On the Origin of Shifters
The Shifter's Heart Book 3
by Philippa Lodge
Genre: Paranormal Romance
big, bad wolf meets an innocent grad student
Beth Ogden has lists and notebooks and transcriptions and scans and years of work toward her PhD in History. She’s preparing to go to a shifter commune to do more research when she’s asked to take an undercover FBI agent along as her assistant. An attractive, intriguing FBI agent.
There are warning signs that the peaceful, spiritual commune is turning into something more sinister.
Agent Alex Three Feathers, half wolf shifter, half bobcat shifter, all jaded, slips into his role as research assistant, but wishes his undercover days were over. He’s being considered for a role in the FBI’s Shifter Task Force, but there are a few problems:
1) His half-brother and liaison for this assignment is already on the task force,
2) They hate each other,
3) He has to survive this commune that’s a hair trigger away from exploding in his face,
4) He’s falling for Beth, who’s likely to get herself killed through her naïveté.
KORONEIS: A princess of Phokis (central Greece) who was pursued by Poseidon, cried out to Athena, who transformed her into a crow (koronis). Um…thanks?
(Beth’s Ancient History notebook)
Beth spent most of the afternoon trying to convey the power and beauty of the weekly gathering, the energy running through the two hundred or so shifters as their spiritual leader spoke to them. She made a list of the transcendent moments, she typed it up, she jotted notes, she recorded herself talking about it, but the magic was missing. She wished more than anything she could have filmed Madame Aguila, but she had been told right from her first request to visit the commune that recording devices were banned from meetings.
Her interview right after lunch with Madame Aguila had been a washout. The older lady had been visibly exhausted, barely answered the questions, and offered to maybe talk to her some other time.
Beth forced herself to face the harsh reality: none of it had anything to do with her dissertation topic. None of it. Not the meeting and very, very little of the rest of what she had done for the last few days. Well, one story fit, but it was one Beth had noted down several times in a few different versions.
But most of all, there was nothing in her own life to point at and say, There. There is my mark on the world. I have inspired others. I have reached the pinnacle. But then, Madame Aguila was about sixty and had only founded the commune two years before. Was Beth going to be sixty before leaving her mark?
She was lying across her bed, staring at the ceiling and feeling sorry for herself when there was a firm knock at her door. She sat up and called out to see who it was.
Alex swung the door open, scowled at her, and reminded her she should keep the door locked and check before letting anyone in, but she just nodded and felt around with her feet for her shoes. She slipped the sandals on and stood, only to find Alex hadn't moved.
“Are you all right?” he asked, frowning.
She wasn't, but she smiled anyway and said she was fine.
“Is it the thing with the goat?” he asked.
She had to think for a moment to remember what he was talking about. “No. Well, not really. I spent half my afternoon trying to explain the beauty of the meeting in writing and the other half despairing that I'll never finish my dissertation because I keep spending time on things like the beauty of the meeting.”
Alex smiled his cynical half-smile. “I commented the first time we met that everything about shifters was a pretty broad topic.”
She nodded glumly. “It would almost be easier if I had a field which had been thoroughly explored and I could do a dissertation on something completely arcane, like “Homoerotic Subtext in the Magna Carta” or “Martha Washington's Infected Big Toe.”
“There's homoerotic subtext in the Magna Carta?” asked Alex, smiling now.
She finally found herself happy again. “I don’t actually know. Now the sex life of King Louis XIV's gay little brother and his first wife's possible affair with Louis might fly, though that’s been covered plenty of times, including in pop culture, so I’d have to come up with an angle.”
Alex crossed his arms on his chest. “Renaissance sex scandals and their implications in the War of the Devolution.”
“Oh, very good! War of the Devolution is Louis XIV. They were worried when he showed up on the battlefield with his wife and his mistresses and wanted to hang out. I think he had a son by then, but he only ever had the one and if something had happened to the boy and his brother had inherited...”
“Seriously? The brother was gay?”
She shrugged. “It's not a new thing, you know. Homosexuality, I mean. Philippe – the brother – did his duty and married and had kids, at least some of whom are definitely not Louis’ kids, which is one theory, so he was surely bisexual or very good at doing his duty. He even remarried after his first wife died and she popped out some more kids. He's the ancestor of most of Europe's royalty, while Louis' legitimate line all got the chop in the French Revolution. Philippe's said to have thrown fabulous parties.”
Alex was full out grinning by then, which boosted her spirits even more.
“And...” she went on, “With modern military implications. He was an accomplished military commander. Don't ask, don't tell.”
Alex nodded. “And what does this have to do with shifters?”
Beth sighed and felt glum all over again. “Absolutely nothing. I've never been able to focus. I had terrible grades in school because I daydreamed, or I'd spend the whole day doodling or I'd write an entire play instead of doing my math homework. I'm a bit of a magpie even now. I'll be memorizing wars and dates for French History class and I'll stumble across Monsieur Philippe and wham! Away I go!”
Alex looked at her with sympathy and was about to say something, so she held up a hand to stop him.
The Wolf Knight's Tale
The Shifter's Heart Book 2
knight meets a witch
Michael Grey, IT guy and wolf shifter, is working for his uncle, sword fighting at Renaissance Faires. On a blazing hot fall day in Central California, he spots a woman he didn’t expect to see again.
Eloisa Woods, vet resident and magical healer, is visiting her fortuneteller cousin at a Ren Faire and comes face to face with the man from a college French class whom she always wondered about.
Coincidence and premonition put them in the right place to save a prominent fox shifter’s life, throwing them into the path of an anti-shifter hate group.
Worse: someone inside the FBI is helping the group.
There’s far more at stake than winning sword fights.
A few seconds later, Eloisa saw a flash in the other car’s headlights. A small dog flew into the air, bounced off the top of the other car and somersaulted to the side of the road.
“Pull over!” she cried. “It's hurt.”
Mike screeched to a stop and eased off the side of the road. No driveway here, just a narrow stretch between the road and a ditch.
Eloisa jumped out. “My emergency bag's in the trunk.” She rushed to the fox that lay still about ten feet from the edge of the road, breathing with short, high-pitched grunts.
She knelt next to it, only faintly feeling the sting of dirt and sticks on her knees. “Oh, sweet thing,” she crooned as she touched the fox first with one hand and then the other, sending calming and healing power into it. In return, she got a weird flash of some sort of power before feeling the usual pulses telling her of the injuries. She closed her eyes, looking into its body as power rose inside her hands.
Mike appeared next to her, setting down the bag.
“We've got to get her to a clinic. Broken ribs, internal injuries. I'm going to have to operate. She'll go into shock any second now.” Eloisa worked quickly to slide the fox onto the silvery heating blanket. “Put the pad on the backseat to absorb blood and to keep her warmer.”
Mike crouched down for a moment. He stood up quickly, though. “Another shot. Closer. Did you hear it?”
She shook her head, still focused on the fox.
“Get her in the car. I'll get the cub,” he said.
“Cub?” She carefully lifted the fox, now wrapped in the silver space blanket, and Mike took it from her.
“I saw it just before this one got hit. She shoved the cub out of the way of the car.”
Eloisa stood up and took the fox back from him, one hand touching the fox's muzzle, still sending in healing. The fox licked her hand, its first sign of anything other than pain.
Mike opened the back door of the car. “Can you work on her while I drive?”
She laid the fox on the backseat and climbed in, kneeling awkwardly in the tiny foot well. She unwrapped it – her – and began to explore the problems more deeply, running her fingers through the long fur, deciding where to start.
Mike stood there with the door open and turned toward the forest. “Fox cub. Come now, little one. I'm like you. We're here to help you.”
Eloisa glanced at him. What the hell is he talking about?
Mike crouched down. “It's OK, little girl. We'll take you to safety. We'll get your mother to the hospital. We'll get you back to your family.”
Eloisa decided to focus on the broken rib piercing the fox's right lung. She had to manipulate the chest slightly, sending painkilling waves as she did so. The fox stopped breathing, then wailed. Eloisa hastily sealed the hole in the lung, noting there was air in the chest cavity that would have to come out later so it wouldn’t collapse the lung. She turned her attention to the head, checking for damage to the skull or intracranial bleeding. Mike leaned into the car. Eloisa glanced down and saw he was, indeed, setting a fox cub next to her. Apparently a tame one.
“You'll have to stay down there,” said Mike as he hopped in the front and closed his door. “No clothes, no booster seat, and we want you out of sight until we know what's going on.”
The cub shivered in fear, curling in on itself.
She kept the low-level painkilling vibes moving as she turned her head to look at the back of Mike's head. “The cub just came to you? And he understands?”
Mike grunted and pulled out onto the road. “She. Little girl.”
Eloisa glanced down at the cub again, but a big, heaving breath from the fox bitch under her hands brought her attention back to the immediate problem.
She sealed a bleeder and dispelled some of the blood on the brain, spreading it around so it wasn't in a big pool, then she turned to the gut.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“Do you know where the closest hospital is? I think I have to go back to the interstate.”
“A vet clinic, Mike. They're not going to treat a fox at a...”
“Hello?” He practically barked into his cell phone. “Yeah. Injured woman, hit and run. We found her by the side of the road. I'm on, uh, state highway, uh...” He named the highway. “I'm heading west toward I-5. I need the closest emergency room.”
He listened for a moment. “South? Yeah. What exit? Yeah. Tell the cops I'll be speeding on I-5, hazards blinking, brown car, license... shit, Eloisa, what's your license number?”
She gave it, never turning from the fox, who wriggled slightly.
“Lie still, darling. Lie still. I don't know what's going on, but I'm going to keep you alive until we can get you into surgery,” Eloisa said.
Mike beeped his phone off and started dialing again, powering along the road. “Uncle Phil?” Barking again. “Shifter hit by car, I'm going to the hospital in Stockton. Get the guys and meet me there.... Yeah... Shit.... And I heard shots.”
Shifter? What? Eloisa turned her attention to the fox's spleen. She could almost hear her mother's voice urging her to concentrate, to focus her power. But shifter? Everyone knew about them, but she’d never met one. And it answered so many questions about Mike and Phil, didn’t it?
Mike beeped off the phone. “Who are you?” he asked in an angry, tight voice, even as he sped up more, then braked smoothly and swung right. Eloisa glanced up at a highway overpass and realized they were on an entrance ramp.
“Little cub? Who are you?” he asked. “We have to find your people.”
Suddenly, the cub next to her was gone and a naked little girl shivered there, her arms wrapped around her knees. Eloisa screeched and everyone flinched.
Memoirs of a Fox
The Shifter's Heart Book 1
nerd girl and the hot jock.
We met in college and he, a mountain lion shifter, was my link to the secret world of shapeshifters. I crushed on him hard. A few times, it looked like he might ask me out, but it never happened. When danger came, though, I flew to his rescue. Literally flew. Not only am I a fox shifter, I have a mockingbird form, too.
After a one night hook-up, he left and broke my heart. A few years later, he showed up at my door, looking for forever. I decided to trust him. Well, mostly trust him. Our marriage was strained and we were getting more distant when he disappeared. To get him back, I’ll risk everything, including the continued secrecy of every shapeshifter everywhere.
**Only .99 cents!**
He collapsed on top of me, panting into my ear. I petted his sweaty back and held his head tightly against my shoulder as my legs relaxed onto the bed.
This. I had never had anything like this, ever. And it was Tommy, the person I had always wanted this with. He was mine.
Our breathing had returned almost to normal when he rolled off me. I lay there looking at him: his perfect chest, bulkier than it had been when I first saw it in the woods, before he started playing rugby, his square jaw, muscular arms, legs that made me swoon, penis that, well, you know. I looked up to his wide-set eyes and he was staring at me, waiting for me to look. His eyes were distinctly yellow with the lion looking out, his dark blond hair tousled.
I reached one hand up to his face and put it on his cheek, stroking the high cheekbone and rasping my fingers across his beard stubble.
He closed his eyes and looked pained.
I didn't have much experience, but I was pretty sure it wasn't a good sign.
He flopped on his back and put his arm across his eyes. He’d made a mistake and he couldn't bear to look at me.
I was closest to the edge of the bed, so I got up. I grabbed my robe, the soft, white terrycloth one my mom had given me for Christmas the year before that made me look like a whale. When I turned around, he was sitting up with the sheet pulled over his lap. He turned so his back was against the wall and cleared his throat. I waited, but he didn't say anything.
I sat and swiveled the recliner to face him, but kept my attention on tucking the robe around my legs. When I did look up at his face, in little glances, he was always looking away. I stared and he finally met my eyes.
“Cassie. You know this can't...” He looked away.
I knew where he was headed, but damned if I was going to say any of it first. My heart hurt too much. I had been mostly in love with him for three years. What did you expect?
Of course I was in love.
He yanked the sheet up higher, lifted his knees up under it, put his elbows on them, and his head in his hands.
“Will you lie back down?” I asked, so softly. “Will you sleep here, just for tonight?”
He looked up at me, surprised. There was a long, long silence.
“All right,” he said. “I have to go clean up and, you know.”
I didn't, but I figured it was 'use the shit can' as he had so memorably said in our first encounter, or 'take a piss' or even 'throw this condom away.'
He pulled his clothes on, and slipped out the door. I couldn't decide if I should put on pajamas. I always wore pajamas, because there was less chance my subconscious would allow me to shift in my sleep if I had them on. I went down the hall in my robe and brushed my teeth, half expecting to find him in the women’s bathroom. He wasn't.
Maybe he'd changed his mind and gone to his own bed. Maybe he'd gone off to find another girl he would have regretted never sleeping with. I was aware the thought was paranoid, but didn't it hurt like hell?
When I went back to my room, he was sitting in the recliner. I let out a huge sigh of relief.
“I shouldn't stay,” he said.
I held my breath.
His face unreadable, he sighed. He nodded once. “OK.”
I dropped my robe on my chair and climbed into bed. He turned off the light, yanked off his clothes again, and climbed in next to me. We lay on our backs, barely touching. Even if it had been a bigger bed, we would have been falling off the edges to get away from each other.
“This isn't going to work,” I admitted.
I wished I hadn't said anything. I expected he would make his excuses and leave.
He rolled up onto his side, making the bed shake, then he rolled me away from him, clonking my head on the wall. I sighed when he pulled me until my back was against his chest and his knees against the backs of my thighs. It took me about a minute to fall asleep, maybe less.
Sleeping curled up with someone was something I had wished for since I was little, when I would crawl into my parents' bed if I woke up in the night. The warmth and touch had always made me feel safe and loved, though the fantasy changed when I went through puberty. My parents would move me to my own bed after I went back to sleep most of the time. When they didn't, either because they hadn't noticed me or because they went back to sleep too, waking up with them was sheer joy for me.
Lodge is an office worker by day, reader by night, and author on the
weekends. She lives in California (though not one of the cool parts)
with her husband, whatever kids (maximum of three) as haven't yet
gone to college and/or moved out and/or are home for a pandemic, and
two cats who probably don't turn into humans, but who argue like
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