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BACHELOR IN PARADISE
The Rare and The Unknown Book 8
BY SHAI AUGUST
Lights. Camera. Deception. Disaster. Despair.
Xi Sing, the Asian Alpha of the Rare and the Unknown is suffocating under the role he’s played for the entirety of his adult life – perfect son.
For far too long, he’s allowed others to dictate his choices and lifestyle, but he refuses to allow them to dictate his choice of mate.
Behind the scenes of his season of The Shifter Bachelor, the pressure mounts as seemingly everyone points him toward the woman he least wants, but who makes the most politically expedient choice.
The lady he sees himself with may not be the best political match, but she is the best match for his heart. Can he convince her that love doesn’t have to be perfectly choreographed to work? Can he convince himself?
These Hazzard people didn’t let the grass grow on them, which was probably why they remained the number one network in the world. Corvanna and Hark’s interview special was taping later today and airing the next night, and here they were already planning his season of the show. A show that wouldn’t begin for months, if he had his way it would be never; but the Alpha had disabused him of the notion with a deep “No.” and the appearance of a white tipped lighting arc off his body. Ansel hadn’t even bothered to hear the salient points of his argument, before he shot the bolt of lightning at him.
He hated to bust the Hazzard staff’s bubble because he was going to be completely useless in planning and they all looked so eager. Persephone and her sisters sat next to one another looking like a living triptych. Across the table from them was the matchmaker Melba de Vane who for lack of a better phrase extinguished any hope that remained in him.
“Xi Sing.” Jersey Hazzard bowed slightly. “Welcome to your first production meeting. We’re excited to work with you and make your season the best of the Bachelor series so far. Marinna,” he indicated the producer with a head tilt, “will of course be running the show.”
“Thanks, Mr. Hazzard,” she told the lion with a smile, before turning to him. “Our first order of business will be location. We have your hometown listed as Beijing. Would you like to have the show there? Our location scouts have found some amazing venues.”
“Before we get too far into everything,” he interrupted, “we need to consult with a feng shui master to make sure this is an auspicious time for me to mate and if it isn’t then what can be done to negate the negative forces working against us.”
The room paused, struck silent. He was sure none of the other Alphas had made such demands, but the voices of his parent and grandparents were nattering in the back of his mind even if it made him seem like a prima donna.
After what felt like a pause of forever, Jersey and Marianna nodded silently to one another. “We’ll bring in a feng shui master to consult on location.”
“No, not just on location of the show. On the women and the start date…” He was interrupted by the appearance of Cheryl, Fetu, Ansel and Imani joining them. Cheryl glowed from the inside like a lighthouse, and he had a moment of regret that things didn’t work out between them.
Where in the world was he ever going to find a woman like her, and her animals who stoked the fire of the phoenix? Who carried herself through the world as confident and sure of themselves? Qualities that he didn’t know he’d need or want in a mate until they were exposed to each other longer than the length of a business meeting.
He continued, “And if I do meet a compatible woman, the most auspicious day for the proposal and wedding. All of those things will need to be considered and calculated. I don’t understand the intricacies of the numerology and astrology and other factors, but I know my grandparents followed them and have been married well over a century. In fact, next year they will be married over one hundred and fifty years. My parents didn’t follow the conventions of feng shui and my mother died in childbirth when I was a child of six.”
At his bombshell, the discussion revved up, while he drifted off into his head thinking of the day his mother died and his sister lived.
Life and death were never far away from his thoughts, with the way he secretly worked to tear down the communist party. If he was ever caught, public execution would be the least of his worries. A Communist Party witch would strip him of his animal, taking the fire and the healing property of his animal before they tortured him to within in an inch of his life.
He heard them talking about the show as background noise, but without a consultation he wouldn’t be made to go forward.
More memories of Xi Meng’s birth surfaced with the angry and disappointed look on his grandfather’s face danced through his head. His mother’s body sliced open on the floor, with small fires smoldering nearby. The worst memory of all was that of Xi Meng’s tiny claws reaching up to pull herself out of the empty shell of their mother’s body. Her little chirps and clicks as she looked around, confused and unsure of who she should attach to was enough to keep him following the path of feng shui religiously.
Why inflict trauma and pain on those around him if as his grandmother fervently believed the universe provided a blueprint that would stop much or all of that unnecessary drama?
He spent another hour answering silly questions the Hazzard staff threw at him. “What did his future mate look like?”
“Beautiful?” He refrained from the automatic ‘duh’ at the end.
His eyes strayed to Cheryl’s midnight skin, before her he would have said only Asian women. Now, his mind was wide open to the possibilities. Beside her Fetu was carving little pieces of fruit, feeding them to her one at a time. A pang of jealousy shot through him; he wanted to be a loving husband and future father, using his own hands to care for his mate not depending on servants to do it. “Any race is fine.”
“Any shifter animal?”
That question gave him pause, his grandmother would demand women who were fire elementals to keep the fire in the bloodline, but the only woman who’d ever turned his and the phoenix’s head before wasn’t full of fire. She was fresh water and lightning, with little nips of ozone.
“Any shifter animal,” he answered, watching Fetu place a star shaped piece of fruit on Cheryl’s waiting tongue. They smiled at one another with twin raises of their lips and brows. No words were exchanged between them, but you could tell they were speaking in a language that was only for them.
More jealousy squeezed his chest like his grandmother’s claws, digging furrows of want into his psyche.
Shai August is a country girl with a big imagination, more than a touch of wanderlust and a never-ending desire to live in both an RV traveling the world and a library. Her love language is words of affirmations followed by books, bacon and bourbon.
She’s a born and bred Louisiana native, but has lived in ten states and visited forty-two. She is fluent in English, sarcasm and memes. Her goal is to write fast paced, character driven paranormal fiction featuring women of color.
Links to Shai’s website, blog, books, etc.
Author of Lust, Love & Adventure filled paranormal romances
Three Fortnights Press
Take a moment to read The Bachelor Series
Shai is also the co-editor of the Shifted into Love Anthologies – Hotel California