Mate's Appeal

By: Robbie Cox

Eve Hartlow stared at the top of her beer bottle, frustration filling her at how she felt. She was tired of being helpless, of feeling like everyone in the world could take care of themselves except her. Even worse, she felt like she couldn’t help defend her friends, which was obvious when everyone went after Bane Kastner when he abducted Adira a few days ago. Everyone, that is, except her. The others could shift, transforming into their animals, and race off to kick the coyote’s ass, while Eve was stuck at Adira’s cabin watching them all run off to Adira’s rescue. Eve took a giant swallow from her beer, trying to drown out her helplessness.

“Not used to seeing you in here without your all-female posse,” Noel Hastings said as she set a fresh beer in front of Eve. “Of course, I haven’t seen you in here this early, either. You doing all right?” Noel leaned on the bistro table, her hands clasped together as she stared at Eve, ready to be a shoulder if needed. Eve wasn’t sure when Noel arrived in Bull Creek, but the woman fit right into their little community and gave Eve another human to share the paranormal world with her. While Bull Creek was made up of a diversity of people, from human to shifter to vampire and now a witch, thanks to the arrival of Adira Brennan, the human population was far outnumbered. The day Eve finally met Noel was a blessing, even though both ladies fit in well with everyone else.

Eve nodded, brushing a strand of her sandy-blond hair out of her eyes as she thanked Noel for the fresh beer. “Was just thinking how useless I was when everyone went to rescue Adira a couple of days back. There wasn’t much I could do against the coyote pack.” She glanced down at the brown bottle in her hand. “All I could do was stand on the front porch and watch as everyone else shifted and raced off to rescue Adira.” She sighed. “I’ve always been that helpless, and I hate it.”

Noel leaned to the side of the table, making a point of staring at the knife Eve always kept strapped to her waist. “You seem pretty prepared to me.”

Eve glanced to where the curvaceous blond looked, noticing the wooden handle of the knife she wore. The blade was a symbol more than a weapon, although Eve practiced throwing it every day. Shrugging, she turned back to Noel. “I got tired of being the only one in Bull Creek without fangs, even more so after Bane and his thugs tried to run us all out of town.”

Noel nodded, giving Eve a weak smile. “I can understand, trust me.” Eve watched Noel glance at the bar toward Wes, the owner of Everglades. “It’s exciting being around shifters and other paranormals, but it also holds its own dangers as well.” She turned back to Eve, her grin growing. “I think it’s worth it, though.” She winked before tapping the top of the table and walking back to the bar.

Eve watched as the other woman walked away, saw Wes turn to Noel and smile as she approached where he stood, wrapping an arm around her when she reached him and giving her a kiss on the forehead. Eve smiled around the top of the beer bottle as she took a sip, thinking how wonderful it was that Noel had found someone who made her happy. However, Wes and Noel never went further in their relationship, just like Josh and Alanna. Why they held off from taking the next step Eve had no idea, but she knew holding back had to be driving both of them crazy. The animal of a shifter drove them to mate once they scented their fated partner. To refuse usually sent the human portion half-mad with distractions. Eve took a long swallow of her beer. She was quite content not having any distraction at the moment. The last one had been…

A movement off to the side caught her attention, and she jerked her gaze to the front door just as someone with short, dark hair slipped outside. A shiver ran through her as a horrible memory flashed through her mind, but she shook it off. Nightmares were real, she knew, but she had shaken hers before. She doubted that particular nightmare would return. There was no way anyone could find her in Bull Creek.

Eve took another sip of her beer, the uneasy feeling that filled her still churning her stomach as she forced herself to look away from the front door. However, the feeling still nagged at her. Tossing some bills down on the table, she shoved her beer to the side and stood. She glanced back to the bar to wave at Noel, but the woman was still wrapped up in Wes and not paying any attention to anything else. Good thing I didn’t need another drink. Eve shook her head and started for the front door. Perhaps some fresh air would help calm her nerves.

Dusk was just beginning to blanket the area when Eve stepped out of Everglades and into the evening. Standing outside the rustic wooden door, she took a deep breath of air, filling her lungs in the hopes that it would clear her head. Life had been going well for her ever since she moved to Bull Creek, even though occasionally the nightmares of her past returned to give her the creeps. She was safe here, among these people, her new friends. Safer than she had ever been back home. She knew this, even though on occasion she had bouts of the jitters, which made her fearful. Those feelings came with running away, even if running away meant saving your life.