Monday, October 06, 2008

Nine Lives by Melinda Barron

Nine Lives
by Melinda Barron
Cover art by Karen Fox
ISBN (13): 978-1-60521-056-8
Genre(s): Paranormal
Theme(s): Interracial, Ménage, Bisexual and More
Length: Novella


Cat shifter Ophelia Brown lives a nomadic life. She travels from town to town, dancing at clubs, and trying to help others with the money her parents left her. But when she gets to Denver things change.
Club owner Conner Riley is very attracted to his new dancer. He and his boyfriend, Fox Nichols, have always appreciated the female form, especially O’s. But when strange things start happening to O, it’s up to Conner and Fox, a private detective, to figure out what’s happening before their shifter loses any more of her nine lives.


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Ophelia took a deep breath of the cool October air, loving the way it filled her lungs. After a night inside, with the low lights of the club, the loud music and the yells of customers, coming outside always made her body tingle with joy.
Tonight would be a perfect night to shift, to roam around Denver and see what was happening. First though, she’d go home to her little apartment in Aurora, check to make sure things were fine and then drive to Sloan’s Lake. There were always a few shifters hanging out there who loved to run and play some games.
Work hadn’t been hard tonight. She’d done four sets, and the crowds had been respectable, but not overly large. The tips had been good, but Ophelia didn’t dance for the money. She danced because she enjoyed the freedom it brought her, the pure joy of performing. She also loved the people she met. Sure, sometimes she had problems, but Conner always took care of things. He didn’t let anyone mess with his girls.
It was one reason she’d stayed in Denver longer than normal. Well, that plus the cat shifter community. She’d made some friends, and it was such a new experience for her that she wasn’t willing to give it up, not quite yet.
That didn’t always happen in her new homes. Because of her shifter abilities she moved, a lot, to avoid discovery. Finding people like her had been a boon. They’d showed her places to run and play at night, and during the day they actually met for lunch, a luxury Ophelia had never thought to have.
She sniffed the air again, then sighed. Over the smell of car exhaust fumes and stale cigarette smoke, she could scent a change in the weather. Snow should fly before the end of the week, and Ophelia could hardly wait. Nothing was more fun than frolicking in the snow in her feline form, except for maybe doing it with a bunch of friends. This winter could be interesting.
The parking lot was nearly deserted. Riley’s Dance Emporium closed at two, and since it was now almost three, the only cars left belonged to her, the few dancers still inside, her boss Conner, and his boyfriend, Fox.
She’d parked down at the end of the lot tonight since she hadn’t come in until after nine and most of the spots had already been taken. Usually that wouldn’t pose a problem since Conner made sure the area was well lit. But tonight, as she took the first few steps away from the building, she stopped, her instincts telling her something wasn’t quite right.
Two of the four streetlamps used to illuminate the parking lot weren’t working, and they were the two closest to her car, leaving her shiny red vehicle virtually sitting in the dark. She stared at them for a few minutes, wondering if she should go back inside and tell Conner… maybe ask him to walk her to her car.
She dismissed the idea as quickly as it came, though. When she’d last seen Conner, Fox had him pinned to the wall just outside the office, their lips locked. Fox’s hand had been inside Conner’s jeans, and even through the kiss Ophelia could hear Conner’s moans of pleasure.
Better not interrupt the lovers just because two lights were out. Nobody else was parked in that area. Tomorrow she would come in early and tell Conner, and he’d have it fixed before tomorrow night.
After all, she was a cat shifter. Seeing in the dark wasn’t a problem for her. She shouldered her bag and started toward her car, hoping Christine and Lily were in the park tonight. The three of them had a great time two nights ago when they’d taken on two others shifters for a few races. The memory of their wins made Ophelia laugh. Tonight would be a perfect night for more races.
Ophelia was about fifty feet from her car when the noise caught her attention. She turned around quickly, gasping at the car that sped right toward her, gravel spitting out from underneath the fast moving wheels. There were no headlights on, but that didn’t seem to bother the driver. He, or she, knew right where he was going, and Ophelia was the target.
She took off at a dead run, bounding over her car as if it were a two-foot fence, crouching down on the other side, her heart racing. She dropped her bag and got down on all fours, sucking in a huge breath of air. Her bones drew up as energy surged through her body, her human form disappearing.
Four paws came first, then her curvy hips and large breasts, which made her such a hit on the stage, disappeared. Her body shrunk and her skin turned to fur, mostly black with tufts of white around the neck and belly.
She scrambled away from her clothes, grateful she’d prepared for shifting later by wearing a loose dress with no underclothes. Once free of the material, she dove under her own car as the one that had been heading for her slammed on its brakes and swerved to avoid hitting her little compact. Instead, it hit the side of the Dumpster, the sound of metal scraping against metal making Ophelia cringe. The smell of burning rubber assailed her senses and she twitched her nose, her whiskers pulsing to try and detect the direction her assailant had gone. She crept to the front of the car slowly, peeping out from her hiding place.
All she could see were tires, though. A yell from the front of the building made her look in that direction. The car took off, peeling out and almost drowning out a command from Fox for it to stop.

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