by Allie Ritch
Kalya has loved Rasik since they were children, and that love has followed them into adulthood.
The only problem is he’s a caracal shifter, while she’s an omnimorph—a shifter capable of morphing into any animal on the planet of A’ata.
Coveted and resented for centuries, her people stick to themselves and keep their abilities a secret.
But when Kalya’s young cousin and Rasik’s brother run away together, she and Rasik are thrown together as they chase after them. Across the wilds of A’ata, they confront hostile shifters, perilous terrain, and a passion that could reveal all their secrets.
Can shifters from two different tribes become mates? Or will nature and their families keep them apart?
Note: This was originally published in October 2013 by Loose ID. It has been revised and newly edited.
Paranormal SciFi Romance
Content/Theme(s): Shifters, Omnimorphs
Release Date: October 5, 2016
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“Kalya, my catling.” Rasik’s voice in her ear was so husky the endearment sounded like a purr.
Kalya clenched her fists and silently cursed him.
He stood behind her on the veranda, his body heat buffeting her back with the same scorching intensity as the sun beating down on the savannah beyond the woods. Whereas the sun’s heat made her muscles relax, Rasik’s warmth caused her skin to prickle with awareness.
Thanks to her shifter senses, it wasn’t easy to sneak up on her, especially in her home. The fact that he’d managed to do so—yet again—was impressive, though she wouldn’t let the arrogant man know she thought so.
In the years she’d known Rasik, her relationship with him had developed from friendship to harmless flirtation. Their banter had remained light even after her father had grown to trust him and his people enough to allow them access to her family’s territory. It wasn’t until her slipup a few months ago that Rasik’s attentions had grown far more serious.
“I am neither a cat, nor am I yours,” she snarled.
She heard him inhale, taking in her scent above her pulse point. “I intend to make you mine. Why do you resist me?”
Kalya closed her eyes and sighed. In frustration—yes, that was it. Any other emotion was unacceptable. He had to be the most stubborn, infuriating male on three continents. On the entire planet of A’ata!
“That’s not going to happen, Rasik. I’ve told you this many times. We are not the same type of shifter. Stick to your own kind.”
Everyone in Tribe Gahiji, from Rasik’s older brother and ruler, Taj, down to the lowliest member, shifted into the same animal. They took the form of the speedy caracal—those pointy-eared felines that hunted the woods and grasslands. She was something different.
Rasik didn’t say anything, but his continued nearness proved he didn’t believe her.
She released an irritated hiss as she turned to face him and realized she should have stayed silent. Caracals hissed when annoyed too. Rasik no doubt regarded that particular sound as proof she really was a cat.
Kalya also should have kept her back to him because now she had an eyeful of the gorgeous, irksome male. He was only a bit taller than she was—enough she had to angle her face up as if she was waiting to be kissed. His gaze dipped to her lips before he returned a devastating grin. He had sharp canines even in human form, and his straight teeth looked dazzling against his golden skin.
There was great variation in coloring among shifters, though some part of their human form usually mimicked their animal. Those who changed into the caracal had skin of gold, red, black, or white, and their hair took on colors in the same range. Rasik’s hair was midnight black, with only a hint of reddish undertone. Because she’d been careful never to meet him in animal form, Kalya hadn’t seen Rasik on four paws. She suspected he was one of the larger males, likely weighing over forty pounds as a cat. Even as a man, he had lean muscles and angular features with slanted eyes so pale green they were almost gray.
“Am I to believe my ears or my eyes?” he asked. He continued to smile at her, clearly enjoying the verbal sparring. “I saw you run through the tall grass on four legs, and I’ve never seen a more beautiful caracal. Such deep reddish fur. Black lines like kohl along your nose and eyes, and white patches to accent your lovely features. Your ear tufts were so sexy I wanted to run my fingers over them. I don’t blame your adoptive father for keeping your animal form secret. Every unmated male in my tribe would be after you if they knew.”
Kalya gritted her teeth until she was sure she’d pulverize them. Yes, every male in his tribe would pursue her if they knew. But Rasik hadn’t grasped the full truth. Evren, leader of Tribe Fahari, was not her adoptive sire. He and his mate, Nadira, were her biological parents. It had been far safer for them to tell the neighboring tribes that Kalya and all the members of Tribe Fahari were unrelated by blood—a motley assortment of shifters unified under Evren’s authority. That way, if outsiders noticed more than one type of shifter running around, they wouldn’t think anything of it.
“Your eyes deceived you.” Kalya faced Rasik squarely and refused to back down from his intense stare.
“You watched me walk into the bushes to remove my clothing, no doubt hoping to catch a peek of me naked. Then you saw another tribe member run out as a caracal.”
“If not you, then who?”
“That’s none of your concern.” She wouldn’t have him pestering her cousins because he thought they were cats.
Rasik crossed his arms, which drew attention to his muscles. “I don’t believe you.”
“Did you actually see the transformation?” She’d already figured out that he hadn’t, though he’d witnessed far more than she’d intended.
He narrowed his eyes. “No.”
“And this feline you saw, did it smell like me? Did you catch my scent?” She prayed to Janak above he hadn’t. Though her scent altered with each shift, her underlying fragrance—her personal essence—remained the same.
The first glimmer of doubt entered his gaze. Shifters tended to trust their noses more than their eyes or ears. “The caracal was upwind of me, but—”
“What about my coloring?” Kalya lifted a lock of her shoulder-length hair, one of dozens of different colors on top of her head. Her thick tresses included sienna, orange, gold, brown, and every imaginable shade in between. “Do I look like the women of your tribe?”
He crossed his arms and drew his lips into a tight line. “I know what I saw,” he insisted, but he no longer sounded so sure.
“You saw wrong. I’m not like you, Rasik. I never will be.” She spoke the truth, never mind the pang it gave her.
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