First Page: Split Shift – Paranormal Romance
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When I was a baby, my mother up and flew away. That’s what Daddy used to tell me, anyway. He stood on the porch whenever we returned home, staring up at the sky as if he was waiting for her to come back. He kept wishing on that star until the day he died. I buried stories of her alongside him and made my way with my feet on the ground.
Sometimes, I stand on the porch and look up the mountain, but I’m not waiting for a mother I never knew. I’m waiting for Elijah Makepeace to wake up from his long sleep. That’s how I know spring is on the way. Doesn’t matter if there’s knee-high snow or the wind coming down off the mountain is cold as death, if Elijah has his lights on, winter is as good as done.
The air was still bitter when he returned this year. I stocked shelves in my little store, killing time until he settled enough to come over for a cup of coffee. He had a terrible hunger when he first woke up, so he spent the better part of his days eating. It usually took a couple weeks before he could pretend to be human, but he didn’t worry about that around me.
I didn’t mind waiting, mostly because I had nowhere else to be. Camping season wouldn’t start for another month, at the earliest, so it wasn’t likely I’d have customers. Smart people wait until they’re sure the ice has melted on at least one mountain road. I don’t make much money on the smart ones.
After a while, I gave up working and ducked back into the house to make coffee. For good measure, I did the dishes and whipped up some biscuits. If Elijah did show, he’d finish most of them. With any luck, he would bring his special honey, and we could have a proper breakfast. No matter how much I begged, he wouldn’t tell me where he got that honey. Bears like their secrets.
The oven timer dinged at the same time the bells on my shop door jangled. I burned my fingers setting down the cookie sheet and let out a string of curses as I trotted down the stairs.
A stranger stood in my shop. The morning light showed up thin streaks of grey in his light brown hair. He looked too young for them. I stared at him for half a second too long. When he turned around, I still had my fingers in my mouth, like a little girl licking off the last of a treat. I jammed them in my pocket and winced as tender skin scraped against my jeans.
“Burn?” the man asked.
I nodded and wondered if he could read my mind. Considering the things going through it, that could be embarrassing. His eyes were the green of sunlit leaves, and his wind-reddened cheeks only highlighted the beauty of his strong jaw, dusted by stubble. Not a lot of people make me feel petite, except for Elijah, but this guy seemed to fill the shop with his wide shoulders and wider grin.
“Let me take a look at it.” He held out a calloused hand, as if I would instantly comply.
“It’s nothing, just a little scorch from the oven.”
“Show me anyway. Burns can be tricky. I’d hate to see you lose the use of your fingers.”
Something about the way he talked to me got my back up. “I can take care of myself.” I went behind the counter, because it made me feel safer.
He watched me, smiling the whole time. “You wouldn’t last around here if you couldn’t, but that’s no reason not to accept help when you’re hurt.”
Note to the site goddesses: If this posted to you multiple times, I am terribly sorry. My internet connection went haywire, and instead of being patient, I mashed the submit button like an idiot. I pray you forgive my lack of sense, should it have caused you distress.