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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Meet Mikhail, Your Newest Hero!

Shadow Play

Historical Paranormal Romance
By Ann Gimpel

Dream Shadow Press

35K words
Releases 5/23
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Tumble into sabotage, subterfuge, and wolf shifters defying the odds to remain alive.
Tumble into sabotage, subterfuge, and shifters defying the odds to remain alive
Gwendolyn’s so busy hiding her shifter side from humans and staying alive, love’s the last thing on her mind. Too hot to be denied, it hunts her down anyway.
Relegated to a shadowy existence of half-truths, Gwendolyn lives in fear her wolf side will be discovered. She leaves the Old Country with Hunters nipping at her heels, but things in the Americas aren’t any better. Eighteenth-century society isn’t kindly disposed to either shifters or witches.
Mikhail, the love of her life—except the relationship always felt pretty one-sided—has been missing for years. When he shows up after escaping imprisonment in an Austrian abbey, Gwendolyn is ecstatic to see him. But she’s afraid nothing’s really changed. He’s always put the pack’s needs above hers.
Victimized by superstition and sick of running for their lives, she and Mikhail take a stand, revealing what they are. It was either the smartest thing they’ve ever done—or the one thing that will kill them.

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Chapter One

Austria 1621
The full moon rode low in the sky, clinging to the horizon far longer than it should have. A blood-red cast lent it an eerie, threatening aspect. Gwendolyn threw back her head and howled along with all the other wolves in her shifter pack, but something about the moon was so ominous, hackles rose along her back.
High, wailing shrieks, shrill as banshee cries, split the night. Her nostrils flared, scenting the air.
Goddammit! Humans had found them.
Not normal humans, Hunters.
Humans without power would never interfere with a wolf pack as large as hers. They’d be torn to bits reloading their muskets, and they knew it. Before she was done analyzing things, Gwendolyn put her head down, gathered her haunches beneath her, and ran, keeping to the shadows of a thick Austrian forest.
Shots rang out, lending her speed she didn’t realize she was capable of. Howls, growls, and snarls faded as she put distance between herself and the ambush. Her breath left white plumes in the cold, night air. Even after she couldn’t hear gunfire anymore, she still kept running.
It was what they were supposed to do. She’Lara, the One Wolf and their leader, said it often enough. “Do not let yourselves be captured. Hunters will bind you with iron and interrogate you. When they’re done, they’ll kill you. Better to die free.”
She didn’t know how long she ran. Her wolf side wasn’t any good at judging things like that. She stumbled and understood she’d moved beyond weary. Her flanks heaved, but she willed herself to keep going. The scent and sound of rushing water filled her senses. It had been there for a while, but she’d been so focused on pursuers she hadn’t paid attention. Without warning, the earth fell away before her. She stuck both forelegs out to break her fall, skidding on her buttocks. It didn’t help. After a long, heart-stopping moment, she tumbled down a steep embankment into the muddy Danube.
At first she scrabbled her way back toward the nearest bank, but stopped when her paws touched dirt again. If she weren’t so tapped out, she’d have taken to the Danube’s fast running current long before now. Water was a godsend, and she let herself drift into the center of the broad channel. It would mask her scent—and not leave any tracks to follow. She began to relax, confident she was truly out of harm’s way—this time.
Her thick wolf’s coat shielded her from the water’s chill as the river carried her downstream. If anyone was looking for escapees from her pack, a few more miles between her and the Hunters wouldn’t hurt.
The sky was beginning to lighten in the east when she clawed her way up the bank and pulled herself out of the river. Shifting in broad daylight was risky. It upped the odds of discovery. Given the surprise attack, staying in wolf form didn’t feel safe, either. She shook herself from head to tail tip and then did it again. Clothes would be a problem. She’d left hers near where her shifter pack had gathered—miles from her present location.
She looked at the sky again and made her decision. She didn’t want to ride out the coming daylight hours as a wolf. Smoke stung her sensitive nostrils, so people must live nearby. Melting into deeper darkness between two gnarled oaks, she gave her body the command to shift. The first thing she noticed was how cold she was. The second, a sharp thorn that pricked one of her feet. Human bodies were fragile. Because her wolf self had been wet, her human form was too, which meant her long, copper-colored hair clung to her head and shivering body.
Good. Maybe I can tell whoever finds me that I fell in the river and nearly drowned.
Yes, well that won’t explain why I’m naked.
Sitting still would be a death sentence. It was late autumn, and she’d freeze. Even if the sun did come out around mid-morning, it wouldn’t carry much warmth. Gwendolyn took off at a trot, cursing as rocks and brambles cut into her feet. She scented the air for the smoke she’d smelled as a wolf, but couldn’t find it.
Damn her blunted human senses.
Coming to a halt, she shut her eyes and tried to remember which direction the smoke had come from. Where there was smoke, there were bound to be people.
“Mistress!” A man dressed in tanned deer hide breeches and a jacket sewn from the same skins stepped noiselessly out of a thicket. His dark eyes were wide and shocked. Blond hair hung down his shoulders, and an unkempt blond beard obscured the bottom half of his face.
“Mistress,” he repeated. “What happened to you?”
She shielded her body as best she could with her hands. “I fell in the river a long way upstream. I-I must’ve hit my head and passed out. When I finally pulled myself from the Danube, it was just back there.” She jerked her chin over one shoulder, not wanting to move her hands.
“Where are your clothes?”
Heat rose from her chest to face. “If you must know, my husband took them. He was angry because I didn’t prepare supper last night.”
The man drew his thick, blond brows together. “Did he perchance help you into the river?”
Gwen hung her head and nodded. This was going better than she’d hoped.
“Here.” He tugged his leather top over his head. “Put this on. It should cover your, ah, your woman’s parts.”
“Thank you.” She pulled it on. It smelled of sweat and poor tanning, but at least it was warm.
“I have a place not far from here. My wife will find clothes for you.”
“Thank you again. I’m most grateful for your kindness.”
* * * *
Gwendolyn’s feet were cut and bruised, but the rest of her was none the worse for wear. It had taken the better part of two days to walk home. She would’ve made better time if she’d shifted, but didn’t know if she could risk it. Grateful to be home, she dug in soft dirt near her front door and extracted a key from its hiding place. Shoving it into the lock, she pushed her door open and let herself inside her house.
Herbert, the man who’d rescued her, and his wife, Isolde, had been more than kind. She stayed with them for a few days, working off the debt she’d incur once she left with an item or two from Isolde’s meager wardrobe. Like many country dwellers, Isolde had only a single pair of shoes. She’d offered them, but Gwendolyn refused. Bad enough she’d taken one of the woman’s two dresses.
She lit a fire in the stove and then went outside to pump water from the well. She needed to bathe; she could smell herself. As she worked, she realized how lucky she’d been. She hadn’t been raped or set upon by highwaymen. And she was still alive. She wondered how many of her shifter pack weren’t.
She thought back to when she’d been truly young, and nostalgia washed over her. Shifters were free to be themselves then. No one persecuted them. They could take their animal form without fear. She’d been born in 1263. It was now the year of our Lord, 1621.
“Not my Lord,” she muttered, annoyed with herself for using the phrase even in her thoughts. Gwendolyn wasn’t young anymore, but she expected to live another several hundred years. Shifters had long lives—unless they spent too much time in their animal form.
She poured another kettle of steaming water into her washtub and looked critically at the water level. It would be nice to add another kettle or two, but she didn’t want to wait any longer. What was there would have to do. She stripped off Isolde’s dress and lowered herself into the tub, wincing as water sluiced over her damaged feet.
Hunters had shown up after the Church grew stronger. A combination of clergy and hired thugs, they searched for those like her with special jewels. Created with holy water, prayer, and dark magic, the gems—Bloodstones—turned rosy whenever a shifter was close by or bright red when there were several. The stones had made it far more difficult to evade Hunters and their ilk. Before, all she’d had to do was bat her lashes, show a bit of cleavage, and flirt. That didn’t work if someone was holding a Bloodstone that gave her away.
She leaned forward to wet her hair before the water got too dirty and reached for a bar of her lye soap. Shifters had fought back, but they weren’t organized enough. And bear, wolf, bird, and cat shifters never got along terribly well. They were as likely to kill one another as their Hunter enemies.
Gwendolyn dunked her head and worked the soap out of her hair. Gloom settled in the pit of her stomach like a brick. The pack was her family. She needed to find out who was left. Surely She’Lara had survived. The One was immortal.
Her heart lurched in her chest as she thought of Mikhail. She’d loved him forever, but he saw her as more of a friend and little sister than a lover. They’d met when she was just thirteen, right after her first shift.
She snorted as she stood and stepped out of the tub. If three hundred and forty-five years wasn’t enough time for him to decide he wanted to court her, she didn’t suppose he ever would. She’d played the seductress, and it had gotten him into her bed. Many times. But he left just as easily with nary a word of love or commitment. Gwendolyn pulled a length of linen off a wall hook and dried herself, still thinking of Mikhail.
He’d been at the gathering she’d run from. Was he still alive? Breath caught, making her throat tight. Even if he didn’t want to marry her, she still cared about him, and the thought of him dead made her heart ache dully.
Getting dressed was easy. Unlike Isolde, she had lots of choices. Picking through her armoire, she pulled out a black woolen skirt and a blue linen shirtwaist. Since it was chilly, she layered a wool cape over everything. Being the local midwife meant she always had enough to eat and money for cloth to make clothing. She perched on the edge of the bed to inspect her feet. They’d be a problem. She lit a candle and worked on first one and then the other, picking debris out of deep cuts. While she caught her breath from the pain of probing her sore feet, she cut strips from the bandages she used for her midwifery trade so they’d be ready. Then she gritted her teeth and poured whiskey over the open wounds. They stung like the devil, but she kept on pouring.
Once her feet were bandaged, she looked for shoes. As she feared, none would fit over the wrappings.
“Damn it.”
She drew her lips back from her teeth in a snarl. She needed to find others from her pack, but if she tried to walk very far on her damaged feet, they might never heal properly. Foot wounds were unpredictable because they were so far from the heart.
She blew out a disappointed breath and settled into a chair. If things went well and her feet didn’t develop any sign of infection, they’d be well enough in a few days for her to leave home. Maybe if she got lucky, one of her kin would come looking for her before then.
Gwendolyn eyed the whiskey bottle, snatched it, and took a long drink. The liquor burned all the way to her stomach. She swallowed again, gave in to a bone-deep weariness, and let her eyes close.


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Monday, May 2, 2016

One Spirited Woman + Three Coyote Shifters = E-Reader Ecstasy

Sophie’s Shifters, Wolf Clan Shifters #3
By Ann Gimpel

Dream Shadow Press

66K words

 Release Date: 5/2/16
Genre: Shifter Ménage  Romance

One spirited woman + three coyote shifters = e-reader ecstasy.

Book Description:

Late 1930s, California.

The winds of change are blowing hard as shifters gather deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for a war powwow. Tempers run high as they argue their next move. An unexpected attack from more Hunters than they’ve ever seen forces their hand, and Blake, alpha for the coyote clan, fights alongside his brothers. He’s grimly pleased when every single one of their enemies is finally dead, the bodies chucked into glacial crevasses.

Sophie Laughing Wolf tracked her hated brother into the mountains. Gifted with foreseeing, she wants to make certain he ends up just as dead as he was in her vision. When the large group of men he’s with are set upon by shifters, mythical dual-natured beings who can take animal forms, she hides, calling on earth power to shield her.

It doesn’t work. Two shifters, back in their men’s bodies, haul her from her hiding place once the battle ends and drag her before their chief. He spares her life—for now—but she senses the animosity the others have for her. They see her as a threat, a witness to multiple murders.

When the mate bond strikes, she fights its pull. So does Blake. He can’t believe the gods would be so cruel as to bind him and his lieutenants to a woman with blood ties to Hunters—their ancient enemy. She runs from her fate. So does he, but the bond burns bright, transcending everything.

Alice adds Jed to her list of problems when he melts out of the shadowed darkness. At first she declines his offer of help, but he keeps talking until she ends up inside the cozy log cabin in front of a roaring fire. His skilled hands and a shot of whiskey heat her blood to molten, and her carefully tended world explodes into desperate hunger to make love with the man rubbing her weary feet.
As caught up in lust as Alice, Jed takes a chance. A big one. Will mating with her before disclosing everything turn out to be a huge mistake?

Alice adds Jed to her list of problems when he melts out of the shadowed darkness. At first she declines his offer of help, but he keeps talking until she ends up inside the cozy log cabin in front of a roaring fire. His skilled hands and a shot of whiskey heat her blood to molten, and her carefully tended world explodes into desperate hunger to make love with the man rubbing her weary feet.
As caught up in lust as Alice, Jed takes a chance. A big one. Will mating with her before disclosing everything turn out to be a huge
Excerpt from Sophie’s Shifters:

…Jed slipped and slid down the glacier, grateful his mate Alice wasn’t there to read him the riot act. An accomplished mountaineer, she’d have laughed herself sick after the second time he fell on his ass and slid twenty feet.

“Goddammit!” Terin screeched from behind him and went flying past on his stomach. He shifted mid-slide and dug his claws into the icy surface to stop his suicidal descent. Once he’d stopped on the uphill side of a boulder, he shifted back.

Jed drew to a halt next to him. “Good thing you didn’t bother getting dressed. Your clothes would be strewn over the last fifty feet of ice in shreds.”

“Yes and no,” Terin muttered, glancing pointedly at Jed’s shoes. “My boot soles would have helped—a lot. Jesus but I’m glad Alice isn’t here to see this.”

“Keir’s doing okay in bare feet,” Bron noted, catching them up. “And I’m not doing that bad, but the soles of my feet hurt like hell—and I miss my claws.”

Jed eyed the edge of the glacier. Patches of rocks and dirt, interspersed with ice, began a couple hundred feet below them. Walking would get much easier then. He grabbed one of Terin’s arms. Bron seized the other one, and together they lurched over the remaining rock-studded ice.

“We have a problem,” he said without preamble.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Bron muttered.

“We have to get home and make sure Alice is okay,” Terin added.

Jed winced. He’d wanted to leave someone home with the women, but neither Alice, nor Megan—Les and Karl’s mate—would have any part of that. He reached for Alice through the mate bond, but she was too far away for him to sense anything.

“Which particular problem were you alluding to?” Bron asked. “Somehow it seems like more than getting out of these mountains with our hides intact.”

“It is,” Jed said tersely. “Les and Karl found a woman. They’re holding her back in the cave.”

Terin stopped dead. “What? Is she a climber like Alice, who got stranded up here?”

“Somehow, I don’t think that’s it,” Jed muttered.

“We’ll find out soon enough,” Bron broke in. “Shit! If she came with the Hunters, we’ll have to kill her.”

“That already occurred to me.” Jed shot a pointed look at his lieutenant. “Keir said the same. He was standing close enough to hear when Les gave me the bad news.”

“Damned shame.” Terin shook loose from them. “I’m good. I don’t need you two to nursemaid me anymore.”

They covered the remaining half mile to the cave in silence. Terin and Bron went to collect their clothes, and Jed strode briskly to a back corner where he sensed Les and Karl. Crouched behind them in a quivering mass was a woman with her head buried in her crossed arms. Long black hair shot with thick silver streaks spilled around her onto the dirt floor. She was swathed in dark colored wool and flinched away when Jed hunkered next to her.

He probed her mind and found terror so gripping, it obliterated everything else. He started to tell her not to be afraid, but the words died on his tongue. He couldn’t give her any guarantees, and he wouldn’t lie to her.

“Who are you?” he asked, keeping his voice gentle.

“We tried that, boss,” Les said.

“At first, all she did was moan,” Karl added. “She got quieter after a while, but she hasn’t answered any of our questions.”

“Where’d you find her?” Jed asked.

“After we lifted the last of the bodies in our sector out of the moraine, so others could move them up the mountain, Les and I sensed something living. It wasn’t a Hunter, but it was human, so we dug a little.”

“Didn’t have to go far,” Les cut in, “before we found her hiding between a huge piece of deadfall and a big rock.” He shrugged. “Without our wolf senses, we’d never have discovered her.”

A low whimper escaped from the woman, and Jed laid a hand on her arm. “What’s your name?” he repeated.

“Just get it over with.” Her low, musical voice was strained. Hysteria trod near the surface.

“Get what over with?” Jed probed. Maybe if he could get her talking, he could learn something.

The woman lifted her head from her crossed arms and Jed’s eyes widened. She was absolutely stunning with huge midnight blue eyes. Pronounced bone structure and copper skin suggested Native American blood flowed through her veins. Sharp cheekbones, a hawk-bridged nose, and a squared-off chin lent her an exotic cast.

She tilted her chin at a defiant angle. “You have to kill me. I know too much. Get it over with. The others—” she cast a spurious glance Les and Karl’s way “—they were waiting for you to make the decision.” Her mouth worked as if she’d tasted something bitter. “Anyway, get it over with. I took my chances when I tracked my brother today. If he’d known, he’d have forbidden me to come.”

Jed frowned. “One of the Hunters was your brother?”

The woman nodded mutely. “Yeah, that’s what I just said, isn’t it? Get it over with, white man. If you’re going to kill me, do it. If not, let me go.”

Bron and Terin had joined them once they’d dressed. Bron passed a hand over the woman’s head, and Jed felt him probing with shifter magic. “You have white man’s blood too,” Bron murmured.

The woman shot him a scathing look. “Not much. What of it?”

“Where we come from in Canada,” Les said, “Indians are friends to those like us.”

She curled her upper lip in withering scorn. “We have enough problems without associating with shifters. You’re nothing but trouble. Bad enough we got stuffed onto reservations, land no one else wanted.”

Jed tried a different tack. “Why’d you track your brother today?”

She buried her head in her arms again, refusing to look at him.

“Please.” He gentled his voice. “Give us something to work with. Les and Karl, my brothers who found you, didn’t harm you.”

“Only because they were waiting for you, their chief.” Her voice was muffled.

“Goddammit!” Les squatted in front of her and yanked her head upward. “Karl and I could’ve killed you. We didn’t. We were not waiting for Jed to make that call. Tell us why you were tracking your brother.”

Jed heard compulsion flow beneath the other shifter’s words.

The woman drew back. She tried to combat Les’ spell, but the contest was laughable. “To stop him,” she said. The words were clearly dredged from her, but they held the ring of truth.

“Good. He needed to be stopped,” Les said. “Why’d you think he’d listen to you?”

The woman’s face crumpled and she started to cry, big noisy gulping sobs that ripped through her. “It’s not what you think. I didn’t try to make him listen to me,” she managed between ragged breaths. “I have the gift of prophecy—farseeing—and I knew things would go to hell for all of them today.”

“Do your visions always come true?” Jed probed. Despite the problems the woman presented, her story fascinated him.

She nodded, but didn’t say anything further.

“Did your brother know you followed the Hunter group?” Jed asked.

She shook her head. “No. He doesn’t share my gift. His magic came mostly from the goddamned white man’s Church.”

“Odd none of the rest of them sensed you behind them,” Karl muttered.

“Not odd at all,” she shot back, choking a little on snot running down her face. “I can blend my energy into the rocks, the dirt.”

“We found you,” Karl pointed out.

“Because you were in your natural form, and wolves sense such things far more acutely than men.”

Jed waved Karl to silence. This was going nowhere fast. Returning his attention to the woman, he said, “So you came along, but didn’t talk with him. Didn’t try to warn him. Help me understand why.” Jed hoped things might get clearer, but so far they were just becoming more confusing.

“Let me get this straight.” Bron hunkered next to Les and caught the woman’s gaze with his dark one. “You saw in a vision that your brother would die, and you came along anyway but didn’t try to warn him. Did you want to make certain he was dead?”

Jed silently offered his lieutenant credit for shrewdness. If the woman knew today would end in a bloodbath because she’d seen it—and she made no attempt to warn her brother—what other reason would she have had for trailing after him.

The woman’s sobbing escalated. She tried to jerk her chin out of Les’ grip, but he held fast. “Yes,” she gasped out. “Yes. I hated that bastard. He…used me, hurt me the way men hurt women, when I was only ten years old and never stopped until I ran away when I was sixteen. No one believed me. No one c-cared.” Her last words were almost obliterated by sobs.

Suddenly her phrase to stop him took on a whole new meaning. Jed just stared at her. “So it’s not that you didn’t say anything today. You never told him anything.”

She did yank her chin away then and spat on the dirt floor. “Hell no. I haven’t spoken to him in ten years, but he’s blood and he shows up in my visions.”

Running on instincts that had rarely failed him, Jed glanced at the four wolf shifters ranged around him. They didn’t need to talk. After hundreds of years of working together, they understood one another.

“Stand up.” Jed told the woman.


“Did you see your own death in your vision?”

An odd look washed over her face before she shook her head and pushed herself upright. Standing she was of a height with Jed, and her hair reached past her ass. She squared slender shoulders. “Is that a backhanded way of saying I can leave?”

Jed shook his head and hurried to add words before she sank into a puddle of terror again. “You’re right that we can’t allow you to return to your life. We have no idea who you are, who you’d tell. We could wipe your memory of us, but you’d still recall the death that happened in this canyon.”

“What are you going to do with me?” Her voice shrilled and she jerked her chin upward. “If you think you’re going to abuse me like my brother, think again, white man. I’d rather be dead.”

“We don’t do that to women.” Terin pushed into her line of vision so she had to look at him.

“Not what I’ve heard,” she retorted. “My brother said he learned it from you.”

“Bull crap!” Jed said succinctly. “I’ve never known a shifter to take a woman against her will. Not on my watch, and not in my clan.”

“You planning to bring her home with us?” Bron quirked a dark brow.

Jed nodded. “The only question—” he focused on the woman “—is whether you come willingly, or we knock you out and carry you down the mountain.”

“Home as in staying under the same roof with five men?” Her face twisted into a grimace. “No. Not happening. Just kill me here and get it over with.”

“We’re mated,” Karl informed her. “Les and I have a mate. Her name is Megan. And Jed, Bron, and Terin are mated to Alice.”

The woman tossed her head. “Fine. Just because you located some sluts who—”

Jed snaked out a hand and slapped her hard across the face. He grabbed her head between his hands and forced her to look at him. “Never say one bad word about my mate. I love her. So do Bron and Terin. Don’t disparage what you don’t understand.”

A shocked look blossomed on her face and she muttered, “Sorry,” before looking at her feet.

“Let go of her, boss.” Bron pulled Jed’s hands away. “She only understands what she’s lived. And it hasn’t been pretty.”…