The Werewolves of the West Series Book One
Carol Van Atta
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Cambridge Press US under the umbrella of Charles River Press (CRP)
Number of pages: 446
Cover Artist: Ann Falcone
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeuDqevNSXM
Chloe Carpenter isn't like other women. She can communicate with animals. A gift she unwrapped following one of her frequent dances with death.
In her otherwise wacky life, she's finally found a semblance of sanity working at the Plum Beach Wildlife Park, where her unique talents can make life or death differences for the animals in her care. That semblance is shattered when a new veterinarian roars into the park in his spiffed up sports car and sets his golden gaze on her. If she had her way, he'd roar right back out.
Problem: He's her new coworker and he's saved her life twice - in the past twenty-four hours.
Zane Marshall, Enforcer for the Pacific Pack of purebred werewolves, has a job to do - figure out who or what is mutilating the young men of Plum Beach.
With orders to find the woman who talks to animals, he accepts a position working alongside the fiery Chloe Carpenter, a female who ignites his interest far more than he ever expected. Remarkably, she's the one elusive female with potential to bring meaning and passion to his empty existence.
Problem: She despises him.
Together, they're forced to unravel a mystery of supernatural proportions, a murderous mystery with eternal implications for everyone. In the process, they discover opposites really do attract.
Major Problem: Zane is pledged to another woman, and she'll do anything to keep him from Chloe.
Like most authors, Carol Van Atta is no stranger to the written word. She penned a short novel at age 12 (somewhat frightening illustrations included, and lots of bunnies were involved), and had a creative writing piece published in her high school newspaper (about David Bowie's Diamond Dogs LP). Yes, she's an ex-80's chick.
Devouring books from numerous genres, Carol developed a deep thirst/hunger for more reading material, and could almost always be found with her nose in a book.
She has contributed to several popular inspirational anthologies and devotional books, and lives in the rainy wetland of Oregon with a terrifying teen (another in college) and a small zoo of animals. She is taking an undetermined hiatus away from inspirational writing to delve into her darker side. (Though you can check out her latest spiritual suspense novel, Soul Defenders). It is rumored that this genre-jumping occurred after Carol discovered too suspicious red marks on her neck, and experienced an unquenchable urge to howl at the moon.
June 12, 2011 – The Oregon Coast
The lion paced to the left, top lip curled back, revealing his pointed teeth; he snarled at me for good measure.
Wary, I watched as his tail whipped from side to side, and he shifted into a crouching position, his eyes never once straying from mine. He was perched above me on the rocky ledge where he spent hours lounging in the sun.
Planting my fists on my hips, I stood taller, squaring my shoulders, and glared up at Butch, a regal three-year-old lion I’d known since I first started working for Luke Snider at the Plum Beach Wildlife Park, over two years ago. Never had I experienced the wrath of this particular animal, and I wasn’t enjoying being on the receiving end of the young cat’s fury.
Fred, one of the park’s volunteers, had gotten the absurd notion that lions were just bigger versions of their housecat cousins, and based on the faulty information, decided to enter the cage for a feel of their fur.
The two females were eating and ignored the intruder. Butch, always curious and fiercely territorial, wasn’t quite as welcoming. He’d cornered Fred and was preparing to paw at him when I’d noticed his dilemma. Counting on my positive relationship with Butch, I’d helped Fred escape and was turning to leave.
Butch had other ideas and decided to get frisky with me. Something I hadn’t anticipated.
Now I was stuck and angry. How dare Butch treat me like a prospective snack?
I could hear Luke, off to my right, warning me to exit the cage — now, but I refused to surrender to my growling challenger. This was one battle I didn’t intend to lose.
It appeared Butch felt the same.
My pride alone wasn’t holding me back; I wasn’t one hundred percent convinced I could escape unharmed and wasn’t ready to risk it.
To make matters worse, I’d become the animal park’s featured entertainment.
A considerable, mid-afternoon crowd swarmed the lions’ enclosure eager for some action. As if the town’s recent murders weren’t enough. Granted, most of the park’s patrons were tourists with their cell phones raised in hopes of capturing footage worth posting online later.
If I had any say, it wouldn’t be me dangling from the jaws of my former feline friend. Some vacation memory that would be for the kids watching.
Butch roared, sending a wave of nerve-induced nausea crashing through my midsection. His hindquarters quivered in preparation for the sure-to-come pounce. If I was going to divert a catastrophe, and my funeral, I had to act now.
Backing away, I used my coma-acquired communication skills, and sent what I hoped was a soothing mantra into the lion’s mind: You’re okay. It’s me, Chloe. Calm down. Relax. I have treats for you. Relax. Good boy. That’s it. Relax.
Butch cocked his head, responding to my calming thoughts. He looked, for a brief moment, more like a dog with a mane than a menacing lion. I sensed him relaxing, his rage receding, but before I could release the lung-tormenting breath I’d been holding, a child screamed loud enough to crack glass, inspiring several more children to add their piercing shrieks to his, creating a chaotic chorus.
The lion, startled by the commotion, roared a final warning and sprang, arcing toward me; front paws, lined with stabbing claws, extended my direction.
To avoid direct impact, I dove to the ground, bundling myself into a ball, making sure to cover any vital organs and the soft flesh of my neck.
With my head tucked to my knees, I shielded the back of my head with my arms, and waited.
And waited …
Instead of the lion’s victorious roar and sounds of my tearing flesh, loud applause and cheers erupted around me. Encouraged, I raised my head, peering out from the mass of unruly curls that had escaped their ponytail.
Cameras flashed while camcorders and cell phones filmed the extraordinary ending to a daring rescue, performed by the most delectable specimen of manhood I’d ever had the pleasure of ogling. Appalled by my sinful assessment, I was quick to blame it on shock; after all, I’d almost died — again.
Almost dying was becoming a bad habit. A habit I needed to break before my luck ran out.
Turning my attention back to my savior, I watched my boss shake his hand. I had no idea how he’d stopped the lion, now pacing in an isolation cage attached to the enclosure. A line of well-wishers had accumulated and were waiting to congratulate him. It was then I realized I’d somehow been removed from the cage, without my permission or knowledge, and people, now surrounded me.
My co-worker, Rhonda, leaned in close. “Just had to find a way to get the hot guy’s attention, didn’t you?” Her sneer drew my attention to her makeup-caked face.
Rhonda was my high school nemesis reincarnated. I refused to give her the satisfaction of seeing me squirm. Like my former rival, her bark tended to be much worse than her bite. As long as she was center stage, she was content. Right now, I was the center of attention, guaranteeing her displeasure.
Ignoring her question, I accepted a water bottle and several concerned pats on the back before circling around behind the lions’ enclosure where I could gather my wits. I was more shaken than I cared to admit. At last alone, my scattered thoughts narrowed to Senior Prom 2004, another prime example of how my coma-acquired-ability caused a major commotion while leading to an overwhelming sense of discomfort.
Darlene Davenport, the school’s self-proclaimed fashion authority, who could’ve been Rhonda’s twin sister, had manipulated our vice principal into letting her bring Queenie, a miniature poodle, to the prom, by insisting the ball-of-fluff was a necessary accessory for her already-garish fuchsia gown.
Peeking from a sequined handbag, the dog looked cute enough — so cute that my normal fear of dogs was absent for the evening, causing me to forget about Darlene’s ongoing desire to dethrone me from my ever-tentative popular-girl status.
Like her successor, Darlene Davenport was no fan of mine.
In fact, she was one of three girls who made it their priority to gossip and grumble about me anytime anyone would listen, which was too often for my liking.
Bob, my stepdad, a police officer, the always-conservative and overprotective parent, banned any article of clothing that might accentuate my figure. Form-fitting or low-cut were not in my clothing vocabulary, or closet, leaving me little to wear that was teenage-girl approved.
Sure, my clothes were cute, practical, and probably cost more than the fashionista’s, Darlene’s. However, Darlene and her few followers made their disapproval known in a number of creative ways that I’d prefer to forget.
Still admired in spite of my conservative attire and their unrestrained bad mouthing, I was up for the coveted title of prom queen. My chief competitor was, of course, none other than Ms. Diva Davenport.
Hoping to tame my hair, I met up with Darlene primping in front of a mirror. Her precious baby, Queenie, succumbed to my mental probing with ease. Queenie’s doggy thoughts revealed that Darlene and her gal pals had bribed one of the stage hands into hanging a bucket of Queenie’s poo poo over a letter X, chalked on the exact spot where the elected queen would make her royal appearance. The whole scene was reminiscent of a 1970’s horror movie that left the prom queen in a telekinetic frenzy.
And if that wasn’t enough to churn my stomach, Queenie’s vision featured me bowing to receive the crown, followed by the bucket tipping. The squishy brown downpour made me gag.
Should by chance Darlene win, the bucket would remain upright and unused.
Let’s just say that when all was said and done, I won the crown and Darlene was covered in her beloved pooch’s poop.
“How did you know?” she’d screeched through the stinking mess.
Making sure to smile and pat Queenie’s head, I replied cheerfully, “Your dog told me.” After all, Queenie had saved the queen.
The Monday following prom, Darlene told anyone who would listen that I was a mind-reading witch and explained how her parents were suing me for the irreparable damage to her dress. In the end, she succeeded in making herself look crazier; and I became, much to her chagrin, even more popular.
Rhonda experienced the exact problem as Darlene. The more she tried to destroy my reputation and make my life miserable, the less people liked her. After two years, she still couldn’t figure out why everyone favored me.
I remembered the gorgeous stranger who Rhonda favored, and who’d saved me. I felt sorry for him. Given the chance, Rhonda would pursue him like he was the last man alive.
Damn! With all the craziness, I’d failed to thank him for his lion taming heroics. I assumed Luke would know how to reach him. The least he deserved was a kind word.
With the shock subsiding, it occurred to me it was my day off. I should have stayed home. At least I’d have been safer there. With me, absolute safety was never an option.
“Ms. Carpenter, can I get a word with you?” an unfamiliar voice called from behind.
Waving him off, I exited through the side gate. Monday would be here soon enough. I trusted it would be better than today.