Juno is rescue from the clutches of a fey who has tortured and maimed her. Her rescuer is a fey who has been partnered with her brother for the last two years.
When she looks into his eyes, she doesn’t see pity, and the music he makes carries her to another world.
Once she is deemed recovered, she is offered a job in the Crossroads, and she takes it.
There is nothing else to be done; when Derix learns that the fox he wants has moved to the Crossroads, he follows.
“Hello, Treasure. Do you have any sweet words for me today?” Lord Falkir stroked her cheek.
Juno Meklin stood completely still; her half-shifted human-fox was silent. She was wearing a purple gown with a deep vee where her neckline should have been. It was split to the waist with a wide, gem-studded belt holding it in place. She was dressed for the party, and he was going to show her off to the perverts who still believed in keeping shifters as pets.
The crowd was small that night, and it hurt her to see other shifters in similar circumstances. Some were in beast form, others in human form, but Falkir considered her his prize. He had managed to lock her in her half-form, and it was a rare sight.
She walked behind him at the party. She wasn’t there to serve; she was there to be seen. Three months had passed since she had been captured, and suicide was beginning to feel like the better option.
As Juno walked through the crowd, she was petted, stroked and groped in equal measure. Her tail was pulled more times than she could count, and it was one particularly insistent suitor that cornered her.
He stroked the sides of her neck and smiled at her. “Hello, Treasure was it?”
She blinked slowly.
He was lean but had a tough sort of exterior. She could smell the scent of cordite on him, as well as the tang of metal. He didn’t smell like any of the other fey at the party.
His colouring was remarkably human but with a strange autumn touch. His eyes were dark hazel with a small ring of rich orange, and his hair was a dozen shades of brown.
His skin was a rich tan with the scent of the forest clinging to him. If he wasn’t a fucking fey, she might even speak to him, but he was, so she wouldn’t.
Juno felt him nuzzle the side of her neck, just above the collar. She growled, and he pulled back.
“Treasure, come here!” Falkir summoned her, and she eased away from her conversational partner.
Her feet made no noise on the marble floor, but then, not having nails anymore made her remarkably quiet.
She glided to Lord Falkir’s side, and she had to stand still for another pawing.
“Leebron, be warned, she might be declawed, but she can still bite.”
Apparently, Falkir was attuned to the sound of her growl.
She kept her hands folded so that the exposed knuckles and scars wouldn’t show, but her teeth were all her own.
Juno remained at his side throughout the evening, and her lids and ears were beginning to droop when the thunderclap of power ran through the room.
The doors flew open, and members of the shifter guild came in, confining the fey and soothing the shifters.
Juno stood in the centre of the space while chaos reigned. The man made of autumn came to her, and he was now wearing a vest with the shifter council logo.
“I am sorry I had to get so close, miss, but I have been working undercover for several months.”
She stepped back and put her hands up to fend him off when he reached for her.
He looked at her hands, and he snarled softly. “Bastard.”
He examined the collar on her throat and was about to remove it when a mage called out, “No. Derix. Leave it. She needs to be in a safe environment before she is released. She will need help shifting back to human after an extended period in that form.”
“Can you tell me how long you have been stuck like this?”
She growled, but it was just her clearing her throat. “Three months. I have been here for three months.”
He looked surprised at her ability to articulate. “What happened to your hands?”
“They took my claws first thing. I had to learn to walk all over again.”
He took her by the elbow and steered her toward the medics.
“Does it hurt?”
“Yes. All motion is painful.”
The medics were mages, and the woman smiled softly. “You can go, Xelik. I have her now.”
Juno turned and inclined her head. “Thank you, Xelik.”
“It was my honour, lady.”
It felt so good to say. “My name is Juno.”
The mage took her aside, and she was led to the transport point and, from there, she was sent to a healing centre.
Each stage in the journey, she was coddled and protected. Soft-voiced humans were handling her carefully.
The comfortable room was slowly crowded with folk who were going to help her get the collar off. She could see the forest through the window, and her heart ached.
“Okay, Juno. My name is Frieda, and this is my husband, Norm. We are going to get your collar off, and we want you to focus on your human form. We will then be able to help you with the amputations.”
“Just tell me what I need to do.”
Frieda smiled. “Relax and let us do our work while we heal you. It won’t be comfortable, but it will be worth the effort.”
“I will hold still. I cannot guarantee I will relax.”
Juno sat still and breathed shallow breaths as they opened the lock and unbuckled the collar. If she had been able to, she would have chewed her body off to get out of the collar, but that option had been denied her.
She heard the hiss of Norm’s breath as he pulled the blades out from under the surface of her neck.
She wanted to be a fox, she wanted it so badly, but she pulled her human skin around her and let the fur fade.
The mages surrounded her, each taking a limb. This explained the others that she hadn’t been introduced to.