Cougars mate, p.1
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       Cougar's Mate, p.1

         Part #1 of Heart of the Cougar series by Terry Spear
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Cougar's Mate


  Table of Contents

  Cougar's Mate

  Cougar's Mate

  Blurb for Cougar's Mate

  Also by Terry Spear:

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Acknowledgments

  A short excerpt for the next in the Heart of the Cougar series:

  Call of the Cougar

  Cougar's Mate

  Heart of the Cougar, Book 1

  Terry Spear

  Cougar's Mate

  Copyright © 2014 by Terry Spear

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.

  Discover more about Terry Spear at:

  http://www.terryspear.com/

  Dedication

  To Karen Roma, a friend from Down Under, for loving my teddy bears and my shifters!

  Blurb for Cougar's Mate

  Cougar’s Mate: Instinct told her to run…

  Shannon Rafferty learns that hanging out with the bad boys could be a dangerous business, but hooking up with a cop is even worse. Now she’s on the run, trying to avoid being murdered by his cougar shifter brothers and uncle. If that isn’t bad enough, a deputy sheriff hunts her down while she’s running as a cougar and trying to survive in the Colorado wilderness. He vows to protect her no matter what she’s done. With three dead boyfriends to her name, she’s sure she will be the death of Chase Buchanan before either of them can prevent it. No matter how much she knows she has to run again, he soon holds her heart hostage. But will that be enough to keep them both alive?

  Chase Buchanan—as wilderness cabin resort owner, former US Army Special Forces, and part time deputy of the small town of Yuma, Colorado that boasts a love of cougars—is tasked to track down a cougar reported to be hunting human prey. Chase soon learns she’s a shifter, not a full-time cougar, and she’s on the run. When he takes her in, he vows to protect her. After losing his wife and baby to the human kind of predator years earlier, he’s not letting Shannon’s hunters kill her, too. But how is he going to hold onto the wild-cat woman, who is unpredictable at every turn, without losing his heart to her, and then losing her as well?

  Cover Design: Tell~Tale Book Covers

  www.telltalebookcovers.weebly.com

  Also by Terry Spear:

  Romantic Suspense: Deadly Fortunes, In the Dead of the Night, Relative Danger, Bound by Danger

  The Highlanders Series: Winning the Highlander's Heart, The Accidental Highland Hero, Highland Rake, Taming the Wild Highlander, The Viking’s Highland Lass

  Other historical romances: Lady Caroline & the Egotistical Earl, A Ghost of a Chance at Love

  Heart of the Wolf Series: Heart of the Wolf, Destiny of the Wolf, To Tempt the Wolf, Legend of the White Wolf, Seduced by the Wolf, Wolf Fever, Heart of the Highland Wolf, Dreaming of the Wolf, A SEAL in Wolf's Clothing, A Howl for a Highlander, A Highland Werewolf Wedding, A SEAL Wolf Christmas, Silence of the Wolf, 2014, Hero of a Highland Wolf, 2014, A Highland Wolf Christmas, 2014; A SEAL Wolf for Sale, 2015; A Silver Wolf Christmas, 2015

  SEAL Wolves: To Tempt the Wolf, A SEAL in Wolf's Clothing, A SEAL Wolf Christmas

  Silver Bros Wolves: Destiny of the Wolf, Wolf Fever, Dreaming of the Wolf, Silence of the Wolf

  Highland Wolves: Heart of the Highland Wolf, A Howl for a Highlander, A Highland Werewolf Wedding, Hero of a Highland Wolf, A Highland Wolf Christmas

  Heart of the Jaguar Series: Savage Hunger, Jaguar Fever, Jaguar Hunt, 2014, Jaguar Pride, 2015

  Vampire romances: Killing the Bloodlust, Deadly Liaisons, Huntress for Hire, Forbidden Love

  Heart of the Cougar Series: Cougar’s Mate, Call of the Cougar, 2014

  Prologue

  Shannon Rafferty woke to the sound of her boyfriend arguing with one of his triplet brothers in the kitchen of their rural two-bedroom house. She hadn’t expected Ted to be home for another week. He was supposed to be at some specialized police training program. And now Hennessey was here? Fighting with him?

  What… what was going on?

  She’d already packed up her car and had planned to move out first thing in the morning. She wasn’t sure where she was going exactly, thinking she might drive to Oklahoma. Three different times, she’d run off while she’d lived with foster families until she was finally old enough to support herself, using false IDs to get jobs.

  Her brother and his friends, including two of her prior boyfriends, had all been on the wrong side of the law for years, until her twin brother and each of her subsequent boyfriends had been killed in violent crimes in Florida. She’d run off, moved far away to a little town in Texas, and turned over a fresh leaf. No more associating with guys who were in trouble with the law in her new life while she waitressed in a local diner. She’d run as a wild cougar at night in the Palo Duro Canyon, which is where she’d met Ted Kelly, a cop in his cougar coat. He’d chased her down, but only after she finally let him.

  And then she began dating him.

  Except Ted hadn’t been right for her, either. Keeping secrets. Insisting she didn’t work. That he’d provide everything for her that her heart desired.

  She thought he was seeing another woman, but something else was going on, and she suspected it had to do with the illegal sale of drugs and that was the end of it for her.

  The sound of the escalating, angry voices in the kitchen made her skin prickle with concern. She was certain Ted would attempt to stop her if she tried to leave him. If she’d known he would return home so soon, she would have left already. Why did it seem she was always on the run?

  She hurried to slip on some clothes. She’d have to sneak out the bedroom window, get into her car, and leave now. Forget about waiting for morning.

  He’d been so controlling, not allowing her to have a job, and she had liked that he had wanted to support her, but something wasn’t right. Something she hadn’t been able to put her finger on. Not since they’d met a month ago when she’d tried to erase her prior life. He hadn’t seemed to care about where she’d come from or anything else about her past. That had suited her fine. And he’d provided her with what little she’d wanted or needed. But the secretive calls at strange hours of the night, and his trips to who knew where didn’t seem right either, making her believe something else was wrong. And the time had come for her to go.

  A crash sounded in the kitchen. Her heart jumped. She threw her handbag strap over her shoulder.

  “I told you what I’d do if I caught you cheating on us again,” Hennessey growled.

  “I swear I gave you and the rest a fair cut of the profits. I had expenses, man.”

  “You lying bastard. I knew you couldn’t be trusted.”

  A drawer jerked open. Something banged into a cabinet.

  “No!” Ted shouted. “God, man, no! I swear I’m telling the truth.”

  Her heart thumped hard as she tried to open the bedroom window. No, no, no! It was stuck.

  Her fingers cramping around the metal, she tried again and again, shoving at it, but it wouldn’t budge. She had to chance slipping out of the house through the front door and pray they didn’t notice her. She opened the bedroom door as quietly as she could and crept down the hall. A short wall blocked her
view of the kitchen and their view of her. But as soon as she had to make a dash through the living room for the front door, one or both of the men could catch sight of her.

  Barely breathing, she couldn’t do anything else. She had to run, now.

  Ted gasped for air, and she figured Hennessey had hit him hard and knocked the breath out of him. She glanced in the direction of the kitchen. Ted was sitting on the floor, holding his stomach, blood all over his hands.

  Oh…my…God. Her breath hitched.

  “Where is the damn money?” Hennessey growled.

  Ted glanced at her, his breathing labored, his face turning gray. “Shannon,” he gasped, and in that instant she thought she saw regret—that now she would be murdered next. And he hadn’t wanted her to know… or to be a witness to this. Or to die.

  Hennessey’s broad back was to her, but he turned, bloodied knife in hand, and stared at her—for just a moment. His blue eyes cold with fury, his black hair trimmed short—cop style—he made a dash for her. Everything happened in fractions of heartbeats. Everything blurred as tears filled her eyes.

  Breathe! Move!

  She bolted for the front door before she’d consciously thought of doing so. She hadn’t even considered that the door would be locked. She just twisted the handle and it opened. Thank God.

  She threw the door open and ran outside into the still warm October night—the unsettled weather in the Texas Panhandle doing its usual highs and lows and everything in between.

  She dashed for her car and saw a couple taking their small son and dog for a stroll down the sidewalk. The perfect family, she thought in that instant, and they could all be murdered if she let on what had happened inside the house. With a forced smile, she said hello, and hit the unlock button on her keypad.

  They couldn’t know it, but they had saved her life. She jumped into the driver’s seat and saw Hennessey shrink back from the doorway, unable to come after her while wearing his brother’s blood on his hands, the knife, and his clothes.

  The family had moved far enough away now that as soon as she started the engine, she threw the car into reverse, drove onto the street, gunned the gas, and then headed anywhere away from here.

  She was on the run again. Only this time for her life.

  Chapter 1

  The police were supposed to be the good guys, Shannon thought bitterly as she spent the fourteenth night, she thought it was, in the Colorado Rocky Mountains after four weeks of running as a puma. She was more used to rural life than living in a skyscraper city. Rural—as in having a small town nearby to shop at, restaurants, movie theaters, the usual. Living like this was something she’d never bargained for. Not in her worst nightmares.

  As soon as she had to struggle to survive, her puma instincts had come to bear, but this wasn’t the real her—a pure mountain woman—living as a puma—who survived off the land and craved that way of life. Shannon had ditched her car, clothes, and ID, and had been on the run ever since as a wild cat, casting aside the raven-haired human part of the equation to meet the challenges of the rugged wilderness.

  Had she run far enough? Hidden her tracks well enough?

  She doubted it. Suspecting she had killed the cop, the whole world would be looking for her. But not everyone would be out to arrest her. At the very least, one of her kind wanted to kill her. To silence her. To make her the patsy for his crime. Others, who would believe her accusers’ tales, would feel the same way—and want to end her puny existence to ensure no one knew what she truly was because if she went to prison and turned into a puma—well… the notion was unthinkable.

  She was a fighter, her brother having taught her some killing moves because of the crowd he ran with, until even he had to deal with badder ass men than him and had gotten himself murdered.

  She sniffled, hating that she’d lost him, her only family. The one who had taught her how to endure in nearly any kind of conditions or she would never have survived even for this long.

  She had no one to turn to. And no idea where to go to next.

  Her tail swished back and forth as she leapt from one rocky ledge to another until she reached the cave she planned to sleep in for the night. She peered into the dark abyss high up in a rocky area, a waterfall cascading down one side into a deep pool of water below. Forest covered much of the area, giving her good cover when she was moving around below, but it also hid anyone from her view who might approach the rocky formation when she was up high above the treetops. The sound of a river rushing over rocks a couple of miles in the distance and the whoosh of the wind as it tossed about the kaleidoscope of colored leaves stole her attention. She breathed in the pine fragrance and smell of granite, of the fresh water spilling over the rocks. That was the part she loved about nature. If she hadn’t been running for her life and fearing what else she might chance to meet out here: bears, wolf packs, hunters, even another cat that didn’t appreciate her coming into the puma’s territory, she would have enjoyed a trip to the wilderness. Just a trip, not a new way of life.

  She didn’t know exactly where she was and wouldn’t have even known this was Colorado if she hadn’t crossed a road where a sign marked the border between Oklahoma and Colorado a couple of weeks back. At least she thought it had been a couple of weeks ago. Lately, she’d been losing track of time. She had no idea if this was a Monday or a Sunday, or any day in between. She was certain it had to be November by now though.

  Did they hunt cougars in this area? Crap. What if they did? What if the hunting season had already started? That meant she could be one of the ones hunted—not just by the police and the puma shifters, but by hunters looking to take down the big cats for trophies or the thrill of the hunt. Many areas did have legalized hunting seasons for cougars.

  She studied the cave further, her ears perked, listening intently, her whiskers testing the cold night breeze, her nose twitching as she smelled for any sign of an inhabitant. Nothing. The cave was empty, thank God.

  She still couldn’t believe it had come to this.

  She had the propensity for dating the wrong guys. That’s how this had happened. She liked the cads. The bad boys. All because of her brother’s influence. And from associating with his wild friends. When her brother and two of her boyfriends had died on her—due to one fatal mistake or another—she’d changed her whole way of life.

  So what did she do? Dated a cop! And now she was on the run.

  How long before her luck would run out? They wouldn’t let her go. They’d keep tracking her. They needed her. Dead. If someone else didn’t shoot her first.

  Unfortunately, pumas or mountain lions or cougars or catamounts, whatever people wanted to call them, had a bad reputation. The more people there were, the more they encroached on the cougars’ territory, the more incidents there would be. What did people expect?

  She feared she couldn’t win. She couldn’t shift without clothes and she had no ID. If anyone learned who she was, the police would be all over her. Running as a cougar for the rest of her life wasn’t an option, either. She needed her humanity, just as much as she needed her wild cat side.

  And she needed food, her rumbling stomach reminded her. That was one of the problems she’d had to deal with on this journey, the inability to take down four-footed prey. The instinct existed, but the human part of her saw Bambi, not a meal on hoofs. Or Thumper, not a bunny that would ease the ache in her belly. She’d been living off fish, a rattlesnake, and a few prairie chickens when she could catch them.

  Satisfied the cave would provide her a safe resting spot for the night, she jumped down to the next rock ledge to check out the pool of water down below to see if she could catch dinner. She leapt onto another outcropping further down when a child's terrified scream and then a loud splash below the waterfall sent chills up her spine.

  The only way she could reach the child quickly enough from this height was to run to him in her puma form—but if anyone with a rifle saw her…

  Listening, she waited a heartbeat t
o hear if anyone was coming to the child's aid. Shannon couldn’t wait any longer. The child’s terror overrode her fear for her own safety.

  The child screamed again and Shannon leapt onto a ledge below the one she’d been on and then another and another. When she reached more of a slope, she raced down toward the waterfalls where she'd heard the screams, her heart beating hard, her temple pounding furiously.

  The whole time all she could think of was rescuing the child and how difficult that would be. If anyone saw her, they'd think she had every intention of eating him instead. And the child itself would most likely think the same.

  She dove through underbrush and a grove of trees, her paws sliding on the fallen leaves and loose rocks, and reached a rocky ledge.

  The child was a boy of maybe six or seven—his forehead bloodied as he clung to a rock in the frothing, icy cold water. She wanted to shout to him that she was coming, but her shout would be a mountain lion's snarl, terrifying, when she wanted to reassure him in the worst way.

  When he saw her, his eyes widened. He shook so violently, she was afraid he'd lose his grip on the rocks and drown if she didn't reach him quickly enough. As it was, he could still die of hypothermia. Cougars didn't care for the water like jaguars and tigers did, but they did swim well in the water. She quickly looked around and saw and heard no sign of any help coming for him.

  She jumped up and into the air and down into the water, hoping she wouldn't break a leg on the rocks. That would be the end of her running from the law. And the end of her life. She sank deep into the water, no impact with rocks, but it was too deep to stand up in, even if she’d been in her human form. As far as she'd gone under when she jumped in and had to swim to the surface, she guessed it was around ten feet.

  The water was cold, but it didn't bother her while she wore her cougar's coat. She dogpaddled toward the boy, who looked like he wanted to let go of the rock and get away from her, but he was too scared to release his hold either.

  The boy's eyes couldn't have grown any bigger. She wished she could shift and tell him she intended to save him. She imagined that would likely cause him to go into a worse shock.

 
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