Monday, October 7, 2019 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Monday Morsels: Touch of Breeze

...a taste of romance

The Common Elements Romance Project
by Kelynn Storm

Chapter One

            London Satos shivered on her home’s front porch in the October chill, but she welcomed the cold. It calmed her nerves. She stared out into the clear night sky and wrapped her arms across her chest.
            “Lincoln, where are you?” Her voice hitched. She couldn’t help it. She had bodies to prepare at her mortuary and families to console, but all she could do was think, and all her thoughts raced in circles repeating one question: Linc, are you alive? All her life she and her twin brother had shared an intuitive knowing of each other’s thoughts, but now when it would mean so much, she couldn’t reach his.
            Wind blew strands of hair across her face, and as she brushed them away, a charge of electricity snapped.
            Little hairs on the back of her neck stood on end as the air crickled and cracked. Torn between shifting into jaguar form and staying in human form, London just stood still, waiting. Parts of her wanted to run or hide. The strongest part of her wanted to face the danger and demand Lincoln’s return. A sob stuck her throat. He couldn’t be dead.
            Maybe she was mistaken, spooked. Maybe the hunters weren’t coming.
            Leaves rustled and scuttled across her yard in a gust. A low thunderous rumble sounded in the distance and clouds rolled in dark swirls in the sky above the open field behind her cabin. Lightning flashed inside the cluster of clouds. Blam, blam, blam!
            She ran inside her cabin and peered out the large window. Lightening flickered in rapid succession across the reflection of her face in the glass. The lightning storm was magnificent and beautiful but so full of malice. It advanced on her property. It was just like the one she had seen four days ago when they’d captured her brother. She knew its appearance now was no coincidence. The hunters were coming for her. A rare white jaguar just like her twin, she was a prize to Wentworth’s Crew, as the hunters were known among the Jag Council. Headed by Max Wentworth, the elite hunters were intent on adding to his collection of shifters and had already left an untraceable trail of missing persons and dead bodies. Now she knew why they’d been so hard for the supernatural community to find. They traveled by thunderclouds.
            London focused inward, deep inside her chest to where her connection to her second identity was always with her. She closed her eyes and allowed the transformation to shiver through her. In less than a minute, her hips and torso, her legs, arms, and shoulders slid in one smooth tremble into her innate animal. Through her cat eyes she saw the lightning storm slither closer, heard the thunder break near her porch, and felt the electricity firing in the air. Oh yes, the Crew was here for her. She clenched her teeth. But they would not capture her, not today. Getting captured would not help Linc at all.
            She stood in place, reaching out with all her senses for her brother. Nothing. Maybe the electric storm blocked their connection to each other. Damn it. She heard, but didn’t wait to see, the hunters appearing on her property below their evil ship in the sky. London ran down the stairs to her basement and butted her head against the hidden escape wall. It flew up and she slipped in to the tunnel before the trap door closed behind her. She waited to hear the thud of the lock.
The hard dirt floor was dry and solid against her paws. The scent of it filled her nostrils, and she breathed deeply as she trotted through the winding tunnel. When she reached the hidden door at the other end, she strode through the opening out beyond her cabin, her yard, and into the surrounding woods. Among the trees, she crawled under a row of bushes, ducking her head to peek through the low-hanging branches. She gulped hard at the sight of hunters scanning her property, assault weapons at the ready. Geez, if they came for a lone female jag loaded for a fight, did they think she was a monster? Were they expecting, an entire prowl of jaguars?
The lightning storm blotted out the full moon and stars, but her keen night vision had no problem seeing the men in the darkness. She counted them: one, two, three, four. Then another four rounded the cabin from the back. Eight men all hell bent on either eliminating her or making her their living trophy. They motioned to one another in silence as they tramped around the property and entered the cabin through the side door.
            Now was her chance to get a better look. She crept low out of her hiding place and toward the localized storm hanging in the sky until she crouched almost beneath it. Winds and lightning inside the clouds buffeted her about and she flattened into the grass. Linc, are you in there?
Her ears cocked for sounds of the hunters’ return, London opened her mind. Linc?
She held her focus tight and didn’t breathe. Linc. Are you okay? Where are you?
She released a breath. Drat. Nothing.
Footsteps grew closer and one man walked through the front door. She scrambled back to cover.
“She’s not here,” hollered the man on the porch. “Max, what do you want to do?”
“Her scent is everywhere.”
London’s ears perked. He could pick up a scent? Curious. The man’s voice coming from inside sounded like he’d been a smoker since he was eleven. She heard him perfectly. She ran her tongue over her mouth, eager to get a look at Max’s face. He strode out the door, his gaze narrowing. She shuddered. The left side of his face bore shiny, raised stripes and his left eyelid drooped. Clearly, at least one of his prey had gotten the upper hand.
“Tarsus, Faron, take the others outside,” he ordered. “I’m going to look inside a little more. See if I can find clues of places we might find her.”
“You’re the boss, Max. Let’s go guys. We can check the trees.”
            Her nerves jolted her to run. She sliced through underbrush on the other side of her yard and scaled a tree. Her pale gray-spotted white fur didn’t blend as well as a dark jaguar’s, but the dense forest hid her well enough in the treetops. If her pulse pounding in her ears would stop, maybe her brain would calm and her fears would subside. But images flashed in her mind of Linc fighting the nets the hunters had dropped over him, and how the more he fought the more it entangled him. His frantic growls still pierced her heart. Guilt gnawed at her insides for following his demand she stay hidden while he tried to draw the hunters away from her. It was her job to take care of him, not the other way around. She had watched them stun him and disappear into the lightning storm with him.
            From her perch, London held her breath and watched the men search the ground beneath her for tracks.
            “The dirt is too dry,” called one of the men. “There’s no tracks, no sign of her anywhere.”
            The men retreated and filed toward her cabin. Their scent was in her nose. Human. But it was an easy guess that their boss was a were-jag. She extended her claws. A traitor to his own kind. She heard the men exit her cabin but couldn’t see them. For hunters, they were awfully noisy.
            “Let’s get back to home base, men.” Max circled his arm above his head. He held some of London’s photographs and what looked like her daily planner.
            Damn him, stealing parts of my life. Her planner was old-school, but when it came to managing her life, a cellphone, a desk calendar, and wall calendars in every room helped her stay on top of things. Linc teased that she was obsessive, but her system worked for her and helped keep anxiety at bay. She huffed. Her planner would tell Max where she had been and where she would be.
            London climbed out of the tree and strode closer to the edge of the forest, then scrambled up another tree to get a better view of the men. The men stood en mass beneath the storm and in synchrony pressed a button on their belts. Instantly, they all disappeared.
            Like a dirigible, the storm slowly trolled across the sky into the night.
            London sat still in the tree, her heart hammering. How had they found her? The cabin had belonged to her grandparents, then it had passed to her parents and still had their names—Hisao and Akira Sato—on the deed. The world of were-jags was carefully guarded, and all were-jags knew the harsh penalties for exposing their kinds’ existence: life-long solitary imprisonment in a secret location. That they had found her meant another werejag had talked. But who?
            Oh God. Of course. Max had tortured Linc to get information. And here she sat cowering in a tree. She wanted to puke. Her muscles bunched, and she burned to race after the men but it was too late. Sounds of the Wisconsin autumn night—mice scratching around on the forest floor, raccoons splashing in a nearby creek, coyotes yipping in the distance—clued her the danger had left. She jumped to the ground and made her way to the secret passage.
            Inside she arched her head to the ceiling and roared. Anger and frustration streamed from her throat. Her cabin was in complete disarray, an indication the hunters had ripped through her belongings. Wasn’t one predator, the Oni, the evil spirit that had haunted her family for generations, enough for one Japanese American family?
She shifted back into her human form and closed all the blinds in the living room. It was a flimsy attempt to protect herself from what might be lurking outside, but it helped calm the turmoil in her gut. In her bedroom London’s shoulder’s drooped. Her drawers stood open, her bedding lay on the floor, and boxes in her closet sat opened and empty. She dropped to the floor and breathed in and out deliberately, trying to keep herself from screaming, from falling into a panic attack, or breaking something in rage. Her brother’s human face, contorted with fear and pain just before he shifted to fight off the hunters, filled her mind. She pounded the carpeting, helpless agony washing over her. “This can’t be happening.”
She didn’t want to look at the remaining photo on the wall of the two of them, but it pulled her attention. Their faces were all smiles and laughter. Good times. Would she ever see Linc again?
Fear bloomed in her chest and she had to get up, move around, get away. She couldn’t simply sit on the floor and cry. She searched for her cellphone. If the hunters had stolen it they would learn so much about her. Panic sent her running to the living room and the bookshelf where she always stuffed her phone before she shifted. Books had been pulled off and left in piles on the floor. The iron box filled with small rocks she and Linc had collected as children sat in its place, but she didn’t breathe a sigh of relief until her fingers touched her phone hidden behind it. “Oh, thank God.”
Trembling, she held it close. She had to get a grip, but all she could do was stare at the mess, her eyes following the slow movement of pages of one book atop a pile of her favorite thick, classic hardback books. The pages flipped slowly, one after another.
Her pulse pounded. She focused her mind. “Linc, is that you?”
The pages flipped faster, furiously, until finally the entire book moved eractically and danced to the floor.
“It’s you, I know it is. Where are you? Tell me something,” she begged. She perched on her knees waiting for something more concrete from Linc. A visual, maybe, of his location.  Her legs started to ache, but she didn’t move, hope burning in her chest.
Finally, she gave up, her brain exhausted. Her cellphone told her it was nine o’clock. How could she sleep in her ransacked home?
She pulled on a pair of jeans, a dark T-shirt, and a pair of running shoes. The two-mile run to her mortuary would give her body something to do besides stew. Maybe she’d even find a way to tell her parents that Linc had been kidnapped. She wouldn’t tell them she suspected he’d been tortured.

Want to read more?

by Kelynn Storm
A rare white were-jaguar, she’s on a mission to save her twin brother from certain death. She didn’t plan on teaming up with a Jag Guardian who would just as soon break her heart.

Mortician London Satos works with the dead by choice. Using her were-jaguar ability to witness their final moments, she helps them pass over in peace. Those special moments contrast greatly with the life she leads haunted by an ancient Japanese spirit with revenge on his mind. On top of that, her twin brother is missing. Just when she thinks she has enough on her hands, Breeze Dawson stumbles into her path and runs into the evil spirit. Feeling responsible, she thinks she must help him survive the evil spirit, but it doesn’t stop there. She is forced to team up with Breeze to rescue her brother from an evil madman intent on using him to fulfill a diabolical prophesy.

Recently suspended from his job as a Jag Guardian, were-jaguar Breeze finds himself looking for anything to distract him from his troubled life. So when the beautifully captivating mortician needs help fighting battles on several fronts, he becomes embroiled in a murderous plot that not only threatens his Guardian team but the supernatural community in general. Together, Breeze and London race to locate the madman’s stronghold where he has imprisoned London’s brother, all the while fighting mutual attraction that will only complicate everything.

Touch of Breeze is presently available for preorder at 99 cents, releasing October 22, 2019.

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HiDee said...

I'm hooked! Great beginning Lynn!

Lynn said...

Thanks HiDee!