Will Christmas be ruined this year?
Thierry isn’t a chicken shifter—he’s a French hen shifter. He won’t let anyone call him a chicken, not even if the person doing it is a gorgeous man who saved him from a vicious attack. Okay, maybe not so vicious, since the fox who tried to eat Thierry was the man’s five-year-old niece, but still. Bishop is as infuriating as he is kiss-worthy, and Thierry isn’t planning on talking to him ever again.
And he doesn’t, until he tells his mother Bishop is his boyfriend and that he’ll bring him home for Christmas.
Bishop knows where he went wrong with Thierry, so when they meet again because Thierry’s car breaks down, he apologizes. He might enjoy getting a rise out of the gorgeous man, but he doesn’t want Thierry to hate him.
Apparently, Thierry doesn’t, since he told his mother they were dating.
They aren’t, although Bishop can easily imagine them together, even though he shouldn’t. He promised his sister he would always take care of her when their parents died, and he hasn’t changed his mind.
Is there space for Bishop’s sister, his niece, and Thierry in his life—and in his heart? Or will Bishop have to choose and possibly ruin Christmas for everyone, including himself?
Bishop looked at the little girl who was playing in front of him. When he’d agreed to babysit for his sister, he hadn’t thought it would be this complicated. He should have known better, since Carly was Ivy’s daughter. Of course it was complicated.
She looked just like Ivy, too, with her long brown hair caught in a messy braid and her big brown eyes that looked at Bishop as if he were a monster who didn’t understand why only apple juice was okay.
“Are you sure you don’t want orange juice? There’s no apple juice left,” he tried.
Carly looked like she was about to break down crying, and Bishop blamed himself. Blaming himself for not knowing the apple juice was finished wouldn’t help, though, and he took a deep breath.
“I want apple juice,” Carly said.
She was only five, but she knew what she wanted and when she wanted it. She’s gotten that from Ivy, too.
Bishop had to get out of the situation. “Why don’t we do this,” he started, frantically trying to find a solution before the crying began. “Drink some of the orange juice. I know it’s not your favorite, but it’s all there is. Then, we’ll go play outside.”
That got Carly’s attention. “And I can be my fox?” she asked.
She was too adorable for her own good, and Bishop had to work hard not to smile. “You can shift in your fox form, but only if you drink the orange juice or milk, or even water. And you can’t cry because we don’t have apple juice. I’ll put it on the grocery list so your mom knows about it, but there’s nothing else I can do right now.”
It only took Carly a few seconds to decide she was fine with the orange juice and reach for it. Bishop relinquished it, sighing in relief.
He’d hoped things would go this way. Carly was always eager to shift, but that was hard, with all the humans around. She’d been taught since she was a newborn that she couldn’t shift whenever she wanted, which was one of the reasons Ivy had bought this house. It had a yard, but it was well protected, so no one would see into it. Carly could shift into her fox form to her little heart’s content, run around, and have fun. That was a good thing, because it was the only way for her to learn to control the shift and move as a fox, but it still made Bishop nervous. The yard might be protected from curious gazes, but they were still in the middle of town, and someone could possibly see them. If that happened, it would be a disaster.
Human beings didn’t know about shifters, and things had to stay that way. Bishop had seen enough movies and read enough books to know what would happen if they found out shifters existed. Then, shifters would become lab experiments, and just the thought of his niece in a cage made Bishop want to hit something. He would do everything he could to make sure that didn’t happen, even if it meant giving Carly less freedom.
He didn’t have to, though. Ivy had recently bought this house, and Carly had enough space and privacy to shift whenever she wanted.
Carly drank down her juice as fast as she could, then handed the empty box back to Bishop. Bishop shook his head, amused, and took it. “Wash your hands. Then we can head outside—as long as your room is neat.”
Carly bit her lower lip, probably thinking about whether or not her room would qualify as neat. She seemed to decide it would and hopped off the chair to go wash her hands, leaving Bishop behind without a second glance.
While she was in the bathroom, Bishop quickly cleaned the kitchen. They were alone in the house today, but it still looked like a bomb had exploded all over the place. The plates from lunch were still in the sink, but he would rinse them and put them in the dishwasher later. For now, he had a promise to keep.
As soon as Carly was back from the bathroom, they headed outside. It was cold, but Carly didn’t seem to care much as she quickly stripped. She dumped her clothes on the ground, and Bishop cleared his throat, pointedly looking at them.
“You know better,” he said when she just stared.
Carly huffed. She grabbed her t-shirt and put it on the bench that was there for just that reason. Then she picked up the rest of her clothes. “I’m going to put them on again. Why do I have to fold them?” she asked.
“You shouldn’t treat your belongings that way.” Although since her idea of folding her clothes was to roll them into a tight ball, maybe being thrown on the ground wasn’t that bad. “Now go on. Shift. I know you want to.”
Carly grinned at him, then shifted. Her fox form was tiny, at least to Bishop’s eyes, and extremely adorable. She launched herself into the yard, yapping at a few pigeons, running around in a circle as she tried to catch her tail. She acted more like a dog than a fox, and Bishop hoped she would use most of her energy playing. That way, she would go down easy tonight.
He leaned back against the wall of the house, keeping an eye on Carly. She was cute as she played, and he was grateful he could do this for her and Ivy. He’d missed them when they hadn’t lived here, but now he had them back, and he was part of their family again.