Cougar’s Courage releases October 29 (just on time for Halloween!), so I wanted to start sharing a few tastes of the book. Here’s the opening, where we meet Cara, a Toronto cop who’s recovering from personal tragedy-and either having a life breakthrough of the magical kind or finally losing it from stress.
“Officer Mackenzie?” The voice sounded like her captain’s, but Bell wasn’t known for his stealthy tread. Had Cara been that lost in thought?
Cara jumped a little and looked up from the incident report she was struggling with, the words dancing behind a rising headache and the pervading sense of anger and uselessness she’d been fighting since Phil’s death five months ago. She expected to see her captain’s bulky, blue-clad form looming over her with that awkward no, I’m not checking up on you expression that was way more annoying than open concern would be—and open concern had gotten annoying sometime before her fiancé’s grave was filled in.
Instead, she saw a totally unexpected person, a tiny, wiry old woman with long white braids, no taller than most ten-year-olds, who bristled with energy.
Cara’s rational brain took in a few things. Normally, civilians didn’t get into the squad room without an escort, but the elderly lady was alone. Maybe someone had dropped her off, said something about why she was there, and then left? If that were the case, that was bad even for the mess Cara had been for the past five months.
The visitor wore a pale buckskin dress ornamented with beads and porcupine quills, not a fashion statement but traditional Native clothing, and no coat despite the frigid February weather. Her silvery braids were fastened with rawhide strips. Not something you saw every day in Toronto. Maybe the old lady figured serious business like a visit to the police station merited her version of a weddings-and-funerals suit or dress uniform.
“May I help you, ma’am?” The unusual visitor had roused her curiosity, which could only be good.
“No, but I can help you, Cara.”
How did she know Cara’s first name? Her name plate just said Mackenzie.
The elderly woman extended a small, bony hand, and Cara instinctively took it. She expected it to be icy. Instead, it was hot. As soon as they touched, Cara felt like she was focusing properly on the other woman for the first time. She blinked and recognized her visitor at last. “Grand-mère? Is that you?”
It couldn’t be. Cara had been ten the last time she’d seen the elder of her mother’s village, and the old lady must have been over eighty[S1] [TNR2] then. But the woman nodded and smiled. It was an odd smile, like a tree smiling, serene in a way that you didn’t normally see on a human face. “Of course it is, silly. Who else would I be? It’s time to come home, Cara. Come to Couguar-Caché before it’s too late.”
Couguar-Caché—“hidden cougar” in French—her mother’s ancestral village. A place so remote Cara had never been able to find it on a map, even though she knew she’d been there as a little girl. Yeah, just where she wanted to visit in the depths of winter.
As the old woman spoke, the room closed in, leaving only Cara and Grand-mère. The rest of the squad room was still out there—Cara could hear voices, a ringing cell phone—but they were hidden somehow, masked by a fog. Grand-mère had been seated, but suddenly, with no transition Cara noticed, she was standing in an archway made of snow-weighted evergreen boughs. Behind her, where Cara should have seen Dalhousie’s chaotic desk and the captain’s neat one, was forest and snow, woodland twilight and the corner of a log cabin. A cold, bracing wind blew through the archway, smelling of snow and pine and wood smoke. Somewhere in the background, she could make out a tall man with long dark hair. He turned and looked through the weird portal straight at her with intense amber eyes. He was movie-star gorgeous.
That proved it. She’d dozed off at her desk—it wouldn’t be the first time since Phil had been killed, seeing that the busy squad room felt safer and less lonely than her empty bed—and was having a particularly vivid dream. It had to be a dream, right? Because no one else in the squad room was even glancing at her unusual visitor, when normally, on a quiet, snowy afternoon, Goulding, who was a wolf dual, would have been literally sniffing the air and the others would be leaning in, hoping for something interesting. It was the first time Grand-mère had joined the cast of beloved dead people who romped through Cara’s mind whenever she closed her eyes, but unlike the others, Grand-mère was cheerful. And she’d brought a very decorative man with her.
But Cara shouldn’t be dreaming about handsome imaginary men. In some ways, that was more disturbing than dreaming about bloody dead ones. The involuntary surge of interest reminded her of the real man she’d lost.
You can pre-order the book from all the usual suspects. And you know authors love it when you pre-order!
Amazon/Kobo/Barnes & Noble Nook/Samhain