feeling returned to her legs. She sighed in relief when her feet came under her control once again. “I am Lee.”
“I am glad to greet you on behalf of the Crossroads. I believe that you need clothing, and from there, I will take you on a tour of the town.”
“That sounds good. I don’t have any shoes.” Lee spoke quietly.
Teal’s face contorted in an expression of pity. “Of course, this way.”
Lee stepped carefully over the rough paving until they entered the general store.
Teal cleared her throat, “Andy, we need everything from the skin out, please.”
A man with a medium build, brown hair and the scent of a beaver stepped forward. “Let me see. What are you in the mood for, Miss?”
“Um. I would like clothing appropriate for the bar or meeting someone. I really don’t know. This was all rather sudden.” Lee shifted from foot to foot but kept her movements small. Her father had never liked a woman to twitch in front of him, and it was his temper she kept in mind every time she dealt with a man. Better safe than sorry.
Teal seemed to see her nervousness and swiftly rattled off what she thought Lee would need.
Lee let herself be shepherded into a change room and put on the clothing that her two associates flipped over the edge of the room.
“Come out, Lee, I need to see how the fit is.” Teal’s voice was gentle, and Lee winced.
She took a subservient pose when stressed because it was easier. Being here with new people around her, she was making a horrible impression, a lioness who acted like a sheep.
The jeans were a snug fit. The top was cut just to the centre of her bra, so she wasn’t going to be bending over any time soon. Dragging in a deep breath, Lee left the change room. “How does it look?”
Teal paused and whistled. “Good. You need a bra that is a little more complimentary, but the outfit is good.”
Andy came forward with some high-heeled cork wedges. “These should fit. Can you wear heels?”
Lee nodded. “Yes. I can.”
She took them and bent to slip the shoes on while Teal looked for a bra that she thought would fit.
Andy was staring at her when she stood, and she slammed her hand against her chest. She had forgotten the damned drape of the brilliant blue shirt.
She growled at Andy, and he broke his mesmerized stare. “Sorry, Miss. The shirt looks good on you.”
“Fine. Whatever. I am going to try on some of the other stuff.” She retreated back into the change room, slipping the bra on when it flipped over the door. It was a balconette style, putting her breasts up and out on a shelf-like underwire. Surprisingly, it was comfortable.
The next shirt was a wrap in crystalline white.
“Show me.” Teal was insistent.