Thursday, October 21, 2021

Making Kilts--The Plot Thickens

 Wedding Bells, Pleated Kilts, and Plotting


Pleated Kilt Fabric
My daughter, Susan, who writes as Arwen Chandler, and I have been making kilts. My granddaughter is marrying a man of Scottish descent, and all the men in the wedding party are wearing kilts. So, we're making them. (Never say we do anything the easy way!)

The groom's kilt is black, while the officiant, groomsmen, and usher are wearing burgandy kilts. This is the first time we've made kilts, or anything else with pleats. We're also making two plaid kilts for the little ones who share ring bearer responsibility. 

It's been an experience. Basically, it took a week just to figure out the pattern instructions. I couldn't begin to tell you how many times we pleated and unpleated until we figured it out. Then we realized the instructions were incorrect, and they were all 10 inches too small in the waist. So, more adjustments.

Finally, we learned how to make them the right size, so the last two will be much easier than the others. While we were doing all this, making matching sporrans, and sock flashes, we spent time discussing plots.

Homemade Sporan for Scottish Wedding
Years ago, I started a science fiction series, The Griwaldy Chronicles that I never completed, based on The Viper Pit, a space opera short story. Susan has a series called the Pleiades Adventures, in which a female space pirate has adventures fighting against the Militarian, the military government in her quadrant of space. 

While talking about the two characters, my Captain Griwaldy and her Gwyn Casteliano, polar opposites, we thought about how fun it would be if somehow they met and had an adventure together. Well, not together, since they are on opposite sides. Someone wins, someone loses. We decided to go for it. We have about ten thousand words written in the book, so we're well on the way. 

Anyway, we started this collaboration months ago, and it was sidetracked due to so many different issues. Now, we've decided to go forward with it. Much of the time we spent pleating kilts, we spent talking through plot ideas and plot points. It won't come out this year, but hopefully, after I get two other projects completed, including Tala Ridge Hunt and Not For Sale, this series will be on the fast track. 

We're writing book one together. Then Susan will take her characters back to her quadrant of the universe for adventures. I will take my quadrant containing the Empire and write new adventures. The cross-over characters will occasionally pop into each other's stories. Hopefully, we'll have other book collaborations, too. All this will, of course, occur after the October 30th wedding.

Ariana is the first of Susan's children to marry, and my first grandchild to marry, so it's been a whirlwind to prepare. And, as stressful as it's been, and will be for another week, it's been fun to spend so much time with my daughter, talking, laughing, sewing, and plotting. Life is good.

Take care and stay safe,








Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series




Thursday, August 19, 2021

Panther's Task is a Puzzle

Panther's Task Jigsaw Puzzle

Panther's Task Puzzle


Panther's Task, now available on Amazon, is a puzzle!

Anytime I complete and publish a new book or short story, I enjoy making online jigsaw puzzles out of the covers.

I share these with my readers, and on the rare occasion when I forgot to get the puzzle done in a timely manner, my readers let me know!

Enjoy!

Blurb

Be careful what you wish for...

Good advice eighteen-year-old Adrian doesn't take.

When his best friend mates a dragon shifter and moves to another realm, Adrian feels a little lost.

When his younger sister is named heir to the queen, he wonders what his future holds for him.

All he wants is some adventure.

Then a human girl follows him into the woods asking for the impossible...


Take care and stay safe,







Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series




Monday, August 9, 2021

Panther's Task: A Short Story in the TRWP Panther Clowder

 Panther's Task

Panther's Task
Panther's Task, a new short story in the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack (TRWP) World: Panther Clowder series, is up for pre-order! 

If you prefer to wait until the actual sale date, you can get it on August 17!

Occasionally, throughout the rest of the year (2021), I plan to write and release short stories about the characters in the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series. 

This is Adrian Paddock's story.

Adrian is Marsha's older brother. 

Her story is in Panther's Choice and is alluded to in Panther's Task.

I am still working on Tala Ridge Hunt, but it's not at a place where I am confident in setting up a pre-order. 

Pre-order deadlines are firm and can't easily be changed, if at all. 


Blurb:

A Young Adult Paranormal Shifter Story

Be careful what you wish for...

Good advice eighteen-year-old Adrian doesn't take.

When his best friend mates a dragon shifter and moves to another realm, Adrian feels a little lost.

When his younger sister is named heir to the queen, he wonders what his future holds for him.

All he wants is some adventure.

Then a human girl follows him into the woods asking for the impossible...


Who's story do you want to see next? I still have lots of options for writing about the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack. Do you prefer to know more about the wolves or the panthers or the bears? What about the two bear-shifter girls that got caught up in the trafficking ring in Wolf's Queen

Let me know...

Take care and stay safe,


 






Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series




Thursday, July 15, 2021

Texas Ranch Wolf Pack: The Alpha King's Medallion

 Nate's Medallion


The Alpha's Medallion


Throughout the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack books, Nate wears his father's medallion which he was given in Wolf's Man.   

The exact appearance of the medallion isn't described, except that it is bronze. 

Since Snarl (Thorkell Leifsson), the ancient wolf shifter, is a Viking, the medallion is probably Norse. This medallion I found on Amazon looks about right.

The runes on this medallion are known as Vegvisir and were believed by the Vikings to protect and guide wayfarers.

This would make the Vegvisir work perfectly since Nate's father gave him the first one to protect him from the wolves hunting him. The other three he wears were spoils of the battle with his evil uncle in Wolf's Claim

In Wolf's Mission, Eli, Nate's foster- (later adopted-) brother also wears a medallion, though he can only wear one.

Is this similar to what you thought of when you read of Nate's medallion(s)? There are other possibilities below.

Other Possibilities

There are other designs that might work, too. Which is your favorite? The one above, or one of these?


Let me know which you think would work best.

Take care and stay safe,









Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series




Thursday, June 24, 2021

Book Review: Fight Like a Girl: Writing Fight Scenes for Female Characters

Fight Like a Girl

Writing Female Characters in Fight Scenes

Writing fight scenes is one of the most difficult aspects of writing fiction. Writing fight scenes for female characters is even more difficult. Especially, when you are not a trained fighter. If you're not careful, the scene comes across as a step-by-step, clinical action sequence rather than a cohesive, exciting encounter.

Fight Like a Girl is just what I needed to understand the difference in how men and women fight. The writing exercises give you a foundation to start with so that you aren't trying to pull a scene from the air while learning. 

She not only provides easy-to-follow examples, she critiques fight scenes in other books and explains why and how the attack or defense used would or would not work. And her humor makes a book that could be dry and boring fun to read.

Detailing the factual differences men and women use in fighting is so helpful. Due to being (usually) smaller and less strong than men, women just don't have the muscle mass to fight the same way men do. That doesn't mean women can't fight effectively, though. This book helps the untrained writer to write scenes that are realistic, yet exciting and engrossing.

I keep this book on my desk along with my other most used writing books.

Extract from Blurb:

Women are not men with mammaries. They don't approach, handle, or react to violence in the same way. Aiki Flinthart is a long-time martial artist, archer, knife-thrower, assault-survivor, and author of 11+ novels.

In Fight Like a Girl, she brings her own experience, plus the results of extensive research and interviews, to the table for fellow authors. 

Take care and stay safe,






Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series




Monday, May 31, 2021

Wolf's Heart Memorial Day Special!


Wolf's Heart Free Memorial Day - June 4!

#FATOP

Wolf's Heart is the story of how Jonathan, the Were King's Beta Wolf, meets his future mate. 

I've had several requests for the rest of Jonathan's story. They still have adventures to enjoy before getting together, but that story will come soon.

If you missed this story, or if you want to own it instead of reading a borrowed copy, click the link above or click the image at the right to get your copy.


Blurb:


Wolf shifters trusting vampires? Just not done. Or is it?


Wolf shifter Jonathan is on his way home from San Antonio when he finds a wrecked car with an unconscious woman behind the wheel.

Stacy, cold-blooded vampire that she is, quickly succumbs to the below-freezing temps after wrecking her car in an attempt to avoid hitting a doe.

She's never met a shifter before. Trusting him isn't a good idea.

The only vampire Jonathan ever met who didn't try to kill him was General Brighton. Trusting Stacy isn't smart.

Falling in love isn't smart, either.

Take care and stay safe,





Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series




Sunday, May 23, 2021

Tala Ridge Hunt Sneak Preview and Update

Tala Ridge Hunt Update

Tala Ridge Hunt Preview and Update

From my WIP, Tala Ridge Hunt:
“How’d you get away?”
“I used a you-can’t-see-me tarp to hide. We all used hunter’s spray to keep them from smelling us.” Jeffers peeked up at the Major, then ducked his head when anger flashed in the Major’s eyes.
“You just left them behind? You didn’t try to help your comrades?”
“Sir, they were too well guarded. I couldn’t get close, so I watched so I could report when I got to base. The wolves disarmed everyone and put them into a giant tent. Some Marine general came and talked with each of them, then they made them change clothes and remove all jewelry. They put them on buses and took them away. I don’t know where. I couldn’t get close enough to hear what they said.”
“Wait. They took off the rings?”
“Yes, Sir, Major, Sir.”
The Major’s eyes narrowed, and he glared at the private. “How long did you watch?”
“Until they gave the all-clear and the women and children came out of hiding.”
“How many children?”
“I don’t know, Sir. They aged from babies to late teens, though. There were several sets of twins. The alpha seemed really fond of a set of female twins.” He shrugged. “Maybe seven or eight years old.”
“His spawn?”
Jeffers shook his head. “No, Sir, at least I don’t think so. A blonde woman came out of the house carrying a baby girl. He kissed the woman and took the baby from her arms, so I think that was his mate.”
Major Baskett seemed lost in thought. After several long moments, he huffed and turned to face the front of the bus. Gable sighed and looked out the window again. Kids. Yes, if the Huntsmen were right…if shifters killed and ate humans, the kids had to die, too, but…kids. He didn’t think he could kill kids. Even as a matter of duty. Maybe it wouldn’t come to that.

Update and Other News


I can't provide a date for publication, yet. I'm still trying to get settled into my new home, but I am able to work on the book sporadically. Unfortunately, I am unable to lift or move heavy items right now, so I'm somewhat dependent on when my family can help.

Hopefully, by next week I'll be back to writing full-time. I have so many stories I want to write!

To find the Tala Ridge Shifters Series page, click here.

Take care and stay safe,







Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series




Friday, April 16, 2021

Happy Birthday: Gift for You


 It's My Birthday!

To celebrate, I giving away two ebooks, Wolf's Dragon and Tala Ridge Alpha. If you don't have a copy of these books, make sure to get it now. Click the image or the link to go to Amazon to get your copy.

Offer ends April 19, so hurry!






Other News


I love getting reader feedback and requests. It might take me a while to get around to them, but I put them on my list of things to write. Just one caveat: I am a discovery or pantser writer, which basically means I don't plot. I write 'into the dark' as taught by Dean Wesley Smith in his book Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline. I was thrilled to learn that the way I write is a 'real' and acceptable method used by other authors. :) 

I write with very little planning or plotting involved. That's why it sometimes takes me a while to write a book. Personally, I like learning the story as I write it. It keeps the writing fresh and fun.


I've been featured on eBookDaily

Back to writing!

Take care and stay safe,


Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series




Thursday, April 15, 2021

Kalene Williams' Narration

 Chapter One of Tala Ridge Alpha Narrated by Kalene Williams


Kalene Williams of Kalene's Story Time is a writer, an editor, and one of the admins of Keystroke Medium, a terrific Facebook group for writers. If you write or are interested in getting started in the indie author field, check out the Keystroke Medium YouTube channel for informative and helpful videos for writers. 

Kalene reads the first chapter or so of books submitted to her. I'm not sure of her criteria for selection, but I've enjoyed listening to the first chapters of the books she features. I've read several of them and have never been disappointed.

I am thrilled beyond words that Kalene selected Tala Ridge Alpha to read in her Kalene's Story Time. Thank you, Kalene!

Take care and stay safe,






Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series




Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Tala Ridge Storm Cover: An Online Jigsaw Puzzle

 

Tala Ridge Storm Cover is an Online Jigsaw Puzzle

My Online Jigsaw Puzzle Albums

Do you enjoy jigsaw puzzles? Have you tried online jigsaw puzzles? Not only can you put together puzzles others have created, but you can also create your own puzzles at Jigsaw Planet.com by uploading your own photos. 

Creating puzzles from my book covers is a bit of a tradition, now. Each time I publish a new book, I add the cover to one of my puzzle albums. 

At this point, I have three albums with a total of 31 puzzles: Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series, Tala Ridge Shifters Series, and the Clean, Sweet, Contemporary Romances Albums.

I'll be adding more puzzles soon.

Stop by and play a few. Have fun!

Take care and stay safe!

Lynn Nodima signature




Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series




Sunday, February 14, 2021

Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Paperbacks 20% Sale is over February 15, 2021

Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series
Sale Ends February 15th!

Hurry! Paperback Sale Ends Midnight February 15th!

In December, I put books 2-12 of my Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series paperbacks on sale for 20% off. The sale includes the large print edition paperbacks, too. The sale was supposed to run through December, then end on January 1. Life happened, and I didn't have time to make the changes, so I decided to run the sale through February 15.

February 15 is the last day for this sale. The books will return to their original pre-sale prices of $12.98 or $14.98, depending on the book. I will change the prices on the 15th, but the way it works with Amazon, it may be the 16th before the price changes take effect.

Get them while you can save 20%!

Take care and stay safe!

Lynn Signature




Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series




Friday, February 12, 2021

Tala Ridge Storm has Published and Cover Puzzle

Now Available on Amazon

Tala Ridge Storm: Book 2 in the Tala Ridge Shifters Series

Tala Ridge Storm, the second book in the Tala Ridge Shifters series, is now available on Amazon! 

This series is a serial series, meaning each book builds on the last book. To get the most enjoyment from Tala Ridge Storm, please read Tala Ridge Alpha first.

Both books are in Kindle Unlimited, so if you have a subscription to KU, you can read without more cost. 

If you don't and would like to consider it, check out the banner at the bottom of the post for a free 2-month trial.

Blurb:

The Black Forest Huntsmen are back...

Just when Terrell thinks everything is calming down, a white-out blizzard arrives hours before expected, stranding a busload of second-graders in the middle of nowhere.

Can the shifters of Tala Ridge arrive in time to prevent disaster?

And if they do, can they face what's coming?



Tala Ridge Storm Puzzle


One of my readers reminded me that the puzzle needed to be created for this cover. 


My apologies for not getting it done sooner. You can find the book cover puzzle at JigsawPlanet in the Tala Ridge Shifters Album, along with the rest of the covers for this series. 


If you enjoy online jigsaw puzzles, you can check out the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Album of puzzles, too. Or create your own puzzle using a favorite photograph.


Take care and stay safe!


Later,







Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series





Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Out-Take from Tala Ridge Storm



Writing Differing Points-of-View

Occasionally, when I am writing, I have trouble deciding who to make the point-of-view (POV) character for a scene or chapter. When that happens, I write the same scene from multiple viewpoints to see which works best.

While writing Tala Ridge Storm, I came to a section where I didn't know who I wanted to be the character through whom the story would be told. I wrote it from three different POVs. After reviewing them, I chose to keep two POVs, something I often do. However, Johnna's POV was overkill, so I decided to delete it. 

While I continue my editing on Tala Ridge Storm in preparation for publication later this week, I wanted to give you a chance to get a sneak peek.

This section is short, but I hope it is intriguing.

Out-Take of the Mountain Lion Battle

Jerking the zipper down, Johnna shimmied out of the sleeping bag, climbed down the side of the sleigh, and rushed toward the screams. A wall resolved out of the darkness. One hand on her weapon, the other hand sliding along the wall in case the wind picked up and started throwing snow around again, she hurried around the corner.

A lantern on the ground illuminated the scene. Her niece, Cally, cowered against a shed wall, eyes clenched shut. Six feet in front of her, four wolves fought a mountain lion. Another shimmered into Terrell and rushed to a smaller wolf. Ripped flesh and fur matted with blood gleamed blackly in the lantern light.

A fierce growl pulled her gaze back to the fight. One of the largest wolves jumped on the lion’s back, his jaws closing over the lion’s neck. His weight pushed the lion to the ground. The other wolves piled on top, forcing the lion to stay down. Shaking his head from side-to-side, the wolf snapped the lion’s neck. With a last snarl and a feline scream, the lion kicked twice, then stilled. A whimper pulled her gaze back to her niece.

“Cally!” Johnna dropped to her knees beside the girl and pulled her into her arms. “Cally, Sweetheart, are you okay?”

Cally peered at her through damp, overly bright eyes. “Aunt Johnna? You’re a wolf?”

“No, baby. I’m human, just like you.” Aunt Johnna rocked her, trying to calm her. “Shhh. Sweetheart. It’s over.”

“No!”

Terrell looked up from the wolf he held when Cally wailed and shook her head. “They’re gonna kill us, Aunt Johnna. Werewolves always kill the people who know about them!”




Other News

In the months ahead, I will be collaborating on projects with two authors who may be new to you. Stay tuned for more information.

Back to editing Tala Ridge Storm!

Take care and stay safe,














Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Sneak Preview: Tala Ridge Storm and Cover Reveal

Tala Ridge Storm cover

Sneak Preview and Cover Reveal: Tala Ridge Storm

Finally, the first draft of Tala Ridge Storm is done. The book is in editing, now, and should publish soon. 

Here is a sneak preview of the cover and the first chapter of the book.


Blurb:


The Black Forest Huntsmen are back...

Just when Terrell thinks everything is calming down, a white-out blizzard arrives hours before expected, stranding a busload of second-graders in the middle of nowhere.

Can the shifters of Tala Ridge arrive in time to prevent disaster? 

And if they can, can they face what's coming?


Chapter 1

Six months ago.

 

Deputy Johnna Crow closed her front door and leaned on it. She stared at the floor, trying to let the events of the day go. Sighing, she let her head droop forward for a moment, then took a breath and stepped away from the door. Unbuckling her duty belt, she walked to the gun safe and set the Glock and belt inside before closing it and spinning the lock. She and Gary, her husband, didn’t yet have children, but it was a good habit to get into for when they did.

She hung her jacket on the solid oak coat stand her brother made for her in shop class when they were teens. Thinking of her brother brought a frown to her lips. Since Jack married Rose fifteen years ago, he’d distanced himself from the family. Biting her lip, she thought back, huffing when she realized she hadn’t heard from her brother since sometime last March.

Jack and Rose even refused to join the family for the traditional family get-together at Easter. For the third year. Without Jack’s two daughters there for the holiday, their mother fell into a depression. Johnna understood her mother’s concern. She’d seen instances where narcissistic men forced their spouses to withdraw from family and friends, but for a woman to do it was even stranger.

“Is that you, Honey?” Gary called from the kitchen

Johnna raised her head. “Yeah, it’s me.” She walked down the hall and leaned her shoulder against the kitchen door frame.

Sitting on a stool at the bar, Gary looked up and grinned at her, his fingers busily peeling a potato. “You didn’t say anything, so I started to wonder.”

Johnna walked up behind him, circled him with her arms, and rested her head on his shoulder. “Sorry. Lost in thought. How was your day?”

“Not bad. At least, not bad after Mrs. Malone went home.” He wrinkled his nose and shivered. “That woman is really strange.”

Johnna moved around the bar and smirked at him, amused that her big, strong husband was intimidated by a little old lady. “Not strange, just a geriatric female Lothario.”

“Yeah. She pinched my hip, today.”

“Did you swat her?”

“I can’t hit a patient. I’d be fired.”

She grinned. “Want me to hit her?”

Gary laughed, his brunette hair falling over his forehead as he shook his head. “And have you brought up on charges of police brutality? I don’t think so.” His eyes caught the light, and he grinned. “I slipped prune juice in her grape juice.”

Johnna snorted, trying not to laugh. “Won’t you get into trouble?”

“Only if I’m caught.” He shrugged. “Old buzzard can’t taste anything, anymore, so she’ll never know. Anyway…” He sniffed and moved his gaze back to the potato in his hands. “She’s so full of vinegar, it’ll probably be good for her.”

Arms resting on the bar, Johnna shook her head and grinned. “Anything else happen?”

“Mrs. Barr’s granddaughter came by to show us all her new baby. She’s a cute little thing.” For a moment, he was lost in thought, then blowing out a breath, he smiled brightly. “So, what had you thinking so hard you forgot to let me know you’re home?”

“Hmm? Oh, I was thinking about Jack.”

“Why don’t you call him?”

She caught the grape tomato he tossed at her and popped it into her mouth. “I don’t know. He doesn’t seem to want much to do with me, these days. Any of us, really.”

“Which means he needs you more than he knows. Call him.”

“Maybe after supper.” Johnna glanced around the kitchen. “I didn’t expect you to be cooking. What can I do to help?”

“This is the last potato. You can make the salad if you want. Most of the makings are still in the fridge. I have chicken marinating for the grill.”

Even after five years, his soft smile left her breathless. “I’ll take over in here if you want to get the grill started.”

“Sounds good.” He carried a double handful of potatoes to the sink and rinsed them. “Let me get these started, and I’ll get the grill going.”

With a nod, Johnna stood and stretched. “I need to change out of this uniform, first. I’ll be right back.”

A few minutes later, wearing a green t-shirt sporting the Colorado State University ram emblem, a pair of worn jeans, and her favorite fluffy bunny slippers, Johnna returned to the kitchen. Pulling a hair elastic from her wrist, she caught her hair at the back of her neck before glancing in the pot Gary set on the stove. The potatoes weren’t boiling, yet, but it wouldn’t take long.

Through the glass sliding door, she watched Gary turn his college ball cap around, the bill to the back. After dousing the charcoal with starter fluid, he dropped a match into the barbeque grill. Flames whooshed up, then slowly died down. He sat in an Adirondack chair and settled his shoulders against the wood planks behind him.

Biting her bottom lip, she watched for a moment, then sat at the bar and pulled her phone from her hip pocket. She pulled up her brother’s phone number and stared at it. She hesitated for a minute, then pressed the call icon. The phone rang four times, and Johnna thought her brother was going to ignore her call, again. When the call connected, all she could hear was heavy breathing.

“Jack? Are you there?”

“Johnna?”

The pain in her brother’s voice pulled her to her feet. “What’s wrong, Jack? Are the girls okay?”

Jack cleared his throat. “I’m bringing the kids to Tala Ridge, but I have to go back. I have to try to get Rose out of there.”

“Out of where? What’s going on, Jack?”

“I need you to watch the kids for a while, Johnna. It’s too dangerous to keep them with me.”

“Jack, what’s going on? What are you talking about? What danger?”

“They have her. They have Rose! I have to get her out.” He took a sobbing breath. “I need you to watch the kids for a while. Please, Johnna!”

“Of course, we’ll watch the kids, but…”

“No! You can’t get involved in this. If you learn about them, they’ll kill you!”

“Learn about who?” Brakes squealed, then the sound of the motor got louder. “Jack…”

“I’ll be there by midnight tomorrow, but I can’t stay. It was too dangerous to go by the house for anything, so I bought some clothes for the girls, but…” He took a gasping breath. “Don’t tell anyone anything, Johnna. Promise me.”

“Jack…”

“Promise!”

“I won’t do or say anything until you get here.”

“Midnight tomorrow. I’m ditching the phone so they can’t find us.” Jack hung up. When Johnna tried to call back, the call wouldn’t connect.

She stared at the phone in her hand. The back door opened, and Gary walked in. One look at Johnna and his smile faded. “What happened?”

“Jack’s bringing the kids here. He wants to leave them with us for a while.” She swallowed and looked up at him. “I don’t know what he’s gotten into, but he sounded scared.”

“But what about school?”

“I guess we’ll have to enroll them here if they’re staying.” She sighed, tried Jack’s number, again, then shoved her phone into her hip pocket. “Let’s get supper done, and then we can fix up the guest room for them.”

Gary frowned, then nodded. “Let me help with the salad while the chicken and mashed potatoes finish cooking.”

Johnna gave him an absent nod. “I’ll need to put fresh sheets on the guest bed.”

Mitch pulled her into his arms. “Whatever happened, we’ll get through it. Please don’t worry.”

She tilted her head back to smile at him. “I’ll try not to.”

“Good.” Gary kissed her nose and squeezed her. “Let me check the chicken, and I’ll be right back to help with the salad.”

“Okay.” When Gary pulled the glass door shut, Johnna moved to gather salad makings. Fridge door open, she stared unseeing inside.  Rose and her family. Jack met Rose when he attended the University of Oklahoma. From the first time Johnna met her, her intuition had screamed at her, warning her something was wrong with the woman. Her cult-like family worried her, but Jack never listened. 

She blew out a loud breath. Blinking, she opened the vegetable drawer and pulled out lettuce, tomatoes, and mushrooms, and stood there unmoving, the fridge door still open. How Jack and Rose could get involved in something that would endanger their children…

Gary’s arm slipped around her shoulders. “You okay?”

Relaxing against him, she sighed and looked up at him. “I’m okay. Just worried.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Thought you were going to try not to do that.”

Taking a deep breath, she blew it out and smiled at him. “You’re right. Worrying won’t help anything.”

She carried the veggies to the bar while Gary found a couple of cutting boards and some knives. She would listen to Jack but decided if she learned the kids were in danger, they were her first priority.

The following night, Johnna paced the living room floor. Another glance at the clock told her it was almost one o’clock in the morning. Gary sat in his recliner, watching her. “Fifteen minutes,” she mumbled. “If he’s not here in fifteen minutes, I’m calling in a missing person report.”

After ten minutes, she heard the rumble of a motor coming up the street. She stopped and held her breath, releasing it when the car pulled into her driveway and shut off. Yanking the door open, she marched outside.

Johnna crossed her arms and tapped her foot while waiting for her brother. Jack got out of the car, staggered, then opened the back door and lifted out his sleeping seven-year-old daughter, Calendula. The family called her Cally. Twelve-year-old Iris crawled out and followed her dad to the porch.

Johnna opened the door and motioned them inside. As soon as Iris was past the door, Johnna followed and closed it to keep the cool inside. Gary moved to stand beside her and slipped his arm around her waist. She gave him a smile, then watched her brother settle his youngest daughter on the sofa. Jack gave Iris a quick hug, then turned to face Johnna and Gary.

“Johnna…” He took a step then folded in half and sprawled on the floor.

“Daddy!”

Johnna caught Iris by the shoulders and gently handed her off to Gary. Dropping to one knee, she rolled Jack to his back. She frowned at the dark moist spot on Jack’s black denim jacket. Unbuttoning the jacket, she gently pulled the torn shirt from Jack’s chest and gasped. A set of deep, jagged, perpendicular slashes stretched from just under Jack’s arm to his bellybutton.  Her gaze jumped to Iris. “What happened?”

“It was a bear.” She sobbed and shook her head. “I knew there was wolves, but they had bears with them! And lions and tigers!” She turned into Gary’s chest and cried, her indecipherable words muffled against Gary’s shirt.

Johnna exchanged glances with Gary. Gary nodded. “Let’s go to the kitchen, Iris. We’ll get the first aid kit for your dad.”

Clinging to Gary, Iris staggered alongside her uncle. Before they left the room, Johnna cleared her throat. “Iris, where did this happen?”

Still crying, she looked over her shoulder. Her words were garbled, but Johnna understood. “At home on the farm. In Oklahoma.”

Releasing the fear that danger approached the house, she nodded. “Go with Gary.”

Removing Jack’s jacket and the shirt was awkward. Johnna considered going after her scissors to cut him out of them but finally managed to pull them off. The jagged slashes looked puffy, red with infection.

“Idiot! Don’t you know to treat wild animal scratches?”

Jack moaned and blinked at her, eyes feverish. “I had to get the kids to safety.” Tears trekked down the sides of his head into his red hair. “They have Rose!”

“Who? Who has Rose?”

“Shifters.”

Gary dropped to his knees beside her, the first aid kit and several towels in his hands, half of them soaked.

“Shifters? What’s that?” Johnna took one of the soaked towels and dabbed at the cuts, cleaning away the blood.

Fading in and out of consciousness, Jack moaned and shuddered, his eyes rolling up to show only white.

“Here. Let me.”

Johnna gave Gary a nod. She had first aid training, but as a nurse, he was more experienced with wounds. Leaning back to give Gary room, she glanced at her nieces. Iris sat on the couch beside her sleeping sister. Her arms were wrapped around her pulled up knees, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. “He’ll be okay, Iris.”

Iris gave her a hesitant nod. “He won’t change into a shifter?”

Johnna glanced at Gary’s upraised eyebrow and shrugged. “No, he won’t change.” Iris swallowed hard and breathed out a sigh of relief.

Questions buzzing in her mind, Johnna held Jack’s hand while Gary opened a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. After stuffing a large towel beneath Jack’s side to keep the liquid off the oak flooring, he poured it over the wounds. The scratches fizzed. Jack jerked and gasped, then lapsed back into unconsciousness.

Working quickly while Jack was out, Gary cleaned the deep scratches and smeared them with antibiotic ointment. Sitting Jack up, the two of them managed, not without difficulty, to wrap his chest in gauze. Lowering her brother back to the floor, Johnna and Gary sat back on their heels.

Johnna glanced at Iris. After she was reassured her father wouldn’t change, whatever that meant, the girl leaned back and dozed. Blowing out a quiet breath, Johnna met Gary’s worried gaze.

His frown creased his forehead. “Shifters? Change? What are they talking about?”

“Beats me.” Johnna brushed her hair back with both hands, then pulled them down her face and pressed her fingers to the sides of her neck. “I don’t have a clue.”

She tilted her head and studied her unconscious brother. A frown wrinkled the skin between her eyebrows. “Last time I saw him, he didn’t have so many muscles. When did he get so ripped?”

 

*****

 

Jack Baskett waited until everyone slept then crept out to his car. He backed out of the driveway, gasping as pain washed through his chest when he twisted to look out the back window. With a last glance at Johnna’s house, he murmured a prayer for his daughters. He wished he could stay, but if he did, Rose would be lost forever. If she wasn’t already. His vision blurred, and he blinked to refocus his eyes. Right hand pressed against the wound Johnna and Gary bandaged, he sighed and drove away. Johnna would keep the girls safe.

The two safe houses he stopped at on the way to Tala Ridge were abandoned, all weapons and supplies removed. He only knew of one more safe house. Surely the shifters hadn’t found all of them. He desperately needed medical care and weapons. He glanced at the GPS on his phone. Eleven hours of driving. Stopping at a red light, he bowed his head and closed his eyes. Eleven hours to safety and help. The driver in the car behind him honked when the light changed, and he didn’t move. Gasping, he sat up, realized where he was, and pressed down on the accelerator.

Later, he went through a drive thru at La Junta for coffee. In Garden City, he picked up a burger at the Burger King window, then stopped for gas. In Wichita, he stopped again for gas. When he pulled his credit card from the machine, he set it on top of the pump. A tall man in the next bay nodded at him, then jerked back to look again. “Hey, mister, you’re bleeding!”

Jack’s head felt like it was spinning when he looked down at the pavement. Sure enough, blood pooled at his feet. “Accident in my workshop. I’m on my way to the hospital.”

Ignoring the man’s offer to call for help, Jack half-fell into the driver’s seat of his car. With a wave, he drove away from the pumps, leaving his credit card on the pump. He glanced in the rearview mirror. The man stood staring after him, concern on his face. As soon as Jack felt safe, he pulled off the main highway and found a deserted area to park.

Shivering, realizing he was going into shock, he pulled a Huntsman issued first aid kit from the back seat and re-wrapped his ribs and chest as tight as he could stand it. He dug to the bottom of the kit and found a saline IV solution. He inserted the needle, hung the bottle from the headrest on the passenger’s seat, and leaned back to get some rest while replenishing his liquid. If he didn’t find help soon…

Pushing that worry aside, he snagged the blanket Iris wrapped up in earlier and settled it around his shoulders. He couldn’t stop until he reached the safe house. Rousing an hour later, he tossed the empty solution bag into the back floorboard and headed back to the highway. At Webb City, he stopped for gas. He fumbled for his credit card, then used his debit card when he couldn’t find it.

After pumping the gas, he sat dazed and dizzy in his seat until the station attendant came out to check on him. Blinking, he waved at the man and drove away. A while later, he glanced at his GPS. Twelve miles to get to Joplin, Missouri. Fifteen miles to the safe house. He blinked at the glare on the windshield. His headache spiked, and his vision blurred.  

Ahead of him, a car stopped suddenly. Jack slammed on the brakes but couldn’t stop in time. Brakes squealed. Bumpers smashed, glass shattered. He hit his head on the steering wheel just before the airbag deployed. Pain bloomed in his head and his chest, making his previous headache seem inconsequential.

When the car came to a complete stop, he fought against the airbag, but couldn’t get it to deflate. Finally giving up, he slumped. All that held him in his seat was the seatbelt and the airbag. “I’m sorry, Rose,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry.”




I can't wait to get started on the next book in the series, Tala Ridge Hunt.

Take care and stay safe,

Lynn's Signature

All thought ceased, and his eyes closed.