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.


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?”


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.”



“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.


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?”


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. 


  1. Wow! Great start to a new story.
    I can't wait to see how it continues.

    1. Hi Toni! It's been a long road for this book, but the editing is going well, and it should be out soon.

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Lyssa! Love the name! This book will be published later this week.