Some folks are victims. Some are survivors.
Delia's had more than her share of bad luck -- enough to make most folk turn tail or quit -- but every time, she's found the toughness to see herself through the bad times. She might seem hard and cold, and she's a tough nut to crack, but beneath her stony surface lies a woman who's ripe and ready, eager to be loved.
She's not sure she believes in the stories about Leman's beasts, animals who can take on man shape.
But they believe in her -- and in what they've scented waiting under the armor she's plated around her heart. These two great cats may be young, but they plan to show their human Cougar how much they appreciate what they see.
"...an enjoyable paranormal romance. The characters (Delia and the two cats) are well developed and have interesting histories. The pacing of the story is smooth and relaxed. What Delia and the cats don't know is they need each other. And none of them is going to back away from what fate has destined for them."
-- 4 Stars from DonM, Night Owl Reviews
Wild Ones: Purr
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Copyright ©2012 Zoey Daniels
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Delia watched Rosemary's wagon rumble out of sight, cresting the top of the long slope down into her valley. She checked the position of the sun. Hadn't had a reliable timepiece since she was a little girl who'd "borrowed" her papa's fob watch to play with the dials -- always had had a gift for using her hands -- but she'd learned, by listening to her body and watching the skies, to know her days and her nights, and her hours, one by one.
She watched, and she waited.
Deep in the shadows, where things with dark fur might lurk curled into a ball, unseen as long as they chose to be, a pair of green-gold eyes blinked open. A long tail unfurled to hang down, swaying idly to and fro. The panther opened its mouth in a vast pink yawn filled with sharp teeth, stretched into nearly a U-shape with fore and hind paws all but touching, and prowled down a thicker branch until the effort was just too much to bother with and it -- he -- laid down again, stretched out as comfortably as if he were a ship's mouser in a fortified sunbeam.
Delia put a hand to her hip. She had no doubt the beast could hear her. If she was wrong, body language crossed all sorts of boundaries. Guns trespassed over more. "Think you're smart, don't you?"
With his mouth slightly open, whiskers crinkled, she'd swear the beast laughed at her.
Delia unholstered her gun. Next best thing to antiquated, like the rest of her goods and gear, rescued and fixed up, it still served her well as long as she served it well. Cleaning the old girl would be her night's entertainment, and while it might not be as satisfying as some of the games she'd played when she was younger -- games with sleek, lithe men who had quick, wicked tongues -- it was useful. It was her life, in her own hands.
She thumbed the hammer back and spun the cylinder, making a point of replacing the spent round. Most men -- and women -- would at least display a whisker's worth of wariness right about then.
The panther? He just watched, either bored or fascinated. Never could tell with those of the feline sort. The panther's tail swayed, tick-tock, idle and hypnotic if one allowed that.
Delia squinted down the revolver's line of sight instead. "Never did care for cats," she said. "Too sneaky. Too high an opinion of themselves."
Even if, to her biased eye, this panther was a prime example of its sort. Young, strong, healthy. Handsome. Sleek with the sort of tight muscle that'd make him so fast he could dodge through raindrops and maybe even dodge her best shot. A strong head, large and square, with a broad nose and a narrow muzzle. At first glance the dusty undercoat beneath the black rosettes that made him seem dark as night.
The panther rolled to his back with all four paws dangling above him and writhed sinuously. His silky black tail whipped a dust storm up on the bare ground.
Too bad he ruined the overall effect with a tremendous sneeze when the dust reached his nose. Not that he let it stop him; oh no, not this one. He wrinkled his muzzle, licked his whiskers, and mewed. Mewed, for pity's sake, sounding for all the world like a helpless kitten begging for warm milk.
She wiped her mouth to rub away the smile that threatened to break through. If she encouraged this rascal she'd never see the end of him.
Would that be so bad? asked a small, traitorous voice inside her head.
Yes, Delia answered, closing the lid on that discussion with a sharp snap! before it even properly started.
The panther, still on his back, batted at the air, the invitation clear for her to come and play with him, please, pretty please?
Again, Delia had to hide her smile, but it wasn't as easy this time. "You're going to have to work a lot harder than that to impress me," she informed him, slipping the revolver back into its holster. "You can't win my favor by slink, prowl, or stare."
The panther tilted its head. If he were human, that would have been a look that came with a question mark attached. If he were one of Leman's peculiar beasts that weren't just beasts, but men -- well, who knew?