Here's another teaser while you wait for this bad boy to be released!
“Um, Sean?” She blinked. A closer inspection of the buildings showed the peeling paint and broken windows.
Reese jumped out of the truck, opened the barn doors, and closed them again once he'd driven in. Once she’d locked the doors, she came back for her backpack.
“This isn’t it, I take it?” Kaley frowned.
Sean shook his head. “We’ll have to walk the rest of the way in.” He reached for the extra cross stone he had in his pocket.
“I can’t believe there aren’t any plows that would come do this road. Have your parents talked to anyone about this?”
“You can see the road?” Reese gawked and elbowed Sean with a grin.
Kaley laughed. “It’s not that snowed in. But I wouldn’t want to get the truck stuck.” She tightened the string at the top of her Sorrels and hooked her bag over her shoulder. “How far is it to your parents’?”
“A half a mile, maybe a little more.” Sean left the cross stone next to his and fell into step beside her. She could see the path! She was one of the humans who could cross over. Reese was grinning from ear to ear.
“There are a few things you should probably know about us before we get to the house,” started the younger sibling.
“Right.” Sean blew a breath out of his nose. “My parents are pretty old fashioned.”
“Oh?” Kaley shrugged, perplexed by how nervous he looked.
Reese gave his arm a squeeze to reassure him. “They don’t have power or energy. They’re all about living on the land.”
“Really?” Kaley was amazed that anyone she knew would have grown up that way. It seemed surreal.
“Don’t worry, though.” Sean was quick to reassure her. “It’s not as bad as you think.”
She laughed. “I didn’t think it sounded bad. It might be nice to let things be basic for a bit.” She stopped walking and frowned. “Did you feel that?”
Sean managed to hold in a groan as they crossed the threshold into Quelondain and the world’s magic washed over him.
Reese’s breath hitched in her throat. “By the moons, it’s been too long.” She inhaled deeply and smiled. “It’s good to be home.”
Sean nodded. “Aye, it is.” Suddenly excited, he took Kaley by the hand and started walking again. She followed along beside him, smiling at his change of demeanor.
It didn’t take long for them to make it to their destination.
Corrals and pens dotted the area around it the two story house. Behind the barn, a herd of tiny Black Angus cattle were eating their way through a pile of hay. Mixed in among them were a few head of horses.
The door opened before they reached the top stairs.
“You made it!”
Kaley blinked at the slightly younger version of Sean. They could have passed as twins.
“I’m Josh. You must be Sean’s best kept secret.”
Sean groaned. “Can we be mature, please? Kaley, this is Josh, Josh, this is Kaley.”
“Uncle Sean! Aunty Reese!” A tiny girl with a mess of black hair and sparkling green eyes flew off the top step and into Sean’s arms.
He laughed and hugged her tightly. “Hello, Sweetling. You’ve grown!”
“I did!” She wiggled out of his arms and twirled around for his benefit. “See?”
“I do see!”
“And guess what else, Uncle Sean!”
He grinned. “What?”
“Look what I can do now!”
Kaley’s hands flew to her mouth as the young girl’s form shimmered and reappeared as a cheetah cub.
Sean, Reese, and Josh turned to look at Kaley.
“Uncle Sean? Did I do something wrong?” Sophie had turned back into a girl.
He turned and scooped the child in his arms. “Not at all, Sweetling. That’s fantastic.” He kissed her forehead. “Why don’t you go in and let Granny know we’re here.”
Sophie ran inside with a grin. “Granny!”
Sean took a step toward Kaley. “Sweets?”
Her wide eyes met his.
“I, um…” He took a deep breath. “I should also tell you that my family is, um, different. We can shift.” He tilted his head to the side, trying to gauge how she was taking this news.
“You… You put something in my coffee this morning!” Kaley took a few steps back and held her hands out when he tried to follow.
“What? No! By the moons, Kaley, I swear I didn’t. Look at me. I’m me. The same me I’ve always been. I’ve never lied to you. I just omitted a few details.”
Josh cleared his throat. “I’ll just let you two talk this through. It was nice to meet you, Kaley.” With that, he turned on his heels, his form shimmering until a cheetah glanced back at them. It blinked and trotted through the door Sophie had left open.
“Josh, you ass!” Sean growled low in his throat.
“Kaley, you need to take a breath.” Reese was taking tentative steps towards her, her hands up to show she meant no harm.
“Kaley, Sweets. Please. Just come inside and we’ll get you a drink.”
Kaley shook her head. “I want to go home.” She turned back the way they had come.
Sean’s heart sank. “Alright.”
“Sean!” Reese yanked him around. “Just like that?”
He looked at the two cross stones in his hand and nodded. “Just like that.” He handed her his pack. “Tell mom I’ll be back in an hour.”
“It’s a seven hour round trip,” she scoffed.
“Do you really think she wants to ride with me in a truck all the way home?” he yelled at his sister.
“Don’t yell at me! You should have told her before you brought her!”
“I wouldn’t have brought her anyway! You’re the drunk who sent a bluebird telling mom I was bringing her!”
“SEAN!” Kaley’s scream resonated through the clearing. He shifted and bounded through the woods in the direction she had gone.
He found her standing stiff as she eyed a jaink. The small wolf-like animal stared at her calmly. Without pausing, he launched himself at the smaller creature. The jaink yelped at the sight of the cheetah and scurried into the underbrush. Sean turned back toward Kaley, his cat eyes blinking. Did he shift in front of her? Did he hide in the woods to do it?
“Sean?” Her question was just a whisper.
He nodded and lay on his side to seem as gentle as possible.
“I… what was that?”
Unable to talk in his cat form, he shifted back to his human self. He stayed sitting in the snow and looked up at her
“It was a jaink. They’re distant cousins to the wolf. If you come across another one, make sure you don’t look in its eyes. It can hypnotize you so that you won’t fight back.”
“Let’s get you home. You’ll have to put up with me for a half hour until I can get you to the bus stop.”
She swallowed hard and started walking down the path again.
EGGNOG KISSES RELEASES DECEMBER 2nd!