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In recent years, paranormal romance has become an incredibly popular and steamy genre, delving into the romantic potential of such fantastic creatures as werewolves, and Circlet Press has certainly done our share of werewolf books (Faewolf, Alpha, Like An Animal, The Beast Within). However, wolves are far from the only animal with fantasy potential. Now, Circlet is taking the next step in Like Tooth and Claw, exploring shapeshifters beyond the traditional werewolves.
The six stories in Like Tooth and Claw feature vastly different kinds of shapeshifters, from lions to seals, but the theme of self-discovery remains constant throughout the anthology. Through their transformations into animals that walk, crawl, swim, or fly, the characters learn what it truly means to be an animal, and what it means to be human. Shapeshifting brings freedom, but at what price? Like Tooth and Claw tackles that question and more.
- Table of Contents:
- Hunter, Prey by Marie Carlson
- Eagle Eyed by Helen Dring
- Tonight We Work in Silk by Lee Harrington
- Northern Sea by Alex Monagan
- Waylaid by Julie Cox
- Lioness by Amanda Ferry
Click through to read an excerpt!
Excerpt from “Tonight We Work In Silk” by Lee Harrington
I can still taste him on my lips…. But everything else is fading here in the darkness.
* * * *
“Hand me the top coat, Tabby,” Lydia said while trying to simultaneously blow on her wet blood-red toenails and pull her thick black hair into a ponytail. Her leopard-print long johns were wildfire under the TV’s flickering light.
Friday night. The Friday night before I met him. Everyone who knew the Tigress imagined her Friday nights to be these lush private affairs: nubile young slave boys carrying trays of drinks on their backs, beautiful gypsy belly dancers, everyone in latex clothing or nude lounging about on thick rugs and piles of pillows. That was the rumor in New York. You knew you were in the “Inner Circle” of the SM elite if you were ever invited to one of the Tigress’ private Friday night fetes.
I guess they don’t know the Tigress the way I do. The Tigress–an exclusive and highly sought out Pro Domme, known for her sensual cruelty and wicked sense of what would push a man to the edge, yet always pull him back with a purr. Known for her lush fur wraps, long latex dresses, tall high heels, and endless collection of couture purses. Known to have a huge collection of metal bondage equipment–cages, handcuffs, shackles, collars, restraints of all forms. The Tigress. The Chinese Femme Fatale.
I knew the Tigress as Lydia Cho, the woman who I’d shared a dorm room with some years back at NYU. Back when Lydia was still devastatingly beautiful, but also incredibly shy. Back when she was getting her pre-law degree. Back before she’d found her “calling,” and her fetish for finery. Back when she used to wear wire-rim glasses and drink cappuccino all night long to pass that next exam. Back when I used to straighten my hair all the time and chase after the girls.
Yup, me and the Tigress, painting our toenails and drinking cheap champagne mixed with OJ on a Friday night. How elite are we?
I handed her the bottle of hardening top coat as I blew on my own toenails, a rich gold that at the moment clashed horribly with the faded floral skirt and pink, too pink, poet’s blouse I was wearing. I loved the color gold–something about my heritage, perhaps, where in ancient times queens of old donned layers of gold bead necklaces and danced around African bonfires. Maybe it was because my mother loved to wear gold lamé pants when I was little, who knows.
“I think I’m going to head down to Hellfire tomorrow,” I mentioned as we switched TV channels from Law & Order over to The Powerpuff Girls. “It’s been too long since I’ve been out.”
“Oh love, not Hellfire. Go to Paddles. Go with me out to one of Madam Cole’s events. Not Hellfire. Nice girls don’t go to J.O. clubs,” she chastised, a look of concern in her eyes over what I had in mind.
She was right. Hellfire Club was not for nice girls, as she put it. It was where the trannies came to hook up, where the groveling men came hoping to find a toe to suckle while they relieved the pain of their lives through one stroke after another, where gay boys snorted coke in back rooms then whipped each other ’til they were ready to blow one another. It wasn’t for nice girls. Hell, it wasn’t for girls who didn’t have balls enough to keep their own self-dignity. Most women preferred to go to Paddles if they went out to play: Paddles, with its “No Sex” signs, its clean X-frames, its overpriced bottles of water and ice-cream at 2am.
Or they’d go to events that the Euilenspeigel Society held. Workshops, benefits for the NY S&M Film Festival, socials. That’s where a good girl found a new play partner in the local BDSM scene if she wasn’t hooked up in the age-old New York game of matchmaker matchmaker make me a match. She didn’t go to Hellfire, that’s for sure.
“It’s just, it’s been so long since I bottomed. Since I’ve played at all. And it’s not like hanging out anywhere near where I work is going to help. I’ll just have little submissive boys crawling around saying ‘Mistress won’t you….’”
“And if I have to hear again how to use a single tail or tie a basic body harness in order to try to pick up a date, I swear I’ll kill someone.”
I finished off my glass and poured another as Mojo Jojo destroyed Townsville and the Mayor picked up the red phone. I wished I had a red phone some days, for the Powerpuff Girls to come and save my sex life before bedtime.
These are the drawbacks of working as a Dominatrix. I was popular, I’ll admit that, and even if the house took half my income, the pay was still decent. Lady Kaja. Mysterious West-African Goddess decked out in gold, her lush lips spewing vile and humbling words at her worms of slaves. That was the gimmick. I was usually hired for verbal humiliation scenes, especially racially or slavery-charged ones. But I was no stranger to a whip, a crop, a cane, a paddle, or the stocks.
But that’s it, it was a gimmick. Rich men on their lunch hours who need to be told they are worthless pigs before they can function destroying small businesses or leveling forests in the Amazon. Skinny white boys who want to spend their daddy’s dollars to know what it would feel like to be a slave to purge that guilt they feel about the fact that Great-Great-Granddad fucked a nigger girl. They hand over $250 for an hour and I let them feel like the scum they feel they are, let them feel safe to let go… it ends up being cheaper than a therapist for most of them, to be the property of an African Queen for an hour instead of facing their real issues.
Not only is it a gimmick, it’s an unsatisfying one. Working as a Pro Domme. you often work weird hours and have tricks cancel on you at the last minute’s notice (or just not show up). You spend lots of time and money getting dolled up and for what, to have the man in front of you see you for three minutes before he “needs” to be blindfolded? Emails upon emails of “Oh Lady Kaja” this and “Dear Goddess” that, most of which amounted to jack and shit. Yes, when I worked the money was good… sometimes very good, and I’d had slaves take me on trips all over the country–but it wasn’t satisfying. I had to be “on” all the time, and I was unbalanced.
I was a switch, or at least, I considered myself one, but I hadn’t been on the tail-end of a lash in almost a year at that point. Thus, the need to go out, not somewhere nice like Paddles where I could find a nice older dyke who’d “help me out,” but somewhere like Hellfire where I could just let go under some sadist’s whip. Just let go… not for nicety, not for helping out, but out of a masochist’s desire to just be taken.
Not to be Lady Kaja for a night, just to be Tabetha, just to let go.
* * * *
But isn’t Hellfire closed? I remember that now, here, as I sink in. Wasn’t it shut down on drug charges of some sort? Or was that months ago? Back before we lost the LURE? Oh, yes, it was before I met him. Time keeps fading on me. I can’t remember.
* * * *
That night wasn’t like other nights at Hellfire. There was a charge in the air, electricity I could taste on my tongue. As I ordered a Smirnoff Ice from the bar I turned around and was surprised, taken back by the vision before me.
He was deftly binding a thin Brazilian woman in firm layers of jute and hemp rope and swiftly lifting her up off the ground with speed and accuracy, suspending her there. He was wearing a tight pair of blue jeans and a pair of hiking boots… one knee torn out and his chest bare and glistening in the spot lights over the suspension play area. I picked up my glass and sipped from it while I watched him work, his face stern, concentrated, yet so at home with the rope. He was built for this sort of play, with a strong upper body, firm grip, and good eye for pressure, tension, and design.
He wasn’t like everyone else there, but then again, neither was I. I asked around about him as he worked. Did anyone know where he was from, his name?
Some said he had been in the navy and had studied under a Sensei in Japan. Others said he just had natural talent. Either way, he was amazing. Firm upper body, smooth skin, deep brown eyes, and a smile that could sway any woman… and a good number of men. No one could remember his name, they just knew he came to Hellfire once every month or three with a new girl who was studying under him, modeling for him, submitting to him–only drank water, and never did anything but exquisite rope bondage. Most of the folks I talked to were disgusted by him. I was entranced.
By the time I had finished my Smirnoff and was walking to the bar for seconds, the Brazilian girl he had in midair was about to have an orgasm, the jute rubbing between her legs knotted just right to make her squirm, moan, get herself off as he bit her thighs. I smiled, sipped my drink, and pulled up a seat near the action. He lowered her to the floor, his short black hair and almond skin glistening with sweat as he pulled a well-worn gray bandana from his back pocket and wiped down his face. The woman lay twitching on the ground–a thin blanket thrown over her to keep her from going into shock as she was unbound back on earth.
He looked up, and for a moment I caught his eye, or he caught mine. He seemed an odd contrast to the rest of the room somehow–all of the other bodies clad in black leather, rubber, pvc, and him just in his worn-out jeans. I looked away and walked to the bar, bringing over water for him and his lady–she seemed to desperately need it. A wide grin crossed his noticeably Asian features as I approached, lowered to my knees, and held out the drinks for them….
* * * *
I keep shaking. Darkness. Why can’t I remember his name? Why can’t I remember? It’s not cold, it’s just…. I can’t remember. I can’t remember anything but being here….
* * * *
The next Friday night I told Lydia my tale. Of holding out the glasses, and him inviting me to sit as he recoiled his work, holding the paired stray ends between his fingertips and wrapping the lines, paired lovers, around his firm arms and back between his hands. Wrapping, cinching, tucking, and throwing each finished coil into his bag of tricks. Surely so much rope couldn’t have come out of such a small shoulder bag, barely a purse.
“What kind of purse?” Lydia asked, her Tigress persona showing even in her mundane garb of yoga pants and a Living in Leather T-shirt, stained with bleach.
I sat with him as he curled the ropes, and I brought her more water. It was the first time they had played together, it turned out, and he was happy with how well she’d taken to flying. Flying. I could imagine flying with him.
“Snap out of it,” Lydia barked, and popped in her latest movie rental. It was one of those sappy Meg Ryan ‘I can’t believe I found love through yet another unexpected way’ movies. “Sooooo… did you guys play?”
No, we hadn’t. Well, not exactly. I had spent the rest of the evening with them, but he never once touched me. But he smiled. Our eyes lingered a bit too long. He would have me pass him ropes as he bound his South American beauty first to a pole, then in a ball, then hogtied and pulled tighter, tighter, her sight blocked with more layers of jute and hemp. The scent tickled my nose, the alternating rough and smooth fibers playing through my fingers, as I did his bidding and watched him work.
By the end of the evening she’d come a number of times–so much I’d lost track of how often I’d seen her body quake. Funny thing was that he seemed more interested in her little gasps when he’d cinch down the lines than her moans of passion. His eyes were locked on her beads of sweat, of the contraction of her muscles, of the blood pumping in her veins and the blood gathering in her tightly bound breasts, turning them purple. His eyes would lock on her heaving chest, on her twitching thighs, on the delicacy of her neck and he’d lick his lips, then drink his water. He was entranced with how her body reacted in the little ways–an artist at work.
As she was straining against her hogtie, limber torso twisting under the tie which bound her elbows together and attached them to her contorted legs, he lowered himself to the ground and whispered something in her ear. His bare knee rested on the cold cement, as if his secret conversation were far more important than the fact that he’d just allowed his flesh to rest on the dried residue of other men’s sexual exploits, dried like a layer of old paint peeling up from a 1920s block house. Her body twitched, contracted in on itself, and after a moment of contemplation, she nodded from behind her veil of ropes.
“So–what did he say to her?” Lydia asked, swigging from her bottle of champagne and ignoring the movie entirely. “And what were you up to, do you get to fuck him, do you….”
“Get a grip Lyd, it’s my story, not yours.”
“Sorry, I’m used to, well, asking lots of questions I guess,” she mumbled as she took another swig, her long nails wrapped around the neck of the bottle of Brut as the bubbles disappeared down her long neck.
“I’m not one of your clients Tigress, I’m your friend,” I snarled. “Stop pushing me. I tell the story at my rate.”
“Jeez, sorry, don’t get your panties in a bunch.”
At that I’d gathered my things, my tennis shoes in on hand and backpack in the other, and was heading towards the door. Lydia was fast on her feet and heading after me but I was quicker and out the door. I was halfway down the stairs before I heard her calling out for me to come back, what the hell was wrong with me, she was sorry, sorry….
* * * *
Why had I been so upset? I shouldn’t have been. She was just curious. Why was I so defensive of my time with him? What was this sway, this power? Why? Why am I still shivering, but not that cold any more? Was that light, or just some figment of my imagination? What was that noise?
* * * *
They had left, her barely back in her clothes, within the hour. He’d unbound her slowly from the strenuous pose, first pulling the legs down from her arms, then loosening the wraps around her upper arms and wrists. Unbinding her knees and ankles, he helped her up into a sitting position where he finished releasing her arms and unwound the lines that pulled in on her rib cage and breasts, the web of the harness that drew diamonds down her torso, through her legs and up her back. With her body bare save for deep rope marks from the four scenes they’d done in the evening, he told her to stand. He kissed her on the neck, breathed in her scent, and then returned her sight to her.
* * * *
Sight. Light. I remember those. Or was that the dream and this is the reality? Why do I keep shaking when my body can’t go anywhere? I know better, I tried to struggle before, why do I keep shaking?
* * * *
Over the next few weeks I became irritable. I canceled dates with clients. I became bored with the endless derogatory comments, their sniveling voices, their pleas of “Please Goddess” and “Do with me what you will Goddess.”
I started drinking more. I kept on seeing him in my dreams. His scent seemed embedded in my skin. I stopped talking to Lydia, fuck that Tigress bitch and her need to know everything. Especially when I didn’t know what was going on.
I went to Hellfire every Saturday night, hoping I’d see him, get his number, give him mine.
I slept less. I worked out more, letting hours go by at the gym before one of the night clerks would tell me they had to shut down the facility. I’d gather my sweaty gym bag and walk the streets alone at night, hoping somehow I’d see him. Hoping that somehow he’d dematerialize from the shadows.
He dematerialized from those shadows almost six weeks after I first saw him. A lonely email read:
Meet me tonight at Hellfire
Wear something simple
I was aghast. How dare he command me around! I barely knew him, hell, I didn’t know him, I….
I had to. I realized every fiber of me that had common sense said not to go, but ever part of my heart needed to or else it would explode. I had to.
(Continued in the book!)
Six erotic stories of shapeshifters. Werewolves are popular but there are many other animals beyond the wolf to explore. The selke (seal), the were-lion, & others form the basis of these erotic stories of the connection between lust & our human and animal sides. Includes Lee Harrington, Julie Cox, Marie Carlson, Amanda Ferry, Alex Monagan, & Helen Dring. Warning: explicit sex