Stray (Shifters Series #1)

Stray (Shifters Series #1)

by Rachel Vincent

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Overview



I look like an all-American grad student. But I am a werecat, a shape-shifter, and I live in two worlds.

Despite reservations from my family and my Pride, I escaped the pressure to continue my species and carved out a normal life for myself. Until the night a Stray attacked.

I'd been warned about Strays—werecats without a Pride—constantly on the lookout for someone like me: attractive, female and fertile. I fought him off, but then learned two of my fellow tabbies had disappeared.

This brush with danger was all my Pride needed to summon me back…for my own protection. Yeah, right. But I'm no meek kitty. I'll take on whatever—and whoever—I have to in order to find my friends. Watch out, Strays—'cause I got claws, and I'm not afraid to use them….

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426853951
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 04/01/2010
Series: The Shifters , #1
Sold by: HARLEQUIN
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 83,717
File size: 671 KB

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent loves good chocolate, comfortable jeans, and serial commas. She’s older than she looks and younger than she feels, but is convinced that for every day she spends writing, one more day will be added to her lifespan. Now absorbed in the dark, tangled loyalties of her UNBOUND world, as well as the travails of a teenage banshee in her SOUL SCREAMERS world, Rachel can be found online at www.rachelvincent.com or urbanfantasy.blogspot.com.

Read an Excerpt



The moment the door opened I knew an ass–kicking was inevitable. Whether I'd be giving it or receiving it was still a bit of a mystery.

The smell hit me as I left the air–conditioned comfort of the language building for the heat of another north–central Texas summer, tugging my backpack higher on my shoulder as I squinted into the sunset. A step behind me, my roommate, Sammi, was ranting about the guest lecturer's discriminatory view of women's contributions to nineteenth–century literature. I'd been about to play devil's advocate, just for the hell of it, when a shift in the evening breeze stopped me where I stood, on the top step of the narrow front porch.

My argument forgotten, I froze, scanning the shadowy quad for the source of the unmistakable scent. Visually, nothing was out of the ordinary: just small groups of summer students talking on their way to and from the dorms. Human students. But what I smelled wasn't human. It wasn't even close.

Absorbed in her rant, Sammi didn't realize I'd stopped. She walked right into me, cursing loud enough to draw stares when her binder fell out of her hand and popped open on the ground, littering the steps with loose–leaf paper.

"I could use a little notice next time you plan on zoning out, Faythe," she snapped, bending to gather up her notes. Grunts and more colorful words issued from behind her, where our fellow grad students were stalled by our pedestrian traffic jam. Lit majors are not known for watching where they're going; most of us walk with our eyes in a book instead of on the path ahead.

"Sorry." I knelt to help her, snatching a sheet of paper from the concrete before the student behind me could stomp on it. Standing, I took the steps two at a time, following Sammi to a brick half wall jutting from the porch. Still talking, she set her binder on the ledge and began methodically reorganizing her notes, completely oblivious to the scent, as humans always were. I barely heard her incessant chatter as she worked.

My nostrils flared slightly to take in more of the smell as I turned my face into the breeze. There. Across the quad, in the alley between the physics building and Curry Hall.

My fist clenched around the strap of my backpack and my teeth ground together. He wasn't supposed to be here. None of them were supposed to be here. My father had promised.

I'd always known they were watching me, in spite of my father's agreement not to interfere in my life. On occasion, I'd spot a too–bright eye in the crowd at a football game, or notice a familiar profile in line at the food court. And rarely—only twice before in five years—I caught a distinctive scent on the air, like the taste of my childhood, sweet and familiar, but with a bitter aftertaste. The smell was faint and tauntingly intimate. And completely unwelcome.

They were subtle, all those glimpses, those hints that my life wasn't as private as we all pretended. Daddy's spies faded silently into crowds and shadows because they wanted to be seen no more than I wanted to see them.

But this one was different. He wanted me to see him. Even worse—he wasn't one of Daddy's.

"…that her ideas are somehow less important because she had ovaries instead of testes is beyond chauvinistic. It's barbaric. Someone should…Faythe?"

Sammi nudged me with her newly restored notebook. "You okay? You look like you just saw a ghost."

No, I hadn't seen a ghost. I'd smelled a cat. "I'm feeling a little sick to my stomach." I grimaced only long enough to be convincing. "I'm going to go lie down. Will you apologize to the group for me?"

She frowned. "Faythe, this was your idea." "I know." I nodded, thinking of the four other M.A. candidates already gathered around their copies of Love's Labours Lost in the library. "Tell everyone I'll be there next week. I swear."

"Okay," she said with a shrug of her bare, freckled shoulders. "It's your grade." Seconds later, Sammi was just another denim–clad student on the sidewalk, completely oblivious to what lurked in the late–evening shadows thirty yards away.

I left the concrete path to cut across the quad, struggling to keep anger from showing on my face. Several feet from the sidewalk, I stepped on my shoelace, giving myself time to come up with a plan of action as I retied it. Kneeling, I kept one eye on the alley, watching for a glimpse of the trespasser. This wasn't supposed to happen. In my entire twenty–three years, I'd never heard of a stray getting this far into our territory without being caught. It simply wasn't possible.

Yet there he was, hiding just out of sight in the alley. Like a coward.

I could have called my father to report the intruder. I probably should have called him, so he could send the designated spy–of–the–day to take care of the problem. But calling would necessitate speaking to my father, which I made a point to avoid at all costs. My only other course of action was to scare the stray off on my own, then dutifully report the incident the next time I caught one of the guys watching me. No big deal. Strays were loners, and typically as skittish as deer when confronted. They always ran from Pride cats because we always worked in pairs, at the very least.

Except for me.

But the stray wouldn't know I had no backup. Hell, I probably did have backup. Thanks to my father's paranoia, I was never really alone. True, I hadn't actually seen whoever was on duty today, but that didn't mean anything. I couldn't always spot them, but they were always there.

Shoe tied, I stood, for once reassured by my father's overprotective measures. I tossed my bag over one shoulder and ambled toward the alley, doing my best to appear relaxed. As I walked, I searched the quad discreetly, looking for my hidden backup. Whoever he was, he'd finally learned how to hide. Perfect timing.

The sun slipped below the horizon as I approached the alley. In front of Curry Hall, an automatic streetlight flickered to life, buzzing softly. I stopped in the circle of soft yellow light cast on the sidewalk, gathering my nerve.

The stray was probably just curious, and would likely run as soon as he knew I'd seen him. But if he didn't, I'd have to scare him off through other, more hands–on means. Unlike most of my fellow tabby cats, I knew how to fight; my father had made sure of that. Unfortunately, I'd never made the jump from theory to practice, except against my brothers. Sure, I could hold my own with them, but I hadn't sparred in years, and this didn't feel like a very good time to test skills still unproven in the real world.

It's not too late to call in the cavalry, I thought, patting the slim cell phone in my pocket. Except that it was. Every time I spoke to my father, he came up with a new excuse to call me home. This time he wouldn't even need to make one up. I'd have to handle the problem myself.

My resolve as stiff as my spine, I stepped out of the light and into the darkness.

Heart pounding, I entered the alley, tightening my grip on my bag as if it were the handle of a sword. Or maybe the corner of a security blanket. I sniffed the air. He was still there; I could smell him. But now that I was closer to the source, I detected something strange in his scent—something even more out of place than the odor of a stray deep inside my Pride's territory. Whoever this trespasser was, he wasn't local. There was a distinctive foreign nuance to his scent. Exotic. Spicy, compared to the blandly familiar base scent of my fellow American cats.

My pulse throbbed in my throat. Foreign. Shit. I was in over my head.

I was digging in my pocket for my phone when something clattered to the ground farther down the alley. I froze, straining to see in the dark, but with my human eyes, it was a lost cause. Without Shifting, I couldn't make out anything but vague outlines and deep shadows. Unfortunately, Shifting wasn't an option at that moment. It would take too long, and I'd be defenseless during the transition.

Human form it is.

I glanced quickly behind me, looking for signs of life from the quad. It was empty now, as far as I could tell. There were no potential witnesses; everyone with half a brain was either studying or partying. So why was I playing hide–and–seek after dark with an unidentified stray?

My muscles tense and my ears on alert, I started down the alley. Four steps later, I stepped through a broken tennis racket and stumbled into a rusty Dumpster. My bag thumped to the ground as my head hit the side of the trash receptacle, ringing it like an oversize gong.

Smooth, Faythe, I thought, the metallic thrum still echoing in my ears.

I bent over to pick up my bag, and a darting motion up ahead caught my eye. The stray—in human form, thankfully—ran from the mouth of the alley into the parking lot behind Curry Hall, his feet unnaturally silent on the asphalt. Pale moonlight shined on a head full of dark, glossy curls as he ran.

Instinct overrode my fear and caution. Adrenaline flooded my veins. I tossed my bag over my shoulder and sprinted down the center of the alley. The stray had fled, as I'd hoped he would, and the feline part of my brain demanded I follow. When mice run, cats give chase.

Customer Reviews

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Stray (Shifters Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 711 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read a lot of books about shapeshifters and were creatures, I had never heard of a pride of shape shifting cats and that is why I picked up this book and I'm glad I did. It has everthing a paranormal book needs to be good. a little romance, some drama, some blood and gore and a lot of humor. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the paranormal.
booklover1A1 More than 1 year ago
Faythe is a spoiled 23 years old daddy's little girl, who still calls him "Daddy" through out the whole book. Many times I questioned her reasonings and decisions, she is selfishly stubborn and aggravating, at times even immature. At least she can hold her own! As far as the writting it's OK, but some part show inconsistency. For me this book didn't get interesting until half way, I was pretty satisfy then to the end.
alexia561 More than 1 year ago
This is the first book in Rachel's werecat series, and a bookseller recommended that I read them in order when I was picking up Prey. I can understand her reasoning, as this book introduces Faythe's history and the main players, while still standing alone as a good story. Faythe is the only girl in her family, which is normal for werecats, but it puts a lot of pressure on her to conform to the expected role of tabbies. She is expected to get married to the future Alpha and start having babies, ensuring the future of the Pride (similar to a pack). Faythe would rather be her own woman and doesn't like being pushed around. I liked her independence, but kept questioning why her parents didn't instill in her a healthy dose of responsibility along with encouraging her independence? Every Pride only has one tabby and if that tabby doesn't get married and produce offspring, then the Pride has no heirs and their territory will be lost. So Faythe comes off a little selfish for trying to avoid her responsibilities and her parents come off a little weak for letting her get away with it, but that was my only quibble with the book. I really enjoyed that Faythe was a believable character, who kept getting herself into trouble by being unable to keep her mouth shut. Been there, done that! There were plenty of humorous elements in the book, but it never dissolved into slapstick or parody. The main plot revolves around who, how, and why the single tabbies are being abducted. It's an interesting and believable storyline, and the ending was very satisfying. Faythe grows up a little by the end of the book, and Rachel sets things up nicely for the next one. Looking forward to discovering more about Faythe, Marc, Jace, and the rest of the boys! I highly recommend this series, and gave it 4 out of 5 stars!
nookworm728 More than 1 year ago
After loving the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent I decided to give this series a try. In the beginning I was like okay this book isn't bad but not as good as Soul Screamers series. But halfway through I was drawn to the characters and got to the point where I did not want to put the book down because I wanted to know what was happening. I definately think this book is worth the read. It did start out a little slow for me but it got better and I love the characters! I have never read a story about werecats so it was all new to me and I have to say I look forward to reading this entire series!
abbysmom52 More than 1 year ago
I am so impressed with this series. I never read a long series like this straight through. I usually get a little bored and burned out so I read other books in between. I finished this 6 book series in 6 days. The relentless action packed plot kept me totally absorbed. I felt humor, anger, fury, grief, frustration, joy, lust, fear, and sympathy. The character development was precise and believable. The good guys were good, but flawed and the bad guys were not all bad except for the worst villains. Can't say enough good things about this truly gifted author. Don't buy this book unless you've got time to get lost in it. The ending left an opening for more in the series. I certainly hope there are more. Thank-you, Rachel Vincent.
page epperly More than 1 year ago
I loved the whole series! I couldnt put these books down! They keep you on your toes wanting more!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I say this book was one of my favs it was great. I am a bookworm and love reading and Stray was AMAZING!!! Fathye and Marc rock on. The whole Pride including JACE 'hottie, Ethan etc. This book is a must read. Rachel Vincent is an amazing author and after this book u HAVE 2 read Rogue. I think the 3rd book is Pride but please go out and buy the book. This book is filled with action, romance, comedy and it's thrillicious!!!!
harstan More than 1 year ago
Faythe Sanders is a graduate student attending the University of North Texas when a stray ¿cat¿ attacks her. Faythe knows the culprit is a rogue belonging to no pack as she fights back defeating her foe. One moment after her triumph, Marc Ramos comes out of the shadows to tell her that her father, the werewolf Pride Alpha demands she come home to the safety of their family compound as another feline werecat Sara has been abducted. Reluctantly she does. Back at home, Faythe feels like a prisoner as her father and his second in command Marc make demands on her just like they did five years ago when she fled her home to escape them just prior to her wedding to Marc. However when another female werecat is kidnapped the Sanders Pride concludes that strays are performing the dastardly deeds, but someone is organizing them although their ultimate purpose is unknown. While Faythe and Marc squabble like two tabby cats in love, she knows that she is no fraidy cat so she plans to cat fight the enemy to get out of family incarceration. --- There are too many sidebars take away from a fine romantic fantasy yet they also firm up the werecat elements that lead to the audience believing in the Vincent mythos. Faythe is a chip of the alpha block as she fights strays, other rogues, and her love for Marc. He is her equal in many ways although his jealousy of her human boyfriend at college Andrew is overdone. Fans of werewolf sagas will enjoy this war between the cats. --- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the whole series in a week. I like them as much as the Mercy Thompson series. So worth the read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But overall it was a good book. While reaading there are some parts where u will get mad at faythe and other times when you love her for her kick butt acrion moves. Romance and action in one and the plot was very original. Hopefully the whole series is four stars not just the first book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best dang book ever!
Kara Surovick More than 1 year ago
This is a great book, and beginning of a series for anyone who is looking for a paranormal second to charlaine harris's sookie stackhouse series. The characters are well developed, and fantastically described. Not to mention, one of the best things there can be in a great paranormal series, a gorgeous ass-kicking, tough as hell,and as hot as lava woman for all of us to sympathize with and root for. I will no doubt be reading the rest of the 6 or so books, which thankfully are decently priced.
Belinda_reads More than 1 year ago
Can I just say, I am really glad I'm not a were cat! I don't think I could survive! The series is terrific though, really keeps your intrest if you like the supernatural. There is a little bit for everyone, personal conflict, romance, fights, power plays, politics, the whole ball of wax! My only real complaint is that Ms Vincent can't really write fast enough. Included is an epic struggle for dominance that effects numerous people. Love and its many struggles, including love between family members, friends and lovers. Plus the personal struggle of individuals to be better people, leaders and weres. Ms Vincent keeps the books interesting with its many plots and sub plots, individual and group struggles and conflicts. The books are fast paced, well written and terrific reads. This whole series is worth reading there is so much going on in them I almost feel disappointment when I'm done with the book because I don't have the next one ready to be picked up and enjoyed.
vinhan02 More than 1 year ago
I stumbled across this author by complete accident and am so glad I did. I loved this book and sat down and read it straight through in 1 day and couldn't wait to get me hands on the next one. Can't wait to grab the 3rd.
Itsbetterred More than 1 year ago
This book captivated me the first time that i picked it up until the end. It's unexpected characters, and plots are excellent!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first book, I reading from this author and I found it a little slow. The main character is a big whiner! She complain the whole time, I'm not sure that I will read it to the end. I have put the book down about ten time and the only thing making finish the book is that I do not like to leave thing unfinished. If you are going to buy this book I recommend checking it out from your local library.
tobikd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this one enough to start on the second in the series. It kept me interested, and I like the main character.
ShadowKissed on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is over 500 pages and I read it in three days. It's the best shifter book I've ever read! With just the right amount of comedy, drama, sex, and fighting it will keep you interested to the last page! It's a little graphic for 13yr- but great for adults who want a little spice in their reading! The main character is spunky and fun, I highly suggest reading this book!
pollywannabook on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Review courtesy of All Things Urban FantasyFaythe Sanders is a fiercely independent urban fantasy heroine, very reminiscent of Elena Michaels (the only female werewolf in Kelley Armstrong¿s Women of the Otherworld series) in fact STRAY was in many ways similar to Elena¿s first book BITTEN: The prodigal daughter, a rare female shifter, is forced to return home and reunite with her Pack and former Love while hunting down some stray shifters. But the similarities didn¿t bother me in the slightest. Both BITTEN and STRAY are excellent books with enough differences to be more than worthwhile reads on their own. Faythe, in particular, was a consistent high note throughout STRAY. She was gutsy and brave, with a clear, often sarcastic, voice, that made sense since she grew up as the only girl in a house full of boys. Her unwavering insistence on independence was at times foolish, but she was quick to acknowledge her mistakes and that her stubbornness was a weakness that she constantly battled. The romance was equally good as Faythe struggled not just with her ex Marc, but also with the childhood friend Jace, whom she¿d always considered as a brother until now. The heated flirtation between Faythe and Jace added to the romantic tension and realistically fueled the doubt that Faythe experienced with her emotions for two very different men. And all that romantic tension was only heightened by the dynamics of Pride life in STRAY which were fascinating in their complexity, specifically the role of females. Rachel Vincent does an admirable job of communicating all the intricacies of life as a Shifter without bogging her readers down with boring details. All in all, STRAY was an excellent start to what promises to be an excellent series. This is the perfect time to jump into this series as the sixth and final book in the series came out last year which means you can read Faye¿s full story with no waiting! WARNING: This book deals heavily with the subject of rape both from the side of the victims and the rapists. Although there aren¿t any rape scenes in the book, it is alluded to and attempted many times, one failed attempt in particular is somewhat graphic and disturbing. Sexual Content: A scene of mild sensuality. A semi graphic sex scene. Multiple references to rape. Several attempted rape scenes one of which is graphic.
thehistorychic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bought for myselfOverall Rating 3.25Story Rating 3.75Lead Character Rating 2.75(will explain in review)Audio Only Rating 4.00NOTE: I really wish I could review this book in 2 parts because I think the 2nd half of the book was very strong and made me look forward to the rest of the series. However, I do highly recommend the audio version of Stray. I think Jennifer Van Dyck did an excellent job with the narration.What I Loved: Kudos to Rachel Vincent to writing a strong family unit. I absolutely adored the fact that there was a mother, father, brothers, and extended family involved in the story. They are, in fact, the moments that I loved most. The whole second half of the story (not going to include spoilers) the way they pulled together was uplifting and fantastic to read. The world that Rachel has created is very well done also. I like how she divided down the packs, territory, and the explanations of the strays. It reminded me a lot of Old England and their hierarchies. I really loved the strong mother figure in the story and how it was her role that really reminds everyone to look deeper than the surface. Everyone has layers, makes choices, and has their reasons for doing it.What I Liked: I have to say that the male pack members were all very enjoyable to read. Their personalities ran the gamete from fun/playful to serious/contemplating. Personally, it was great to see a little bit of every kind of "person" reflected in this world. There were some unfinished things that I think will play out over the series and I can't wait to see what happens!Complaints: Seriously did not like Faythe for 3/4 of the story. I thought she was childish, spoiled, self-involved, and a little to "I deserve this" for my taste. Towards the end though it appeared she did some growing up. I just hope it sticks!Why I gave it a 3.25: This is one of those stories I wish I could grade in parts: Faythe (2.75), Story 1rst Part (3.5), Story 2nd Part (4.0), and Character (4.0). Unfortunately, Faythe really did pull some of the enjoyment out of reading the first part of the story for me. However, I am really looking forward to the rest of the series and can't wait to see where some of these characters go. Also looking forward to Faythe acting more like the grownup she claims to be :)
BeguileThySorrow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I started this book it took me quite a while to really get into it. A lot of that had to do with the main character, Faythe Sanders. Faythe is a grad student in a Texas college with no desire to deal with her werecat family. Tired of familial obligations and lack of privacy, she does everything she can think of to put off the inevitable issues having such a background entails. But in trying to do so she can be really immature, spoiled, and in many scenes downright unlikeable. I found Faythe's attitude to be a turnoff in the beginning but other characters (like her brothers and extended family) kept me fascinated. I also didn't want to stop reading because so many people have sworn this series gets so much better as it goes on. Once I got toward the end of this book I started to believe them too. I began to really enjoy the journey and understand the trials Faythe endures, and how they change her. There's some good action, interesting plot twists, and a romantic lead that really grabbed my interest enough to make me want to continue the series and grab book 2. ***update: After reading book 2, Ive become hooked! really enjoying the series now!! I'd say definitely give series a chance with book 2***
trishalynn0708 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have found a new author that I love, Rachel Vincent's writing flows across the page and you can't put her books down. I had my face 2 inches from the book the whole time I was reading, I didn't want to miss one word. Faythe is a kick-ass girl, or should I say shapeshifter, or werecat. I am happy to get off the vampire scene for a bit. And if Marc were real he would totally be mine. :)
sithereandread on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
STRAY, by Rachel Vincent, is the fantastic beginning to her Shifter's series. This adult series provides immense action, romance, and girl-power that will knock your socks off. As a fan of Vincent's Soul Screamers series, I just had to read more of her work. This series started off on a very positive note for me. I loved Faythe as an overall character. Although at times I could not sympathize with her wanting to be on her own (with all those men looking for attention, I would have stuck around! :) ), but she was very honest in her beliefs and fought tooth and nail for them. The love triangle between Faythe, Jace, and Marc was wicked steamy. I had it figured from the beginning who she was going to end up with, but I patiently read through the hot (hot!) situations until Faythe realized it for herself. I enjoyed getting to experience a different type of shifter. I have never read about Werecats before and I liked getting to read the creativity that Vincent put into her history and culture of these creatures. The villians in this book were absolutely dispicable. Some villians are "bad" but Vincent truly created some nasty, sick men. The things that these guys did to women brought out strong emotions of hate and anger out of me, and I think that truly reflects the talent that Vincent possesses. The scenes between the villians and victims were very graphic and I felt strong pity for these girls, but they were very real and I appreciated that because it made the victories a cause for celebration. I am excited to continue this series, and it is one that I do recommend!
mzserena on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I fell in love with Rachel Vincent's writing style with the Soul Screamers series, so I decided to try the Shifters series and am FAR from disappointed. I don't love it as much as Soul Screamers, but I do love it. I devoured Stray in a day. Normally, during the day, I don't sit around and read, but I did with Stray. I wanted to know what was going to happen next.I have to say, however, that I'm not Faythe's biggest fan. I think she's a snotty little brat. I think that she needs to grow up and become the adult she's supposed to be, not the spoiled child she acts like. I have hope for her, since toward the end she was starting to act more like an adult.