A Nest for Eli (Alaskan Pebble Gifters #6) - Amy Bellows

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Maxim

Eli Warner is far more attractive in person.

When he ambles into the coffee shop, I’m prepared for his wide shoulders and strong jaw paired with his deep blue eyes. The photos from his ad were striking.

What the photos didn’t capture is the smooth confidence in his step, or the way he flashes a coy smile at the barista in greeting—as if flirting is as natural as breathing for him. I understand why all of the penguin shifters I spoke to said he was the most sought after hired fist in Anchorage.

If I were an omega penguin shifter, I’d want to open my legs for him too.

He walks over to my table with a cup of coffee. “Are you Maxim?”

I stand and hold out my hand. “Eli, right? It’s good to meet you.”

His handshake is firm—almost too much. My alpha father would approve. When I was growing up, my father wanted me to be an alpha much like Eli: confident, traditionally masculine, and a heart throb to the omegas in our area.

Maybe that’s why I’ve always felt attracted to men like Eli. He’s the guy I could never be.

I sit back down, and Eli follows suit. “I appreciate your help with this project.”

He takes a sip of his coffee. “Sure thing. If this app of yours takes off, it will be good for both of us, right?”

“Right.” I enjoy creating apps that bring people together for a specific purpose. I created an app that matched up dragon shifters who had unusual hoards with pawn shops that might be able to help them. I also created an app to match up eagle shifters, who construct enormous nests for their eggs, with construction companies who could use all of the extra lumber after the egg has hatched.

Shifters have odd behaviors, and with those behaviors come the need for connections.

For instance, connecting pregnant omega penguin shifters with a hired fist.

Most omegas penguin shifters are assisted through an egg-laying by their mates. But sometimes their mate dies, or they got pregnant by an alpha who isn’t their mate and doesn’t want to take responsibility for the egg. In those circumstances, the omega finds a “hired fist” to help them with the egg-laying process.

That’s Eli’s job.

“I’m surprised that there’s not already an app or a website for this. It’s a medical necessity,” I say.

He shrugs. “Laying an egg is sexual, and penguin shifters like to pretend sex doesn’t happen. That’s just the way it is.”

How would it feel to perform a job that your culture pretends doesn’t exist? I wish I could ask Eli how he got into this business, but that’s probably rude.

I should probably stick to the questions I wrote down in my notebook. I pull out the piece of paper I stole from the bulletin board at the back of the penguin shifter grocery store I shop at. Before I saw this ad, I didn’t know hired fists existed.

“There were a lot of words in your ad I didn’t understand. Maybe we could go over those first.”

Hired Fist Available for Tracked Egg Laying

Need an alpha to help you lay an egg? I provide safe and compassionate knot-induced egg passage. I have a sullied name and a connection with a wonderful adoption agency. Tracking and STI testing required. Must be 18 with ID.

“Even after Googling some of these words, I couldn’t figure out what they mean,” I admit.

He drags his hand through his thick dark hair. “Alright. You seem to know what a hired fist is, or we wouldn’t be here. So, let’s start with tracked egg laying. How do I explain this?” He leans forward, holding his coffee mug with both hands. “Gentoos have this habit of not telling the government about the existence of their kids until they become adults and need a social security card. I do a lot of work for the Gentoos. They don’t provide their kids with any sex education, so they end up with a lot of unwanted pregnancies. I’m basically letting them know that I expect the chick I deliver to have a birth certificate, and I will check up on them about it.”

That doesn’t surprise me. My family runs a jewelry shop during Pebble Gifting Season, and Gentoos are still relentless in their pursuit of fidelity necklaces.

“So… you want to make sure the chicks you deliver get medical treatment?”

Eli clenches his jaw. “I want to make sure the chicks I deliver stay alive. Some hired fists just deliver the egg and don’t care what happens to