Authors: Zenina Masters
Tags: #Adult, #Erotic Romance, #Fey, #elf, #Paranormal, #Shapeshifter
A hyena with alpha issues meets an elf who is barely alive, and together, they find a future.
Lima enjoys her life as a hunter for the shifter guild and council, but she has no idea that this routine retrieval and rescue will flip her fate into high gear.
Lyros knew that the dog-headed creature that came in to rescue him was a shifter and a woman. He admired her fighting skills but was unable to shake the feeling that she was important to his life.
The seers confirm that he is fated to be matched to a hyena, but there is just one problem... she has already gone to the Crossroads and she has no idea about Lyros looking for her.
She might find a match before he arrives and then what will he do?
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Laughing at Danger
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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Laughing at Danger
Shifting Crossroads Book 33
Lima felt the semi-hysterical giggle welling in her throat, and she throttled the inner hyena back with effort.
Her beast was becoming more and more aggressive, and it was getting harder to hold her back. It made moments like this—when they were about to free some shifters from one of the last menageries—a little less than stealthy when she let out her roiling, laughing bark.
She bit her lip and kept her beast quiet. It was always the hardest part of any operation.
This particular mission was a little different. One of the targets to rescue was a fey diplomat. He had gone missing after a party at the White House, and seers had traced him to this particular hidey-hole.
It was his presence that had tipped her team off to the location, and once they looked into it, missing shifters began to appear on the seers’ radar. It was like the diplomat was an antenna, calling attention to himself.
Lima didn’t care what the fey was, if there were six or more missing shifters, this was all worth it. She would carry him to safety herself if it meant that some of her people survived.
She waited for the signal, and when it came through a light buzzing on her belt, she moved in.
Around the underground bunker, she heard the other members of her team go in. Her own door popped open when she used her half-form to wrench it wide. The metal screamed for a second and then surrendered to her strength. Her beast was smug that it could give her the tools to do her job.
Lima told her beast to keep it zipped as she crept forward, using all her senses. It was cool, it was damp and the scent of confinement curled through the air. It was definitely some kind of holding pen. There was a distinctive scent to shifters in confinement, and despair was a large part of it, along with an overlay of fury.
Lima lifted her head and scented the air. There was something else. It was fury and wild magic. It wasn’t with the others.
Her ears told her that the others of her team were approaching the shifters, so she went in search of the other scent.
The clink of chains drew her in. She wasn’t expecting what she saw when she slammed the door open.
The blood-streaked being pinned to the wall by his hands and feet was definitely not what she had anticipated. Lima looked around and saw the etched designs on the floor. With her limited knowledge of how fey did things, she guessed that those marks were keeping the man on the wall.
She couldn’t speak with her muzzle in place, so she kept her senses on alert while she clawed up the glyphs and symbols on the floor.
The prisoner flexed in reaction to the removal of the glyphs. He opened swollen eyes and blinked rapidly. His bloody lips moved. “Who?”
She brought up one clawed hand and tapped her shifter guild identification badge. With the knowledge of a lot of practice, she snapped his leg cuffs loose and then moved quickly to break the cuffs that held his wrists out to either side of his body. He was naked under all the blood, and she wasn’t sure how he felt about it, so she kept her hyena face on as she helped him take a few steps. She looked around and found a sheet across a medical table; she reached for it, snatched it and wrapped it around his hips. He gripped it with his swollen fingers.
She bobbed her head and watched to see if he could stand on his own. He couldn’t.
She nodded again and put his free arm around her shoulders as she walked him out of the base.
She had let her guard down. Another elf with the stench of aggression on him moved to block their escape. She hadn’t even heard him appear.
Lima nudged her burden toward the wall, and as the elf in front of her started to mutter a spell, she clawed his throat out.
She snapped at the hand that was still gesturing, and the bones crunched in her jaws. When he was dying on the ground, she turned back to her charge and put his arm over her again. He didn’t speak, but she could feel his shock.
The other room had been still, but it suddenly sprang into motion as the agents started to bring their targets out into the light.
Lima headed for the transport point, and when she had handed her burden off to the medics, she returned to help her team.
There was a hare and a mouse deer left, so Lima scooped their trembling bodies up and carried them to the transport at a good lope.
The holder of the menagerie wasn’t her concern. Others would have to deal with him. The fey had to take responsibility for those perversions in their society if they wanted to keep having access to shifters as potential mates. Lima felt it was a fair trade.
She stayed with the little fluffy shifters as they were transported back to the guild hall. The mouse deer was trembling, but it appeared to be relief.
When they arrived at the transport centre, Lima stepped out of her designated zone and carried her charges over to the healers. They would help the confined shifters ease their way back to their human shapes.
Lima let them go and pulled herself back into her human seeming. She rubbed her face and flexed her fingers in turn.
She saw the rescued fey being rushed into the building and nodded with satisfaction. He was in good hands, and she needed a shower.
* * * *
Lyros lay still as the healers worked on him, washing off the blood and sealing the wounds.
“Who rescued me?” It was the first word that he had been able to speak in eight weeks. The wards had been strong.
A female fey healer looked up and raised her brows. “What did the rescuer look like?”
“Female. A dog but not.”
“A little shorter than me? Golden brown fur?”
The healer smiled. “Agent Lima. She is very efficient at rescues. Once she has obtained her target, they always make it out alive.”
“And her attackers don’t.”
The healer continued to work, but some of the others chuckled.
The woman said, “These are shifters. They can’t communicate when they are wearing their beasts on their skin. It is pure instinct. She had accepted responsibility for your safety, and someone probably threatened it. She would take them down without hesitation and her jaws are exceedingly strong.”
Lyros nodded. “That does explain quite a bit. I was nervous at her silence.”
“Most don’t have a voice box that is capable of speech if they are half shifted. They are hugely strong and retain their human intelligence, but they can’t talk. It makes them good at missions where silence is a boon.”
The healer leaned in and pressed her lips to his cleaned skin. He tensed. He had no idea that she was a mouth healer. Normally, he would have been aroused, but now, all he could think of were those claws and jaws taking down one of his tormentors. It had been a sweet moment for him, and that had shocked him.
The other healers sealed his flesh in their own ways, but his mind was on those few minutes in the bunker. The woman with the animal features had done more for him without speaking than anyone he could remember, and he was not going to forget her. He owed her his life.
* * * *
Lima finished her debriefing and headed home. She had three days off to attend her brother’s wedding. She was looking forward to something a little less life or death in her immediate future. Fitting into the bridesmaid gown was going to be traumatic enough. It was pink.
She really had her work cut out for her.
Tammy smiled at her and nudged her. “Stop looking so nervous. I am the one getting married, not you.”
Lima pasted a slight smile on her made-up face. “Sorry. Occupational hazard. This many folks in one place and I go on alert.”
“Stow your alert, soon-to-be sis. I promise that if anything does happen, you are authorized to react, but only during the reception.”
Lima grinned. “No objecting during the ceremony?”
“Oh, please. I love you, Lima, but I would have to kill you.” Tammy grinned and her coyote aggression was just below the surface.
As a hyena female, Lima was comfortable acting on her own, but she preferred backup. Coyotes gained power in numbers, and today, the numbers were on Tammy’s side. Her family was huge.
How Len had managed to gain Tammy’s love was a mystery that Lima still pondered now and then, but they had met at the Crossroads and gone through the binding ceremony that entwined their destinies and made sure that both families accepted it.
Since Lima was the last unwed alpha female in her family, the matchmakers had turned their attention to her. Having an entire clan of aggressive females trying to set her up was becoming unnerving. She would far rather charge straight into an unknown rescue than deal with her Aunty Violet and the men she had dossiers on.
The music stirred, and Tammy thrust her flowers at her. “Straight shoulders, slow pace. Pretend you are stalking the podium.”
The other bridesmaids laughed and preceded them, but Lima attended to the bride and did a final fussing with her veil. While Tammy and Len were already married in all important matters, this was for the human world, and since Tammy’s family was huge and public, so was the wedding.
When Lima’s turn was up, she gave Tammy a quick wink, straightened her shoulders and walked slowly up the aisle of the church. Her brother grinned at her, and she grinned back. It was his big day.
She settled at her station and watched Tammy approach with a light and floating step down the aisle to her fiancé.
Lima waited and took over the bouquet when it was necessary, signed the certification of marriage as a witness and she took the arm of the best man as they followed the happy couple down the aisle to the photo session.
The longest part of the day was yet to come.
When the obligatory dancing was finished, Lima eased out of the spotlight and moved toward her mother.
“Mother, you look lovely this evening.” Lima stood on ceremony.
“And you look ridiculous.” Her expression softened for a moment, “But you wear it well.”
Lima inclined her head. Since she had been confirmed as an alpha, her relationship to her mother had become strained. Her mother was nervous that Lima would make a move to take over her territory. Lima had no interest in her mother’s business or property, but her mother had taken them from her grandmother, so she was a little paranoid.
Lima smiled. “You wished to speak with me?”
“I did. As one female to another, you are reaching that delicate age where you need to settle down and open your own territory.”
“I have my own territory. I enjoy my job and working to help others of our kind.”
Her mother snorted. “There haven’t been any hyenas abducted.”
“I mean shifters, Mother. We rescue shifters.”
Her mother waved that away. “If they are not our people, they don’t matter.”