Well, it seems the hits just keep on coming. Sadly, one of my publishers Secret Cravings Publishing has ceased publication as of September 1st. What does that mean for me? Well, the book I expected to be released in October sits in limbo, as does Echoes of the Past, but I intend to republish that one myself within a few weeks. But it means the end of two books–Grand Slam and Coming Home, published under the co-writing name of Misty Matthews. While Grand Slam was only with SCP, this is Coming Home’s second publication and I’m not sure three times lucky works here.
I suppose every virtually unknown author like myself should expect these kind of things, but I loved that book and I think if people had given it a chance, they would’ve too. It was supposed to be the first in a five book series, so those dreams are dust as well.
So, as it sinks into the sunset, here’s one last taste of Coming Home.
As quickly as he could, he walked away from Table Rock and deeper into the desert, using the powerful lamp to search the unfamiliar ground ahead of him. The last thing he needed was to get injured. Calling her name repeatedly, he figured he was attracting attention to himself since the animals could sense fear, but he didn’t care. This was an area he rarely traveled, but the ground was firm and the cacti few and far between. It was rocky, with large outcrops, which provided excellent hiding places for predators.Swallowing his near-panic, he trudged on. He needed to find her soon to get her out of here with every inch of that beautiful body of hers intact.
Connor continued to call her name, stopping each time he did, listening for her answer. When he heard her faint reply, his heart, which had been pounding its way out of his chest, slowed, and he veered in that direction, walking as quickly as he could.
“Alana, sweetheart, where are you?” Connor yelled. Hearing nothing, he took a calming breath, and called out to her again. This time there was a faint call in response.
“Honey, I’m here, but I can’t pinpoint your light. Can you flash it around so I know where you are?” Forcing himself to stay calm, he turned full circle trying to catch a glimpse of light, but saw nothing. She had to be around here. If he could hear her, why couldn’t he see her?
“Can you see my light? Do you know where I am? Please, Connor, for the love of God, see me.”
He heard the panic in her voice.
“Not yet, but don’t worry. I may be in a depression or you could be behind a rock. Keep moving your light around and take small steps in front of you. Something may be blocking the light.”
Hoping his hunch was correct, Connor walked forward, silently praying he was getting closer to the frightened woman and not farther away. Every few steps, he’d spin and call out to her. Her voice was getting louder, but from what direction? He needed to keep her talking.
“What did you do today before going for a ride?”
“I helped out at Melody’s shop,” she answered defensively, but her voice was getting louder.
“See anyone you knew?”
“Lots of people, including Melissa James.”
Connor whistled. “That witch? I’ll bet she didn’t have anything good to say. She never does. So, who else did you see?”
She rattled off the names of people they’d known in school, and after what seemed like hours, but was no more than a few minutes, Connor spotted her light.
“I see you, Alana. Stop moving now. I’m almost there.”
Sprinting toward the faint light, he thanked whoever was listening for letting him find her. He was only a few feet away from scooping her up in his arms, swearing he’d never let her go, when he spotted it and froze. His breath stalled as he saw his worst nightmare come into view.There, on the edge of her feeble light, downwind and behind her, the eye shine of a large puma captured his attention.
No other desert predator evoked mixed feelings in Connor the way the puma did. Although the big cat inhabited the desert, it tended to stay at higher elevations where the deer and wild horses were plentiful. What had dragged this fellow out of his usual habitat? Knowing the animal considered Alana a source of nourishment, after all the noise they’d been making, scared him. This had to be one very hungry cat. If it had become a man-eater, it would have to be destroyed. If it hurt Alana, Connor would hunt it down and kill it himself.
Puma were lazy hunters, preferring to lie in ambush, until their prey moved close enough for them to leap on it. This animal was biding its time, waiting patiently for Alana to step within range. Connor swore he could see it lick its chops. If he were any closer to it, he’d probably hear the big cat purr. Connor resumed moving toward Alana, eyes glued on the shining orbs in the distance.
“Alana, stay exactly where you are. Whatever you do, don’t move.” If she started to run, the cat would be on her in seconds. The fact she stood still probably had the animal confused.
“What? Why?” Ignoring his words, she walked toward him. The animal stood and matched her steps, slowly decreasing the distance between it and its meal.
“Alana, stop! For God’s sake, don’t move another foot,” he pleaded, barely able to keep the terror out of his voice.
Slowly, never taking his eyes off the creature, he bent and picked up a loose rock about the size of a baseball. Back in high school, he’d had a good pitching arm. With any luck, he hadn’t lost his touch. A rock wasn’t much of a weapon against a one hundred and eighty pound killer, but it was all he had. He’d never been this scared in his life, and he knew by now the animal had scented his fear too. The thought of the feline jumping on Alana, sinking its razor sharp teeth and claws into her neck almost had his knees buckling under him. Show no fear! I won’t let her get hurt even if I have to wrestle that damn cat myself.
“Alana, I’m coming,” he yelled loudly, flashing the full force of the LED into the animal’s face causing its eyes to shine an eerie yellow in the bright light.
The animal stood its ground and bared its teeth, emitting a low growl that made the hair on the back of Connor’s neck stand on end. Stopping suddenly, he put the lamp at his feet and fired the rock at the animal, landing the stone with a heavy thump right beside the beast’s feet and sending sand up into the animal’s face. With an angry snarl, the puma turned into the desert and disappeared into the night.
Now that the predator was gone, he picked up the light and focused it on Alana noting the terror in her eyes, but she’d done as he’d asked. Moving the last few feet to her side, he gathered her trembling body in his arms, grateful to feel her there.
“It’s okay.” He pressed a kiss into her hair. “You’re safe now.”
The floodgates opened and she cried, no longer able to control the emotions pulling at her. Damn. If he could he’d be crying too, but one of them had to stay strong and get them the hell out of here. Holding her tightly, he murmured words of comfort. When his breathing returned to normal, and her crying jag abated, he eased her away from him.
“Feeling better now?” he asked, not releasing her completely, but holding her, knowing how close he’d come to losing her.
“Why do people assume a person feels better after they’ve cried?” she answered. “I don’t feel better, Connor. I’m terrified. What the hell was behind me? A bobcat? I heard that growl! It was so close…”
“A puma.” He couldn’t mask the fear in his voice.
“Oh my God,” she whispered. Her knees buckled, and if he hadn’t been holding her, she’d have crumpled to the ground.
Connor held her tightly, giving her a minute to gather her senses. She had to be able to move under her own steam for them to get out of here. Just because the cat had run off didn’t mean he couldn’t come back. It depended on how hungry he was. The stars were out now, and he looked up to find Polaris the North Star. It always pointed north, and north was where Table Rock was. If the puma didn’t come back, there were still other dangers. The sooner he got her out of the desert the better.
Don’t forget to drop by and visit the rest of this week’s teasers.