Survival Instinct

Speculative, Futuristic Romance

Check out a scene of Survival Instinct, the second in the Time After Time Saga, this one set in 2020 in San Francisco.

Excerpt:

Winter dug her key out of her pocket. The light was out again and it took a couple of tries before she hit the keyhole.

She turned the handle and stepped over the threshold when that pesky stray cat shimmied between her legs and into her apartment. “Hey, you!”

“Miss Parker?”

Winter just kept her squeak of surprise in her throat as the UPS guy appeared behind her, a little breathless from the climb up her stairs, and handed her a small package.

He nodded his head and started back down the steps. “Have a nice day.”

“You too, thanks.”

She closed the door and secured it, then frowned at the plain brown wrapper. Her frown turned into a smile as she read the return address.

It was from Grandma Allison.

She winced. She had meant to call her back that morning she’d been drugged. She knew her grandmother would wonder why Winter had called for the first time in five years, and had not said anything…

A sense of urgency was settling on her now, though. She did not know how long they would wait before making good their threat against her grandmother.

Meow.

Winter looked down at the cat. “You are really starting to annoy me, cat,” she said, then reached down and scratched the now purring feline under its neck.

The purring increased and Winter picked the too thin cat up. She took it into the small kitchenette and rummaged around until she found a can of tuna. With a quick flick of the pull tab the scent of fish wafted out and the cat hopped out of her arms and onto the counter where Winter set the food. She nosed the tuna gingerly, gave it a few licks, then began to bite into it in earnest. Well, she looked like she needed every bite.

Winter leaned against the counter and sipped a beer  while the cat scarfed down dinner, then picked it up, carrying it and the package to the sofa. She set the package on the side table then looked at the cat in her lap. “It seems you’ve decided to adopt me,” she murmured. “You’ll have to pardon me, but if you’re going to hang your mittens here, little kitten; I’m going to have to know if you’re a boy or a girl.”

Winter lifted the cat, saw what she needed to see, then put her back onto her lap. “Girl then. I hope you’re fixed. Last thing I need in my life right now are kittens. Or a big vet bill. Well, I’ll have to have you checked over, shots, let’s hope not spaying too.” She sighed. Never a month without an unexpected bill of some sort.

The cat seemed to take offence, and with what could only be described as a glare, she hopped off Winter’s lap to jump onto the cushions at the bay window.

Winter’s lips twitched. “I’m just sayin.'”

She reached for her package. “You know,” she said to the cat, “it would have been better all-around if I had inherited Grandmother Allison’s love for animals and went into veterinary sciences instead of Grandfather Sean and Dad’s passion for law enforcement.” She sighed and ripped off the wrapper of her grandmother’s package. “Maybe if I had, I would not be in this mess right now.”

Winter frowned at the cat. Could a cat smirk? Because this little calico seemed to be smirking.

Hmm.

Letting the wrapping fall at her feet, she tugged off the strings tying on the lid and peered into the box.

Her breath caught and goosebumps exploded over her skin. The Heartmark on her wrist tingled and she rubbed it absently. It was the diary. The diary. She’d seen it once, but had heard about since she could remember and she had wanted nothing to do with, ever.

And now here it was sitting on her lap, as pretty as you please, at a time when her life was in a full-fledged crises mode.

This was the last thing she needed.

Her grandmother’s voice sounded in Winter’s ears, as if she were here in her living room with her. Winter could see her in her mind’s eye, Grandma Allison holding her cherished diary on her lap as she implored a young Winter, “I’m going to tell you what mySurvivalInstinctCoverArt great grandmother told me, Winter, so listen closely.” She instructed, “Someday you will meet a man who is different from all the others, a man who sets your heart to racing, your hands to trembling, and your mind to thinking about forever.” She paused, seemed to gather her thoughts. “He’ll be– irresistible.”

Her aged hands lovingly traced the frayed edges of the diary. “This may be hard for you to understand right now, child, but sometimes things can go wrong in love, even when the person you love loves you back. When that happens, this diary will guide you. Offer you strategies to help you overcome those obstacles and hold on to that love.”

She met her eyes and Winter wanted nothing more than to run away. “The words in this book will prove to be– enlightening. True love overcomes all obstacles. It’s as powerful as magic, Winter.” A faraway look came into her grandmother’s eyes. “My great grandmother told me this very thing and she was right.” She refocused her sharp blue eyes on Winter and reached out to pat her hand. “You can be happy, my dear. Believe it with everything you are when things get hard.” She held out the diary for Winter to take. “Trust in love, trust in your man, and trust in yourself. You’ll see.”

But Winter hadn’t seen. She hadn’t taken the offered diary. She’d wanted nothing to do with it. Or the family legend of love and loss and revenge. She closed her eyes, remembering the hurt that had shown in her grandmothers’ when she shook her head, pulled away, and ran from the room — from her heritage.

And she still didn’t want the thing. Why would her grandmother send her the diary? And why now? She was not in a relationship. Winter blew out a breath. She had never been in a relationship, so what good would an old diary giving advice on love do for her?

The cat left her perch in the window seat, landing with a thump and weaving her way to Winter’s side where she nudged then rubbed against Winter’s leg.

Meow.

“Is that all you can say?” she asked the cat, then reached down to pick her up. The diary slipped off her lap and landed on the hardwood floor with a thud. Winter gaped at the broach that tumbled out of a secret compartment somehow engineered into the diary itself.

The cat jumped off her lap and nosed the broach, seeming to try and push it towards Winter.

Winter’s goosebumps had goosebumps now and her hand trembled as she reached down to pick up the broach.

It was the most beautiful piece of jewelry she had ever seen. It was silver, with a Celtic knot design around the outside edge and cat carved into some different material at the center, with an amethyst eye and a circle of the purple stones surrounding it. It was clearly an antique and Winter wondered if it had also been passed down from generation to generation as the diary had been. The cat itself was carved into – could that be ivory?

She could find out. All she had to do was call her grandmother. She rubbed her finger near her neural cell chip under her skin behind her ear.

She should call her, really. Even if she was not ready to talk about what the diary and broach were supposed to mean, her grandmother would want to know they got to her safely.

And good manners, ingrained into her from the time she was born, demanded she thank her for the gift.

Resigned, Winter pressed the call button behind her ear and put her grandma Allison’s name in her mind. Within a few seconds, the hologram image of her grandmother, kneeling in her garden planting a beautiful purple flower, shimmered then hovered in the center of Winter’s living room.

To her grandmother’s credit, the elderly woman didn’t show any shock of getting a second phone call in a week from Winter, after five years of silence.

“There you are, dear.” Her grandmother said with a soft smile.

Her sharp gaze glanced around Winter’s living room, then rested on the cat by her feet and her smile widened. “I see you have your animal helper with you, just as you should.”

“Like” and follow the development of this series at our Facebook page. Check out another excerpt – the opening scene – on Tami Dee’s website.

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