Facial scar changes how others respond

EyeOfTheBeholder_w11220_680[1]Eye of the Beholder by Patty Froese

Tricia Hunter loses her beauty in a highway accident. When the doctors can’t do anything more, she heads to a cabin in the woods to make her peace with the scars. What is left to love when a woman loses her looks?

Jesse Reynolds is a forest ranger and when he sees Tricia, he recognizes her right away as the beauty from high school who broke his heart. She doesn’t recognize him, though. She never did take much notice. But the accident that marred her good looks is the very one that took the life of his fiancee, so Jesse isn’t exactly sympathetic.

Thrown together in the autumn woods, can Jesse and Tricia find the healing they’re longing for?

God doesn’t cause pain, but He does redeem it–sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

Excerpt:

Tricia Hunter dropped her bags on the scratched wood floor of her uncle’s cabin and took a deep, cleansing breath. She could already feel the potential of this place. The musty scent of old smoke from the stone hearth mingled with the tangy aroma of falling leaves. This was just what she needed, a hideaway in the middle of the autumn woods with a crackling fire, a stack of cozy quilts, and a wide window that let in a pool of golden afternoon sunlight.

Perfect.

There wasn’t a mirror to be seen in the place, and Tricia smiled wryly. That was probably what she needed most, time without having to look herself in the face.

Tricia raised her hand to touch the scars running along her jaw line, her fingers moving over the puckered skin with absent-minded familiarity. As much as she hated these scars, she was becoming more accustomed to them. She hadn’t made peace, exactly, but the shock was gone now, and in its place was a sort of confusion. Who was she now that she looked… like this?

She opened the door to a bedroom, and her gaze moved over the double bed that nearly filled the space, leaving room for only one tiny bedside table. Seeing no other door that might lead to a bathroom, she closed her eyes and cringed. So that actually was an outhouse she’d seen. She’d hoped that there was some other explanation for the little shack, but unfortunately, it made perfect sense. A kitchen sink was going to have to do for bathing, and the air inside was already feeling quite chilly in the autumn morning. This stay was going to be more rustic than she’d imagined.

“Maybe I should have gone to a resort instead,” she muttered, but she didn’t really mean it. She’d come here for a reason. She had a lot of things to think through, and spas and shopping didn’t leave her enough silence and solitude to hear herself think, let alone listen for God’s voice.

Outside, a truck’s engine revved, and she glanced out the window to see a black pickup pull into the drive. It rumbled for a moment before the engine shut off and the driver’s side door opened. A tall, broad-shouldered man hopped out. Whoever he was, the outdoors suited him. The sunlight that filtered through the red and golden leaves touched his auburn hair and caressed the rugged lines of his face. He dropped a hat on his head and swung the truck door shut with a bang. When their gazes met, he touched the brim of his hat in a polite salute. Tricia pulled away from the curtain, her cheeks warming when she realized she’d been staring.

His footsteps echoed on the stairs leading to the door and she opened it before he had the chance to knock, flashing him a smile.

“Good—” he started, but then his face blanched and he quickly cleared his throat. He looked down, then brought his gaze back up with a recovered smile.

Nice save. “Hi.” She tried to ignore that familiar sinking feeling when her scars evoked this reaction.

“Good morning, ma’am.” He said, this time without a hitch. “I’m the park ranger. I wanted to come by and make sure everything was OK.”

“I think so.” She gave him a reassuring smile for his efforts.

“Good.” Whatever his first reaction, his discomfort seemed to seep away. His dark eyes moved over her face. When she raised her eyebrows, daring him to ask her about those ugly scars, he met her gaze easily.

“I’m Tricia Hunter.”

“Tricia Hunter…” There was something in the way he repeated her name. “I’m Jesse Reynolds. Nice seeing you.” He held out his hand. His rough, calloused fingers folded gently around hers, and he paused, expectant.

Tricia cleared her throat and released his hand.

“It’s been a dry summer, but we’ve gotten two or three heavy rainfalls, so using the fireplace shouldn’t be an issue.” He nodded in the direction of the hearth. “You’ll need it tonight. It’s been dipping well below freezing.”

She nodded and his gaze moved over her face again, lingering on the scars that crept down her jaw line.

“If you don’t mind me asking,” he said after a moment. “What happened?”

Tricia was used to the question. With scars like hers, people’s curiosity held no bounds. She was past being offended, though. She gave him a shrug. “A highway accident.”

Jesse made a thoughtful sound in the back of his throat. “It must have been bad.”

“It was.” Tricia raised an eyebrow. “You should have seen me before. This is after all the plastic surgery the doctors can do.”

Jesse’s gaze traveled over her face from the sweep of her brow to the tip of her chin. He nodded slowly, almost appraisingly. “It could be worse,” he said finally.

Tricia shot him an exasperated look and turned away. It could be worse. Yes, when you thought about it, everything could be worse.

“Sorry about that.” His tone was sheepish. “I don’t mean to be callous.”

“Well, looking like this has been an…adjustment.” She turned back towards him, waiting for a reaction.

“Hmmm.” There was no pity in his eyes, just curiosity.

She was used to pity. She knew how to deflect pity. This reaction was something she hadn’t encountered before, and nervous chatter welled up inside of her. “People used to tell me I was quite attractive before the accident, you know. I mean, you wouldn’t know it to see me now. I’m still not used to this. In my head, I still look like I did before. Like those war vets who still feel their toes when they lose their legs.”

“Except you can still walk. And feel your toes.”

His dry tone made her cringe. “That came out wrong…” She wasn’t really shallow enough to think that her situation was on par with men who’d lost their limbs when fighting for their country, but the change in her appearance had still been a traumatic event, more so than the pain, stitches, and surgeries to correct the scarring and the hours upon hours of recovery combined. If he’d just react like everyone else, she’d know exactly what to say to him, but this ranger was throwing her off.

“Don’t worry about it.” He gave her good natured wink. “I like the way you look.”

“You’d be the only one.” Tricia pulled a hand through her hair. “Hey, I’m sorry. I’m a nervous talker. Can we rewind and make this a little less awkward?”

“Rewind?”

“You ask what happened and I’ll say, ‘an accident.’ And that’s where I’ll stop. No more messy elaboration.” She laughed self-consciously.

“OK, if that’s how you wanted this introduction to go. And I’ll tell you that you’ll need to put your garbage directly into the covered box outside and make sure it’s completely shut and locked at all times to keep your site protected from bears.” The flicker in his eyes turned familiar but not exactly warm. He seemed undecided on his opinion about her.

“Bears? Should I worry?” She glanced towards the window.

“Not too much, but it’s always good to be careful.”

She nodded. “That makes sense.”

Jesse’s gaze met hers for a moment. Once more she felt as if he was waiting for something, but she had no idea what it was. Did rangers get gratuities or pattysmall-25something? It suddenly seemed possible.

“Well, I’ll be around if you have any questions or need anything.” He gave her a nod.

“Thanks.”

He turned abruptly back towards the door. “Take care. Winter comes early some years. Like I said, I’ll be around.”

Tricia nodded, attempting to appear more confident than she felt

“Oh.” Jesse placed his hand on the door knob. “Your uncle keeps an ax behind the door.”

“I have wood.” She nodded towards the pile next to the hearth. It must have been left over from whoever used the cabin the month before, along with the half bag of plastic cups sitting on the kitchen counter.

Jesse laughed out loud and shook his head. “You’ll need more than you’ve got there. The wood pile is behind the cabin, but you’ll need to chop it into smaller pieces.”

“How much do I need, exactly?” She eyed the ax uncertainly. Wood didn’t burn that quickly, did it? The idea of chopping wood sounded tedious. She turned towards Jesse with a smile, letting her eyes linger on his a little longer than necessary. The movement was one of habit, a learned behavior that used to get her what she wanted. “You wouldn’t want to give a girl a hand, would you…” She allowed her smile to sparkle in her eyes. “Jesse, was it?”

“That’s right. Jesse.” His tone was dry, and then an amused smile tugged at the corners of his lips. He rubbed one hand over his chin, the sound of his stubble against his palm rasping softly. “If I were you, I’d start chopping, Ms. Hunter.” He gave her a grin and dropped his hat back onto his head. “ You’ve got time before dark.”

She sent him a tight smile and he met her gaze, his expression unreadable.

“Take care, now.” He pulled open the door and disappeared into the chilly morning.

As his footsteps clomped down the front steps, she let out a frustrated sigh. Once upon a time, a man would have stumbled over himself in his eagerness to chop wood for her.

She shut the door and leaned against it. Obviously, those days were over. A brilliant smile bought her nothing. A flirtatious laugh held the promise of something no one wanted any longer. Instead, she was left with the reminder that she had two legs and a back strong enough to chop wood. Try as she might to be a bigger person, it was annoying. She was no longer the woman she used to be, and, frankly, she didn’t have to like it.

Buy today at Pelican or Amazon and visit Patty on her Amazon Author page.

Is there room to write?

MARY GALUSHA loves to tell adventurous romantic stories. She is descended from immigrant homesteaders, and draws from stories told and retold Mary Garound the kitchen table to make history and romance come alive.

Mary, you spent some time living in Montana, where Sapphire Skies is set?

Yes, I was born in Little Big Horn county. I have always been fascinated with my home state and the adventurous stories of the brave settlers there. I’ve always dreamed of their stories and in the last few years I have begun writing them into novel form.

 I have spent some time in that country, too. It is always interesting to read about people living through the settling of the American West. Is Sapphire Skies an inspirational story in terms of faith?

Strong faith has always lived in my family and carries through into my stories. It is natural to write from that foundation of faith when I think about the rough world my characters live in. They are strong men and equally adventurous women who build loving relationships while facing the unknown to realize their dreams in the settling the Wild West.

 Mary, you write from home. Tell us about your writing space.

I write in our study, my husband has half and I have the other. It’s a small room. My half is getting more like a cave every day. I’ll have to do something about that. Someday.

 Ssapphireskiescoverart72dpi__27473.1357185032.1280.1280o tell us, why do you write? What drives you?.

I love words and the rhythm of the written word. Plus, I think I have something to say that might make people think.

 What other authors do you enjoy reading?

Writers I enjoy reading are Alexander McCall Smith, Mary Kay Andrews, and for mysteries, John Sanford and James Lee Burke.

 Mary Galusha graduated from Stephens College and the University of Arizona. She taught elementary school, counseled in high school and raised her family on an avocado ranch in southern California. Now she is writing, which has always been a dream. When not working on historical novels, Mary can be found attending book groups or playing hilarious games of bridge where the rules are observed, sometimes. She and her husband enjoy their family, friends, and movies. Download her debut novel, Sapphire Skies from Desert Breeze Publishing. It is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and other book sites.

 You can find Mary on the web at www.marygalusha.com

Romance under the Sapphire Skies of Montana

sapphireskiescoverart72dpi__27473.1357185032.1280.1280

Historical and Inspirational Fiction

Austrian immigrant Lili Kohl wants to get a homestead In Montana for her family to live on when they come to the United States. But someone in the town of Cedar Creek is using their influence to keep the property from her.

Homesteader Gabriel McCall has put a hold on the property adjoining his, hoping his younger brother will homestead it later, fulfilling a promise Gabriel made to their dying father. Meanwhile he tries to be helpful to Lili, because he sees her as a greenhorn. After he rescues her from abductors and they stay warm in a cave, their attraction to each other grows.

Then her parents arrive unexpectedly and her father disapproves of Gabriel, who has finally given up on farming with his brother. Now Lili fears losing her family’s approval by loving Gabriel.

EXCERPT

“Do you need a place to stay?

She sure did, and hoped it would not be too expensive. “Yes, sir, I do.”

“The hotel has reasonable prices.”

Lili took a deep breath, hoping her English would be correct. “Where may I find it?”

“Right up the street, the building with the wagon in front. I can have your trunk sent there.”

Lili thanked him, and picked up her valise.

“Now, remember, there’s a train going east next week, in case you want to go back.”

She thanked him and walked toward the hotel, conscious of the men milling about outside, some of them looking her way. She prayed her uncertainty didn’t show.

Approaching the double oak doors of the hotel, Lili noticed a man in a white shirt leaning against a post near the entrance. His broad chest tapered down to a leather belt, and jeans covered his long legs. Rolled up sleeves accentuated his muscular brown arms folded across his chest. She tried to see his eyes, but a wide brimmed hat shaded his face. As she came closer to him, he removed his hat and held the door open for her. This unexpected polite gesture caught her by surprise.

Lili glanced up into smiling brown eyes, and her heart stopped. Why? His skin looked darker than most of the men outside. His kindness unsettled her.

Her voice failed. She gave him a brief smile and went into the hotel.

In the lobby, comfortable looking chairs surrounding a low table holding a bouquet of flowers in a glass-canning jar. Overhead, a fan turned in slow circles. Tantalizing smells wafted from the dining room located near the manager’s desk.

How much would it cost to stay here? New York City was a long way off, but if her plans for a homestead in Montana didn’t work out, she might be on the next train going back. She needed to watch her spending.

After renting the cheapest room and being told there was no work in Cedar Creek at the moment but at the local saloon, Lili knew she had to at least try.

After saying a prayer for guidance, she left the hotel and crossed the dusty street. The same man who had held the door for her earlier stood talking to some other men near the saloon. He turned and tipped his hat to her. Dark hair edged his collar. For a moment his gaze held hers. Her heart slammed against her ribs and not knowing what to do, she turned away and tried to steady herself before going into the Silver Spigot Saloon.

Visit Mary at her website, and download her book today from Amazon or her publisher, Desert Breeze Publishing. Come back tomorrow to learn a little more about Mary.

Dog is a Game Changer in the Writing Arena

Two evil overlords?paco driving

I’m J. Morgan and I am the proud pet of two evil overlords and an emperor of the Cith. No, I’m not talking about my wife and daughter, though, now that I think about it… so, who am I’m talking about? My Chihuahua, Paco, and the beautiful Mini Pin, Maxine. The emperor is the feline Mr. Bean, who has proudly owned me and my family for the past fifteen years. You may be asking yourself, with all these owners how does J. Morgan have any time to write. Well, you know those little voices that I’m always talking about? Now, you know who I’m talking about.

For those of you who aren’t a pet of one or more furry masters, I doubt you’ll get what I’m about to say. I’m not sure if I could write without them. Seriously, I couldn’t. Each one of my beautiful children of the fur help me in ways that I never thought possible.photo (25)

Paco is my game changer. He knows exactly when his daddy is about to lose his mind. Whether I’m blocked or just have lost my way, he senses my frustration and clears it up the only way he knows how. When I feel the tap tap on my foot, I know it’s time to close my screen and pay attention to my baby boy. And, there he is, with one of his hundred toys hanging out of his mouth. It’s wubby time. So for the next twenty minutes to three hours I throw. He brings back. Repeat process until one of us passes out. Usually, that someone is me. Other times, he’ll just crawl up and sit on the keyboard, telling me enough. You’re driving me crazy with that mumbling under your breath. Just stop it. Strangely enough, he’s got more sense than me when it gets to that point.

Paco has been so much of a muse to me, he even wormed his way into Love Bites Book Three: Love Free Stake Hard as Dela and Deme’s loveable adopted son. Paco came to us in much the same way. Someone just threw him out in our yard when he was just a puppy. From the first second his big brown eyes stared into mine, it was over.

Now, we come to the ultimately adorable Maxine. She is the queen of the big brown eyes. Max is pretty much our lurker under the blanket who only comes out to bark at mystery sounds, Mr. Bean and her food bowl. So, how does she help me write? Ms. Maxine is a hugger. Dare I say the best hugger in the world! She instinctively knows when I’m having a hard time with a scene. I’ll hear the clickity clack of her feet and then she’s in my lap with her arms on either side of my neck, her head nuzzling my ear, and so much love flooding me, how can I not be inspired?

 

Mr. Bean on the other hand is pragmatic about it. His favorite minion, namely, me, has certain responsibilities in life. I’ve got to make sure his food bowl is full. Dry food all day long. Wet food once in morning. Once at night. The water bowl must be full and be at a certain temp. His recliner, yes, he has his own recliner. My wife thought it beansterwas hers, but he disabused her of that fact. Where was I, again? Oh yeah, his recliner has to have the proper amount of fluffed blankies for him to lounge upon. Once I have accomplished all that, I get the look. Silly man, get to writing. I don’t have time to watch you dither about. Cable does not pay for itself. I must have my stories to watch, food to eat, and please do something about these lesser beings. I did not give you permission to bring canines into my abode. You get the idea.

The point is, pets are beings of perfect love. They wrapped you around their paws and never let you go. Writing is a labor of love. How can you truly know what love is if you’re not surrounded by it. I am the luckiest man alive. I have examples of love around me all the time. From my wife, daughter, my family, my friends, and of course, my furry overlords, I am never far from the things that make life a true blessing.

Where in the net can you find J. Morgan?

My Yahoo Newsletter

My Website

Facebook

My Blog away from home

 

Writing is Hard Work

,bitetheoneyourewithcoverart72dpi__95079.1359436540.1280.1280J. Morgan on Writing

I’m a writer, or at least that’s what it says on the spray painted sign I park my car in front of. Seriously, it say J. Morgan, writer. It might not be as cool as Rick Castle’s Kevlar vest, but it still remains the truth. I write. Sometimes so easily, I can believe I can do it. Other times, those dark times that no one likes to talk about, writing is best described as pulling your own teeth without a rubber mallet handy to deaden the stupidity.

As a result, I’ll be the first to admit writing is hard work. Over the years, I’ve been asked are there any tricks to doing it? I want to say no, because either you can write or you can’t. There’s very little in-between. But! Bet you saw that coming. If you can write, there are a couple things you can learn. First you have to be open to being taught. That’s the kicker right there.

When I first got into writing, and published, I thought I knew how to write. I entertained myself, so why shouldn’t others be entertained? Because, being able to write doesn’t mean you know how to write. There’s a distinction there. Don’t think there isn’t. Talent and skill are two different things. Bear with me because this next bit clears it up, or I hope it will.

I come from a background in the visual arts. I’m a painter and pencil artist by trade, though trade will leave you starving. I’d always written and been told you’re talented, why don’t you write a book or something. Twenty years down the road, I finally listened to those pesky voices. I could write and did have some talent. So, I wrote a book. Two books, actually, but the first one was garbage, so let’s not discuss it. The second one got accepted by a publisher. I said wow, those voices were right!

Here’s where the ego got smacked around. I had talent sure. But, talent without polishing is still garbage, only pretty garbage. My first editor got me to doing something I’m totally adverse to– thinking. Thinking led to self discovery. Self discovery led to a startling revelation. I had a long way to go. That brings me to my first writing tip. Always be willing to learn.

With that out of the way, I’m going to pass on my first tip that doesn’t involve ego bashing. Write like you’re acting. To totally understand your characters, you MUST immerse yourself into them. Become them for the span of your scene, your book! If you can’t completely get who they are, how can a reader? Seriously, walk a mile–fifty miles–in their shoes. Then, you can overcome any writing block that comes your way. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to be blocked, because you will. IT means, once you are able to get back into that character’s head, you can push through and keep going. It might take some crying, whining, and general begging, but it’ll happen. Trust me.

Second valuable tip. Just because you read a book, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write with all five, in a paranormal author’s book, six senses. What does that mean? It means when you write, ‘She stepped out into a bright sunshiny day’, make us believe it’s a sunshiny day. Let us hear birds chirping. The wind blowing through long grass in need of mowing. The rumble of a lawnmower across the back yard. The yells of kids playing somewhere down the block. Something to make a reader fall into a three dimensional world. That’s just one sense, hearing.

Sense two. The smell of cut grass. The lingering scent of the morning dew evaporating on the lawn. Honeysuckle wafting across that breeze up there.

Sense three. The feel of that wind brushing across her cheek, embracing her body. The sun toasting her skin, as she steps off the porch. Oh, you get the idea.

Sense four. The sun blinding her. Those playing kids. A bird flying from tree to tree. The grass waving. Give them something to actually see.

Sense five. The taste of the honey suckle on the breeze. Can’t think of any more but you might.

When you write a paragraph, don’t consider just seeing it. Live it!

I’m not sure if I have anything else I could impart to you. Writing is a learn as you go type of thing. Through making mistakes you’ll learn more than I could show you. Just always trust your instincts and listen to critiques with an open mind. Aside from that, have junk food handy and you should be set. Thanks for listening to me run off at the mouth. I hope I’ve helped give you some new twists on writing. Thanks to Lynnette for having me here today.

Now, get to writing!

Jmorgan

 Where in the net can you find J. Morgan?

My Yahoo Newsletter

My Website

Facebook

My Blog away from home

 J Morgan’s books are available at Desert Breeze Publishing in eBooks and Love Free, Stake Hard is coming soon in print.  There are several series and  over a dozen books with Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc.

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Comic book writer or Romance Author?

zombielb2Romancing the Funny Bone

Who is J. Morgan? Uh, that’d be me. I think. Yep, it’s me. But, in the metaphysical sense, who am I? To answer that probing question we need to travel back to a simpler time. Not sure if it was simpler, but the closest thing we had to a home computer was an Etch-a-Sketch.

Back in the 70s a kid had only his imagination to entertain him. Luckily for me, mine was over active. Creating worlds always came easily to me. Whether with my action figures, or just turning the yard and woods in my backyard into strange alien landscapes, I’ve always lived inside my head. It should have come as no surprise to me or anyone, that I’d become a writer one day.

So, if I was so space cadet growing up, why am I writing Romance novels about things that go bump in the night. Shouldn’t I be writing comic books, horror novels, or anything but Romance? Well, who says I don’t?

Huh?

You hear me, I write all those. I write them through Romance. Romance is more than a genre on a book shelf. It’s the story of our lives. It’s our past, present and future. How can you read a story and not include two people searching for each other. The human condition is to be loved. Without that one emotion we become machines or worse, we become immune to the world around us.

I write books. Romance just happens to be the center of what I write. The Vampire part just so happens to be the fun part. Now, that we’ve narrowed down what I do, I’d like to discuss one book in particular. That is, if you don’t mind being dragged into me talking about one of my babies. I promise there’s even a snazzy picture. Yeah, I’m a proud papa, and why shouldn’t I be?

Love Free Stake Hard is one of my proudest accomplishments. Why you may ask? Well, I don’t mind answering. Book Three in my Love Bites series was the first book where I grew a clue. Before it, I just wrote. Yep, I was a pantster, wrote by the seat of whatever covered the desired parts and let the words flow with no rhyme or reason. Love Free taught me to plan, think ahead and never assume the way you’re writing is the right way. It always led the way in creating the world I love writing. Books 1 and 2 were fun, but incomplete in scope. I had a world, but like anyone who read them, I had no idea what that world contained. This book showed me more than a world, it showed me universes revolving in my head. I was giddy. Who wants a world, when they can have the cosmos to play with?

It was also the book where I had a grand plan. Okay, scheme, because schemes come with mad scientist cackles. Love Free Stake Hard gave me twelve books percolating to a slow boil. So, if you’re reading or have read this series, know that I know where we’re going and it’s going to be one fun ride.

Visit J Morgan on his website or on his Amazon author page.  Download a FREE book from the Love Bites series.

A taste from the Love Bites series

LoveFreeStakeHardCoverArtDela McNamara thought she had the most boring job in the world.

Tour guide to the scenic cemeteries of Savannah. Yeah, that’s what she spent her life aspiring to become.

Then Demetrious de Mecini stumbled into her graveyard and right smack into her suddenly unboring life. Along with three female killers, a passel of crazy militant monks.

On the run, they fight for their lives and sanity and land themselves in a headlong flight into danger and perhaps the answer to a mystery five thousands years buried in the clouded mists of mythology itself. Before it’s over, Dela finds herself between a stake and a hard place, but if she survives, love might be the ultimate prize or the ultimate curse.

EXCERPT

“We are the Vampiric Inquisition and you, Demetrious de Mecini, have been judged, tried and found guilty by the Holy Court of Phroumage. We are here to carry out sentencing!” An evil smile bloomed from the darkness of the hood covering the monk’s head. “Prepare to die!”

I felt around on the top of my head. Nope, no bumps or signs of a cracked skull. So, the monk did just say that the pope’s cheese wanted Deme dead. I almost wished I did have brain damage. Then maybe this would make sense. Sacred cheese, Lily Munster, Vampires, blatant lust. Excuse me, but a nervous breakdown looked pretty damn good about now. So did a do-over but that wasn’t about to happen. The nervous breakdown on the other hand had an excellent chance of happening. Any minute now, if I was a judge of such things. Seeing as how this was me I was talking about, I thought I could say without a doubt I had five seconds and counting from a nice one.

Deme batted at the dust and peered intently at the monk. “Grahm, is that you?”

“Uh, no. I am the Grand High Inquisitor of Phroumage. There is no Grahm here and even if there was he wouldn’t be a Grand High Inquisitor of Phroumage, which I am.” The monk shuffled his feet. “A Grand High Inquisitor, that is.”

Another one of the monks scooted around him. “But that’s just for today. Tomorrow, I get to be the Grand High Inquisitor.”

“Inquisitor Michae, that will be quite enough of that.” The grand high mucky-mucky swatted at him. “Now back into the ranks before you forfeit your turn to be next in line.”

“That would be me!” Another monk shouted with glee.

“Enough!” Grandy shouted, stomping his foot.

“Grahm, you may call yourself whatever you wish, but I know it’s you.” Faster than I could see, Deme ran to the man and flipped his hood off his head. “Now, stop this nonsense and tell me what you’re doing here.”

“Heretic, you shall pay for that umbrage.” Grahm, or whoever he was, swept his arm around before twirling it into the air. “Off with ‘is head!”

Michae tapped him on the shoulder. “Hmmm, Grahm, we forgot to pack the swords.”

Grahm whipped his head around. “Then break out the cat o’ nine tails and flog him within an inch of his life, then flog him some more.”

“We… um… forgot that, too.” The monk titled his head skyward.

“By the most holy naughty bits of the divine Phroumage, what did we bring?”

“Let me think…” His hand disappeared into his hood. The faint murmur of scratching came from the folds. “We have some nice shrubbery.”

Grahm let out a surprised gasp. “Neep. You can’t expect us to adequately torture a heretic of de Mecini’s stature with shrubbery. Neep!”

“It has thorns and some delightful red berries that will stain his tender flesh. There’s always the chance of an allergic reaction.” Michae kneaded his hands together and giggled. “Imagine all the painful itching.”

“Oh, do be quiet before you wear it as an intimate undergarment for penance,” Grahm said, smacking the other monk upside the back of the head.

“Hah! I already am.” Michae stuck out his tongue. “So, there.”

I had had enough and ew!

Download Love Free Stake Hard by J. Morgan today.

What animal helper for a tough undercover cop?

Detective, 71916925269910592_1wlk4eov_bcop meet another animal helper.

Winter whistled. “I want to work where you work. Cool toys.”

Mike grinned at her. “The coolest.”

“So, what gives?” she demanded. “You won’t tell me what branch you work for, I get that, but at least tell me who the other players are. How did you get involved, anyway? How long have you been snooping around as a mild mannered reporter to get all those names?” Another thought took precedence over his answer and she said. “By the way, what kind of spy are you if they knew you were investigating them? The task I had to do, in order to not be sent to 867 for offing the creep and to keep my grandmother alive, was to kill you after I found out just how much you know, but dude, they know you’re on to them.” She shook her head and shot him a disgusted look. “You’re really a lousy spy. I’m surprised your bosses trust you with all this high tech stuff.”

His jaw firmed and the hand next to hers on the bed fisted. She’d touched a nerve and she had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling.

“I will have you know, lady,” he bit out. “My cover was to be a reporter who was obviously investigating the corrupt cops, in order to draw them out in the open so I could shut them down.”

She believed him, but it was just so easy to rile him up that instead of telling him so, she said instead. “Hmmm.”

He glared at her reflection in the mirror. “You’re ticking me off again.”

She couldn’t help herself, she winked.

He lifted his arm, to do what she didn’t know.

Tap, tap, tap. They both tensed and looked at the terrace doors.

“You expecting company from the back door?” she whispered.

He scowled at her and drew his weapon, dropping to a whisper as well. “I’m on the sixth floor. Unless super man is making house calls, whoever it is, is not welcome.”

She drew her service revolver also and stood. Without making a verbal plan, he took high and she took low, both weapon arms out straight with the other hand supporting at the elbow.

Tap, tap, tap.

“Sure is a noisy burglar,” she couldn’t help but bring out.

He shot her a look of pure venom and promised restitution, then, his hand on the handle of the door, he mouthed. “One. Two. Three.”

He swung the door open and they both pointed their loaded weapons at the small gray cockatiel sitting on the ledge, tapping its beak against the iron railing.

They both dropped their arms and gaped at the bird.

She turned to him. “You keep your bird outside?”

He shook his head and scowled. “It’s not my bird.”

As if on cue, the bird that didn’t belong to Mike ruffled his feathers, then with a graceful swoop of its wings took flight, to land right on Mike’s broad shoulder.

Her brows rose and she shut the door. “Not your bird, huh?” she teased. “You should probably tell him that.”

The bird ruffled its feathers, then rubbed his head against Mike’s cheek.

Mike sneezed.

Startled, the bird took to flight, landing on one of the surveillance monitors.

Mike shook his head. “Bird, if you poop on that monitor, you’re going to be dinner tonight.”

If possible, the bird managed to look affronted by the threat and said, “Beef for dinner, not fowl.”

Both Mike’s and her own jaws dropped, then they burst out laughing. They laughed so hard, by the time they stopped, they were both swiping tears from their eyes and holding their stomachs.

“The bird has to belong to someone,” Mike mused.

Winter shrugged. “I just had a stray cat attach itself to me. It seems the rules of who chooses who in the pet department have changed.”

Mike glanced at her. “A cat?”

She nodded. “A scraggly little calico. Looks just like the one that followed me around all the time while I was growing up.”

Mike’s brows drew in. “I remember seeing that stray following you.”

She ran a hand through her hair. “Really?”

He nodded. “Yeah, every time I’d see you around, the calico was always nearby. I don’t ever recall you paying any mind to it, though.”

She shrugged. “I’m not really an animal person.”

He laughed. “Don’t let your Grandma Allison hear you say that. She’s in her eighties and still goes to the clinic when they are busy and call her up.” He considered. “Do you think it is the same calico?”

She shook her head. “It looks just like her, but how could it be? I left home five years ago, and I swear that cat from home has followed me since the first day I walked to kindergarten by myself. There’s no way the cat who attached itself to me now can be the same one.”

He crooked a brow. “Who you trying to convince, me or yourself?”

She walked over to the bird, which oddly seemed to be listening with some focus to their conversation. “What’s your name, sweetie?”

“Napoleon.” The bird squawked  ” Protector. Don’t eat me.”

She grinned at the bird. “Okay, Napoleon, who is your owner? Who do you belong to?”

There was no reply. Napoleon began to groom one wing with his beak.

Winter tried again. “Pretty bird, Napoleon. Who are you protecting?” She reached out one finger, tentatively, and stroked his head. He swiveled to look right at her.

Then he gave a squawk and fluffed his feather. “Protect Mike,” he squawked out. “Mike’s bird. Protect Mike.”

Winter and Mike’s jaws hit their chests, again, at Napoleon’s ramblings.

“See?” Winter could not help but say. “I told you he’s chosen you as his owner.”

Mike sneezed and his eyes puffed up and turned red. “There’s only one problem,” he said. “I’m allergic to birds.”

Excerpt from Survival Instinct, second of the Time After Time Saga, coming soon.


Scat Cat, Winter’s Animal Helper

Winter swiped a heavy hand against the sandpaper abrasion wetting her cheek.86485493

A cat meowed

Her brows drew into a frown. Meow?

More sandpaper, then a nudge on her cheek from a wet, somewhat smelly head.

The sound of the ocean registered, and as she struggled to pry her eyes open, memories of the early morning events filtered through her brain.

She squinted up to the sky. The sun was at about ten a.m. Obviously, she hadn’t made the start of her shift, first day.

She could still smell rain in the air but the storm had passed and now the skies were blue. Only in San Francisco.

Another meow.

She turned her throbbing head and met the unblinking golden eyes of a calico cat. “Scat Cat?” she asked in confusion, realizing the second drug hadn’t targeted her vocal cords.

The undernourished, soaking wet cat purred, long and loud.

“You can’t be Scat Cat,” she murmured, reaching up and scratching the feline under its chin.

It couldn’t be the same cat. It was impossible the alley cat which had followed her to and from school since kindergarten, followed her back and forth from her part time job each and every day, then even to the bus stop the very day she had left town, was the same cat.

Scat Cat, because Winter had shouted the words to the cat, along with a hissing noise and a stomping foot, each and every day, worried the fool cat would get hit by a car by following her around everywhere.

Except her home. Oddly, when Winter was home, the stray cat never lingered.

She shook the cob webs from her head and sat up. She had been wedged between two large boulders, completely hidden from the spread of beach where she and her captors had gathered earlier this morning.

Her rain gear was gone, as was the bloody clothing underneath the gear.

She had her own clothes on, right down to her combat boots and she shuddered to think who of the twelve men had striped her and replaced her clothing.

Clearly they had breached the high tech security of her third floor historical Victorian to get her things. Her hand-held hologram cell phone lay at her feet, along with a sealed bag holding a manila envelope, with the word “Evidence” in bold letters stamped onto it at an angle.

It didn’t take much of a guess to know inside the envelope would be the photo of the man she was supposed to bleed for information, then kill.

She shuddered and scooped up her cell and the bag.

The cat continued to stare at her, almost like she was studying her. Unnerved, Winter waved the cat away. “Scat, cat!”

Just as with the cat back home — and no, she was not ready to consider this was the same cat — this cat simply sat and stared.

“You will have a helper from the animal kingdom.”

Winter lunged to her feet and the world went dark at the edges of her vision. She pivoted, her combat boots crunching wet sand and pebbles as she scanned the empty beach for who had spoken.

The cat meowed.

She jerked her gaze to the cat, sitting serenely at her feet, large golden eyes fixed up at her.

Winter pointed to the cat. “You didn’t just speak to me.”


 

Working Dog, Helper and Hero

Meet King, Sean’s Shepherd from Animal Instinct

Dog inspectionExcerpt from Animal Instinct, Book One of the Time After Time Saga with Tami Dee

Sean tried to shrug away the tension gathering in his shoulders and the back of his neck. He’d seen the clinic on his way home yesterday, and he didn’t know where any other vets were located. He prayed someone would be there, and they could take his dog. The sting the poor boy got during their morning run was swelling around his eye and his breathing seemed more shallow than just a minute before. As a first responder, he knew the signs of anaphylactic shock, and he was terrified. He shifted King’s weight and kept on jogging, a slower jog with the extra hundred pounds, but he didn’t want to waste any time. He was close, just another half a block. “Hold on, King, I’ll get you some help.” He shouldered his way through the door. He barely took in the prim ladies with their lap dogs on leashes. He only had eyes for the person behind the counter who could get him some help.

“Doctor Al’s office, Carol speaking. How can we help you and your pet today?”

She wasn’t talking to him. She was answering the phone. He rested King, all sprawling, hairy, panting, wheezing dog, right on the counter in front of her.

His swollen eye was on her side of the counter. She couldn’t miss it.

“Just a moment, I have an emergency,” she said to the caller. “I’m putting you on hold.”

The woman was quick and competent. She called over her shoulder, “Doctor Al, we have an emergency in Exam One.” Then she turned to Sean as she opened the door to the side of the counter. “Follow me.” She opened another door into an exam room, grabbing what he recognized as the new epi pen on her way through. He carefully placed King on the table in front of them. “I will get you some paperwork in a minute. Do I have permission to treat your dog?” He nodded and she put the needle against King’s neck and pressed the life-saving drug into his system just as Doctor Al came into the room.

King was already breathing easier.

Sean’s whole body relaxed in relief. “Thank you, thank you.” He pressed the hand of the lady from the front desk; the motherly one who had acted so quickly.

“You’re welcome. Doctor Al will look at your dog now. Stop by before you leave.”

 *****

 Doctor Al was a woman. That was the first thing that registered. She was petite, with very small but competent hands examining King’s body. “Carol has given your dog a dose of an antihistamine to quiet what appears to be an allergic reaction.” She flicked her gaze to him. “How long ago did this bite or sting happen?”AnimalInstinctCoverArt_1

Her presence was calming. He shook away the tears that formed in his eyes at the thought of how close he’d come to losing his partner, his best friend. “Only a few minutes.” He cleared his throat in an effort to dislodge the fear and grief clogging it. “Maybe ten minutes ago. I was a couple of blocks from here, and figured it was faster to run in than to risk going home for my car.” He looked down at his running sweats, gave her what he hoped was an apologetic grin. “I know I stink and I don’t have any I.D. with me.” Embarrassed heat warmed his cheeks. “Or money, because we were out running. But I don’t live far,” he assured her with a quick gesture of his hands. He hoped he could count on small town acceptance. “As soon as we have this situation under control I’ll go get them.”

She nodded, continuing her examination. “Has this ever happened before?” When he shook his head she added, “Looks like there is only the one sting. What’s your dog’s name?”

He slid a glance to his dog. “King Solomon, but I just call him King.” At the sound of his name King raised his head, then got to his feet on the exam table, standing eye level with him and a head taller than the doc. He leaned in and licked at his master’s face. Sean laughed, partly in relief, partly in the surging joy that his dog really would be okay. He put his arm around King’s neck and the dog rested his chin on his shoulder.

Doctor Al lowered the stethoscope and looked into his eyes, and his breath locked in his lungs when he realized how beautiful she was. Auburn hair brushed her shoulders and framed her face, and eyes the color of the bluest sky met his. His knees went weak. He swallowed.

A hint of pink touched her cheeks and she averted her gaze from him back to King. “I’d like to watch him for a couple of hours, make sure we don’t have any further reaction.” With gentle fingers, she touched King’s face above the swollen eye. “I also want to clean this wound once the swelling has gone down, make sure we have the stinger and that we don’t risk infection. Can you come back after lunch?”

Sean nodded. He usually didn’t have so much trouble thinking of something to say, but Doctor Al left him speechless. He cleared his throat. “I’ll have a break at work around 2:00. Would that be okay?”

She nodded. “I’m sure that will work. Check with Carol at the front desk before you go.”

She smiled, and dimples appeared on both sides of her mouth. Kissing dimples. Where that thought came from, he had no idea, but he wanted to brush his lips against those smooth cheeks, flick his tongue into the little crevasses and claim them, claim her, as his own.

Download and read  Animal Instinct, Book One of the Time After Time Saga with Tami Dee.