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FIGHT, FLIGHT, OR SHIFT
(Billie Blackwater Book 1)
by Kira Brinamon
When she was a kid, Billie’s father accidentally shot her mother, thinking he was protecting the family from a mountain lion. Only, the mountain lion was her mother, and now Billie is the only shapeshifter left in the mountain town of Juniper, Colorado—possibly the only one left anywhere, as far as Billie knows. Now, Billie works at the historic Silver Coin Hotel, and when she’s not serving drinks, checking in tourists, or leading bogus ghost tours, the hotel proprietor, Mitch, exploits her shapeshifting abilities to spy on the patrons of his illegal casino.
When she discovers that a local drug dealer is peddling a dangerous new synthetic drug called Scarlet, Mitch wants him taken care of and tries to convince Billie to do the deed. She refuses—but he winds up dead anyway, along with two of Mitch’s henchmen. With all three deaths looking like the result of wild animal attacks and a vindictive boss ready to out her secret, the blame is going to rest on her shoulders if she can’t figure out who or what did the killing.
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Excerpt from Fight, Flight, Or Shift:
“Excuse me,” one of the tourists on the ghost tour interrupted. She was standing with a hand on her hip and lips pursed. They were both probably around Billie’s age—mid-twenties, anyway—and the man wore a Denver Broncos shirt, while the woman’s graphic t-shirt featured some band Billie had never heard of. “That’s not the same version we heard last time we were here,” the woman in the band t-shirt said.
Crap, Billie thought. “Well if you had Kim last time, she does tend to embellish…”
The woman shook her head. “No, see, we’re amateur ghost hunters, aren’t we honey?” She looked to the man in the Bronco shirt, who nodded eagerly. “And this story is very well documented by a blogger that we follow. There’s even a picture.”
“Well,” Billie faltered. “There have been lots of pictures of orbs taken in this hallway…”
“Not orbs,” the woman said, exasperated.
Just then, the elevator doors down the hallway clanged open, and Billie looked past the tourists to see Mitch holding onto a man’s shirt like a cat held by the scruff of the neck. It was Daniel Gadbury: a regular on the casino floor, one of those locals who sat up there gambling away their family’s land or their earnings from the quarry. Daniel’s face was beet red, and Mitch looked pissed. Wonder what he did this time, Billie thought as Mitch pushed him so he stumbled out into the hallway, hitting the wall and tumbling onto his side. Probably tried to cheat, or insulted one of Mitch’s fancy out of town friends. The tourists stared aghast as Daniel groped at the wall, struggling to stand. He staggered toward the double doors that would let him out to the parking garage. Mitch made eye contact with Billie, then crooked his fingers in a quick “come here” gesture.
“Sorry, excuse me for just a minute,” she told the tour group. She wondered if she could figure out how to spin this as a re-enactment of some ghost story to keep them from leaving bad reviews.
As soon as Billie was close enough, Mitch growled, “Follow him.”
“Uh…” She gestured toward the tour group. “Kind of in the middle of something here.”
“I’ll finish it. Follow him.”
“Shit,” Billie muttered, but she did what he said. Mitch had men to be his hired muscle, but her job—her real job, when she wasn’t pouring drinks or telling fake ghost stories—was to be his eyes. She hurried down the hall and pushed open the heavy door to follow Daniel into the garage. Before the door slammed shut, she heard Mitch magnanimously apologizing to the ghost tour and asking how they were enjoying their stay so far.
On the ground floor of the parking garage, Daniel slammed the door of a crew cab pickup truck, and Billie swore again. She hated shifting in such a public place, but Mitch had left her no choice. She glanced around, confirming no one else was in the garage. If she was quick, no one would see her. Crouching behind a car, she hurriedly shucked out of her clothes, then shoved them behind the fire extinguisher. With an exhale, her body shrank and reformed, folding into her most comfortable animal form: a bobcat. The dark garage lit up as her night vision activated, and the world came alive with smells: the crisscrossing scent trails of everyone who had passed through the garage today, the suffocating exhaust of the vehicles, the rancid trash in the bear-proof bin. Just before Daniel’s truck fishtailed out of the garage, Billie darted between the parked cars and leaped into the truck bed.
Meet Author Kira Brinamon
Kira Brinamon grew up in the Rocky Mountains and now lives near the Rio Grande. She holds degrees in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico and the University of Colorado, Boulder. When not writing, you can often find her at a yoga studio or on a hiking trail. Find her on Twitter @KiraBrinamon or at www.KiraBrinamon.com
Interview with Kira Brinamon:
Q: Hi, Kira! Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
KB: I grew up in the Rocky Mountains, and wherever else I may live, Colorado will always be home. Urban Fantasy is my genre. I love stories that showcase the strangeness of the real world through supernatural creatures. I’ve always felt a bit alien amongst human beings, and more at home in fictional worlds.
Q: For those who are new to your books, what is the story about?
KB: FIGHT, FLIGHT, OR SHIFT launches the Billie Blackwater series, which I expect to total four books. Billie is a bobcat shapeshifter who works at a tourist hotel in a mountain town. Her jerk of a boss is one of the only people who knows what she can do, and he exploits her abilities in order to spy on people in town. When she discovers that a local drug dealer is peddling a dangerous new substance called Scarlet, her boss wants him gone and tries to convince her to kill him. She won’t do it, of course, but the guy ends up dead anyway, along with two others. With all three deaths looking like wild animal attacks, she has to find out who or what actually killed them, or else her boss is going to reveal to everyone that she’s a shapeshifter and let the blame fall on her.
Q: Tell us about your heroine. What inspired her quirks and struggles?
KB: Billie Blackwater has had a tough life. Her mother always insisted the two of them keep their shapeshifting a secret, even from Billie’s father. One day that backfired—he shot a mountain lion in their back yard, only it wasn’t really a mountain lion after all. With her mother dead and her father in prison, Billie grew up with a not particularly affectionate grandmother, in a nosy small town where everyone decided her mother had been a witch. Now that she’s grown and slowly starting to forge her own path, her dad is out of prison and back in town, trying to make amends with her.
Q: Is any part of your story or the characters based on personal experience?
KB: The town of Juniper, Colorado is fictional, but it’s based on several mountain towns that I or my family have lived in over the years. I definitely included details I remember from mountain living, like wild raspberry bushes and fast-moving afternoon storms and steep, winding driveways. At one point I mention trick-or-treating by driving between houses, which is something I definitely remember doing as a kid. And in the snow, at that. This book takes place in the summer, so maybe future books will delve more into the difficulty of wintertime in the mountains.
Q: Where can our readers find you? (Social media, website, etc.)
KB: I’m an infrequent poster, but I’m on Twitter and Instagram @kirabrinamon and Facebook.com/kirabrinamon. My newsletter normally only goes out once per month, with news and updates along with giveaways and other goodies. You can sign up at my website www.KiraBrinamon.com, and you’ll even get a surprise ebook full of short stories by my other pen name.
Thanks for chatting with us, Kira!