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Matching Fire - Book#3 (Paperback)

Matching Fire - Book#3 (Paperback)

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Regular price Sale price $14.99 USD
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Read the Synopsis

Their match is fated to spell their extinction. One shifter seeks death as their punishment.

Coal Hatch, a Wingai bird shifter, knows he’s breaking the rules when he visits the coffee shop in the mornings to see the girl operating a small bakery business within. He’s a week away from his eighteenth birthday when his wings will choose his match. He must marry, to further the line of Leads. It’s time to give her up, not fall more in love with a girl he can’t have—unless, he can convince his wings to choose her.

Ember Seed loves it when Coal says hi to her while she’s working in the coffee shop. She’s had a crush on him for years, but she knows she’s completely wrong for him. She’s hearing impaired, making her an outcast in a world of physically perfect shifters. To top it off, her doctor informed her she likely can’t have children—something Coal absolutely needs to ensure the Wingai’s survival. A match to her would kill the future of their race. Coal can be nothing more than a daydream.

Coal and Ember surprise themselves and the Wingai community when their secret crushes on each other become reality. Their wings have made them matches. While putting in the work to make a real relationship between them happen, word of Ember’s health issues break out. Panic ignites, starting a community effort to find solutions for Ember and save their future. One shifter is convinced Coal’s wings made the wrong choice for a mate. For dooming all Wingai with an unsuitable match, torture, and death is the only appropriate punishment.

Read Chapter One

COAL:

The cool night air bites into my cheeks as I soar over Douglas fir trees, the wind riffling through my inky-black feathers. I revel in the serenity nature provides, especially when the noise and brightness of the day give way to the slumbering silence of the night.

Mom flies just ahead of me, her silver tips catching the light of the moon. She’s flown through the forest nightly for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are begging to go with her. When I finally had enough energy to fly for longer than a trip around the house, she let me join her. Since then, these night flights have become our thing. We never miss them, no matter how tiring or stressful the day has been. It’s our time to relax and reconnect. And soon it will come to an end.

Mom looks over her shoulder at me, a silly grin on her face. “Hey, Coal, you normally fly circles around me! Don’t tell me you’re getting lazy.”

“Never!” A smile curves my lips as I pump my wings, gaining speed to match hers.

I catch a hint of concern in her features. “You’re never slow unless you’re mulling something over. What’s got your feathers in a twist?”

Mom makes it easy to be candid. She’s not quick to judge or offer reproach. Our relationship has more friendship in it than I think most mother-son relationships have. “Just thinking about the future is all. I’m a bit nervous about it.” My eighteenth birthday is only a week away. On that day, I’ll gain the ability to find my match.

Finding a mate is a big step for any Wingai. For most, the initial match quest is a quiet affair between only two families, with a party for the new couple shortly after the claiming event. I wish it were the case for me, but my status as future Lead over Soaring Heights and Mountain Hollow makes it impossible. Every Wingai will watch and wait with bated breath to see who my wings will choose for me. Normally, I don’t mind the attention, but this time it has me a little on edge. If something goes wrong, everyone will know it.

Mom doesn’t skip a beat. “I’d be worried if you weren’t nervous.” Coming in sight of the familiar rock outcropping at the end of our route, we curve right and turn back toward Soaring Heights. “What else is bothering you?”

“Do you think I’m ready?” I ask.

“Physically, yes,” she answers. “Mentally and emotionally is up to you. A match is a huge commitment. If you’re not willing to invest in a relationship, I don’t foresee it going well.”

I can’t argue with that. “Yeah.”

I’ve spent my whole life preparing for a match, down to the finishing touches on my nest. I also know my duty to the Wingai as a Tipped. It’s been drilled into me from birth. My gold-and-silver wings carry the power of recognition, which gives Common Wingai the ability to recognize and claim their matches. If they’re not recognized by a Tipped, their wings can’t give them a mate and they will be matchless and unable to have children. Our entire race will become extinct if I don’t claim a mate and have a Tipped child who recognizes future generations.

With my eighteenth birthday arriving in a week, reality hits me in the face. I question where my desires truly lie. How much do I really want a match? Am I going with the flow out of obligation or because I’ve seen what true love looks like in my parents and want that for myself? It’s time to decide. My chest constricts with the weight of my call.

Mom’s lips quirk up as we come into view of Soaring Heights. “You know, your father had a fight on his talons when he claimed me as his mate. The whole notion of matches completely freaked me out back then. I didn’t want a single thing to do with it—or him. His persistence in choosing to love me the way I needed him to ultimately won me over.”

“He wanted a good match.”

“And has always remained committed to that desire.”

We land in the driveway of our house. Mom turns to me and puts her hand on my arm. “As a Tipped, you’re aware of the obligations you have to the Wingai, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your life. I originally thought living here in Soaring Heights meant giving up my freedom and that I’d never find things here to enjoy like I had in McMinnville. I learned differently. I find my life as the match to your father, mother to you, and Lead of Mountain Hollow very fulfilling.” Her dark-blue eyes bore into mine. “Coal, your duty to Soaring Heights and Mountain Hollow is important, but don’t put it above your happiness. When you create a life with your match, make sure you include your hopes and dreams.”

I nod, a promise on my lips. “I will.”

“And don’t let anybody pressure you if you’re not ready,” she adds. “But don’t take too long, either, or you’ll have every Wingai up in your business.”

I chuckle. “Yes, Mom.”

She pulls me into her side, wrapping an arm around my waist. I wrap my bigger wings around hers as we make our way inside.

Dad stands by the stove, stirring what appears to be chocolate. A plate of strawberries sits beside him. “Hey, how was your flight?”

“Good.” I snatch a strawberry and pop it into my mouth.

Mom dashes over to Dad’s side, pressing a kiss to her lips. They’ve never been shy about their love for each other. While I haven’t particularly cared for their public displays of affection, it certainly warms me to see the strength of their match. Despite being nervous about my future with whoever my mate is, I desire a match like my parents have. I want to be just as happy.

Stepping back, Mom’s eyes flick to me. “I’m really going to miss my evening flights with Coal.”

Dad grins suggestively at her as he turns off the gas burner. “We can fix that. Let’s make another Coal for a flying partner.”

“Ugh. Gross,” I say.

Mom laughs at Dad. “Very funny.”

He shrugs, eyes wide in mock innocence. “What? This house is going to be so empty with Coal off with his match in their nest. I think it’s an excellent suggestion.”

Mom assesses him with eagle-like acuity. “You’re serious.”

He meets her gaze with a strong one of his own. “Yeah.”

The room grows more uncomfortable by the second. Time to jet. “Okay, guys, I do not need to be here for the rest of this conversation.” I snatch another strawberry, dip it in the melted chocolate, and hurry up to my room, eating the dessert along the way.

Kicking my shoes off, I sit on the edge of my bed. My eyes take in the room and all the boxes scattered around. My posters and pictures have been taken down, my drawers emptied. It doesn’t feel like my space anymore. Seven days from now, I’ll be living in my own nest with a match, married and sleeping next to her. I hope my wings choose someone good. I wrap my feathers around my chest, focusing my attention on them. Steer clear of the loud and obnoxious ones, please, I tell them.

A pair of laughing, ice-blue eyes framed by dark-red lashes dances through my mind. My desire rises. If my parents knew how often I thought of a particular Bronze-Tipped girl from Mountain Hollow, I’d be in so much trouble. Unmatched Wingai aren’t allowed to fixate on one person because falling in love with someone who doesn’t end up being your match can be catastrophic. It’s something my parents say to me all the time. They would know. When they were first matched and trying to build a relationship, a lovesick Wingai named Magenta tried to murder Mom and claim Dad for herself.

Reluctantly, I push the red-haired beauty from my mind. It’s time I let go of my thoughts of her and face the reality that the chances of my wings claiming her are too slim to hope on. She could never be mine.

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