Fire. Water. Burn.
In the two months since the All Hallows' Eve party, Tally has courted Haru, buying expensive gifts, taking the two of them to upscale restaurants and trying to find a balance in earning Haru's fragile trust while being new parents to the Cohen joeys. Tally sees hope in the new domesticity the family has settled into, despite having some bumps along the way.
Gifts and treats have satisfied Haru's otter, but the human half remembers the brutal lessons of giving their trust away. How can two lijun who barely know each other anticipate what will happen when times get tough? There are circumstances Tally doesn't understand yet, and Haru struggles to find their feet with an Urusar who doesn't know the rules.
A revelation not only throws the tentative relationship between them askew, but also starts Tally and Haru down a path the two of them can't escape, one so heart-wrenching Haru's not sure their heart will survive.
Traditionalist concerns that have always nipped at the Bastille clan's heels come roaring to the forefront with demands and ultimatums. Tally needs to fall in line or face further threats to his otter, his family and his clan. Haru needs to find the strength to believe in the good despite the bad. In an environment where it's vital to know ally from foe, Tally and Haru need to stand united or watch the community Tally's family has built fall under the thumb of heartless, greedy autocrats.
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Copyright © Angel Martinez and Freddy MacKay 2018. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Pride Publishing.
There was a tug on Haru’s yukata.
“Uma! Uppie!”Two adorable pairs of brown eyes gazed up at them. Livy and Jackson leaned against their legs, the children’s chubby little arms wrapping around and hanging on tight. If the joeys weren’t about to make them all fall over, Haru would’ve found the pleading adorable. The little cannonballs were going to break their neck if the kids kept hitting them at full speed, though. Haru stumbled, but managed to brace a hand against the wall to steady themself.
“Uppie?” they asked.
Livy’s lower lip came out in full-on pout mode. Then Jackson’s eyes went big and wide. The children were perfecting the art of manipulation under the guise of innocence. Haru felt pride and slight panic at how easily the joeys’ little expressions of woe could sway them. When Livy’s eyes watered up, Haru knew they’d been outflanked and outmaneuvered. They sighed, and two nearly identical squeals of triumph split the air at surprising decibels as Haru lifted their pups up.
“What trouble are you getting into?” they asked.
Jackson sniffled. “Nothin’.”
“Uh-huh. I thought you were supposed to be with Lahi and Mindy?”
“They hafta get Amelia unstuck.”
“Unstuck?” Haru paused their descent back downstairs and gave their pups a once-over. Livy and Jackson smiled openly, eyes wide, little fingers holding onto the front of their yukata with ease. Those expressions were not so innocent. They looked angelic, seemed perfectly cute and disarming, unless one looked closer. Livy and Jackson were hiding something. The pups were trying to distract them.
What had Lahi done?
Haru closed their eyes, took a deep, settling breath in then let it out. They’d thought if Mindy were helping to supervise the pups, fewer hijinks would occur. Apparently, Haru had been wrong. They leveled a patient but perturbed expression on their pups.
“What did your aunt do?”
Jackson rubbed his black curls against Haru’s shoulder but didn’t answer. Livy settled her long, dark brown tresses against their chest and started petting their yukata. Gods, exactly how ‘stuck’ was Amelia? Where was she stuck? Or, rather, what was she stuck in? The past couple months had proved Melia could fit into almost anything she set her heart on, unless she couldn’t.
Those two sets of adorable brown eyes lifted to Haru’s gaze.
“My loving pups.”
“Yes, Uma?” Livy replied softly.
“Where are your sister and Aunt Lahi?”
“On the roof. Kinda.”
Of course they were.
“Melia’s in the drainpipe.”
Of course she was.
Jackson piped up. “Aunt Lahi thought she heard a pixie. She couldn’t fit so she sent Melia in.”
Of course. “Was there a pixie?”
“It’s Jasper, but he’s not stuck,” Jackson replied with gusto. So certain. “But he can’t get out.”
Oh no. Ever since Kaho-chan had chomped on their little friend, Amelia had gotten bitey with him too. “Is he screaming?”
Livy and Jackson shook their heads in unison. Bad sign. Completely and utterly horrible sign.
When they found Lahi and Mindy, the two wayward babysitters were on the roof by one of the chimneys. It made sense. Lots of the pixies hibernated by them because of the heat. Nests dotted the roof everywhere. More than one sleepy-eyed pixie watched their group as Haru tried to contain their annoyance. They had one obviously distressed opossum squeaking frantically and a crying pixie whose wails reverberated up and down and through the gutters.
“Why would you send a three-and-a-half-year-old down a drainpipe?”
Lahi shrugged. “She fit.”
“Melia also likes to chomp on pixies right now.”
“She promised she wouldn’t.” Lahi frowned, then glanced down the pipe. “I couldn’t just leave him in there.”
“No, I know.”
“I really thought it was a quick drop in, pull out.”
Haru glanced over at Mindy, who waved her hands frantically. Lahi? Was a reasonable adult with periodic bad ideas. Mindy? Responsible to the core. Or she had been. They’d really expected better from her.
“I went inside to get some blankets,” she said. “I thought Jasper would need some warming up once Lahi got him out.”
No wonder. Also explained the wet blankets tossed into the hall through the window. Poor Mindy actually looked positively green around the edges. The pinched lines around her mouth only made her peregrine-type features more noticeable. The way her eyes focused on the pipe, how her head turned as she listened to the noises Amelia and Jasper made. Ten bucks said a part of her wanted to hunt the distressed pixie. The hawk part.
“Do we know how Jasper got stuck?” Haru asked slowly, working hard not to yell. They pictured the nice prawns Tally had flown in special for them.
“The pixies sometimes use the gutters and downspouts as quick transports to stay out of the wind. Probably got his wing caught.”
The sobs got louder, followed by some chirp-humming. Impressed that their little girl had learned how to make the noises, Haru almost wasn’t mad at the ridiculousness of the situation. Almost. The fury they’d felt climbing onto the roof had lessened, though. Scary how hearing one of their pups chitter made them calm down.
“It’s okay, Jasper,” Lahi called down the pipe. Several pixies crowded around the opening too. “We’ll get you out.” Then under her breath said, “Somehow. Amelia! Little girl, be gentle with him.”