Christmas Griffin - Zoe Chant

Chapter One


Delphine Belgrave was completely fucked.

At least, she hoped she was.

She squinted through the windscreen. She’d spent enough time in the States that driving on the right-hand side of the road wasn’t a problem, but there was barely enough road here to have a right-hand side. And it was pitch dark, threatening snow, in the middle of the mountains.

For the last two hours the GPS on her phone had assured her she was going in the right direction. Then she’d accidentally bumped it while reaching for her water bottle, and when she picked it up she realized with a sort of expectant horror that although the app had indeed been meticulously tracing her car’s progress along the winding mountain roads, the roads on the map were not the roads she was actually on.

Expectant horror, because the way this vacation was going, she’d been expecting something else to go wrong any minute.

“Oh, good,” she’d breathed, like she was worried about upsetting her phone’s feelings. She tapped at the screen, trying to reset the map, and discovered she had precisely zero signal. And zero GPS. Were those different things? That was the sort of question she’d usually Google, probably to pre-empt her boss saying something stupid, but her boss was thousands of miles away on a mindfulness retreat and she was here in the mountains on the family holiday from hell and she had to face facts.

She was lost.

Stuck in the mountains in the middle of the night, who knew how many miles away from the quaint tourist village of Pine Valley where her entire extended family was gathered to celebrate Christmas.

It was the best news she’d had all week.

Oh, it would cause some problems, certainly. But she hadn’t volunteered to go and find a liquor store in the neighboring county because she wanted to spend every holly jolly minute of the holiday with her family. Oh, sure, she would have to make up some story—perhaps she could say that traffic was so bad that she hadn’t been able to make it to the nearest city to pick up a bottle of her grandfather’s favorite port wine and back in the same day, and had stayed overnight.

She couldn’t tell the truth. If she told her family that she’d driven back into the mountains, port safely stowed in the back seat, and merely gotten lost, then they would wonder why she hadn’t simply shifted into her winged lion form and flown up to look for the glow of the town lights.

The answer was that she couldn’t.

Delphine Belgrave came from a long line of winged lion shifters. Her younger twin brothers were winged lions, her late father had been one, and his father before him, and the family history stretched back further than even her Aunt Grizelda could trace. All lions, all the time.

Except for her.

Delphine came from a long line of shifters and that was the phrase she used, usually, when someone asked. It dodged neatly around the fact that she wasn’t one herself, and she made sure never to put herself into a situation where she was expected to transform, or use telepathy, or display any of the other magical powers shifters had. Faster healing, better resilience and enhanced senses were all gifts of a family heritage she had entirely missed out on.

She’d become an expert at faking it over the years.

Now, not even her own family suspected she was a break in the Belgrave shifter family tree.

And she intended it to stay that way. Which was why she’d done everything she could to miss the most recent family get-togethers. Her job as PA to a self-centered, high-flying pegasus shifter was a great excuse. Family birthdays? She would have to video call in; Mr. Petrakis was attending a conference. Reunions? She wished she could, but she had to prep for an emergency meeting with key clients. Christmas? Such a shame, but Mr. P needed her to manage his schedule, and his accommodations, and make sure the fridges were stocked with the latest brand of sparkling water he’d become convinced would re-align his chakras, or whatever he was believing this week.

Technically, that last one hadn’t been a lie this year. Mr. Petrakis wasn’t in the mountain town of Pine Valley somewhere in the frozen bit of the United States… yet. He was much further south, in a desert, learning mindfulness. Or possibly doing a variety of drugs. The brochure for the retreat had been very unclear.

Which should have left Delphine with a precious week Copyright 2016 - 2023