Authors: Carina Wilder
the first book in the new Plenty of Shift Series, and introduces Miri, who will be a recurring character throughout the books. I thought she deserved to experience her love story before she begins to help others live out their own.
bout the Series
: Have you ever wondered what would happen if the hero or heroine of a story had made a different choice? Do we each have a fated mate, or is there a chance that we could find love if we made our way down a second path?
At the end of each Plenty of Shift story there will be an introduction to the next two books. The heroine (or hero) of the next story will be faced with a choice: which shifter to date. And you, the reader, will get to choose between two story lines by selecting the next book you read. You’ll be able to find some details about the potential mates on my website:
Books Two and Three will focus on Naomi, a ferret shifter with a heart of gold who gets to choose between two men, each attractive, but very different from one another. You’ll meet them briefly at the end of this book.
The books will be released regularly, so you’ll never have to wait too long to find out what’s going to happen.
ow well do
boxer shorts burn?
It was an age old question, asked by many a woman over the years. Alongside such gems as:
I go about shaving ‘I’m a lying ass hat’ into his chest hair while he sleeps?”
“If I tie my cheating ex up in the forest and leave him to get his liver pecked out by ravens, does anyone hear him weeping for his mommy?”
Miri’s eyes reflected a series of dancing orange flames, giving her dark brown irises the air of either madness or profound enjoyment—and in her case, it was definitely the latter. It turned out, to her utter delight, that cotton boxers
burn quite nicely. Particularly when accompanied by a liberal dose of lighter fluid.
Plumes of smoke rose up in joyous spirals from the metal garbage can she’d used as a staging ground for the small inferno. For a few minutes she allowed herself the pleasure of standing at the centre of her now-former living room, watching her now-ex-boyfriend Jeff’s prized undergarments morph into tiny fragments of ash.
Jeff may not have been aware when he’d left on his four day “business trip” that he’d come home to find his girlfriend moved out. Hell, he’d had no idea, even, that she’d discovered the truth about his liaisons, or that she knew that he was currently in a motel two hours away playing hide the baby gherkin with his skinny blond assistant.
And though Miri revelled in her activity, as she watched the embers die down to nothing, she felt the sort of letdown that a child experiences after opening all of their Christmas presents. Something was missing from the experience—there was still more satisfaction to be derived, but how?
The problem, she quickly realized, was this: by robbing Jeff of his undergarments, she might just be doing his new lady friend, also known as “The Whore,” a giant favour. That other woman might be turned on by the idea of her jackass stud-muffin being forced to go commando under his cheap jeans. So the obvious solution was to grab the pile of jeans that sat tidily piled on a chair close by and add them to the pyre, dousing them in the last of the flammable liquid before throwing another match onto the mound of denim.
she thought as the flames renewed their intensity. That was so much better.
When all was said and done, the only identifiable items that remained were a few blackened buttons and rivets among the onyx-shaded detritus at the bottom of the can. And somehow, as Miri inhaled, she concluded that the odour emanating from the garbage can suited the occasion. It was only fair, really; after all, it was the smell of another woman’s sex all over Jeff that had sent her into a quiet rage a few days earlier.
But really, the relationship had ended ages ago when Miri had realized how badly suited she and Jeff were for each other. Not only because of his philandering, but for so many other reasons. The fact that they were different species, for instance. The decision on the part of Jeff’s dick to move on to greener and sluttier pastures had only given her the push that she’d needed to high-tail it out of there.
And in a minute she would. Right after she’d finished redecorating what had gone very quickly from being
living room to
She carried the garbage can to the bathroom and used the shower head to spray its charred contents with water. The only logical next step was to return to the living room and dump the resulting soggy, blackened stew onto Jeff’s pride and joy: a beige oriental rug that he’d brought back from a trip to the Middle East. Miri revelled in the idea that the mound of gooey soot would be the first thing he’d see upon his return home late that night. But just in case her message wasn’t crystal clear, she’d also left a note on his kitchen table. Tidily written, it simply read,
Dear Spawn of the Devil’s Loins:
Thanks so much for the memories. Well, except for the ones involving mediocre sex, a penis the size of a golf pencil, and a long, painful lesson in what to look out for in a narcissistic douche bag. Other than that, though, it’s been just grand.
p.s. Say a big hello to The Whore for me.
She took her phone out of her purse and opened the text app.
-I’m sort of busy—what’s up?
-Just burned all Jeff’s underwear. And jeans. He’s no longer just a cheating-ass donkey fucker. He’s a cheating-ass donkey fucker with no pants.
-OMG. Screw busy. I need to hear about this. Meet me at the F & H at 8.
-The new bar at First and King Streets. On the border of Bear-Town.
-I’ll be there.
As Miri put her phone away and surveyed the space that had been her residence for the last six months, one final thought came to her: the beige leather couch, the room’s focal point, was too clean. Too new. It no longer matched the soggy, filthy carpet, and that just wouldn’t do at all.
Well, there was only one thing to do. So, slowly and methodically, she stripped off her clothing and laid it on a chair beside her.
And then she shifted.
In her feline form she stalked forward, head down as she studied the front of the couch, sizing up its weak spots. With one quick swipe her claws tore at the upholstery, slashing it in four parallel strokes so that its entrails looked as though they were attempting to escape through the openings.
she thought as she shifted once again, reaching for her clothes. Her work here was officially done.
After wiping her hands of the last of the Jeff-residue, she gave the door a satisfying slam on her way out, glad never to have to spend another minute in their allegedly shared apartment. Despite the fact that he’d insisted that it was as much hers as his, he’d decorated it entirely with no input from her: brown tones reminiscent of week-old cow manure, sports paraphernalia the likes of which a nine-year-old boy might enjoy, and even the requisite painting of dogs playing poker, which Jeff had claimed to have bought ironically.
Miri sniffed the air once as she walked down the hallway, reminding herself of his scent. The smell of a liar and a cheat. She wouldn’t be able to forget it too soon.
Not that it was all bad. The first time she’d met Jeff, she’d loved how he’d smelled: manly, athletic. And it was a good thing for him, too. As a shifter, Miri was entirely too well aware of men’s—and women’s—smells. The slightest hint of body odour was enough to make her turn tail and run a mile in the other direction. On the other hand, the arousing scent of a sexy man sent her into a feline heat the likes of which most humans had never seen.
She was a cougar. Not in the slang sense of the term, but rather her shifted form was that of a mountain lion. Sleek, stealthy and clever, her eyes ringed with black, her ears alert. It was a blessing and a curse, the acute sense of smell that had allowed her so easily to sniff out the other woman’s stink on her man, right down to the position they’d been in when he’d fucked her last.
And now all she could think of was Jeff’s aftershave, mixed with that perfume of the Whore’s—the five-dollar drug store brand rat piss that the skank bathed in like it was going out of style. Unlike Miri,
was no shifter. No self-respecting shifter could ever live with that sort of stink on her body.
She stepped out into the late autumn afternoon, taking in the fresh scent of decaying leaves and city life. And without looking back, she turned to head downtown, leaving all the bad memories behind.
hen she’d checked
in to her somewhat-less-than-five-star hotel, Miri threw herself onto the twin bed, which bounced as though it had seen one too many enthusiastically horny guests, and flipped on the television.
The first image she saw was that of a pretty, fake-eyelash-sporting young woman lying on her stomach on a bed. She was talking on the phone, positioned so that her plentiful breasts took up half the screen. She giggled and responded to whatever invisible sleaze was on the other end of the line, clearly overwhelmed by the guy’s breast-enhancing charm.
“Want to have a great night? Meet tons of singles. Call 1-900-Huge-Tits,” mumbled Miri as she shut it off. A great night in her books wasn’t one spent rolling around on a bed alone while squeezing one’s boobs together.
“That’s it,” she said. It was time to shower and to wash off any remnants of her past life. Time for a girls’ night—the safest sort. The sort of evening where pain wasn’t likely.
n hour later
, Miri had managed to make herself look presentable, or so she tried to convince herself as she took a final glance into the hotel room’s full length mirror. Her long, brown hair hung in newly-washed waves about her shoulders, enhancing the neckline of the red wrap dress that hugged her generous curves—the curves that Jeff had claimed to adore before he’d stuck his dick in that whorish, hipless stick of a woman.
All right. No more bitterness. You’re avenged and free,
she told herself as she made her way out the door.
Be pleased about it. Think about the possibilities to come.
Possibilities for what, though? That was the million dollar question. Rabid monkey sex? A real relationship with a proper man who knew how to deal with a strong woman? Or perhaps she should simply brace herself for a life of solitude, of observing others’ relationships from the outside. Maybe it was time to protect herself from further hurt.
As she walked she kept her head high, trying to remain positive about the night, the days, the years ahead. The street was growing dark, lights flickering on as the autumn evening crept towards night. Miri walked with purpose, her eyes darting around as she took in the characters who moved about. As she went she assessed them. She’d gotten good at it over her years in Grayson City.
Human. Shifter. Human, human. Shifter.
The city was divided into districts run by the heads of the Shardik Lion Pride, the Kefir Wolf Pack, the Ulrika Grizzly Clan, though over time the areas had come to be known as Lion City, Wolf Central and Bear-Town. And then there were the others—the humans, and the outlying shifters like her who stayed out of the mess of territorial sparring.
The leaders of the three districts ruled the streets, their members prowling at night, ensuring that they maintained control of their territories. And tonight, Miri was going to be staying in a hotel not too far from the district controlled by the Ulrika Clan, the grizzly shifters’ land. Their men were strong, broad-shouldered and tended to be a little difficult to read. Their women were independent and often off-putting, though rare: grizzlies tended to be male.
Since her childhood, Miri’s parents had instilled in her the notion that male shifters were dangerous. Unpredictable.
Despite the fact that they came from the same species as she did. And as far as Miri was concerned, the warnings came with good reason. The males did always seem to be fighting, roving in gangs at war for turf, and lately things had escalated between the districts.
She’d never actually dated one of her kind, opting instead for the safety of human males.
Nevertheless, she found the males of her species intriguing. There was no one quite so handsome as a bear shifter, of course. Maybe that was why Jenn had invited her to a bar in the Ulrika district. A pile of gorgeous, muscular men was the perfect antidote to a shitty breakup.
But it was way too soon to be thinking of sex. Even vengeful, angry, post-breakup sex. Miri would hate herself for it in the morning. She wasn’t into using men or being used by them, and somehow meaningless humping with a beautiful man couldn’t make up for the fact that her ex was a Grade A tool.
When she arrived at the bar, whose name turned out to be the Fox and Hound, she grinned. From the outside it had the appearance of a traditional Irish Pub; homey, inviting. The sort of place where one could feel comfortable. It made sense, of course, that a place run by bear shifters—a den of sorts—would feel like an embrace. As powerful as they were, they also understood hibernation, the need to feel protected within the confines of a soothing environment.
The place was warm inside as well; wood-panelled walls, lights that were neither too bright nor too dark, hanging in classy, rich fixtures from the ceiling. Pleasant, melancholy Irish-sounding music came through hidden speakers, welcoming customers into their escape.
“There you are,” said Jenn, rising to hug her friend as Miri walked into the bar.
Jenn had chosen a table near the window, already supplied with a pitcher of beer and two large glasses. The table was the sort of hardy piece of solid furniture that begged to have drinks spilled on it just to test its finish, made of a thick slab of wood painted over with so many layers of varnish that it would take a riding mower to mar its surface.
“Yup, here I am,” Miri said, a weak smile plastered to her features as she plopped herself down on the chair opposite her best friend. Her seat faced the long bar, which meant that her sightline was largely occupied by the backs of customers who sat alone on their barstools, hunched in defeat against life’s daily struggles. Holy crap. They were even sadder than she was.
They looked as though they were either trying to get picked up, or hoping to lament their wretched lives to the unseen bartender, who’d no doubt retreated to the back room to find something to bludgeon himself to death with.
“So how are you doing?” asked Jenn, her head cocked in sympathy. Jenn was pretty. Blond, blue-eyed, overall almost a photo-negative of Miri. But she was absolute shit at sympathy.
“Don’t do that,” said Miri, her eyes narrowing to disguise a wry smile. “Keep your neck vertical. I can’t stand being pitied.”
“It’s either pity
” said Jenn. “Take your pick.”
“Well, that should be an easy choice, shouldn’t it? Do you want me to buy the gun, or are you going to do it with your bare hands?”
“I always knew. I knew he was trouble. I told you from day one.”
“You did not. You liked him.”
“Of course I did. So did you.”
“Well, we’re both stupid, then. Why is it that I’m so good at judging people as long as they’re not my potential partners?”
“It’s true—you picked Kor, and he’s awesome.” Kor, or Korman, which no one ever called him, was Jenn’s boyfriend, a bear shifter. The only one Miri had ever gotten to know. “It’s the way of the world,” continued Jenn. “We’re blind to the people we’re attracted to because hormones make us crazy and we lose all sense of judgment. It like we get little demons in our blood stream that scream in their tiny voices:
‘Choose the shithead!’
and so we do, because we’re too stupid to live.”
“Well,” said Miri, pouring herself a beer. “Here’s hoping enough of this stuff will drown the demons and give me my brain back before I choose my next victim.”
“Cheers to that. Alcohol will surely make you smarter. Anyhow, how about if you answer my damn question: how are you?”
“I’m fine. Annoyed, inconvenienced at the thought of apartment-hunting tomorrow, but surprisingly fine. I’ve known for a long time that it was over, Jenn. I guess I’d thought I could change him and make him into something he wasn’t.”
“A decent human being?”
“Something like that. I think we women lie to ourselves like crazy, always convinced that we can ‘fix’ men. Every instinct in my bones told me he was bad news, but somehow I moved in, thinking that I’d end up with a ring, a house in the suburbs and a couple of little bundles of half-breed joy.”
“You’d hate that.”
Miri smiled. “Yeah, I probably would. Some of it, anyhow. And the fact was that the Jeff in my mind wasn’t the actual Jeff. I had way too much faith in him. I mean, everything about the guy screamed ‘womanizing pussy hunter’ and yet…”
“Well, you are
“Yeah, that’s the other thing. He wasn’t exactly keen on my cat form.”
“That’s why our kinds can’t mix,” said Jenn, who was a mink shifter: sleek, sexy and always able to slither out of tight spots.
“I hate to sound like a bigot, but we’re not meant to be with humans. They don’t get us.”
“I guess not,” sighed Miri. “You know—I’m not heartbroken. And I know I’m better off like this. I’m better off single, probably forever, come to think of it. Anyhow, it doesn’t matter. I never loved Jeff. I loved the idea of him, but never the man himself.”
“Well, you’re not better off single. Don’t be silly. You’re better off without a dishonest ass-waffle for a boyfriend. You’re a great lady. Any man should be thanking his lucky freakin’ stars to have a chick like you.”
“Well, like you said, I found Kor for you. So tell me: where do I find one of him for myself?”
Jenn’s boyfriend was big, strong and protective. He took no shit from anyone except for Jenn herself. For her, he would have lain in a puddle so that she could step on him to protect her shoes from getting wet. He was one smitten grizzly.
“Well, you’re in the right neighbourhood,” said Jenn. “This is where his clan members hang out.”
“I was wondering why you were bringing me to Bear-Town,” laughed Miri. “You’re thinking I need a one-night hookup with a grizzly. I’ll happily look, but I won’t lick. The last thing I want to see anytime soon is a naked shifter.”
Bear shifters were attractive in the way a defensive back on a football team was attractive: from far away all you saw was a nice, tight ass and muscular arms. Up close, you realized quickly that if you got any closer he’d either seduce you or throw you to the ground and break your neck. Miri’s prejudice had always caused her to keep a cautious distance. Bears were fine for other women; just not for her.
“Come on—you’ve never even
one naked. Honey, you don’t know what you’re missing.”
“No? What makes them so special?”
Jenn raised an eyebrow suggestively as if to ask, “Do I really need to spell it out?”
“Okay,” chuckled Miri. “Other than that. We all know they’re well-endowed. If I gave a crap about that I’d be looking to date a rhino shifter. Or a blue whale, if I could fit him in my bed.”
“A blue whale. Hmmm,” said Jenn, closing her eyes as though imagining what such a man would look like unclothed.
“Snap out of it. Point is, I’m not into dating. Not right now. I’m in
All Men Are Shits
“Fine. But I still think you should find yourself a shifter next time. I know you’re reluctant, but they’re…different. You should know—you’re one of them. Besides, you’ve always been a fantastic matchmaker, so there’s no reason you couldn’t find a good match for yourself.”
“I am a rare and exquisite talent; it’s true.”
“I’m serious. Hell, you should start a professional service for single shifters who want to find each other. You’d be great at it.”
Miri was about to let out a guffaw and stopped herself. “That’s actually not the worst idea in the world,” she said.
“Yes it is,” replied Jenn. “Are you already drunk? It’s probably a terrible idea. I was only joking.”
“No it’s not. I’m sure there are tons of single shifters in this town. Hell, I’ve just joined their ranks. I could charge a small membership fee and get people together. And besides, you could help. I could use you to bounce ideas off of. You’re sensible and clever, and you know what women and men want.”
“I’d do anything for you,” said Jenn. “You know that. But remember—I have a job, Miri.”
“Well, it’s only a pipe dream, anyhow. I have a job, too, though I’m not sure how long it’ll last.”
“Still hating Mr. Lech, are you?” Jenn deliberately left the second
out of his name; he was, in fact, named Alfonso Leech. An apt name for a serious pervert.
“He smells like garbage that’s been run through a sewage treatment plant and then puked on.”
“That’s never good.”
“Not to mention that he calls me ‘Sweet Tits.’ And touches his crotch way too often. Sometimes he touches his crotch
he’s calling me Sweet Tits.” Miri shuddered at the thought.
“Jesus. Can’t you get his ass fired?”
“He runs the company. Besides, I’d sooner tear his face off. It’d be more satisfying on every possible level.”
“Does he know you’re a cougar?”
“I don’t think so,” said Miri, taking a swig of beer. “But he’s definitely obsessed with pussy. Though it’s strange: I’m pretty sure he’s never been near one, let alone had his dick in one.”
Jenn laughed. “Well, damn. I wish it were legal for shifters to rip sexist assholes to shreds.”
“Yeah. There’s that annoying thing called human law, though.”
“I know, right?”
“Anyhow, if you do find a way out of that job I could see you being some kind of pro matchmaker, even if the idea is insane. You’ve always been good at pairing people up.”
“Except where my own love life is concerned.” Miri sighed. “But that won’t stop me thinking about the idea. At the very least it would take my mind off my own appalling situation. I could find men who fit all the criteria: tall, handsome, built. Maybe—and this might be a stretch—they could even be intelligent. And I’d hook them up with eager women.”
“Like a female pimp.”
Miri laughed. “I hope I’d be a little more noble-intentioned, but yeah. A female pimp of sorts. I mean, some people think shifters have fated mates—someone they’re meant to be with forever. But the fact is that shifters are like humans. We meet, we date, and if we’re lucky as hell we fall in love. All I’d like to do is facilitate the process.”
“Okay, let’s play the game. I like where this is going,” said Jenn, turning to look over the bar’s inhabitants. “Tell me what you’d do about…that one. Who should he be set up with?” She pointed to a man sitting in a far corner with a newspaper. On the table before him sat a clear drink; either a gin and tonic or a dull glass of water. He was slouched, studiously reading an article in the Business section. His white shirt had pronounced armpit stains, and he had the unfortunate habit of pushing his glasses up his nose every few seconds.