Ida has had her eye on Dromer for years, but the restrictions against shifters and elves having relationships have kept them on a business level. If she can’t have him, she didn’t want anyone.
When she returns home one day to find that her parents have arranged her mating with a swan shifter she doesn’t know, she does the only thing she can. She runs.
Dromer used to take solace in the weekly appearance of Ida in his diner as a client. In between his other customers, they would exchange pleasantries and crack jokes. It was a harmless flirtation that managed to wedge itself into his psyche.
When her family told her it was inappropriate, it left a gap in both their lives that closed with a wave of hope the day she ran and ended up in the Crossroads.
Ida finished her deliveries and drove her truck home. The sun was heralding a bright day, and it was time for her to get back to the dairy.
She hauled the extras out and stowed them in the refrigerator. Two of the shops didn’t have anyone answering the door, so she had skipped them. If they needed a delivery, they would call the dairy again.
Ida hung the clipboard up on the peg and moved out of the concrete and stainless steel structure that they did their work in. Her family was busy processing the morning collection and separating it into cream while others were working on cheese in the curd room.
Ida’s work as delivery woman got her away for a few hours every day, delivering local dairy to the businesses, houses and markets. Now that she was back, she had to find the head of her clan and answer the summons.
Her parents had been getting restless of late, and since Ida was the last of their children without a match, she was now a target. She had never considered matchmaking a deadly pursuit, but when her parents stared at her and started making notes, she had the sensation that they were measuring her for a wedding dress or possibly a coffin.
At this point, her parents were tired of her constant excuses not to pick a mate. She couldn’t tell them that she already had, but he wasn’t a swan and not even a shifter. The elf who ran the Night Star Diner was the only one that her heart beat faster for.
Dromer had been part of her life before she became the delivery woman for Black Swan Dairy. Now that she saw him on a daily basis, delivering fresh milk and cream to his diner, her initial fascination and affection had taken on a deeper tone. There was simply nothing to be done about the feelings. Shifters and elves didn’t mix... ever.
Ida entered the house, put on her indoor shoes and walked into the dining room where her parents were waiting.
Eva and Gavin Shwartz smiled and waved for her to sit down. The stranger gave off waves of human magic, and Ida suspected that this was not going to be a normal conversation.
“Hello, Mum, Dad, stranger.”
Her mother blinked and blushed. “Ida, this is Danielle Velling. She is a transporter.”
“Well, that is nice. What is she transporting?” Ida was getting a bad feeling as she took her seat at the table.
Eva leaned forward. “We have found you a husband. He will take you based on your photos and family history.”
Ida froze. “What?”
Gavin reached out to pat her hand. “We want you settled, Ida. That means family. You have been alone too long, and it has taken all of our efforts to find Steven for you.”
Her heart thudded in her chest. All she could hear was her own heartbeat.
She saw the transporter speaking, saw her parents answering, but all she could hear was the roar of her heart.
A soft whisper came from her lips. “When?”
The transporter smiled. “I can send you off within the hour. Your parents have already packed for you, and your groom is waiting.”
Ida got to her feet. “I need to change clothes. I will be right back.”
Her mind whirled, but she came to a conclusion as she headed upstairs. Going through the transport wasn’t in the cards. She was leaving, and there was nothing her parents could say about it. She wasn’t going to tell them.
She headed into her room, closed the door and quickly stripped off her clothing. The Juliet balcony beckoned, and she opened the doors, backed up and launched herself out the opening in her black-swan form. Heavy wingbeats carried her up into the sky.
There was no one below to call a greeting; everyone was inside and at work.
She flew as hard as she could, her mind screaming for whatever spirits watched over her kind to help her and keep her from making a huge mistake. Swans mated for life, and this was not a lifetime she could look forward to.