Caleb's Mate - Becca Jameson Page 0,1

another starving journalist. In fact, if she didn’t hurry up and get out the door, she would be late for her side job at the local department store. Fake smiling at people when they couldn’t find the size they needed in men’s jeans wasn’t her dream job by any stretch of the imagination, but she needed every dime she made to afford the rent.

“I don’t think we have a choice. It says we have to be physically present…” Her voice trailed off as if she were reading the letter again. Elena was too.

Shit. Shit shit shit.

How was she even going to afford the plane ticket? She closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead. If the property was truly worth something, perhaps they would get enough money out of it to retroactively pay for the time off work.

If she put the plane ticket on her credit card… She cringed. She hated using that card. All it did was rack up more and more debt. She never managed to pay more than the minimum.

There was another problem too. She might lose her job entirely if she told her boss she needed a week off work. And what if a week wasn’t long enough? How long did it take to sell a property?

Elena leaned back in her rickety chair, which matched her scratched up second-hand table, and stared at the dirty ceiling covered in damp circles from some unknown slow leak from the floor above her. She thought about who this Great Aunt Marge was. “Grandma grumbled about her sister meeting a man and staying in Canyon Springs every chance she got. I never fully understood why she held a grudge for the rest of her life.”

“Yeah, I used to think Grandma Mabel was jealous of her sister or something for finding love so easily, but eventually I realized Mabel met Grandpa George and got married within months, so that wasn’t reasonable. It wasn’t like Grandpa was a consolation prize. She loved him so much she never really got over losing him ten years ago. And he adored her. Hell, he put up with her rambling about Marge without a word every time it came up. I often wondered if he ever once suggested she lose the grudge and call Marge.”

Elena sighed at the memory. “Right? Maybe there were times before we were even born that he tried to get her to call or visit, and by the time we came into the picture, he’d given up trying.”

Layla sighed. “Could be.”

Elena inhaled deeply, feeling all the sorrow of that situation wash through her. “It was so complicated. Sad really. I don’t think Grandma ever fully realized how judgmental she was being. She couldn’t stand the thought that her sister married a shifter.”

“I agree. I guess it might have made more sense in the mid sixties when Marge got married, but you’d think fifty years later, Grandma would have joined the twenty-first century at some point. Black. Brown. White. Gay. Straight. Bi. Shifter. Whatever… Who cares these days?”

“Yeah,” Elena responded. “It was more than that though. Grandma wasn’t just pissed at Marge for staying in Canyon Springs and marrying a local. She truly believed some mumbo jumbo about people getting lured in by shifters and unable to escape. She was furious with Marge for ever stopping in Canyon Springs and taking a chance in the first place. I think she said Aunt Marge stopped there to fill up her tank with gas.”

“True. As if shifters have some superpowers that make it possible for them to take over our brains and convince us we belong to them.”

Elena couldn’t help but giggle at that comment, and she was usually the serious one of the two of them. Their grandmother’s beliefs had been so preposterous that it was hard to take her seriously.

Perhaps Elena should feel more sorrowful at the loss of their last surviving relative. But they’d never even met Marge, so it was hard to feel the loss. “Lordy. Any time she even suspected a shifter left Canyon Springs and came to our town, she would get all up in arms. She wouldn’t even leave the house. Like they could cast a spell on her or something.” Hyde Park was only a three-hour drive from Canyon Springs.

Talking to Layla felt good even though the subject was depressing. Elena hadn’t come up for air to enjoy life at all lately. In fact, she hardly recognized herself. Her usual carefree personality had gone into hiding, replaced by