Jacqui the Cat Mysteries #4
by Alexis Duran
Cat Shifter Jacqui Corleone has finally met his fated mate, but unlike in a romance novel, reality has other plans. For one thing, Wyatt doesn't know Jacqui is a shifter. For another thing, the dog men are back, and along with their slobber and their bad breath they bring a new level of danger to Jacqui's life, and to Wyatt's. When Jacqui meets other cat shifters for the first time, he's tantalized by a glimpse into their strange new world, but cats aren't much nicer than dogs, and soon Jacqui must choose if he's going to run again, or stand and fight against an enemy more powerful than he ever imagined.
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Jacqui raced home as if his tail were on fire.
Not so bad. Had to happen.
Left my phone, my clothes, everything behind. How will I explain it?
Jacqui tore up his street, cut through the gap between two buildings, and scrambled up the madrone tree behind his apartment. He was in the habit of leaving his bedroom window open, just in case, and now, the in case had occurred.
He squeezed in, jumped on the bed, shook himself.
What's that smell?
Gotta be fast. Wyatt's gonna call or come over. He's wondering where we are right now. He'll see the phone on the kitchen counter. Shit, he'll come over, make sure I'm alive.
Wait. Something's off.
No time. Shift. Now.
Jacqui was in such a rush he shifted standing on the bed. The panicky change swept over and through him so fast he toppled forward as four feet morphed into two. Most of his body landed on the mattress before momentum carried him off the side, tangled in the fluffy down comforter he loved so much.
He kicked away the blanket and jumped to his feet. How was he going to explain his disappearance this time? In a flash of genius, he grabbed his running clothes out of the closet and dressed. No time for undies or socks. His running shoes were in the downstairs closet.
He dashed down the narrow spiral staircase from his loft to the living area. It was a small studio with an open floor plan, which made it hard to miss anything out of place.
Like that smell.
Jacqui forced himself to stop moving and pay attention. Once he did, his scalp prickled and his nostrils flared. He sniffed and detected the sharp aroma of a stranger.
It's just a cat.
Just a cat?
That stray. He snuck in here last night and peed on our stuff!
No, human, focus. He's still here.
Jacqui focused. Took a deeper breath. Cat was correct.
The window. That stupid ruffian had discovered the open window and helped himself. Jacqui's territory, his inner sanctum, violated by a mangy stray.
What did I tell you about establishing a defensive perimeter?
Dogs can't climb trees. How was I to know I’d have to worry about cats?
He padded silently to his worktable in the middle of the room and turned a slow circle. He didn't see any damage, or the cat. Gone already? But, no. The smell was too intense, even for a stinky tom.
"Here, Kitty, Kitty", he said without much enthusiasm. "Where are you hiding?"
A rustling came from the bathroom and before Jacqui's disbelieving eyes, the doorknob began to turn.
Every muscle tightened, and the air rippled slightly as his body prepared to shift once again. To flee or fight as required. He forced himself to keep his shape, and seized up a pair of scissors from the workbench.
The bathroom door opened and a nude man stepped out.
A nude, grinning man. "Hello," he said. "Hope you don't mind that I used your shower."
Prepared only to snarl, Jacqui managed to choke out, "Mind? Of course I mind. Who the hell are you?"
"Reggie. We met last night." The grin became stiff and the man's nervousness seeped through his initial bravado. Man-boy. Young. Early twenties. Lanky but muscular. Big, almost buggy brown eyes. A close-cut, amateurish hair cut that might have been self-inflicted with garden shears. Toothy smile. Cute as all get out. Rough boy manner. Rough like that mangy stray—
Jacqui couldn't breathe. Couldn't think. Couldn't stop clutching the scissors like a mad man.
"You okay, dude?" the man asked.
Cat man. Cat shifter. One of his people. Jacqui's people. Here in the flesh. All the flesh.
Nude cat shifter man in my place!
Alexis Duran was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. At the University of Oregon, her fascination with people and relationships led her to major in Sociology, but her main love has always been creative writing. She's worked in museums, finance, film production, and for several performing arts organizations. Her favorite job so far has been inventorying the collection of a haunted Victorian Mansion. She is the author of the Jacqui the Cat Mysteries, Masters and Mages and Edge of Night m/m fantasy series as well as several stand-alone romances. Her fiction has won awards including the Rupert Hughes Award from the Maui Writers Conference. She has achieved official Crazy Cat Lady status with six cats. She is currently working on the next Jacqui the Cat mystery and always has several new ideas brewing.
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