About In Their Own Skins: Book One, Shifting Sands
Author: Kiernan Kelly
Word Count: 64,156
Page Count (pdf): 220
Date Published: 1/15/2018
First Edition: January 2009
Publisher: Torquere Press
Second Edition: January 2018
Publisher: Evil Plot Bunny, LLC
File Types Available: PDF, EPUB, MOBI
Pairing: m/m, contains m/m/f
Series name and number: In Their Own Skins, Book One
Dakota is a bear shifter who thinks he’s the only one of his kind in the whole world, until he meets Jax and the sparks — and fur — flies. Dakota and Jax are now convinced they can’t be the only ones who can change their shapes, and are determined to seek out other shapeshifters and give them a safe haven from the humans who’ve mistreated them. They found the Shifting Sands ranch, a place where all shifters can run free and live in peace.
But what if not all shifters are happy stay hidden away? What if there are apex predators who see everyone else as prey, including the shifters at the ranch? Dakota and Jax soon find themselves in the fight of — and for — their lives.
Shifting Sands includes two bonus stories written in the same universe, The Sound of Home, and Mother Blue’s Bar and Grill.
Give me a mug of hot buttered rum, a crackling fire, and a lodge filled to the rafters with pretty boys in ski pants, and I’m good to go. Dakota stretched his long legs up on an ottoman as he surreptitiously watched the ski instructors hobnob with the rich students who’d paid for their attention.
Today Dakota had opted to wear his sleek, formfitting white jumpsuit, the one that kept him toasty warm and yet still managed to show off his finely sculpted body to perfection. It was one of his favorites as he knew it made a terrific contrast with his golden-brown skin and long, sable hair, garnering him more than his fair share of attention from the ski staff.
Which, considering Dakota had no intention of setting foot on any of the slopes, had never owned a pair of skis in his life, and barely knew the difference between a snowplow and a snowmobile, was his entire purpose in coming to the ski resort for a two-week vacation in the first place.
There was no force on earth that would ever get Dakota to speed recklessly down a mountainside with nothing but a pair of flimsy ski poles between himself and the rocks, trees, and other skiers littering the slopes. He simply wasn’t built for it. Dakota was many things, but coordinated was not one of them.
He was big and muscular, not lithe and trim like most of the athletes who sliced through the powder here. They were like fragile deer, gracefully swooshing over the snowy slopes.
Dakota didn’t do graceful. Dakota did lumbering. He could be fast when he needed to be and was always powerful, but he was more like a bear than a gazelle — a grizzly bear, to be exact.
That was the form he took when he shifted. Dakota was a werebear, and werebears did not strap thin strips of fiberglass to their overly large feet and launch themselves down slippery mountainsides at breakneck speed. At least, this werebear did not. In truth, Dakota had no idea what other werebears did — he’d never met any.
For that matter, he’d never met anyone who could re-arrange his or her body at the cellular level. He alone seemed to have that dubious talent.
He sipped at his hot toddy, sighing as the warm liquor burned a delicious path down his throat to his belly. The hour he’d spent outside loitering near the bottom of the expert slope watching the skiers swoosh down in explosions of white powder had been just long enough to put a rosy glow in his cheeks, but he still felt cold. It was one of the hazards of choosing to remain in his frail human form. The bear would never feel the cold like this. Then again, the bear would not be indulging himself in a weekend of spicy hot toddies and spicier hot sex at a popular ski resort. Not exactly a party animal, he’d be curled up in a nest of leaves in a dark cave, sleeping away the winter months.
The hot buttered rum went a long way toward warming him, and as Dakota drank it he silently debated his choices.
Three male instructors were clustered near the huge, plate-glass window at the far side of the room that overlooked the slopes, deep in discussion. Two of them were gay. Dakota knew it for a fact since he’d bedded both — at the same time — the night before last. They’d been fun, but far too wrapped up in their sport to hold his interest past a quick, if athletic, fuck. When the pillow talk had turned to moguls, half-pipes, and big air, he’d gotten dressed and slipped out.
He turned his attention next to the bartender, a large man whose muscles bulged under a flannel shirt.
The guy had given Dakota double takes every time Dakota walked through the bar. There was definitely interest there. Brawny, he had a thick, black handlebar mustache that might prove quite interesting between Dakota’s thighs. But the barkeep had just come on duty, and Dakota was horny now. He crossed the bartender off his mental list.
Dakota’s gaze drifted along the length of the bar until it lighted on a man sitting on the very last stool, bent over a drink. His hair was a curious salt-and-pepper mix, although he didn’t look old enough to be going gray. It bristled in thick, messy spikes all over his head, curling this way and that. From where Dakota was sitting, the rest of the man looked just as interesting as his hair. He wore a pair of old Levi’s so thin they molded to his body like a second skin. A clingy, navy blue knit sweater accentuated the muscles in his arms and back.
Immediately, Dakota’s prick went into compass-mode, pointing north with painful accuracy. Him. He’s the one. “Hel-lo, gorgeous,” he whispered, and tossed back the last of his toddy.
As if on cue, the man lifted his head, cocking it slightly as if he’d heard Dakota, although that was impossible from his seat across the room. Turning slowly, the man locked a piercing green gaze with Dakota’s dark brown one, electricity sizzling through the air between them. In a heartbeat, the man’s eyes darkened to a deep forest green, sparkling with lust.
Well, I guess that answers my first question. Dakota licked his bottom lip. The man was gay, or at least bi-curious. There was an invitation in those eyes that was unmistakable, even from across the room.
Unfolding himself from the cushy armchair in which he’d been curled, Dakota ambled over to the bar, his lips tilting in a suggestive smile. He sat down on the next stool over, and placed his empty mug on the bar. With the curl of a finger, he signaled the bartender for a refill.
“Hi.” He deepened his voice just a little lower than it was normally, letting it slip into the range that could rumble in a man’s bones. “I’m Dakota.”
“North or South?” The man possessed a sexy, gravelly voice that reminded Dakota of a growl.
“Oh, never heard that one before.” Dakota grinned, then rolled his eyes. “Neither, just Dakota.”
“In a manner of speaking.” Dakota smiled. It was true, although it might be closer to the truth to say that he was an original American. After all, bears were here before anyone. The bartender set down a freshly filled mug in front of him and took Dakota’s money in one smooth movement. The strong smell of alcohol and butter drifted up to tickle Dakota’s nose.
“Car or High?”
“Touché.” Jax laughed, and took a sip of his own drink. It was a martini from the look of it, and from the look of Jax, not his first one that afternoon. “You’re a skier?”
“Not really. I’m actually not too fond of the cold. Left to my own devices I’d just as soon hibernate all winter.” Dakota sniffed the air, trying not to be too obvious about it. Jax was putting out a potent pheromone cocktail that smelled like a combination of vodka and male, and it was making Dakota’s mouth water. “I’m just here for the sex.”