Win a free copy of Out of Agony in Paperback

OutOfAgonyCoverArtOut of Agony, Book 4 in the Starting Over Series, is now available in paperback.

Brian Van Pelt has barely survived an anguished year of loss, hiding his sorrows under the facade of a cool and uncaring attorney. Not able to deny his grief any longer, heartache drives him to collapse and his life takes an unexpected turn.

When Jessie Ingram comes to work at his law firm, she is intrigued by the conflicting darkness of Brian’s behavior and the tender inconsistencies that hint at something deeper within him.

Despite her interest, she has her own pain, supporting her niece Sara, who has a virulent cancer with aggressive treatments that take such a toll they wouldn’t be worth it — except they are Sara’s only hope of survival.

Will life’s hardships bring Brian and Jessie together? Will they be able to heal and possibly find love?

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Animals help make the story – but Therapy Cats?

Excerpt from Out of Agony:IMG_0606

The World’s Best Cats and Kittens boasted long, screened enclosures with cats and kittens everywhere. An older woman greeted them at the office door. She was thin and spry with grey hair pulled back, and dangling earrings providing a splash of color. She tucked a yellow tabby under one arm and reached out to shake Jessie’s hand with a firm grip. A grey cat draped over her shoulders and peeked around at Jessie in curiosity.

“Lots of people bring us their kittens, and we work hard to place them all. Neutering and nursing the animals, and finding homes, is full-time work. I’m so glad you came here. I know we can find what you want.”

“We need a therapy cat,” Sara spoke up. “I have cancer and the nurses say a cat will help me get better.”

The woman reached out a hand to clasp Sara’s. “They will help, I promise. I am a cancer survivor myself, and I credit the cats with getting me well. Come on, let’s go see which ones you like.”

Ones? Oh-oh. If she thought they would take more than one cat…

“I have an idea. Let’s see what you think.” She led them, not to the enclosures, but into the house. “There is a little runt here. Some of the other cats picked on him, especially while he was recovering after his operation, and one of the mama cats adopted him. I keep them in here so she doesn’t have to defend him quite so fiercely.”

Curled up together on the top of a short platform lay a calico cat and a black kitten with white paws. When Sara approached, the kitten looked up at her, stood, stretched, and reached for her with one paw as if to say “pick me.” When she stroked his head, he leaned into her, pressing close and purring loud enough Jessie could hear him a few steps away.

“Oh, look Aunt Jessie, he loves me.” The calico cat looked on and nudged Sara’s other hand.

“Oh, and she loves me, too.” She had a cat under each hand and pure joy radiated across her face.

“Do you think he would adjust to a leash?”

“I’m sure of it. Watch.” The woman picked up two small harnesses. She stretched the first over the calico’s head, and the second over the black kitten’s. She buckled them both in place.

Sara kept petting them.

“I’ve already trained them to accept the harness. It’s the biggest step. Cats are so flexible, they can get away from any collar if they really want to, even if it means breaking the break-away latch.”

She eyed Sara for a second. “Why don’t you sit down and let’s see what they do.” Sara obeyed, perching on the edge of a chair. Immediately both cats hopped down from the platform and approached her. The little one meowed loudly and hopped up beside her. The older one, though quieter, acted just as determined to stay right beside Sara. How would she choose between the two?

“Good, they both are very interested in staying with you.” The woman clipped a short leash to each collar and let it dangle. So far so good. She handed the leash ends to Sara.

“Don’t get in a hurry, but when you are ready, hold one leash in each hand and stand up. If they stay calm, walk toward me and we’ll see what happens.”

Sara talked to the cats for another few moments, then stood. Both cats jumped down, one on each side of her. They didn’t seem bothered by the leashes at all. She looked up at the woman standing across the room. When she nodded, Sara began to walk slowly toward her.

The two cats fell in step beside her.

“Amazing!” Awe filled Jessie. She’d expected a real fight with the cats.

“Well, you can reinforce their good behavior.” The woman handed some treats to Sara, who in turn fed one to each cat.

“It also helps if they get to go somewhere interesting when they are on leash. I am sure their new home will be interesting to them.” She smiled benevolently at her little charges, like a proud grandma. “I thought these two would be naturals. Ready to write up the paperwork and adopt them?”

Them? She was trying to get them to take both cats. Jessie didn’t have the heart to make Sara choose. They were both so cute and so loving to Sara. Clearly the cats loved each other. It wouldn’t be fair to separate them.

“Sara?”

Her niece nodded happily, dropped into a seat, and gathered the two cats into her arms.

“Did you hear? Blackie, you and your mama get to come home with me. Mama, you can take care of your baby in your new home. And take care of me, too.”

John and Phyllis would probably kill her. Not one cat, but two, added to their already hectic household.

Out of Agony is available July 21 from Desert Breeze Publishing and Amazon.com.