Karo wants to be in the shifter’s guild, and she wants to be a hunter. With her animal form lacking certain ferocity, she chooses to focus on stealth. Her aunt sets her on a training circuit, and when the time comes, she gets the position of hunter with no hesitation.
Spending her life finding things lost or stolen is her niche, and when she is offered a job while on holiday, she couldn’t imagine what sequence of events are kicked off.
Looking for a lost fey-lion becomes a rescue mission for a flock of shifters and makes her exit a tangle of exposure, desperation, and exhaustion. Karo never thought she would see him again, but the fey are tricky creatures, and she was no longer the predator, but the prey.
Karo grabbed the picks she had carefully crafted, and she balanced while she slid the steel into the keyhole. Her hands shook, she inhaled and exhaled slowly and carefully while she felt for the tumblers.
Being two hours out past her curfew had been essential to this part of the process. One couldn’t break-in if one wasn’t locked out.
The first two tumblers clicked easily, and she worked at the third carefully, finally feeling it move into position. Her giggle came out as a hiss, and she continued on to the fourth protrusion inside the lock. It was open. She just needed to turn the knob to open it.
Her small hands gripped the knob, and she twisted. It rattled in her grasp, but she couldn’t turn it. She tried for two minutes, but the slick metal slid against her skin.
She wanted to curse, but she didn’t have any good words. She crossed her arms and tried to think of another option.
The door opened and light spilled over the dark porch. Her cousin smiled and spoke softly. “Come inside, I will put the chair away.”
Karo knew when it was time to give up. She watched her cousin remove the picks from the lock, and then, Karo ran past her and up to her room. Pushing the door shut took a lot of effort, but when she was done, she ran to her bed and burrowed into the sleep shirt that she had left out on the bed.
The shift from raccoon to human was still new enough to hurt, but once she got her arms into the sleeves, she was ready to face her punishment for the nocturnal excursion.
When Delia pushed her door open and flicked the light on, Karo flinched. “Ow.”
“You are lucky that Mom is at the Field’s farm delivering a calf. She wouldn’t have found it as funny as I do.”
Delia handed over the lock picks. “These are cute. Did you make them yourself?”
“Yes. It took a while to get them strong enough but small enough to work in my smaller hands.” Karo flexed her fingers.
“Why did you disobey curfew?”
Karo’s Aunt Laura was standing behind her daughter, her disapproving voice stern and darkly irritated.
Karo looked up at her aunty, and she lifted her chin. “I needed the door locked so that no one would open and lock it again while I was working.”
Her aunt looked her over and held out her hand. “Come with me.”
Karo straightened to the height her fourteen-year-old body could manage, and she took her aunt’s hand, walking past Delia with a guilty shrug.
When they were past the rooms where the other foster kids slept, Karo murmured. “You are home early, Aunt Laura.”
“The calf was cooperative.”
Her aunt didn’t say anything else until they got into her study with the door closed.
“Sit down, Karo.”
Karo had a seat across from her aunt’s position behind her desk.
Her aunt looked at her with dark versions of her own pale green eyes. “Karo, what do you want to do with your life?”
Karo tilted her head. “You have never asked me before.”
“You were late to your first transformation, so I wasn’t sure what world you would end up in. As you are heading to use your fur form more frequently, I think that life in the shifter world will be for you.”
Karo nodded. “I want to be a hunter, like my dad.”
Laura let out a sigh that was part groan. “I thought you would say that. You know, my brother Terrence wasn’t a good hunter.”
Karo stiffened, but she nodded. “I know. My father meant well, but he was still one of the only raccoons in guild service. That is what I want for me. I want to take up a position there, and I want to make it my own. I have been teaching myself skills since I was first able to transform, and now, I want to learn how to use them properly.”
Her aunt leaned back in her chair and tented her fingers. “Were you able to open the door?”
“I was able to unlock it. I couldn’t turn the knob.”
Laura nodded. “When you can open the door on your own, we will talk.”