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Page 35

Peacocks. They were good-looking in a human way, and they obviously didn’t realize that Andrea was a Shifter. With her jacket zipped high against the cold, her sunglasses hiding her eyes from the glare, she could pass for human. She wondered what these guys would think if they knew she’d been alive for forty years already. Forty for a Shifter was still very young, the equivalent of a human in her early twenties. Plenty ripe for mating. Sean at nearly a hundred was in his prime, his thirties as humans would measure things.

To her, these guys were still cubs. Older than Connor, yes, but not by much.

“Nice car,” one in the backseat called to her.

“Hey,” another said. “Want to go to Red’s with us?”

Andrea smiled sweetly. “Sorry, I’m meeting a friend.”

“Where? We’ll go there instead.”

Glory would eat these guys alive. “Do you know how to get to Bronco’s?”

The two in the back looked blank, but the guy in the front passenger seat became suddenly grim-faced. “You don’t want to go there. That’s a Shifter place.”

Andrea shrugged. “I’m curious.”

“You meeting your friend there?” Front-seat guy gave her a onceover. “What are you, a Shifter groupie?”

“Not hardly,” Andrea said.

“Those places are bad, girl. Y’all shouldn’t go.”

Andrea shrugged again. “Just tell me how to get back to Lamar?”

“Not from around here?” The young man patted the car as the light changed. “Follow us.”

Andrea let them pull ahead. If they led her back to the right street, fine. If they tried to get her lost, she’d drive away and call Kim for help. The day she couldn’t handle herself against four puny human males—unarmed—would be a bad day, indeed.

They were at least honest and took her back to Lamar. They signaled her to follow them north on it, and she pulled in behind them. A couple of turns later, and she found a small square building with a sign above its door that read “Bronco’s.”

Bronco’s was low-key, no beer signs in the windows, no advertising that this was a good place to get fine drinks. According to Andrea’s map, the bar was about a mile from the small Shiftertown that lay on the north edge of Austin. Like the bar where Liam worked, this one was probably human-owned but didn’t turn away Shifter clientele.

Andrea pulled into the tiny parking lot and the guys stopped their car behind her. Two got out with her.

“You really don’t want to go in there,” the one from the front seat said. He was tall and lanky with brown eyes that looked as though they could be intelligent and kind. “Shifters can be weird.”

No kidding. Two Shifters were talking to each other just outside the front door, Ursine from the look of them. They’d be able to scent that she was Shifter and that the young men weren’t. They’d also be aware of Andrea’s Fae scent. The Ursines’ Shifter hearing had picked up on the word weird, and they stopped talking.

“I need to look for someone in there,” Andrea told the young human man, aware of the Ursines’ gazes hard on her. “That’s all.”

“But this bar is really bad,” he said. “So I hear. Really. We’ll take you somewhere else. Somewhere nice.”

He seemed very distressed she wanted to go inside, which made Andrea all the more curious and determined. She smiled at him and approached the Ursines.

The two bear-men closed together, staring down at her from their nearly seven-foot height. Andrea had gotten used to Ronan, who was one of the nicest guys imaginable, but these two made her feel like a lost hiker approaching a pair of grizzlies.

Show no fear. They’d smell it on her, but she bravely removed her sunglasses and met their gazes. “I’m looking for Glory,” she said.

The two bears relaxed. One rolled his eyes, and the other grinned. “Yeah, she’s in there.”

Andrea gave them a warm smile. “Thank you.” She shoved her sunglasses back on and approached the door. The brown-eyed student caught the door handle.

“Really. Let’s go someplace else.” He looked anxious, terrified even.

“My friend is in there,” Andrea said. “I need to get her. Then we’ll go.” She’d drag Glory out by the hair and back home if she had to.

“I’m coming with you,” the young man said.

He was human; he could go wherever he wanted to. Andrea shrugged and let him open the door. Humanlike, he gestured for her to go first. Such a weird custom. Who knew what danger waited on the other side?

The noise and smell of the place hit her hard. Smoke, beer, and body odor, mostly Shifter body odor. Music and lots of voices. It was dark inside, incongruous with the white glare of the afternoon. Andrea tucked her sunglasses into her pocket and scanned the interior.

The bar where Liam worked was more like a family place. Cubs couldn’t enter until they reached the human age of twenty-one, but grown families congregated there to meet friends and other families. But no one would encourage mates and cubs to come here. These Shifters weren’t from one enclave—she could scent that. There were two Shiftertowns in Austin, Liam’s and the north Austin one. Another, smaller Shiftertown existed in back Hill Country, up toward Llano. Andrea didn’t know enough Shifters down here to place everyone, but living in communities, Shifters picked up the collective scent of that community. She smelled four or five distinct ones in here.

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