Chapter 2

As Zephyra drove home, the thick trees slowly gave way to civilization as the two-lane country road widened and nature was replaced with strip malls and picturesque southern houses. Home. A smile spread across her face as the town of Paros enveloped her. It used to be an old farming community, but now it was quite the booming little town. There were new homes, shops, and warehouses going up everywhere.

While she liked seeing the growth, Zephyra wasn’t particularly fond of the traffic it brought. The sun had already set by the time she reached the house. The cream-colored, vinyl-sided home sat on a half-acre of land. It wasn’t quite on the edge of town, but it wasn’t in the middle of town either, which is one of the things Zephyra loved most about it. She could get to Dixons Butchers, the mom and pop butcher shop where she worked at, in about ten minutes, fifteen if traffic was bad.

Getting out of the jeep, Zephyra grabbed her things. She left her muddied boots to dry on the small three-by-three-foot cement square that served as her front porch, satisfied that it wouldn’t rain in the next few days. Zephyra walked inside the house, setting her bow down by the door and hanging her keys on a hook on the wall. The theme of most of the downstairs consisted of varying shades of brown and white.

The furniture either her mom or her got over the years during the spring and summer yard sale hunts. Around there, it wasn’t really Spring until the yard sale signs started going up. It was the southern woman’s sport of choice. In Zephyra’s opinion, nothing beats the thrill of getting a good deal, except for maybe good sex.

She noticed the blinking, and often annoying, green light on her cell phone, which was sitting on the banged-up coffee table. Scooping it up, Zephyra tapped the screen to read the text. It was from Ellie, one of her best and closest friends. Hitting the call button, Zephyra wondered what Ellie wanted to tell her so badly that the vampire would get up early for it. All her text said was to call her.

“Zephyra, darling, how are you?” Ellie greeted her with the exaggerated aristocratic voice that she loved to use. “How good of you to finally return my call.”

“My apologies, my dear friend,” Zephyra replied in a similar tone. “Please tell me you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I don’t know what I will do with myself if you don’t.”

Ellie laughed her pretty, airy laugh, which was what Zephyra had been aiming for. “Be careful, Zeph,” she said, dropping the accent. “There are wolves about.”

Zephyra scowled at the reminder. “I know. I ran into one today. Can you believe it ruined my chance to bag a beautiful buck? You should have seen him, Ellie. It was fantastic. I think it was just a loner, or at least it had enough sense to run when I had an arrow aimed at him. Hopefully, I scared him off, and he’s halfway to Miami by now.” As Zephyra spoke, she headed upstairs to her bedroom.

“Oh no, it’s not just one. Last night at the diner, I served four of them,” Ellie replied. “By the looks of it, I’d say it was an alpha and his little council or whatever they call it. From what I could eavesdrop, it sounded like they’re moving in.”

 “Damn it, Ellie! Why did you have to go and tell me that? I threatened to shoot it with a silver arrow.”. Ellie’s response was a laugh that suspiciously sounded a lot like a cackle.

Reaching her room, Zephyra started to undress. “Do you think my mom knows?”

“I doubt it or you would be talking to her right now instead of me,” Ellie replied. “The response I’m waiting for is from Mayor Thomas. How long do you think before he calls an emergency town meeting?”

Zephyra couldn’t help but chuckle a little. “I’m surprised he hasn’t already. He is going to be so pissed. A pack moving into town is going to ruin his populace ratio of norms over aberrations.” She finished undressing, swearing she would wash them later. “I just hope the pack doesn’t rile mom up too much.”

“We both know it will. Is there anything she hates more than shifters?”

Zephyra took a second to think. “No, I don’t think so.” This wasn’t looking good. They hung up and Zephyra took a shower. A voicemail from her mother greeted her when she got out. No surprise, her mother, as the self-appointed head of the aberration community, took it upon herself to call up a meeting to address the arrival of the new shifter pack. Zephyra wasn’t sure what exactly she wanted to discuss. It wasn’t like her mom had any authority to grant or deny them residence in Paros.

The next day after work, Zephyra rushed over to her parent’s house. The driveway and the street in front of it were filled with cars. Parking behind a boxy SUV, she hurried inside. She made her way through the crowd to an empty spot by the wall. It looked as if her mom hadn’t started yet. Good. Hopefully, that meant she might get away without a lecture about being late.

Looking over the crowd of aberrations, Zephyra waited for things to start. From the size of the crowd, it looked like everyone had decided to come tonight. The witches were the most numerous with a full coven of thirteen members. There were also fifteen more that were solitary practitioners, Zephyra’s dad included. Her dad had enough power to have his own coven and then some, but he preferred to spend his time caring for flower gardens and lawns.

Zephyra was surprised to see Oberon Heintze, but not his wife, Ophelia. They were fae—the only fae in Paros and most likely all of Tennessee. Ophelia usually attended these meetings, but Zephyra guessed she couldn’t find anyone she trusted to watch their son. Oberon currently looked like a balding man in his fifties. The fae’s appearance tended to change slightly with their moods.

Ellie gave Zephyra a regal wave when she saw her, and Zephyra returned it lazily. While Zephyra had the looks, Ellie had grace. Zephyra didn’t know if it was a vampire thing or not, but Ellie was as elegant as a classic Disney princess. Like the Heintzes, she was the only one of her kind in Paros. However, there were vampire families in both Nashville and Memphis. Among all the familiar faces it was easy for Zephyra to spot the four shifters: three men and one woman.

They had that wild feel about them that she had heard talk of. The woman stood, her hand resting on her hip, which was cocked to one side. It was a stance that was sexy and self-assured, with confidence that didn’t cross the line into arrogance. Zephyra was glad for once, someone else was taking all the lusty looks from the men in the room.

Though when she looked at the men, Zephyra was the one now giving the lusty looks. All three of them looked like they stepped right out of a Harlequin Romance. There was the Texan cowboy, complete with western-style boots and a Stetson hat. Next to him the badass military or cop persona. His light hair was cut short, and as he scanned the room, he silently threatened pain to anyone who dared to mess with him or his people.

Last but not least was the bad boy. He radiated power and lethality like the badass, but his style and posture were both very devil-may-care. The hint of tattoos peeking out from the neck of his long-sleeved shirt all but screamed bad boy. Zephyra would’ve loved to give all three of them a go, one at a time or even all three together.

The crowd quieted as Zephyra’s mom walked to the center of the living room. “Alright everyone, let’s get started. For those who don’t know, I’m Delphina Callahan.” She spoke in a loud, powerful voice that seemed to command everyone to listen to her. “The purpose of this meeting is to address the newly-arrived pack of shifters.” She looked over at the shifters in question. “We’re all curious why you didn’t tell us you were interested in relocating here. Who is your alpha? What are your numbers, and what are your intentions with our town?”

There was a murmur of agreement throughout the crowd. Her mom waved her left arm, signaling for the alpha to take the center of the room. All eyes turned to the four shifters, and the room fell silent as everyone waited for one of the men to step forward. When the woman was the one to walk to the center of the room, the crowd broke out in whispers.

“I’m Alpha Billy Jean Cole and as to why—” she started, but Zephyra’s mom cut her off.

“It’s a pleasure, alpha’s mate,” she said, tartly. “But we wish to hear from your partner. His decisions are what brought your pack here, after all.”

A sardonic smile spread across the woman’s lips. Her chin lifted as she stared at Zephyra’s mother, possibly challenging her. Seeing as she was a shifter and all, she probably was. “I’m Alpha Billy Jean Cole. I am the only alpha of my pack,” she announced, directing her stare at anyone who didn’t drop their eyes when they met hers.

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