Hey, everyone! I don’t have another western coming out until early summer when Cur will release. So, I was caught betwixt and between trying to decide whether to post a romantic scene from a backlist title to honor Valentine’s Day or share a scene from my urban fantasy series featuring a witch/healer named Missouri Hess. I decided to go with today’s date Friday the Thirteenth.
From~ Call Me Miz — Bitter Creek Holler, Book One.
Available Now: Call Me Miz
Synopsis:Masseuse, hedgewitch, healer… Although Missouri Hess can take pain and illness away with her touch, and pull truth from a liar every time, she considers her strange talents a curse. Being a healer is a lonely existence when the people you help, shun your truth-telling side. Nevertheless when misery calls, Miz is compelled to answer.
Thomas Hunter is a government agent and a member of an elite Special Forces team—emphasizing the word special. In human form, Thomas is a mouth-watering hunk of rippling muscles. Since he’s in Bitter Creek Holler to meet the local werewolves, he’s spending most of his time prowling the woods as a jaguar, ready to greet shifters in parlay or meet the enemy with fang and claw.
But Thomas doesn’t know the area, or realize until too late, that he’s become prey. When Miz rescues his furry form from a conibear trap, the beast in him claims her as his own. It’s up to Thomas to work out the details and convince the bewitching healer she’s his mate.
Miz mounted her bike and took off, bound for 3-G’s, the town’s 24-hour gas, grocery and grill. This time of night, the kitchen was closed but she’d replace the lost creamer and return home in time to enjoy a cup of fresh coffee while she watched the sun rise.
As she rounded the curve in the narrow road leading to the store, the full moon made her Harley’s headlight redundant. Beneath her, the bike’s quiet thrum lent a comforting base to the otherwise still night, and almost content, Miz inhaled, savoring the pungent scent of honeysuckle and West Virginia pine.
Dammit—no… regardless of her bitter response, her hands had begun to pulse and she was already tuned to the silent cry of misery calling her. When the gift that cursed her, reared its ugly head, her personal desires didn’t count.
Though it was a pathetic attitude for a healer, Miz wanted to gnash her teeth and snarl; she never attended a healing willingly, but by damn she always attended.
After she parked her bike, climbed down the sloping drainage ditch that separated the road from the trees, entered the wooded area, and batted at the low hanging branches blotting out the moon, she switched on her flashlight and muttered a promise.
“Oh goddesses of moonlight, healing, crop growing, fish swimming, trees, air, sky, earth and any other frigging thing you want to claim—hear me. If my ass gets eaten by a damned bear out here, you’ll be sorry.”
Her stupid threat had Miz hoping the deities up there were asleep. Damn this shit. It better be the frigging President of the United States I’m saving. The flashlight she gripped in her hand now pointed like a divining rod that had just sensed an underground stream.
Oh for God’s sake. Miz looked down at the animal tucked deeply in shadows. Had the light from her flashlight not reflected off a glint of metal, she might have missed the big cat caught in a conibear trap.
He snarled weakly as her light played over his form, but his fierce gaze threatened death to her if she came closer.
“Well as to that, boyo, it’s not me who needs help,” Miz murmured grimly, walking around the animal caught in the deadly snare. She squatted on her heels and laid her hand on the huge back paw. The cat flinched under her touch, flexing its claws, retracting them, then spreading them again.
She studied the beast. It was a big male of an indeterminate species, his golden pelt dotted with black rosettes. Not something she would have thought to find in the Appalachian Mountains. On the other hand, she didn’t know much about what roamed the woods here about. But, even as she watched, the beast’s chest heaved, fighting for air.
Regardless of his kind, the fact remained that unless she freed the animal soon, the lethal jaws clamping him in a body grip were going to squeeze the life from him.
“Nope, can’t let that happen.” She ripped the strings from her boots and squatted next to the trap spring.
“Got your ass caught tonight, didn’t you, Sunny?” She laid her hand on his hip and talked shit in a soothing voice. “I just want it understood after I rescue your sorry hide, you’ll leave me alone.”
She met his gaze. He seemed intelligent. “You look smart enough. I’m surprised you—” A low rumble interrupted her nervous chatter.
She dragged a thick branch close enough to grab, not sure whether it was for the rescue attempt or protection from the rescued afterward. Then using her boot strings to tie off the top spring, she pulled the string through the bottom spring loop and stood, hauling up until the spring was compressed and the trap temporarily lost its grip on the animal.
“Better get a move on, Sunny, I can’t hold this forever.” Miz hoped the beast could save himself, because she didn’t have a second set of hands to drag him clear.
As soon as the cat’s ribs were released from pressure, he grunted and twitched his tail angrily, struggling to get to his feet. Unable to stand, he dragged himself out of the metal jaws before he collapsed weakly on the ground and stared at her in misery.
“Well, mister. Misery’s my specialty. Let me have a look.” She murmured reassurances as she squatted over him, pressing her hands against his chest.
Whoa. Gray streaks of death swirled through the cat’s lungs, continuing to block his breathing.
“What in five hells is that? Some sonofabitch poisoned you, too?” What she was seeing inside the cat didn’t make a lot of sense. “Doesn’t matter. Whoever did it needs to have his ass kicked from here to Sunday.”
She lay her hands on him and spread heat through his body, her magic clearing the dark streaks from his lungs and healing the bruised muscles and ribs. She had no idea how long she remained connected to the beast. It felt like forever.
Without warning, the cat heaved himself to his feet, staggered for a moment, and then sat facing her. Miz landed on the thick branch she’d grabbed earlier. She shifted sideways, too stunned by the abrupt disconnect from her patient to do more.
They stared at each other. From its resting place in the brush, the flashlight illuminated him clearly. He was magnificently beautiful, his fur a bright spot of molten gold in the otherwise dark night. She frowned and told him, “You sure ain’t from these parts, Sunny.”
He chuffed and stared at her from amber eyes tinged with red.
“Just keep in mind, we had an agreement.” She closed her fingers around the branch, ready to use it as a club if need be. Unfortunately, she rather desperately needed to puke.
She hated an audience, but it was a cat. He didn’t seem inclined to stop her when she levered herself up with the branch, staggered to her feet, and stumbled to a pine tree. Leaning against it, she aimed for the bushes, and vomited for the second time that day. Beads of sweat made her body shiver and her teeth chattered as if it were a cold night instead of hot and humid.
She retched until she was wrung inside out. Finally done heaving, Miz collapsed, sliding down the tree trunk to sit with her back against it and her knees up, facing the animal. His head cocked sideways as he returned her stare. She couldn’t read his expression but it seemed more curious than mean.
“That was some nasty stuff you had in you, Sunny. I’d be watchin’ what I eat, from now on, ‘twas it me,” she drawled. Then not feeling energetic enough to move, Miz closed her eyes. “You need to go away, now.”
He was so quiet she didn’t feel his presence until his breath brushed hot against her cheek. She opened her eyes in time to see his big maw come at her. She’d always heard you watched your life pass like a movie when you faced death, but all she could think was, Fuck!
He nudged her head to the side, almost gently. She thought he was going to nuzzle her like a house cat. Actually, he was purring. It made Miz smile, she almost laughed out loud when his whiskers brushed her neck.
“Would you freaking get off me,” Miz muttered, trying to shove the cat away from her. She squirmed, not getting far, since the cat had a front paw on either side of her, pinning her against the tree with his head.
He swiped her cheek with his tongue, another strange sensation. It was rough, abrasive. The half scared nervous laugh she’d been trying to hold back escaped and came out sounding like an insane giggle that became a screech. Go figure. At the same moment, she’d laughed, he bit her shoulder.
Dammit, that hurt. The pain cleared her fuddled brain and shocked her limbs into motion. She punched the cat in the nose with her fist.
He snorted, shook his head, then butted her arm as though telling her to get up.
“Fine,” she groaned, grabbing the branch and the flashlight that still pointed at them from where she’d tossed it.
She wanted to run like hell through the woods, but leaned on her make-shift crutch and hobbled along instead. Though he kept to the shadows, she felt the presence of the cat until she left the trees to climb the steep slope leading to the road. It took her a while, but she finally managed to reach her bike and mount. Wearily, she strapped on her helmet and started the Harley.
The engine purred beneath her like a sleek cat as he stepped from the tree line into the moonlight. Powerful muscles rippled beneath a tawny pelt and his head seemed massive when he turned to stare at her. Miz could see he’d recovered quite well. Nice to know he felt fine. She felt like crap.
“Thanks for nothing,” she whispered gruffly. He snorted, curled his lip at her, and disappeared, while she returned home without the coffee creamer that had been her reason for the trip.
Just another crazy adventure to add to the insanity of my life. But when Miz sat on her porch, waiting for the sun to rise and drinking coffee whitened with milk, she touched the bite mark on her shoulder.
Not so much as a bump remained. She went to the bathroom inside and peered into the mirror, inspecting the wound. Only there wasn’t anything there. Nothing. Nada.
She returned to the outside and crossed to her bike, reassured when she felt the heat from the engine. She hadn’t lost her mind. What had happened had been real. But the absence of an animal bite made no sense. The one thing Miz had never been able to heal was herself.