“I heard from Father that cousin Rafael is coming for a visit.” Camilla said, drinking her tea at the small table in the garden. “I wonder why he’s coming to Gregory so suddenly.”
“Father sent for him.” Jake said with a frown, swishing some brandy in his glass. “Because Rafael is ‘such a good boy’.” He said with mockery behind it.
Sookie chuckled as she bit into a lemon tart.
“You have to admit that they guy has an ego that stretches far and wide.”
“I was thinking of training Timber to bite him.”
“Father would have your head for that.” Camilla said.
“What does he care? I’m not a good enough son to him anyway.”
“Don’t worry, Jakey, he only like Rafael because he is in the army. If it’s fighting, Papa loves it.” Sookie said with a snarl.
Camilla nodded in agreement. Jake was happy that the twins were usually on his side when it came to their father but it didn’t make a difference in Oslo’s liking of him more or less.
“Where is your Shifter now?” Sookie asked.
“Still sleeping. Shade was teaching her how to wash clothes yesterday and she was beat tired. You know how Shade gets when he’s in a mood.”
“She hasn’t met our Shifters, has she?”
“Not that I know of. I’m surprised but kind of not. She’s not very social.”
“A master’s girl.” Sookie said with a devilish smile.
“I don’t know about that…”
“Don’t deny it, Jacob. We see her clinging to you like tape half the time. She’s a master’s girl; there’s nothing wrong with it.” Camilla said with a grin. “I think it’s cute.”
“There’s nothing that cute about a shapeshifter with a clinging problem.”
“Aw, that’s kind of sad.”
Jake made a face. It might have been cute to the girls but to other people, like his father and especially Rafael, a clinging Shifter could mean trouble. Since Timber was a bit on the defensive side anyway, someone doing any harm to him (intentional or not) could be at risk of Timber’s anger. Jake had never seen her angry but he reckoned that if pushed to it, she could deliver some damage.
‘Small people get strong because they are cornered.’ She had said to him. He took that as meaning that even the weakest become strong when they are backed against the wall with no way out. Either they will fight to survive or die and instinct says never give up hope. Jake mused on the fact that he wouldn’t want to be on the bad side of his Shifter for the very fact that her unknown and pent up power could probably deliver a killing blow.
“Anyhow, are you going to let Shade train her in everything then?”
“She trusts Shade with a lot of things that she doesn’t seem to trust others in. Shade knows how to pretty much do it all so it’s not the big of a deal. Shade didn’t seem to mind.”
“It gives him something to do all day. The man can’t stand being bored.” Sookie said, sipping her tea. “He’ll probably show her Pure.”
Jake nodded as he finished tea with his sisters.
Timber woke up and looked around. She didn’t smell Jake in the room and peeked over his bed just in case. He was gone as she suspected but found a dress on the bed and a note attached. She made a face at the note and looked at the dress. She wished she could read to see what the note said but she assumed it was saying that she should put on the dress that was there. Timber ignored the dress and went to Jake’s drawers. She pulled out a pair of breaches and a shirt; tugging at her binds, she tried to put them on.
Shade walked in and found Timber tangled in the shirt, growling in frustration. He blinked at her and walked in, setting his boot on her stomach to stop her thrashing. She peeked through the arm hole of the shirt.
“I see you’ve gotten into Master Jake’s drawers…”
Timber just glared at him and he looked at the bed.
“That dress is for you.”
“I do not like it. I like these clothes.”
“Those clothes are for males, not females.”
“That thing is stupid.”
Shade sighed but picked the little spitfire up and pulled the shirt off of her.
“Master Jake will be disappointed to know that you have rejected his kindness by getting you this dress. It was made especially for you.”
“Masta Jake has better things to do than worry about me and clothes.” Timber argued.
Shade smiled and clicked her shackles together. The shackles came off and he threw the shirt over her head quickly and reattached them.
“How long do I have to wear these? You do not wear them.”
“I’ve lived here for a long time so I am trusted. You, my dear, tried to bite Master Oslo and that has earned you the shackles for a while.”
“Why are they so easy to open?”
“Only non-Shifters are able to open it.”
“But you are a Shifter. You are strange… you are Shifter yet you are not.”
Shade just smirked again, brushing his hair from his face.
“I’m one-fourth Shifter. My grandparents were very naughty and married each other despite Shapeshifter Law. My grandmother was human and my grandfather was a shapeshifter. My mother was half and my father was human and here am I.”
“You are diluted.”
“Yes. Anyhow, there is someone I would like for you to meet. She’s very shy and doesn’t come out of her room very often but she is anxious to meet you.”
“Yes. I think you’ll like her.”
Shade walked out with Timber behind him.
They got to a door on the third floor that was at the end of a long hallway and Shade turned to Timber.
“Don’t make any sudden movements and be who you are.”
Timber turned her head at the instruction but nodded and Shade opened the door. The first thing that hit Timber’s nose was the smell of birds. She looked around for the creatures but was surprised to see only a young woman in a long flowing white dress sitting in an elaborately made chaise. She had long curly white glistening hair that fell to her hips and she was pale as snow. She turned to them and Timber saw that she was blind.
“Shade,” The woman said with a glorious smile. “Nice of you to visit me. Who is your friend? A feline?”
“This is Timber, she’s become Master Jake’s Shifter now.”
“Master Oslo said something about a rambunctious Shifter that was in the manor… She is small.”
“Yes. She’s a runt.”
The woman seemed to look right at Timber and gave a sympathetic look to her.
“You must have had it hard for a while, haven’t you?”
Timber nodded and then said, “Yes…”
“You are good for Master Jake; he needs someone like you. My name is Pure, I am a peacock-Shifter. An albino peacock that is…”
“You are pretty.” Timber said softly.
Pure laughed a little and motioned for her to come closer with a motion of her slender hand.
“Come closer, sweetie. I won’t hurt you.” Shade pushed her to Pure and she finally was standing in front of her. Pure took hold of her hands and smiled. “Now I can get a look at you… Yes, Master Jake was meant for you. He is your one, isn’t he?”
“I’m not sure.”
“I don’t get feelings like this from Shifters who are in the wrong place, young one.”
“You can sense feelings?”
“Emotions; drives… I can sense the heart. You belong here and you belong with Master Jake.”
“W-why are you here?”
Pure smiled sadly. “I was the Shifter to the late Lady Nicosia. After a portion of the house burnt down, taking my eyesight with it, I was left in peace up here. Master Oslo comes to me sometimes to ask questions of his family.”
Timber looked at Shade and back to Pure.
“Why did you bring me here, Shade?”
“To see if you were a benefit or a downfall to the Nicosia family. Pure?”
Pure looked at Shade and back to Timber, closing her eyes again as she held Timber’s hands. Timber felt a warmth run through her hands to her body, like she was being read like a book.
“Yes and no. More no but eventually there was be an act…”
Timber took her hands from Pure.
“I do not like you knowing my future before I do.”
Pure smiled. “My dear, I don’t know what the future holds. I’m not a psychic and I can’t be certain of anything. But the feeling that I get from you is strong. You will change the course of this family, no doubts about it. Whether for the good, or for the worst, it will surely make this place much more enlightened.”
Timber stared at her and Shade put his hand on her shoulder.
“I think it’s time we leave. Thank you, Pure, for your cooperation.”
They left the room and Timber turned to Shade.
“I do not want to go back in there. If you take me back, I will run away.”
He nodded and went back downstairs.
Weeks passed and after some coaxing from Jake, Timber finally started wearing dresses. She was still against it but she did it to please Jake. She liked the way he smiled, for it made her happy. Timber wasn’t exactly up on the subject of the connection between Shifters and their masters but she decided to agree that Pure was right and Jake was her one.
As she was thinking on this, coming in from the apple grove that grew in the back of the manor she ran into something big and silent. She squeaked and fell back onto her butt, apples falling all around her.
“Pardon me.” A deep voice said, picking her up and setting her on her feet. “I should have looked where I was going.”
“Sorry…” she looked up and turned her head.
Before her was a huge man, seeming to take up the whole doorway with his frame. His brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail and his deep brown eyes had Timber mesmerized.
“I would have thought to meet on better terms than this. I am Vladimir, Sookie’s Shifter.” He said politely.
“Oh… Hi…” she said softly. She noticed a scratch on his cheek. “Your cheek…”
“Don’t worry. The misses gets a little angry at times.” He said with kind eyes. “Are you bringing these apples to the kitchen?”
Timber looked around her at the apples and scrambled to pick them up.
“Yes. It is for crust with apples in it.”
“A pie?” Timber shrugged. “Well then, I can help you carry them in.”
Timber felt nervous around this Vladimir. There was something about him that screamed that she needed to be hiding from him. Her instincts told her that he was dangerous to her.
Vladimir handed the basket of apples to Timber.
Timber looked down and felt guilty for making him pick up all the apples.
“I didn’t mean-“ she started.
“I’m used to it. It was nice to meet you finally.”
He walked fluidly away and Timber blinked after him, wondering what was so weird about him that her hackles went up.
Amy stood in the doorway of the kitchen with a wooden spoon in hand and a tap of her foot.
“What are you doing, youngin? Get them apples in here, quick! I got the fires burning with nothing to make in them.”
Timber went over and handed her the basket of apples.
“I got hit and they all fell on the floor.”
“Vladimir ran into me.”
“Ooh, watch out for that one, youngin. He’s a flirt and will catch you off guard. Likes them all, humans and Shifter alike.”
Timber nodded, filing that for later consideration.
She helped Amy make the pie when the kitchen door burst open.
“Get the best dishes out and start to cooking a five course meal, Amy. We are having guests tonight.” Shade barked, getting pots and pans out already.
“Um…” Timber said, confused.
“Sir Rafael Attiker is coming for dinner.” Was all he said.
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