Excerpt from Shifting Gears (#pnr, #amreading) by @petralynn77

November 20, 2014

Here’s an excerpt from my new novella Shifting Gears, available now from Dreamspinner Press!

 

Blurb:
One rainy night, bike-shop owner Kenton Palmer finds an injured dog on the road and takes him to the nearest vet clinic, only to discover he’s actually a wolf. Undeterred, he wants to nurse the injured animal following a necessary surgery. The handsome Dr. Will Barclay’s interest and his own brand of animal attraction overwhelm Kenton, who’s been doubting himself after a failed romance.

Gray Fowler is a wolf-shifter and pack alpha. After Kenton rescues him and takes him home to heal, he’s forced to remain in wolf form. But that doesn’t prevent him from falling hard for Kenton. It begins as jealousy, but Gray soon discovers Will, Kenton’s new admirer, is caught up in something sinister. However, he’s forced to wait until he’s healthy before he can shift and enter Kenton’s life as a man. Then Gray must discover how Will’s shady activities are linked to the men who ran him down and expose the scheme before Kenton gets too involved with Will.

 

KENTON BLINKED a few times to stay awake, grateful he had only ten miles left in his journey. He was exhausted after a long day of cycling with his youth group and the drive home. Pouring rain for the last fifty miles made driving even more of a challenge, and he worried he’d doze off if he kept the heat on, so he was shivering slightly.

 

The rain had come early this year to his Northern California town, not far from Eureka and near the Oregon border, home of redwoods, rocky coasts, and plenty of pot farmers—licensed by the state but under fire from the federal government. It kept local politics interesting.

 

Maybe I’ll listen to a ballgame. Kenton fiddled with the dial while trying to keep his gaze on the road. Up ahead wide-set headlights flashed and tires screeched as a large, dark vehicle veered into his lane. Reflexes in action, he swerved onto the muddy shoulder and stopped his SUV to let his nerves calm down from the near miss. The other vehicle stopped behind him, and for a moment he wondered if they’d run him off the road with the intent to rob or carjack him. Glancing back, he had the vague impression that the vehicle was a Hummer from its general outline and placement of the lights. Anyone who could afford that monstrosity certainly didn’t need to carjack a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, unless they were trying to cut down on their gasoline expenditures.

 

Should I go check and see if the other driver is okay? The vehicle stayed on the opposite shoulder, but it was impossible to tell if the driver was injured or not. There hadn’t been an actual collision, so the chance of that was slim, but perhaps the driver was ill and that accounted for the near miss.

 

The rain continued to thud against the roof and windshield, blurring his range of vision. Kenton had only taken one step out of his SUV when the Hummer suddenly peeled out and drove off. What the fuck? Kenton shrugged and climbed back in his vehicle.

 

He was about to drive away when up ahead in the hazy beams of his headlights, Kenton thought he saw someone moving on the surface of the road. Or something. He wasn’t sure if he was still in the county preserve or not, but he thought twice about getting closer to whatever it was. There were plenty of wild animals here, and the local farmers complained loudly if one roamed out of the protected area to feast on cows or sheep. Kenton certainly didn’t want to end up as dinner for any predators, but now he was sure he saw someone—a vague outline of a man—on the surface of the road.

 

Kenton was not about to leave anyone out in this weather, especially someone who might be injured, so he zipped up his jacket and slowly opened his door. Sure enough, even from fifteen or so feet away, he could see something lying in the middle of the road, but it wasn’t a man. It was a dog.

 

Eyes playing tricks on me again. I have to get home to sleep soon. But despite his exhaustion and frustration about the crazy-ass driver who ran him off the road, Kenton didn’t have the heart to leave even a dog on the road tonight. He got out of the car, digging his hands into his pockets against the weather, and headed toward the animal. It had unusually luminous gray-blue eyes—obvious despite the darkness—and it whimpered softly. The rain couldn’t wash away the blood that poured out of a gash on the animal’s hind leg, and from the unnatural angle, Kenton was certain it was broken.

 

“Hey, boy, looks like that crazy Hummer clipped you.” He reached out tentatively, and when the animal didn’t appear threatening, Kenton smoothed the wet fur on his head, barely noticing the rain dripping down his own hair and face and under his jacket. “Let me open up the back and I’ll get you out of the rain in just a minute.”

 

Kenton rushed to the rear of his SUV, opened the cargo area, and pushed his overnight bag and bicycle far enough out of the way so he could clear a space. He found a few towels and spread them out, then returned to the wounded dog, who watched his actions, clearly not afraid of him. He considered moving the vehicle closer but was worried that might frighten the animal, so he steeled himself for the effort.

 

“Damn, you’re heavy!” Kenton grunted as he lifted the dog and carried him to the SUV, then settled him onto the dry towels. The dog looked sad as well as cold, and Kenton found himself rambling a string of comforting words and explanations as he tried to dry the animal. He stared up at him with an expression Kenton could only describe as grateful.

 

“I’ll find a vet and we’ll get you fixed up. We’ll figure out who owns you and get you home. How does that sound?” Kenton realized how ridiculous it was to expect a reply from the dog. He grabbed blankets from the backseat and covered the animal. Then after carefully shutting the cargo-area door, he got back behind the wheel and drove off. This time he turned up the heat, hoping to keep both himself and the injured dog warm until he could find a vet still open at this time of night.

 

Remembering his GPS unit, Kenton punched a few buttons and soon discovered a vet’s office with late emergency service. He followed the robot woman’s directions, and less than ten minutes later, he found himself in front of a white suburban two-story house with VETERINARIAN printed on a large sign in the front yard. He didn’t bother to read the doctor’s name, not wanting to lose any time.

 

“Vet must have his office in his house,” Kenton said, unsure whether he was talking to himself or to the dog. “Let me make sure he’s up, and then I’ll come back and get you.” Kenton glanced over his shoulder, noticing that the dog was staring at him, seemingly intent on his words.

 

Once again, Kenton got out of his SUV, thankful the rain had all but stopped. He rushed up the sidewalk, rang the buzzer near the front door, and waited. The downstairs was dark, but lights were on in a couple of rooms upstairs. Glancing at his watch, Kenton realized it was nearly midnight, but as long as someone was awake, hopefully they’d take care of the dog and he could call the owner.

 

Kenton waited nearly five minutes before he heard someone on the other side of the door.

 

“Hayes? We didn’t have anything—” a disembodied voice began speaking with more than a hint of annoyance as the door slowly swung open.

 

“I’ve got an injured dog. Hit by a car. Can you help?” Kenton explained.

 

The door opened completely, and a man of about thirty-five with blond hair and a neatly trimmed ginger beard looked Kenton up and down with piercing gray eyes. Kenton was now acutely aware of the cold rain that had dripped under his jacket and he shuddered involuntarily while small rivulets of water ran down his face. He knew he looked like a mess, and his cheeks warmed with embarrassment as the man, dressed in well-tailored and unwrinkled clothing, continued to stare with what came across as a confused, impatient glare. He’d obviously been expecting someone else.

 

Your dog?” he asked curtly.

 

“No, I found him out on the county road about five miles away. Some asshole sideswiped me and ran me off the road. I noticed the dog while I was trying to calm down.” Kenton wondered why he was explaining in such minute detail, especially as the vet looked just as sour and inconvenienced as he had when he’d opened the door.

 

“Okay, bring him inside.” The man motioned off toward his left. “The clinic’s in there.”

 

“I can clean up all the rainwater—” Kenton started to say. He could tell from the man’s neat appearance that he wasn’t the kind to tolerate much mess in his life, which seemed odd for a veterinarian. I’d love to see that man up to his elbow in a cow, Kenton mused. Probably only treats Yorkies and Chihuahuas and other lap dogs.

 

“No problem. The dog’s more important right now. Don’t worry about the mess.” That was the first trace of concern the vet had shown so far.

 

Kenton nodded and ran back outside to get the dog. By the time he had opened the back of the SUV and was scooping the animal up in his arms, the man appeared behind him with a rolling table, a smaller version of a gurney, and then helped bring the dog inside. Kenton trailed behind as the vet pushed the gurney into the clinic and the exam room.

 

It took a few moments for the overhead lights to turn on completely, while Kenton and the man stood on opposite sides of the exam table staring at each other and the dog in the flickering light.

 

“Hmmm. Two big problems I see right away.”

 

“What’s that?” Kenton’s voice expressed his concern, and he wondered why he cared so much; it wasn’t even his dog. “Can you fix the leg? I’m willing to pay a deposit until we find the owner, if that’s what the problem is.”

 

“Well, that’s part of it. It’s got no tag… no owner. And it’s not a dog. It’s a wolf.”

 

Kenton yanked his hand away from the animal’s thick, damp fur in belated fear.

 

“Oh, it’s harmless enough now. Too weak to do much damage, and I think it knows you’re trying to help.” The vet smoothed the fur at the animal’s shoulder, but Kenton didn’t see much tenderness in the motion.

 

The dog—wolf—tried to raise his head, and he looked around the room, wide-eyed and trembling in terror, as well as from the cold, despite being safe and dry in the clinic. Seeing the animal’s fear, Kenton forgot his own trepidation and reached out to stroke the wolf’s cheek. “Shhh. It’s gonna be all right.”

 

“I wouldn’t put my hand near its mouth, though,” the vet cautioned, but Kenton didn’t stop what he was doing, and almost immediately the animal lay his head back down, relaxing visibly and the shivering abating.

 

“So, he’s wild? Are there a lot of wolves around here? I never really noticed before.”

 

“A small pack over at the preserve—and getting smaller. From what I hear from my colleagues, the local farmers blame them for snacking on calves and new lambs. But this guy is a lot larger than the ones I’ve seen over there. No idea where it came from. If they wander off the preserve, farmers are allowed to shoot them, you know.”

 

“Really? That’s terrible.” Until this moment, Kenton hadn’t thought one way or the other about wolves, but suddenly, after helping this one, the idea of someone shooting a wolf seemed obscene. “What do we do with him?”

 

“I know a place that would take a wolf like this, but first it’s going to need surgery to repair that leg and some serious recuperation. I don’t have the facilities for something like that. It might be more humane to—”

 

As soon as Kenton heard “humane,” he knew what the vet was about to propose. He could have sworn the wolf did too because the animal caught Kenton’s gaze and seemed to plead with him.

 

“Help me, Kenton. Save me.”

 

Kenton blinked, wondering if he was just projecting. He certainly was no Doctor Doolittle. He’d never communicated with animals before, but right now, he felt as though this wolf was actually speaking to him.

 

“Look, I’ll pay for the surgery, and I’ll take him home for the recuperation. That would work wouldn’t it, Doctor…?” Kenton realized he didn’t even remember the vet’s name. He’d only glanced at the sign outside when they’d first pulled up.

 

“Barclay. Will Barclay.” He held out his hand to Kenton.

 

“Kenton Palmer.” The warmth of the doctor’s hand and the matching heat in his gaze startled Kenton. Apparently Will realized and pulled his hand away with a shy glance away from Kenton. It was the first sign Will had shown of not being fully in control of the situation, and Kenton had to admit he liked it, liked seeing that the doctor was human after all. And Kenton couldn’t deny that glimmer of attraction in Will’s eyes had sent his pulse racing faster than he expected. There hadn’t been a man in his life for a long time, and maybe this was the start of something exciting.

 

 

 

 

 

FROM THE time he’d been hit by the black Hummer out on the county road, Gray had been unable to sustain one form or the other. The pain destroyed his concentration, and he shifted between wolf and human several times in the cold, driving rain as he lay on the surface of the road. When the black-haired man in the blue jacket came running over from the SUV on the shoulder, Gray happened to be in wolf form, and there was no way he could shift back while in the man’s presence, even if he’d been in full control of his powers.

 

He couldn’t remember exactly how he’d ended up on the road, or why he’d even left the preserve. His leg—probably broken—and scraped skin ached and throbbed, and he wanted nothing more than to lick his wounds or pass out. But the man had carried him into the back of his SUV and driven him to a vet’s office, all the while talking to him, calming and soothing him in a voice filled with deep, smooth, musical tones. Gray forced himself to concentrate on the man’s voice to stay alert and to help him retain his current form. The man had thought he was a dog, which was fine. He wasn’t sure what would happen when he found he had rescued a wolf. Bad as that might be, it would be far worse to have his werewolf identity revealed to a stranger. Gray had to prevent that.

 

Once they were at the vet’s office, Gray sensed something amiss with the doctor. His hands had been rough compared to the other man’s comforting touch. And once the vet recognized that Gray wasn’t a dog, he was far too quick to suggest putting him down rather than mending his broken body. Even for a vet, Barclay seemed to know entirely too much about the wolf population in the area, and that got Gray’s radar up.

 

But the man who had found him—Gray knew now his name was Kenton Palmer—looked into his eyes and saw Gray’s fear. Not only saw it, but felt it too, at least it seemed so from the way he reached down to stroke Gray’s fur and murmur meaningless noises. For some reason, this man wanted to make sure Gray had the necessary treatment for his broken leg and other injuries. The vet appeared surprised at Kenton’s generosity, and just as Gray was succumbing to the effects of the anesthesia, he thought he saw a different kind of look in the vet’s eyes as he gazed at Kenton—animal attraction. Gray only hoped he’d survive the surgery so he could find out what the vet was hiding, and what his sudden interest was in Kenton.

 

Buy your copy now! (please!)

4 Responses to “Excerpt from Shifting Gears (#pnr, #amreading) by @petralynn77”

  1. Antonia says:

    Loved the excerpt! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Trix says:

    Very intriguing!

  3. Petra Lynn says:

    Thank you, ladies! I hope you will enjoy the story!

  4. Thanks again for the post. Cool.

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