This is the final month we’re offering our bargain-priced five-book shapeshifter ebook bundle. This week we’ll be posting a daily steamy excerpt to give you a taste of how much awesome stuff is inside.
You can buy it right here for $5.99:
or at your favorite e-book stores, such as Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, or Barnes & Noble.
We start with Catt Kingsgrave’s lesbian love story set in the Orkney Islands, One Saved to the Sea:
It was nearly four by the time Mairead made it back to the lighthouse. The sea wind was freshening up in anticipation of the coming dawn, but the night was still clear and fine when she pulled the old truck into the shed and turned its engine off.
She sat for a moment and faced the truth head-on, letting the smells of salted wood, diesel, and despair settle around her in the gloom. She’d never see the seals again. Her seals, for hadn’t she gone to watch them dance in human skin every fine moon-graced night since she’d turned sixteen? Hadn’t she guarded their secret, breathed no wondering word, and led no following eye to their private spot? Not even her brothers, who’d seen through her every ruse, had ever learned this one that she had loved all these furtive years. The seals gone now, and she’d told Helzie the truth of it; they would never come back to the holm to dance again.
Damn the man for his greed!
She wrenched the door open, jammed the keys over the visor, and then kicked it closed with all the savagery she could muster. It wasn’t as satisfying as she’d hoped–the anger was giving way now, realization setting in.
What need to comb the almanacs in search of clear weather now? Why bother to hold her breath when the moon swelled, to hope that the clouds might lift and call them in to shore just one more time before the winter? Why augur the storms and calms in the passage of sea-birds, fish, or beetles now that a clear night would bring her nothing more than stars? What would she look forward to now her one bit of magic in a gray-sky island life was at an end?
Or nearly at an end, anyhow.
A velvet tickle beneath her shirt reminded her as she turned up the path to the lighthouse proper. The lame girl’s pelt, her private lie, and the secret she hardly dared consider. She would find a way to give it back somehow, as she’d promised herself out upon the holm. She’d realized then and there that she daren’t just throw it into the sea. The tide would have swept the precious pelt inland up the river mouth, and into the hatchery nets. Or worse, all the way to the shipyard. The poor girl would never find it then.
Mairead shivered at the thought of that dark-eyed selkie girl shackled to some sooty dockside welder with knuckles like conkers and a temper to match. No. Never, if she could help it. Never.
She slipped two fingers beneath her coat, wormed them between buttons of her oversized shirt, and stroked the dense, silky pelt for a moment. “Come and find it,” she said aloud to the wind scraping in from the sea. “Come find me. I’ll keep it safe till you do.” Then the light flashed round overhead, reminding her of her duties, and with a sigh Mairead squared her shoulders and headed for the lighthouse’s kitchen door.
She was overdue for the fuel check by about two hours, but the reserve tank held enough to see the light through till dawn. She flipped the shunt and topped off the main tank all the same. She checked temperature gauges, then rested her head against the shaft housing to listen to the rumbling heartbeat of the engine that kept the light sweeping sunwise over the sea. It was steady, as measured as the soberest drummer; there was no grind of dust in the gears, no counterpoint tick of metal heating too fast, no squeal of dry shafts rubbing. The turning engine snored along peacefully, and after a moment or two longer than her reassurance strictly needed, Mairead pulled herself away from its lulling song and climbed the stairs into the house proper.
The bulkhead door shut out the engine’s song, but the vibrations, as always, carried through the kitchen floor, chiming two glasses in the open cupboard until she nudged them apart on her way to the parlor stairs. At the landing, she paused by the window to watch until the light’s sweeping beam caught the painted side of the Ursilla Meur, still moored off the jetty, her masts stepped, her sails neatly tied, and her rescue boats tenting the decks with strong-sloping keels to the sky. Just as Deen, Tam, and Jean had set her before they’d left the islands for war; waiting faithful as a dog for her man to come at need or whim and lead her from shore.
Mairead turned from the window and went to check the man hadn’t died while she’d been out.
“Da?” she called as she opened the bedroom door, letting him hear her voice and go on sleeping, rather than wake in fear at her quiet steps beside the bed. She’d moved his service rifle from under his bed to the linen cupboard by the stairs so she wasn’t in much danger, but still. There was no telling when her father would muster the strength to get up and about the place, or what his delirium would suggest he get into with nobody near to stop him. Just yesterday she’d returned from cleaning the lamp and mirrors in the tower to find the old man on hands and knees in the pantry cellar, digging up the dirt floor with his fingernails. Tonight, though, his thin, thready snore wove through the room unchecked, unobstructed, and she allowed herself a smile. Mansie Meur hadn’t left the world just yet.
He grunted and tried to roll over in his sleep, fretting under the blankets until she caught his bird-thin shoulders and helped him along. “I’m here, Da,” she told him, settling the bedding over him and pressing his pillow clear of his nose and mouth. “I’m home. It’s all right.”
The glass of water she’d left beside his bed was still full, but the whiskey he insisted upon by way of medicine was empty and dry. She kissed his temple and headed down the hall, thinking wistfully of just shucking her kit and falling straight into bed to sleep herself out.
Mairead knew better though. Tense, fractious, and smelling of sweat, rust, kelp, and blood, there was no way she could sleep. She didn’t even want to imagine touching clean sheets without a good scrub first, so she passed her own door and went on instead to the bathroom at the far end of the hallway. There, she turned the taps and set about stripping down while the tub filled, tossing her damp socks and Jean’s old flannel shirt into the hamper. She considered her dungarees for a long moment before consigning them there as well.
Unwrapping the sealskin, she set it carefully on the vanity as she stripped away the rest of her smalls and tried to ignore the sticky state of the underpants. She couldn’t leave the pelt alone for long though. Its velvet gray folds shone in the light, luring her fingers in to stroke, then to pet, then to knead the dense fur.
How could it be so soft when it spent so long in the harsh brine? Bespelled, she lifted it to her face, shivering as the long, heavy folds draped along her breasts and belly. How could it smell so rich and warm, like smooth skin and clean sweat, and not at all like fish and piss and rotting weed? Her searching fingers found the facemask, long whiskers bristling against her thighs, nose a cool spot of pebbled leather in the hollow of her hip. Mairead took a shaking breath, closed her eyes, and smoothed the fur tight against her skin.
God, how she would miss it. The dancing, yes; the flash of limbs in the moonlight, lovely girls pale as foam and plump as plums, their dark hair glimmering as they danced under the moon, but later. Oh, later. When they danced in pairs and threes, tangled like driftwood in a restless tide. They kissed and stroked and sported themselves without a lick of shame, and dear God how she’d watched and yearned for their ease. For the way each chose whom they wanted, whether man or maid, and no bitter old priest appeared to shame them for the joy they took together.
Another shuddering breath–one that rubbed her breasts fiercely against the thick, furry nap, and drove her fingers down past the realm of pretense to stroke at her own sex even as her thumb rubbed circles around the sealskin’s empty lips. It wasn’t a sin for them. It wasn’t a horrid obscenity, and proof of moral dissolution for them, as it was for the likes of her. They’d never face a village full of scorn and smirks for it. They’d never weather slights that struck like pitiless stones. They did not have to live on the island, with no escape from those smoke-dried, strangling moralities. Their secret was the where only, never the what.
Her lot was not theirs, and she knew it could not be, but… oh dear God, but draped in that lush, musky borrowed freedom, Mairead couldn’t resist one last pretense. She settled to the toilet seat, one foot propped up high on the tub’s rim to spread herself to the humid air. They’d done it thus: fingers teasing, slipping gentle and swift through skin as slick and wet as the sea, curling and tracing and diving deep. She bit her lip, turned a cry into a whimper, then added another finger and did it again. The pelt slid, whiskers scraping a delicious streak of pain across her exposed nub until she gasped and clutched it higher. One leathery flipper draped by chance across her gasping mouth, its scars rough and hushing against her lips. She could feel the nose just at her belly, whiskers pricked, as though her lovely girl were watching, rapt and hungry as Mairead delved and stroked and wrenched release from herself with her spindly human hands.
She bit the scarred flipper as she came, the taste of salt and dust filling her mouth even as sparks and tears filled her eyes. Her sex spasmed against her fingers like a wounded thing. A moment; two breaths scraped past the pain lodged in her throat, and then Mairead became aware of two things at once.
First, that the tub was brim-full and about to swamp the bathroom with tepid water. She lunged with a curse to twist the taps closed and yank the plug from the drain. Flood forestalled, Mairead allowed her thoughts to turn to the second thing.
Her memory would not serve; she had to see. Bundling herself into a towel, Mairead slipped back down to the window on the stairway landing, peering hard into the darkness until the great light swept it briefly away. But no, there was nobody out there, and nowhere for a selkie girl to hide in the lighthouse’s wide and windswept garden. She’d imagined the voice, and the short, sharp cry matching hers as she’d spent under her own hands.
She’d wished it so, wished the selkie near to her passion; no less deluded herself than the old man asleep down the hall.
A sorry little madness, but honestly come-by, for what small comfort that could be.
To read the rest, download the bundle while you still can!