Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cougar By the Tail by J Hali Steele

Cougar by the Tail
by J. Hali Steele
cover art by Bryan Keller
ISBN: 978-1-60521-389-7
Genre(s): Paranormal
Theme(s): Vampires, Shapeshifters
Series: Extra Cream
Length: Novella

Trent Dallion was screwed. Much older than him, the wily little cougar had him by the balls -- and he couldn't get loose. She'd thanked him for killing her brother. Did she mean it? Or was she playing a game of cat and mouse, waiting for revenge.
Peri Montana tasted her destiny in the blood of the jaguar who took her diseased brother's life. Mountain born and bred, she wanted nothing to do with the desert cat that possessed more vampyre abilities than she was comfortable with. Could she return to the hot desert nights without literally losing her tail?
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He heard Jag's roar of pain lift into the air. Pebbles slid down the cliff side, and limbs of the pine trees brushed angrily against each other. An eerie silence followed.


Rushing to the clearing below, Trent saw Jag on the ground with his mate's bloodied body nestled against his chest.

Leron spoke calmly. "She will die if you don't change her."

Tears flowed from the warrior's eyes. "Oh God, she wanted me to take her out for a picnic."

Trent had exchanged blood with Leron and Jag in battle and their pain washed over him. His beast still clawed at his insides. It recognized the distress of one of his own, and it felt Barbara's pain. Her chest heaved with each ragged breath she hitched in.

Leron said, "You should have let the bastard die slowly. Come here."

Trent's wound had soaked his fur, turning it red. Barely able to stand the agony any longer, he made it to his trainer's side.

"Change. You need sustenance to heal yourself."

He didn't have the strength to fabricate clothing so he lay naked on the ground. Leron sat beside him and offered his wrist. Trent's fangs lengthened and sank into the flesh of the stronger warrior.

These two he called friends had taken blood often from humans. They'd gained abilities that wouldn't come to most of his kind until they grew much older. They were now closer to their vampyre cousins. And so was Trent.

Why won't he change her? She'll die. He spoke to Leron using their mental bond. Trent drank his fill from his partner. The shoulder wound began to heal immediately, and strength returned to his limbs.

He's respecting her wish to remain human.

Trent watched Jag rock his mate back and forth. Her breathing grew more labored. She was near death. It wouldn't be long now.

Rocks fell over the ledge where he'd left the dead cougar. He felt Leron move but Trent said, "No, you stay with Jag and Barbara. I'm strong enough." He stood, allowing the fur to climb up his legs and cover his arms. Folding his body, he let his beast take over. Whiskers sprouted on his elongated snout and twitched in the air. Trent climbed the same path he'd used to chase the transgressor.

Before he crested the hill, he smelled her. A small, tan head lifted at his appearance and looked at him warily. She growled low in her throat, not a threatening sound, but sad. The dead animal had remnants of her scent. Relative or mate?

His wound, not completely healed, had seeped a new thin line of blood down his shoulder. After circling the female a few times, he approached her. Green eyes pierced him before she nudged him with her cold nose and licked his fur. She continued to clean his wound, and his beast purred. He prowled around the little cougar. The beast in him was hungry and wanted to taste the frisky female.

Trent waited until she fell to the ground in deference to his bigger cat. Declaring him master, the cougar lay there, waiting. He straddled her, bent his large head to her neck and bit.

Her blood laced through his veins, calling to something in him he didn't know existed -- it slammed into his soul with a force only nature could wield. She belonged to him. Trent was snared in her web.

Catching him unawares, the tiny beast rose up and flipped him from her back. He growled low in his throat, warning her to obey and remain still. Growling loudly, she glanced at him, turned tail and ran into the trees.

He wanted nothing more than to follow her scent and would have if Leron's excited voice hadn't echoed loudly in his head. Trent, down here, now!

Reaching the foot of the cliff, the first thing he noticed was that Barbara's breathing had relaxed. He changed to his human form, clothed himself, and impatiently eyed Leron, who glared back at him with a funny look.

Jag had given in and changed Barbara. Shit.

You know Barbara -- there will be hell to pay. Trent peered back up the side of the rocky embankment he'd descended. The wily cougar stood there in regal display and glared defiantly, her aroma filling the air. She'd tasted his blood and he felt her stir in his mind. Slipping with ease into her thoughts, Trent saw it was her brother he'd killed.

Thank you for releasing him. Her sadness settled over him like a black cloud.

Feeling Leron's eyes on him, Trent turned to see the warrior grinning like the Cheshire cat before he nodded to the brim of the hill. "Looks like Jag's not the only one in big trouble. You're fucked, buddy." Jag, Barbara, and Leron vanished and left him standing alone in the clearing. Trent heard his partner laughing in his mind. Take your time, man. I'll cover for you.

"Go to hell, Leron," Trent said out loud. The snarling high-pitched roar only a cougar or mountain lion could make split the air. "God damn it."

Leron was right, Trent was screwed.

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