One of the first M/M Romance books I read has been re-released by Kim Dare. Duck is out now at Amazon and All Romance.
Print Buy Links: Create Space
Raised among humans, Ori Jones only discovered he was an avian shifter six months ago. Unable to complete a full shift until he reaches his avian maturity, he still can’t be sure of his exact species.
But with species comes rank, and rank is everything to the avians. When a partial shift allows the elders to announce that they believe Ori to be a rather ugly little duckling, he drops straight to the bottom rung of their hierarchy.
Life isn’t easy for Ori until he comes to the attention of a high ranking hawk shifter. Then the only question is, is Ori really a duck—and what will his new master think when the truth eventually comes out?
Review: I read this way back in 2010, in fact it was one of the first books I read with a BDSM theme. This is a beautiful look at the dom/sub dynamic mixed with what expectations rest on each person's shoulders because of who they are.
I loved it in 2010, and I love it just as much now.
Instinct took over. Ori dropped to his knees, taking cover behind the waist-high partition that separated the dining area from the adjacent corridor. A plate smashed against the wall to his right—just where his head would have been, if his reactions hadn’t been so quick.
Ori’s grip on his tray of dirty plates faltered as he hunched over them in an effort to stay low and out of range. They slid forward. Scrabbling at the china, he desperately tried to catch more than a dozen fragile pieces of crockery at the same time.
Two hands were never going to be enough. The dishes and glasses spilled leftover food and wine across the floor as they tumbled out of his grasp. Ori made one last attempt to catch a wine glass. Success! His fingers wrapped tightly around the delicate stem as the rest of the plates and silverware plummeted toward the dark oak floorboards.
As the clatter peaked, then faded away, Ori’s attention flickered from one piece of expensive china to another, from one lead crystal glass to the next. Each item stared back at him, miraculously unscathed.
“What the hell…?” Highly polished black shoes stopped at the edge of the debris.
“I’m sorry, sir. I’ll clean it up immediately,” Ori rushed out, scrambling to pick up the mess of scattered crockery and utensils, and move them out of the man’s way.
Clearing one side of the hallway first, Ori quickly made a path through the wreckage for the higher-ranking man. As soon as he was sure the man could walk by without soiling his shoes, Ori paused and politely waited for the man to pass.
The shoes didn’t move.
Ori sprung back into action, working even more frantically, as he realised the man had no intention of taking another step until every scrap vanished from his sight.
Ori didn’t waste precious time peering up at the stranger who loomed over him. It didn’t matter who he was. He outranked Ori by default, and every second that passed probably added another lash to the whipping Ori’s clumsiness must have already earned him.
Damn it, just a few more steps and he’d have reached the safety of the full height section of wall that still kept the stranger out of sight of the dining room. He’d have been out of range then—at least until he had to venture back into the dining room to clear another table. Ori pressed his lips together and kept his curses to himself. It was too late to wish he’d walked quicker now.
Placing the last shard of the plate that had smashed against the wall on the tray next to the surviving dishes, Ori set it to one side of the corridor and knelt neatly behind it, waiting for the other shifter to finally step past him. The shoes remained exactly where they were. Uncertain what else was required, Ori risked a glance up as far as the man’s knees.
A hand appeared alongside the neatly tailored trousers. Ori’s eyes went to the tattoo on the inside of the man’s wrist.
Ori knew he still had a lot to learn about the marks that distinguished each species of avian from the others, but the harsh black lines that decorated the stranger’s skin were impossible to mistake.
Ori’s stomach turned over as he imagined what angering such a high-ranking man could mean for him.
The stranger’s hand stayed exactly where it was until Ori reached up and offered his own wrist up in return. His fingers were still smeared with the food he’d cleaned from the floor. His unmarked wrist looked even barer when held next to the one that properly signalled a man’s species.
Ori looked farther up and into a pair of startling amber eyes.
“There’s a reason you’re not marked?”
“They’re waiting until they’re sure what I am, sir,” Ori blurted out.
“Have you completed a partial shift?”
The hawk looked at Ori’s wrist again. “What was the elder’s best guess?”
“A rather ugly little duckling, sir.”
It was an exact quote. It was also four words longer than his answer needed to be. Such things mattered when speaking to a man whose species endowed him with a rank as high as a hawk’s—Ori had learnt that the hard way. He dropped his gaze and waited for the worst.
“Is there a name you’re certain of?”
The question was so unexpected, it took Ori a moment to find an answer. “Ori Jones, sir.”
“Up on your feet, Ori.”
Picking up the tray, Ori rose to his full height without considering anything but the hawk’s order.
Ori dropped heavily to the floor as laughter echoed out of the dining room. His tray spilled from his hands once more. The plates weren’t destined to survive two equally spectacular demonstrations of his clumsiness in such quick succession. Fragments of shattering chinaware skidded along the floorboards, colliding with the hawk’s shoes and Ori’s bare legs.
He looked up just in time to see the hawk step out from behind the wall and into view of the crowd of crows who’d been drinking in the dining room for most of the day.
“All of you—over here. Now!”
Ori started collecting up the fragments of smashed crockery, his hands shaking as he imagined the look that would flash in the chef’s eyes when he saw the mess Ori had made of the nest’s fine dining service.
Shadows fell across his skin as the crows crossed the room in response to the hawk’s command.
“Clean that up.”
Ori kept his head down, his eyes on his task. “Yes, sir.”
Ori looked up. “Sir?”
“You heard me. On your feet.”
All Ori could do was stare up at him in horror. “I can—”
“You’ll do as you’re told. Stand up.”
Ori’s body obeyed without consulting his brain. Some sort of mental process clicked into operation when he was half way to his feet. “I could—”
The hawk didn’t appear impressed. He pointed to an area of clear floor, just beyond the fallout from the tray. “Take care that you step over the glass.”
Ori gave in. Keeping his gaze lowered, not daring to look toward the crows, he took up position where he’d been commanded.
“You expect us to—” one of the crows began.
“I expect you to do what you’re told, too,” the hawk snapped, as if a crow was no different from a duckling in his eyes.
Ori swallowed rapidly. Perhaps to a man with a hawk’s rank, the rungs at the bottom end of the social ladder were very close together. But Ori was well aware that the crows all knew the difference between their station in the nest and his own precarious and unofficial position.
The crows’ glares skittered over his skin as they stooped to collect the broken pieces of crockery and pile them on the tray. They didn’t have to say a word. Ori knew they all intended to remind him exactly how far above him they were as soon as the hawk stepped out of sight.
“And the rest,” the hawk commanded.
Ori looked up. The second plate that the crows had pitched at him hadn’t been empty. Food streaked across the wall in a vivid mess of browns and greens.
The hawk caught his eye.
“I’ll fetch—” Ori began.
“They can find whatever they need. Just tell them where.”
“There’s a storeroom behind the kitchens, sir.”
A nod from the hawk dismissed one of the crows in that direction.
Ori closed his eyes. His toes clenched against the floorboards as he fought against an almost overwhelming urge to run. He wasn’t even sure if he wanted to race away from the crows or from the hawk. The crows were going to give him hell, but the hawk was…
The moment Ori opened his eyes, his gaze went to the bird of prey. He was far larger than either him or the crows; tall and broad across the shoulders. His well-tailored shirt did nothing to hide the muscles beneath the fabric. The dark material only succeeded in making him look more dominant, more aristocratic.
It was only supposed to be a glance, but Ori found himself incapable of looking away. He’d seen a hawk at the nest a few months before, but he had been a much older man whose hair had faded to grey as his back had bent with age.
He’d never seen a hawk like this one. The man was glorious, all strength and certainty.