Stuck with an awkward beast and shunned by her own herd, Berry has to make some decisions on her own, and one of those is to find a mate.
Out of the gate, she decides to pursue a fey, but with years of defense under her belt, her means are not particularly usual. Arm wrestling in the bar seems like a good icebreaker, but the fey take it as a challenge to their masculinity, and things degrade from there.
Ashko is offered the chance at a mate, and it only takes an hour for him to decide. He heads to the Crossroads to find his lady and, instead, finds himself competing for her attention from across the table. A win, a kiss and the courtship has begun.
He thundered back toward the seers, and he shifted into his fey form with a wrap around his hips in deference to his guests. “I will do it. How long until you find me a match?”
They glanced at each other. “Technically, we have found at least one match for you. Well, she has made herself known, and you were what came up.”
“She came into the fey embassy at the Shifter Guild and demanded to learn about the Crossroads program. They were taken aback and sent for us. We met with the... young lady, and you were the image that came to us.”
Ashko smiled. “She bullied you into finding her a fey mate?”
“More or less. There was no arguing with her.”
The other seer scowled. “Her body is extremely distracting.”
“Better and better. What is her beast?”
One of them said, “Small, white and ferocious.”
The other one nodded. “Excellent description.”
Ashko rolled his eyes. “And her human form?”
One of the men smiled slowly. “Fey bait all the way.”
It was all Ashko needed to hear. “I am in. When do I go?”
The pale seers looked at each other. “Now. She is already there.”
Ashko grinned. “I had better get dressed then.”
He turned and stepped toward the small castle he called home. He had packing to do.
He was a registered aquatic. Kelpie were water horses, and pulling stupid humans under was a pastime he was glad he had given up.
The guardians of the Crossroads escorted him to the aquatic gateway, and with a nod to them, he stepped through.
Ashko looked around when he arrived and smiled at the tower rising above him. The couple who was standing side by side and speaking quietly grinned in welcome as he stepped forward.
“Hello. You are Ashko?” The woman smiled at him and checked some kind of notebook.
“I am. I believe that the shifter I have been sent for is here already.”
The male grinned. “Oh, she was here. Welcome to the Isthmus. I am Derix, this is my mate, Juno.”
“She is drinking at the Crossed Star. That one is made entirely of wild and cursing, wrapped in a delightful package.” Derix rubbed his face. “Are you sure you don’t want a nice, quiet wolverine or something? You know... something safe?”
Juno elbowed her mate. “Berry is fine. She is just over compensating for her beast. A mate might just help give her the boost that she needs to stop fighting all the time.”
Ashko blinked. “She’s drinking?”
Derix grinned. “And probably arm wrestling any male in her vicinity. She feels she has a lot to prove, so she is going to do it.”
Ashko flexed his shoulders and hands. “Right. How do I get there?”
Juno smirked. “Back through the portal and across the street. You are looking for the Crossed Star. We will take care of your bag.”
Ashko unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled them up. “See you later.”
Derix nodded. “Your charm will lead you to your room.”
He turned and winked over his shoulder. “It usually leads me to someone else’s, but I can adapt.”
He turned back and stepped through the portal, zapping back to the entry outside the Meditation Centre.
The music and laughter drifted to his ears, and he smiled, straightening up and heading for the bar. There were tables, booths and a dance floor near the back of the long building. A crowd gathered to one side of the far edge of the bar, and he could see men and women of both species cheering on whatever was happening within that group. With his shoulders straight and his hair back, he strode forward to see what was going on.
He could see the straining back of a fey as he arm wrestled with his opponent. A shift in the crowd let Ashko see the shifter that was wrestling with the man, and his astonishment must have shown on his face.
The woman glanced up at him with wide brown eyes, winked slowly and slammed the hand of her companion into the table.