Kira picked her way along the trail, reveling in the sensation of bare earth and leaf mould between her toes. She wished she could run, really run, but David was right behind her and she didn’t want to worry him unduly. The time for that was fast approaching.
It was on a night like this that she had thought today would never happen, the night she sat David down and said there was something she needed to tell him. If she wanted this relationship to last, she had to be honest.
“So, what’s the big secret?” he asked. “Are you actually a millionaire or something?”
“No. I have to show you something, and I don’t want you to get upset. But I think you probably will.”
He frowned, concern flowering in the laugh lines around his eyes.
“I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’m going to show you. And I need you to remember that I love you.”
He was looking worried now.
“Should I have a weapon or something? Am I going to need to defend myself?”
“No! Just… stay calm.”
She moved into the centre of the room, pushing the coffee table out the way. It would have been better to do this outside, but their garden was overlooked and the last thing she wanted was for a concerned neighbor to call the RSPCA.
She checked one last time to make sure that she was clear.
“I love you,” she said and he smiled. Then she shifted.
An instant later his chair was on its back and he was pressed against the far wall, gibbering with terror at the horn spiraling from her forehead. She took a step towards him, hooves clopping on the tiled floor and he cringed, throwing up his arms as if to ward her off. She shifted back but the bang of the front door and the overturned chair were the only indicators that he had ever been there.
For two days she poured out her heart in hot tears. On the third day she opened her eyes to brilliant sunlight and that night saw her galloping across open fields, at one with the wind rushing across her hide and through her mane.
Having come to terms with the fact that dating humans was a non-starter, she was surprised, to say the least, when David appeared on her doorstep, looking like a foal caught in mischief.
“Can I come in?” he asked and she could only stare at him. “Ok, we’ll do this out here. In public.”
She still didn’t move and he sighed.
“I am an idiot. The biggest fool in the world. I love you. All of you.”
“A week ago you couldn’t get out of here fast enough,” she pointed out, trying not to soften. Inter-species relationships just didn’t work…
“I know and I was wrong. I was just freaked out. Of all the things I thought you might want to tell me, that wasn’t one of them.”
She smiled in spite of herself.
“Please? Connor said I was…”
“You told Connor?” The door swung and he planted one of his snow shovel hands against it.
“No! I just had to talk to someone. I didn’t tell him the details! Just that you weren’t who I thought you were. And he asked if you’d actually changed, or if it was just that you’d done something I hadn’t expected. And then I realised what a prize prannock I’d been.”
The talk of visiting her family had been almost as unexpected as his appearance at her door.
“Hang on, you only just found out I’m a shapeshifting unicorn and now you want to visit an entire herd of them?”
“There’s a herd?”
“Of course there’s a herd. It’s… how we live.” She really didn’t want to get into unicorn societal dynamics right now. They were in bed, for gods’ sake! “Anyway. We’ll go this weekend.”
“And don’t pack a bag. We don’t wear clothes.”
“What’s taking you so long in there?” she called. “We’re visiting my parents, not the Queen.”
“Yeah, it’s your parents. They’re actually more important than the Queen. The Queen doesn’t care if you spend the rest of your life with me.”
Kira smiled as they reached the clearing. The herd was milling around and several foals were playing tag among the adults. Karrigan looked round as one of the youngsters ran into his hindquarters and his eyes fell on Kira. His smile was momentarily eclipsed as his gaze found David, but he recovered and whinnied, turning to canter towards them.
“Karrigan, one of my cousins. Be nice.”
Karrigan shifted mid-stride, running up to them buck naked and grinning. Kira shook her head. She didn’t have to look to know David was horrified.
Then there was a thundering of hooves and her father rocketed across the clearing to skid to a halt before them. He shifted and wrapped Kira up in his arms as if he would never let her go. Then he turned to David.
“So, this is your young man?”
They all turned and stared. A number of the herd had drawn closer and now they all shifted.
“What? What are you talking about? I’m here, aren’t I?”
Kira shook her head.
“Lift up your shirt.”
David’s face turned white as snowdrops.
“Because I asked. It’s a small thing, isn’t it?”
The battle showed on his face but she knew how it would end.
She shifted and ran her horn through his chest. He collapsed and she shifted back, human again before he hit the ground.
“Kira?” Her father sounded confused and she couldn’t blame him. She bent over the body.
“Remember how you taught me the smell of virgins’ hair?”
Now it was her father’s turn to go pale. She lifted David’s shirt to reveal a mass of rope wound round his torso.
“Now I have to go and see Connor. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Please don’t forget that voting continues through Saturday night on what happens after Part 1 of The Elemental Races!