So, for the giveaway: Leave a comment and an email addy. I'll use Random.Org to pick a winner and let Chris know. She'll get in touch with the winner about the copy of her book! The giveaway runs from now to the 10th.
Let me say from reading the blurb... this looks really good. And it has a cat lol! She also included a special treat for us... Chapter One!
When a bad day at work culminates in losing out on a promotion, Jim Sanders shifts into his animal form to let off steam. Then his bad day turns into a bad night—while prowling his Atlantic City neighborhood as a large gray house cat, he’s caught in a torrential downpour. What little luck he has washes down the gutter when his new boss, Andrew Wright, catches him taking shelter on his porch, brings him inside, and starts calling him Mr. Frosty.
As a feline, Jim becomes the inadvertent confessor for his boss’s lonely son, Tony, a victim of schoolyard bullying. As a human, he feels drawn to Andrew, a man he wanted to resent. Finding love was never part of Jim’s plan for the future—not with his bizarre secret—yet suddenly he finds himself navigating that minefield anyway. But not everything is easy, especially for an interracial gay couple dealing with prejudice in the workplace, at Tony’s school, and even within their own families.
Wet darts pelted the cat’s thick fur. Annoyed, the feline meowed before hurrying along the sidewalk, looking for shelter. He should have stayed at home, in his nice little apartment in Venice Park, Atlantic City, where he could overlook the Atlantic Ocean—dry.
None of the buildings he encountered appealed to the cat even though his long silvery fur was already soaked, itching slightly. Still, the cat dashed on, ignoring the increasingly uncomfortable feeling of clotted fur.
After a while, he reached the outskirts of a neighborhood and slowed down marginally. Inspecting the neighborhood more closely, the cat realized he was a long way from home. He should have realized this when he'd run over Albany Avenue bridge, but he'd been occupied by his desire to find a warm shelter.
His stroll had taken him to Chelsea Heights; he'd probably have sore paws by the time he was back home.
The rain’s intensity increased, making it difficult for even the cat to see. The feline rounded several houses and looked for cat flaps but found none.
Even more annoyed, the silver-furred cat took refuge on a small porch, where he curled his shivering body into a tight ball on the doormat. At least he wouldn’t get any wetter there. The cat shrieked when the door suddenly burst open, revealing a small blond-haired boy with thick glasses hiding bright-blue eyes.
The boy lifted the cat into his arms, his quick reaction surprising the cat and making it impossible for the feline to give in to his initial flight reaction. Talking soothingly, the boy cuddled the big cat against his chest. Not wanting to hurt the boy, the cat didn’t fuss.
“Tony!” a man called from inside.
The cat, who had frozen in the boy’s embrace, turned his face toward the man’s voice. A blond-haired man, his longish hair cut in a fashionable style, dressed in tightly fitting dark-blue sweatpants and a gray hoodie, came into the cat’s focus.
“Tony, you can’t just pick up a strange cat! It’s all wet and what if it hurt you?”
“But, Daddy! Animals don’t hurt me. They know I’m harmless,” the boy answered, a hint of exasperation showing in his voice. The boy and the man had obviously had this conversation before.
The father of the boy crouched down behind his son and sighed. He didn’t get any further because Jim, the cat, suddenly hissed. Jim’s eyes narrowed and he readied to attack the man in front of him—the man he had met for the first time today, only a few hours ago. The man who had taken the position Jim had applied for.
A few hours ago
Jim Sanders walked into the office building and over to the elevator, where he pressed the call button. As he waited he held himself stiffly, angry anticipation coiling in his stomach. He clutched his briefcase, the knuckles of his hand turning white from the pressure of his grip.
He stepped inside the elevator, nodding to a secretary who rode with him. Catching his reflection in the shiny steel interior of the elevator, Jim sighed inwardly. He saw a visibly enraged African-American man with his jaw set in a stubborn way and his dark-brown eyes blazing. No wonder the secretary threw nervous glances in his direction.
Jim tried to pull himself together. No matter what, he wouldn’t give anyone the satisfaction of seeing his anger. The job as an art director for TLC Publishing should have been his. He had the right qualifications, the right age, hell, he even represented a minority. Hadn’t it said in the job advertisement “minorities preferred”? So much for that.
When the owner, Marshall Trimpter, had notified Jim he didn’t get the job, Jim had been tempted to play the minority card, or even accuse his boss of prejudice. To complicate matters further, Marshall was also a friend.
Jim hadn’t fought Marshall’s decision because he wanted to get the job for his talent. But that didn’t change the fact that he was furious. The job went to thirty-year-old, white Andrew Wright. How can someone who is five years younger than me get the job that belongs to me?
Jim scowled at his own reflection, starting when the elevator dinged softly. The doors opened, allowing the pale secretary to flee. Jim almost snorted in disdain. Just because he looked grim didn’t mean he was dangerous. The secretary probably only registered Jim’s impressive height of six foot six and his weight of 240 pounds, all stuffed into a dark charcoal suit, crisp white shirt, and navy-blue tie.
Jim made another attempt at pulling himself together. He straightened up, breathed in and out deeply several times, then darted another quick glance at his reflection. Good. He didn’t look dangerous anymore, only slightly pissed off. It was at least an improvement.
He strolled out of the elevator and was walking toward the small office he shared with Brian, one of the other illustrators, when Marshall called out for him. Jim managed not to grimace and instead pasted a polite smile on his face. “Good morning, Marshall.”
“Good morning to you too,” the older man replied. Marshall was in his midfifties, a compactly built man with a rapidly growing waistline. Behind him stood a significantly younger man. Marshall gestured between Jim and the other man. “Jim, this is Andrew Wright, our new art director.”
Jim stiffened imperceptibly but held out his hand for the younger man to shake. Wright’s eyes widened subtly when Jim engulfed his hand. Jim watched Wright’s Adam’s apple bobbing up and down several times in quick succession before he regained his composure. Wright smiled up at him, large green-blue eyes twinkling as he brushed a stray strand of dark-blond hair from his forehead.
The man was beautiful. Jim swallowed and reminded himself forcefully that this… this kid had stolen his job.
On the other hand—it didn’t mean Jim wasn’t allowed to drink in the sight of one of the most beautiful male faces he’d ever seen. Wright’s skin was lightly tanned, and freckles covered his nose and across his cheeks. A deep chin cleft—one that even compared to Michael Douglas’s cleft—completed Wright’s face.
Jim estimated Wright’s height around six feet and his weight at no more than 180 pounds, but in comparison to Jim, Wright seemed almost delicate. Most people seemed delicate next to Jim, which at times made things easier, but usually his impressive build intimidated everyone around him, complicating his life.
Wright cleared his throat and wiggled his fingers. Jim realized he hadn’t let go of Wright’s hand. Marshall eyed him curiously. Repressing the urge to rub his thumb over the smooth skin on Wright’s hand, Jim squeezed Wright’s hand again, then let go. “Welcome aboard, Andrew.”
Marshall laid a hand on Andrew’s shoulder, prompting him to turn around. He glanced at Jim and said, “I’ll introduce Andrew to everyone. I expect you to join us in my office at ten thirty so we can discuss the next campaigns and book covers, etcetera.”
“I’ll be there.”
Marshall nodded and guided Andrew over to one of the web designers, Carla Mendez. Andrew bestowed a dazzling smile at Carla, eliciting an equally broad smile from Carla. Jim turned abruptly on his heels. Just what I need—salivating after the man who snatched away my job.
Somehow, Jim managed to get through the day. His feelings alternated between envy and arousal whenever he happened to be around Andrew, which happened quite a lot during the day. Jim didn’t know whether he approved of those circumstances or not.
He was close to admitting to himself he liked Andrew when the man made a crucial error—he criticized one of Jim’s works. Andrew wrapped his critique up in otherwise nice and complimentary words, but only the criticism stuck with Jim.
At the end of the day, he left early, claiming he had a headache from hell. He did have a headache, though it wasn’t as unbearable as he made it out to be. Fact was, he didn’t trust his newly blossomed anger not to spill over and lead him to act on impulse. As much as he loathed Andrew’s presence, Jim didn’t want to lose his job.
He drove home, ate a light dinner, then paced his small living room. Eventually he gave in, shifted into his feline form, and hurried out of his apartment. He welcomed the easy, carefree set of his mind, how all his worries, and especially his anger, fell off him when he shifted into his cat form. His feline alter ego did wonders for his temper.
He just didn’t expect the rain. Nor did he expect to seek shelter at Andrew Wright’s home.
Andrew Wright hastily pulled his hand out of reach of the hissing cat. Jim’s body vibrated from barely restrained anger, a feeling he couldn’t recall ever having had in his shifted form.
“Daddy! Don’t yell, you’re scaring Mr. Frosty,” the boy protested.
Jim pushed his forepaws against the small clavicle and stared at the boy. Mr. Frosty?
“Mr. Frosty?” Andrew echoed Jim’s confusion perfectly.
The boy, Tony, lifted his chin, daring his father to object. “Yes, Mr. Frosty. It’s the name I gave him.”
“Tony,” Andrew sighed.
“I want to keep him,” Tony declared.
Deciding this could be interesting, Jim changed tactics. Instead of hissing and pushing away from the boy, he snuggled closer and purred loudly. Tony tightened his arms around him. Laboriously, the boy clambered to his feet with the big cat in his arms.
“Tony,” Andrew sighed again, his voice taking on a pleading edge.
He carded his left hand through his hair, ruffling it until he looked decidedly disheveled. Jim gazed up at him, waiting for Andrew’s next words.
“Tony, I know you’re missing Lady, but we can’t just take in a stray cat.”
Yes, why not?
Jim watched Andrew, how he struggled to find the right answer. “Well, we don’t know what kind of diseases this cat has. It doesn't have a collar or anything, and I don’t want either of us to get sick.”
Jim saw Tony mulling this over. Obviously he didn’t take the comment lightly. Jim reverted to an unfair tactic—he pushed his head against Tony’s cheek, rubbing and eliciting happy giggling noises.
He heard Andrew mutter in defeat. “Oh, great. All right, let’s take Mr. Frosty inside and towel him off.”
Point one for Jim, the cat.
Tony carried Jim inside, all the while chattering nonstop—how beautiful he was, how much fun they’d have. Jim felt a pang of guilt for leading the boy on. He seemed like a nice enough kid, one that simply wanted a pet to cuddle and take care of.
Before Jim had time to process his feelings, Andrew came over, holding a towel. “Okay, Mr. Frosty, I hope you have no objection to me drying you off?”
Carefully and slowly, Andrew reached out for the cat. Jim cocked his head to one side, ready to bat at Andrew’s hands purely to be an ass, but Tony slid one small hand under his chest, lifting him up a notch.
“It’s okay. Daddy won’t hurt you. He’s good with animals and he’s helped a lot of them. Sometimes we took them to a vet because we couldn’t help….” Tony rambled on about all the good deeds of Andrew Wright.
Jim couldn’t help the resentment building up inside of him. Not only had Andrew taken Jim’s job, he had the looks to turn heads, and he was also the father of an adorable kid and rescued animals in need. Mr. Perfect, eh?
It was more than Jim could bear at that moment. Lashing out with his forepaw, he left a deep scratch mark on Andrew’s hand.
Point two for Jim, the cat.
Andrew cursed. He also grabbed Jim and swiftly carried the struggling cat to the front door.
Damn! One point for Andrew!
“Daddy!” Tony cried.
Little feet pounded on the floor as Tony ran after his father. Jim had to admit—albeit reluctantly—that this obviously wasn’t the first time Andrew had held a struggling cat. Jim caught a determined expression on Andrew’s face, one that clearly said Jim wasn’t welcome here anymore.
“Daddy, no! Please!”
“Tony! It’s a stray cat. It’s bad enough it lashed out at me for no apparent reason, but I won’t take the risk of you getting hurt by it. This is not up for discussion. Please open the screen door for me.”
Tony planted himself in front of the door, his arms crossed over his little chest and a deep scowl firmly in place. “No.”
“Tony! Move it!” Andrew raised his voice while he glared down at his son.
Jim stopped his struggle momentarily, darting a worried glance from Andrew to Tony. The boy’s lower lip trembled suspiciously, but he held his ground. Andrew’s eyes glistened brightly, and finally it dawned on Jim—Andrew was scared for his boy’s safety. He most likely also felt bad for yelling at his son, and this whole turmoil was all Jim’s fault.
Damn! What the hell is wrong with me? Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t get the job. Who’d want such an angry and spiteful man to be their boss?
Not sure whether he would be able to salvage the situation, Jim licked Andrew’s hand with his rough tongue, a loud rumbling purr reverberating through his body. Andrew stared down at him with a wide-eyed expression.
Tony took a step toward them before tentatively placing his hand on his father’s forearm. Softly he said, “Maybe Mr. Frosty was scared. He’s not mean. See? He’s trying to make it all better. Maybe he’d feel better if I rub him down? Please, Daddy?”
Jim saw Andrew’s eyes soften, the love and affection for his son showing openly. He breathed a sigh of relief when Andrew replied equally softly, “Okay.”
Andrew carried Jim back to the sofa, where he placed the cat on his son’s lap. Tony crooned to him as he carefully rubbed Jim’s fur dry. Andrew hovered next to them, ready to grab the cat and rescue Tony in case Jim went ballistic again. Jim didn’t blame Andrew for his bout of overprotectiveness.
When Jim’s coat was to Tony’s satisfaction, the boy scooted back to a corner of the sofa, pulling the cat with him. Jim got the hint and stretched out atop Tony’s abdomen, purring in a never-ending drone and butting his head against the boy’s chin every now and then.
He heard Tony whisper, “Can we keep him? Please, Daddy.”
“He seems to be an outdoor cat, Tony. I don’t know if he’d like to stay with us,” Andrew replied hesitantly.
“Oh, but he’ll like it here just great, you’ll see,” Tony stated with conviction.
Andrew patted his son’s legs before he gathered the wet towel and stood up. “We’ll see. By the way, how was school?”
Jim felt a shiver roll through Tony’s small form. The boy slung his arms around the cat, then pulled Jim further up, until he was able to stick his nose into Jim’s thick fur.
“Okay,” Tony mumbled.
Jim stopped purring. Even he could tell the boy was lying. Jim pushed his head firmly against Tony’s cheek and meowed, as if asking Tony to go on and elaborate.
Andrew came back to them, a frown on his face. “Tony?”
Jim nudged the boy’s face gently. In shock, he saw Tony’s eyes fill with tears behind his thick glasses. Andrew crouched next to them, one hand cupping the back of his son’s head as he asked, “Hey, squirt, what happened?”
Tony’s lower lip trembled and he pulled his glasses off to rub his stinging eyes. Andrew pressed a kiss to his temple, waiting patiently for an answer. Jim wondered why Andrew didn’t push for an answer, seeing that Tony was so upset. To voice his impatience, he meowed again.
“Silas… Silas picked on me.”
“Do you know why?”
“Because I have no mother and because… because you’re a horrible, sick person. Since you’re horrible, I am as well. He told the other kids not to play with me,” Tony choked out.
Jim stared at Tony’s tear-streaked face, his heart going out to the distressed boy. He heard Andrew swallow audibly several times. He wondered why another kid would accuse Tony’s father of being awful.
“Tony, I don’t understand. You’re not horrible! Why would he say something like that?”
“He says you’re sick because you’re gay.”
Chris T. Kat lives in the middle of Europe, where she shares a house with her husband of almost 15 years and their two children. She stumbled upon the M/M genre by luck and was swiftly drawn into it. She divides her time between work, her family—which includes chasing after escaping horses and lugging around huge instruments such as a harp—and writing. She enjoys a variety of genres, such as mystery/suspense, paranormal, and romance. If there's any spare time, she happily reads for hours, listens to audiobooks, or crafts.