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Dark Menagerie

Anthology

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A shifter leads two lives: one as a human, and one as an animal. Sometimes these lives are intertwined, and sometimes they are not, but always the shifter has to find a way to reconcile one with the other. Dark Menagerie follows characters as they explore the darker side of what it means to have one foot in the animal world and one foot in the human world. Some struggle to keep the animal starkly separate from their lives as a human being, but for others, their shifting leads them to a darker corner of the mind where human and animal are nearly indistinguishable.

First, in Dominant, Kade has left everything he valued in his life behind; his family, his fiancée, his entire future. He tries to make peace with what he has become by running away to a small town, but fails. Then, a monster in a suit walks into his life, a monster just like him. Then, the four in The Four of Us devised a game: pick two humans, lure them in, and hunt them down. The game, the shared thrill of the hunt, was what brought them together, but also what threatens to tear them apart.

Justin, of Horsefeathers, had one job—to get a new Mustang for his boss' ranch. But at the holding pens, he can't look away from a stunning stallion. He isn't at all what the boss wants, but Justin can't say no. He soon learns that he's brought back much more than simply a beautiful horse, and that there are some legends that he wished weren't based in truth. Finally, Breathe concerns a young dolphin shapeshifter who has to deal with his own hateful feelings about himself, a deadly dull partner, and the presence of a new shifter in town. And a hurricane bearing down on their home in Key West, of course.

As soon as he walked into the bar, I knew what he was. Even over the sour smells of stale alcohol, cigarette smoke, assorted body odors and the heavy reek of greasy food, I could smell him. The freshness of the wind, the sweet astringency of evergreen, a hint of warm fur, all of it threaded together with the neck-ruffling musk of a wild thing. Familiar, even though I had never seen him before in my life. The burger fell from my nerveless hands, bouncing and falling apart on my plate.

Deep inside me, in the place I let no one ever see, the wolf pricked up its ears and growled.

The man's face swung toward me, his eyes clashing with mine.

The shock of it reverberated through me, a blow that made every hair on the back of my neck lift in primal warning. Even across the dimly lit room, I could see the flash of fire that danced across the surface of his eyes. A flash I knew mirrored the one captured in my own gaze.

Whoever he was, he was like me and since the only werewolf I had ever encountered was the monster that had tried to kill me, that wasn't good.

The corner of his mouth lifted as his head rose in a nod of greeting. My stomach swooped, the bitterness of bile coating the back of my mouth. The burger I had been enjoying threatened to come back up, and I swallowed heavily to keep it down, grimacing at the ruined taste. My eyes never left him.

I wasn't the only one watching him. The entire bar had gone quiet as curious eyes scrutinized him, some covertly, some blatantly. I didn't have to look at them to know they were thinking the exact same thing I was: this man didn't belong here. On the surface at least. Dressed in a dark, sharply tailored suit, his inky black hair short and perfectly styled, he looked as if he'd just stepped out of some high-powered corporate office. He was as out of place in this setting as a fish in the middle of the desert, and I knew it wasn't coincidence that he just happened to walk into the same bar where I was.

"Kade? What's up? Is there something wrong with your burger?"

My eyes flicked up, startled. Jenna had materialized right next to me. I hadn't even sensed she was near. I didn't like that. It had been a long time since anybody had been able to sneak up on me, nearly three years.

"Yeah, Jenna. I'm good. Burger's good." My gaze flicked back to the door, but the man was gone. I scanned the bar, but couldn’t see him. Everyone else had gone back to what they doing. He was still here though, I knew it. Dammit.

Jenna's forehead creased as she looked down at me. She was standing too close. The smell of her liberally applied perfume burned my nostrils. Displeasure coiled in my stomach, temporarily overshadowing everything else. She knew I didn't like her to wear too much scent, even if she didn't know why.

"You sure honey? Something sure seems wrong."

I shrugged off the hand she laid on my shoulder. Hurt flared in her dark brown eyes, but I didn't care. "I said I was good." She paled at the growl that roughened my voice, but I couldn't soften my tone. I just wanted her to leave.

Affront pulled the lush curve of her lips to painful thinness. "You're an ass, Kade Walker," she hissed. "You can forget our date tonight." Turning smartly on her heel, she stomped away. Her feet drove into the floor so hard, I was surprised she didn't strike sparks with her heels.

Date. I snorted. Funny thing for her to call being fucked hard against the outside wall at the back of the bar, on her break.

"Trouble with the ladies?"

My head whipped round. "How the hell did you do that?"

Ignoring my glare, the man, the werewolf, slid smoothly into the seat next to me. Not a whiff of his scent had warned me of his approach, and even as he sat right next to me, I could barely smell him.

He shrugged, a lazy movement at odds with the careful watchfulness of his brown eyes. "A trick," he told me calmly. "Would you like me to show you how?" His voice was smooth and dark, like molasses. No trace of an animalistic rumble. Not like my voice. His composure was irritating as was his scent, which slowly grew in strength until it mingled with my own. It took more effort than I wanted to admit to not breathe it in. Savor it.

"I don't want anything from you except for you to get the hell away from me." My words were barely distinguishable from a snarl, but I knew he'd get the gist.

-- from "Dominant" by Katya Harris

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Series

Dark Menagerie

Length

49,000 words

Release Date

Book Type

Anthology

Categories

Gay

ISBN

978-1-62757-063-3

Cover Art

Nathie Block

Keywords

M/M, dark themes, shifters, paranormal

Contributors

Arielle Pierce
Caitlin Ricci
Katya Harris
Lor Rose