Here's a free New Year's shifter story - to get you in the right mood for the holiday!
I'm good at being human. No one ever guesses the truth.
I hold down a responsible, well-paying job as HR Director for an up-and-coming biotech company. The ability to smell emotion and read non-verbal cues gives me an advantage when working with tense or angry employees. I have a handful of women friends, including Lyssa, the hostess for tonight's festivities. I join them for coffee or shopping or movies, just like an ordinary person. We complain and gossip. We talk about men. Yes, I've even had lovers, occasionally, though I have to admit they always leave me feeling unsatisfied – not necessarily physically, but in some deeper sense. Lyssa and Janine tease me, telling me I'm too much of a perfectionist, that I should compromise, that these days nobody expects to meet her soulmate. I laugh along with them, pretending to agree.
People like me, are drawn to me in fact. I'm no anti-social loner, despite the reputation of my kind. And yet, there's always a wall, keeping me separate. Tonight especially, as the clock counts down to midnight and my friends get progressively more tipsy, I'm aware of the distance between me and my fellow celebrants. It's as if I'm looking through one way glass. I sense their joys, their fears, their rising excitement, the surges in hormones triggered by the closeness of the opposite sex. New Year's Eve, a night to be a bit reckless, to take chances one can blame in the morning on too much wine. No one really sees or understands me, though. My weariness from the effort of maintaining my mask. My longing for freedom. My unending, unalterable loneliness.
Almost everyone is dancing. The loud rock music stirs my body but hurts my ears. Lyssa's condo suddenly feels stuffy and overly warm. Twenty five or thirty humans give off significant heat. I'm sweating in my velvet top.
I slip out onto the tiny deck, closing the glass doors behind me, and the noise mutes, though drum beats still vibrate the planks under my heels. Gazing across the Cambridgeport rooftops to the river, I fill my lungs with frigid December air. The cold, still night is as delicious as Lyssa's champagne.
It snowed earlier, so every surface is frosted in white, but now the sky is clear as crystal, black as my ebony hair. The moon climbs above the chimneys and my breath catches in my chest. It's barely half-full, no real challenge to my self-control, but still, the beast in my stirs and stretches. Moonlight glitters on the icy Charles. I crave the sensation of that stark, pale light on my nakedness.
“Oh, sorry! Hello!” A pleasant-voiced, even-featured man appears beside me. “It's just too loud in there, isn't it? Do you mind some company?”
“No, not at all,” I'm forced to reply, though I'd really rather savor the night alone.
“I'm Brett,” he adds, then wraps his arms over his nicely muscled chest. “Jeez, it's cold out here! Aren't you freezing?”
“Not at all.” I let the awkward pause lengthen, refusing to pick up the conversational ball and tell him my name as he expects. I stare at the moon, so bright it practically burns. “I love winter nights.”
I smell Brett's arousal, sense his frustration and confusion. “It's nearly midnight,” he says finally. “Want to come in?”
I can practically read his mind: his lips on mine as the year turns, his big hands molding my hips and pulling me close. I'm tempted for an instant, but I know how it will end - like every other encounter, flat and empty.
“In a minute. You go ahead.” He sighs, turns, leaves me to my solitary vigil.
“Five. Four. Three. Two. One.” My friends' voices are a million miles away. The moon whispers to me. Why resist your nature? Why surround yourself with strangers when what you want is the earth under your feet and the night wind in your hair?
New Year's Eve, a night to be reckless. I make my way through the crowd of laughing, kissing humans, to offer Lyssa my thanks and regrets. Nobody really notices me leaving.
My coat swung over my shoulder, I head for the river, high heels loud on the empty pavement. The deserted Esplanade gleams in the moonlight, embroidered with the intricate shadows of the bare-limbed oaks and maples.
I manage to hold off the change until I'm under the trees. The brief, familiar disorientation ripples through me, then the flavors of the night deluge my senses. The faint rustle of a few crisp leaves clinging to the branches above me. The pulsing blood-smell of a rabbit crouched under a footbridge. Tar and car exhaust, blackberries and rust, the damp, ripe scent of the ground, still unfrozen under the thin carpet of snow.
Stretching out my paws, I work the stiffness out of my spine. The moon beams down on me. My snow-dusted jet fur sparkles.
I have just enough human left in me to suppress my howl. Instead, I run.
It's effortless. I race through the shadows along the river bank, eating up the ground. The power surging through me has me drunk as any liquor. Sights, sounds, scents flash by, each one acute and distinct despite its brevity. The world does not blur as I run; it sharpens.
I head upstream, out of the city, the river winding westward into the wealthy suburbs, conservation land on either side. The trees crowd thicker here, but they don't slow me down. Sure-footed and strong, I streak between them, bounding over fallen trunks and ice-crusted tributaries that block my path. Now I let the joy rise in my throat and ring out over the countryside. My howl echoes through the blessed night. The moon approves.
The chill winter air slices into my chest. I'm miles from home, but I don't want to stop, not yet. This is too perfect, a glorious relief from the endless, everyday effort of fitting in. I don't really think about my human life, though. I don't think about anything. I merely sense and feel.
Finally, I slow to a trot, my heart pounding against my ribs. I'm exhausted, close to spent, yet excitement still sings through my body. Squatting, I loose a stream of urine to mark my passing. My nostrils twitch at the ripe warmth of my own scent. I spring to the top of snow-draped boulder, sink down onto my haunches and survey my surroundings. Gradually my pulse drops and my breathing returns to normal. A deep sense of peace steals over me.
“Grrr!” The growl drags me out of my trance of weariness. I start and emit an answering growl. A flood of maleness assaults my nose and my nether parts swell in automatic response.
He steps out of the shadows, all bristling red-gold fur and blazing yellow eyes. He's easily twice my size. When he bares his teeth, they're ivory-hued daggers that could crush me in a single vicious bite. He doesn't attack, however. Of course, I have the advantage, perched on the rock above him.
I'm terrified, but thrilled, too. I know what he wants. I want it as well. But there's a fine line between lust and violence when you're a wolf. I've just enough human left in me for fear to hold me back.
He paces back and forth below, his eyes riveted to mine. Finally, he sits, patient as a pet hound, waiting for me. Then I give in to the beast, leaping down to land in front of him.
His voice, half wail, half growl, welcomes me. He circles my crouching form, snapping playfully at my ear when I allow him to get close, raking his claws across my flank. I know this dance; it's in my blood, though I've never mated with another wolf. My body knows how to bend, how to arch, how to open as he drives into me from behind.
Our coupling is over in minutes, but feels endless. Pleasure pure and sharp as moonlight pours through me as he launches his seed into my depths. His teeth close on my shoulder. The pain simply amplifies the intensity.
When we're done, I'm shaking. The moon won't be full for two weeks and my wolf-self is fading. The male trots off into a copse of beech, obviously expecting me to follow. I limp after him, cold seeping through my paw pads and up into my aching shoulders.
Thankfully, it's not far. He leads me to a snug-looking cabin dug into a hill, half-buried in the underbrush. A few yards before we reach it, the change seizes me. My limbs liquefy and rearrange themselves. In an instant, I'm sprawled in the snow, dizzy, naked and shivering. I can't move.
The male wolf nudges me with his snout. I force myself to crawl toward the wooden structure, noting how awkward four legs can be. The door's unlocked. Inside, embers glow gold and scarlet on the fieldstone hearth.
I collapse on the cot in one corner, lulled by delicious warmth, unable to stay awake for an instant longer. The wolf crouches by the bed, as if to guard my sleep.
Buttery sunlight wakes me, streaming in the small window above the bed. The fire has died. The room is cold, but there's smooth heat against my naked back.
I turn to find him curled around me – tall, well-muscled, his bronzed skin dusted with red-gold down that matches the curls on his head. I breathe in his scent, ripe male musk spiked with a sharp evergreen edge. He's sleeping, but he wakes as I gaze on his beauty and pulls my body to his. “Happy New Year,” he murmurs, nuzzling my ear and sliding his hardness into my soaked cleft.
Joy surges through me, almost drowning my lust. Almost, but not quite. As a man, he's nearly as fierce a lover as when he was wolf. I let myself go, let him see the animal that that is my true self. I know he won't be disgusted or afraid. And I'm quite certain that afterward, I won't feel empty.