Publication date: December 6th 2022
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Coraline Patten enjoys nothing more than facing new challenges, but when she’s asked to evaluate Moonriver’s ruling faction, she worries she’s bitten off more than she can chew.
Allasandro Stephans has reigned since she’d been a child, unwavering in his dedication to Moonriver. His heir, Calden, has supported him every step of the way. Together, the shapeshifting widower and his son appear to be the perfect men for the job of preserving and protecting their home.
When Moonriver’s heir asks her to free his father from the burden of leadership, Coraline is determined to do what is best for her people, even if it costs her the love of her life.
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I should have called in sick. Had I pretended to suffer from some ailment, my name wouldn’t have been added to the list of potential sacrificial lambs doomed to work for the Hunters of Moonriver for the next week, possibly for longer.
I enjoyed change, and I preferred it on a daily basis.
The Hunters of Moonriver would give me change for a few days, but after the first week, the monotony would drive me insane. All factions were alike. Once someone settled into their role, that was that. They stared down an endless tunnel of the same old, climbing the social ladder for higher pay, slight modifications to their duty, and more responsibility.
After a month of that, I would surely go mad.
As one of Moonriver’s unaffiliated, I flitted from faction to faction, filling in for those who couldn’t work for whatever reason. I preferred when I covered for one of the craft factions, but after a week of doing the same job, I craved new waters, new experiences, and new people.
I loved the thrill of discovery, and none of the factions had offered me the variety I needed to be satisfied with my lot in life. As such, I remained one of the oldest unaffiliated in the city, working at a temp firm.
My boss understood how I ticked and made sure I could test new waters often.
Had I done something to irritate my boss? A job with a minimum duration of a week would drive me insane, although I would do it with a smile fixed into place on my face if it was asked of me.
“I knew I should have selected a faction last quarter.” Of my co-workers, Sila tended to be the first to voice a complaint but the last to do anything about her situation. Had anyone else tried that garbage with me, I would have moved on, but Sila somehow managed to make me smile even in the most dire of situations. While she complained and rarely acted, if she could help someone else, she would.
My friend was the queen of contradictions.
She cleared her throat to make certain she held my attention. As she rarely put up such a fuss, I did as she wanted and met her gaze.
“I told you we should have made our selections last quarter, Coraline,” Sila whined.
Any other day, I would have told her to mind her own business or muttered about her attitude. Today, I wanted to join her, abandoning my professionalism to indulge in a childish temper tantrum over the situation. If I had picked a faction last quarter, I would have avoided the entire situation, but I doubted I would have been happy with my choice. Still, she made a good point. “You might be right. How many qualified for the job?” With a little luck, all six hundred or so employees could be picked, significantly limiting my chance of being the unlucky one.
The last thing I needed was a long-term contract with the any faction, let alone the undisputed rulers of Moonriver.
“Twenty,” Sila informed me in a solemn tone. “Of which we are two of the twenty. I peeked at the list. More accurately, the boss asked me to warn you that you are on the list, and that he will not believe any excuse you might concoct to dodge this. As such, you can’t dodge your dance with doom, and I fear it’s probable you’re the unlucky soul stuck with the Hunters contract. Why else would he make me make you show up?”
Until it was confirmed I was stuck with the contract, I would hold hope someone else would win the assignment. As there were more than twenty people in the room, I assumed our boss had another reason for calling most of our floor together for handing out our daily duties. Usually, he either dropped the contracts off or sent us an email telling us we had feet and should use them.
I longed to voice a curse, but professionalism demanded I remain silent.
“There’s a rumor that the odds aren’t equal. By request.”
I relaxed, as my general skill set meant I spent most of my time working with craft or artisan factions. “The boss asked you toy with me, didn’t he?”
“Maybe a little. He didn’t tell me who was picked, just that somebody has already been assigned the contract, and that you have to deal with the same stress just like everyone else. But you’re no Hunter, and everybody knows it. But maybe the boss wants to add a little extra versatility to your resume? It’s only for a week or two, as far as I know.”
The wolf-dominated Hunters needed athletic, strong people with a fondness for difficult challenges.
I preferred difficult mental challenges, especially when numbers were involved. While anyone could discover their animal and begin shifting at any age, those who wanted to shift actively pursued their magic—or partnered with a shapeshifter.
I had opted against putting in the effort; I struggled enough with life without the additional complications of shapeshifting. I also dodged dating shapeshifters, as most who married a shifter developed their magic through frequent exposure.
As such, I did my best to avoid anyone associated with the Hunters of Moonriver, who ran the city and the nearby towns with iron paws but common sense and tolerable ethics.
“Well, that should eliminate me, then,” I said, allowing myself a relieved sigh. “Me, working with the Hunters? You said it yourself. I’m no Hunter.”
Fur would fly, and not in a good way.
Audrey Greene writes sweet paranormal and urban fantasy splashed with some romance and hints of science fiction. She lives in California, loves going to the beach, and appreciates taking the time to smell the roses.