Tiffany has lived with a traumatic past and a family that puts her squarely in charge. She is ordered to the Crossroads and decides that if she has to leave home, she will have a holiday. Alone in the forest, she spends her time running in her fox form and enjoying the wilderness.
She sees a peacock in horrible shape. His feathers are dull and his shoulders are stooped. Tiff sees the trauma in him that matches her own and she offers to help him get part of himself back.
Davus was one of the harvested shifters being held by the lions. He was healed in body but the pain of a year in a cage went far beyond skin deep. Tiffany sees his pain and doesn’t dismiss it or pity him. She offers to help him regain the mind-body connection, and he takes her up on it.
Tiffany sprinted through the woods, the baying of the damned neighbour’s dog on her heels once again.
Tiff snickered to herself as she ran under a log and shifted to her human form on the other side. She had left her dress hanging from the tree, and with the ease of long practice, she shimmied into it.
Her panties were pulled on under the sundress, and she faced the dog as it rounded the oak and jerked to a halt. She looked at it and yipped.
The hound cocked its head and then turned to trot home. He kept pausing to look back at her, and she perched on the fallen log swinging her legs.
When he was out of her range, she swung back to her feet. Tiff was late for a meeting with her grandmother.
Annette Grayson was not a patient woman, which was probably why Tiff liked to mess with her. When a family’s matriarch was bossy enough to control all the funds coming in and out, Tiff enjoyed the petty moments that she could sneak in. She had been signing the checks for the family for the last five years but the tradition of obedience anchored her to her relatives in a way nothing else could.
The wide-open grounds gave an excellent view of the house. Tiff could see her grandmother sitting on the patio under the wide umbrella, tapping her fingers on her cane. She concentrated on walking toward her gran with a businesslike gait.
The moment her feet hit the cobblestone patio, she was treated to, “You are late.”
Sighing, Tiff approached her grandmother and kissed her cheek. “You are looking well, Gran.”
“I always look well. It is my blessing.” It was snapped out with harsh tones. “Aidan is getting married.”
Tiff raised her eyebrows and sat down, pouring her grandmother a cup of tea before serving herself.
“That is good news. I was always wondering if Aidan was going to bat for the other team.” She added sugar and lemon to her tea and sat back.
“He can’t get married.” Her grandmother grimaced.
“Because you are his elder by one year and you are still single. As the oldest female of your line, you have to get mated first. It’s tradition.”
Tiff sighed and put her cup down on the saucer. “I am not getting a mate.”
“You are if your brother is going to have a chance at a family, and you know he wants a family.”
“That is hitting below the belt, Gran.”
“I am aware of that. At this point, I am going to use what weapons I have to get you to do your duty to the family. You come from a strong line of women. You need to continue that bloodline.”
Tiff pinched the bridge of her nose. “Gran, I really don’t want to have a family. I want to run around and live off the lawn or the land.”
“You want to skip around in rags and tease the neighbour’s hounds. That is no way to live.”
Tiff picked up the teacup again. “It is a fine way to live. I have reinvested enough to enable me to maintain this house if you ever pass on.”
Her grandmother sipped her tea. “That is a disrespectful way to talk to your elder.”
Tiff smiled pleasantly. “Well, you are all about planning for the future. I just wanted you to know that I had a plan.”