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Authors: Lynne Connolly

ShiftingHeat

Shifting Heat

Lynne Connolly

 

A book in the STORM world.

 

Andros was a severely disabled geek
working for STORM but now he’s a powerful shape-shifting dragon. Still a geek
though. Meeting Faye when they’re sharing the same air space is a bit of a
shock they quickly overcome in a convenient hotel room. Hot, fast, rampant sex
is just what Andros needs. Tangling with Faye between the sheets, against her
desk, pretty much anywhere he can have her takes energy Andros now has in
abundance. But he won’t let his emotions follow.

Faye never met anyone in her long
life as exciting as Andros. But he works for STORM, Faye’s enemy. She’s never
had anyone so young, either. But she can’t resist his strength, his
determination—or his ripped body. Together they must hunt down a mutual enemy,
but to defeat him they have to come to terms with what they are, were and will
become.

 

Ellora’s Cave Publishing

www.ellorascave.com

 

 

 

Shifting Heat

 

ISBN 9781419934254

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Shifting Heat Copyright © 2011 Lynne Connolly

 

Edited by Jillian Bell

Cover art by Syneca

 

Electronic book publication August 2011

 

The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of
Ellora’s Cave Publishing.

 

With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not
be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written
permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue,
Akron OH 44310-3502.

 

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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons,
living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The
characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

 

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Shifting Heat

Lynne Connolly

Chapter One

 

Could she go against a lifetime’s beliefs? Could she cold-bloodedly
seduce a man, someone she’d never met, and then steal from him?

For the greater good, she’d thought she could. Now she
wasn’t so sure.

Faye stared out the window of her hotel room, arms crossed
over her chest. Another full moon, another night when she had to shape-shift.
She had no choice about that. What she did afterward was up to her. Already her
body tingled as the compulsion spread through her. A gift from nature, not
always welcome or convenient, but no shape-shifter could resist. If they tried,
they shifted anyway. Tonight—a night she could be certain she’d find dragons,
griffins and other creatures out in their alternate forms—she planned to use it.

And the extra shot of libido that came at this time of the
month, the only time shape-shifters were fertile, that would help. It would
have to. She couldn’t deny that she didn’t want to go, was putting off the
moment when she’d leave the relative safety of this room and face the unknown.

She’d even thought about seducing a woman. Faye was
straight, relentlessly so. Although she’d tried same-sex romance, it hadn’t
been for her. But it didn’t repel her, and perhaps if she tried for the sex
that didn’t attract her, she might have more chance of remaining impartial,
doing the job and moving on. But she had to do what she could for her mentor.
And only she could do this, only she could save him, because nobody else had
her skills, and nobody else cared enough to risk their life for him.

Dark shapes passed across the faces of skyscrapers where unmasked
Talents had already taken to the skies. Buildings were beginning to put on
their lights, illuminating the glimmer of a scale on a dragon’s wing, the soft
variations on the golden fur of a griffin.

Life had been much simpler a couple of years ago. Faye
sighed, remembering the days when every Talent had lived hidden among mankind.
Most people, or most mortals anyway, had considered them legends and told
stories about them, never dreaming Talents still existed. Fuzzing people’s
minds to disguise their true forms had worked and Faye feared it would become a
dying art now that the fear of discovery was gone.

Too late now to reconsider the reveal. When the dragon
flying over Central Park in daylight had refused to fuzz, refused to deny what
he was, the game was up. The world was still coming to terms with it, and would
be for a long time to come. Now dragons were on TV, shape-shifters in the
Senate. Every Talent was urged to be honest, to reveal themselves for
everyone’s good. If certain politicians had their way, Talents would be
forced
to reveal themselves. She couldn’t see the point. But it was done and finished.
It couldn’t be undone. Coming out had set Talent against Talent. Not that
matters had always been peaceful between dragon and vampire, vampire and
Sorcerer, but disputes were wrenching communities apart these days.

That first Talent had flown from the STORM building. Faye
glanced across the expanse of Central Park to where the structure jutted into
the sky. Normally it was indistinguishable from the other buildings surrounding
it, but tonight anyone looking up could see it was STORM from the number of
Talents around it, setting out for a night flight.

STORM was supposed to represent the rights of all Talents,
but these days they took the part of the government too often. Soon they’d
become another government agency and Talents would lose their valuable source
of independent advice and help. It was happening already.

Faye glanced back at the blank, faceless hotel room and took
a deep breath to strengthen her resolve before she took to the skies. A
reminder of what she had to do tonight, why she wasn’t in her comfortable
apartment downtown.

She was taking action to protect the growing resistance,
saving the one man who could make it work, who had the charisma and the
following to face the people who would force every Talent to come out, whether
they wanted to or not. Nobody should be forced to it, though Congress was
trying to mandate, saying people should know when Talents lived in their neighborhood,
as if they were undesirables.

A crock of shit, the whole thing. Lousy excuses. The
authorities just wanted control.

Enough. Time to go. Grabbing the pouch holding her hotel
keycard, she prepared for the shape-shift. She dropped her robe to the floor
and hooked the pouch’s long cord around her neck. Although it dropped to the
floor, it wouldn’t trail once she’d shape-shifted.

The process came as naturally to her as breathing. It no
longer excited or surprised her—she’d done it too often. So she didn’t watch
the mirror or hold her breath as she leaned forward and let the familiar shape
of the dragon come upon her, changing the shape of her bones, the appearance of
her skin. She watched the scales spread, urging the shape-shift to hurry,
pushing the pace to get out there and get the job done.

Tonight she could fly free. Usually she let old habits rule
her and fuzzed, but tonight she wanted someone to see her. She didn’t know who
yet, but she’d know him when she saw him. Someone vulnerable who came from that
building.

Someone to seduce.

 

Andros hated the moment of chilly awareness combined with
the vulnerability he always experienced when he got naked. He stepped out on to
the roof of the STORM building and shivered. One of his colleagues, Nick Ivy, a
roc shape-shifter, grinned. “You’re new, aren’t you?”

“I’ve worked for STORM for a while.” Andros tried not to
cover his genitals, tried to act nonchalant.

The man’s grin broadened. “I meant to shape-shifting. I know
you. You’re a geek, aren’t you?”

Andros hated to make assumptions, but this big, muscular man
with an all-over golden tan—shit,
all over
—didn’t look as if he spent
his days hunched over a computer screen. “Yep, that’s me.” He felt used to the
label. More a part of him than the dragon he’d so recently become. “It’s
getting cold, isn’t it?” Some of the chill of early fall might account for the
goose bumps pimpling his skin. But it wouldn’t explain away the nerves
prickling with the compulsion to shape-shift and the anxiety nagging at him.

“You’ll get used to it.” Nick’s grin broadened. “It’ll get
worse first, mind you. It’s only September.”

Oh right, the cool air.
Usually New York in September
was mild, but this happened to be one of those evenings when an unaccountable
chill swept over the city, especially this high up. Still, Andros wouldn’t swap
it for the sultriness of L.A., where he’d spent most of his life before his
recent move.

Neither could he get used to being naked with a bunch of
other people, most of them strangers, and in a weird pretense of politeness,
not let his gaze fall to their groins or stare at nipples tightening against
the cold. It was like not acknowledging an elephant in the room. He’d spent
much of his life getting naked for doctors and specialists before his
conversion but he’d never gotten over the shyness of revealing his body. In the
company of other naked people it seemed worse, not better.

He felt much happier these days. At least he could walk.
He’d gone from a geek with a lifelong illness that would have eventually killed
him to a powerful creature who could fly. It was too much, sometimes. He should
be grateful. Shit, he was grateful, but he was also scared and unsure.

He turned his gaze outward to the lights flickering on in
the tall buildings. Blessed evidence of ordinary life. Andros had always loved
living in the middle of cities, watching the life going on around him. It gave
him a reason not to look at himself, to forget his condition for a time.

Nick Ivy was still staring at him. Fuck, Andros would hate
to disappoint the guy, but he was relentlessly straight. But this time, when
his gaze flickered over him, he couldn’t help noticing the rising erection. The
big man glanced down at his body and up at Andros again. “It’s okay. We get
horny this time of the month. It doesn’t happen to you?”

Andros shook his head, then nodded, then changed his mind.
“I’m sorry, you’re real good-looking and all that, but—”

Nick threw back his dark head and howled with laughter, but
cut it off abruptly and shook his head. “I’m not hitting on you.” Several
people nearby glanced at them and grinned. Andros felt like any kind of fool
but studiously kept his gaze at face level. He had no intention of discovering
he was the only male on top of this building without an erection. But as he thought
that, he felt his cock twitch.
Oh fuck.
Nick, seemingly without Andros’
inhibitions, glanced down. “Yep, you too. It’s the imperative to procreate. At
least, that’s what someone told me a long time ago. We’re animals, guy. Anyone
will tell you that.”

He lost the smile completely and his eyes turned grave. “I
bet you’ve seen some good stuff, working where you do.”

At Andros’ frown, he explained. “Hate mail. Or rather, hate
email. STORM is open now too, and the letters keep coming.”

“I hardly see them. I built a filter to channel them to a
folder, then I archive them without looking.” Why let that kind of grief into
his life? “Want a copy?” Something he could do.

“Hey, sure, I’d love that.”

Andros felt better, useful. That was why he’d turned to
computing. His body might be weak, but his brain worked just fine. Always had.

Someone nudged Nick. “Your turn.”

So many people packed this roof on the three days a month of
compulsion that they had to stand in line.

Nick nodded at him and turned around. He stepped forward and
calmly dropped off the building, joining others doing exactly the same thing.
To the uninformed eye, it might look like some kind of weird mass suicide,
naked bodies dropping off the side of a tall building. Some of them whooped as
they fell.

Then, with a flap of powerful wings, the transformed
shape-shifter appeared, swooping in the sky in a spectacular display of
aerobatics. Dragons mostly, but griffins and other creatures amassed there too,
wings sweeping up to catch the currents, creating an even stronger breeze up
here. All kinds of flying beasts appeared, some rarely seen even by other
Talents. He thought he spotted a basilisk, but the dull gray being disappeared
around the edge of another building almost as soon as he saw it.

With a deadly shriek and a thrust of powerful wings, the roc
soared up above the roof. His razor-sharp beak and huge talons were a testament
to his lethal form, the huge bird everything an eagle should be but bigger,
better. He blinked once, his lid sliding over the dark eye and then, with an
agile twist, he turned and flew off in the direction of Central Park.

His turn.

Unlike the more experienced Talents here, and that meant
most of them, Andros didn’t enjoy the thrill of hurling himself off a building
and changing his form mid-flight, however much his colleagues told him about
the exhilaration of transforming with air rushing around their arms, finding an
air current and riding it. Swooping their wings down and rising higher. It
sounded like less of a thrill right now, and more like dancing with death. He’d
never enjoyed roller coasters much, either. Unlike his sister Ania, who’d
shrieked her way around every theme park California had to offer. But now he
could do something Ania couldn’t. He could fly.

Still scared that he’d lose the knack and plummet out of the
sky, Andros decided to shape-shift and take to the air on top of this building
before he ventured farther. It had taken some time before he was able to rise
up higher than ten feet or so, but at least he could do that now. And bank, and
dip. He wished his friend Jack Hargreaves had stayed here instead of moving to
England, because Jack was a new shape-shifter too. They’d learned their new
skills together, laughing at each other’s clumsiness. It didn’t matter between
them because they were both new. Except Jack, as a jaguar-god shape-shifter,
couldn’t fly. But he’d laughed plenty, as had Andros when Jack had tripped over
his paws and lost coordination.

The human population on the rooftop had thinned some and
Andros shivered as a fresh breeze drifted over his skin, putting goose bumps on
his goose bumps. He concentrated, lifted his head and stared at the rising
moon. The breeze sifted through his hair, tickling his scalp. All he had to do
was let it happen.

Then he felt it. A prickling sensation as scales slid over
his skin. He still had no idea how it happened, but inside, his body relaxed as
it obeyed the monthly compulsion. His boss, Ann Reynolds, had told him once
that it was Nature’s way of forcing shape-shifters to acknowledge their true
being. Maybe so, otherwise some might prefer to remain in human form, their
base form.

Though, despite his fears, Andros couldn’t imagine choosing
not to fly. Overcoming his fear acted like a high, and every time he did it,
his apprehension lessened. Once in the air, he found flying a thrill like no
other. The nearest he could get to describing it would be a sustained orgasm,
not the high, fast kind, but the long-drawn-out, flowing ones. And thank fuck
he’d had a few more of those recently than he’d managed before his conversion,
even though he’d had to go solo. The extra boost to his libido at this time of
the month helped too.

There was also a lot to be said for basic good health.

The tarred, blackened surface of the roof receded as his
size increased. He used to shape-shift with his eyes closed but it wasn’t cool,
so now he forced himself to watch. He just didn’t turn his head very much until
he’d completed the shape-shift, otherwise the process made him nauseous. The
feeling of moving without moving, the way sitting in a train and watching the
next train move made him feel as though he were moving himself. Weird. These
days the whole world had turned weird. The elastic of his ID ankle bracelet
stretched to take the increased size of his leg. That ID would get him back on
to STORM’s roof. Otherwise, on his return, a bunch of heavily armed security
staff would arrive before he’d shape-shifted back.

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