After her cousin’s success, Fred wants to meet her own match and live happily ever after. A trip to the Crossroads shows her some options, but she is drawn to the man with the golden gaze.
Hektor is an eagle whose solo days are wearing on him. He wants a mate, and if it is of another species, so be it. He will earn his match, even if she breaks bones in the process.
Join a bear and an eagle as they struggle with the practicalities of being incompatible as animals but inseparable everywhere else.
She headed for the Crossed Star Bar, keeping her shoulders back and her head high.
The music was playing, loud enough to dance to but not loud enough to drown out conversation. A man with colourful tattoos stamped on his arms was tending bar, and he must have been the Chuck that Ezzy had spoken about.
The dozen or so men, ranging around the edges of the bar, turned their heads toward her as she entered, and she swallowed but made it to the bar stools where she had a seat.
“Good evening. What can I get for you?” Chuck smiled with encouragement.
“A sharp blow to the head. I can’t believe I am here.” She snorted.
“Well, I can’t provide you with that, but I can give you this.” He smiled and shook a number of berries together after muddling them with honey. He added some alcohol that whizzed by before she could identify it.
He slid the large martini glass to her with a wicked grin. “Here you are, if you dare.”
Unwilling to pass up the challenge, she took a sip and smiled. “It tastes like summer.”
“That was the idea. I can smell the bear in you, and I know how much your folk like berries.” He winked one of his serpentine eyes.
She laughed and sipped again. “I am Fred.”
“Welcome to the Crossed Star, Fred. I am Chuck.”
“I know. My cousin was here recently. His wife mentioned you in an effort to make me more comfortable with the process.”
He grinned. “I do love family connections. That drink is a Berry Special. You can ask for it by name.”
“Thank you. I will.” She spotted the silvery band on his wrist. With the tattoo, it looked like the band was in the clutches of a swan. Both the silver and the tattoo were bright. “You are recently mated?”
He smiled happily. “I am. Ivy is sitting over in that corner, trying to punch holes in my writing.” He waved toward the woman in the corner, and out of the dimness, a pale hand waved back.
“You are happy with your mate?”
“Don’t let her hear you asking that. She would beat you to death with her feathers.” He winked at her. “Joking aside, I am happier than I have ever been. We don’t always get along, but we do work through our issues, occasionally in very creative ways.”
She was left to ponder that as he attended to some new arrivals.
Fred watched as the women who had been here longer than she had took their drinks and separated, milling around to allow the men to approach them. The men approached with self-control and pleasant expressions. Some showed signs of scenting the females and others spoke for a moment before their posture changed and they either left in search of another or asked the female to dance.
It was not the invasive procedure that Fred had begun to imagine.
She felt a presence to her right.
“It seems that we are sharing the Open Heart.” The man’s voice was low, and when she turned, his amber eyes were smiling at her.
Everything about him were shades of gold and amber, from his skin to his hair.
She inclined her head. “It seems we are. My name is Fred.”
She extended her hand, and he took it with an amused smile. “Hektor. Is your name really Fred?”
“It is. Well, it’s Winifred. Fred is the least offensive nickname.” She felt the warmth of his palm against hers, and her bear came roaring to the surface. With effort, she throttled it down.
He blinked. “Did you just grow fangs?”