Hump Day Hook Blog Hop

Hump Day Hook blog hop
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Hi everyone!  I’m excited to join this blog hop and share an excerpt from my latest release, The Lady in the Mist, The Western Werewolf Legend #1.  With April fast approaching, the second in the series is on the way, Waking up Dead will continue Sonja and Tyler’s story of love and the “gift”.  Here’s a steamy portion from The Lady in the Mist to enjoy!  Thanks for leaving a comment.  I’d love to hear what you think.

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The Lady in the Mist:

Ty followed her silently to the edge of the bed before running his hands down the length of Sonja’s back to where the dress hung on her hips.  With one push, he sent the garment falling to the floor in a pool of cotton and aged lace.  Taking his big hands, he reached around her, pressing her body to his.  She fit perfectly to the hard plains and contours of his skin.  As if she’d been made for him, she hugged his heat.  His fingers traced the lines of her woman’s shape and soon he found her mound, the curls tantalizing and inviting.  The soft moan, as it left her lips, whispered his name and she moved under his hand.  Exploring the tender folds of her woman’s flesh, he found her wet and ready.  She turned in his arms, pressing her mound to his groin as she urged him with her thrusts.

Sonja leaned further back on the bed, “Now…” she whispered.

With one swift move, Ty scooped her up, depositing her under him.  He wasted no time in following her to the soft down of the mattress.  Spreading her legs, Ty hovered over Sonja as he peered into her face.  The passion he saw there spoke to him more than words as he drove himself inside her, plunging deep and feeling her fist around him like a velvet glove.

She bowed, calling his name, “Yes, Ty, oh yes!”

***

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Thursday Teaser – The Lady in the Mist

Thursdays, this month, are saved for snippets from The Lady in the Mist, The Western Werewolf Legend #1.  The second book in this series is coming soon, so I wanted to devote Thursdays to sharing small parts of Tyler and Sonja’s story with the readers.  Please drop me a line and let me know what you think.  Remember, you can pick up a sample of the story at Amazon entitled, The Lady in the Mist, A Werewolf’s tale for free!

http://tinyurl.com/cb7ou8h

Books by Catherine Wolffe
Books by Catherine Wolffe

“Help me, Ty!”

Her anxious directive caught him off guard.  Ty opened his eyes and blinked.  Sonja stood in front of him with her forehead creased in frustration.  The effort to free him from his pants proved too much.  Did she realize how beautiful she looked standing there in the half-light of the sun streaming through the window?  Ty’s head swam as he watched her frustration with the buttons of his trousers.

“Here, let me.”  Ty stilled her hands and deftly undid his pants, stepping out.  The scare along his thigh, still angry and tender, stretched taught.  Ty flinched involuntarily.  How long had it been since he’d been with a woman?

She reached out and laid trembling fingers on his arm.

He swore low as his shaft jumped.  His blood, already warm, surged through his body like a fire through dry tender.  Unable to stop the rush, he let his head fall back and reveled in the sensation.  No woman had ever made him feel like Sonja did.

Her slow glide downward awakened nerve endings, igniting them into flames.  Tentative fingers slid along the taught flesh just above the crisp hair surrounding his shaft.  Her face filled with anticipation as she touched his heat.  Closing her eyes, she smiled as he throbbed in her fist.  Suddenly, her eyes flew open and she reached out, taking his hand in hers as she picked up her skirt and headed for the bedroom.

***

Thanks for dropping by and please leave a comment.  All snippets shared in these blog posts are from the copyrighted material of Catherine Wolffe.

Thursday Teaser

Blue2LadyMist_2013_500_700Each Thursday for the next month, I plan on sharing a short teaser from The Lady in the Mist, The Western Werewolf Legend #1.  The second book in the series, Waking up Dead is due out in April, so in preparation for it’s debut, I would like to share various snippets from book #1.  Enjoy and please leave a comment.  I’d love to hear what you think.

From The Lady in the Mist:

Lowering his head, Ty captured her mouth and with a low rumble in his throat, tasted her sweetness. The flavor of her was intoxicating.  Forcing the danger and the old woman’s prophecy to the back of his mind, he ran his tongue along her teeth.  Sonja’s urgent response had him molding her body to his.  In a fevered rush, Ty worked at the intricate buttons of her dress.  She in turn showered his face with kisses all the while murmuring low, inane words in his ear as she ran her hands under his shirt and up the hard expanse of his chest.  When he traced her bare back to the dip of her hip, Ty closed his eyes on the feeling of her satin flesh under his hand.  “Are you a dream?” he murmured close to her ear.

“No, no dream.  I’m flesh and blood born to love you and be loved by you, Rebel.”

***

The Lady in the Mist is free at Smashwords today through the 9th in celebration of the release of Waking up Dead.  Drop by and get your copy.  Here’s the link.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/181516

I hope you enjoyed this small sample of Tyler and Sonja’s story.  Drop me a line or visit me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  I share inspirations for my books on Pininterest.

Thanks,

Catherine Wolffe

http://twitter.com/catherinewolffe/

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6438562.Catherine_Wolffe

catherinewolffe@google+.com

https://www.facebook.com/AwardWinningAuthorCatherineWolffe

Love is in the Air

Love is in the Air

From the moment Celia, the emerald-eyed, Comanche half-breed, gets off the stage in Tyler, Texas, Seth Loflin realizes he is on a collision course with the past. She was his first love and now the Shooter Creek’s ranch boss can’t allow her to succumb to the danger that stalks her. Someone wants to kidnap her and sell her as a slave, but now that she’s in his protective arms, he intends to keep her safe. Celia can’t run back to the safety of her former life in South Carolina. And if she stays at Shooter Creek with Seth, she’ll be putting the man she has always loved and his ranch in danger of harboring a Comanche. But Seth refuses to leave her side, and his vow to protect her gives Celia the hope and courage she needs. Now she’ll fight for her new life with Seth…or die trying.

The blurb says it all.  True love endures despite the time apart or the circumstances.  Love is in the Air is the celebration of the emotion that can change the world one heart at a time.  I’m pleased to be a part of the week long party!  Here’s a excerpt from Comanche Haven, Celia and Seth’s story of love despite the odds…

He took her again loosely in the circle of his arms before giving her chin another tracing.

“Do you remember the Creek?”   She cut her gaze back to his as she fingered the buttons of his shirt.

“I remember.  Those nights live in my mind still.  You were the only thing that mattered to me.  I can remember the first time I ever saw you on the creek bank.”  He gave her one of his killer smiles.

“Oh, Seth, you would have to bring up that.”  Playfully chiding him, Celia remembered the night too when, as she bathed, Seth had rode up and discovered her in the water.  “I thought you the most brash, vulgar, loathsome devil.  You simply sat there, staring at me with that brilliant smile on your arrogant face.  A gentleman would have turned away.”  Celia feigned a pout.  There was a burning in her depths that needed controlling.

Seth let out a rush of a laugh.  “Was that what you called me?  Funny, but it sounded a lot different in Comanche.”  He inclined his head.  “Darlin’, you know I’m no gentleman.  But I thought you the most beautiful creature I’d ever laid eyes on.  I have to confess, I enjoyed looking my fill at your loveliness.”

His chuckle fanned the flame growing deep inside.  Celia found she had to grope for control.  She knew very well, he wasn’t a saint.  He’d always been her sinner.  Somehow, she mused, that was exactly what she wanted.  In fact, he was what she’d always wanted.  The devil take her, but tonight, she wanted Seth.

“Instead, I found a little temptress hoping I’d look my fill.”

Celia’s mouth fell open.  “Ah!  You are a cur!”  Struggling as he laughed, Celia tried to escape simply for affect.

He pulled her close.  “You know damn well that you wanted me as much as I wanted you back then.”  Dark smoldering eyes watched her.  “If the truth be told, I think you still do.”  With smooth agility, he pulled her up by her arms, as he centered her back against the wall again.

The shadows grew deeper.  Nothing made a sound.

“Did it ever occur to you that I may have wanted you to stay?  To wait for me?”

She couldn’t see his face.  But she heard his words take on a hard edge with a trace of pain.

“Yes, but…”  Celia’s voice cracked over the simple reply.  She struggled to find the words that would explain her flight all those years ago.  She couldn’t.  The words wouldn’t come.  Her eyes traced the angles of his face that was so close to hers now.  There was only one way to ease the tension between them.  Celia leaned in.  Her breath left her throat as Seth met her advance with one of his own.

They wrapped arms around each other, melding into one another.  Time ceased as their mouths explored each other’s.  Sensations, long buried rose and feasted.  Those questions that haunted them both would have to wait.

“Deny you want me.  Go ahead!”  His voice grew ragged and breathy, as he streamed kisses across her mouth, her face, her throat.

His fingers dug in, bruising her arms, but she didn’t care.  She wanted him despite tomorrow.  She wanted his hands on her no matter what the daylight brought.

Like the wolf after prey, Seth took her mouth again and again in a primal, savage assault.  Lost in the need, Seth groaned when his hand found her breast.

Celia escaped his mouth for one precious moment to pull air into her lungs.  Then the world went spinning.

His fingertips raced like hot brands over her flesh.

The Lady in the Mist, The Western Werewolf Legend

October 14, 2012
What do you do when you discover you’re a werewolf in love?  Most of us don’t have to consider that question, but it happened to Sonja Brooks many years ago in a small town in Pennsylvania.  The year was 1863 and the Civil War was raging all over the land.In a rural area near the Virginia border, Sonja lived on a small farm.  She wasn’t afraid to live by herself since the death of her husband.  He’d been killed early in the war.  No, Sonja worked the farm they’d started together and chores kept her too busy to worry over being alone.  That was until the day she met the stranger trespassing on her land.  That one encounter proved very costly for Sonja.

She’d always been a realistic woman so when she awoke and found out she’d been attacked and turned into a werewolf, she thought it someone’s idea of a cruel joke.  Her ideas of reality verses fantasy take a drastic change with the discovery of a Rebel soldier dying of his wounds.

Here’s an excerpt from The Lady in the Mist, The Western Werewolf Legend.  Sometimes love can be a dangerous thing.

Cannons erupted in the distance.  Lieutenant Tyler Loflin opened his eyes and glanced around once more.  A smoky haze drifted over everything like a fog in a dream.  Vaguely he remembered where he lay.  He’d fallen amid the murky water of a southern Pennsylvania swamp.  The dampness seeped into his bones, numbing them but not the pain.  Ty remained motionless, though the heat radiating from the burning wagons loaded with supplies resembled hell’s own.  His efforts to remain conscious wavered.  Fighting the encroaching darkness, Ty finally succumbed to the pain of his wounds again.

Behind his closed lids stood the old, rambling whitewashed house of his home, Shooter Creek.  The gentle hills’ quiet peace beckoned to him.  Returning in his mind to the pastures where his horses roamed untouched by the cruelty of war, Ty moaned as the pain in his leg reminded him the scene lived only in his head.  Using the back of his faded, gray uniform sleeve, he wiped at the sweat on his forehead.

Those days seemed to be from someone else’s life now.  There, in his mind’s eye stood the family he’d left behind his brother, John, standing ramrod straight on the steps of the family’s home.  Ty resembled John in many ways.  His brother’s fierce determination and code of honor anchored Ty these days while his own happy-go-lucky nature remained buried, all but forgotten in the throes of war.

Then, Cloe, the half-breed Comanche and John’s wife, stood stoically on their front porch.  Her deep green eyes didn’t miss a thing.  She held John’s heart in the palm of her lovely hand.  In her arms, she cradled their newest baby, Billie.  Laura Loflin, John’s mother, would’ve said the baby favored her grandmother.  Ty agreed.

A strapping, dark-haired boy of five stood beside Cloe.  His name was James, after John and Ty’s father.  Ty would admit the boy played havoc with Ty’s affections.  The twins, Sara and Mattie, played happily on their palette while Maggie McVey, the family’s housekeeper turned adopted matriarch, took care of them with pride. She’d been a fixture at the ranch as long as Ty could remember.  Since the death of his mother, Running Deer, she’d been his rock in the storm.

The picture of them seemed so real. Ty couldn’t help reaching up to grasping at the thin wisps of haze as the fog floated over him.  He hated to cause them so much pain.  Damn the Yankee bastards to hell and back.  If he could get up, he’d shoot every one of the blood thirsty bastards in the heart for what they’d done!  Another cannon erupted.  This time the explosion sounded closer.  Ty licked his parched lips and wiped the fever’s perspiration from his temple.  Only vaguely annoyed now, he errantly blinked at the picture of his family.  He would miss them so much.

Visualizing them on those steps, Ty focused on his family instead of the melee around him.  He remembered how much he had enjoyed getting under John’s skin about wasting no time in increasing the family linage immediately following his marriage to the eastern educated, half-breed with the sparkling green eyes.  He smiled.  One day, he’d like to increase his own linage.

The late evening sky lit up once more with the explosion of yet another cannon ball.

Ty blinked before coming back from inside his head.  He gritted his teeth as pain radiated down his leg.  He cut his gaze around at the destruction.  After the initial attack, he and his men had taken cover in the swamp.  With the addition of the smoke, which hung thick and unyielding, the land resembled the marshes back in Louisiana instead of the hollows of Pennsylvania.

Refusing to acknowledge the blood mixed with the muddy water could be his own, Ty chose instead to focus on the circumstances around him.  The desire to sleep tempted him.  He struggled against the strong pull of unconsciousness.  Vigilance remained imperative.  Confederate Major General Jeb Stewart, his commander, expected nothing less.

Have to stay alert!  Ty bore down hard on the encroaching dizziness. His peripheral vision started to close in.

“Must stay awake,” he whispered to the dead men scattered like broken toy soldiers all around him.  Have to report to headquarters, he reminded himself as his eyes closed of their own volition.

Guns discharged.  Men screamed.  The battle had been more of a massacre than a conflict.  Ty was lucky to be alive.  Able to recall few of the details of the ambush, Ty’s head lolled to one side.  Explosion after explosion erupted before the pain brought him back to the present.

His mission had been top-secret.  His cavalry unit was given orders to report to Major Jeb Stewart with their supplies destined for the vast wasteland simply known as “The Wilderness”.  His unit had traveled within twelve miles of Richmond before the Yankees attacked them in the foothills surrounding Spotsylvania.  Retreating to the cover of a nearby bog, the Rebels hunkered down.  The Yankees continued their assault.  At first, hope of reinforcements had bolstered the men’s courage.  But the long hours of waiting for help, which never arrived, proved most disheartening.  Darkness fell.  The burning of the wagons had been the final blow.  His men didn’t have a chance of escape.  Most died where they’d fought so bravely.  The rapid fire of the Yankees’ repeating rifles sang overhead.  Fierce, uncontrollable flames broke out almost immediately as his men tried frantically to reverse the wagons loaded with ammunitions to a safer distance.

Then came the explosions.

Desperately, Ty tried to backtrack in order to protect as much of his supply loads as possible before they fell into enemy hands.  Few of the wagons or Ty’s men survived as the sharpshooters picked off the Rebel soldiers like ducks on a pond.

While wagons blazed, shouts of warning rolled over him.  Ty’s men fled past his position and directly into the path of more snipers’ fire.  In the commotion, his commands to “hold their positions” had been mute.  He would never forget the pitying, erratic dance of his men, their bodies already dead before they met the ground.

In the dregs of unconscious, he relived the fighting again.  Sniper fire sounded overhead, Ty’s flight or fight instinct jerked him to attention, his pistol waving wildly about.  The effort proved to be too much for him and he fell back into the water.

Wiping his eyes, Ty glanced around amid the mangled bodies of his comrades.  His throat burned, the heat from the flames scorching the tender skin of his esophagus.  He’d give a month’s pay for a drink of water, he mused.  Firelight flickered all around him, brilliant and bold.  The flames licked greedily at the ammunitions boxes as they erupted, their explosions echoed through the crags and bluffs of the valley.  Trees stood like blackened sentinels, a bleak reminder of the brutality of man.  Ty glanced down at the shrapnel protruding from his thigh with detached interest as if he were looking at someone else’s leg.  He was bleeding out.  The reinforcements wouldn’t get there in time.  Tugging a medallion hanging on a long, silver chain beneath his woolen jacket, he rubbed the precious metal.  Months would pass before John got word of his death, he worried, but at least the medallion would give those who buried him a name to put on his stone.  Weakening rapidly, he realized his time must be drawing near because he couldn’t work up the strength to care that he would never see home again.  He loved his home.  Death was the only reason he could fathom that would take his concern for what he loved.  In the distance through the fire and the darkness, he saw his long dead father and mother.  He would be with them very soon.  Still unable to give the idea the attention it deserved, he glanced about the ruins absently.  Almost time to go.

Another explosion sent more shrapnel raining down.  His men lay strewn at awkward angles in death.  Soon the Yankees would descend like the plague.  He’d witnessed the scavengers going through the belongings of the dead or dying searching for whatever they could carry off the bodies.  His men.  The idea tore at his gut.

Wiping the blood out of his eyes, Ty gathered his last ounce of strength.  He was gonna die anyway,  so taking as many Yankees with him as possible would be a fitting way to go.  At least the loss of his men’s lives wouldn’t be for nothing.  With all the strength he had left, Ty struggled to stand.  Slowly dragging himself upright, he stumbled once before bracing himself against a nearby tree.  His breath came ragged and weak.  Stars floated in front of his eyes.  Ty gave his head a good shake.  The stars spun behind his eyes, while he checked his revolver.  No need to ponder his fate, so he’d go out with guns blazing.  It’s what cowboys did.

The sound of the Yankees advancing caused ripples in the murky water as the horses hooves pounding in the earth grew nearer.  With his back against the tree, Ty strained hard to see the blue-bellied killers.  Here they come!  Their blue coats standing out in stark relief against the smoke and flames.  Like haints of the souls unable to cross over because of crimes done on earth, the Yankees came marching in unison toward the bodies of his men.  Ty refused to watch the despicable act happen to the men he served with.  His vision clouded again.  Gotta stay awake.  Damn their immoral souls, he swore under his breath, “They’ll pay!”  He struggled to lift the revolver.

Footsteps sounded from behind him.  They sounded too small to be a man’s.  The ground didn’t crunch and grind with the shifting of rocks, he mused.  Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a movement as another thieving Yankee took Ty’s sergeant’s pocket watch.  Curse their wretched lives!  More would come, he snarled to the smoke and fire.  Let them come.

Falling to his back with his revolver in his hand, Ty leaned over, aiming at the apparition floating in the smoky haze.  Scanning to either side, Ty found only one body advancing in the damnable smoke. “Who’s there?” he hissed as blood chocked his throat.  The gun in his hand shook, but he forced his one good eye to focus on the form moving closer.

“Easy, mister.” The voice belonged to a  young female.  She formed out of the mist.  Human or ghost, Ty couldn’t tell as the woman advanced in the urethral fog that hung over everything in sight.

“You’re hurt.  Helping is all I’m about.”  The slight, slender form of a woman in a gauzy drape slipped closer until she stood within steps of his position.  She all but hovered like an angel.  Her voice, a sweet, singsong whisper, settled nicely in his fevered mind.

Mesmerized, all Ty could do was stare.  His head pounded as if the whole of the Army of the Potomac marched between his eyes. The apparition faded in and out of his vision.  Struggling to focus, he fought to remain awake.  He had to remain alert!  Report!  Nausea swam in his gut.  The wet ground soaked his uniform as he sank deeper into the mire.  “Stay back!” he ordered.  Hearing the slur of his own tongue, Ty sought a more convincing voice.  “I don’t want to have to shoot you, but I will!  Do you understand?  Back, I said!”

“There, there, mister.  I won’t hurt you.”  A small delicate hand reached out, touching his shoulder. “I’m here to help.”

Ty flinched, jerking back before aiming the gun at the chest of the mud-clad form of a golden-haired woman.  Without the sight in one eye, he could only surmise she wasn’t a soldier.  Stories, of the enemy’s women running a man through with a blade or a sword simply for being a Rebel made him cock the gun.  He shoved back farther digging into the muddy bank.  Watch her hands, you buffoon!  “Get back.  I’ll shoot you even if you are a woman.  Stay away!”  He had no such intentions of harming her, but he prayed she believed his words.

He rubbed at his eyes with his coat sleeve.  Praying seemed of little use these days.  His faith in the prayers, even less, but they were the only things he had left at the moment.  The woman’s smile stilled his hand.  She was an angel sent down from heaven.

“Sir, I’m here to help.  My name is Sonja.  I only want to tend your injuries.  Don’t worry.”  Her small hand stroked his cheek.  Ty tried to fight by shoving at her.  Her hand simply gripped his.  “Take heed, sir, I mean you no harm.  You’re safe now.  You’re saved.”

The woman’s hand ran lightly over the wound in his thigh as she bent forward.  The cannon fire receded to a distant rumble as her gentle fingers glided over his flesh.  A drawing sensation washed over him.  Someone cried out.  Did he scream?  The blood in his veins coursed through his body.  The sensation grew stronger as his hold on consciousness ebbed away.  Slowly his body relaxed and the pain eased.  With his eyes fluttering shut, Ty floated on a cloud of oblivion.  He smiled inwardly as cool water lapped at his fevered skin while tall grasses caressed his dying body.  Birds sang from the treetops and white clouds floated in the bluest of skies.  He must be home.

***

Thanks for stopping by today and please leave a comment.  I do enjoy talking with my readers about my stories.Image

Sample of The Lady in the Mist is Available

Currently I’m working on a new book. It’s a blend of two genres, western romance and paranormal romance.  It’s called “The Lady in the Mist (A Werewolf’s Tale).  A Freebie of it is out on Smashwords.

What is this book about?

The Civil War took Sonja Brooks’ husband and left her alone. Unprotected and scared, she runs headlong into a life changing event when she’s attacked by a pack of wolves. Her fate as a werewolf is sealed. When she stumbles upon Ty Loflin, a Rebel solider dying of his wounds, she nurses him back to health. He’s the perfect mate, but will he want her once he knows the truth?

Where can I get it? The sample freebie (7,000 words) is available at Smashwords.  The complete book will be coming out later this year. Stay tune!

Chapter 1 Sample – “A Dance in Time”

Below is a sample from “A Dance in Time” which is the latest release in my latest series, the J.T. Leighton, Time Traveler Book 1.  To find out more about my books, click here.

“Use your southern charm on her.”  Ted’s mustache crooked up at the corner.  “Don’t you shit-kickers have a lot of that?”

J.T. glanced at Ted with flat, unspeaking eyes.  The man’s reference to his Texas heritage didn’t sit well with him at the moment.  Still, what did you do when the guy was your boss?  Besides, J. T. had a couple of pretty good references of his own for Ted.  The man was so big that when he laughed, his belly shook like an earthquake.  He reminded J.T. of a Pillsbury Doughboy stuffed in a cheap, pinstriped suit.  “All I have to do is observe, right?” J.T. drawled in his best Texas twang.

Ted’s mustache twitched again.  “Yeah, that’s right.”  With a toothpick leftover from lunch, Ted picked at food still lodged in his teeth.  “Hey, why don’t you impress her with the story behind how the town and you have the same last name?  Leighton, right?”  Without giving J.T. a chance to answer, Ted continued, “Your grand-pappy must’ve been the all-time shit-kicker, herding cattle from here to Kansas and all that crap.  What a jerk!”  Ted chucked absently and his whole belly quivered.  “So you think you can manage this little job, Leighton?”

“I can manage,” J.T. answered blandly though he chafed under the strain of having to deal with Ted, the spineless prick!  Leaning back in the leather seat of the Coup Deville he went over the plan.  “She’ll go in to buy the necklace and I’ll follow her when she leaves.  You want me to happen upon her and use my charm to convince her to go with me to the ranch where you’ll be waiting.  I got it.”

“Good,” Ted said, wiping his fingers across his massive chest.

Oh yeah, he had it, all right.  J.T. had also had about enough of his less than stellar traveling companion.  Suddenly starving for fresh air, J.T. exited the flashy sedan.  The car matched Ted’s suit color, he noted absently, pea green.

Ted leaned over and peered up at him through the passenger window.  “Don’t screw this up, Leighton, or it’s your ass.”

“Right.”  J.T. drawled, shoving his tightly balled fists into his jacket pocket, while he watching the car leave.  Asshole!  While he didn’t believe in playing dirty, he couldn’t help envisioning kicking Ted Burkett squarely in the balls.  His new Agency boss was a lowlife piece of shit.  He marveled at how the man had made it so far up the ladder in the elite group known only as the Agency.

J.T. had been recruited by Robert Leighton, J.T.’s uncle.  He’d considered it a real break for his career in criminal investigation to be invited to join the secret society of retired military covert operatives.  Robert had been J.T.’s commander when he had first arrived.  Fresh out of the Marines and having just lost his father, J.T. found the work to be interesting.  Keeping his mind occupied was something he needed at the time.  The missions so far had been justifiable and legit, but there was something off about this one.  Besides that, there were things Ted was doing within the Agency that didn’t add up.   The whole thing stunk, making J.T. question the Agency’s legitimacy and his part in it.

The suspect, a twenty-nine year-old woman who grew up in the stellar town of Leighton Texas had left six years prior for the big lights of Broadway and New York City.  Her name was Jessie Colter.  She currently worked in an “off-Broadway” production.  She’d returned to bury her parents after a mysterious accident had killed them both.

Regret hit J.T. square in the chest.  He just didn’t feel right about his orders.  Intrigued at first about retrieving stolen property, J.T. now found himself disquieted by the woman’s history and situation.  He remembered the pain of losing his own father.  She seemed harmless, but his orders were specific.  Follow her until she buys the necklace; make contact and then smooth talk her into visiting his father’s ranch where Burkett would be waiting to take her in for questioning.  He hadn’t been filled in as to why.  His part in adding to her woes went against his code.

It made more sense to him to simply retrieve the necklace himself and leave the woman out of it.  But Burkett insisted that they bring her in.  Ted wanted the tag himself, J.T. mused.  J.T. had already figured out that grandstanding and brown-nosing the hierarchy was Ted’s way of moving up the ladder.

The fact that John Thomas Leighton, the heir to the Leighton ranching legacy, had grown to hate his cover was inconsequential.  J.T. had a job to do.

***

J.T. had been a Marine and loved it until one fateful night in Iraq.  There had been an attack by Shiits, a band of Muslim radicals, with blood in their eyes.  As his men patrolled near the Kuwaiti border in Iraq, the unit had been ambushed.  Having suffered shrapnel wounds that forced him stateside, J.T. remained in a coma for two weeks and remembered little of what had happened when the night erupted around them in Iraq.

The days had been long and lonely following his medical discharge.  Too compound his pain, his father had died.  They’d been planning a trip after his return from active duty.  They never got the chance.   Growing isolated and depressed, J.T. had seen a military psychiatrist, but the doctor hadn’t been able to help.  Time, great chunks of it, went missing from his memory after the attack.  The psychiatrist predicted that J.T. memory would likely return at some point.  His reluctance to reconnect with the men in his unit had something to do with the loss of that time.

Then he had begun to see dead people.  The final straw had come when he began to speak to them like he had Jessie’s parents.  He’d always been realistic and rational, so seeing dead people had to have a logical answer.  Telling himself, he wasn’t crazy, instead, he kept his focus on a solution for the situation.  It was simply mind over matter.  After deciding to treat the incidents as catalysts to solving problems, he got his private investigator’s license.  So far, he’d solved two cases using the talent of seeing as well as speaking to dead people.

When Jessie’s parents had been waiting on him near their graves in the Leighton cemetery, J.T. hadn’t freaked like he’d have done before the Iraq attack.  They had some heavy shit to tell him that night in the cemetery.  Granted he had some doubts about a dark lord and black magic, nevertheless, their daughter was in trouble with the agency.  J.T. decided he would protect her.  So far, it had worked.

The Agency couldn’t find out he was working undercover.  Besides, he’d decided it was about time to un-ass them anyway.  This assignment had him doubting his own sense of right and wrong, because the agency instructed him to go against the law in bringing her in.  She’d done nothing wrong as far as he could tell.  Apparently, the Agency wasn’t concerned with her rights, only what they wanted.

It became more important to protect Jessie.  The info he’d come by unexpectedly from her dead parents shed a different light on the woman.  He glanced again at her snapshot that came with the Agency info.

Jessie’s picture didn’t do her justice, he decided, as he glanced up to watch her stroll down the street.  Regal was a word to describe her gate.  She held her head high with her nose tilted just slightly upwards.  He smiled at her haughty expression.  She was slender, dark and fiery with glowing eyes that pierced his restraint.  Her long, slim dancer’s legs went all the way up.  Having enjoyed a few long legs in his time, J.T. had to admit that those in front of him were mighty special.  Feeling the warm tingle travel up his spine, he swore under his breath as he envisioned those legs entwined around his back.

Wearing black boots over black leggings and a thigh skimming dress, she made heads turn.  Long, glossy black hair swung loose, cascading down her back.  A man didn’t see kick-ass women like her in Leighton, Texas.  She was all New York and had plenty of attitude to boot.

J.T. had stationed himself about a half a block away on a bus bench.  On the outside, he remained cool behind his dark shades.  But on the inside, he smoldered.  The blood rushed to his loins and J.T. swore low again.  Easy, cowboy.  She’s not your type.  Despite the coaching, his body remained totally unconvinced.  Unable to move at the moment, J.T. watched helplessly as she strolled into the Easy Cash Pawn and Gun.  Get a grip, man.  You can’t help like this.

Entering the shop a few minutes behind her, J.T. found Jessie asking the East Indian owner about the necklace.

She exuded confidence.  Holding her head high, Jessie looked the storeowner in the eye.  With a thin-lipped smile, she pointed to the necklace as she said, “I’d like to try that piece on.”  Her voice, all smooth and sexy, flowed like Bourbon over rocks.

Pretending interest in the rodeo belt buckles in a nearby case, J.T. watched her out of the corner of his eye.  Her glossy black hair fell forward as she too checked out what was behind the glass.

J.T.’s eyes followed her perusal and he waited a beat before turning on his pin-sized lapel recorder.  With it rolling, he went in.

Heading casually down the line of display cases holding everything from air-tools to diamond encrusted pinky rings, J.T. eased within a few feet of where she stood.  Part of his cover was to pretend interest in what he found there, so he took his time examining a man’s gold nugget ring and even asked the assistant to show it to him.  Acting as though he might buy, J.T. even inquired about the price, but all the while, his real attention was on Jessie.

Shoving at the notion he’d started out all wrong on this one, J.T. sauntered up to her and took a moment to admire her profile.

She skillfully ignored him.

J.T. noted the slender fingers and the absence of a ring on her left hand.  The Agency had been thorough and he already knew she had a boyfriend back east, but she was here now.

“Green is your color.”

Jessie’s head snapped up and dark, chocolate-brown eyes pricked him before he could blink.  She gave him a faintly absent smile.  “Thank you, but I prefer blue most of the time.”  Her words were chilly and reflected a lack of concern in anyone else’s opinion.  J.T. had to admire how she effectively dismissed him before turning her attention back to the case in front of her.

A cool operator, J.T. mused.  She may have grown up in Leighton, but she wore New York brashness well.  He turned his attention back to the display case.

The emerald encrusted necklace lay in a lovely yellow-gold setting and rested on a golden velvet display stand the owner obviously thought was appropriate for the antique piece.  Elegant in design, the necklace boasted a large teardrop stone of exceptional clarity while smaller emeralds encircled it emphasizing the gem’s beauty.  As J.T. admired how it high-lighted the creamy complexion of her skin when the owner held it near Jessie’s neck, J.T. had to agree it resembled the picture he’d been given by Ted.  The Agency’s estimation was that the piece was over three hundred years old and appraised at more than a million.

Wondering if the pawnshop owner had a clue, J.T. inquired, “How much for the emerald necklace?”

Jessie glared at him frigidly.  He saw he’d set off her alarm bell and it took a second more to cloak the shock he read in them.  After that, the only visible sign she was irritated came with the clinching of her fists on the counter top.

He already knew she was after the piece.  So why did her reaction tug at his heart?  Because the necklace had belonged to her great-grandmother, her grandmother, and finally her mother before her death, that’s why.  It had gone missing after that and only recently resurfaced here in the pawnshop.  The necklace was special to her and he was simply doing a job.

“It is a good piece, yes?”  The East Indian owner gave Jessie and then J.T. a big toothy smile.  “Two thousand dollars.”  Without any visible response from either of them, the small man amended hurriedly, “It would be my humble pleasure to sell it to you.  You’d like to hold it, yes?”

Nodding, J.T. accepted the piece from the owner.  He caught Jessie watching him out of the corner of her eye.  J.T. examined the stone set carefully in the very old setting.  “Do you have an appraisal?”

The owner anticipating his question handed him an embossed certificate.  The gold seal stamped at the bottom looked official.  After his winged brows dipped fractionally over his nose, J.T. gave the owner a satisfied nod of his head and handed the piece back.

Grinning, for J.T., the owner held the necklace near Jessie’s face once more and asked, “See how it sets off her eyes, yes?”

Apparently, they looked like a couple.  J.T. couldn’t help himself and smiled sideways at Jessie.  “Yes, definitely stunning.”  If he had her pegged correctly, she wouldn’t mistake his reference to her instead of the necklace.

J.T. definitely had her pegged, as the temperature in the room plummeted.  Jessie’s only reply was an ice incrusted glare.  Taking out a jeweler’s eye, she dismissed him before leaning in closer to examine the piece.  “How much did you say?”  Her tone was all business as she eyed the owner who continued to grin winningly.

“Two thousand, yes.”  His jet-black hair gleamed almost blue in the harsh lighting as his head bobbed up and down.

“I’ll give you a thousand, but it’s not worth two.”  Pointing to the necklace, Jessie indicated her concern.  “See the occlusions in the smaller stones?  The clasp needs work as well.”  With knowledge, whether real or contrived, Jessie firmed her chin as she smoothly handed the piece back to him.

The owner’s mouth parted momentarily before he was able to turn on the charm once more and said, “One thousand fifty dollars.  That is my bottom offer, yes.”  Watching Jessie expectantly, the man’s beaming face fell again when she shook her head decisively and took a step backward.

“I may be able to swing a thousand twenty-five dollars, but that would be it for me.  Too steep.”  Shaking her head as a frown played out on her warm completion, Jessie shoved her hands into the pockets of the light jacket she wore and gave him the time he needed to consider her words.

A smile teased the edges of J.T.’s mouth as he observed her skills at dealing.  Then remembering his cover, he slipped quietly to the other side of the small shop as he listened to the two continue to haggle over the jewel.  Pretending interest in other items, J. T. wandered among the cases as Jessie told the owner he should be glad she’d come along, that this would be his lucky day.  J.T. covered his grin by examining a chunky gold chain more closely.

Agitated now, the owner glanced from Jessie to J.T. and back again.  Having taken them for a couple and assuming J.T. would be doing the negotiating, the owner had to rearrange his tactics.  “Will you excuse me, please?  Yes?”  He bowed to Jessie and then to J.T., who continued to smile as he watched from a safe distance.

The short fellow scurried into the back of the shop.  Within minutes, voices with urgent but muted tones seeped through the curtain hanging in the small doorway.  A woman’s exclamation in Indian rose above the rest and soon the little owner returned with another smile pasted on his tawny face.

Laying the necklace gently on the counter, the owner gave Jessie an apologetic expression.  “I am but a humble owner, yes.  This necklace is worth a great deal more than you offer.  But I have been unable to recoup my purchase for a long time.  You can appreciate my position, no?”  He clasped his hands together in front of his argyle-vested chest and gave Jessie a pitying smile.  “With the clasp repaired and the whole piece cleaned will you take it for a thousand, thirty-five?”

Jessie firmed her lips as she peered at the piece in the man’s hands.  Finally nodding, she extended her hand across the counter.  “You have a deal.”

Audibly relieved, the owner accepted Jessie’s hand and then left to fetch the tool necessary to repair the clasp.

Jessie turned, propping a hip against the counter and folded her arms.  Her eyes narrowed on J.T as she finally gave him her full attention.  “Do you always interject into other people’s business?  Or am I just lucky?”

Her grave stare coupled with the cynicism didn’t affect him in the least.  Guilt and apologies were for those burdened with a need to maintain a social protocol.  J.T. wasn’t that much of a cowboy.

“No, I just admire beautiful things, whatever the circumstances.”  He eyed her seductively with a lazy up and down perusal.  When his eyes finally met hers, he saw a flicker of something that could have been mutual interest.  Within that brief exchange, J.T.’s blood hummed.  Even though her expression transitioned into irritation at his meaning, he decided then that he had to know more about Jessie Colter.  The owner reappeared, drawing Jessie’s attention back to the necklace.

“You pay with cash or credit?”

“Cash,” Jessie said.

He didn’t flinch.  Instead, he smoothly extended his hand with the palm up, toward her.  “I verify bills and wrap your purchase, yes?”

The woman had street smarts.  J.T. could agree with his Intel on that.  No credit cards for this little lady and no paper trail.  She didn’t bat an eye as she handed over the required cash.  Ted had said the Agency had been tipped off that the money would most likely be counterfeit bills.  J.T. found that dubious, but watched her hand them over anyway.  If they weren’t real, they were exceptional replicas.  Maybe this was why the Agency found Jessie interesting.

J.T. decided it was time to leave ahead of her rather than follow her out.  He wandered toward the door and left the owner and Jessie alone to complete their transaction.  The metal bench at the bus stop still held enough heat from the day to be uncomfortable, but he sat down and waited.

A few minutes later, she walked out into the late afternoon sun.  Jessie slipped on her dark shades and headed in his direction.  At this angle, he could admire her slender, lithe build.  Her long dark hair that cascaded down her back glimmered in the approaching twilight.

Jessie came closer toward him.  His pulse kicked into high gear.  Her scent preceded her, something exotic and sultry.  It was all J.T. could do to remain seated.  Fighting the temptation to jump up and try to engage her in a conversation, he watched her walk.  The woman glided, he mused.  From the ear bug humming in his ear, J.T. heard the voice of his own personal nemesis, Burkett.

“Could you remember to observe only this time?  Maybe without talking to her for Christ sake! Copy?” Ted growled through the earpiece.

“Copy,” J.T. ground out under his breath.

Watching Jessie enter the hair salon situated a few doors down from the pawnshop.  J.T. did remember to flick a latch on his lapel to snap a quick picture for the file with his micro-camera.  The fact that he expected her to visit the salon reminded him of his surveillance last week.  Her best friend, Yolanda Graves, worked at the salon and was on the clock right now.  Since he had no good reason for following her into a veritable fortress of female rituality, J.T. remained where he was on the bus bench.  A likely scenario played in his head as he sat slumped against the graffiti emblazoned metal.

Jessie had probably gone in to show off her latest acquisition and brag a bit.  A lot of cooing and pawing would ensue and finally someone would ask to try on the piece so everyone could admire it.  J.T. flicked the latch on his lapel camera and captured the shot.  “Suspect is talking with the manager.”  A minute passed.  “She’s slipping the necklace and something from a chest the manager brought out into her jacket pocket now.”

The ear bug crackled a second time.  “There she is, the suspect is leaving the beauty shop.”  Ted’s voice yanked J.T. from his musings.  “Keep a close eye on her.  You look like you’re daydreaming again, Leighton.”  His boss’s incredulous tone had the hackles on J.T.’s back rising.

Shoving his hands deeper into his pockets, J.T. jammed the receiver on his micro walkie-talkie before speaking under his breath. “Copy, sir.”

Muting his mic, J.T. mimicked Ted’s northern Maine accent as he spoke to the emptiness around him, “Fuck you, sir.”  A needling tension had him getting up from the bench with hunched shoulders as he followed Jessie once more.

Trailing behind, J.T. slipped into a storefront alcove to observe.  Jessie slowed to a meander as she gazed into yet another shop’s display.  J.T. pondered the Agency’s information about the manager of the beauty shop, Yolanda being a witch in a local Wiccan coven.  Strange, but she hadn’t looked like a witch, just a dancer.  The Agency’s Intel had stated she danced in New York in the same show as Jessie.  J.T. felt the vibration of an incoming on his walkie-talkie and cursed low.  Turning slightly from his location he whispered shortly into his lapel, “What?”

“When she takes the next corner, keep her in your sights and I’ll pick you up at the curb,” Ted ordered.

“Okay, okay, I’ve got her.”  J.T. didn’t try and hide his irritation.

Jessie picked up the pace now and briskly walked to the next corner turning right.

“She’s on the move and headed west.”

“Copy.  Get to the curb.  Hurry and I’ll snag you,” Ted’s voice blared.

As Ted’s pea green sedan slid up to the curb, J.T. glanced around to make sure no one was watching him before diving into the passenger’s side.  He hated the thought of being seen getting into such an ugly car so he took it out on Ted.  “Don’t let her get away, damn it.”

Frustration spilled out of Ted in a huffed breath.  “Hell, Leighton, if we lose her, it’s your fault.  I told you to observe only!”

“Yeah, right.”  Sarcasm dripped from J.T.’s next words.  “We’re the only two in the pawnshop which made me too conspicuous.”  Motioning to the curb where Jessie stood waiting on the light to change, J.T. channeled his impatience into focusing on the suspect. “She’s good, real good.  When she makes it to the other side I’ll take the path on foot again.”  He didn’t want to lose her either, J.T. mused.  Scanning the opposite side of the street where Jessie strode, seemingly unaffected, he wondered what she had planned for him this time.  She’d pull something, he mused.  He just didn’t know what.

Traffic up ahead snarled and the light changed on them.  She disappeared down Emerson before they could follow her any further.  Yanking open the door, as Ted double-parked, J.T. jumped out.  His long legs ate up the pavement as he hoofed it after Jessie.

Once she came into view, he slowed to work the window-shopping angle while doing his best to keep her in his sights.  Gradually, J.T. moved to within feet of her position.  Confident he had her he pretended to admire a flat screen TV in a display.  J.T took a deep breath and released it quietly.

Then the unthinkable happened.  Ted’s voice blared from J.T. lapel mic.  J.T. flinched, but recovered quickly.  Still, not quick enough as he saw Jessie make him.  He’d forgotten to mute the stupid thing!  Spewing his Marine brand of foul language, J.T.’s mouth went dry.  Moving first at a clipped pace, then at a dead run he searched the sidewalk, then the other side of the street and the shop front he’d last seen her at.  Damn it!  She’d disappeared without a trace.

He swore again at the rookie mistake as he began to sprint, eyes ever vigil.  “Lost visual, lost visual,” he snarled into his lapel.  “Burkett, do you copy?  Stay alert.  Suspect last seen at the north end of Emerson.  I’m in pursuit.”

With his gun drawn beneath his leather jacket, J.T. raced to the corner.  Luck was on his side because down the block, he spotted a black high heel for a second before she disappeared around the next corner.  “All right!”  Suspect turning onto Palmer,” J.T. yelled.  “Where’s that backup?” he growled into the tiny Agency issued device.  His heart pounded in his ears as he rounded the last corner he’d seen her take.  Up ahead, he saw a black boot lying sprawled in the middle of the sidewalk followed by its mate a few feet further down.  He released the breath he didn’t remember holding and came to a dead halt.

She’d vanished!  The only thing left in the middle of the sidewalk was that damn pair of sex on a stick black leather boots lying as if they’d been flung in a hurry.  She’d shed their high heeled encumbrance on the run.  He cursed their lone presence like a cold slap in the face.

Copyright 2012 Catherine Wolffe