My name is Synthia Rowley, and so far I really suck at saving the world.
I’m a latent shifter, a human that magically transformed into a hyena Queen. Crazy, right? You have no idea. When I turned twenty-five some magical chastity belt that had been completely blocking my sex drive snapped. One minute I was the ultimate shy science dork, the next I had curves that kill and a libido that won’t quit.
Good thing, ‘cause I’m supposed to have four husbands.
Yep, four. I’m destined to marry them all and they were all born to love me and only me. My own little harem. Here comes the really insane part. My husbands? The four men that I’ll be mated to for the rest of my life? They were born female and my pheromones will turn them into men. You heard me right, my hyena Queen pheromones will literally change my mates from women, into hulked out sexy studs. But if I don’t find and transform my mates, and soon, my world and everyone in it will be slaughtered by demons from a different dimension.
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Chapter 1 - Syn
The early morning subway car was oddly empty for a Monday. Usually it was standing room only and getting a highly coveted seat was a miracle. Somehow, I’d done the impossible and managed to secure not only a seat of my own, but also an empty space next to me for my commute on the Metro. If I believed in good luck, I’d be running to the nearest lotto stand and buying a hundred tickets. The lights flickered overhead as we descended into a tunnel, the pink blush of dawn turning to darkness before my eyes. I leaned my head against the cool glass window, my bored gaze watching the gloom fly by.
I was zoned out, in a weird state of being mentally nowhere when something caught my eye. It was a jitter of movement outside of the speeding car, a brief flash of something. The little hairs along the back of my neck stood up as I shook off my daze and turned so I could get a better look out the window. An endless line of concrete walls, along with the occasional red exit sign met my searching gaze. My body rocked with the movement of the Metro, the constant hum of the subway car over the tracks subtly vibrating through my bones.
There it was again.
A flicker of grey splotched with violent crimson. It was the burst of red that snapped me out of my daze, as bright as a carnation and glowing in the darkness. My brain tried to argue I was seeing some kind of maintenance lighting, that my eyes were playing a trick on me. Tucking a wayward strand of brown hair behind my ear I glanced around, wondering if anyone else noticed something out of place. In the unflattering lighting, my fellow passengers were all going about their normal business, so I turned back to the window and hoped no one noticed my nose was now pressed to the glass.
I was a big enough dork already without adding window licker to that list.
A streak of color seared my eyes, and I sucked in a sharp breath as something sprinted past the hurtling subway car.
Tearing at my throat, a scream tried to fight its way out of me, but it couldn’t get beyond the lump of fear choking me tight.
No other shouts came behind me, so I was sure no one else had seen what I just did. People who lived and worked in D.C. might be jaded, but even the most bored executive would have at least uttered something. That meant only I had seen it, and maybe it wasn’t real.
Keeping my eyes peeled in the darkness, I kept watching, my anxiety building by the second. Something was wrong here—off. As the train continued to rumble and lurch, it dawned on me that we’d been underground for a long time. Way longer than usual. We should have reached the surface by now. Glancing down at my watch, I was shocked to see that it was 3:15 am.
The train lurched, hard, and I cried out in pain as my head thumped the glass. My nose burned and I licked my upper lip, the taste of my blood coppery and harsh. I reached up to feel my sore nose, but a horrible shriek of rending metal behind me had me whipping around in my seat.
A scream, one born of pure fear, tore from me as I scrambled back, trying in vain to put some distance between myself and the horror now staring me in the face.
The back of the subway train was missing like it had been ripped in two, and beyond the jagged curls of metal and the severed sparking wires was a rushing horde of abominations pouring out of the darkness. Shapes that had no right to exist, things made of teeth and fangs, a roiling mass pulsating with evil intent. Their howls and screams combined into a terrifying crescendo that tore through my soul like the end of the world.
A hand shook me roughly, and I jerked awake, blinking in confusion at the sight of an old lady with lots of curly white hair shaking my arm. She sat close enough that I could see the fine white hairs of her old lady mustache, and she smelled faintly of fried food and flowers. Her teeth were slightly crooked, but her breath was nice and minty.
“You awake now?”
Releasing my arm so she could sit back in her seat next to mine, she cocked her head and looked at me like I was mental. “You must have been havin’ a doozy of a bad dream. You were screamin’ like someone was trying to murder you.”
As my fear lifted, burned off by the bright sunlight streaming through the windows, I figured out I wasn’t on the Metro, but on the Amtrak train for the first part of my commute into work. And everyone on it was either staring at me, or looking out of the corner of their eye. Scrunching down beneath the weight of their gazes, I ducked my head, wishing I had my hair down so I could hide behind it.
“Don’t be sorry. I used to have nightmares all the time about Richard Nixon. He sure was a terrifying son of a bitch.”
Abruptly she grabbed my hand. “Sweet Mother Goddess, you’re bleeding.”
To my shock, I looked down and saw that each of my palms had little crescent shaped cuts from where I’d dug my nails into them in so hard they’d pierced my skin.
“Oh,” was all I could whisper as I stared down, the pain finally reaching through my mental paralysis. “Crap.”
“Wish I had my big purse with me, but I always leave it home when I come into the city. Too many snatchers out there, just waiting for me to turn a blind eye. Have lots of Band-Aids in that purse, but none on me. Next stop is coming up, you should get off and go wash your hands. Who knows what kind of diseases are left on these seats. Why just yesterday I saw a man…”
As she rambled on about some guy being repulsive in an alley, I gently folded my fingers over my palms, my racing heart slowing as I took in deep breaths of her French fries and lilies scent. Not the most pleasant combination, but it helped ground me for some reason. The sound of screeching brakes caught my attention, and I quickly stood then grabbed my backpack.
“Thank you for waking me up,” I said in a low voice as I scooted past the old woman.
She patted my arm, then lightly settled her hand on my wrist, her deep blue eyes unexpectedly sharp. “When the benevolent Mother told me to go into the city today I knew it had to be a good reason, ‘cause these bones of mine are tired of moving and would rather be at home. You take care of yourself, young lady. Dark days are coming and you’re going to be a candle in the night. Not all the darkness in the world is gonna be able to put out your spirit. Mmmm, hmmm. I can see it now, your love is gonna guide a lotta people like a beacon from a lighthouse, show them the way to safety through the storm. Many blessings on you.”
Unable to think of anything to say in response to that, I muttered, “Okay, well—um, thank you. Have a nice day.”