Like a Moonrise: Shapeshifter Coming of Age Erotica
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by Artemis Savory
Category: Erotica/Paranormal Erotica/Dark Fantasy
Description: [Warning: Explicit Sex] Shapeshifting is a powerful metaphor for eroticism, and in Circlet Press's new ebook, Like a Moonrise, that metaphor is made central to these erotic coming-of-age fantasies. Like a Moonrise is an anthology of six stories featuring original shapeshifters with a coming of age theme.The stories in this anthology explain what the werefox, werepony, and others face as they discover their own changes and the urges and instincts that come with it. Circlet Press moves beyond the now-common realm of vampires and werewolves to explore the sexual lives of different were-creatures with these stories. Contributors include Kyell Gold, winner of the Best Gay Fantasy Novel of 2009, Lambda Literary Award winner Rakelle Valencia, MeiLin Miranda, who brings us the backstory of one of the shapeshifter charac- ters in her Scryer's Gulch web serial, along with Marie Carlson, Catt Kingsgrave, and Aoife Bright.
eBook Publisher: Circlet Press, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: March 2011
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [158 KB]
Reading time: 100-140 min.
Scryer's Gulch, Madlands Territories of the United States of America, 1874
Rabbit Runnels smelled her before he saw her.
Her scent was somehow familiar, like the smell the canyons gave off in the evenings after a hot day: sage, warm dirt, fur, clover--and female. Something deep within him woke up and rose on its hind legs.
He hadn't changed the once yet, but his ears and nose were almost unbearably acute now. He could track a man just by smell alone, even through the filth and stench of the mining camp. Useful for a deputy, but if he was lucky he'd never get the chance. If he was lucky, something would find him tonight and kill him. He couldn't do it himself, but it was all right with him if some critter ate him when he wasn't himself.
This wasn't a critter, though. This was a woman, and her scent pulled at him so hard he wondered if he'd keep his footing.
Rabbit chewed his lip. No one wanted werefolk around; the chances that they'd bite someone--or worse, depending--were too high. They got pushed out into the wilderness or shot outright. Shooting him would fall to the sheriff--his brother John--and Rabbit couldn't bear the thought.
He'd come up here to his hunting grounds to be alone. The miners hadn't come up here yet, but the hermetauxite veins near town would be tapped out eventually. Demand for more of the modern wonders the magic-boosting ore made possible would only rise, and so would the miners, into the mountains to seek a fortune. The Indians stayed away because hermetauxite made you crazy if you lived too close to it for long, and Rabbit's hunting grounds were well within its spell.
Rabbit was crazy thinking he could just come up here every full moon and go back home like everything was fine and no one would know, but it was the best he could come up with. He was weak. He couldn't leave Johnny and his nephew.
This woman, whoever she was, must be crazy, too.
The moon still hid below the ridge. It would be up soon enough; he might bite her when he changed. He doubted it, but as desperately as her aroma lured him now he reckoned it would be worse once he wore fur. "Lady, you better skedaddle," Rabbit called. "Things are going to get interesting here, and you oughtn't be around." She gave no answer. He got up and took a few steps in her direction; the closer he got to her scent, the more the animal inside him skittered and pawed. "Why are you out here so close to dark anyway? Are you alone? You need some help?"
Rabbit didn't need his newly acute hearing to catch the cocking of a rifle; he let his hands float above his head. "Now there's no need for that, ma'am. I'm not carrying pistols, my rifle ain't loaded, and even if it was, it's all the way over there with my kit."
"You know I am a woman," she said, still hidden. "How you know?" From her way of talking, Rabbit guessed she wasn't white.
"I..." I smelled you? "Lucky, I s'pose. Now why don't you point that in a different direction? You don't even have to put it down."
"I kill you," she said.
He'd come here in hopes of dying, but not while he was human. "What for?"
"You killed my man."
Rabbit took in a sharp breath, but kept his hands up. "Lady, I ain't killed any Indian, ever. Now put down that gun and come talk to me."
A dark young woman inched round a tree, keeping the gun trained on him. "You killed my man, I kill you," she repeated in a louder voice.
"What makes you think I killed your man?"
"You killed my man, I kill you!" shouted the woman. Leaves and twigs were tangled in her long black hair. The fringes on her buckskins were thin, many of the strands ripped or chewed out, and she wore nothing on her feet. She looked cold, miserable, angry, and hungry. Rabbit wondered what she was doing here; Indians gave the Madlands a wide berth, and an Indian woman would rarely go anywhere alone, especially near a white settlement.
The truth poleaxed him over the head. "Oh, Prophet strike me down. You're his woman. You're the werecritter's woman. I thought he was alone--oh, lady, I didn't kill him, not of a purpose I didn't. Let me explain! Please, let me talk to you!"
She took aim, and Rabbit said a prayer. Before she could fire, the moon snuck over the crest of the rise, slicking silver over the rocks and trees. Rabbit and the woman both began to scream, and she dropped the rifle. Rabbit dimly thanked the Method it didn't go off, before pain drove the thought from his head. He watched in horror as his fingers shortened and his nails sharpened; his thumbs slid up his wrists, turning to dewclaws. His eyes were moving to the sides of his misshapen head, but he could still see the woman, brown fur sprouting all over her, ears and feet growing long, legs bunching sickeningly as she howled. They both began to shrink. Rabbit's last human thought was a bitter observation on his prophetic nickname.
The snowshoe buck slipped out of the tangle of Rabbit's clothes, took in a great huff of the doe's delicious scent, and hopped after her.
* * * *
Rabbit woke. He was snugged up to someone for warmth. His prick, wooden with the morning, cozied insistently against the cleft of a backside; he spooned the native woman. They were both naked as the day they were born. Or reborn, he figured, flexing his once-more human hand.
The woman stirred and wiggled her bottom against him; she must have been dreaming her man's prick pressed into her. It wouldn't be the work of a moment to take advantage of her misapprehension, but Rabbit didn't move, didn't try to slide a little lower, didn't let his prick find its way between her legs.
He didn't let her go, either. She was warm and soft, though with just a little squeeze he could feel her ribs. He brushed her small breast. She moaned, and he hastily moved his hand. She was going to be mad enough when she woke up; Rabbit reckoned she'd run away or even try to kill him again, and he wanted to talk to her, tell her what happened. So he'd better hold on to her.
That's what he told himself, anyway.
And then there was her scent that drove him crazy, human or animal. Rabbit forgot himself. He put his nose in the crook of her neck and breathed deep.
"I smell you also," the woman murmured. "We are the same. How I know you killed my man."
Rabbit relaxed in surprise; she took the opening and exploded in his arms trying to get away, but Rabbit was stronger. "Listen, just listen, will you?" he yelled as they thrashed.
"I feel what you want to say, white man!"
"Lady, it's first thing in the morning. If you've lived with a man, you know what we're like. Now, settle! You have my word." She gave a last ferocious pull against his arms but settled, tense within his grip. "All right. Here's what happened." His voice broke. "I come up here to hunt, have since we got here a couple months ago."
"We seen you," she growled.
"Then you know I ain't a bother to anyone but the occasional deer."
He swallowed hard. "And hare. I set some wire traps. Thought if I didn't get lucky I could at least bag a couple of rabbits, make a good stew. I woke up early the next morning. Real early, moon was still out. Full moon." He paused, remembering the sense of wrongness that had brought him out of sleep. "I don't know what made me go check those traps, but I did. One of 'em was empty. The other one... wasn't."
"A hare," Rabbit corrected. "Snowshoe hare, biggest one I ever did see. It was thrashin' around. I hate to leave an animal in pain--usually my traps kill 'em quick, but this one..." The woman began to cry. "Well anyway," he said, rushing his words, "I went to put it out of its misery, but my hand slipped, it got its chance, and it damn near bit my finger off."
"I wish he had!"
"Wouldn't've made a bit of a difference, lady, and I wish he'd killed me, not bit me."
"I wish this, too," she sobbed.
"Then we're in agreement." Rabbit held her quietly until he thought maybe they both could continue. "I'm sorry, but I need to tell you all of this, and then I'll let you go and you can do whatever it is you have to do. It bit me, and I broke its neck. Killed it just like that, and I took it back to camp to skin it. Right about then the moon set. And then it wasn't a snowshoe any more. It was...it was..."
She lay limp now in his arms, keening. "I buried him," said Rabbit around the ever-expanding lump in his throat. "I want you to know that. And I'm sorry. I'm real sorry. I got nothing against Indians and I'd never kill anyone anyways unless they were coming for me or mine. Now I've said my piece. Do what you gotta." He let her go and got to his feet; the sudden cold where her body had pressed against his would have wilted his erection if misery hadn't done it already.
She sprang into a crouch. Tears and snot ran down her face; Rabbit thought she was beautiful even so, but for the hate that brimmed in her fine dark eyes. "Do not come near me," she said. Rabbit spread his arms wide, hands open, and took a couple of steps back. She turned and ran.
By the scent that trailed after her, Rabbit knew she was heading back to his camp, where their clothes were. He followed at a slow enough pace to give her time to dress. Maybe she'd take his food, too--even his rifle. He didn't care. Maybe tonight he'd set a wire trap where he knew he'd be likely to run into it after he changed. No, he might catch the woman instead. Maybe she'd just shoot him and there'd be an end to it.
When he reached camp she was gone, with only her buckskins and her own rifle. Rabbit's gear was right where he'd left it. He wished she'd taken the food; her ribs were so close to the surface of her skin.
Rabbit hadn't really come to hunt, only to change and with luck, die, only now every time he thought about dying he thought about the woman alone among the trees. No home, no tribe, her man dead. He was sure she wouldn't come to Scryer's Gulch with him, but he couldn't leave her alone like that. Damned if he knew what to do.
His discarded clothes were wet with dew, and it was a cold morning; Rabbit started a fire and set his things out to dry. He would have called her to come share the warmth and eat, but he sensed she was nowhere near. He wolfed down some of his victuals cold and crawled into his bedroll, naked and shivering.
As he thawed, the scent of warm fur and warmer female reached his nose again; when he put his head inside the bedroll, it was as strong as if she were still in his arms. Her fragrance on his skin made his prick twitch. How'd they end up like that anyway? She hated him. He mulled it over until it finally dawned on him. What did hares do every time they got the chance?
Made more hares.