Most dreams never actually come true. Like the real dreams. Riding a unicorn. Floating in space without a suit. Falling for a sexy vampire who will obliterate anyone who looks at you funny. Well, that last one’s not one of mine, but the other two… yeah.
The thing is, we all have loads of dreams that never come true. Have I ridden a unicorn? If the inflatable pool toys don’t count, then no. I’ve never been to space, either—shocker. But the biggest one? The one where I don’t have to be human?
It isn’t even that big of an ask. I am born to raven shifter kin. Sure my parents didn’t make the cut—missing that crucial something that makes us humans born to kin, hollow instead of whole, in their words—but… anyway, not that big an ask. For me at least.
Then Earth magic takes my dream and creates a reality I never actually dreamed for.
I can now shift across the veil like all my kin, and that part feels so good that I think I’m going to burst from the inside out.
But when I come back, when I’m standing on my paws, tail swishing to keep my balance, ears flicking to track the soft sounds of flight overhead, I still find myself wondering why.
At least a hundred times a day.
Why stripes instead of feathers? Is it something about me, or something I did or didn’t do… am I never going to belong anywhere, always trying my best to fit in?
Before, I had always wanted to fit in with my raven kin, and now that I’m a tiger, stuck here in CNA lands for my own good, I constantly feel out of place. I worry. About everything. About ravens overhead, food in my belly, the negotiations… I have this weird feeling in my gut about the ravens—Alpha especially—and I can’t seem to shake a sense of dread settling over my shoulders.
I’m still scared. It’s not the same kind of breathing-down-the-back-of-my-neck fear I felt after I first shifted, thankfully. This new fear is still hard to handle, though, and it feels like I don’t have anyone to talk to.
Bleak and oh so self-piteous, I know, but I haven’t been able to talk to Mom or Dad besides that three-minute window when they presented themselves before the CNA under Alpha’s eye. That is a memory I want to forget ASAP. I hated how they only hugged me with Alpha’s permission. I hated how they kept telling me to come home. And the worst, I hated how Alpha stared at me over their shoulders.
Ever since I shifted, Alpha makes my skin crawl. Ick.
Now that I’m here, even the people on my side kind of suck. Jason—
Yeah, so by now I call him by his first name because I’ve lost all respect for him but Chetna doesn’t like it when I use the ‘Golden Ass-Hat.’
—who’s the only one who could possibly understand isn’t doing a single freaking thing to keep the negotiations smooth or help me with all my new instincts, but shame on me for expecting anything different from him, right?
Your dads aren’t allowed to visit, even though they’d like to. Chetna’s nice and all, but she’s still a stranger to me. She’s probably a great lawyer—she’s got that spark that doesn’t quit even if she doesn’t get hot and bothered about anything—but no one in the CNA chamber lets her speak. On the few times they permit her to take the center, they don’t listen.
The only one who actually lets me vent is that driver who the CNA sent me with that first night after your dads dropped me off. Rohan M-something. He’s really nice, and I remember on that night he gave me his leftover bacon croissant from his lunch. I remember it tasted so good I could’ve believed in human heaven. I’m so glad Chetna asked if he could be assigned to my detail, but he’s busy a lot when I’m free and I’m never up early enough to catch him while he’s baking.
Love that he’s baking, though.
Really, what I need is you. I need you back home desperately.
But instead, I’m getting a legit bodyguard. I guess I’m not the only one who is freaked out by Alpha.
The details are murky, but Jason basically accused the ravens of directing a cyber-attack on his personal security systems. He had no evidence to present to the CNA to prove Alpha’s retaliating against him, but I think we all know if anyone’s grabbing Golden Ass’ tail, it’s my terrifying former Alpha who definitely blames Jason for me leaving raven lands.
Anyway, the tiger delegation and pretty much everyone on the council agrees that if Alpha’s willing to go after Jason, an extra set of unbiased eyes on me isn’t a bad thing.
I just hope that choosing a bodyguard Jason suggested doesn’t make Alpha angry enough to make that bodyguard worth it.
It wouldn’t have been my first choice, though, I’ll tell you that.