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Forgotten 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. Forgotten Menagerie reminds us that not all shifters are werewolves or werecats, despite the preponderance of them in fiction. The stories in this anthology focus on shifters with animal forms other than canine and feline, building their own mythos for these non-traditional species.

In Nuts About You, Nathan's been crushing on one of his regular Bulk Mart customers for a while now. In squirrel form, he sits on Vince's bird feeders, munching on seeds and enjoying the eye candy. Until the day Vince notices him raiding the feeder... Then, in The Greatest of These, Daniel struggles to deal with his new-found sexuality and his Catholic faith. He's already overcome the question of how otter shifters fit into God's plans, but the next step is so much harder. After all, people don't picket about otters burning in Hell. Eber's shifting in Mirrors, the Moon, and the Boy is a curse carried by his family for nearly 500 years, but he's found a sexy side to it that makes him popular at the elite club "Conquistador" in Madrid. His legendary prowess inevitably leads to questions about why he's never there on the full moon. And when he begins to explore a budding connection with young American Miguel, the stakes get even higher if Eber's secret is ever revealed.

Dobson needs his Burdens Lightened, as he has a farm that's too big for one man and has to work construction to keep it paid for. The boss's nephew, Jim, is on the crew this summer—his father's idea to sweat the gay out of him. But Jim wants Dobson, and the feeling is mutual. To the point that Dobson is about to show a part of himself to Jim that no one has ever seen and that only the right person can see. Finally, Carter is eager to sever ties with the ignorant lout who married his sister and thereby owns half of the family ranch, but the only way to do that is to beat his brother-in-law to the cattle auction. That means a trip through Dangerous Territory full of hard terrain, venomous snakes, and flash floods. Fortunately, a deal with the local shifter tribe earns Carter a guide, the stern and humorless Rani, who has his own reasons for coming along.

Nathan ducked around the end of the aisle, pretending to straighten the boxes of tea on the shelves so he could watch Vince scoop birdseed into the little plastic bags they provided at the Bulk Mart. He knew the man's name was Vince because he'd scoped out the name on his debit card one day about two months ago. It was an awesome name, all high class and kind of 'rebel with a trust fund'-ish, which was what Nathan thought Vince looked like, too—dark hair and a narrow face on a lanky, well-cared-for body. He watched Vince bend over to drop a sack of niger seed in one of the store's carry-baskets and imagined what it would feel like to be shoved up against the wall while one of those thighs pushed his legs apart and rubbed against him. Nathan's blush burned up from his chest, all the way to his hairline, where he could feel it shining through his hair like a beacon.

Settle down, Nathan. You're going to set off the sprinklers.

Sighing, he made his way to the front of the store, breathing deeply to try to cool his flushed skin. Getting his mind on more appropriate things would be the smart thing to do, so he dug under the counter for extra stock to refill the bins of 'impulse buy' candy that covered the front of each register. He was halfway through topping off the bins of 'Snapping Gummy Turtles' when he heard the soft thump of filled baggies as they dropped onto the belt at his register.

"Hi, Nathan," Vince said, grinning the crooked grin that had such a ridiculous effect on Nathan's hormones.

"Hi," Nathan croaked back. He skirted the table in front of his register and slipped into place, ever so grateful for the oversized aprons that were the required uniform at the Bulk Mart. That way, Vince couldn't know that he got hard as a Macadamia nutshell whenever the man walked into the store. He dragged his eyes away from Vince's wide mouth and reached for the first of the sacks, dragging it onto the scale. Automatically, he punched in the code, waited for the beep, then plucked it off the steel plate and slid it into a plastic bag. As he reached for the next bag, it occurred to him that this was the second time this week he'd seen Vince in buying seed. He stopped and counted the bags. "I thought you just bought a bunch of birdseed. Did you put in some new feeders?"

"No, I've got some damned squirrel that's started raiding the two big feeders, and I can't keep them full."

"Oh." Nathan's stomach sank and a guilty flush spread across his cheeks. This wasn't good at all. Because that squirrel that was raiding Vince's feeders? That was him. "Maybe he's just hungry?" he suggested hopefully.

Vince snorted and shook his head. "Not likely. He's fat as a seal and getting fatter. I'll bet he's raiding feeders around the whole neighborhood."

Nathan's cheeks heated even more. It wasn't all the feeders in the neighborhood—just the two that gave him a perfect view of Vince's early morning showers and of his living room couch, where Vince liked to lounge in nothing more than his boxer shorts most evenings. And fat? Nathan discreetly sucked in his gut as he rang through the rest of the seed. He knew he'd developed some love handles recently, but he didn't think it was that bad. He flexed his stomach muscles again, testing. Maybe he should lay off the sunflower seeds for a while. But they were so good. "Everyone's gotta live," he said and smiled weakly up at Vince as he swiped Vince's debit card and punched in the total.

"Well, I wish he'd go live somewhere else," Vince replied, punching in his PIN with quick determined movements. The terminal beeped its approval of the transaction and he gathered up his bag. "Have a nice day."

"You, too." Nathan waved wistfully as Vince walked out of store.

***

Nathan hung off the side of the bird feeder, one paw hooked through the wire mesh holding a suet cake in place, the other holding a sunflower seed that he nibbled absently on as he stared through the window. He'd managed to stay away from Vince's feeders for two whole days before the need to see the man again got the better of him. So he'd changed his shape and scooted out through the cat door in the back porch, then run the whole two miles cross-country to Vince's home.

When he arrived, he skittered up the old oak tree that took pride of place in the big yard behind the house. Its branches spread almost thirty feet wide, and Nathan could look in every window in the building just by moving from branch to branch. But this bird feeder was, bar none, the best place to watch Vince in the big stand-up shower.

Nathan stared intently as Vince squeezed shampoo into the palm of his hand and started to lather up his hair. The muscles of his arms and upper back flexed with the movement, making Nathan's breath catch in his throat. Visions of those muscles flexing over him—in bed, on the couch, in the back seat of the car—plagued his nights, and he jerked off regularly to the fantasies he built around them. He heard himself whimper as Vince turned and arched under the stream of water to rinse the shampoo away. Water struck the window, washing away the blurring steam that had begun to coat the glass, for which Nathan said a prayer of thanks.

-- from "Nuts About You" by Kate Lowell

5 - Megan at Amethyst Dreams
" I was super excited to read about shifters that didn't fit the mold that we usually see in PNR fiction. There are NO cat or wolf shifters here! Everyone of these stories is amazing. All in all, I loved this anthology! It was so good. "

4 - Lucy at Hearts On Fire Reviews
"Reading anthologies is so difficult sometimes because of the differing quality, subject matter, author style and even length of each story. It is no secret that I am a fan of cute, fluffy and funny and all I can say about this is thank you Kate Lowell because this was the best of all. Nuts About You made me laugh, made me smile, made me happy. "

Series

Forgotten Menagerie

Length

61,000 words

Release Date

October 22, 2013

Book Type

Anthology

Categories

Gay

ISBN

978-1-62757-064-0

Cover Art

Nathie Block

Keywords

M/M, shifters, paranormal

Contributors

Alex Whitehall
Angelia Sparrow
Avery Vanderlyle
Cari Z
Kate Lowell