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Excerpt: Freeing Heather

She often felt like she wasn’t doing enough to help the people who’d taken her in without questions, especially when groups like Violet’s came in and she could hear them talking about saving people whose only fault was, like everyone in Sanctuary, to be gifted with a paranormal power. The thing was, while her own power was somehow more interesting than being able to pour a perfect cup of coffee, it still wasn’t anything impressive.

Some people could read minds. Phoenix shifters like Rose and her sister had near magical feathers they could rearrange on their bodies into any clothing they could conceive of. Dragon shifters inspired awe in anyone who saw them in their dragon form. Even wolf shifters, which were the most common and well known of all shifters, had some sort of mystique around them because they worked in highly organized packs, and had done so for hundreds of years.

Heather though, was just a bird shifter. No one could even tell her what kind of bird, and since her parents hadn’t been paras, they couldn’t have told her either. When she shifted, she became a blue-black bird the size of a goose with a curved white beak, with no particular power or strength.

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d shifted, but if she had done so right now, her bird form wouldn’t have inspired awe or fear, or anything else really into any of the shop’s patrons. She’d never be able to help Sanctuary like the people now walking in: Violet Littlewings, a phoenix like her sister, and her mate, who Heather had heard was a pyromancer, although he’d thankfully never summoned fire inside the café.

A group of people filed in behind them. Newcomers to Sanctuary, Heather knew at once, and not only because they were looking around the place with undisguised curiosity. The shop, big enough to host about fifty people at small wooden tables and chairs, was the only coffee place in Sanctuary. It was even called ‘The Coffee Shop,’ simply because there was no need to distinguish it from any other coffee joint. Everyone came around sooner or later for a cup, and most people returned soon after that. Heather had a good memory for faces, and she’d never seen any of the five men and three women looking over their drinks and snack options.

As she started on the first orders Janine was passing to her, she wondered what kind of paras they all were. If she were to hazard a guess, she’d say shifters of some kind. They all had the self-assured look that seemed to come with knowing you could become a strong, frightening beast at will. Dragons, maybe. Or from the way they stuck together, maybe a pack of wolves? Not that it was any of her business, but she saw a lot of paras, standing behind this counter, and she’d become fairly good at identifying powers.

She called Violet’s name first, and handed her the strong coffee she’d prepared for her. Violet thanked her with a smile, but something in her expression looked a little distant, or preoccupied. She waited by the counter until her mate received his drink too, and they walked step in step to the back of the room and the area prepared for them.

The next drink was for Jonas, a tall man who appeared even taller than he really was because of how straight he held himself. His eyes seemed to dart everywhere as though to prepare for danger, often coming back toward the people who accompanied him. An alpha wolf, Heather decided. Which confirmed the people that came in with him as his pack. She continued to make coffees and call names, working fast so that the first people in the group wouldn’t be done with their drinks by the time she finished with the last.

But when that last order came—a simple black coffee, nothing fancy or complicated at all—she did something she’d never done in the six years she’d worked at the coffee shop: she dropped the full cup. The ceramic shattered on the counter, and hot coffee splashed everywhere, splattering her apron, the shirt of the man standing on the other side of the counter, and the printed order with his name at the top. The order on which she’d just read the name of her tattoo mate.

Continued in Freeing Heather