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Sharp Change: BBW Paranormal Shifter Romance (Black Meadows Pack Book 1) by Milly Taiden (1)

Prologue

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Sophia sat next to the hospital bed, holding her unconscious sister’s hand. Hours had passed since the attack and still Julia was unconscious.

It was a damn bite on the arm. But it was from some monster creature. She’d say a wolf, but wolves could not grow that large. They were not the size of horses. Not that she’d been around real-life horses. But they didn’t seem that big on TV.

God, maybe moving here had been a bad idea. Maybe she should’ve gone to the West Coast or Tahiti. The weather was always nice, but it was so damn expensive.

She’d read that the town of Black Meadows was one of the safest towns in the Midwest. Almost no crime or accidents. That’s why she chose this place to live after fleeing the big city.

A research scientist like her didn’t make a lot of money. Julia, lying silently in the bed, didn’t have much technical skill, but she was good in an office. Her sister could type and answer phones, file, and be the social butterfly. Which was exactly the opposite of her.

Sophia was a lab tech for a reason. Usually, they worked alone and mostly unsupervised. If someone stood over her shoulder, watching her work, she wouldn’t be able to do it.

Her hands would get shaky, palms sweaty. Beads of perspiration popped out on her forehead. Her stomach would churn at the thought of being yelled at for doing the slightest thing wrong. Then she’d throw up all over the lab specimen.

Luckily, the professor let her retake that test after a couple weeks. Seemed the acid from her upchucked lunch of fries and a Coke devoured the test tissue and they had to wait until another donor was found.

Anger gurgled up inside her. She hated being so insecure, so shy and antisocial. She wanted to be like Julia, the center of attention, the life of the party. Then again...

In her childhood, she tried to be the center of attention at a party by doing a magic trick she’d practice for hours. Right when it came time for the sleight of hand to pull off the trick, her fingers fumbled the glass and it shattered on the floor.

Everyone laughed, but not for the right reason. She ran to her room and hid in her closet until Julia found her when it was time to go to bed.

From that moment on, she remained in the background, watching others do their thing.

Even now, tears filled her eyes from thinking about that event. Dammit. Sophia wanted to curse herself for being so weak, such a coward. What she wouldn’t do to be strong and assertive.

Julia’s hand twitched. Sophia jumped to her feet from the chair.

Leaning over the bed, she pushed hair from her sister’s forehead.

“Julia,” Sophia whispered, “are you awake?” A groan croaked from her sister’s throat. “Come on, Julia. Open your eyes for me.”

Julia’s lids fluttered then lifted. Her pupils were larger than normal, but she focused on Sophia’s face.

“Hey, how’re you doing, sweetie?” Sophia cooed.

Julia rolled her eyes. “I’m not a baby, Soph.”

Sophia stuck her tongue out, throwback to their childhood.

“Yes, you are a baby. My baby sister,” Sophia said with a smile and leaned back, away from Julia’s face. Her sister looked around and the slight smile she had turned to fear.

“My God, Sophia. Why are we in a hospital?” Her voice became shriller with each word. “Am I hurt?” She sat up, running her hands over her torso and legs. “Am I dying?” Julia was slightly prone to dramatics and over-exaggeration. The product of being the center of attention all the time.

Sophia grabbed her wrists before the IV needle pulled out. “No, Jules, you’re not dying.” She didn’t think, anyway. “You don’t remember what happened?” With gentle pressure, Soph eased her sister back to lying on the pillow.

“I remember we were hiking in the woods in the park, looking for the stream…” Her voice trailed off with lack of memory, it seemed.

Sophia rubbed her thumb over the back of her sister’s hand. Decision time.

So, should Sophia tell her she was bitten by a furry monster with four legs or tell her something made-up?

Monster, made-up? Made-up, monster? Shit. She’d do anything and everything to protect the only family she had left, that included little white lies—very little and white.

“Julia, this big ole tree limb came out of nowhere a hit you on the head.” Okay, maybe not so little, nor so white, or even believable. Her sister narrowed her eyes.

“Soph, you always sucked at lying.” Julia crossed her arms and winced at the pain in her bicep. “Ow.” Noticing the bandage wrapped around her arm, she said, “Hit on the head, huh?”

Sophia winced. “And the arm?”

“Just tell me. My entire upper arm is covered.” Julia started to get excited, and not in a good way.

“Calm down, Jules,” Sophia said. “It’s not as bad as it looks.” It’s worse. And one of the scariest moments of Sophia’s life.

Being somewhat new to the area, she and Julia went for a walk through the park at twilight. A wooden sign saying “Creek” pointed to a trail. Due to the late hour, Sophia wanted to head back home, but Julia wanted to see the sight.

Soph wasn’t leaving her sister alone, so she went along. After leaving the park far behind, Soph began to worry about their safety. But the town was among the safest.

Just as she relaxed her guard, a howl split the air. Hair on her nape not only stood, it tried to pull itself out and run. Sophia thought that was a great idea and grabbed her sister’s wrist.

“Run!” Sophia yelled when Julia didn’t move. Being heavy set, Sophia wasn’t the fastest turtle in the race, but her adrenaline pushed her faster than ever before.

After several yards, Julia was ripped from her hand. Sophia turned to see her baby sister punching and kicking a dark, furry creature attached to her upper arm.

All logic and emotion fled Sophia. Survival instincts kicked in, taking over her body.

Sophia launched at the monster, grasping fists full of fur and pulling it away from Julia. Kicking and screaming, Sophia went totally batshit crazy on the animal.

She didn’t know why or how Julia was released, but the creature backed away after spitting out her sister’s arm.

Things got blurry from that moment. She remembered dragging Julia into the park and screaming for help. The ride in the ambulance, blood everywhere on Julia and herself. Then arriving at the ER where they took Julia down a hall but they wouldn’t let her follow.

Now, hours later, all that seemed like a bad dream, except for the bandage.

Sophia let out another sigh. Her sister was right, she couldn’t lie for shit. And seldom tried. Time to ‘fess up.

“Julia, you were

The door opened and the female doctor walked in with two of the most gorgeous men she had ever seen. The first guy took her breath. And by the gasp Julia made, he had the same effect on her.

A surge of jealousy and anger zipped through Sophia until she saw Julia was staring at the other guy.

Sophia’s eyes snapped back to the first guy. He was staring at her, a grimace on his lips. Her face flushed hot and she stepped away from the bed, turning her eyes to the floor.

Her heart beat so hard, it almost hurt. She tried to slow her breathing to stop the panting.

“Ah,” the doctor said, “you’re awake. That’s good.” As the three newcomers gathered around the bed, she squeezed herself more toward the corner, but let her eyes look through her lashes to watch what was going on.

The second man leaned over Julia’s head and inhaled deeply. To Sophia’s surprise, Julia raised her nose and did the same.

What the hell was that about?

“Julia, Sophia,” the doctor said, “this is Chase and River. They are—” Sophia looked up at the pause. They are what? “They are at the head of the shifter community in Black Meadows.”

Shifter community? What was she talking about?

A loud crack echoed in the room and Julia screamed. Another pop and Julia stopped breathing, or was it herself who’d stopped? She wanted to ask what was happening, but couldn’t get her brain to work.

The doctor jumped toward the bed.

“No. Chase, don’t let her shift. Her DNA isn’t taking the change well.”

Her DNA? What?

River wrapped his hands around Julia’s face, but with another crack, she jerked away from him. Chase yanked down the sheet.

To her horror, Julia’s legs were twisted and covered with…thick hair? When was the last time her sister had shaved? By the looks, never.

“She’s too far along to stop her now. It could kill her,” Chase said. He turned to her. “Is this her first shift?”

Sophia gawked like a fish out of water. Shift? Did he mean shave?

The doctor said, “Yes, she was bitten a few hours ago.”

Were these people crazy? Was she crazy?

Julia continued to scream, tears pouring from her eyes. River kept telling her to “let it happen, don’t fight it.” He tried to soothe Julia to no avail.

Shrieks from her sister freaked Sophia to the point of meltdown. She wasn’t even sure what was happening to her sister. There was nothing she could do. She felt helpless. A horrible feeling.

Sophia made a promise to herself at that moment. She would do whatever it took to figure out how to cure her sister so this never happened again.

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