Authors: M. R. Merrick
The Protector - Book 2 - Shift
© 2012 M.R. Merrick
All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2012 – M.R. Merrick
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means, without the express written permission of the author. For further information please contact the author at [email protected]
Cover design by M.R. Merrick
Cover artwork by Julija Lichman © 2012
This is a work of fiction. The characters, locations, and events herein are used fictitiously as an article of the author’s imagination. Any names or references to locations, events or persons, either living or deceased, are purely coincidental.
Kindle Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
I owe this entire journey to you. You reminded me what it was like to be a child: having an imagination without limits, always looking under the bed, and to never stop reaching for the stars.
There were more than a few people that took part in making this book happen. My wife Cherry, you were there to support me through the entire process. You always have been. When it came down to deadlines, you were there to pick up the slack, whether it meant putting the kids to bed, cooking dinner, mailing out books, or giving me space and time to work. You’ve been my anchor from the beginning, and without you, I could never have achieved any of this. For that, I am more thankful than words can say.
, you helped me turn this story into something more. Having such talented writers working beside me was an honor. Your critiques and input made Shift what it is today - a story I’m proud to share with the world. To my editor
; you are amazing. Your talent and knowledge brought this story to the next level. Your ability to meet my sometimes crazy deadlines took away loads of my stress, and working with you was a pleasure.
Amanda Shofner at Language Management
, you put a polish on this manuscript I could have never managed on my own. With your help, I’m able to release this story with a new confidence. To
, thank you for all your hard work and dedication. Because of you, The Protector Series now has two incredible covers. You took my idea and made it into something that jumps off the page in ways I never imagined. You’ve given my story a face, and without you, this book would never be truly complete. A special thank you to
. I am forever in your debt. You worked beside me to smooth out all the issues, you wrote the back cover copy with me, and you helped take Chase, Rayna, and the entire story exactly where it needed to go. Whenever I struggled, you were there to push me in all the right ways, and you rekindled my passion to tell this story. Without your talent as a writer and support as a friend, I’m not sure where Shift would be today. For all of that, I am grateful.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this story and has supported me on this incredible journey. I’ve learned so much from each of you and in different ways, you each made this story better than it ever could’ve been. It thrills me to know I have so many wonderful people in my life, who love and support me as both a writer, and a person. I could never have done this without each and every one of you.
My eyes tore open to the sound of screaming. The drywall rattled and Rayna’s voice raged through the wall. My pulse jumped as panic set in and I leapt from my bed moving straight for the door.
I ran through the archway, pants tangling on my legs as I tried to pull them up. Marcus, Willy, and Tiki were halfway down the hall, their faces owned by fear.
Marcus reached the door before me, turned the silver handle, and pushed through. The door creaked and the smell of blood, sweat, and something else seeped from the darkness. Marcus flicked on the light and I saw what I already feared.
Rayna was on her hands and knees. Sweat ran down her face in streams, and her eyes moved to us. A deep growl that belonged to something far more ferocious snarled from her lips.
Marcus and I moved to either side of her, leaving Willy and Tiki to guard the door. This was her beast’s third attempt at a shift this week. I wasn’t chasing a half-naked Rayna down the street. Not again.
The hardwood floor was cold and stuck to my bare feet, and bright green cat eyes followed as I sidestepped around her. Another growl rumbled deep in her throat. A warning.
Rayna bent at the elbows and lowered herself to the ground. Her back end lifted in the air and her body moved with unnatural grace, her eyes consuming my every move. The muscles in her arms flexed as she prepared to pounce. She leaned forward, but her body bucked and twisted at an awkward angle. She collapsed to the ground and Rayna’s voice cried out, but even that didn't override the sound of bones crunching.
Alien muscles moved beneath her skin as her body distorted from one angle to another. Something was pushing from the inside. A monster trying to claw its way out. Clear fluid burst as her skin split, and the hint of something primal spilled out over her arms. Her green feline gaze flashed back to me, but it wasn’t the beast looking through; it was Rayna. Her eyes pleaded with me to make it stop, but we both knew I couldn’t.
“Calm yourself, Rayna. You need to take control of the shift,” Marcus said. His massive midnight torso was bare, revealing a smooth and muscled chest that disappeared into baggy, gray sweats. The light reflected off his shaven head, and a small patch of neatly trimmed hair grew under his lower lip. His dark brown eyes were calm but I could see the worry behind them.
Rayna whimpered and her eyes rolled back in her head, revealing nothing but thick bloodshot veins. More blood and fluid burst from her stomach, flying through the air and raining over us. Black fur pushed through the slits in her arms and stomach, and stood on edge. Veins pushed against her skin, changing from blue to black. Her vibrant, pale flesh glistened with sweat as thick, black veins creased around her eyes and spread across her face.
Rayna gasped as her fingers snapped and shifted. Her nails bled as claws tried to break through her human shell. Bones ground against one another until she screamed, and long, black talons burst through her fingertips. The beast reclaimed her eyes. I knew Rayna well enough to know when it was her looking at me. Right now, it wasn’t.
Her skin stretched and rippled. The demon inside was pushing her body into another impossible position and Rayna screamed. She started panting heavily and her teeth shattered as fangs tore through her gums.
“Fight it, Rayna. You can do this,” Marcus said.
Her limbs snapped and twisted, the sound alone making me wince with anticipated pain. Tears fell from Rayna's eyes as she fought the beast. She stared up at me as she tried to reclaim her body, but the monster inside was too strong.
I wanted to speak. I wanted to encourage her, but I couldn’t find the words. I stepped forward and reached towards her, but with unparalleled speed, black claws tore across my arm and blood spurted from the wound. I screamed through gritted teeth and pulled my arm back, grasping it with my free hand and trying to stop the gush of blood.
Rayna stretched her back and rolled onto all fours. Her eyes flickered and the beast stared at me, pulling back its lips to reveal long fangs that took over both the top and bottom jaw. She paced from side to side and Rayna’s bra strap hung on for dear life. Black pajama pants split down the sides as new muscles bulged from her legs. Dark fur and fierce claws owned her still human shaped feet, and tapped along the floor as she moved. Rayna arched her back and black fur exploded from her spine. Blood and fluid soared across the room, and made a splat as it hit Tiki, Willy, and the walls around them.
Rayna’s near human hands crept onto the bed. Long, black claws ripped into the blankets as she pulled herself up. With each pull forward, feathers and cotton spilled into the air, talons tearing into the bedding with ease.
I tried to step back, but I hit the wall, unable to move as the beast closed in.
“Be calm, Chase. The beast can smell your fear. It will only make it more aggressive,” Marcus said.
“Really? Thanks for the update,” I said sarcastically. Blood rolled off my wrist in thick streams and a burning sensation covered my arm. I closed my eyes, reached inside, and pulled the magic up from that place in my soul.
The elemental power rose to the surface in a gentle wash. I imagined a cool rain falling over me, drops of water that would wash away the pain rushing through my arm. I pictured the bleeding coming to a stop and new skin pulling itself over the wounds.