Shapeshifting For The Win by Ellie Green & Jacquline Carrera
YA urban fantasy, shapeshifters
Cover Art by Christine Griffin
Full length novel (80,000+ words)
The three main worries on sixteen-year-old Brianna Mingan’s mind are whether her alcoholic father will get up in time for work, how much her new boyfriend Connor Landon likes her, and whether a small mishap at Connor’s house has infected her with lycanthropy.
Brianna wouldn’t mind becoming a werewolf—if it weren’t for the fact that Connor’s parents are expert werewolf hunters. Facial hair and super strength? Totally cool. Death by silver bullet? Not so much.
To save Brianna’s life, she and Connor seek the help of Connor’s older brother, Evan, a medical researcher who rejected his family’s hunting way of life. Despite Evan’s suspiciously large store of knowledge about lycanthropy, he isn’t able to prevent Brianna from being abducted by two rogue wolfmen looking for a female addition to their pack. Neither Brianna nor Connor is sure whether the greatest danger comes from the wolfish kidnappers or Mr. and Mrs. Landon, werewolf assassins.
I stand with my hand on my bedroom doorknob.
My hair is straightened to perfection. Thank you, Jenny, for showing me the miracle that is a flat iron. My breath is fresh. And lucky me, I get to go foundation-free since the Pimple Fairy didn’t visit me in the night. Lip gloss is on and shining. My teal sundress is wrinkle-free and hugging my curves in a most pleasing way.
But my hand is still on the doorknob. Just go, I tell myself. I’m ready. I didn’t forget anything. This date with Connor will go just as well as the last one did. Except that’s not why I’m worried.
It’s a Saturday, which means Dad slept off last night until at least noon. I glance at the clock—5:16. He drinks at least two beers every hour. I calculate the numbers in my head. Eight to ten beers. That’s a good number. Just enough to make him happy and not care about where I’m going. I’ll be gone before he hits the next stage.
I whisper encouragements to myself. You can do this, Brianna. You’re a sophomore now and dating an actual boy. Open the door. Dad’s probably in his chair, watching TV. Everything will be fine.
After I had gotten to know Connor last year, it took me a while to figure out he liked me as more than a friend. Even after he broke up with that girl he dated for a while, Rebecca, I could hardly believe he would ever want me. But now that I know he likes me, I will make the most of it. I don’t want to be the scared Brianna who’s too afraid to speak up. Somewhere inside me, there’s a happy, confident Brianna. When I’m with Connor, I feel that person bubbling up to the surface, and I like it.
You can do this, I repeat, whispering it aloud this time. With a deep breath, I follow my advice. I open the door and tiptoe down the hall into the living room, but Dad isn’t in his chair. He’s passed out on the couch with a pile of empty bottles on the coffee table. I know I should just leave and not bother cleaning up, but I can’t help myself. I carry the bottles by their longnecks, three to each hand, and dump them into the yellow recycling bin near the back door.
I glance at the clock on the microwave. If I don’t leave now, I risk being late to pick up Connor, but I can’t bring myself to walk out the back door. I have to finish what I started.
Besides, Connor probably won’t even notice if I’m a little late, right? I mean, he was the one who called me late last night and said his car broke down, which is kind of strange now that I think about it. His car is only a couple of years old.
I shrug it off and finish cleaning the living room. When I’m done, I grab a pen out of the junk drawer, but my notepad is missing from the top of the refrigerator. I sigh and go back to my room. I squat down in front of my book bag that sits propped up against the wall next to the closet door. I unzip the large pocket and stick my hand in to fish out the purple notebook.
Something slices my palm and I retract my hand. Great. A paper cut. I wipe away droplets of blood with a tissue from the side pocket of my book bag and toss it at the trash can. I miss, but I’ll pick it up later.
With a sigh, I unzip the large pocket all the way and find the offending piece of paper, stashed behind Uncle Steve’s faded copy of From Here to Eternity. The paper is a lime green flyer, announcing back-to-school night. Yeah, like Dad will really go to that. I ball it up and throw it at the trash can. That one makes it.
I grab the purple notebook, rip a piece of paper out, and head to the kitchen. I sit down at the breakfast table and write a note.
I’ll be back by ten. I’m out with friends. There’s leftover lasagna in the fridge (blue container) and Parmesan cheese behind the orange juice.
P.S. Uncle Steve called this morning. He wants us to go to his Labor Day party next weekend.
I leave the note on the coffee table in the living room and weigh the slip of paper down with the remote.
I head back into the kitchen and grab Dad’s car keys off the counter along with my purse. I take one last glance at the time on the microwave. Fifteen minutes late isn’t that bad.
“Brianna.” My name echoes out of the living room like a bear’s growl emanating from a darkened cave.
I flinch and quietly set my things down on the counter.
I am an idiot. If I was ever unsure before, now I’m 100 percent certain. For once in my life, I should’ve left the mess and gotten out while I could. But no. I had to be responsible and clean up after my father. I hate being the dependable one.
Dad bawls my name again and I can hear the old couch creak.
I put on a smile that I know doesn’t touch my eyes and move quickly to the arched doorway that connects the two rooms. “What do you need, Dad?” I ask as cheerfully as possible.
He’s sitting up with the note clutched in his fist. “Ten? Ten o’clock?”
Dad is a big man. Wide in the chest, and tall, with muscles roped down his arms. That’s what happens when you spend forty hours a week roofing houses or spreading concrete. Except for this past week. Jobs come and go. It’s part of his life as a construction worker, but when the market is slow the drinking is heavier.
So when Dad stands up, red in the face with anger and dismay, I can’t help feeling a tremor of fear. My voice falters from my faux cheeriness, but I manage to keep the smile. “Last night, you said it was okay.”
He stumbles around the couch and comes to stand in front of me, swaying slightly. “You’re lying.” Spittle flies. “Why would I agree to let you out late on a school night?”
I’ve seen enough after-school specials to know that you don’t agitate a drunk. Or a bear for that matter. Dad has never taken a swing at me and I plan on keeping it that way. I make my voice warm and comforting. “Tomorrow is Sunday, remember? You probably lost track since you didn’t have to work last week.”
If I had the guts, I would’ve yelled back, It’s Saturday, moron. You idiot drunk, you don’t even know what day it is. But I don’t have the backbone. I don’t have a death wish, either.
Dad narrows his bloodshot eyes at me and waves the crumpled-up paper. “You’re not going to see that Conrad kid, are you? The one with the anger management problem?”
I feel my fists clench at my sides and hope Dad doesn’t see me tense up. It’s Connor! Not Conrad! I want to scream. If Dad is going to put Connor down, he could at least get his name right.
Still, I could shoot myself for mentioning the fight that happened on the cross country field the other day. Connor doesn’t have an anger management problem. If anything, I’m the one with the anger management problem. It’s just that no one ever sees it because I keep it bottled up inside. In fact, if things keep going this way, I’ll have an ulcer before I turn seventeen.
Besides, the kid Connor hit totally had it coming. And I remember how hot Connor looked when Coach pulled him off the other guy. His face was flushed and his eyes were blazing, and dirt and grass stains streaked the front of his shirt. Since he was already all sweaty from running, his shirt clung to his muscles and I could see how awesomely defined his pecs are.
Connor’s strong, and I’m a big fan of that. He would never hurt anybody who didn’t deserve it. I like that a lot, too.
I realize my mind is fixated on the image of Connor breathing hard, wiping sweat away from his face with the back of his hand and staring down the guy who insulted Tyrone, who’s my friend and Connor’s teammate. I snap my attention back to the dingy living room, where Dad is waiting for an answer.
“Well?” he says. “Who are these friends?”