Sabrina’s Animal Helper

Sabrina was tied to a hard backed chair, and each of her ankles tied to a leg of the chair. Her knees throbbed from the awkward position. Her back against the chair ached from the hard surface and the ill treatment that must have preceded her arrival to this place.

Her bottom lip throbbed, and she tasted blood.

Clearly she had been beaten.

What she did not know was why?

She fought through the fog clouding her brain, struggling to remember how she’d come to be in this dire situation.

A sense of urgency knotted her stomach, a feeling that there was something important she needed to do.

But what?

The more she tried to remember, the harder her head pounded. She ached more with every beat of her heart, with every pulse of blood through her sore body.86485493

Something jumped onto her lap. Her throat slammed shut with terror, imagining a rat or some other such outbuilding animal attacking her. She attempted to push up and away, but the chair didn’t budge. She was too weak. What could she do to escape it?

The sound of purring broke through her panicked thoughts, and she realized a cat was now shifting itself on her lap, apparently thinking to make itself comfortable.

The sound and steady vibration of the feline’s deep purr helped to calm her, and its weight, although not a large cat by any means, warmed her lap, a fact which she was significantly grateful.

“I don’t know where we are, little one, but I’m glad you’re here.” Her hoarse whisper was rewarded by a small, soft meow.

Download the rest of the story August 11 from Amazon or Desert Breeze Publishing.

Animal Helpers, Wyoming Style

226868899949994132_wOvbIobW_bFancy had worked a full day even though it was only noon. Before Eliza cleaned up for dinner she gave Fancy a long drink, then took her to the barn where Frank had said she could give her a stall. She forked some hay into the manger, added a little grain, then backed Fancy into the stall. She took her saddle off and brushed the horse from head to tail in long, steady strokes. Shep lay at their feet and watched, his head resting on his paws, while Fancy munched contentedly.

Suddenly Fancy’s head came up and Shep came to his feet, both facing the barn door. The hairs on the back of Eliza’s neck prickled, just like the ones that stood up on Shep’s neck. The dog growled, a long, low growl. Fancy pawed the ground with one hoof, as if itching to move toward the shadow in the barn doorway.

“It’s just me,” came a woman’s voice. “Honestly, Shep, you’d think you’d get used to me by now.”

Frank’s sister stepped into the light that came through the open window. Eliza let out the breath she’d been holding.

“Well, hello,” she said. She dropped the brush with the other tack and stepped out of the stall to greet Jude. She latched the stall, removed her gloves, and extended a hand. “I’m Eliza O’Malley.”

“I’m Julia McGee.” The grip on her hand was firm – firmer than any other’s woman’s handshake, at least in Eliza’s experience.

Especially firm considering the young, slight woman before her. She couldn’t be twenty. Her light red hair was pulled back in a simple clasp at the back of her neck. Her skin was pearlescent, not a wrinkle in sight.

“Happy to meet you, Julia.”

“Jude, actually. Everyone calls me Jude.”

“Jude, then. I just finished putting my horse up. I hear dinner is ready. Was Allen useful to you in the kitchen?”

“More than useful. He is a master with a paring knife, and his pie crust may be the best I’ve ever had.” Jude’s mouth turned up in a smile and her green eyes shone with pleasure.

Eliza laughed. “I’m glad. I’m next to useless, so I figured you could use his help.”

“You didn’t look useless out there in the herd,” Jude countered. “You and your horse moved like one, and with Shep’s help you made quick work of sorting out the calves.”

Shep was still on all fours, hair on the back of his neck at alert. Behind her Fancy’s hooves struck the ground again. If these were the animal helpers…

But no, this couldn’t be the evil Mildreth. This was Frank’s sister, born in his household when he was a young man, not a time-traveling enemy. She shook off her discomfort.

Download from Amazon or Desert Breeze Publishing to read the rest of the story today.

Another Calico Animal Helper

86485493As soon as the going gets rough for Winter, look who shows up.

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

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 who 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.

Everywhere, that was, except her home. Oddly, when Winter was home, the stray cat never lingered.

She shook the cobwebs 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.

Download today from Desert Breeze Publishing or Amazon.

Animal Instinct – Animal Helpers

     Each of the Heartmark women has an animal helper, and so does the man meant for them. Dr. Al’s animal helper is modeled after my own sweet calico cat. Meet ChaCha.IMG_0606

Excerpt:

     ChaCha made an entrance, sauntering toward Allison, winding between her feet, pressing against her, then turning haughtily to stare at Meredith.
“You just can’t trust a man, any man. They are…” Mer’s ramble stumbled to a halt. She pointed at the Calico, now seated by Allison’s foot, still staring. She came to her feet, sputtering.
“Send that cat outside. You know she gives me the creeps.”
The rude tone jangled and raised the hair on the back of Allison’s neck. She shivered. When Allison didn’t respond, Meredith began to talk again. As always.
“She is evil, I tell you.” Meredith stepped toward ChaCha, hands extended as if she was going to pick up the cat.
The cat came up on all fours, arched her back, fur standing up along her spine. She looked about three times her size, and didn’t break eye contact with her arch enemy.  “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
Allison kept her voice even but inside she was seething. ChaCha was the sweetest, most mellow cat she had ever known. The cat evil? What about the woman stalking her? “This is her house, Mer. Let her be.”
She stepped in front of the cat, a mug of tea in each hand, and nodded toward the table.
“Sit. We have time for a couple of biscotti each before I have to get ready for work.”

Download today from Desert Breeze Publishing or Amazon.

Nick receives the Sgian Dybh

She struggled with all her might. The man atop her laughed, then leaned in, his chapped lips aiming for hers. She squeezed her eyes shut, twisting her neck away from him until her cheek scraped against the forest floor.

“Omph!”

The kiss she thought she would have to endure did not come. The monster’s weight lifted from her in blessed relief. She pushed herself to her feet, darting a look at the two other tormenters, who stood with their mouths agape at the sight before them.

An avenging angel had come to her rescue.

A wide leather thong tied back shoulder length blond hair. Slightly darker whiskers hugged a strong, determined face. He was tall and lean, and his fists pummeled the man until he collapsed into an unmoving mass on the forest floor.

Sabrina hugged herself, unable to take her eyes off her rescuer, whose violet eyes shown with a fierceness which should have terrified her, yet didn’t.

His gaze swung to the other two men, and, with a start, they both shot a panicked look to their fallen comrade.

“Take him.”

Two words, softly spoken, sent a shiver up her spine.

His command startled them into motion. They tripped over themselves getting to their cohort. Grabbing him under his arms they hoisted him to his feet. With looks of stunned disbelief to her rescuer they fled into the forest as fast as they could with their senseless burden.

Sabrina sat up and leaned against a tree. The adrenalin that had sustained her through this latest ordeal began to seep out of her, leaving her weak and trembling. She sucked in air to her lungs, then blew it out, doing her best to fight back tears.

The danger was over, her first kiss had not been stolen from her against her will, and there was no reason for tears now.

Her champion’s eyes met hers and her breath caught in her throat.

He really was the most beautiful man she’d ever seen. The beast he’d rescued her from had not landed even a single blow to him, and his perfect face was one that must surely make angels weep with envy.

And those eyes.

They were stunning and unique, a violet that would rival the most spectacular sunset, generously fringed with thick dark lashes.

Something, a vague familiarity, tugged at her mind and she shook the sensation away.

Sabrina pushed to her feet and moved away from the tree on legs not quite steady to stand before the man. “Thank you.”

Piercing eyes met hers, a flash of what could have been regret crossed his face to be replaced with a resigned set of his lips. “Are you harmed?”

His voice was deep, the tone soothing and oddly unsettling at the same time. Her pulse raced and heat rose to her cheeks. Knowing she must look a fright, she put a self-conscious hand to her hair and nodded. “Just some bruises and scrapes, nothing broken.” She dropped her gaze, then glanced at him through her lashes. “And nothing taken from me that should nay have been, thanks to you.”

He nodded, clearly understanding the meaning of her words and the intent of her assailants.

“It’s good I happened by when I did,” he said under his breath.

She nodded. “Aye, it is.” She glanced through the trees where the men had disappeared. “Do you think they’ll come back?”

His lips compressed. “Aye, I imagine so, likely with reinforcements.”

She bit her lip. “I was afraid you’d say that.”

Sabrina looked around, realizing although she was relatively safe at this moment, if her original captors knew she had escaped, they could be searching for her.

“What is it?”

She bit her bottom lip. “Um, well, I thank you for your assistance.” Sabrina could not meet his eyes, so instead stared at the dusty tops of his boots. “But, um, I really have to get going now. There may be, er, others searching for me, and I would rather not be found again.”

“Others?”

Miserable, she nodded. “Aye, others.”

He took hold of her shoulders, ducked his head down a little so he could catch her eyes with his. “You were assaulted twice?”

She nodded, wishing he were not so upset on her behalf. “Four times, all told, in less than a fortnight.”

The grip on her shoulders tightened. His features hardened and he narrowed his eyes.

She gave him a small smile. “Then rescued by a stranger.”

Sabrina’s heart lurched and she slapped both hands over her mouth. Her father’s dying words drifted through her mind like a gentle breeze.

“Give the man who rescues you the Sgian Dybh, daughter. I was supposed to find a deserving man to receive it, but now you must do so. The one who saves you, Sabrina. He will be your destiny.”AnimalInstinctCoverArt72dpi_1 cropped 2

She stared at the man, her eyes so wide the cold air stung them. “It’s you.”

Dark brows made a v of puzzlement. “Pardon?”

She scanned the forest floor. “I have to give you something.”

Thank goodness her attackers hadn’t noticed when the dagger slipped from the strap on her thigh. She spotted her dagger and shrugged out of his hold to retrieve the small weapon.

She held the Sgian Dybh in both palms, savoring the significance of what she was about to do.

She prayed he would also.

Sabrina cleared her throat. “My name is Sabrina Bridges.” She met his gaze fully. “I’m a miss, nay a lady.”

It was important he know that, least he feel ill at ease in her presence.

His simple clothing, clean, yet many times mended if the patches were any indication, marked him the same social status as she herself. She let out a sigh of relief that there’d be no social restrictions to hinder their relationship and smiled up at him.

He returned her smile, his eyes wary. “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Bridges.” He said. “I’m-“ He cleared his throat and his eyes shifted somewhere over her left shoulder. “I’m Nick.”

A small smile tugged at her lips. “Just Nick?”

Color touched his cheeks through what looked like a few days growth of whiskers and he shrugged a broad shoulder. “Aye, just Nick.”

She smiled to herself. He must be very shy.

She met his eyes and held her palms toward him. The amethyst jewel at the center of the bone handle seemed to shimmer and warmed her hands. “Nick, this Sgian Dybh belongs to you.”

He gave her a little smile. “No, Miss Bridges, it isn’t mine. Perhaps one of the other fellows dropped it?”

“No, it used to be mine. I mean it is yours now.” Her hands, still extended with the gift, began to tremble.

He shook his head and took a step back. “Miss Bridges, I cannot take your dagger. I can, however, teach you how to use it to protect yourself.”

Confused by the change of topic she fought back a flutter of panic his rejection brought on and took a step toward him, grasping his hands.

With the reverence deserving of this moment she placed the dagger into them. “It was my father’s, but now it’s yours, Nick.” She curled her hands around his, tightening his hold on the dagger. “Don’t you see? You saved me. You’re the deserving one.”

Available August 11 at Amazon or Desert Breeze Publishing.