A First Kiss – Winter and Mike

SurvivalInstinctCoverArt (2)She nodded. “I figure even after I offed you, they would pin the murder on me to get me off planet. My hope was they would at least leave my grandmother alone.”

He shook his head. “You were really going to kill me?”

She scowled at him. “You know, you’re wasting an awful lot of energy on that. I’m thinking it’s pretty much a moot point now. It’s time to let it go.”

His lips pressed firm, then in a move she didn’t see coming, his head swooped down and those tense lips were pressed on hers.

The kiss was angry, exasperated, exploratory, and gentle — all at once. The shock of it quickly faded and heat, which was unfamiliar and just a bit overwhelming, coursed through her as his lips continued their sensual assault.

Sensations pooled low in her belly, her heart thumped so hard she feared it would thump its way right out of her chest, and her hands, palms pressed to the twitching muscles of his chest, had gone sweaty.

Wow, so this was kissing?

If she’d known it would be so life altering, she would have let herself be kissed way before now.

A gentle nip had her lips parting and his tongue swept inside her mouth and her brain took a long awaited holiday.

She was a mass of feelings, with no thoughts to interfere or second guess the attraction which had ignited even during the fight at the police station when she thought she was wrestling the enemy.

She wanted more.

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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.

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Mike’s First Impressions of the Grown Up Winter

Survival Instinct — Book 2 of the Time After Time Saga, is set in the future in San Francisco.SurvivalInstinctCoverArt

Because Mike and Winter have known each other all their lives, there isn’t exactly a first meeting scene, but here is their first grown-up meeting:

Mike found her at her captain’s desk. The blue light of the flashlight reflected off the no-glare, paper-white computer monitor and showed her face, casting sharp shadows over the planes and valleys of her features. Her pin light was clenched in her teeth, and she murmured around it, likely speaking into her neural cell memo pad.

Not giving himself time to overthink, or her a chance to notice she was no longer alone, he sprung, taking her down to the floor with a forearm to the front of her neck and an arm around her tiny waist.

She had not seen him coming.

He reached inside her jacket and unclipped her weapon from its holster, pulling it out and shoving it into the waist of his jeans at the small of his back.

The pin light landed with a loud clang on the tile floor and its light popped, leaving the small office in complete darkness.

Mike had the advantage, of course, not only having surprise on his side, but his size and the fact he could see whereas Winter was blind.

Nether spoke, only fought.

Mike’s view of her glowed green with his night vision contacts. Her body moved like poetry in motion, her focus was absolute, her chin set and determined. Blind or not, she fought him like a wild cat. Her Tai-Chi was expert, she was clearly using the sound of his breathing to ‘see’ him and landed some outright painful hits and major kicks to his body with her size five combat boots before he’d had enough and slammed his full weight on her, pinning her to the floor.

“I have a name!” she shouted. “Call J. D. off from my grandmother now!”

Mike stilled.

What?

“I’ve already logged Baker’s name in my memo pad, and set up automatic email delivery of it from my Neural cell.” she tried to knee him. “My Neural stops transmitting, those emails will hit every law enforcement agency and news station on the west coast.”

Her eyes narrowed. He knew she could not see him but that didn’t stop her from glaring, then her full lips pulled into a smirk and admiration welled within him for her courage and nerve.

“You are so screwed,” she scoffed. “You guys dropped the ball bringing J.D. within your corrupt little fold. He’s weak. You know he’s your teams’ weak link, that’s probably why you put him on granny duty. It won’t take anytime at all during interrogation for the threat of penal colony 867 to get to him. I can see it now. He turns on all of you to keep himself earth bound!”

Pieces of the puzzle fell into place while she yelled. Yes, he’d seen her talking to the key suspects this past week, but from what she was saying now, thinking she was being attacked by one of the bad guys, it was glaringly clear she had known about the corrupt cops and had been chatting them up to get a handle on who all was involved, the same as he had been.

Knowing what he did of the Parkers’ little girl, she likely planned to take down the rogue cops single-handedly.

He squared his shoulders, clinched his teeth in determination. She wouldn’t have to now. No, now she had him in her corner. Although, she didn’t know it yet, they would somehow gather the evidence they needed to positively confirm the identity of the twelve preps he’d tagged, and stop them in their dirty tracks.

Relief her impromptu speech had cleared her as a suspect distracted him. Mike swallowed as she continued to thrash beneath him, his body responded accordingly even though his mind was far removed from the physical.

Winter Parker was a victim, not a villain.

Against all odds, her grandmother had somehow become another victim.

Their interest in Winter and her grandmother didn’t make any sense that he could see.

It was high time he asked her what was going on.

“Listen to me, Winter,” he hissed in her ear. “We don’t have much time before they override your block on the doors.”

She went perfectly still and quiet.

He pressed his advantage, easing his weight off her just a bit. “We need to talk, and I think it’s in both our best interests if we are not found here together until we compare notes.”

She frowned at him, her eyes narrowed. “Who are you?”

Sounds of doors unlocking clicked through the building, the lights flickered then snapped on.

He blinked twice to set his contacts into normal mode and Winter, her ice blue eyes haunted and huge, stared unblinking at him.

His lips pulled into a half smile. “It’s Mike, Winter, Mike Hunter. And we’ve got to get out of here.”

Animal Helpers key to story

 

Mike’s Helper appears …71916925269910592_1wlk4eov_b

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.SurvivalInstinctCoverArt

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?”

IMG_0606He 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.”

Comment for a chance to win a free download of the first of the Time After Time Saga, Animal Instinct. Like us on Facebook. And come back tomorrow for more leading up to our April 11 release.

Meet Mike, Hero and home town boy…

Winter ran away from home…but home caught upSurvivalInstinctCoverArt

She glanced up and saw their reflection in the mirror hanging over the dresser. She had to admit, they made a striking image sitting together like they were. She ran a finger over her blacking left eye, and then turned to scowl at the man who had blackened it. She was almost certain it had been his elbow that had caught her.

Apparently he had not been as focused on his thoughts as she had assumed, or maybe his thoughts were somehow following hers. He turned to her and ran a surprisingly gently forefinger over the bruised flesh under her eye. “I just wanted to stop you, not hurt you.”

She jerked a shoulder, oddly unnerved by his softer side.

Hometown boy. Never. Nope. No way.

“How’d you see me anyway?” she asked. “You didn’t have night goggles on.”

He blinked his big gold eyes and she frowned at him.

He smiled, a chuckle accompanied the gesture and her stomach did a funny little dip. “Part of my top of the line spy package,” he told her. “Contacts. Two rapid blinks night vision, three blinks heat sensor, four, normal mode.”

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

He 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.

To be continued tomorrow, when you will meet Mike’s Animal Helper

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Animal Helper “Scat Cat” from Survival Instinct

Each Time After Time book includes a helper from the animal kingdom.  Meet Winter’sIMG_0606

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.

SurvivalInstinctCoverArtEverywhere, 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.

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 apartment on the third floor of one San Francisco’s Victorian ‘Painted Ladies’, 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.

AnimalInstinctCoverArt_1“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.”

Winter had had enough. She was late to work, and she’d been drugged twice. She was going to drag herself into the precinct late and looking like — she glanced at the cat again — like something the cat dragged in, and everyone one would put it off to too many drinks last night.

Download on April 11 to read the rest of this story.  Or read about Winter’s grandmother, Dr. Allison Green, a veterinarian who also bore the Heartmark and was fated to face the enemy who chases the women of the Heartmark through time.

Love in the Midst of Turmoil – Detective Forced by Crooked Cops

SurvivalInstinctCoverArtWill Winter be forced to do their bidding?

Winter tried to shake herself awake. She was standing, barely, kept on her feet by two sets of meaty hands lodged under her armpits.

It took a moment to realize the roaring in her ears was coming from the Pacific Ocean.

She blinked the ocean into focus, and then turned her gaze to the semi-circle of people in front of her.

They were all tall. She counted ten of them in the dawn light, an even dozen counting the two holding her upright, all dressed in hooded police-issue rain gear. The cloth badges glued over their hearts were getting soaked with the mist and the steady, light downfall of rain.

The sound of rain hitting plastic filtered through her stunned brain, and she glanced down at herself.

She was also completely covered with her hooded rain gear.

What was going on?

She tried to make her mouth work, but it was dry and her vocal cords were tight, barely allowing air into her lungs, much less allowing her to speak.

One of the officers at the center of the pack stepped forward. As with the others, she could not see his face through the deep plastic hood.

He reached to his throat and flicked a switch on a VDB, a voice disguising box. “The drug we used to knock you out makes it impossible for you to speak. All you have to do during this little staff meeting is listen.”

Her hood was jerked off her head by the man on her left, and her eyes widened at the leader’s words.

She’d been drugged? Her heart thundered within her breast in panic. She struggled to assess if or how they had harmed her.

He laughed, the sound altered to a robot-like cackle, rather than a person; making it  impossible to identify the speaker or even if be sure he was a man.

“No, not that drug.” He smirked. “We haven’t spent the night taking advantage of you. That would be unethical and we are all sworn to uphold the law.”

Was he serious, or was sarcasm lacing his words?

Her mind raced as the effects of the drug lessened by the moment.

Twelve men, police officers, if the speaker were to be believed, had drugged her and rendered her voiceless.

Why?

“There’s a small task we have decided only you can take care of for us.”

She frowned at him. The cold rain plastered her hair to her scalp and ran into her eyes and down her face, dripping from her chin. Her heart raced so fast she was surprised it didn’t beat out of her chest.

The metallic taste of fear filled her dry mouth and her stomach did a slow churn.

Her knees buckled and the hands holding her up tightened so she could not slip out of their hold.

She was going to have bruises the size of hams when this was over.

“There’s a reporter in town.”

Something in the cadence of his words seemed familiar. Did she know her attackers?

“He is doing some… shall we say investigating…, on our little band here.” The leader’s arm swept out to encompass the other officers. “Your task it to find out what he knows about us and make sure any incriminating information is destroyed, before you get rid of him.”

She frowned at him and shook her head, completely at a loss. Why would a reporter investigate a group of officers? What had they done to warrant the notice of the press?

She tried to ask, to make her vocal cords relax enough to get the questions through.

The hooded officer standing next to the leader reached to his throat and flicked a switch on his VDB. “She doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about.”

The leader nodded. “Then perhaps we should spell it out for her.”

Five officers took three steps to the left and the other five men of the semi-circle took three steps to the right. There, on the sand, was the lifeless body of the creep who had come on to her last night. Eyes she had stared down in the bar mirror were now glazed with death and sightlessly fixed on her.

Download and read April 11 from Desert Breeze Publishing.

Time-traveling enemy in San Francisco

Counting down to April 11 release of Survival InstinctSurvivalInstinctCoverArt

Meet Winter, Allison and Sean’s grandaughter from the very end of Animal Instinct, the first in the Time After Time Saga with Tami Dee.

She pushed her hair behind her ears and glanced down, considering her faded jeans, black tee, short, silver studded black leather jacket, and beat up black combat boots. It was her usual off duty attire. There was no reason they couldn’t be her working clothes too.

The other detectives had their own distinct looks, mostly casual, comfortable, but each look uniquely their own. They already ribbed her about her fresh, small town girl face, with a body to pull off a sexy as sin; bad girl, biker image. However, that was their take on her appearance, not particularly hers.

In all fairness; the good natured teasing  she had endured for the past five years may have stemmed from that first day, when she roared into the police academy parking lot on a Harley.

She had picked up the hog the same day she’d arrived in San Francisco.

Some guy down on his luck had been trying to sell it. She’d offered him five hundred dollars cash and he’d snapped it up.

Granted, it had looked like a hunk of junk. She allowed herself a wry smile. It still looked a hunk of junk for that matter, but it ran, and that’s all that mattered to Winter.

She chuckled at the memory, especially her ‘crash course’ in learning to ride the thing. Amazingly, she hadn’t killed herself or broken anything.


Survival Instinct releases April 11. Download from Desert Breeze Publishing.

Survival Instinct — Fantasy Romance Releases April 11

Enemy travels through time to destroy love for Heartmark womenSurvivalInstinctCoverArt

Product Description

Tough as nails San Francisco homicide detective Winter Parker runs fast and far to escape ancient threats of revenge, and small town torments. Can equally tough Special Agent Mike Hunter convince Winter to put aside her fears and take a chance on him and their small town?

Excerpt

The door to the small bath slammed open and Mike stood, both hands raised and clutching either side of the door frame in a white knuckle grip.

She sniffed and jerked her chin up. “You’re still here?”

His jaw clenched, he glared at her. “It’s going to take a lot more than you not caring a classmate was murdered to get rid of me.”

Her mouth dropped open.

His hands fell to his sides and he took the one step needed to be right in front of her. He towered over her and she instinctively leaned back, until her lower back was pressed against the smooth porcelain of the bathroom sink.

“The way I see it, Parker,” he growled, “is if you can hate so fiercely, then you will also love just as fiercely, and that’s the kind of woman I want loving me. Oh, and Parker,” he said. “Mark my words, I love you every bit as fiercely.”

His head lowered and he kissed the air right out of her lungs.

When he lifted his head she touched her kiss-swollen lips. “So, you don’t mind I’m not a nice person?”

He rested his forehead on hers and puffed out a half laugh. “I’m not such a nice person either, Winter.”

She shook her head in instant denial and he pressed a finger over her lips. “There are layers to me you cannot even guess at.” He lowered his head until they were nose to nose. “We’ll always have one another’s back, Winter. We’ll get married, and someday have a dozen or more not so nice children, who will make us pay for our raising.”

Download from Desert Breeze Publishing April 11. Learn more about Tami Dee from her website and don’t forget to download the first book in this series, Animal Instinct. Each book stands alone, but the entire series will capture your imagination and, if you are an animal lover, you will enjoy guessing what animal helpers will show up next.


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.