Gate Shifter #2
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“I was going to find that damned kid, Jazzy Jiāng, if it killed me.…”
Dakota Reyes, twenty-something private eye, finally made it back to Earth and back to Seattle, after dropping through a dimensional portal one very bad night, nine months earlier. She didn’t come back alone: a shape-shifting alien named Nihkil, her lock-mate and friend from that other world, came with her.
…So did a bunch of other shape-shifting aliens, anti-human terrorists trying to escape their human enslavers in that other world. But that last part was an accident. Sort of.
Now Dakota and Nik are hiding out with Dakota’s friends, Irene and Gantry, and Dakota’s con artist brother, Jake. The psychopath who nearly killed her on her last job is still hanging around, too, looking for revenge. Dakota’s also got a new job, looking for missing girls kidnapped by human traffickers, and her pal, Gantry, tells her there’s a contract out on her, one with probable ties back to the government.
Oh, and the leader of the terrorist aliens, Razmun, is trying to get Dakota thrown in jail so he can kidnap Nihkil.
Worse, all of these things seem strangely connected.
Then there’s Nik himself. Sometimes, Dakota would prefer if she could just keep her hot, shape-shifting pal at a distance, but despite Gantry’s warnings and Nik’s own “issues,” she’s finding that increasingly impossible to do.
ONe: Waking up, visitors and high-octane coffee
It took me more than the usual amount of time to wake up.
It took me even longer to remember where I was.
Really, that’s pretty understandable, so yeah, I gave myself a pass in terms of the whole early worm, bird thing everyone goes on about. After all, not so long ago, really, I’d woken up to find myself inside a mirrored, ice-blue room on a space ship in another dimension.
It wasn’t a particularly fun dimension, either.
In fact, I mostly remembered a lot of pain and fear and other horrible things, including having people cut into me for tissue samples, being kidnapped again and again, being bombed by terrorists, double-agents masquerading as friends, the enslavement of whole races, attempts to brainwash my boyfriend to get him to join a group of fanatical weirdos…and so on.
Yeah, so maybe I was a little wary, when I first opened my eyes these days.
Turned out, on this day, everything was A-okay.
Well…in comparison, anyway.
I found myself lying on a fold-out couch with a beat-up, saggy mattress.
A really ugly fold-out couch, sure, covered in this godawful lime green and pink floral pattern that only someone like Irene could drag out of the ass-end of a yard sale and plunk down money for…but the thing was clearly from Earth. It was also clearly housed inside a very dingy but familiar-looking living room in the lower level of a Craftsman house.
So yeah…from me?
I wasn’t even alone.
Looking out the window, I could tell it was about two hours too early for Irene to be crawling into the kitchen for coffee. It was, on the other hand, just about the right time to go running, if I was feeling up to it. Watching the overcast sky lighten through the glass windows leading out to the wraparound porch, I tried to decide if I was.
Something about lurching back into the old routines felt almost heavenly.
At the same time, getting up and running, with the way my body felt and the crap I’d put it through these past few weeks, and even just the readjustment to Earth gravity and whatever else, also struck me as unnecessary torture.
I still lay there, mulling it over, trying to remember Irene’s shoe size and whether I could even find a pair of running shorts in this mess of crumb-dusted pizza boxes and computer equipment and empty wine bottles spread over her floor…when an arm wrapped around me.
He tugged me against him, pressing against my side, and immediately I stiffened, glancing his way. It was hard to stay on high alert, though, with him stroking my bare stomach under my shirt. It was even harder not to relax into him when he pressed into me again, and nuzzled the back of my neck with his face.
“Hey,” I said, a little lamely.
He raised his head and smiled, but didn’t speak.
Looking over the stretched-thin t-shirt I wore after pulling it out of one of Irene’s less-dirty piles, he frowned a bit, as if puzzled.
Looking down at the band logo there, I shook my head.
“Just a local thing. I wouldn’t worry. It won’t help you learn English.”
He nodded, then blinked a little as if still waking up. I watched his eyes shift into a sharper focus as he commenced looking around the room. His eyes looked a lot clearer than mine felt, on the other hand, but I could feel his tiredness, too. Thankfully, his wounds had mostly healed from that mess that went down when we landed. I’d been worried those first few days.
Nik looked more or less like himself again, body-wise, that is.
I have to admit, it was a really nice body. I was pretty distracted by the muscular bare chest, pale white that it was…even more than the fact that his black hair stuck up over his head. Nik didn’t have a spare ounce of flesh on him anywhere. His stomach was lean and muscular to the point where I had trouble not wanting to touch him there, if only to see what his skin felt like between scars. He gave whole new meaning to the term “six pack.”
Hell, his body would give Gantry’s a run for his money, and I’d never known anyone who was as much of a workout fanatic as Gantry.
I’d noticed Irene checking Nik out more than a few times, too. Really, I suspected she’d had a small crush on Nik ever since we’d landed on her doorstep a few weeks earlier.
Looking at him now, more or less objectively, I could see why.
Even beyond his jawline and the near-perfect musculature, Nik had a kind of languorousness to him, too…meaning to the way he moved. Since he was a morph and could change his form into other animals and whatever, I’d sometimes wondered if that quality constituted some remnant from when he’d shifted into other body types.
Meaning ones that moved with more grace than your average human.
Whatever it was, it was sexy as hell.
As if he felt some measure of my thoughts, or perhaps just the direction in which they lay, Nik leaned down, nuzzling my face again as he pressed deeper against me.
“You are getting up?” he murmured. “Out of bed?”
I shrugged, flushing a little warmer when I felt the heat coming off him. “Thinking about it. Why? Have I turned you into a coffee addict already?”
Nik gripped me tighter, but didn’t move his face away from my neck.
“Did you hear a sound?” he said, instead. Raising his head, he looked down at me, and I got lost watching his eyes shift from green to a lighter gold. Smiling at me, he shook me a little, as if he’d noticed I was distracted by his face. “I heard something, Dakota,” he clarified. “…Like a machine, but irritating. Perhaps some kind of alarm?”
That got my attention.
Frowning as I looked between his now pale gold eyes, I glanced around the rest of the room. I couldn’t imagine Irene setting an alarm clock, not unless she had a really good reason.
Cocking my head, I found myself listening.
Once I had, it came again.
The door buzzer.
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