Cheryel was irritable. Flying a Celerian ship to work was a literal pain. Jarringly rough flights paired with that horrible whistling and roaring from the engine’s water drive was enough to give anyone a serious headache. Which actually might explain why Celerian’s were so dang irritating.
The jangle of the bell over the door only increased the throbbing in her head, as did the sight that walked in. The woman was tall, thin, shapely, and had light brown hair that hung to her waist in well-behaved waves. The potential customer stopped just inside the diner, looking around as if she wasn’t sure she wanted to be there.
Sighing, Cheryel tucked her jealousy into the pocket of her uniform and took her short, slightly-too-curvy body over to the indecisive woman. "May I help you?"
"This is a safe place, right? For everybody?"
It was then that Cheryel caught the slightly metallic odor coming from the woman and realized the reason for the hesitation. "Absolutely. The Otherworld Diner is a place where everyone is welcome. There’s a table over here." She leaned closer to the woman. "Don’t worry, the windows are coated. You won’t be harmed by the sunlight."
"How did you know?" The customer asked as she slid into the seat.
"I work here. After a while, you learn what to look for. My name’s Cheryel, by the way." She indicated her nametag.
"I’m Veronica." She looked into Cheryel’s eyes. "So you’ve met others like me?"
"Yeah. Not many, but we get some of just about every type of being in here."
"I’d heard about this place for years, but never well…"
Cheryel chuckled. "You had to get up the nerve. It’s okay. Believe me, I understand."
Veronica tipped her head to one side as she frowned. "You don’t seem quite human. But I’m at a loss as to what your genetic heritage might be."
Cheryel just smiled. "You’d be surprised. Now, can I get you a salad, maybe?"
"I’d like that. And some unsweetened tea."
"I’ll get right on it." she turned and headed toward the counter at the back of the diner.
Jody intercepted her there. "Would you believe there’s a shifter at table four? And he had the nerve to tell me I was weird."
"Shifter’s aren’t so strange."
Jody leaned closer. "He’s a human/human shifter."
Cheryel handed the order slip to the cook in the back before she turned back to her friend and coworker. "A what?"
"He shifts from male to female."
"That is odd."
"So, what is she?" Jody’s gaze moved briefly toward Veronica.
Jody’s eyes widened. "Are you serious?"
"Absolutely. I never joke about blood drinkers."
Jody swallowed hard. "Are you sure we’re safe."
"Yes. But then, vampires can cloud your judgment."
"Thanks. That makes me feel much better."
A howl came from table seven. "She bit me!"
"Oh great!" Jody said. "And it’s only twenty minutes until my shift ends.
To be continued…