Shifting Love (The Foundation, Book 1)

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9780765348890: Shifting Love (The Foundation, Book 1)
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Constance O'Day-Flannery is back, and better than ever with this new tale of magic and love.

Maggie O'Shea knows that because of her dark past, there's no place for love in her life. She owns a successful store in Philadelphia, where she uses her special gifts to help the people she meets. Though this doesn't fulfill her, she is content. Most of the time.

Entrepreneur Julian McDonald runs an empire. He's rich, cynical, bored-and not interested in relationships. He was in love, once, but since her death, there's been no space in his heart for anyone else.

Maggie knows as soon as she meets Julian that she could fall in love with him. But a secret society devoted to bringing the world back into balance has a mysterious agenda for Julian-and doesn't care about the heart's wish of a vulnerable shapeshifter...

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About the Author:

Constance O'Day-Flannery is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen works of romantic fiction. Her popular works include Once in a Lifetime, a New York Times bestseller, and Second Chances, for which she received the Best Contemporary Fantasy Romance Award from the Romantic Times BookClub Magazine. SHIFTING LOVE is O'Day-Flannery's first book after a three year hiatus spent in Ireland, recharging her creative energies. She lives in Pennsylvania.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

PROLOGUE

Long ago
The trees thought they were really people
Long ago
The mountains thought they were really people
Long ago
the animals thought they were really people
Someday, they will say
Long ago
The humans thought they were really people.
--Johnny Moses, native American
Magdalene O'Shea knew ever since she was a young child that she wasn't like other little girls and, somehow, some instinct, told her to keep this discovery to herself. While they were busy playing with dolls Maggie had been out in a field, fascinated with nature. When she sat in the high fragrant grass, she would stare down to the ground and see a different world, one that most adults missed. From that time on, she tread carefully upon the earth with innate respect. 
When she was ten she realized she could enter that mysterious natural world. The first time had been frightening, staring into the eyes of a raven and finding herself at one with it, feeling the bones in her body shift, the pores on her skin open to accommodate shiny black feathers.

She had been terrified, thinking she might never return to a human form. She didn't know how it happened, but she felt as if she had become the raven, could feel the thrust of air under her beautiful wings, could see the earth from a dizzying height, could even report back to her mother the conversation she'd had with a neighbor while Maggie, as the raven, perched on a fence not ten feet away. Of course her mother thought she had been hiding in the bushes and she was punished for eavesdropping. After that, Maggie knew she couldn't confide in anyone. Her secret life became filled with the loneliness of one who is different and feels apart from the rest of the world.

By fourteen, when her own nature rose high and wild within her, she yearned to express it and used her powers of shape shifting to spy on the boy she liked in school, learned what was in his heart and shaped herself and her interests to suit his. But she soon got bored as there was no challenge. By the time she was eighteen she was running wild, shifting into cats, rabbits, even a butterfly to spy on her teacher preparing her final term exam. She landed on the test paper, preening her gloriously colored wings for the teacher's admiration while memorizing the answers.

She read esoteric books, trying to find answers, but nothing could explain why she had this strange power. She got into college easily, though her actual knowledge of subjects was little and her attitude toward learning nonchalant. She had her own way to sail through life. When she needed extra spending money, she would shift into a fly or a spider and memorize the safe combination of the local bookie. Later that night she would return under the door the same way, resume her human form, take what she needed and put it into an envelope, shove it under the locked back door to an alley and then shift into an insect to crawl out herself. She wasn't completely without heart, for she always shared with the street people on her way back to her dorm. And she only took money from people who preyed on the weaknesses of others.

She was twenty when her life altered radically. She had used her powers to become exactly what James Michael Hennessy wanted in a girl friend. James was a tortured soul, a poet at heart, but his family had him slated to take over the family rock quarry business.

One night she and James were together on top of a granite mountain, staring up at the stars, discussing what they wanted from life and James professed his love. Maggie, who had no intention of anything more than a romance, tried to let him down easy, but James became distraught and threatened to throw himself off the side of the mountain. His sense of the dramatic had initially attracted her, but all she'd wanted then was to get away.

Who knew he would actually do it?

She'd been so startled that she had immediately shape shifted into a terrified rabbit and had run off into the woods. She ran and ran, searching for a burrow to hide in when, suddenly, without any warning, jaws were around her small neck and she was roughly dragged into an open space in the woods. She smelled the feral scent of the wolf and her own fear. She was going to die and she knew in her heart she deserved it.

Instead, incredibly, the wolf began to turn into a man who held her squirming body under his 0and demanded that she come forward and show herself. It took some time for Maggie to realize what was happening as she watched the ferocious wolf transform. Slowly she released her fear when she found herself staring into the eyes of a very handsome man with an expression she didn't dare challenge.

Into her life appeared Marcus Bocelli, shape shifter, teacher, guardian of the secrets. She was taken to his rustic home in the woods and it was there she learned who she is and how she had been misusing her powers. She was told she needed tutoring and she also needed to make reparation to balance out the damage she has done. A life has been extinguished through her misuse of power and she will spend her own life in service to love until her debt is paid. Like her namesake, she is an intelligent woman who will administer to others.

Weeks of tutoring passed and Maggie felt cursed, for Marcus never cut her a break. He wanted to tame her and she resented him. She also couldn't deny her attraction to the dark and mysterious Italian. She learned about relationships through hers with him. And she learned about sex through his expert knowledge. And finally, fatefully, she learned about love by falling in love with a man who claimed love is unconditional, without possession. And she is to teach that to others.

Maggie feels her ability to shape shift has been a blessing and it's also been a curse, for she now has a debt to pay and the interest on it never seems to end.

Every few years Marcus gives her assignments. . . men needing to recover from loss . . . cynical men, fragile men, angry men. . . rich and powerful men. . . and poor men too. She finds out all about them by shape shifting and then entering their life and turning it around. Of course they think they are falling in love with her, and her challenge is to show them that love must be free, that the tighter they hold it, the more they will lose it. She isn't the one. . . she's the one that comes before the real one can enter their lives. And she can't move on until the men are healed.

Fourteen years she has been in service. To Marcus. To love.

Surely she has balanced the scales and her debt is paid.

At thirty-four she has learned her lessons well. She knows the difference between romance and love, how difficult real love can be as her feelings for Marcus swing between irresistible attraction and frustrated annoyance. In truth, she knows it really doesn't matter how she feels since Marcus isn't a man to plan any kind of normal life.

And she so wants that.

Normal.

The sound of it as she repeats it in her mind is so sweet, yet so unattainable

Dear God, how she longs for what so many take for granted.

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