Chapter 4

Zephyra pulled her jacket closer as she stepped out of the city hall and into the dark parking lot. The soft orange and purple rays of the setting sun were visible just behind the small strip mall across the street, which was practically empty. The chilly, damp air clung to her and stole what little warmth she had like the hand of death itself. Zephyra shuddered at the sudden and short gust of wind. She tugged at the zipper of her jacket as if that would improve its ability to shield her from the cold.

“Well, that’s a whole hour of my life I’ll never get back,” Jess said as she joined Zephyra outside. The petite, blonde witch, zipped up her jacket, trying to fend off the chilly wind too.

Zephyra grinned at her. “What, you didn’t enjoy bureaucracy at its finest?”

Jess brushed a strand of her strawberry-blonde hair out of her face. Her dark eyes narrowing at Zephyra as if to say really? “It was a total waste of time,” she complained. “I have no idea why Mom forced me to go. All the mayor did was throw shade at the lady alpha and ask the same questions your mom did!”

Zephyra laughed, huddling into the neck of her jacket as another breeze blew past. “Well, we now know where the mayor stands.”

“Like that was a surprise,” Jess said, rolling her eyes. “Everyone knows he doesn’t like aberrations. Especially if they’re the freaky kind.”

Zephyra started to ask what exactly the freaky kind was when she heard someone call out for a Ms. Callahan. She ignored it until she realized they meant her. Her back stiffened realizing it was the bad boy shifter.

“Ms. Callahan?” Jess whispered with a snicker.

Zephyra waved her off. “Behave, you,” 

Jess only giggled more before she all but shouted. “Hi, Ethan.” She wanted at the shifter enthusiastically.

Now Zephyra gave her the really? look. The bad boy shifter, Ethan, seemed amused as he lazily returned the wave, walking towards them. Zephyra noticed as she watched him that he didn’t seem at all bothered by the chilly evening. He wore a thin, olive-colored cargo jacket, unbuttoned against the cool, sporadic breeze. Ethan didn’t even have his hands in his pockets, and the tee he wore wasn’t any thicker than his jacket.

Zephyra wondered how he would react if she huddled up against him. She heard shifters had high body temperatures, and she was willing to bet he was toasty. Though that probably would open another can of worms Zephyra wasn’t in the mood to deal with.

“I was wondering if you were free now,” Ethan said when he reached them.

“Are you asking her out? Because you could totally do a better job than that,” Jess said, giving him an unimpressed look.

Zephyra shook her head and muttered Jess’s name in exasperation.

“What?” the shifter said, looking confused. “Uh, no. I wanted to talk about the hunters. See how we could all stay out of trouble.”

While Zephyra didn’t like how quickly he seemed to dismiss the idea of asking her out, relief washed over her. She didn’t mind staring at him and maybe partaking in a fantasy or two, but the shifter was off-limits. Her mom would throw a fit if she found out. Besides, it was against Zephyra’s own rules.

Pulling out her phone, she glanced at the time. “Yeah, I can do that. We can go to Angie’s. They’ve got some great coffee, and I could use a little warming up.” Zephyra ignored Jess’s sudden burst of giggling. Only God knows how she interpreted what Zephyra said to make her giggle like that. The witch had the humor of a twelve-year-old boy.

Ethan gave Jess a curious look but laughed with her. His laugh was a much deeper pitch than Zephyra would’ve expected. It had a rough edge to it, and she was not ashamed to admit that it was more than a little sexy. As if to make it all worse, he shot them an incredible smile that made Zephyra’s gut twinge with interest. Again, she had to remind herself he was off-limits.

“Sure, sounds great,” he said, looking completely oblivious to Zephyra’s sudden twinges.

Again, a wave of relief washed over her. Maybe the whole thing about shifters being able to detect changes in body chemistry was a myth too. “Awesome,” she told him. “But first…” Zephyra turned to Jess. “Take the jeep home. You can drop it off in the morning, or I’ll walk over and get it.”

Jess sighed, rolling her eyes. “Why can’t I come with you?”

“Because I don’t want to deal with Camilla,” Zephyra told her, knowing that the head witch had given her daughter a similar warning to the one Zephyra’s parents had given her.

“You know I am an adult. Mom can’t keep treating me like I’m sixteen,” Jess complained. “It’s not even fair! Why do you get to go out with them, but I have to go home? Especially since, you know,” she said, waving her hand in small circles for emphasis.

Zephyra knew exactly what she meant. The nymph’s dirty little secret. Besides their attunement to nature and long life span, nymphs were some of the weakest of all the known aberrations.

Jess could out-magic Zephyra ten to one, so she could understand the unfairness of her having to go home. “Yeah, well Camilla isn’t my mom, so I don’t have to listen to her. You do. So go on. I’ll walk home and call you later,” Zephyra told her, taking the car key off the ring and offering it to her.

“Fine, but I’m not the one that’s mate bait,” she said with an evil grin, taking the key.

Zephyra cringed and glared at the witch. She would kill her!

“Okay, I’m kind of lost,” Ethan said, rubbing the back of his head.

Zephyra watched Jess climb into the jeep, and merge with the evening traffic. Instead of explaining what Jess meant she said, “It’s okay. Most people feel like that after talking with Jess. She doesn’t actually take the time to make sure what she is saying makes coherent sense before she says it. Anyway, I’m ready when you are.”

With a simple dip of the head as a reply, Ethan led her to his car. It wasn’t exactly what she was expecting. Zephyra expected the typical manly man’s car. A bulky truck, a military-style SUV, or even a shiny sports car, but that’s not what he drove. The car he got into was none other than a minivan. It kind of ruined his bad boy look and shot her budding fantasies down in flames. Zephyra couldn’t have imaginary sexual escapades with a man who drove a minivan unless, of course, she was married to him.

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