It had been Beth’s idea. She and Michiko—the Monkey Queen, her best friend, roommate and partner in adventure—had been having another rough week. Beth’s TAs had been getting prickly again, and Michiko had been stuck in meetings with the Council of Eight that made dishwater seem festive. She and Beth also had to deal with Emigre issues—a gang of ogres had snuck in from Faerie to shake down the locals, the hobgoblins kept squabbling with one another, and several brownies had to be talked out of going on strike.
Michiko and Beth desperately needed to relax, and Beth thought she had just the thing—”Entertainment Swap Saturday.” She and Michiko would each choose something fun to share with the other. She had expected Michiko to pick an anime movie, or maybe something with Jackie Chan, so she was surprised when her friend handed her tablet to her. “I found a book we can read!” Michiko said proudly, standing in front of Beth as she settled on the couch.
“On my tablet?” Beth asked.
“I sent it to you as a gift.” Michiko smiled. “If you like it, I’ll read it to you!”
“Great idea!” Beth smiled back at Michiko. “Let me take a look at it first. I won’t peek at the ending.”
Beth glanced at the screen of her tablet. The front cover of the e-book showed an image of a cute young man and an even cuter corgi dog, both with the same big deep brown eyes. The title below read Claimed By The Kawaii: Book One Of The Curse Of The Werecorgi Trilogy. The author was named Rosie Darniels. Never heard of her, Beth thought, and there may be reasons why. She tapped the right side of the touchscreen, skipping past the front matter to the first page of the story.
* * *
Allysin Jane Austin was furious. This was the seventh date in a row she’d been stood up on! How dare that doctor boyfriend of hers say he’d been called back to the hospital to deal with a rash of dog attacks? What about her needs? She crammed her cellphone, that high-tech bearer of bad tidings, into her purse and stormed out of the restaurant, her spiky high heels clacking on the hardwood floor like twin staple guns driving metal brads into her tortured heart.
Why did she have to keep falling for the wrong men? Wimps and wusses, every one! Why couldn’t she find a man who could treat her with respect, appreciate her beautiful mind, and then throw her on the nearest bed and ravage her until her eyes popped out of her head? After all, her generous curves were all in the right places, and so was her lonely, desolate, totally eclipsed heart.
* * *
Oh brother, Beth thought. Let’s try another chapter. She tapped the screen, skipping ahead.
* * *
Colin Ryan Llanfllan was, once again, running for his life. And cursing that he had to do it on such short, stubby legs.
It wasn’t enough that he had alienated his clan, endangered the masquerade that kept the human world from discovering their secret, and had to flee with nothing to his name. Now the scourge of his kind was after him, and as he ran down the street, he had nowhere to Change.
Then, he saw the open car window. He desperately leapt, caught the edge of the glass with his claws, and wrestled his way inside. As he did, he smacked his head on the roof of the sedan. He slumped to the floor in front of the passenger seat, unconscious.
* * *
Ally fished her car keys from her purse and climbed into her hybrid sedan. As she did, she noticed the uniformed man walking up to her. “Yes, officer?” she said, batting her eyelashes.
“Animal control,” he said, tapping his badge. “I’m trying to find a stray corgi dog. Have you seen him?”
“The only dog I’ve seen lately is my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend,” Ally snorted. “Sorry.” The officer nodded and walked away.
And of course he had a wedding ring, she thought disgustedly as she zipped her purse shut. With a heavy sigh, she heaved it over her shoulder in the general direction of the back seat.
As it landed, she heard a thump, followed by a yelp. She twisted in her seat, looking towards the back. That’s when she saw the corgi, looking up at her with its big brown eyes. “Aren’t you a little cutie!” she said.
* * *
Colin found himself staring at the big, brassy, beautiful woman in the driver’s seat. He shook his head to clear it and jumped up to the backseat. He tried to explain himself, but all that came out was a shrill yip.
“How did you get in here?” the woman said as she smiled and bent down to pet him on the head. The top button on her blouse popped open, and he could see her generous cleavage, barely held in place by a too-small-on-purpose lacy black bra.
Colin had worked hard on learning to control the Change, but the bold, buxom sight before him triggered it. Before he could stop it, he began to grow, assuming his human form, slender but muscular, bristle-haired, cute beyond words, and quite naked. His big, deep, sexy brown eyes stared at the woman, who suddenly realized what had happened, and what part of his body she was now petting.
She pulled her hand back, reeling from the shock, and fainted. Colin couldn’t help but notice that the way she slumped against the steering wheel, while no doubt painful, also afforded him a wonderful view of her Rubenesque, curves-in-all-the-right-places figure. He bit back his lust and worked out a plan.
* * *
It’ll get better, Beth thought as she frantically tapped the screen. It has to.
* * *
Ally looked over at Colin, his cute face set and grim, and shuddered. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Our kind…the werecorgi…we have many enemies,” he said.
He nodded. “Animal control agents. Secret government organizations. PETA splinter groups. Freemasons. And One Direction fans.”
“We’re still trying to figure that last one out.” Colin glanced around. “But I can smell that—”
“Hello? Werecorgi? Part dog?” Colin took a deep breath. “As I was about to say, our greatest rivals, our age-old foes, are upon us.”
As he spoke, three dachshunds scurried out of the trees towards them. “Dachshunds?” Ally folded her arms. “You have to be—”
The Change took place. The three dachshunds grew into short, hairy, barrel-chested, very naked men. “Werecorgi!” one shouted.
“Weredachshunds,” Colin said as he caught the fainting Ally.
* * *
Tap tap tap tap tap.
* * *
The pit was lit by a blazing bonfire. The weredachshund clan was sitting along one edge, their mournful howl echoing through the night. Across from them had gathered the werecorgis, and their collective high-pitched yipping was setting off car alarms in the next county over.
The elders of both clans had gathered at one side of the pit, staring at Colin and Klaus as they faced each other in the center. Ally felt her heart pound like a jackhammer on overdrive as she watched. Klaus was devilishly handsome, she admitted, but her eyes kept settling on the cute werecorgi. “Be careful, Colin,” she whispered.
Klaus turned his back on Colin and squatted. “Challenge issued,” an elder solemnly intoned.
Colin got down on all fours and began to sniff. “Challenge accepted!” the elders shouted as one.
* * *
Come on! Beth thought as she skipped ahead, just stopping short of the end. There has to be something good about this somewhere!
* * *
Ally responded to Klaus’ hot kisses passionately, but it came from her libido, the part of her that needed a man. All her heart could think of was Colin, all she saw were his big soulful eyes, even as Klaus’ rough hands squeezed her gently. Oh, Colin, she thought, why did you run off? Don’t you know that I don’t care about rituals and challenges? All I want is you.
The weredachshund jumped up from the bed, lust and madness in his eyes. He started to unbutton his pants. “Und now, my dearest apple strudel,” he panted, “you will learn why we are called wiener dogs.”
* * *
Beth set the tablet down on the couch next to her and covered her face with her hands. Michiko pouted. “Not good, huh?” she said.
“Why on Earth did you pick that book?” Beth asked.
“It was free.”
“And I can understand why,” Beth said.
Michiko fidgeted nervously. “And the blurb said it had fantasy, and action, and romance. I know you like all that stuff.”
“And it had a cute doggie on the cover.”
Beth lowered her arms. “He was cute,” she said. “It was the best part of the book.”
Michiko nodded and looked away. “I just wanted to surprise you,” she said softly. “I didn’t mean to mess up our Entertainment Swap Saturday. I’m sorry, Beth.”
Beth got up from the couch and walked over to her roommate, gently patting her back. “It’s okay, Michiko,” she said. “I’m not mad at you.”
“Really. It was very thoughtful of you, and very sweet.”
“Thanks.” Michiko smiled at her friend.
“But next time, get me something off my wish list instead.” Beth grinned.
Michiko nodded. “Your turn!”
“Got it!” Beth ran to the shelf that held her sizable DVD collection. “I’ve been waiting for this all day! Firefly marathon!”
“The complete series!” Beth said as she brandished the DVDs. “Eleven hours of snarky sci-fi action! And the Serenity movie!”
“And we’ll have to replay key scenes with production staff commentary! It’s the only way to bingewatch!”
Michiko realized that the gleam in Beth’s eyes reminded her of certain insane wizards and mad scientists. “But—” she tried to say.
“Wait! We need our browncoats!” Beth ran into her bedroom and started digging in her closet.
“Brown coats?” Michiko said.
“Can’t watch Firefly without them!” Beth yelled. “I’ve got two! I outgrew the first one, but it should fit you just fine!”
“Get the popcorn started!”
Michiko dazedly shook her head. She turned towards the large cage on the end table next to the couch. “Gregor?” she said quietly.
The guinea pig inside the cage stopped preening himself and looked up at her. “Don’t look at me, Monkey Queen,” he said. “You’re the one who wanted to share an apartment with a geek girl.”
“But isn’t there something we can do?” Michiko asked the reincarnated sorcerer. “Some crisis to handle, an emergency somewhere?”
Gregor dug into the bedding that lined the floor of his cage and pulled out a small pair of noise-cancelling headphones. “You’re on your own, girl,” he said.
Apologies to: The people at @WorstMuse. The crew at the Writer’s Cafe at KBoards. Authors and readers of BBW shifter paranormal romances. Authors and readers in general. Corgi lovers. Dachshund lovers. Browncoats. One Direction fans. And pretty much everyone else who might be reading this.