Perfect scents, p.1
Perfect Scents, p.1Heather Karn
By Heather Karn
Joette McClane’s life has gone from the happiest it could ever be to heartbreak with the deaths of her parents. Now living with her grandma and aunt, trying to put the pieces of her life back together, a school assignment shocks the life back into Joey- an essay on the weregals, a race of werecats who disappeared from the mountains of West Virginia nearly twenty years ago. As luck, or fate, would have it, not only does Joey stumble across the first weregal seen in years, but what Kev knows about Joey will turn her world upside down. But Kev’s not the only creature lurking in the West Virginia pines, and these other creatures might not be so friendly. Armed with her peculiar sense of smell, Joey and her friends set out to discover the truth behind these mysterious strangers who have their sights set on Joey, but will the price of truth be too much to pay?
Copyright © 2016 by Heather Karn
Published: August 2016
Cover Design by Heather Karn
Edited by Jane Curry from WatchJaneWrite
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without express written permission from the author. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or events is entirely coincidental.
To my beloved grandparents:
Grandma Karn- For always wanting to read my work, no matter how bad it was (and teaching me to always keep snacks on hand).
Grandpa Karn- For taking the time to read my books to Grandma so she could hear them (and for my love of writing by Christmas lights).
Grandpa Parent- For encouraging me to always strive for more and to achieve what I want most (and showing me that nothing beats a little time in the woods).
Grandma Parent- Though we lost you too soon, thank you for instilling in me the determination to do my very best, and to make my bed (I’m still working on that one).
To all of my friends and family, thank you for believing in me.
Ann Alise Prince, thank you for reading through the first draft no matter how rough around the edges it was! You helped make Perfect Scents what it was today through your comments and our discussion.
Amber Shepherd, you are the best Joey I could have asked for! Thank you for helping make the cover come alive. You’re beautiful inside and out.
Tasha Karn and Sarah West, thank you for being my moral support whenever I felt like giving up or that the book wasn’t good enough. You two are hilarious!
To my parents and sisters, thanks for putting up with my nonstop “shop talk”…this is only the beginning.
To all my new friends I’ve met along this journey, thank you for whatever role you’ve played to help me get here.
Table of Contents
Growing up the one thing that always made people wary of me was my ability to smell…everything. I could tell them exact spices used in every meal, and how long garbage had been in a trash can just by getting a whiff of it from twenty feet away. That’s why I always sat in the far corner of the high school lunchroom. If you think that milky, ketchup smell is bad from a few feet away, for me, it’s just as bad from the other side of the room. The one smell that could rival it would be the boy’s locker room, and I was more than grateful I never had a reason to go in there. I could deal with the gallons of perfume my female classmates put on after our gym hour.
If I had to have a special talent, time travel would have been preferred over an amazing sense of smell for several reasons. First, it would just be plain fun. A real life Dr. Who? Who wouldn’t want that? Secondly, I’d get out of school and this stinky cafeteria sooner.
The third, and most important reason, would be that I could see my parents again. Dad was killed in a drunk driving accident two years ago coming home from a late night at the office. Gerry wasn’t my real dad, but after marrying my mom, he’d adopted me. My biological father was nowhere in the picture. I didn’t even know his name.
Mom died of cancer two months ago. A year after Dad died, Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. We stayed in Michigan until it became apparent she wasn’t going to make it. Then she moved us to West Virginia to be with her mom and sister. Now that Mom was gone, Gram and Aunt Gwen were my guardians. I liked it here most days, but today was one of the hard days, and on those days, I avoided as many people as possible.
The scent of sweaty teenage boy and spearmint gum told me I had a visitor before he arrived at my table, interrupting my quiet lunch.
“You know, Joey, you’re always depressed,” a whiny male voice above me stated, dragging me from the book I held, but wasn’t reading. It was a front to keep people at bay. Today it wasn’t working.
“Excuse me?” I was dumbfounded. Who was bold enough to tell me I was depressed? Closing my book, I tucked my long red hair behind my ears so he could see the glare in my green eyes when I looked up.
The dark haired boy stared down at me as if he hadn’t said anything offensive. “Well, you’re always sitting over here by yourself, and you don’t smile or laugh. What’s anyone supposed to think?”
“That I like to read, and I’m not a social butterfly.”
“Yeah, I get that. What I don’t get is why you avoid everyone. We don’t bite. Half of us only want to be your friend, but it’s like you don’t want anyone near you. We all know about your mom and what you’re doing here. It’s no secret. We can help.”
“It’s Mitch, right?”
“Michael,” he corrected, rolling his mocha brown eyes like I’d proven the point he’d been trying to make.
“Okay, Michael. Why do people think I have to let them into my business? What happens in my life isn’t a free for all. When I decide I need friends, or that I need to talk to someone, I’ll look you up. For now, I’d like to get back to my book, please.” The words came out harsher than I’d anticipated, and I felt bad the moment they were said. I wasn’t as upset with him as I was with the whole situation. He just happened to be the one who got the full taste of my ire.
Michael stalked away shaking his head. I turned back to my book while his words replayed in my mind. Before I could get too depressed about my state of life, the bell rang. Time for trig, history and Senior English. Then I would be free.
Mrs. Huckabee had been teaching English for almost forty years. She was a small woman with curly white hair and large, metal rimmed glasses. Technology was not her thing, so if she couldn’t use it, neither could we. I liked her, though. She was feisty.
“All right class, today you get to pick your next essay assignment. The topic is mythical creatures and deities,” Mrs. Huckabee explained, which was met with several groans from the class. She continued without acknowledging that she’d heard the moans. “I have a
No one said anything as she finished and handed William, a short, stocky kid with the bluest hair I’d ever seen, the topic idea papers to hand out. He’d eaten French fries for lunch, and the smell of them clung to his skin and clothes, hiding his usual musky scent. He was a nice kid, though, and hung to himself a lot, like me.
As I read down the list of topics, my frown grew into a wider smile with each topic. There were Ancient Greek gods and goddesses, as well as Egyptian and Norse gods as well. There were more recent mythological creatures as well as events and places such as the city of Atlantis. At the bottom of the list, I came across a name I’d never heard of, which was odd because I knew every other creature, god and legend listed on the paper.
“Mrs. Huckabee?” I asked as she strode past me from talking to the girl who sat behind me, her apple cinnamon scent flowing with her. Oh and the smell of her three cats.
“Yes, Joette?” She refused to call me anything but my given name.
I pointed to the name on the list and asked, “What’s a weregal?”
“You don’t know what a weregal is?” Chrissa, a tall, blond girl who sat to my left in the next row of desks asked. “They’re only the scariest and coolest thing around here.”
“They live here?” I asked, looking between her and Mrs. Huckabee. “I thought we were doing mythical creatures, and you’re telling me these things are alive?”
“You see, Joette,” Mrs. Huckabee explained. “About a hundred and fifty years ago the first weregals were spotted out in the mountains and hollows. They seemed to have disappeared about twenty years ago. There hasn’t been a sighting in years. In that time they’ve become more myth than reality.”
“Yeah, but what are they exactly?”
“They’re werecats. You know humans who can turn into cats. In this case, they turn into tigers,” Chrissa explained, her eyes overflowing with excitement.
“I have an idea,” Mrs. Huckabee announced, “Why don’t you do your essay on the weregals, Joette? I believe the library has some newspaper articles about them. Many people around town also have information. I think you’ll like this topic. I’d best write it down before I forget that’s your topic.” She made a mad dash to her desk before I could tell her I truly didn’t want to write on this. There went all the fun of the essay right out the window.
When the last bell of the day rang, I packed up my books and followed the rest of my class out of the room and headed toward my locker. The school wasn’t that large, so I was there within a minute. Chrissa’s locker was right next to mine, and she had beaten me there. She usually did. I waited for her to put her books away and grab her backpack and coat before I moved to get into my locker. The aroma of Oreos and peanut butter wafted from her, making my stomach growl. That was an interesting combination.
“You are so lucky; you know that don’t you?” Chrissa told me as she closed her locker and stepped out of the way so I could get into mine.
“Lucky? How so?”
She smiled showing her perfect, white, straight teeth that had me envious every time I saw them. Sure mine were straight, but they would never be that pearl white that she had. Her bubbly laugh was also a cause of envy. It could attract any guy’s attention within earshot and cause them to trip over themselves to stare at her. And that’s exactly what happened as she stood there smiling and laughing at me. I almost snorted out a laugh as two boys collided next to us in the hall. Chrissa didn’t notice as her attention was all on me.
“Really, Joey? You get to write an essay on weregals. I mean, that’s just pure awesomeness right there, girl.”
“What part of it is awesome? I didn’t even get to pick my own topic. At least you got something fun like the Egyptian gods.” I’d been so jealous when she’d announced to Mrs. Huckabee that she wanted to write on that. I loved studying the Egyptian and Greek gods and would have traded her in a heartbeat, but I’d gotten stuck with stinkin’ tiger people that didn’t even exist like everyone here seemed to think they did. After all, we were studying myths and legends.
She reached in front of me to pull my locker shut as I grabbed out my bag and jacket. “Seriously, rumor has it that a weregal male is like the hottest piece of manliness you’ll ever see in your life.”
“It’s not like I’m going to see one. I’ve got to read about them and write about what I read. Trust me, if I were going to see one and study it, I’d be a lot happier about this assignment.”
She laughed again as we left the building together. As luck would have it, no guys were close enough to hear her laugh as lockers continued to slam shut. “Well if your research happens to have any pictures that show up, please let me know. I’d love to hang them on my wall and stare at them for hours.”
Her gusty sigh made me chuckle. “I’ll be sure to let you know.”
“You and I should hang out sometime. I think we could have a lot of fun together.” She slung an arm around my shoulders as we headed to the small student parking lot. It was a little awkward because Chrissa had almost six inches on my five feet.
I could see Gram waiting in her old, rusty car and wanted to cringe. Being seventeen and getting picked up from high school by your grandma in a piece of junk car like that was so not cool. Just another perk of living in paradise.
“Are you sure I won’t be too boring for you? Some people find me too depressing to be around,” I responded.
“Michael’s an idiot,” she said, stopping us at the edge of the parking lot. It didn’t surprise me that she’d know about my conversation with him. By now everyone knew.
She took her arm away and gave me the first serious look I’d seen her wear. “We all know you just lost your mom. I can’t imagine what that’s like. You have every right to feel depressed about that. If wanting to be alone at lunch and reading a book is how you cope with it, then you go girl. Don’t let that fool stop you. But if you want a friend, or just someone to talk to, I’m all ears. And don’t worry, I won’t say a thing. People around here already have too much to gossip about.”
I stood there smiling like an idiot, not knowing what to say. Someone was actually talking to me without prying into my private life. That was a change.
“Thanks, Chrissa. I think it would be fun to hang out. Right now I have to go, though. Gram’s waiting for me.”
“Oh that’s right, your grandma picks you up. Don’t you have a car?”
“Nope. We had to sell Mom’s after we moved here. Not that it would do me any good since I don’t have a driver’s license.”
She stared at me for a moment as if my hair was changing from its natural red to William’s blue before her eyes. “You’re kidding right?” I shook my head. “You don’t have a license?”
“I didn’t need one. Before we moved here, I always used the city bus system, or I rode my bike. I’d be riding it now except Gram thinks that October is too cold to ride around outside.”
“Ok, well that makes sense, I guess. Hey, do you want to work on our essays together?”
I had a hunch it was less about the essay and more about the weregals, but I was okay with that. “Sure. I was thinking about hitting up the library tomorrow morning to do some research. If they’re open, that is. Did you want to meet me there?”
She thought about it for a second while nibbling on her thumbnail. “Sure. What time?”
“Depends on when they open, but I’m sure they’re open by nine, so I was going to aim for that.”
“Nine on a Saturday, are you crazy?”
“Some people think so.”
She shook her head at me. “Okay, well call me when you find out if it’s open and I’ll be there. Man, you’re crazy.”
“Hey, you wanted to hang out,” I reminded her, laughing as she shook her head.
“This does not count as hanging out.”
“You said you wanted to work on our essays together. I want a head start.”
“You just want to see if there are any pictures,” she replied with a wink, implying that I was the one who wanted to stare at hot guys all day; whatever floated her boat.
I rolled my eyes at her. “I’ll need your number.”
She whipped out her cell phone. “If you give me your number I’ll text you so you’ll have mine.”
My cheeks grew hot as I scuffed the toe of my shoe against the sidewalk. “I don’t have a cell phone.”
“No driver’s license, car, or cell phone. Honey, we’ve got to fix this.”
“Not my fault.”
Chrissa took off her backpack and ripped a small piece of paper from a notepad and scribbled her phone number on it. As she handed it to me, she gave me an order of, “Don’t lose it.”
“Well, have a great night. I’ll most likely see you tomorrow,” she said and headed toward her car.
“Yeah, see you then.”
With that, I crossed the parking lot toward Gram. She watched me approach with a curious expression on her face. My guess was that she was surprised I’d been talking to someone, and I’d let that someone put her arm around me. I was about to find out for sure because Gram never lets anything slide by without getting more information. She was one of the worst busybodies in town, but she kept our business to herself…most of the time.
I opened the door and got in with a sigh. When I pulled the door shut, it made a loud screeching that made me shudder every time I heard it. One of these days I’d remember to grab some WD-40 while I was at the store. And I’d need to get an air freshener. The car smelled old.
“New friend?” Gram asked as she waited for me to buckle up before turning on the car. Her bright blue eyes never left me as I fought the seat belt into place.
“I guess,” was my reply. “We need more milk.”
“I already stopped by the grocery store and grabbed some. I also got some apples and bananas, and a head of lettuce. Oh, and some oranges. You need to start eating better and lose some of that weight you’ve put on. I thought fruit might aid with that. And you need to start exercising again. I think that will help your mood.”
Leave it to Gram to cut to the chase and be as blunt and honest as she wanted to be, even if it was offensive. Yes, I’d put on a few extra pounds since moving here, but I wasn’t unhealthy or overweight. My old habit of running in the evenings had ended since Mom died, and I’d started eating a lot more junk food, all of which had been supplied by Aunt Gwen. She knew what a girl needed, and it wasn’t health food.
Gram wasn’t a health food nut, but she didn’t eat as much junk food as Aunt Gwen and I did. She was barely taller than I was and as skinny as a twig. Mom had been built the same as Gram and me. Gram’s hair was dark but had started to acquire some gray highlights. It looked good on her with her short, layered haircut. This was where we differed. I had Grandad’s red hair, just like Mom did. Aunt Gwen, on the other hand, had Gram’s dark hair.
Aunt Gwen was the complete opposite of Gram and me as far as body structure. She had Grandad’s build, or at least that’s what I was told. He’d died before I was born. Like him, Aunt Gwen was close to six feet with broad shoulders and strong upper body muscles. She wasn’t overweight either, but she was a bit hefty. In more ways than one, she and Gram were complete opposites, and it made for some rather interesting discussions at home.
“Now who was that girl you were talking to?” Gram asked, steering us back on topic.
“Oh, that was Chrissa Larsen.”
“Well, she seemed like a nice girl.”
“Yeah, she is. Can we go now? Everyone’s staring.”
It was true. Anyone who was close enough to see inside the car, which was just about everyone, was watching. They probably wanted to know who owned the junk metal sitting in the parking lot, or if the car would even start. I knew it would, and it would blow out a cloud of blue-gray smoke behind it that would stink and linger in the air for several minutes. It made me wish Gram would just leave it running. She’d let me ride my bike to school for the first month and a half, but for the last few weeks, she’d argued it was too cold outside. I still thought it was nice, but I couldn’t convince her of that. So now everyone got to see that I rode around in style.
Gram laughed as she started the car and pulled away. I kept my face down so I wouldn’t meet anyone’s eyes. Once we pulled out of the parking lot, I lifted my head.
“So what did this Chrissa want?” Gram prodded after I’d been silent for a few minutes. She didn’t quite understand my need for quiet in the car after school.
“She wants to hang out sometime.”
She smiled in response. I knew that would make her happy. “That’s great. When?”
“We didn’t set a time. Just sometime in the near future. She wants to work on our English essays together too.”
The trees were going by at a steady pace, and so were the hills. It had taken me a while to get used to the constant ups and downs of the road, and for my ears to stop popping all the time. There was a mountain trail I could bike that was pretty flat and took me most of the way home from school. The popping wasn’t too bad on my bike.
“Other than working on your essays, what are you going to do?” Gram asked with a wry smile. The local police department should have hired her to be an interrogator. She was relentless.
“If I had to guess, I assume she’ll want to go shopping or to a movie or something like that. I’m not into shopping that much, but a movie would be nice.” I sat silent for another minute or two. “Do you know if the library is open tomorrow?”
Gram turned off the highway onto our road, which led into a wooded hollow. If I was honest with myself, this part of the country was beautiful. The fall colors were at their peak. I’d never seen such bright hues.
“I think it’s open from nine until noon. Why do you ask? Do you need a book?”
“I need to do some research for my English essay. We have to do one on mythical creatures, and Mrs. Huckabee assigned me the topic of weregals, or whatever they are. She said there are newspaper articles and other information in the library. It’s not due until the end of November, but I wanted to get a head start.”
It took me longer than it should have to realize that Gram was too quiet. Taking my eyes off the view out my window, I turned to look at her. Her usual smile was gone, replaced by a frown.
“Gram? You all right?”
“Oh, yes, sorry sweetheart. I’m fine.” She forced a smile back on her face, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “That’s an interesting topic to write about.”
I sighed and stared back out the window. “I think she gave it to me because I was the only one in the class who’d never heard of a weregal. Were they really that prominent around here?”
Gram let out a low, harsh laugh. “They were prominent all right. There are two things that stand out in my memory. The first is that a few people were killed by them. They said they were peaceful, but in the end, they were just like animals.”
“And the second?”
“The second is that they had a tendency to take humans as mates. Do I need to explain what that means?” I shook my head quickly which caused her to give me a real smile, though her eyes glazed as she recalled the past. “Several men and women disappeared throughout the years, never to be heard from again. Some left notes about choosing to become a weregal’s mate. Others just left.”
“Everyone who went missing couldn’t have run away with weregals, right?” From the way Gram talked, the whole town had run away with one.
“No, some of the kids wanted to leave without their parents looking for them, and this was over many decades, not one generation. They were running away back when I was a youngster, and several of your mother’s classmates left the area too. Whether they left alone or with a weregal, I can’t say for certain. It didn’t disappoint any of us when the weregals vanished into thin air. Most
My brain reeled at what she was telling me. Creatures like weregals didn’t exist in real life and yet here was my grandmother telling me that half human/half tiger people actually existed. It was insane. Even the thought of a werewolf was crazy, and I’d grown up hearing stories about them.
“Gram, you’re telling me that these creatures exist, that they’re real? I had a hard time buying it when Mrs. Huckabee was telling me about them, but you’re telling me they exist? I don’t think my brain is cut out for this type of revelation.”
“Yes, sweetheart, they exist.”
I tried to see the landscape around me differently now as Gram pulled into the driveway. Out there, somewhere, could be tigers roaming the woods, or people in town that weren’t human. Was there a way to tell if they were a weregal in their human form?
“Do you think they disappeared because they stayed human and started living with us?”
Gram turned off the car and thought about this for a moment before opening her door. “Maybe a few decided to live among us humans, but I don’t think it was in their nature to live like that. Most preferred to live as animals. If you need more information, Tom Hildebrant could give you more physical details, although you could probably find those in the newspapers as well. He killed several that were trying to eat some of his sheep. Poor Tom, one of those beasts killed his son, Ethan, a few weeks later when the boy tried to shoot it. Can you grab the groceries for me?”
She was out of the car before I could answer or even think of what to say next. For an older woman, she was rather spry and moved a lot faster than I did. I had to drag myself from the car and cringed again as the door screeched shut.
“We have got to get that thing oiled,” I mumbled to myself as I followed Gram to the house.
Perfect Scents by Heather Karn / Romance & Love have rating 2.4 out of 5 / Based on34 votes