Shifters We've Known and Written
Summer Devon & Linda Gayle
We went back and forth with our editor about how much we wanted to describe our Varelse, which is the Swedish word for creature or being. It turns out that Orson Scott Card uses the word in his books, but I (Summer) didn’t know about use when I was combing the Swedish dictionary for a good name.
We didn’t want a very specific description, we wanted the readers to see the cat-like animal on their own. Since the Varelse is an ancient creature, we gave it saber teeth and a dappled coat.
We intentionally set out to make our shifters slightly different from other Weres we’ve known. For instance, they love the process of shifting—it can help release sexual tension. Also they don’t have a subculture of their own. The only way our poor characters can understand their beastly nature is from reading notes written by a Swedish farmer and, maybe later, records from Anna’s family that tries to breed them as a kind of in-family weapon. The story opens with Anna tracking down the man her family has sent her to kill, and that's where she meets another of her kind, the first time she’s ever come across another with the shifting power—although some of her family members have some of the Varelse traits.
This is our only book together but it’s not our only shifter book. Summer has a fantasy, Revealing Skills, and that hero shifter could turn into anything he wanted—and the first time he shows up he’s a kind of a rat. (More like a chinchilla, but the whole story came about because someone made a joke about a sexy shapeshifting rat). Linda has another book coming out with Siren Press called Surrender to Paradise with cursed dolphin shifters.
People wonder if the whole shifter theme is getting used up but we don’t think that’s possible. The potential for shifters in romance is as big as your imagination.
Hey, listen up. If you commented any time during this week of shifters and the people who love them, we’ll automatically put you in the running for our shifter e-book. But you get extra entries for commenting on this post!
Excerpt from Claws on Silk by Summer Devon and Linda Gayle
Isak Arnesen caught the salty-sweet odor before he saw her, and his body knew before his mind understood -- a full-blood Varelse lurked near him. A female? He hadn’t known they could be women.
He kept books, lists of facts about Varelse. If he survived this encounter, he’d add this new bit of knowledge to his store of information. The smell of her obviously woke his own weakened version of the creature. The excitement of discovery didn’t help soothe the dratted sensation coursing through him. He’d seen only one other being in the flesh, and that had been an old, old man -- his great-great-uncle.
The woman hidden behind the copse of trees didn’t move. She’d frozen still as a statue, so she must know he was aware of her.
He didn’t know what he could do, other than draw her attention away from the fool sprawled on the ground. If Isak ran, she’d follow, and perhaps he’d even outpace her, although, hell, that heady overlay of ozone to her scent told him she had a great deal more healthy Varelse blood than he did. It smelled like desire, and his belly lurched as he remembered the joy of that freedom, the release.
What had his uncle’s notes said about encountering others? Would they fight for dominance? He could recall nothing. His thoughts vanished as his body grew too ensnared in her presence.
He shifted from one foot to the other slowly, standing, then moving to put himself between the unconscious man and the Varelse. He clutched his revolver, a second later realizing drawing it had been a stupid thing to do. She might consider it aggression. He certainly would.
He wanted to call out to her, to chirrup invitingly and speak to her as one would a nervous animal, but he had no idea if that would draw her attack faster. When his own Varelse rose inside him, he found the sound of a person’s voice more irritating than soothing.
If he didn’t do this correctly, one or more of them would end up dead. He suspected that he and the drunkard who’d wandered onto his land would be the dead ones.
Then he recalled something his great-great-uncle had had him write down years earlier. Advice for any human encountering a Varelse: go to him. Don’t wait for him to hunt you down. You must be entirely unafraid, approach in a submissive position -- and you might survive.
As his great-great-uncle had pointed out, the trouble lay with the “unafraid” part. No sane person could manage that. And the submission -- that must not be taken too far, or the creature would interpret it as weakness. To know the difference meant life or death. Or so his great-great-uncle had said. Most people couldn’t feel that difference. But after all, Isak wasn’t entirely a person himself. For once he found comfort in that.
As the thoughts buzzed through his head, he forced himself to stand almost as motionless as she. He had to force himself to approach her instead of running the hell away. Obviously the Varelse didn’t want to attack, or he would be dead or in a fight for his life by now. Why didn’t she?
Was she hurt or sick?
Now a wave of concern for the woman washed through him. That was good, because it pushed off the fear but not the strange excitement. That old, almost forgotten, anticipation. The hunt.
Years ago, before the famine, before constant hunger and thirst had weakened the Varelse in him, he’d craved that itch to change and to hunt.
Now, everything around him gleamed with the brilliance and clarity of the old days. His heart beat as quickly. Ah, but therein lay the difference. For the first time in his life, he was potential prey. A new version of the longing filled him.
He felt alive.
He moved slowly toward the trees and the Varelse, the gun loose at his side. The fear wasn’t going to vanish entirely, but he’d ignore it and concentrate on the life coursing through him. Tilting his head, he exposed his throat.
Silence, except for his harsh breathing. She would hear his panting fear. To cover it, he began to sing an old drinking song another of his long-dead uncles, a sailor, had taught him, and he slowly strolled toward the trees where danger waited.
He glimpsed a flash of orange and yellow fur wrapped in the remains of a white blouse and blue skirt, and she sprang. The transformed woman. The full Varelse, sleekly feline, primitive yet elegant. And utterly lethal. He had to look, which helped him fight the instinct to protect himself by curling into a ball. Good, because anything defensive would draw her fangs to his throat.
She drove him to the ground. Stones bit into his back, and the sun haloed the outline of her predatory muzzle and glistening fangs, but he forced himself to stay as still as possible.
The sleek hide pressed against him. In his state of hyperawareness, he could see every detail of her lithe body, the catlike curves, the fluid muscles beneath the quivering flank, even the stitching in the tatters of the clothing still clinging to her. The heat of her breath washed against his bare throat, the knife-edge of her claws dug into his arms as she forced him to drop the gun.
He breathed. His throat remained unripped.
Isak tilted his head up to look directly into her orange eyes that glowed less than two feet above him. Savage, cold, lion’s eyes, yet like no lion that had ever walked beside man. A unique creation of a cruel god, the lean Varelse outweighed the pumas that roamed the mountains, and her canines curved slightly past her lower jaw like ivory scimitars. Gold stripes spangled her glossy pelt, and four-inch claws pricked his skin. A living nightmare from the dawn of time, growling softly on his chest. English -- all language -- deserted him. He whimpered, but more than fear pushed that noise from his throat. Beautiful.
He had to transform and have her. The Varelse he’d thought had died in him slid along his veins, making his mouth water, his skin itch.
Isak forced it back. Later, later, he promised the Varelse that flooded his body and his cock with heady, unfamiliar desire. Now he must control the lust and fear.
Today, Summer and Linda are giving away a download of Claws on Silk to one lucky winner who comments on their post (double entry!) or who's already commented on previous Shifter Party Posts (single entry!). Their contest will close at midnight tonight and their winner will be announced tomorrow morning on this thread.