It was the wee hours of the morning, and the world was still dark. May maneuvered the streets of York with the help of some hastily scrawled directions written on the back of a paper napkin. As the city lights began to spring up around her, she had pulled into an all-night diner in hopes that someone inside knew how to find the Crow's Nest Garage. Luckily, a tow-truck driver with a greasy hat and friendly face was nursing a cup of black coffee in a booth and overheard May's question to an apologetic waitress.
"You need a tow?" he asked, looking hopeful.
"No, nothing like that," May replied, hands stuffed in her pockets as she rocked from one foot to the next. Being so close was making it difficult for her to stand still. "Just directions."
"Ah, that's a shame for me." The man pulled a pen out of his shirt pocket and yanked a clean napkin from the dispenser. "But I know the place. They won't be open at this hour but you'll be able to find 'em here."
He slid the napkin across the table, but when May went to reach for it, he drew it back.
"Why the Crow's Nest, if you don't mind me askin'? Lots of closer garages to choose from."
May did mind him asking, but she needed that address. Keeping her expression neutral, she gave what she hoped was a believably casual shrug. "I've heard good things."
The man studied her for a moment, the unspoken understanding that they both knew what kind of business the Crow's Nest was actually offering hanging between them.
"Sure you have," he said, giving up the napkin and easing back into the creaking vinyl of his booth seat. "Be careful out there, girl."
Mumbling a word of thanks, May snatched up the napkin and dashed back to the truck without looking back.
Now, she squinted at the directions in the dashboard lights. Her heart fluttered as she realized they were only two more turns from their destination. She glanced at Welkin. The Star was curled like a cat in the passenger seat, fast asleep beneath a sea of their own layers of robes and scarves. May smiled; they seemed to be adjusting to humanity fairly well all things considered. Dom rode out back in the bed of the truck, where he had spent the last couple of hours breathing fresh air in the company of his seedling.
May eased off the gas and made a left at Barnham. She leaned forward, watching the passing street signs flicker by in the dull yellow glow of street lamps. Just as she was beginning to worry she might have missed it, she saw what she was looking for.
Pender Street. She flicked on her right turn signal and made the turn. There it was, just a few lots down: the Crow's Nest Garage. As the tow-truck driver predicted, the building was dark. The bay doors were shuttered and the lighting above the old painted sign was dark.
But May knew better. She pulled the truck down a narrow drive between the building and the conveniently abandoned warehouse next door (owned in secret by one of Grant Parker's shell companies). Light from a single bulb reached the grimy second-level windows inside the garage. May wondered who would be acting as the sentry tonight and made a silent wish it would be anybody but Sid, the mechanic/henchman she once threatened with a pair of pliers.
Once the truck was in park and the ignition turned off, May gave Welkin's boney butt a light poke.
"We're here," she whispered when they stirred. The news woke them at once and together they slid from the cab where Dom was already waiting for them.
"How do we get in?" he asked. His hands were on his hips, his head craned back as if he were judging how challenging it would be to scale the building's wall.
May stepped up to a wide steel side-door, nearly invisible in the dark. A motion-activated light switched on overhead, revealing a security camera mounted next to the door frame.
"Easy." She knocked three times. "We ask."
The security camera was already locked on her. They heard the quiet whirring of the lens turning, zooming in on her face. She smiled up at it and gave a little wave.
"Hi," she said, giving a little wave. "I'm back."
Muffled footsteps could be heard through the door — running. Inside, a lock was disarmed and the heavy deadbolt scraped out of place. Neglected hinges complained as the door burst open. Standing in the threshold was a woman — thick bodied, with brown skin and a shaved head — looking torn between puzzled and delighted.
"Tiny!" she bellowed, grabbing May's hands and pulling her inside. Her strong arms enveloped her in a warm embrace.
"Hi Lety," May laughed. "I am so glad you're the one on duty tonight."
She wasn't just saying it to be trite. Lety was a shifter, a gifted mechanic, and the only member of Grant's team May really connected with during her stay. If there was anyone other May could have asked to greet them, it would have been her.
But the hug lingered, and in the moment, May felt a shift. It was in the way Lety held her – something about the shifter's hands pressed into her back and the way she breathed her in. May had always sensed that perhaps Lety's kindness might have been motivated by something more – something she saw flashing in her persistent gaze and perceived in her constant eagerness to help. It was the same thing May sensed now in Lety's embrace.
"What are you doing here?" Lety whispered. May was taken aback by the vulnerability in her voice, the slight ache of desire that stretched the words tight. The implication of the question was double-edged: the hope of one particular answer juxtaposed against so many other possibilities.
May tensed. Instinctively, in the pit of her stomach, she knew the moment she pulled away would be pivotal. She had two choices: turn her head to the right, away, or turn left. Turn to face Lety, leaving only a whisper between their lips, and see what the shifter would do.
Lety moved, retreating slowly; hesitant. She radiated hopeful anticipation.
And May sank back.
She took a breath...
...and turned her face.
* * * * * * * * * *
YOU ARE READING
The Fire and the Sky (Book 3 of the Starborn Series)Fantasy
Separated from her Starborn girlfriend, Em, and the rogue group of Wishes known as WIND, May Alana knows she can't go back to life she once knew. Now, armed with a family secret that could help put an end to the chaotic power of the ruthless Loyals...