been out in the night.

Buddy was right. This guy was not Cal’s type. So how come she couldn’t stop staring at him? She stood up a little straighter when he came closer.

“Hey, Ithiel.” she smiled easily at him and touched her heart with her right hand: the Xaran equivalent of a handshake. “I’m Cal and this is Buddy.”

Buddy tossed his head proudly, exhaling air sharply through his nose. Even by Xaran standards, he was a magnificent creature: black all over with electric blue stripes, like a zebra, except jagged. His short, zebra-like mane and longer tail were both black with blue streaks, matching his bright blue eyes. Harmless electricity crackled all over his body. On Xara, Buddy was a rare Dark Lightning aja; here, he was usually referred to as Cal’s ‘fancy horse’.

In contrast, Cal herself was unremarkable by Xaran standards but stuck out like a sore thumb here. Vibrant red hair was apparently not common with brown skin on Shaman, and bright red eyes were unheard of. More weirdly, fairies did not possess tails or claw-like nails. This had completely thrown Cal when she’d first arrived here and she still couldn’t fathom how fairies were supposed to climb without them.

She raised her eyebrows at Ithiel’s remark and subsequent expression, thrown for a second. It wasn’t the first time someone had hit on her at work – people seemed to have a thing for a girl in uniform – but Ithiel didn’t exactly beat around the bush. Buddy snorted. After a split second’s hesitation, Cal laughed and slapped Ithiel on the back.

“Woah there, mate, rein in your lightning.” She grinned. “Don’t start climbing ’til you’ve checked the branches and all that. Buy me a drink first, eh?”

Buddy’s ears flicked back. “We can’t drink, we’re on duty.” He pointed out – probably to Cal, although he was looking at Ithiel.

“Off duty in thirty minutes.” Cal reminded her familiar, stretching and cracking her knuckles. “Anything else I can help you with, mate?”



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