GUEST POST / RELEASE BLITZ / SERIES RECAP – Roam (Jacqui the Cat Mysteries 3) by Alexis Duran – #Excerpt #Giveaway

Alexis Duran has a new book out in her Jacqui the Cat cozy MM mystery series – “Roam” – and there’s a Giveaway!


About the Series

Publisher: ShadowSpinners Press
Length: Novella / Book 1 – 20k / Book 2 – 34k / Book 3 – 34K
Cover Artist: Robin Ludwig Design Inc.
Genres/Pairing: Cozy Mystery, Gay Romance, Shifter Paranormal, M/M

Jacqui Corleone is a fashion designer, a yoga-instructor and a concerned citizen who selflessly helps the police solve crimes. Oh, and he occasionally turns into a small wild cat. Probably due to a wizard’s curse or an evil government plot to create super warriors.

Or, he’s a cat cursed to turn into a human and only the bite of a sexy alpha lion will allow him to remain in his superior form of Cat.

Jacqui does not have a split personality, but sometimes his cat personality can get rather loud.

Loud? You’re loud.

Jacqui Corleone is a cat shifter who doesn’t know why or how he turns into a cat. He lives a solitary life in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. He’s not afraid of intimacy (yes, he is) but sensibly refrains from potentially awkward entanglements. Unfortunately, the sexy new deputy sheriff just moved in across the street and Jacqui’s vow not to get mixed up with island dudes is sorely challenged.

When the mysterious disappearance of three blue pots draws Jacqui to investigate, he’s drawn ever deeper into danger–and into the arms of Deputy Wyatt West (you wish).


Book One: Prowl

Prowl
Jacqui Corleone is a fashion designer, a yoga-instructor and a concerned citizen who selflessly helps the police solve crimes. Oh, and he occasionally turns into a small wild cat. Probably due to a wizard’s curse or an evil government plot to create super warriors.

Or, he’s a cat cursed to turn into a human and only the bite of a sexy alpha lion will allow him to remain in his superior form of Cat.

Jacqui does not have a split personality, but sometimes his cat personality can get rather loud.

Loud? You’re loud.

Jacqui Corleone is a cat shifter who doesn’t know why or how he turns into a cat. He lives a solitary life in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. He’s not afraid of intimacy (yes, he is) but sensibly refrains from potentially awkward entanglements. Unfortunately, the sexy new deputy sheriff just moved in across the street and Jacqui’s vow not to get mixed up with island dudes is sorely challenged.

When the mysterious disappearance of three blue pots draws Jacqui to investigate, he prowls ever deeper into danger–and into the arms of Deputy Wyatt West (he wishes).

Prowl Excerpt:

(Wyatt and Jacqui the Cat’s unfortunate first meeting.)

After determining no loose dogs or grabby children roamed the hood, Jacqui scrambled down the tree trunk and sauntered nonchalantly toward the condos across the street. He lived on the side of a hill that sloped down toward the harbor, so the front of the condominiums faced the next street over. Fenced backyards opened onto the sidewalk on Jacqui’s street. Wyatt West, in the middle of moving, had left his gate open.

Jacqui paused and peered around the corner. Like all the other condos in the line, this one had a postage stamp­–sized concrete patio and a long, narrow stretch of yard. The previous resident had let the yard return to nature. Dandelions, Queen Anne’s Lace, some blackberry brambles, and an assortment of tall grasses battled for dominance.

The previous resident had also never been home, being a part-time islander, so all the neighborhood creatures and bugs liked to hang out there. It was chill. Jacqui spied a weed wacker and a sack of lawn seed leaning against the fence and guessed all that was about to change.

Boxes filled about half the patio, and a couch had been parked in the weeds.

Wait a minute. If Wild West lived on a boat, where the hell did all this shit come from? Why does he need a truck and a moving van?

Clearly, the boat episode was a temporary lapse of sanity. He had his stuff in storage somewhere. He’s ready to return to the land of the sensible now.

Music thudded softly out of the open patio door. Classic rock. Seventies. Zeppelin. Robert Plant wailed about something or other. Jacqui flicked his ears. He preferred classical. And jazz. And when he drank too much, Prince, the Eurythmics, and an embarrassing selection of Eighties Hair Bands.

Annie Lennox had been his first fashion guru. At sixteen, he’d given himself a crew cut and died his hair neon red, only to be told by everyone that he looked like an anemic Bozo the clown. It was a defining moment.

So where was Wyatt? Jacqui cautiously stepped into the yard, pushing his way through the tall grass, enjoying the scrape of bristly dandelion leaves against his fur. He investigated the couch first. The faint odor of clove cigarettes clung to it. A hint of cologne. Wyatt didn’t strike him as either a hipster smoker or a wearer of man perfume. The couch was upholstered in a rough woven fabric perfect for scratching, but Jacqui resisted. He didn’t want to get run off yet. He’d only just arrived.

At last Wyatt appeared. He was still shirtless, but held one in his left hand, a bottle of beer in the other. He placed the beer on top of the stack of boxes and wiped his forehead with the T-shirt.

Ugh. And he would no doubt put it back on, sweat-sodden and wrinkled. Jacqui crouched down, peeping around the edge of the couch.

Wyatt shook out the shirt, appeared to think better of it, and tossed it on the box next to the beer. Then he stretched.

Oh, yes, he did stretch. He placed both hands behind his neck and leaned back, the smooth lines of his muscular chest clearly defined and gleaming with a sheen of sweat. A tiny bead made its way around his belly button and trickled toward the barely visible trail of dark hair poking out of his low-slung jeans.

His brown hair, brown eyes, and what looked like naturally tanned skin hinted at a southern European background, but for some reason Jacqui imagined him as Scottish. He’d look great on the cover of a romance novel wearing only a kilt and brandishing a broadsword, silky hair blowing in a highland wind.

Jacqui would be wearing something satiny and torn, but looking defiant. No barbarian lord was going to dominate Jacqui, who was on the run from an evil uncle who wanted to usurp the throne of Catatonia.

Jacqui only read shifter romances for research purposes. Not for prurient interests.

I give him a nine and a half. He loses half a point because he has no sense of style. His hair looks like he used that weed wacker on it. And the five o’clock shadow? That’s so spot-on trendy. He needs our help badly.

Don’t distract me from the sweat trickles. I want to lick them. I want to bite the back of his neck and make him mine.

This was such a bad idea.

Jacqui stared, mesmerized, as Wyatt leaned to one side and then the other. He could use some yoga, get a little more flexibility in those muscles. Jacqui would drop off his card.

No, he wouldn’t. Jacqui had a rule. Lookee no touchee. He didn’t date islanders. Too close. Too all up in his business. He couldn’t risk the intimacy. Sex was sex, and he went to Seattle for that, where he had an understanding with a man who appreciated a Jacqui visitation but didn’t seek anything further.

Ramon didn’t want to come to his apartment, sleep in his bed, question his pantry full of tuna, or ask where he went in the middle of the night.

Shame, though. Wyatt looked delicious. He dropped his hands and put them on his hips. Then he ran a hand through his hair and looked around at the boxes and the couch, shaking his head.

“How did I ever accumulate so much crap?” he asked himself.

Get rid of the couch. It stinks and it’s ugly. I know a great interior designer. I’ll hook you up.

Wyatt walked up to the couch and Jacqui knew he should make a run for it. Or, he could play sweet and maybe get a scratch on the head. A belly rub?

Oh, there goes another sweat bead. Will it make it around the belly button, or dive into those mysterious depths?

A shrill, piercing bark caused all the fur on Jacqui’s body to puff out like a bristle brush.

Demon spawnright behind us!

Survival instinct took over. He leapt onto the back of the couch, but that wasn’t high enough. He needed to climb, and the tallest thing in leaping range was…Wyatt.

Jacqui sprang.

Wyatt jerked to the side in surprise and shouted, “What the fuck?”

Jacqui landed on a shoulder. He hunkered down around the back of Wyatt’s neck and sank his claws in.

Safe.

Only then did he look back at his would-be assassin.

Fucking Poms. Two ugly-as-sin, white-and-tan Pomeranians ran around Wyatt’s yard yapping their heads off.

Jacqui hissed menacingly. The Poms were unimpressed.

Wyatt grabbed Jacqui’s tail and his scruff and yanked in both directions, turning in circles. Jacqui’s claws extended of their own accord.

“Get the fuck off me! What the hell?”

His vocabulary was limited. They could work on that, too.

A blonde woman in a lavender workout suit scuttled in through the gate with a tiny leash thingy dangling from her hand.

“Sorry, Wyatt! They saw a squirrel and broke loose again.”

For like the hundred millionth time. Buy muzzle halters, you stupid, dog-loving twit.

“Make them stop!” Wyatt gasped as if in pain.

Oh, right, the claws. Jacqui tried to soften his grip, but he just couldn’t. Not with big-eared death so close. So hyper and noisy.

“Oh, I see you’ve met Mr. Whiskers.”

Lie! Lying liar! That is not my name! Although I must admit, I do have impressive whiskers.

“Is this your cat?” Wyatt asked, his voice now low and dangerous. And sexy. Yowza.

“No. I think he belongs to the old lady in the Victorian on the corner.”

“So not someone I can go rant and curse at?”

“Not unless you want to give her a heart attack. Béyonce! Celine! Be quiet!”

The woman, a three-doors-down neighbor named Claire, made a halfhearted attempt to corral her dogs. They dodged her hand, intent on barking Jacqui off his perch and chasing him over the fence. Jacqui didn’t budge.

“Would you help me extract this cat?” Wyatt asked, the note of tension in his voice growing tauter.

“He’s a sweetheart, really,” Claire said, making no move to come closer.

“She says as it tries to lacerate my jugular.” Wyatt tugged on Jacqui’s tail again. Painful, yet oddly arousing.

“Maybe if you stopped yanking on him and tried to calm him down?”

“Maybe if you got your fu—if you’d get your dogs under control.”

“Poor thing is all scared. Bad dogs!” She got one of the beasts hooked up to the leash again. It sat at her feet and growled.

I’m not scared. I was startled. Now I seek only vengeance.

Wyatt stopped jerking and tugging. “Nice kitty,” he said through clenched teeth.

Jacqui wanted to let go. He really did. This was not a good paw to start off their voyeuristic, one-sided relationship on. But Cat was having none of it. Cat wanted those Poms gone. He hissed to express his desires.

~

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Book Two: Pounce

Half-cat, half-human, all-awesome, Jacqui has spent his life avoiding getting too close to anyone. But despite his best intentions, he just can’t stay away from the sexy deputy sheriff, Wyatt West, especially after Jacqui is the victim of a local band of thieves and turns to the police for help.

When the call of curiosity grows too insistent, Jacqui does a little prying around on his own, an activity that quickly leads him into danger.

Is this the end for our Furry Fashionista, or will the heroic and altogether too handsome Wyatt save the day? And more importantly, will they finally have sex?? Read Pounce, Book 2 in the Jacqui the Mysteries, to find out.

Pounce Excerpt:

San Juan Island Bookstore and Café teemed with people. The espresso maker in the back hissed, the grinder roared, and still people whispered, as if in a library. They stood in clusters, carefully avoiding the guest of honor, Crystal Windsong, pet psychic and author of seven books, three focusing on cat psychology, cat telepathy, and cats as spiritual animal guides.

Jacqui had decided she was mostly full of shit. Sure, she’d learned how to make friends with ordinary house cats, but nothing he had read so far suggested that she knew anything about magic cat shifters. She was worthless to him. And yet here he was, at her book signing, holding his copy of Inner Cat, Outer Lion under one arm and sipping a cappuccino while hiding behind the freestanding shelf of San Juan County guidebooks.

She was younger than he’d expected, with long, straight blonde hair, bright green eyes, and an enviable Arizona girl tan. She lived in Sedona and wore gobs of the clunky silver and turquoise jewelry popular in the southwest. Her bare arms were muscular, teeth Osmond-white and perfectly straight. She was scary. A power blonde with aspirations toward spiritual guru. Calm. Calculating.

You’re staring and being a creeper.

Noted.

Jacqui stopped staring at Crystal Windsong, who seemed perfectly happy sitting behind a table full of her books and not selling any. Jacqui had purchased Inner Cat the day before, read it overnight, decided there was nothing in it for him, and declared to himself he wouldn’t bother meeting her.

He’d walked in holding her book. She’d noticed and smiled at him. He’d smiled back and made a beeline for the café. No talking to the pet psychic if she actually was psychic, because then she’d know. But after stalking her for twenty minutes, he was pretty sure she wasn’t. No way could she guess that Jacqui really did have an inner cat.

He composed his disinterested face and approached her table.

She smiled up at him as if she hadn’t noticed him lurking.

“Hello. I see you have Inner Cat.”

Crap. No, she means the book. Under your arm, dipshit.

“Hi. Yes. I bought it yesterday. For my niece.”

Because everyone should have a niece to blame lame purchases on.

“How nice. What’s her name?” Crystal held up a hand to take the book.

“Rose,” he said.

Why not? Since he’d coughed up the dough for a hardback, breaking in his brand-new debit card, it could double as a birthday gift, even though Rose hated cats, which on second thought might mean a book about cats was not the best idea.

“No, wait. Better make that out to—” Who else might he give a gift to? “Mei Lin. Rose is her nickname.” He handed over the book.

Crystal exuded understanding and attentive interest in the stranger who’d bought her book. The usual guru mind-fuck.

“How do you spell that?”

Jacqui told her, guessing because had he ever seen Mei Lin’s name written down? She was a nail technician, and her shop was called Nails by Natalie, because she’d purchased it from someone named Natalie.

“I read a little of it last night,” he said as he watched her inscribe the book in sparkly blue ink. “Do you really think everyone has a cat inside them?”

“Oh, no. Everyone’s spirit animal is different.” She ended her signature with a flourish. “You are definitely a cat person, though.”

“What makes you say that?” he asked.

“Everything about you. The way you move, the way you held back, checking me out before approaching. Those eyes. Don’t have to be a psychic to see all of that.”

“And the fact that I bought a book called Inner Cat, Outer Lion.”

“That, too.” She blew on the ink and smiled down on what she’d written, as if sending a blessing to the fake niece Mei Lin. She closed the book and ran a hand over the Egyptian-esque cover image featuring a stylized cat standing before by a bright orange moon. There hadn’t been a single thing about curses or wizards in it.

“How many cats to do you have?” she asked.

“None.” He sipped his cappuccino and narrowed his eyes. “One doesn’t owncats. But surely you know that.”

She laughed brightly. “Of course. How many cats choose to live with you?”

He shook his head. “My landlord doesn’t allow animals.” A lie, but he didn’t want to explain how once a cat witnessed him shift, it considered him to be a monster more terrifying than any pit bull. Many a cat had fled his cat-friendly dwellings never to be seen again, which was very disappointing. “There is a neighborhood cat, though, who I believe you’re very interested in.”

Crystal leaned forward on her elbows, bangles rattling, large hoop earrings swinging. Her nails were painted eggshell blue. “The crime-solving cat?”

“Yes. He’s a beautiful tawny mix with tufted ears. I always knew he was exceptionally intelligent. You’ll never catch him.”

“Oh, I don’t want to catch him. I was hoping someone might have a friendly relationship with him, and could make an introduction. I want to commune with him. Does he come around often?”

“Totally unpredictable. He’s entirely independent.”

“Don’t you find it fascinating that this allegedly feral cat knew to deliver that finger to the deputy sheriff?”

“Fascinating. Yes, certainly.” Jacqui couldn’t help himself. He watched her closely. “What do you make of it?”

“That’s why I’m here, trying to figure out what to make of it.” She lowered her voice. “Do you know Wyatt West?”

“He’s my neighbor. Why?”

“Well, I interviewed him, seeking to understand the bond he might have with this cat. He denies being a cat person at all, insisting he hates the cat. He even calls it Satan.”

Jacqui spotted a stool nearby. He snagged it and set it beside the table so that he could sit eye level with Crystal as they discussed his favorite topic: himself.

Because research and magic and stuff.

“I know. He wants to trap the cat and have him fixed!”

She clucked and shook her head. “Deputy West is in total denial of his spiritual side. I detected his inner cougar two minutes after I’d met him.”

“Cougar?”

“Prefers to stay hidden, to hunt alone. Strong and self-reliant. He exudes big-cat energy, but he isn’t open to the wider nature of the universe.”

“Right? What kind of cat am I?” Jacqui asked, forgetting to be paranoid about Crystal’s psychic abilities.

She rested her fingers on top of his hand and stared into his eyes. He stared back, daring her to see. He was like a moth to flame, yearning to be seen, terrified to be exposed.

“I sense one of the smaller wildcats. A night hunter. Possibly a caracal.”

“Whoa, that’s specific.” Jacqui’s mouth went dry. He’d theorized himself that the caracal was the wildcat he was descended from. “A type of lynx, right?”

“I don’t usually get such a clear image.” She blinked, as if surprised herself. “Your outer lion is very well developed.”

“Thank you.” What the hell was he doing? Research. “So why do you think Satan risked going into Wyatt’s apartment when the man is so clearly antagonistic toward him?”

Crystal blinked again, adjusting to the shift in topic.

“The cat clearly sensed that Deputy West’s outer lion is a figure of authority in the human realm. Just as a cat instinctively knows evil when it sees it, it can also recognize the goodness and strength in a person, even if said person is confused about his true nature.”

“Wyatt West is a closeted cat person,” Jacqui whispered.

“Totally,” Crystal whispered back. “Are you two an item?”

“What?” He straightened and tried to retrieve his air of cool indifference. “No, why?”

“Good. Because that would be bad. Very bad.” She shook her head. “Two lone hunter types would not blend well. There would be excessive disharmony as you both tried hard to keep your secrets hidden from each other.”

She tapped the book she’d just signed as if indicating she knew Jacqui had lied about the niece. Fucking psychic.

Jacqui drained his coffee and sniffed. “What secrets does Wyatt West have?”

“I don’t know. I only talked to him for fifteen minutes. But he’s clearly someone who shares very little of himself with the outside world. Like you. Your inner cat would harmonize more beneficially with a more outgoing personality. A dog person, for instance.”

“What? Are you out of your mind?” Jacqui must have raised his voice, because a few patrons glanced over.

Unruffled, Crystal continued to smile. “Opposites attract.”

~

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Book Three: Roam

Roam

Being half-cat isn’t easy in a human world, and Jacqui’s life has just gotten a lot more complicated now that he’s dating the hot deputy sheriff who lives across the street. Wyatt’s brain might explode if he finds out his lover turns into a cat sometimes.

And even more unthinkable, Wyatt might REJECT Jacqui if he discovers that his boyfriend and Satan the feral wild cat are one and the same! As if Jacqui doesn’t have enough to worry about, he becomes the unwilling foster parent of a drooling dog, and soon discovers a nefarious plot involving marauding Rottweilers with a taste for Cat.

Follow Jacqui into trouble in his most exciting misadventure yet!

Roam Excerpt:

The forest chittered and fluttered with the movements of a thousand living things. Tree limbs creaked in a mild breeze, leaves drifted, tiny birds darted, and squirrels scraped their toenails up and down bark. High above, an eagle hushed the air with one languorous flap of its huge wings.

Jacqui tilted his head back and breathed in the scent of sun-warmed pitch. The rich aroma of moss and mushrooms slipped in too, along with his coconut oil sunblock and the vague musky hint of deer having passed by. Tension melted off of him as he let the wild seep into his bones.

Granted, nowhere on San Juan Island was all that wild, but this patch of uninhabited forest would do for the time being. Every now and then, Jacqui needed to get his wild thing on. Away from people, cars, kids, dogs, tourists, buses, shops, cell phones; all of the things that pressed in on him, endangered him, intruded on just being a cat.

He wheeled his bike deep into the brush, as deep as it would go, well out of view of the parking lot, where hikers parked before heading up Mount Grant, which wasn’t a mount but a hill. He took a drink from his water bottle, stowed it away, and began peeling off his humanity, bit by bit. Helmet and gloves first, then athletic shoes and socks. Pine needles poked into the soles of his feet and he reminded himself that soon the tough pads of his paws would register the sensation as information only, not the slightly irritating prick of pain it was now.

Another example of how cats are better than people in every way.

Cats can’t ride bikes.

Cats don’t need to ride bikes.

Hey, we don’t want to spend the night out here in either form, do we?

I could do it. I ain’t afraid of no fox.

“You should be,” Jacqui said, interrupting his internal dialogue. Although it was likely that in his cat form, he was the largest predator afoot aside from the foxes, he had no desire to have a run-in with any kind of creature, other than maybe a fussy little bird or two. All he wanted to do was roam, climb trees, hunt, and release.

He was no domesticat. Extensive research had convinced him he was at least part caracal, a small wildcat. That wildcat needed to stretch its limbs and go a little feral, or Jacqui started to get twitchy. It was bad enough having a cat personality chattering away in his head; it got so much worse when he didn’t let Cat out to play often enough.

Then why do you wait so looooong?

“Life. Obligations. Cars. Witch hunts.”

Wyatt.

Oh, yeah.

Jacqui had a boyfriend now. A sort-of boyfriend. A guy he dated. Went out to dinner with, slept over with, snuggled on the couch and watched movies with. Despite his trepidation about becoming involved, he’d become involved. All because stupid Wyatt didn’t want to just have rock star sex. He wanted a boyfriend. So now it was even harder to find the time to shift and roam, because deputy sheriff boyfriend Wyatt lived right across the street.

And you’d rather go get a little nooky than shift!

“I told you to never use that word in my head again,” Jacqui said, and looked around, even though he knew perfectly well he was alone.

Another thing about having a boyfriend: He had to curb his tendency to talk out loud in constant verbal conflict with his cat urges. Somehow the repression made the inner voice all the louder.

“So okay, we’re here now, and we’ve got all day to play. Stupid Wyatt is out on his stupid sailboat fishing. He’ll come home smelling like fish, so double bonus.”

Jacqui was momentarily distracted by the thought of grungy, smelly Wyatt returning home, peeling off his clothes, stepping into the shower, and being pounced on by his lithe, hotter-than-hell boyfriend.

A flock of bushtits swarmed into sight, twittering and flickering in the lower branches of a nearby madrone.

Let’s goooooo!

No killing.

Party pooper.

Remember when we were a kitten and killed that finch? We were emotionally crippled by remorse for six months. I wore black every day and even went to confession.

Catch and release?

No claws.

Agreed. Things taste nasty, anyway.

Jacqui opened his waterproof backpack, put in his socks and shoes, then peeled off his T-shirt and put that in, as well. He was about to slip out of his bicycle shorts when a sound from the woods halted him.

Something large and loud crashed through the underbrush.

Shit.

The beast revealed itself to be a dog.

Jacqui stiffened, every sense attuned to reading the intentions of the large beast. It ran, bounding over or plowing through the plant life in its path, but didn’t appear to be chasing anything. Judging by the flapping tongue and round, wide eyes, it wasn’t the dangerous variety, just a dopey house hound on the loose.

Naturally, the dog—a mutt of Labrador, poodle, scruff bag origin, mostly brown with white splotches and big flopping ears—headed straight for him.

“Stop! Go away,” Jacqui called out.

The beast did neither, but loped right up to Jacqui and tried to force its way between his legs and his bike.

Jacqui kneed the dog away while holding his bike to keep it from tipping. “No. I don’t like dogs. Go home.”

The dog circled him and nuzzled his thighs, leaving a streak of drool across his exposed skin, then tried to stuff its snout into the backpack.

“Stop! Sit!”

The dog tilted its head and gave him a “seriously?” look, then sat, panting. It looked over its shoulder as if it expected an angry owner to come chasing after it. Pine needles and bits of leaves coated its long tongue. Its hot breath stank, and Jacqui noticed its fur was matted and full of debris, as well.

Animal at large, Wyatt would call it.

“Where did you come from?” Jacqui asked sternly.

The beast wore no collar. It licked its chops, then resumed panting. There were houses around, not close though, and not accessible by the trail. Not by humans, anyway.

Jacqui sighed, put his shirt back on, and pulled out the water bottle. He made a cup out of his palm and poured water into it. The beast didn’t hesitate, but lapped up every drop until the bottle was empty.

Dog lover.

“Shut up.”

Once the water was gone, the dog again attempted to meld itself with Jacqui, pushing against him and winding between his legs. It was shaking, and it didn’t take kitty senses to realize the dog was afraid of something.

But not Jacqui, which was odd. Dogs and Jacqui generally gave each other a wide berth, by an unspoken mutual accord.

“What’s wrong with you?” Jacqui asked. He still half-expected any animal at any time to shift into a human and answer his questions, but not this dog. How disappointing would that be for the first meeting with his kind? A mutt-man who would drool on him and pant. Come to think of it, plenty of man-men had done the same thing.

“Not a person under the scruff, then?”

The dog stopped its nervous motions and stared into the forest.

Jacqui froze, too, and a second later heard another rustling noise in the trees. A black flash, here, there, and then the new interloper appeared. A Rottweiler, with a massive chest, black beady eyes, and none of the gangly goofiness of the first dog.

Jacqui’s instincts fired. Danger.

The safest thing to do would be to shift and climb the nearest tree. Without  pausing to think it through, his inner cat shimmered, strengthened, and expanded.

But the mutt didn’t run. It crouched behind Jacqui, pressed against him as if it expected Jacqui to protect it from this hurtling, eighty-pound killing machine.

Ten seconds. Ten seconds and the Rott would plow through Jacqui and jump on the mutt. Jacqui felt his form loosening, the magic—because what else the hell could it be—radiating outward. He sucked in a breath and stopped it, held it still. An exquisite ache twisted inside him. He’d never done such a thing before, halting in midshift, but he couldn’t leave the mutt undefended. He just couldn’t.

He shouted, something that was half-human, half-angry cat yowl. The Rott came to an abrupt stop. So abrupt its paws skidded in the dirt. It would’ve been comical if Jacqui’s heart hadn’t been pounding so hard.

He recognized the alarmed confusion in the dog’s eyes. The animal equivalent of “what the fuck?” It wasn’t Jacqui’s less-than-imposing five-foot-seven frame that had brought the Rott up short. It was the burst of energy, the ripple in reality caused by the shift.

The Rott stood still, hunched and paralyzed, its hunting instinct warring with self-preservation. A low growl escaped from deep in its chest.

“Go home!” Jacqui said, fully himself again, a puny human without claws, fangs, or magic. He did not have a good feeling about how things were about to go.

~

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☆ Guest Post ☆

My Imaginary BFF, Jacqui the Cat

Jacqui the Cat was one of those characters who seemed to appear in my head fully formed.  He knew his name. He knew he was a part-time cat, full-time fashion designer and outwardly, extremely confident.  If that was all there was to him, he might have taken his place at the end of a long queue of characters waiting to have their stories written down.

Jacqui was persistent though, and once he started talking he never really shut up until I started writing down what he had to say. Okay, I thought, this is pretty entertaining. Silly, but fun, so I’ll write down these conversations and then stick him in the back of the queue.

Not so much. Because Jacqui, it turned out, was someone I knew intimately. Someone with whom I immediately bonded and who I wanted to spend time with. I believe he emerged from a past when I was both more willing to be silly and more shy about expressing who I really was. His shifter side came from a time when all my imaginary friends and all my fictional characters were animals. His conflicted young man side is a character whose been with me my entire adult life.

Jacqui, like a cat, is very confident and independent, and moves through life without much regard for the troubles of those around him. But it’s all an act. On the inside, he is full of self-doubt. He doesn’t know anything about shifters, where he came from, or how it is possible that he turns into a cat. He knows he has to hide his true self from the world, and being gay adds to the multiple levels of rejection he feels from society. While he is now out and proud about his sexuality, his catness must remain forever hidden. Or so he believes.

Having a boyfriend challenges that belief in a big way. How can you have a successful intimate relationship with such a huge secret between you? Well, Jacqui is going to try, and that is part of the fun of writing him. Being a cat shifter is a fantasy, but having to repress your true self and lead the life of a chameleon is no fantasy. Many of us live it every day. I certainly did, for years, and that’s why Jacqui spoke to me on such a deep level. While it is fun to create trouble for him and see how he deals with it, there’s a truth behind the silliness that adds lovability and meaning, pain and joy to his struggles. So when Jacqui talks to me, I listen.


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Author Bio/Links

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 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 lives with one dog and four and a half cats. She is currently working on the next Jacqui the Cat mystery and always has several new ideas brewing.

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Author Website: http://www.alexisduranblog.com

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