Blain has never received a single kindness from his mother. Her hate for her own child has run deep, since Blain was born a shapeshifter in a society that has made it a mission to eradicate the impure shifter gene. When she signs his life away three days before Christmas knowing he is headed for certain death, Blain knows his only option is to run and hope for a Christmas miracle. He just never imagined his salvation would come in the form of Maggie and Azzy, a grandmother and grandson intergalactic smuggling duo. There is just one problem. Azzy’s scent drives Blain’s White Raccoon Dog self into a biting frenzy. If he can’t get his inner animal spirit under control, escaping his mother’s plans may be the least of his troubles. Azzy just might launch him out the airlock!
Blain sat at the outdoor bar of Mo Shuin tavern and grill, peeling the label off his bottle of lime soda while thinking back on everything that had happened so far in the past week. A small part of his brain thought it was probably a mistake that he hadn't done something sensible, like stop breathing before the week even started.
The Christmas holiday season was usually his favorite time of year. Elcar might not be exactly like Earth, but that wasn’t a bad thing, considering Earth had been evacuated after the ozone layer finally collapsed several hundred years ago. Without that layer of atmospheric protection, solar flares and dangerously high UV levels had made the place unliveable within weeks.
The main traditions of society had been upheld and brought to Elcar, and of those, Christmas always made him smile. Even if Blain only had a lump of black rock in his stocking to look forward to, he still loved the sights and smells of Christmas. Yeah, the old piece of coal for naughty children was also one of the traditions that had been carried on.
While his siblings woke up to a nice stack of gifts each on Christmas morning, Blain had yet to receive a single one. What he had woken up to as a child was his brother’s unwrapped hand-me-down clothes. Not to mention a guaranteed tanned ass if he didn’t look appropriately grateful for their faded and worn-out rags. He’d almost shouted for joy the year he turned fourteen and no longer had to bear that stinky pile of oversized trash dumped through his doorway. Seriously, some years he swore the clothes hadn’t even been washed. He just wished the reason for the change hadn’t been so bittersweet.
Blain had grown up with the neighbour’s son, Dayne. They’d been each other’s best friend, looking out for each other when no one else gave a damn. When Blain fell and scraped a knee, it was Dayne who fetched the band-aid. When Dayne had been too ashamed to bring home his failing school test results, it had been Blain who tutored him until he understood. It had also been Blain that Dayne had come to when he first realised his feelings of friendship had deepened into a budding love. He’d then leaned close and sealed the declaration with the sweetest brushing of soft lips Blain ever thought he would experience.
The dizzy exhilarating shock of his first kiss had left him incapable of speech. His mind screamed at him to fling his arms around Dayne’s neck. He needed more of the intoxicating bliss of Dayne’s touch—he needed to let the most important person in his world know that he felt exactly the same way.
Before he could do any of that, the moment had shattered when Blain’s mother came up from behind him and grabbed him by the back of his hair, dragging him away while screeching her disgust at what she’d stumbled upon them doing. She’d cursed and railed at Blain, her fingers yanking so hard in his hair that it was sheer luck he didn’t end up with hunks pulling free.
He took it all without complaint, considering his homophobic mother’s punishment well worth that kiss, until she stopped in her tracks and half turned to glare back at Dayne. Her face had reddened to a bright scarlet with her tirade, and as she switched her glare back and forth between Blain and Dayne, the determination in her eyes was plain to see. She then opened her mouth and spoke the words that broke Blain’s heart, causing pain far worse than anything else she had ever done to him. “You will never see or touch my son again. I’ll personally make sure of it.”
His mother had somehow kept her word. Dayne’s family had packed and quietly left by the next morning, never to be heard from again. Blain, on the other hand, had been locked in his attic room without food or water until they were gone. Every Christmas morning since then, he was gifted a huge lump of coal. Some might think that harsh but it was just another example of the way Blain had been treated his whole life.
In her usual way of showing just how much she loved Blain—using the “L” word in the same sentence as his mother was enough to make him vomit a little in his mouth—she had yet again sicced her goon squad of bodyguards into action. They tailed him just to make sure he didn't do anything untoward that might look bad on her. Like breathe, scratch, open his mouth and speak. All those actions fit her list of no-no's quite nicely. If that wasn't enough to make a person hate the cold-hearted bitch already, perhaps the additional order of "Beat him on sight if he displays any homosexual tendencies" might make a person rethink any decision to believe the sunshine and daisies crap she pulled in front of everyone else in public.
Yeah, Blain was gay. So the fuck what? If anyone had a problem with it, they could add their name to the list of people he just didn't give a rat's ass about. Then, if they were like half the other people on that list, they could take a number to kick his ass. Fuck knew enough of them had already taken a turn. Frankly, it was always quicker and less painful to simply drop to the ground, roll into a ball, and take the beating until they wore themselves out.
The ability to heal faster than normal had kicked in with his first change. He’d been fifteen. It came in handy when he seemed to have a target painted on his back, but was also the reason his mother had always treated him the way she did.