Release Date: July 28, 2009
Publisher: Loose Id
Publisher Link: http://www.loose-id.com/prod-Awakenings_2__Instinct-968.aspx
Blurb: Joam is a varnal, a shape-shifter endowed with otherworldly sexual powers. Until recently a virgin, all Joam wants to do is drive his new lover Blake, a former hustler, wild. But the hotter things get between them, the more out of control Joam's varnal powers become. The next thing he knows, he's shifting without warning and drawing dangerous quantities of sexual energy from Blake, leaving his soulmate in a blissful, comatose state for days. Terrified that he will kill Blake, Joam withdraws, but Blake misunderstands the reason for this sudden distance, and fears that Joam is rejecting him for his past. Meanwhile, all is not as it seems at the quiet farmhouse retreat where the two have found refuge after a traumatic experience in Joam's hometown. If Joam and Blake don't break out of their intoxicating cycle of denial and excess in time, it may be too late for both of them.
Joam dreamed he was running through the woods near the house he grew up in. His body was that of a large dog built to run. Long and lean, with a deeply curved chest that drew plenty of air to fuel his powerful muscles. He raced across the forest floor, leaping over dead branches and brush. He ran for the sheer joy of it.
It was night, and a full moon grinned down at him from above. Suddenly, Joam caught a scent of something indescribably alluring. The smell commanded him. He ran toward it. The little white clapboard house belonging to his mother came into view. The smell, something like a combination of vanilla, lilac, and sex, came from someone inside it. As he got closer, as the scent got stronger, thoughts of just what he wanted to do to its source flitted through his mind like jagged teeth. He was hungry, so hungry. And whoever it was smelled so good. He just wanted to devour --
He tried to turn from the house, but there was no holding back. He burst through the door. Even as his human self cried out in protest within, he leaped at the figure standing by the sink.
Just as he was about to land, the person turned. It wasn't his mother after all. That's right, his human part remembered. He hadn't killed her. Higgs had manipulated him into thinking he had, but he hadn't. No. It was Blake, looking at him in fear and horror. So much the better, thought the beast, and he sank his teeth into Blake's throat.
Blake's scream became a wail of sirens, and Joam opened his eyes to the dark motel room, illuminated by flashing red and blue lights. Someone pounded on the door. "Open up; it's the police!"
Joam struggled to get his bearings. Beside him, Blake pushed himself upright and threw off the covers. For a split second, they stared at one another, and then they both ran to the window in the bathroom. It was not the kind of window that was designed to open. Blake lifted the lid off the back of the toilet and threw it through the double-paned glass.
Joam took one of the sodden towels from the bottom of the tub and draped it over the jagged shards of glass poking up from the frame. "You first," he said, and Blake hesitated for a second. "Come on, no time for arguments."
Blake squeezed through the window. Despite the towel, fragments of glass scratched his hip, leaving streaks of blood on his golden skin. Joam flashed on jagged teeth and more blood, then forced himself back to the present, wriggling through the window and landing on a narrow berm of grass between the motel and a drainage ditch.
He expected Blake to already be running, but he was standing there waiting for him. The night air was cold, and a drizzle misted their naked skin. Joam grabbed his hand, and together they pelted down the slope of the ditch, leaped the thin trickle of water at the bottom, and ran up the opposite slope, where a cyclone fence separated them from the parking lot of a strip mall.
"Hurry," whispered Joam, shoving Blake toward the fence. Blake started to climb, and Joam went up after him. Both of them topped the fence, hung from their hands, and dropped to the asphalt parking lot below. The landing stung in Joam's feet and ankles.
He heard more sirens, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw flashing lights coming down the street toward the parking lot of the shopping center. "Shift," said Blake.
Joam realized he must still be disoriented from his dream. He shook his head to clear it and grabbed Blake's hand. "Come on." He started for the back of the nearest shop, a Big Lots.
"Shift, Joam," said Blake.
"You'll be able get away."
"And leave you? Fuck that. Come on."
They ran down the alley behind the strip mall. The sirens got louder. It sounded like at least two patrol cars had turned into the parking lot of the strip mall and were heading for the alley.
As Joam fled with Blake beside him, blue and red lights reflected off the damp pavement and the cinder block walls of the buildings. No. They'd almost had everything they'd ever wanted, and it wasn't that much, just each other and the freedom to make a life together. Now, it was all going to end before it even had a chance to start.
Two more squad cars screeched to a halt at the end of the alley ahead of them, blocking that exit. They were midway down the alley and just coming to a break in the buildings, where a drive led to the back from the parking lot in front. On their left, the brick wall was punctuated by a wire mesh gate -- chained and locked, of course.
Running into the parking lot would only prolong the chase. There were bound to be more squad cars blocking that exit by now. Blake tried a door to one of the businesses, but it was locked. Over the gate was their only option, but it was too tall. By the time they got to the top, the cops would be out of the cars, shooting at them. They were trapped.
"Freeze, or we'll shoot!" came a voice over a megaphone behind them.
A Jeep barreled through the gap between the buildings and skidded to a halt in front of them. The door flew open. "Hurry up. Get in!" someone shouted. There was no time to think. They piled into the Jeep and slammed the door shut. Shots rang out as the Jeep's tires spun for a moment on the damp pavement and then gripped, propelling them straight through the chain-link aluminum gate.