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Matching Feathers - Book#1 (Paperback)

Matching Feathers - Book#1 (Paperback)

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Read the Synopsis

Their match will save their race...one shifter is determined to stop them!

Azure Tallon, a Wingai bird shifter, can play a human to perfection. However, when it comes to her own race, she is hopeless. While she knows that others like her exist, she’s never met them. Her mother kept her isolated and held all knowledge of their race a secret. When freedom arrives, Azure plans to seek them out. She’s not looking to forge connections but to discover what’s normal for Wingai.

Cerulean Hatch has spent his life preparing for his match and is ready to start a family to further the line of Leads. After months of searching, his wings lead him to Azure and his hope soars until reality hits—she’s never heard of matches and, worse, wants nothing to do with him.

When Azure is kidnapped by Wingai guards, she learns the coloring of her wings puts her in a place of importance. She is the Lead they’ve been desperate for—a position she doesn’t want. Meanwhile, if Cerulean cannot convince Azure to embrace him and continue the line of Leads, they doom all Wingai to extinction. As they form a tentative attachment, they face a new threat. Someone wants Azure dead, and they’re willing to stake every Wingai life on seeing it through.

Matching Feathers is a shifter, paranormal fantasy perfect for YA readers.

Order your copy now and enjoy this fast-paced YA fantasy!

Read Chapter One

AZURE

My cobalt, silver-tipped wings flutter. Energy accumulates, radiating down to the feather tips. My heart pulses. Eyes closed, I roll onto my stomach and snuggle my lavender-scented pillow. The blood pounding in my ears nearly drowns out the classical music playing softly from my nightstand. Sleep eludes despite my earnest desire to catch it.

An irritated flush heats my body. I kick off my blanket and sit up, my wings twitching. The digital clock on my dresser flashes 1:00 a.m. I slip out of bed and go to the window, wincing at the creaking sound as I open it. A cool pine breeze flows in. My feathers stretch taut, reaching for the air as if deprived of oxygen. My fingernails elongate, shifting into sharply curved talons. What’s spurred them to come out?

My routine evening flight around my four-hundred-acre forested property usually takes care of the extra energy buildup my body produces. Did I not exercise my wings enough? My brow furrows. No, I remember being tired when I turned in. Maybe I’m sensing some sort of danger? Why else would my talons come out?

I stick my face out the window, allowing my senses to sharpen. Dark shapes morph into Douglas firs, ferns, huckleberry and blackberry bushes. They surround the meadow serving as our front lawn. A couple of bats swoop around catching bugs. A mockingbird sings a mating song from his perch. A raccoon jumps from our garbage can and scurries off into the trees. Debris litters the ground. Crap. I forgot to secure the lid when I took the trash out.

I draw back, having not seen, smelled, or heard anything out of the ordinary. I shut the window and rest my head against it. I close my eyes in frustration, wishing I knew another Wingai to ask about this restlessness. I certainly can’t talk to Josephina, my sweet, aging guardian. Besides the late hour, she’s human. She wouldn’t have any more of an idea than I would.

This is Mom’s fault, I think, feeling a touch of anger and regret. She fled from the Wingai community when she was pregnant with me. For fear of a slap across my cheek or worse, I wasn’t allowed to ask why.

My hands curl, talons pressing into my palms. A chill sweeps through my insides. It’s been three years since her death in a head-on collision with a deer. Sometimes it still stuns me that I can feel acute relief and bitterness simultaneously.

My eyes land on the slash-like scars my mother bestowed on my forearms. I’m glad she can’t hurt me during one of her mental breakdowns, but I despise how unprepared she left me. How am I supposed to know what’s normal and be myself surrounded by humans?

I step away from the window. Gritting my teeth, I force my nails to retract until they appear human. A stinging ache remains as I flip on the light and grab my school bag hanging on the doorknob. The rest I need before my last day of finals isn’t going to come. Might as well study instead.

I wake with a jolt, my phone alarm blaring in my ears. My English book slides off my chest as I sit up. I turn off the alarm and rub my eyes, surprised and grateful I managed to catch a bit of sleep.

Josephina stands at the stove stirring a pot of oatmeal when I enter the kitchen. “Good morning, Azure.” She gives me a weathered smile.

I wrap one arm around her shoulders and give her a light squeeze. “Morning, Josephina.” Because she’s eighty-four years old and has increasing stroke issues, I worry my time with her is limited. I try to show affection whenever I can, though it doesn’t come easy for me. The amount of love my mother showed me could be equated to a pea.

Josephina changed my perspective on love. Years ago on one of her flights, Mom got distracted and drifted onto the edge of our property, revealing herself to Josephina, whose land bordered ours. A somewhat stilted—on my mom’s part—friendship formed. About once a month Josephina would come to our door with a plate of brownies or cookies and chat for a few minutes. I lived for those days. Mom would put on a show of normalcy, and I would get a treat.

When the car crash happened, Josephina wasted no time asserting herself as my new guardian. Her sweet presence has been my saving grace. Through her, I learned what a healthy family relationship actually is.

I pour a cup of orange juice. Josephina brings two steaming bowls to the table. “You’re sitting awfully straight today. Something wrong with your wings?”

I nearly cried this morning when I hid them, leaving two tiny ridges near my shoulder blades. “Restless is all. I’m sure it’ll pass.” I don’t want to worry her.

Her brown eyes twinkle. “Last day of school excitement, I’d wager.”

I grin. “Probably,” I say, even though I don’t think it’s that at all. My wings now pulse inside my back in exact rhythm with my heart. They’ve never done that before. I inwardly sigh. Something is up—I just don’t know what.

I park at McMinnville High School a little past eight. Last day of high school. I take a deep breath and flex my fingers, keeping my talons under lockdown. I can do this, trouble with my body or not.

Bree, Ben, and Jack wait for me by the front of the school. Bree and Ben have been dating since homecoming. They’re physically mismatched with Bree short and curvy, and Ben, a whole foot taller and lanky thin. I laugh at Bree when she has to jump to kiss him.

Jack and I became good friends over watching our besties fall head over heels in love. He’s athletic and driven to become a major league baseball player. While I have no doubt he could get a girl if he wanted—his arm muscles are killer—he thinks romance will make him lose focus and ruin his career plans.

By accident, over Christmas break my friends discovered I’m Wingai. I had invited them over for a movie and game night, giving Bree the details to disperse. She misheard the time, and they showed up earlier than I expected, catching me with my wings out. To my surprise, they didn’t scream and run but demanded an explanation. Because I couldn’t erase their memories, I divulged what I knew about myself.

I kept my wings out and showed them my talons, similar to an eagle’s. I explained about my heightened eyesight, hearing, smell, and strength—twice that of a human. I told them about my extended life span and how I’d still appear young even when I turned fifty. Mom never gave me an exact timeline, but I gathered we lived about a hundred and fifty years over that of a human. I healed quicker—not instantaneously, but faster than a human. Also, I never seemed to catch the colds and viruses that circulated.

My friends then asked about what other kinds of supernatural beings are out there. “Mom once told me there five groups of shifters—people that can transform into an animal. Wingai, Bears, Wolves, Foxes, and Mountain Lions. I haven’t met any in real life, though.”

“What about vampires or witches?” Bree asked.

“I don’t think so, but you never know.” I shrugged, emphasizing my lack of knowledge of the paranormal world.

Like Josephina, they accepted me and promised to keep my identity a secret. Bree was mad that I hadn’t planned on ever telling them. But when posed with the question of how she thought the general public, or even the rest of our classmates, would react, her hurt lessened. “I’d totally be more freaked out if I hadn’t gotten to know you first,” she said.

Ben and Jack agreed.

Jack said, “We have enough problems with equality and race among humans. Throw in a bird-girl, and it’d be insane.”

Ben lifted his hands, making a frame. “I can easily picture you strapped to a table in some lab getting experimented on. Or maybe you’d belong to one of those traveling circuses.” He cleared his throat, putting on the air of an announcer. “Azure, the Wingai Wonder!”

The relief I felt then swamped me like a tidal wave. I nearly cried. Since finding out, our friendship has only strengthened. We’re a bona fide quartet. I love it.

Bree hands me a coffee cup. “Double chocolate, extra whipped cream.”

“You’re a lifesaver.” I take a small sip, savoring the chocolaty goodness.

She chuckles. “That’s what besties are for.”

Jack’s blue eyes survey me over the rim of his white cup. Lowering his drink, he says, “Bad night or something?”

“Is it that noticeable?” I ask.

Jack shrugs. “Just seem on edge is all.”

“It’s finals. We’re all stressed,” Ben says with a small laugh.

Bree grins, her smile infectious. “If it’s Mr. Piper’s test you’re all worried about, don’t be. He’s out for the morning with an emergency vet appointment for his dog. She got into something and started throwing up all over the place. So Mr. Piper won’t be able to pelt us with the hard questions. We’re getting Mrs. Vallence, and you know she doesn’t really care about academics. We’ll all get automatic passes.”

Bree’s father, Mr. Ashlander, rules McMinnville High as principal. Bree’s ability to produce reliable information on teachers and school events makes her a class favorite. How I gained the coveted spot of best friend is a pure mystery to me.

“What a relief,” Ben mutters. Jack nods.

The bell rings. I fall in step with my friends as we make our way inside. A boy brushes past in a cloud of Axe body spray. I cough through the acridness. “All those hours studying wasted. Too bad we can’t take them back.”

“I know, right?” Bree flicks her brown curls over her shoulder.

We hurry to math class down first hall. As I slide into my assigned seat, Mrs. Garrett stands. She launches into a speech about the merits of math in our future. “Math is an ally, and should remain with you as you go off into the world . . .”

Her voice is so monotone, I can’t help but tune her out. My gaze falls on the laminate desk in front of me. Pen and eraser smudges dot the table. In the upper right-hand corner, a heart with the letters R and L has been drawn in Sharpie. I’m slightly in awe that this will be the last time I sit here.

When Josephina became my guardian, I decided I’d had enough of hiding out at home. I hid my wings and talons until Josephina had faith in my control. Mom made me learn years ago to manage the discomfort until it didn’t bother me anymore. Later, I took evening flights to expel the energy I built up. Then I pleaded with Josephina to enroll me in public school.

She peppered me with questions, her worry charging through like a white knight. “What if someone finds out you’re Wingai? What if you lose control and your wings pop out?”

“They won’t. I promise.” I grabbed her hand, infusing my tone with patience.

“What are you going to say if someone pats your back? They’ll feel the ridges.” Josephina eyed my back with pursed lips.

“Old injury from the car accident,” I readily replied, hating to use the moment that took my mother’s life. Still, it provided a quick answer for my ridges. “Same for these scars.” I gestured to my arms.

“And your claws?” she asked, pointing to my hands.

“I’ve practiced,” I said calmly. “They won’t come out on their own.”

Josephina held her breath my entire sophomore year, but nothing significant happened. I made a few friends and settled into a routine—school, homework, and evening flights. Controlling my wings had become second nature, and my socializing skills had elevated.

A surge of energy brings me back to the present. I stiffen and press my back tight against the chair to keep my feathers in place. My fingertips sting. What the heck? Worry settles in. Why am I suddenly having all this trouble?

Bree nudges my arm. Her eyebrows raise in question. I flip open my notebook and scrawl a note. W. control. With a sympathetic expression, Bree hands me a piece of spearmint gum.

I duck into a bathroom between classes. The pulsing in my wings is now a constant thrum. My worry morphs into fear. I skirt past the junior exiting the handicap stall and yank the door shut, sliding the lock in place. I remove my shirt. My bra strap rests just below the ridges. I release my wings. Due to lack of space, the ends smush against the walls. Still, the relief is instant, like jumping into a pool on a scorching day. I exhale slowly, grateful for the reprieve.

A sudden gush of adrenaline crams into me. My wings flap vigorously, lifting me a foot off the ground. Full-blown panic erupts. No, not here!

“Where’s that noise coming from? Is there a bird in here?” I hear a girl ask.

I shove my fist into my mouth to keep from crying as I retract my wings. They ache something fierce. With trembling hands, I pull my shirt on.

Another girl speaks with exasperation. “You’re inhaling too much perfume.”

“Joey loves it,” the first girl defends.

I wait until I hear retreating footsteps before I exit and wash my hands. My reflection through the lipstick-smeared mirror shows flushed skin and anxiety-ridden blue eyes. I tighten my blonde ponytail, praying no one notices. I dart into English as the final bell rings, breathless from my speed walk.

During lunch, Bree, Ben, and Jack follow me to my cherry-red 1973 convertible Super Beetle, Lady Bug. Not exactly an original name, but it fits. For years Josephina let the bug lurk under a cover in her garage with eventual plans to fix it up. She gifted it to me on my sixteenth birthday, and I’ve spent the last two years refurbishing it.

“Oh my goodness, these seats are amazing.” Bree’s eyes are wide with delight as she runs her hands along my new addition.

“Josephina got a great deal off eBay.” I grin, careful not to annoy Bree with car talk. I’m extremely passionate about my bug and can easily get carried away.

I head to Dairy Queen for milkshakes—Jack’s pick. A warm breeze blows through my hair. My back itches like crazy. I squirm in my seat.

Ben notices. “Something up with your wings?”

I exhale my frustration. “They don’t want to stay put. I’ve been fighting them since last night. I have no idea why. I would’ve stayed home if it wasn’t finals. They’re seriously starting to freak me out.”

“Could you be getting sick or something?” Jack asks.

I shrug.

“I think it’s time you seriously consider going,” Bree says from the back seat.

Josephina has been pushing me to take a road trip to find other Wingai after graduation. We both believe Mom left out some pertinent details concerning the nature of my race. However, I’m not comfortable leaving Josephina alone for what could be a long wild goose chase. What happens if she has another stroke and no one’s there to help her? I can’t risk it.

Another round of energy surges through me. I may have to go after all. “Yeah, maybe,” I say as I park and cut the engine.

I reach for the door latch when an electric-blue convertible Porsche claims the parking spot beside mine. I pause, my attention shifting to appreciate the fine machinery. Had it been any other kind of sports car, I wouldn’t care, but Porsche and Volkswagen go hand in hand. I’d never trade my beetle—we are a package duo—but I saw no harm in looking.

Jack laughs. “Oh no, Azure’s hooked.”

“On the car or the hot driver?” Bree giggles.

“Seriously? I’m sitting right here,” Ben says with mild irritation.

My eyes snap to the owner, an embarrassed smile on my lips. Bright sea-green eyes framed by dark lashes meet mine. Pure fire races through my wings and into my heart. I slam my back into the seat to hold them in place.

I start the car again and back out. “Drive-through,” I choke through waves of fear.

“What’s wrong?” Bree, Jack, and Ben ask, their tone inflecting concern.

“I just about lost control!” I pull up to the intercom and make everybody order.

“Because of the Porsche guy?” Bree asks while I fork over the cash.

“I think so.” I glance in the rearview mirror at her, unsure. A giddy, lightheaded feeling overtakes my senses as I imagine showing my wings to the guy in the Porsche. I’m horrified. “All I know is that I looked at him and then my wings nearly exploded free.”

Bree gasps as a thought occurs to her. “Maybe he’s Wingai like you. We should meet him.”

“Bree! I nearly exposed myself in public!” I cry, my body trembling from the experience.

The drive-through window opens up. A lady hands me a tray of drinks and several bags. “Here you go.”

“Thanks.” I give everything to Jack to divvy out.

Rolling forward, I glance at the parking lot on my left. The Porsche hasn’t moved, nor has the driver. Sea-green eyes send a double jolt of unwanted fiery adrenaline. I punch the gas.

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