Currently viewing the category: "Series: Protect and Serve"

Dire's Strait by Mikala Ash

Dire’s Strait

Protect and Serve (multi-author series)
by Mikala Ash

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 06293-02022

One has to be careful when in love with a cannibal. One must time liaisons with care. Meeting after a meal is recommended, never before.

Agent Dire of the Paranormal Defense Department is in such a predicament. His relationship with Max Detroit, a Frenchman with an appetite, is problematic at best. For to Max, fine dining and love are two sides of the same coin, the distinction between them often hard to judge, much like good and evil.

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Prologue

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Mistletoe and Whine by Sharon Maria Bidwell

Mistletoe and Whine
Protect and Serve (multi-author series)
by Sharon Maria Bidwell

Changeling Press

eBook BIN: 06061-01945

Bobby, Chantelle, and Sam’s lives have changed. Bobby is now a rural cop while Chantelle and Sam run the Hare and Hounds Pub and Restaurant. Their new situation would be idyllic if the only blight was Health and Safety insisting they cannot decorate with real mistletoe for the holidays.

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Chapter One

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Speed Demon by Cynthia Sax

Speed Demon
Protect and Serve (multi-author series)
by Cynthia Sax

Changeling Press

eBook BIN: 06037-01937

My name is Officer Sargent, Sarge to friends and fellow police officers. You might have heard some rumors about me, but they’re all lies. I’m not gay. I’m not. The reason I watch my partner’s back is because that’s what cops do; we watch out for each other. It has nothing to do with his broad shoulders or trim hips or shapely butt.

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Chapter One
Sarge’s Blog

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Realm of Night by Mikala Ash

Realm of Night
Protect and Serve (multi-author series)
by Mikala Ash

Changeling Press

eBook BIN: 06000-01925

I go by the name of Lili Tu, and I amuse myself owning Club C, a BDSM club for vampires and werewolves. I’m an elemental, a force of nature, and Detective Michael Munroe won my jaded heart the moment I met him.

Problem is he suspects me of murdering shape shifters. I could force him to love me, I have the power, but what is the value of that?

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Chapter One

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Hoofin' It to the Altar by Silvia Violet

Hoofin’ It to the Altar
Protect and Serve (multi-author series)
by Silvia Violet

Changeling Press

eBook BIN: 05896-01891

As Jason and Drew fend off well-meaning friends and family, a far more serious problem threatens their union. A vampire killer is on the loose. Can Drew stop the killer in time for “Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today…” to start his wedding instead of his funeral?

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Chapter One

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Endless Night by Mikala Ash

Endless Night
Protect and Serve (multi-author series)
by Mikala Ash

Changeling Press

eBook BIN: 05817-01865

My name is Ciara Callaghan. I’m a cop. These things I believed to be true: I loved my partner, Detective Malcolm Blake. Three years ago he was incinerated. Was it my fault? Everyone thinks so, and so do I. Everyone has secrets. Mine is — I’m a shapeshifter. Everyone lies — especially those who say they love me. Demons exist — and they can be found where you least expect them.

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Prologue

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Shifting Heat
Protect and Serve (multi-author series)
by Cassidy McKay

Changeling Press

eBook BIN: 05736-01838

So what’s a traditional unicorn to do when the woman he’s falling for isn’t a virgin, doesn’t need protection and is hotter in bed than any sane man can resist?

Chapter One

“Commander, we have a call in Birkdale County. Local police need assistance in pursuit of a theft suspect going into the Rogue district. The heli crew is standing by for your orders.”
“Fine. Load ‘em up, Tank. And don’t think I didn’t notice you ducking out on me earlier, you chicken.”
His deep, rumbled laughter rolls out like an old steam locomotive. “I know what happens when you drink that fake stuff, Boss. I’m a lot smarter than the zombie you kicked the mold out of the last time we ran out of java.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. We follow regulations around here, remember?” The good stuff — with real caffeine and real sugar — is only available in certain questionable markets now. Some research group a few years ago said sugar and caffeine caused aggression, so the PTB outlawed it. Idiots.
I got hooked on the real thing when I was a street cop.
“Sure, Boss. By the way, your ‘office supplies’ will be delivered by courier tomorrow morning, so if you can make it through the day without killing anyone, we’ll be doing well.” My second’s sense of humor is surpassed only by his penchant for playing practical jokes. Never mind that he’s just a few inches shy of seven feet tall and as broad as a barn — that man is nothing but a naughty little boy on steroids with a fondness for guns, girls, and fighting. Still, we work well together and we’re friends.
I shoot a glare his direction as we run down the corridor to the ‘vator that takes us to the helipad on the roof. “Have you forgotten who’s in charge of this little circus?”
“Not for a second, Commander Monroe. Your chariot awaits.” He gestures to the retired army-issue heli before us that’s filled with my crew. I nod to the two other men of my team bristling with weapons, and take my seat, put on my headphones and hold on to the handle as we ascend, heading for the city.
The last time I was here, all hell broke loose. Okay, that happens all the time, especially when I’m around, but that’s my job. It’s what I do, and I’m good at it. When the shit hits the fan, they call my team in to clean it up.
I’m Commander Kenna Monroe, and we’re part of the Emergency Response Unit. In the old “techie” days before the Urban Shift, they used to call people like us out for natural disasters and the like. Now, those things are pushed to the back burner — we have deadlier things to worry about than Mother Nature.
I used to be a cop, and a damned good one, too. Until I messed up and fell in love and in bed with my partner. I’ve learned a lot since then. I don’t make my bed where I work, and I keep my feelings locked up. Sex is a release, nothing more.
Now I make my own rules, run my own team, and I get to kick ass and take names later. I even rescue people once in a while, though I’m usually sent after the kind of criminals the local cops either can’t or won’t contain. So long as I get them off the streets, my superiors don’t really care whether I bring them in dead or alive. Dead is usually easier — they don’t talk back as much that way. Unless they’re some sort of undead. But heroism runs in my genes, so I try to keep most of them breathing.
Unless they piss me off.
As the thumping of the rotors pound staccato hammers into my head, I pray for my “office supplies” to come a little early. Lord knows the caffeine would be welcome.
* * *
Might as well hang a flashing neon sign on my forehead reading “Rob Hunter — Overprotective Unicorn for Hire.” I’m a sucker for a hard luck story, so when my best friend and sometimes partner Griff Monroe called and said his little sister needed help, I came running. I’m a unicorn shifter, and helping maidens in distress is what I do.
My family has been in the protection business since virgins were invented. I’m sure you’ve probably heard all the jokes about unicorns and their horns. I’ll admit I do like the ladies. But not when I’m on the job, and certainly not anyone I’m protecting. It’s all in good fun, at least until I find that one special virgin to take as a mate. Sure it sounds sappy and romantic, but it happens to most unicorns eventually. It’s in the job description, at least in my book.
Griff didn’t give me much background on what happened with his sister, other than she’d been injured and needed someone to help out while she recovered. While I’m not normally the babysitting type, it’s been a rough year. I’ve been living on adrenaline and caffeine more often than not, and the R&R I’ll get while Griff’s little sis recovers is more than welcome. I know he’d do it himself if he could. I have some time off I need to burn, anyway.
I work for the government, part of a not-so-secret agency called the Paranormal Action Committee. We make sure that paranormal rights are upheld. PAC has been in existence since the Urban Shift, when humans abandoned the crime-ridden cities for more rural areas, and paras came out of the closet and into the limelight. Rogues on both sides took over the cities, and we’ve been fighting to get them back ever since. That’s why I have a job. I’m one of the good guys.
The automatic doors of the hospital entrance slide open before me, sucking the moist air inside the hospital like a frantic grasp for vitality. The scent of disinfectant quickly overshadows the stink of despair, but I can still sense it in the shadows, waiting to pounce. I push it to the back of my mind and look for Kenna’s room number. Griff is supposed to meet me here and smooth the transition, since I haven’t seen her for years.
Last time I saw Griff’s sister was before he and I went into the army. She was in high school then. Stick-thin, shy, and kept to herself. I have to grin when I think of how much we used to harass her. She followed us everywhere when we were growing up. Kenna was a pretty good kid, but man, did she have a temper! She got a raw deal over not being able to shift, though she was easy to set off no matter what the reason. Half phoenix, half human, her shifter magic was more likely to sputter than spark.
While Griff and I weren’t the only ones who teased her about it, we were probably the worst. He’s half-human, too — but the other half is gryphon. They have the same mom, but different dads.
I stride down the hallway, looking for room 212. The signs posted on the stark white walls point to the left and I skid to a stop when a nurse pushing a gurney blocks the hall in front of the elevator.
“Sorry.” The nurse looks tired, overworked and annoyed. She shrugs, motioning toward the closed door of the elevator with a nod. “Damned elevator takes forever.”
“It’s okay. I’m not in a hurry. There’s always time to talk with a beautiful woman.” I wink and she fights back a smile as we pass the time waiting for the elevator to descend.
Griff’s voice sounds from a room about halfway down the corridor. They’re arguing, as usual. Some things never change. “You scared us, squirt. I had to call in a lot of markers to find out you were here.”
“I’m fine, Griff.”
“You’re going to need someone with you, Kenna. At least until you get on your feet again. You know that, right?”
Their voices lower even further and the nurse smiles at me when the elevator chimes. I wait until she’s safely inside before I continue. I don’t want to be rude, after all.
Griff turns as I enter the room, his finger in front of his mouth. Great. Apparently he hasn’t told her. He always did like to tweak her nose.
Kenna is sitting up in the hospital bed, a bandage over her eyes. For some reason, I still expect to see the skinny tomboy who had a schoolgirl crush on me. Damned if she hasn’t grown up into a little hot-pocket of a Venus. She has the same short red hair, but that’s where the resemblance to the waif I’d known ended. She’s always been cute, but who’d have thought she’d turn out like this? My cock stirs as I look her over.
Down, boy!
Griff shakes my hand and I force my mind back to business. That’s all this is, paying an old friend back. I need to think of her as just another job, and completely off limits.
“I won’t go back with the parents, Griff.” Kenna’s voice threads out like she’s reaching the end of her patience. Weird how I remember that telltale sign of her temper about to explode. Her fists clench the sheet, pulling it taut across her lap, her face flushing brightly.
“Kenna, you might want to calm down a bit. Your hair is smoking.” Griff’s laughing voice stops her just when I think the sheet is going to give up the fight and tear under the abuse.
“Damn you, Griff! You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” I watch as she calms her breathing. The heat in her face and the tension in her body relax, and the light wisp of smoke dissipates. I’m impressed. She’s gotten much better at controlling herself.
“No, but it’s fun to make your hair smoke again. I haven’t seen you do that since we were kids. Speaking of old times, I brought someone in to help you for the next week or so. I don’t want to hear any arguments.”
I clear my throat to let her know I’m in the room.
“Who’s with you? What did you do, Griff?” She sounds frightened. Why would having someone help her do that? My protective instincts jump straight into my throat, choking me with sudden, unexpected feelings.
“You remember Rob Hunter, don’t you?”
“Oh, Griff, you didn’t…”
* * *
God, tell me this is a bad dream! I feel my temperature start to rise again. My beloved brother couldn’t have done this to me. Anything… anyone else. Just not him.
“Hey, Kenna. Remember me?”
Do I remember Rob Hunter? Oh, hell yes. First crush, first kiss, first heartbreak. First test of the strength I’d have to rely on to get me through the rest of my life. “Of course I remember you. You and Griff used to try and set my ponytail on fire by pissing me off.” I swallow hard and blood rushes to my face in a flood of heat. I’ve always hated my fair skin, even more so now when I want to hide my reaction.
“Looks like it’s still pretty easy to do.”
His voice sounds almost the same as it did the last time I saw him. It’s deep and rough, although now it has an edge to it. Maturity added wonderful, sexy undertones that I could happily listen to all night long. But that would have been the other me — the innocent, shy me who thought he hung the moon when I was a kid. I’ve since buried that girl and her idealism beneath years of experience. “Thanks for coming, Rob. Really, thanks. But Griff was mistaken. I don’t need a babysitter.”
Griff sits on the bed next to me. “I have a bad feeling about this, Squirt. I asked Rob to come in because he’s the best at what he does, and he’s the only one I trust enough to take care of you when I can’t. I think there’s more to your last case than you know. Rogues don’t usually carry grenades.”
“Grenades? I thought you said she was hurt in an accident, Griff.” Rob sounds really angry, and I know that doesn’t happen often.
“It was just a theft gone wrong, you guys. Some local cops got hurt, and my team was called in. There’s no reason for the PAC to be involved.” I rub at the bandage covering my eyes, wishing I could see what’s going on around me. I’m better at reading faces and body language than interpreting voices. My pain meds finally start to kick in and I scoot down in the bed with a yawn. “I’m getting kind of tired. Can we talk about this some other time? Like next year, maybe?”
“Kenna, you could be in serious danger.”
“So the perp set off a grenade when I ran through the door after him, big deal. That makes him a criminal, but doesn’t put him on the PAC’s most wanted list.” Their voices fade into a drone as my next yawn carries me off into la-la land. I just pull the sheet up around my ears and follow the pretty green fairy into a drug-induced oblivion.

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Shifting Focus
Protect and Serve (multi-author series)
by Cassidy McKay

Changeling Press

eBook BIN: 05613-01798

When the race to catch the killer rivals their race to the nearest bedroom, shifting focus could be their only hope of survival… if she doesn’t kill him first.

Chapter One

Aren’t government agents supposed to be punctual? I checked my watch again and tapped it, just in case it had stopped. The minute hand kept moving just like it was supposed to. OK, so patience wasn’t one of my strong points. I’m a lion shifter, and for lions, there’s no waiting, no lines, and no annoyance. They took what they wanted, when they wanted it.
As a rule, I don’t run around as a lioness. Nobody knew about my furry side, and I preferred it that way. I’m a firefighter/EMT for a rural department outside San Francisco, and my usual patients might get upset if a lion worked on them. Besides, terror tends to raise the heart rate to an unacceptable level. My job is to save lives, not scare people to death.
In human form, I’m subject to the same time constraints as everyone else. That doesn’t mean I liked waiting. Right now I just wanted to get out of here. I glared at the stairs for the umpteenth time. I kept looking for the man I was supposed to meet, but the escalator was empty. Nope, still no agents coming down from the upper level of the airport, all in black, all in line, all carbon copies of your typical nondescript businessman.
But holy hell on a stick, the delicious piece of hotness I observed coming down the escalator, I’d take him any day of the week… repeatedly. A rumble of satisfaction rolled through me as he approached. The black T-shirt pulled taut over his broad chest revealed tanned arms defined with solid muscle. His thighs filled out a pair of black jeans something fierce, bracketing a package that looked like it was made for sex. He had that confident “I can kick your ass” kind of sexiness that made me hotter than a five-alarm fire.
I swallowed hard as he looked up, obviously searching for someone. God, I wish it were me. His dark hair had a slight wave, a little long at the collar. Just long enough to grab a couple of handfuls and pull him deep between my thighs as I came.
Focusing on his face, the details became clearer as he approached. A five-o-clock shadow brushed his jaw, even though it was just after lunch. He had strong, masculine features and light-colored eyes that were striking against his tanned skin. But they weren’t for me. He moved off the stairs, headed toward the coffee shop.
My deep sigh woke the man slumped next to me on the chairs. I was here to pick up some kind of special agent sent to investigate a murder I responded to on my job. While I’m a good EMT, the victim had died before we were called out. I’d seen some pretty nasty stuff since I joined the department, but that call was seriously… twisted.
Maybe he’d caught a later flight. Whatever — it wasn’t my business. I’d already done my civic duty by coming down here. There was a hot bath, a frosty beer and a vibrator with my name on it waiting for me at home, though not necessarily in that order.
“Sophia?” The dark, sinful voice that caressed my name had nothing to do with government, and everything to do with hauling me into bed. I turned to find a black T-shirt in my face. I followed it up and up. Mr. Tall, Muscled and Dangerous stared down at me with a twinkle in his blue eyes. My heart raced a little faster as the dimple in his cheek appeared along with a grin more appropriate for a bedroom than an airport. “Well?”
“Well, what?” Will I go to bed with you? Yes. Will I devour your gorgeous body in half a second? Yes. Will I play slippery-slide on your cock? Oh, hell yes!
“Are you Sophia Lorello?” He sounded a little exasperated and I resolutely pulled my mind out of the gutter. At least for a minute. Oh, Lord, I think I’m about to have a serious case of the sluts. Right here, right now. “Yes. Are you Agent…”
“Griff.” He grabbed me by the upper arms and hauled me into his embrace like a long lost lover. Intensity burned from his gaze as he dipped his head toward me, inhaled and closed his eyes for a moment, as if I exuded the most mouth watering scent he’d ever smelled.
My breath caught as he kissed me, his lips firm and warm. The sultry scratch of his beard chafed my face in a way that made all of my nerve endings stand up and take notice. Twice. Every inch of my body came alive as he moved closer — his hard to my soft — and he molded to my frame like hot fudge melting over a frosty bowl of ice cream.
The tip of his tongue teased the separation of my lips, asking, not demanding entrance. The intriguing contrast of gentleness against his obvious strength got past my defenses. Maybe I’ll have just a little more.
A shiver of anticipation ran up my spine, piquing my interest and flat-out drenching my panties with cream. Did I wonder why he was kissing me? Well, sure, but the unexpectedness of it all intrigued me. Yeah, I know, curiosity killed the cat, but let’s face it, it had been awhile since I had a good rumble in the sheets, and this kitty needed petting in a real bad way.
His hand on my lower back caressed bare skin where my shirt had rumpled up. I squirmed at the contact, and the aching rush of awareness flushed my good sense to somewhere south of Who-The-Fuck-Cares. With a growl of desire, I opened to him, wrapping my arms around his neck when he deepened the kiss.
“Ahem.”
The sound barely registered on my radar as I savored his mouth on mine. His taste was delectable, all hard, dark and marshmallow toasty deliciousness. Heat threaded through my veins, wrapped in a stranglehold around my desire and stroked it rapidly up and down. Forget about love at first sight. Lust is good. I can do lust.
“Ahem. Excuse me.” The man I woke earlier on the chairs was trying to push his way past us. Annoyance twisted his face and drool still moistened the corner of his mouth.
Jealous much?
Griff moved me aside a few inches so the man could pass. “Sorry, it was a long trip.” His gaze caressed my face as intimately as if we were making love. “I missed my lady. You know how it is.” Griff wrapped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me along with him, headed for the exit.
“Yeah, whatever. Get a room, man.”
Griff chuckled as the offended man stalked off.
“Why did you kiss me?” I stopped just outside the door as he shrugged on a leather jacket — black, of course. Where the hell had he hidden that while we were lip locked? Hot, liquid sensation still zinged through my body, and I knew my nipples were about to rip jagged holes through my blouse. The cool mist of the San Francisco morning didn’t help my “high-beam” situation, either.
“Cover, Ms. Lorello. You never know who might be watching.”
Well, hot damn! Cover is starting to look pretty darned good.
* * *
I had to force my cock back down by the time we reached the woman’s car. When I’d seen her at the bottom of the stairs, she looked like she was ready to eat me — in all the right ways. She definitely primed every piston I had. After watching the hypnotic swing of her sexy round ass sway back and forth as we crossed the parking lot, I was as horny as a teenager. All I’d been able to think about was how much I needed to be inside her.
Sophia’s succulent curves invited me to lose myself in hours of exploration. And her eyes — my cock twitched again — they were a fascinating swirl of green and copper, edged with thick lashes. Shiny dark blonde hair tumbled midway down her back in a thick fall. I wanted to grab it as I thrust into her from behind, enjoying each and every twitch of her pussy while she came around my prick in quivering waves of desperate need. The vision was so real I could almost feel her hair in my hands.
The slam of the car door brought me back to the present. Back to the reason I was here in the first place — murder. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”
She bit her lip and the sight sent an electric shock straight to my cock. When she soothed the bite with a swipe of her tongue, it was all I could do to keep myself from crawling across the seat to attack her. Damn! My gryphon half urged me to pin her down and claim ownership as I mated her — hard.
She glanced over, clearly assessing me. Bold. I liked that. “What were you told?”
“Only what was in the police report — your department responded on a medical run for a man down. You were first on scene and found Mr. Shields underneath a tree in a wooded area.”
“There’s not really much more than that. I told the detectives everything I saw, weird though it was.”
Hell, even her frown turned me on. She gripped the steering wheel with small, strong hands that I wanted to roam all over me.
“So who are you, really, and why are you here? Doesn’t the regular police department handle murders? And just in case it wasn’t clear in the report, I’m an EMT, not a taxi driver.”
I lifted my shoulders in a shrug. “My name is Griff Monroe, and I’m an agent with the Paranormal Action Commission. You’re familiar with shifters and paranormals, I assume?” I knew she was but asking the question helped me feel out exactly how much. Again, I had to suppress the rise in my jeans — feeling her out is exactly what I wanted to do.
“Everyone in our department is. It’s been part of standard training for years. What’s that have to do with anything? The victim was a banker, if I remember right. He looked human to me, though that doesn’t really say much these days.”
I passed her some cash to pay the parking attendant as we left the airport. “Henry Shields was heavily involved in some rather delicate paranormal financing ventures. His murder had certain characteristics that flagged our agency. So they sent me out to investigate.”
“That makes me your driver… why?” The annoyed glance she threw my way could have sliced through titanium.
“Because you have security clearance and I needed a local contact. Someone in your department said you were the best person for the job. Being an EMT probably didn’t hurt, either.”
“I have security clearance?” Her puzzled look amused me. Anyone who worked in local government had to have some type of security clearance, and we had files on most of them. “There must be people more suited for this kind of thing than I am. Those bureaucrats don’t know me. I’m just a piece of paper in their office files.”
I knew why she was here but placating her wasn’t my job. Saving lives was. “I’m sure they had their reasons.”
“I must have really screwed up somewhere.” She kept quiet after that, other than muttering a few not-so-quiet curses while she dodged careless drivers. My hotel appeared on the left, but traffic was too backed up. Man, I hate cities.
She started to cross and then slammed on the brakes when a battered taxi blasted through the opening, cutting her off. The driver flipped his middle finger in a friendly California welcome as his horn’s antiquated Awoooga faded around the next corner.
Sophia blistered the air with curses, amusing me with her inventiveness. Still, we waited. Finally, she closed her eyes in what looked like a quick prayer and gunned it at the first tiny opening. Her tires squealed as we dashed for the driveway, then came to an abrupt halt.
“Here you are, Agent Monroe, safe and sound. Thank you for using ‘By-the-Seat-of-Your-Pants Delivery Service.’ Enjoy your stay in San Francisco, and don’t forget to tip your driver on the way out.”
Funny, sarcastic and imaginative. This just keeps getting better and better. “Thank you, Sophia. I appreciate your assistance. I’ll see you soon.”
“Sorry, this is a one time deal. Honestly, next time why don’t you just call a cab instead of tying up emergency resources?” Red colored her face and she hesitated. “I think you’ll have to pay extra if you want to kiss the cab driver again, though.”
“That’s true, but it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.” Apparently I’d gotten under her skin and she didn’t like it. I grabbed my bag and exited the car, laughing when she took off like a bat out of hell.
After I settled into the sterile luxury of the hotel room, I spread my files and notes over the table to work on the investigation. The Shields’ murder definitely fit our suspect’s profile, code name Lark, though she was more a black widow than a sweet little songbird. She targeted successful, clean-cut politicians or their key supporters who were well connected in paranormal circles and richer than Midas.
Going through the police report again, the details stood out like a pussycat in a dog kennel. A lone hiker had found Shields’ body underneath a tree in a remote wooded area outside the city. While that wasn’t unusual in itself, the evidence suggested he’d fallen about fifteen feet out of the tree. Nude and already dead. His head had been twisted almost completely off his body.
The details were similar enough to Lark’s M.O. for us to set up a sting. Previous reports had her taking out three or four individuals before she moved on, but she was good. Damned good. Nobody had recognized a pattern between the killings until a few months ago, and the information we had on her was sparse.
San Francisco was her third city — that we knew of — and our best bet to set up a trap. If she stuck to her usual pattern, we might have a chance. Our decoy already had his background in place from a different investigation and was due in tonight.
I’d asked for this assignment, though going undercover isn’t my thing. What I did have was a load of investigative experience under my belt, so the agency practically handed me the case on a silver platter.
What I needed was someone familiar with the area to get me where I needed to go, and who could spend a lot of time in my company without rousing suspicion. Someone who knew the ins and outs of the area, but wasn’t well known in the city itself or the circles we’d be working in.
I put my call in to the agency switchboard and waited for my contact to answer.
“Griff, what’s wrong? You need backup?” They always jumped to the wrong conclusions.
“No, I need a lover. And I have just the woman in mind.”
* * *
“What do you mean I’m at his disposal until further notice?” My knuckles ached from clutching the arms of the chair. “I don’t have time for this. I have a full time job, remember?”
Brian Jenkins, my fire captain, co-worker and friend for the past six years, sat behind the safety of his desk and shrugged his shoulders. “Not my choice. This came from way up the chain of command.”
“He could get anyone, Captain. Why me?”
He walked around and leaned against the front of his desk, just like he had a hundred times before. “You don’t have a choice in this, Soph. You were specifically requested, and whoever is calling the shots on this is powerful. They could squash both of our careers in half a heartbeat and not think twice about it. We’ve worked too hard to let that happen.” Jenkins had a wife and kids to support, so I couldn’t really blame him for being worried.
“How long is this detail going to last?”
“I’m not sure. Hopefully no more than a couple of weeks.” He relaxed visibly. They must have had him by the balls to agree to this. “You’re supposed to report to the hotel at 1900 hours for that big political reception. Dress is formal. Their words, not mine.”
He held up his hands and backed away as I shot from the chair. “Now wait a minute! He might have the backing to pull me from my job, but he does not have the right to tell me how to dress!”
“Just go with it, OK? You can put up with their bureaucratic crap for the length of this assignment. Hell, you’ve put up with me for years, you should be a pro at dealing with bullshitters.” Brian’s pathetic attempt to calm me worked — for the moment.
“Oh, wait, I can’t go. I don’t think jeans and a T-shirt qualify as formal.”
“Consider it an order, Lorello. It won’t last forever. Just do what they want and then come back to work.” He handed me an envelope. “Your shopping spree for tonight is on the government. The agent in charge will take care of anything else for the duration of the assignment, and you’ll be under his command. I don’t have to remind you to handle this discreetly, do I?”
“No, Captain.”
“Do you have any other lame attempts to get out of this up your sleeve, Sophia, or are we good?”
“No, we’re good.” Although you shouldn’t be surprised when your fire boots are filled with peanut butter after I come back.

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Shifting Forces
Protect and Serve (multi-author series)
by Cassidy McKay

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60521-755-0

Sex between a human and her two shifters can be spectacular, but is it worth risking everything for a chance at forever?

Chapter One

Varick’s Blog (1)
“Paranormals are just like us. They deserve equal rights, equal status under the law, and no less than our full understanding and cooperation!” I watch from the outskirts, close enough to hear, but not a part of the crowd. A smattering of applause greets the pretty redhead as she finishes her speech on the stairs in front of the white columned government building.
A heated, spicy tingle warms my body as she steps down, her nipples tight and visible in the oh-so-proper sweater she wears over a blouse against the chill wind. Staid, gray slacks demurely outline her curvy figure. Mmm. Definitely my kind of woman… proper on the outside, but all fiery and full of fight on the inside.
Only a few dozen people brave enough to show up for the rally now stand in the square. It’s mostly your typical malcontents and troublemakers, but there are a few who look like they might actually give a damn.
I can’t decide whether the woman has balls of steel or is dangerously naïve. More than likely, a little of both. A tall, unkempt man makes his way to the front of the group, standing on the concrete base of a light pole like a monkey, spouting obscenities and tossing crap about how humans are better than paras. The crowd grows, becoming restless as the man yells, gaining the attention of the cops outside City Hall.
I stay in the shadows of the storefront across the street, where I can watch without being seen. Easier said than done most times, but I’ve gotten good at it. Most of us have. Coming out as a paranormal isn’t a fashionable, celebrity thing to do anymore. It’s a life sentence. The government took care of that. So much for equality.
I’m Varick Gerard. Used to be a paramedic, but now I’m labeled a criminal. Just because I’m a shifter, I was legally forced out of my profession, my home, and the comfortable life I once lived. Phoenix shifters aren’t inherently evil. Given the choice, I’d rather save lives than take them. I don’t like to fight. While some of the other paras here live for nothing else, it just isn’t my thing. I don’t steal, I don’t destroy things, and I don’t kill people unnecessarily. I may have lost everything else, but I still have my principles.
Me, I’m a loner. It’s a phoenix thing. Most of us are. I don’t mind being around people, I’m just not into long-term commitments. Sex? Yeah, I’m definitely into that. I can burn up a bed like nobody’s business. And that woman up there — she’d be right at the center of my pyre of passion on most days.
But not today. Something’s in the air, I can feel it. I’ve been chased out of more cities than I can remember, just because I choose to survive. What’s left of the local police force musters in front of the building. Riot shields and batons at the ready, the leader shouts into a megaphone for the crowd to disperse. Chaos has a strong following in this town.
The cops advance in a restless, unsteady line — a phalanx of toy human soldiers pitting themselves against the evil paranormals. Same shit, different location. That isn’t what’s bothering me, though. There’s something else, just on the edge… It’s like I can almost feel it, taste it, but it keeps slipping past me.
“Hey, phoenix-dude, come on! The goon-squad is coming out to play.” A short, pimply vampire pauses, motioning for me to join the unruly mob gathering in the shadows, waiting for their chance to pick someone off.
He’s annoying — hangs around all the time, always trying to get me to kill something with him. I think he just wants to see what a phoenix can do. Lucky for him, I’m not really a joiner. “No thanks, I’m heading out. Good luck with that.”
He shrugs and sprints off, his fangs standing at attention and ready to rumble. Idiot. Time to leave this burg. I don’t need the cops on my ass or any more problems than I already have. It’s not worth the trouble.
A woman’s annoyed yell yanks me to attention. “Leave me alone! I haven’t done anything wrong!” The redhead struggles against one of the officers, landing a solid whack on his neck where the protective gear doesn’t protect. My smile fights to break free — the girl’s a fighter, all right.
“Submit willingly, Miss, and you’ll just be charged with disorderly conduct.” The cop doesn’t look old enough to have graduated high school, let alone wear a badge. He can’t seem to decide between juggling his shield, going on to a more willing arrestee, or grabbing his cuffs and taking his chances against the wildcat.
My bet is on the girl.
“Disorderly conduct, my ass! I’m exercising my right to free speech. You have no right to arrest me for speaking my mind. I didn’t call this gathering, and I’m not going to jail!”
Oops. Wrong thing to say to a cop, Lady. The officer drops his shield, whips out his handcuffs, spins the girl and cranks her arms up behind her back in an impressive display of defensive tactics. He has her cuffed in no time flat.
Freedom of speech only applies when you’re saying what they want to hear. Outright support for paranormals definitely puts you on the wrong side of popular opinion. It usually gets your ass thrown in jail on a trumped-up charge, with an obscenely long wait for a court date. Been there, done that.
Guess the redhead has bigger balls than brains. Pity, I could have done something with that girl’s fire– and those cuffs… oh yeah, she has definite bedroom possibilities.
I continue down the street, willing my growing erection back down to a simmer. The area’s getting a little too crowded with all the “normals” forcing their opinions on everyone else.
My gut clenches into a tight fist of need when I glance back. The girl is searching in my direction, clearly looking for a savior. But that’s not me, not anymore. I hung up my badge a long time ago. I’m nobody’s hero.
* * *
The rogue paras quickly take advantage of the police distraction, surging from the shadows to overwhelm the crowd of humans in a violent free-for-all. Screams of terror, shouts of command and a chorus of confusion are punctuated by the sharp staccato of gunshots in an all too familiar refrain of horror.
I hear the distinctive, scratchy radios of the military echoing off the buildings in the square before their camouflage personnel trucks rumble into view. They hop out of the back of their trucks and line up like good little boys and girls, ready to follow the government’s every decree. Unfortunately, they’re not very discriminatory when they get called in by locals. If it moves, it’s a target. Whether the recipient is para or normal, the military either can’t tell or doesn’t want to.
The rich, coppery scent of fresh blood whips by me in a zephyr of wind. Get the fuck out of here! What are you waiting for, Christmas? But another smell blows in the wind, too, breaking through my shell of antipathy with a sledgehammer of need. Yes! That’s it. That’s what has been drawing me since I came here.
Separate from the mob, between the rogues and the military, a small knot of police and civilians huddle near the stairs on the edge of the square. Surrounding themselves with their ineffective riot shields, they look frantically toward the reinforced government building.
Fools! It’s too far. You’ll never make it! Heat rushes under my skin as I stand in the middle of the street, staring at the doomed group. The auburn hair of the woman shines like a beacon between a gap in the scarred plastic shields. Inhaling as a frigid blast of wind brings in the storm, her scent envelops me like a warm blanket of need, numbing my highly developed sense of survival.
Bullets rip past me, smacking the wall like bugs on a windshield. I ignore the danger, letting the unexpected feelings surround me, settle in and fill the empty places in my soul. It’s her. It’s the girl. My cock rises in my jeans, constricted by the tight denim. Awash with unreasonable lust, I shake my head, forcing the desire back. “No way. Not her, not now.”
I fight against my conscience, my innate sense of order battling with the instincts of my kind. I have nothing to offer her, no way to win against the horde determined to kill the humans, or the military determined to kill everyone.
Against my will, I feel the fiery burn. The rush of adrenaline flows through me — scintillating, arousing, and powerful. My bones shift, transforming arms into wings, flesh into fire, and common sense into passionate fury. Lifting into the sky with a rush — one word, one thought, one feeling — consumes me:
Mine!

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