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First pages

Chapter 1

When Surrounded by Wolves … Never Turn Your Back

Charlene Sullivan, forest name Feather, strode up the brick path to the imposing home of Brad and Kristin Ganborena, tonight’s objectives her only focus. First, find Brad, then find Jared. She walked through the open door, and ran smack into Kristin, the woman who despised Feather above all others.

Kristin waited to greet those invited to her party. Fortunately, the melee in the street distracted Kristin’s attention long enough for Feather to pass. Thank heaven for Roadkill, aka Cliff Mustard, and his merry band of miscreants. Cries of “Come in out of the wind,” “Not in my bat yard,” and “Money for causes, not parties,” accounted for Kristin’s pained rather than welcoming expression. No doubt she and Brad had hoped to avoid the activists’ picketing when they planned their party as a fundraiser for local conservation groups. As Feather eased into the mélange of costumed party guests, she heard Roadkill’s unmistakable baritone shouting, “Turbines kill, oil spills.”

Huh? Sometimes even Feather, now a semi-retired activist, wondered if Roadkill wished the world to live as lightly as he did, something not possible for most. Perish the thought of enough road kill to clothe the populace of Hancock, Idaho, let alone the world. She wondered if Roadkill’s brother Ed picketed beside him, or if he, and possibly their dear friend Gina Cosentino were invited guests because of Ed’s background as a screenwriter and his Hollywood connections.

Neither an invited guest nor a welcome one, Feather was grateful for the protesters and for her costume, which included a large, far too warm but effective face mask that covered nearly everything except her mouth. With the food the Ganborenas offered, an unrestricted mouth was essential. She sent Kristin a vague nod of her striped, furred head and walked into the throng of festively costumed partiers.

She edged near a wall and pulled her costume down from where it threatened to give her a wedgie. Essentially a one piece swimming suit with fur and a tail, it was a tad short for her longish torso. Dark gray tights covered her legs. She surveyed the gathering, hoping to find her sister and elude her mother. Her mother, Jeanette Sullivan, had invested, along with Brad, in Windfall Works, the new wind farm that spurred the activists’ protest.

Arguments sparked by the protesters competed with discussions of the party’s menu. Go figure. Some folks got more excited by Basque food than by wind energy. Too bad no one could harness all of tonight’s hot air.

Near her a tall guest, dressed as a pine tree, waved his branches with too much vigor for the conditions. “We have to find some way to decrease our dependence on coal-fired energy. You’d think those freaks outside would love wind energy.” His voice rose in mockery. “But no, it hurts the little bats and the raptors.”

His companion nodded. “There’s hydro-electric. Idaho has plenty of water.”

“But not plenty of salmon,” his companion opined.

Feather wanted to argue the importance of locating wind turbines where they did the least harm to the wildlife. But she had to remain silent and inconspicuous, out of Kristin’s radar.

She edged toward the food, looking for her sister but also for anyone who might recognize her and finger her to Kristin.

Before she reached her target, she was surrounded by wolves, alert but distracted by their surroundings and sluggish after their recent feast.

The badger, Feather, chose not to back away. She would stand and fight the wolf pack, if necessary.

“Bad choice of costumes, hon,” said one of the nearest wolves. “Badgers have short legs and yours go on for friggin’ ever.” The man in the wolf costume leaned close and patted her fanny.

Feather curled her lip, a gesture she hoped conveyed contempt and disgust in both worlds—badger and human. She'd chosen her costume for the environmental fund-raising party to discourage friendly chit-chat. Also because it was the only one in her favorite thrift store that came close to fitting her and her budget.

The men who circled her were, alas, appropriately costumed. Fanny patting, leering and drooling at the sight of a halfway comely female came easily to them.

“Badgers have been known to scare off grizzlies,” she growled, disguising her voice. “No touching the badger’s butt.”

“But such a lovely butt,” said a different wolf. “May I get you a drink?”

The man’s voice seemed familiar, but Feather had met many of the guests in other settings. Her mission tonight demanded that no one recognize her. The mask covered her face, but voices? All too easy to recognize. She shook her head and meandered off as if she simply chose to mingle elsewhere.

Where was her sister?

Roxanne’s choice to come as a fluffy, innocent, pampered Persian cat to a party where most came dressed as wild animals suited her little sister. A wish fulfillment fantasy to be coddled and spoiled? And yet, still a predator, so beware, pine siskins, robins, and mini-fauna. The striking costume Roxanne wore should stand out, but other women had chosen to come as snow leopards—in Idaho? Why?—and Feather caught sight of several patches of white.

Feather accepted a glass of white wine from a member of the catering staff. She had to find Brad before she was recognized, but she might as well fortify herself first. She had to speak with Brad before she undertook the second half of her mission, despite her desire to simply dash up the stairs.

Without warning someone grabbed Feather’s shoulders in a powerful grip. Her wine splashed on the hardwood floor. “Ah hah. Found you again.”

She twisted her neck to see who held her. Her captor chuckled. “Not so fast, wee badger.” His Scots accent rankled. “I claim my victor’s prize.” The man was muscular but not exceptionally tall, standing even with Feather's five feet, nine inches.

Keeping her firmly captive, to the point where Feather figured she’d have bruises to remind her, the man moved in front of her and leaned toward her. He flipped back the expensive wolf mask he wore. Jonathan Flynn. Another investor in the wind farm, who managed its day to day business. If he recognized Feather, he might tell Brad or Kristin and then where would she be? Out the door of the luxurious Ganborena home, quite possibly joined by her sister.

“Such a pretty badger,” he crooned.

Feather’s reaction came almost without thought. Old instincts rose to guide her. A man spurned would remember his prey. A man who felt he’d won would forget this conquest and move on to the next. Particularly a competitive, financial risk-taker like Jonathan. He counted coup.

Relying on her mask to conceal her identity, Feather stood on tiptoe and planted a vigorous kiss on Jonathan’s lips. Startled, he released her arms. She grasped his face between her hands—paws tonight—and continued the kiss until she sensed his surprise morphing to arousal. She backed away and smiled.

“You are without a doubt the alpha wolf,” she crooned, hoping throatiness masked her voice. With a mysterious, badger-like smile, she strutted away. Although she had little experience of smiling badgers.

Two men, one she recognized as Roxanne’s boyfriend Teddy, the other well-disguised in a bear costume that she imagined rivaled her own for discomfort, gave her thumbs-up gestures for her handling of Jon.

She smiled and as she moved away, she heard Teddy talking to his companion. “Jon can be a dillrod, Peter. You should take over the management of the wind farm. More brains, more savvy, more people skills in your pinky—or should I say, paw—than Jon Flynn.” Typical Teddy, charming the folks with money. She gathered the bear was Peter Brewer, another investor, and someone who put his extensive money into conservation and advised others to do the same. Peter threw a big arm around Teddy’s shoulders and laughed.

She lost herself among the guests stalking the table where the caterers had provided, not only Basque snacks, but offerings suited to less adventurous palates. Feather loaded a plate with various pintxos, the Basque equivalent of tapas.

A voice came from her right. A too-familiar voice. “If I hadn’t seen your plate, I might have thought I mistook that sexy voice.”

Too soon. She wasn’t ready. Feather gasped and looked into the eyes of her former lover Brad Ganborena. She switched her focus back to the food.

“I’m not going to ask why the hell you’re here, or even how you got in without Kristin noticing, but it might be a good idea to eat and run. We don’t need a scene tonight. Enough of that outside.”

“God forbid I scare away potential investors.”

“Of course. Rules of the game.” Brad added a generous slice of Basque tortilla, similar to a frittata, to Feather’s plate. “Tuna. Yellowfin’s not endangered. With local eggs, even. You’ll love it. Now eat up and scoot that gorgeous badger body out of here as fast as you can.”

Feather looked up at Brad. Her pulse increased. To hide any expression she might reveal, she popped a pepper into her mouth. Chewing, good. Speaking, bad. Choosing one of the hottest peppers on the table, exceedingly bad. Her face flushed. She wished the mask covered her ears, which by now blazed bright red with heat.

Brad leaned across her and grabbed a napkin. He held it in front of her mouth and she spat the remains of the pepper into it. Then he scooped some yogurt from a bowl artfully displayed on a bed of greens onto her plate. He picked up a spoon and offered her a large bite of the cooling balm.

She realized that this man, the adulterer she had tried hard to hate—and yes, she knew she was the woman whom he’d strayed with, making her, in olden terms, a fornicatress—did indeed possess a few virtues. Like kindness and consideration and the grace to allow her to leave without being exposed to his jealous, spiteful—albeit beautiful and talented and highly educated—wife.

“Actually, I came to talk to you. I need to talk to you.”

“Tonight? Couldn’t you make an appointment?”

“Are you kidding? If I’m seen with you, Kristin will blow a gasket.”

“No reason she should.” Brad sighed. “But you’re right. Come on. I can spare a few minutes.”

He led her through the kitchen to the back porch, but switched directions when he saw the numerous smokers huddled in the cool evening. Back through the kitchen and down the stairs to the wine cellar.

“Okay.” Brad waited, arms crossed in front of his chest, expression guarded.

Feather removed her mask. No pretense. No stalling. “I need a loan. Charlie West offered his time and his construction crew before the snow flies to get the B&B started. But I don’t have enough cash for the supplies, and … Mom won’t loan it to me. She calls the idea feather-brained.” Jeanette Sullivan despised her daughter’s choice of forest names. “I don’t have time to apply for a bank loan.” Sweat dripped down the back of her neck. Her chest tightened.

“Not sure your credit report would get you much, anyway. Activist, waitress, unwed mother.”

Feather’s jaw clenched. “College graduate holding down two jobs. Already have the land, free and clear.” Thanks to her good friend Gina.

Brad took a few steps to the left, then right. Dancing or a mini-pace for the crowded space? “I sunk a lot of money into Windfall Works. The wind farm is taking longer to get going than we expected.”

“Feather's Beds is a good investment. It will be a great place for potential investors, inspectors, whoever, to stay. Hancock has only one B&B, and if you don’t count The Tidy Scot—and no one in his or her right mind would—nowhere else for investors or tourists to stay. Spokane’s too far; Sandpoint’s too pricey. If we can start immediately, I’ll be open in the spring.”

Brad raised his eyebrows. “Ambitious schedule.”

“Exactly why I can’t take time to find other loans.” Begging was awful, worse than biting into that pepper. Why couldn’t her mother have cooperated? Feather regretted her naïve refusal of financial support when she gave up Jared for adoption by Brad and Kristin, a decision that came after months of painful internal debate. But Brad was the father and Jared would be adored and coddled, his life stable and comfortable with the Ganborenas as his parents.

Not to mention the guilt Feather felt about her affair with Brad. She had asked for and received nothing from Brad and Kristin. Nothing, she thought with bitter regret, but a promise to comply with the terms of the open adoption. She’d not even received that.

She said nothing, only gazed at her former lover.

Moments passed. Feather held her breath.

Brad fiddled with a bottle in the wine rack. “How much do you need?”

Feather released her breath. “Thirty thousand. I’ll pay interest, of course.”

“I don’t have that much to spare, Feather. Windfall’s a cash drain.”

Feather tried to keep her face from revealing her despair, but Brad could read it. “I’ll talk to Kristin.”

Oh, sure, Kristin would jump for joy at loaning Feather fifty cents, much less thirty thousand dollars. Since it was the best she could hope for from Brad, there was no point getting snotty. “Thank you. You know I wouldn’t ask if I weren’t desperate.”

“I wish I could just give you the money. In a few years….”

“I need it now, Brad. Please talk to Kristin soon. Winter could arrive sooner than usual.”


Feather knew he would keep that promise, just as she knew what Kristin’s response would be.

Her shoulders sagged as she headed for the door.

“Now you really ought to leave before Kristin sees you. Even in that costume, you’re distinctive.”

“Uh huh.” But despite her disappointment and the fear of exposure, as soon as she got back inside, she would make her way upstairs. Nothing could stop her, not when she was so close to her objective.

Chapter 2

Seek and Ye Shall Find … Trouble

Was it the costumes, or the beer and wine that flowed as fast as the Lochsa River after snow melt? Something had stripped away the inhibitions of the party-goers, despite the fact the costumes did little to hide the identities of most. It paid to be visible at parties, especially fund-raising parties. These events were all about networking.

When had fun and communion morphed into networking, one more method to get ahead? When would these people decide enough was enough, and let her get upstairs unseen?

Guests munched, drank, and launched desperate quests to find important people who could help their cause, loan them money, or employ them. From her shadowy corner Feather observed many attempted ascents on the peaks of power fail, the hopefuls walking away with downcast eyes and slumped postures. She definitely related to their feelings.

Politicians from Idaho and Washington state and their aides smoothly cut through the chaff of the everyday voter to the desirable wealthy patrons, presumably without offending the less powerful or wealthy. More likely just not caring, since re-election depended on money.

Across the room she saw Peter talking to Jonathon. Two women hovered near them. One she feared was her mother, who would give her heck if she saw her here. Her mom knew how much Kristin disliked Feather.

She hunched over and turned away.

The crowds around the table thinned. Feather backed in the direction of the stairs, confident no one noticed. At last, she thought. This evening couldn't have gone slower.

A tall, lean woman, bearing a tray burdened with a mixture of tiny croquetas and shot glasses filled with creamy potato soup, walked past Feather. A female guest, costumed as a skunk and possibly as drunk as, hurried in front of the staircase from the great room, focused on the cell phone she held. She collided with the server.

For scant seconds it seemed possible that the server would recover and be able to rebalance her tray. Then one after another the shot glasses toppled over and the tray tilted to one side, soup and fried rolls falling to the hardwood floor along with a few shot glasses that bounced rather than broke when they hit the floor.

The server regained control of her tray by dropping to a crouch in the mess. Feather ran to her and took the tray from her so she could rise.

The “skunk,” now streaked with white goop, yelled, “Idiot. You crashed into me. Ever heard of ‘watch where you’re going?’” She peered down at herself. “Look at me. You’ve ruined my costume. Where’s your supervisor?”

Feather recognized the skunk, one of Brad’s partners in Windfall Works. In Feather's experience banker Sophia Patton was neither rude nor nasty, but she was doing a good imitation of both tonight.

“I am so sorry, ma’am. I didn’t see you.”

“But …” Anyone who saw the collision knew the fault wasn’t the server’s.

The server reached for the tray with a warning look at Feather. “Thank you for your help.” Now shut up, her eyes begged. To the woman she said, “Let me return this to the kitchen and find my supervisor.”

Soon a man arrived, holding a small notebook and extending a glass of champagne to Sophia. He was a slight redhead whose freckled, porcelain skin and innocent blue eyes assured his being carded at every nightclub.

Rage exuded from Sophia like an ugly aura. “I wanted to see a supervisor, not a child. Must I search out our hosts?”

With a charming smile, the redhead assured the woman of his title, his maturity and his competence, took her name and address, gave her his card, and convinced her to take the champagne. A different server offered her a cloth to wipe her tights while the original “culprit” returned to clean up the mess. Feather knelt to help her. “She ran right into you. Texting, no doubt.”

The woman smiled. “But the customer is always right.”

A waitress herself, Feather knew that the woman was correct, even if Feather chafed against the statement. She pondered what kind of a burr Sophia had up her slinky costume tonight to be so rude.

Feather returned to the shadows near the stairs but before she did, she threw a comment over her shoulder to the supervisor. “That guest was texting, ran right into your server.”

She refocused on tonight’s quest. She edged farther into the shadows and waited for the opportunity to slip upstairs.

* * *

Upstairs, Feather opened the third door on the right, a hard grip on the handle, breath caught against the tiniest creak.

The dim light of a night light revealed the shape of an infant sleeping in the crib. She bit her lip, fighting to keep herself from cooing his name, from touching him.

Her son. Her beloved baby.

Nine months earlier, Feather gave birth to the child whose tiny snores now reminded her of a dreaming kitten. Brad and Kristin were unable to have children. It made sense for them to adopt Brad's and Feather’s child. After weeks of angst and debate, both internal and with the other women awaiting their children's birth at Rainbow's End—the shelter for pregnant women established by her dear friend Gina—Feather realized she didn't want to face parenthood alone. Then, it had seemed a good decision, reasonable and best for her baby. An open adoption—Jared would be Kristin’s and Brad’s son, and Feather would be kept updated on his progress and allowed scheduled, supervised visits.

That was then. She supposed she should have known better. Within a few months, Kristin’s commitment to openness shrank faster than Feather’s now-empty uterus. Kristin used her legal expertise to interpret the adoption agreement so Feather’s written updates were now without accompanying photos and her last visit with her son had been a long seven weeks earlier. Her last official visit.

Feather crept silently into the room and closed the door behind her. The room had a baby monitor Roxanne, her sister, monitored. Both Brad and Kristin checked it often. Feather's unauthorized visit to Jared’s room was messed up, but in her opinion, Kristin’s behavior was of a woman on the edge of insanity.

She inched closer to the crib. Jared’s flung out to both sides, his head turned away from Feather. He rolled over to his side, facing her, drooling a little, making tiny farting sounds. Absolutely adorable. She removed her mask, not wanting to frighten her son.

Seeing the baby in his home environment was well worth the risk of being caught.

Once Feather realized Kristin didn’t intend to honor her promises, she convinced her younger sister to apply for the job of nanny when Kristin returned to work. Roxanne had been a nanny for another couple and had a genuine and obvious love for children. Getting the job was easy. Roxanne told the Ganborenas she had not approved of Feather’s giving her son up for adoption and vowed she hadn’t spoken to Feather since Jared was born. As Jared's aunt, she would be the ideal nanny. Kristin and Brad believed her. Roxanne should put talented, convincing liar on her resumé.

Unable to stop herself, Feather reached out and touched the baby’s hand. He immediately grabbed hold of her finger. The little guy had quite a grip. Feather relished it.

Feather stood content beside the crib watching the baby sleep for some 10 minutes, minutes that seemed only an instant. Staying longer increased the odds she’d be caught. “This is where you belong, little guy,” she whispered, her voice a mere puff from her lips. “They love you and you’ll grow up in a good family.” Except for her insane jealousy of Feather, Kristin was an adequate mother. Okay, an excellent, doting mother.

Jared’s face contorted into a grimace and he let out a series of grunts. He produced a huge plopping bowel movement, noisy and runny and redolent of squash, possibly artfully mixed with turkey. Feather wrinkled her nose. Jared released her finger but his face again scrunched up. He apparently shared Feather’s opinion of his recent discharge because his wail might easily have been heard 500 miles south in Boise. No need for an electronic monitor.

“Time for Mommy to say bye-bye, sweetheart,” she murmured under his screeching. “Nanny will be here to take care of you soon.”

Certain the yowling, either direct or via the baby monitor, would summon Kristin, or more likely, Roxanne, Feather leaned over the crib and blew a kiss at her son. The wide awake child didn’t seem to recognize Feather, not surprising since she hadn’t been allowed to see him for nearly two months, save for a couple of brief, unauthorized visits at a coffee house where she and Roxanne met up.

Feather backed away from the crib instead of picking the infant up to relieve his discomfort. Jared’s wails increased in volume and possibly with surprise. The little guy wasn’t accustomed to being left in misery. A giant was there. A giant should help him.

Feather reached for the door handle and the door opened, nearly smashing her wrist. She melted against the wall, hoping the new arrival wouldn’t notice her, silent and still.

Kristin bent over the crib, cooing to the baby. “What’s the fuss? Did our big boy go poopy in his diaper? Hush now, we’ll take care of this. Where do you suppose Roxanne is? It’s certain she heard you. Everyone did.” Chatting, reassuring, Kristin scooped Jared into her arms and spun to face the diapering table.

Sadly, the table stood against the wall where Feather was trying to look like part of the zoo-themed paper.

She prayed Kristin didn’t drop the baby in her shock at seeing someone else in the room.

Kristin inhaled a sharp breath when she realized she wasn’t the only adult in the room. She clutched her son to her. In a few seconds, she placed Jared on the table and began to remove the diaper, cloth, of course. “Why didn’t you help my son?”

“Just popped in to see the little one,” she said in a squeaky, faked voice. “I’ll be off then.”

Kristin kept a hand on Jared to anchor him to the changing table but moved closer to Feather. “Oh, no. You won’t be off anywhere until I damn well tell you to go.”

Uh oh. From Kristin’s cold tone, Feather deduced either her attempt to disguise her voice or her badger costume had failed her.

Ditto the uh oh. How could she have forgotten she’d removed her mask? She gave a weak chuckle. “Guess the jig is up.” The jig is up? Where'd that come from?

“I don’t know how you got in here, but you have given me a great way to block future visits with my son.” Kristin sucked in a breath. Feather wondered how she could with the stench in the nursery. “Brad brought you here, didn’t he? That bastard. He says I’m not being fair, not keeping to the damn adoption agreement. Were you two playing around before you came to visit the kiddo?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. If you hadn’t broken the agreement, kept me from even a glimpse of … Jared, I wouldn’t have been reduced to sneaking in.” It had taken an effort to stop from referring to Jared as her son. Kristin was his mother now.

“That’s patently absurd. I’m a lawyer. You’re wrong and Brad is wrong. I stayed within the boundaries of our agreement.”

Did anyone aside from lawyers use the phrase “patently absurd?”

Jared decided the attention needed to return to the king of the room. He wailed and flailed and rolled close to the edge of the table. It had a rim to prevent his rolling off, but Feather’s heart moved her hand to stop him.

“You know all about reluctant compliance, don’t you, Kristin?” She pulled her hands back, the effort strenuous and painful. “A few blurry photos, right at deadline. What’s the problem? Jealous he might prefer me?” Oh, great, why not simply dump a can of kerosene on the situation?

“He? Jared? Or Brad?” Kristin sucked in a breath. “Now I know where I saw you. Flirting with my husband. You conniving witch.” Somehow Kristin had managed to re-diaper the crying infant. She picked him up and snuggled him against her. Possibly realizing her anger was upsetting the baby, she reduced the volume but not the venom. “I hope you enjoyed your little adventure tonight. It will be the last time you see Jared for a very long time. Now get out of my home and stay away from my boys. Plural.”

Feather couldn’t leave it. She walked to the door and flipped on the light. “You’re wrong, you know. I don’t want Brad and I gave you Jared. I only want what we all agreed to. It’s only just.”

“Don’t talk to me about justice. You fucked my husband while he was married to me. Leave.”

Feather glared at Kristin. “You made a promise. You will make it good, believe me. I don’t give up, I promise you. And I keep my promises.” Feather walked from the room, holding herself erect, not allowing herself to turn and stare at Kristin and Jared, not allowing them to see the tears streaking her face. Neither woman had raised her voice, only the level of spite in it. Given that, it still surprised her the only person in the hall was her sister, who stood near the door but wisely had not entered. Feather had assumed the entire contingent of party-goers had heard their argument and would be gathered around the door, wondering what violence would erupt.

She sent a bleak look to Roxanne. “Well, that went well.”

Roxanne patted her shoulder. “Sorry I didn’t beat her up the stairs.”

“She would have come in anyway. Not your fault.”

“I’ll walk you out.” Roxanne lowered her voice as they descended the stairs, and Feather had to duck her head to hear her shorter sister’s words. “This nanny gig is too dull, anyway. I’ll be out of here soon.”

Meaning Feather would never see Jared. “But….” Feather wiped her nose on the sleeve of her costume, leaving an oh-so-alluring trail of snot.

In her guise as a fluffy kitten, Roxanne appeared innocent and cuddly. Life wasn’t fair. “Don’t worry. Kristin will come around and do what’s right. If she doesn’t, we’ll have the cash to fight her.” She opened the door.

“How could we? She's a lawyer and we're both broke.” Was Kristin's craziness contagious?

Brad trotted up to join them. “What’s going on?” Roxanne put a look of innocent ignorance on her kitten’s face.

Feather closed the door on him and his life and his wife and their son and walked down the cement stairs into the cool dark night.

Chapter 3

Skulking Skunk

The one place Sophia Patton did not want to go after the debacle of a party was home. Home, where Aileen awaited news, news Sophia dreaded sharing.

Instead of home, she headed west, toward The Tank, an upscale bar not far from their home. The Tank took its name from the huge saltwater fish tank the owners swore contained only non-endangered species. While it might well be true, Sophia had read that so many exotics died during shipment, far more had to be captured than were expected to eventually be sold to enthusiasts. Only the fittest survived, she guessed. An analogy appropriate to many areas of life.

She turned into the lot of The Tank. As usual, it was crowded with high end SUVs, a few custom pickups and some hybrids purchased without thought to winters up here mere miles south of Canada.

She yanked open the heavy, carved wood door. She craved the solitude of the far corner of The Tank, behind the aquarium. There she could ponder her problems and observe the graceful, colorful fish transplanted from their ocean homes to a bar, albeit, an upscale bar, in Spokane, Washington. Even fish had problems.

Sophia, tall, slender and curvaceous, was accustomed to heads turning and eyes, either lascivious or envious, widening when she entered a room. She was not accustomed to snickers and heads turning to hide smiles. She strode across the room and slid into the booth. She slid faster than normal on the fake fur bottom and tights of the skunk costume. With her dark brown hair striped down the middle with white powder, her face half white, half black, her legs in black tights, a very long, very fluffy black and white tail attached to her rump, she looked absurd.

She blessed the make-up and the dark room for covering the blush stretching from head to toe. Even her black boots had a white strip of electrical tape up the back. With more than a month till Halloween, she had no excuse for her outfit.

A server arrived at her booth and did a poor job of hiding her sneer. No tip for you, college girl.

Sophia ordered a beer. With no intention of leaving the bar before it emptied of its peering patrons, a long night lay ahead. No one had better stop by her booth and express condolences that she was skunked tonight, unless they hankered for a beer bath.


About me

Kathy McIntosh is addicted—to words. She loves the way words sound and the way they look on a page. In addition to creating offbeat adventures for the zany characters in her novels, she writes and speaks about words and writing. Kathy transplanted from Idaho to the Sonora desert, gleefully abandoning her long johns and snow shovel. She shares space with a hairy cat, a large, lazy, dog and a husband who most of the time is neither hairy nor lazy.

Q. Why do you write?
I love to lie and writing legitimizes lying! I enjoy making up stories about the people and places I encounter, and I love the way words work together to tell a tale. Plus, writing allows me to use my offbeat sense of humor.
Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
I was inspired to write the series by the real “Roadkill,” an environmental activist. Wearing the skins of animals he finds on the roadside, he fast became my most popular character. I’m passionate about the environment, but the story and the humor have the most important roles in my stories.

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Grill a witness? Easy. Kill a witness? Uh oh.