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I Kissed a Dog

BOOK: I Kissed a Dog
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Hewlett-Packard Company

I KISSED A DOG

Hewlett-Packard Company

Carol Van Atta

WEREWOLVES OF THE WEST

BOOK ONE

Hewlett-Packard Company

Copyright
ã
2012 Carol Van Atta. All rights reserved.

Names, characters, and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations,
or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the
author or the publisher.

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 the written prior permission of the author.

I Kissed a Dog / Carol Van Atta

First Edition EBook: October 2012

ISBN 13:
978-1-936185-73-3

ISBN 10:
1-936185-73-3

Editor: Mary Belk

Interior Design: Roger Hunt

Cover Design: Ann Falcone

Readers may contact the author at:

www.werewolvesofthewest.com

Published by Charles River Press, LLC

Hewlett-Packard Company

Dedication

I dedicate this book to you, Jordyn and Jade, for putting up with all my whims and
wackiness when I’m writing, and the rest of the time too. You are the best kids a
mom could have. And to my mom, who instilled the love of reading in my life at a young
age. Reading is better than TV, hands down. And lastly, and most importantly, to
my Awesome God who gave me any talents I might have. Without You, I would be lost.

Acknowledgments

There are so many people to thank, individuals who helped make
I Kissed a Dog
come to life. If you played a role in this book’s publishing process please know
I appreciate all your help. It must be said: without seeing Tessa Dawn’s book ad on
Facebook, I might not have discovered my wonderful publisher, Charles River Press/Cambridge
Press US. Her book promotion prompted me to buy her book, which led me to Charles
River Press and the purchase of more books, where, ultimately, I realized I’d found
a great place for my own series, if they’d have me. Thankfully, Jon Womack, a talented
author in his own right, gave the green light for the book you’re reading. Thank you
to the Dogman! To Mary Belk, editor extraordinaire, thank you for continually reminding
me that more isn’t always better; you made the clean up process fun. Packaging a
book is always important. Having a cover I love, but more importantly one that grabs
you, the reader, enough to peek inside is a gift. This gift was made possible by my
talented and creative cover designer
Anne
Falcone. Roger Hunt, your skills made the pages inside the cover reader-ready, thank
you. Lastly, I want to mention those early readers who encouraged me to keep writing
and gave invaluable feedback along the way: Jade (my daughter), Sean (who is always
scaring me), Mariah, Michael, Becky, and my mom, and to author of the
Blood Curse Series
, Tessa Dawn, for her kindness and input with post writing tips and suggestions for
marketing and more. A book is without a doubt a team effort, and I needed all of you!

Chapter 1

June 12, 2011 – The Oregon Coast

The lion paced to the left, top lip curled back, revealing his pointed teeth; he snarled
at me for good measure.

Wary, I watched as his tail whipped from side to side, and he shifted into a crouching
position, his eyes never once straying from mine. He was perched above me on the rocky
ledge where he spent hours lounging in the sun.

Planting my fists on my hips, I stood taller, squaring my shoulders, and glared up
at Butch, a regal three-year-old lion I’d known since I first started working for
Luke Snider at the Plum Beach Wildlife Park, over two years ago. Never had I experienced
the wrath of this particular animal, and I wasn’t enjoying being on the receiving
end of the young cat’s fury.

Fred, one of the park’s volunteers, had gotten the absurd notion that lions were just
bigger versions of their housecat cousins, and based on the faulty information, decided
to enter the cage for a feel of their fur.

The two females were eating and ignored the intruder. Butch, always curious and fiercely
territorial, wasn’t quite as welcoming. He’d cornered Fred and was preparing to paw
at him when I’d noticed his dilemma. Counting on my positive relationship with Butch,
I’d helped Fred escape and was turning to leave.

Butch had other ideas and decided to get frisky with me. Something I hadn’t anticipated.

Now I was stuck and angry. How dare Butch treat me like a prospective snack?

I could hear Luke, off to my right, warning me to exit the cage

now, but I refused to surrender to my growling challenger. This was one battle I
didn’t intend to lose.

It appeared Butch felt the same.

My pride alone wasn’t holding me back; I wasn’t one hundred percent convinced I could
escape unharmed and wasn’t ready to risk it.

To make matters worse, I’d become the animal park’s featured entertainment.

A considerable, mid-afternoon crowd swarmed the lions’ enclosure eager for some action.
As if the town’s recent murders weren’t enough. Granted, most of the park’s patrons
were tourists with their cell phones raised in hopes of capturing footage worth posting
online later.

If I had any say, it wouldn’t be me dangling from the jaws of my former feline friend.
Some vacation memory that would be for the kids watching.

Butch roared, sending a wave of nerve-induced nausea crashing through my midsection.
His hindquarters quivered in preparation for the sure-to-come pounce. If I was going
to divert a catastrophe, and my funeral, I had to act now.

Backing away, I used my coma-acquired communication skills, and sent what I hoped
was a soothing mantra into the lion’s mind:
You’re okay. It’s me, Chloe. Calm down. Relax. I have treats for you. Relax. Good
boy. That’s it. Relax.

Butch cocked his head, responding to my calming thoughts. He looked, for a brief moment,
more like a dog with a mane than a menacing lion. I sensed him relaxing, his rage
receding, but before I could release the lung-tormenting breath I’d been holding,
a child screamed loud enough to crack glass, inspiring several more children to add
their piercing shrieks to his, creating a chaotic chorus.

The lion, startled by the commotion, roared a final warning and sprang, arcing toward
me; front paws, lined with stabbing claws, extended my direction.

To avoid direct impact, I dove to the ground, bundling myself into a ball, making
sure to cover any vital organs and the soft flesh of my neck.

With my head tucked to my knees, I shielded the back of my head with my arms, and
waited.

And waited …

Instead of the lion’s victorious roar and sounds of my tearing flesh, loud applause
and cheers erupted around me. Encouraged, I raised my head, peering out from the mass
of unruly curls that had escaped their ponytail.

Cameras flashed while camcorders and cell phones filmed the extraordinary ending to
a daring rescue, performed by the most delectable specimen of manhood I’d ever had
the pleasure of ogling. Appalled by my sinful assessment, I was quick to blame it
on shock; after all, I’d almost died

again.

Almost dying was becoming a bad habit. A habit I needed to break before my luck ran
out.

Turning my attention back to my savior, I watched my boss shake his hand. I had no
idea how he’d stopped the lion, now pacing in an isolation cage attached to the enclosure.
A line of well-wishers had accumulated and were waiting to congratulate him. It was
then I realized I’d somehow been removed from the cage, without my permission or knowledge,
and people, now surrounded me.

My co-worker, Rhonda, leaned in close. “Just had to find a way to get the hot guy’s
attention, didn’t you?” Her sneer drew my attention to her makeup-caked face.

Rhonda was my high school nemesis reincarnated. I refused to give her the satisfaction
of seeing me squirm. Like my former rival, her bark tended to be much worse than her
bite. As long as she was center stage, she was content. Right now, I was the center
of attention, guaranteeing her displeasure.

Ignoring her question, I accepted a water bottle and several concerned pats on the
back before circling around behind the lions’ enclosure where I could gather my wits.
I was more shaken than I cared to admit. At last alone, my scattered thoughts narrowed
to Senior Prom 2004, another prime example of how my coma-acquired-ability caused
a major commotion while leading to an overwhelming sense of discomfort.

Darlene Davenport, the school’s self-proclaimed fashion authority, who could’ve been
Rhonda’s twin sister, had manipulated our vice principal into letting her bring Queenie,
a miniature poodle, to the prom, by insisting the ball-of-fluff was a necessary accessory
for her already-garish fuchsia gown.

Peeking from a sequined handbag, the dog looked cute enough — so cute that my normal
fear of dogs was absent for the evening, causing me to forget about Darlene’s ongoing
desire to dethrone me from my ever-tentative popular-girl status.

Like her successor, Darlene Davenport was no fan of mine.

In fact, she was one of three girls who made it their priority to gossip and grumble
about me anytime anyone would listen, which was too often for my liking.

Bob, my stepdad, a police officer, the always-conservative and overprotective parent,
banned any article of clothing that might accentuate my figure. Form-fitting or low-cut
were not in my clothing vocabulary, or closet, leaving me little to wear that was
teenage-girl approved.

Sure, my clothes were cute, practical, and probably cost more than the fashionista’s,
Darlene’s. However, Darlene and her few followers made their disapproval known in
a number of creative ways that I’d prefer to forget.

Still admired in spite of my conservative attire and their unrestrained bad mouthing,
I was up for the coveted title of prom queen. My chief competitor was, of course,
none other than Ms. Diva Davenport.

Hoping to tame my hair, I met up with Darlene primping in front of a mirror. Her precious
baby, Queenie, succumbed to my mental probing with ease. Queenie’s doggy thoughts
revealed that Darlene and her gal pals had bribed one of the stage hands into hanging
a bucket of Queenie’s poo poo over a letter X, chalked on the exact spot where the
elected queen would make her royal appearance. The whole scene was reminiscent of
a 1970’s horror movie that left the prom queen in a telekinetic frenzy.

And if that wasn’t enough to churn my stomach, Queenie’s vision featured me bowing
to receive the crown, followed by the bucket tipping. The squishy brown downpour made
me gag.

Should by chance Darlene win, the bucket would remain upright and unused.

How convenient.

Let’s just say that when all was said and done, I won the crown and Darlene was covered
in her beloved pooch’s poop.

“How did you know?” she’d screeched through the stinking mess.

Making sure to smile and pat Queenie’s head, I replied cheerfully, “Your dog told
me.” After all, Queenie had saved the queen.

The Monday following prom, Darlene told anyone who would listen that I was a mind-reading
witch and explained how her parents were suing me for the irreparable damage to her
dress. In the end, she succeeded in making herself look crazier; and I became, much
to her chagrin, even more popular.

Rhonda experienced the exact problem as Darlene. The more she tried to destroy my
reputation and make my life miserable, the less people liked her. After two years,
she still couldn’t figure out why everyone favored me.

I remembered the gorgeous stranger who Rhonda favored, and who’d saved me. I felt
sorry for him. Given the chance, Rhonda would pursue him like he was the last man
alive.

Damn! With all the craziness, I’d failed to thank him for his lion taming heroics.
I assumed Luke would know how to reach him. The least he deserved was a kind word.

With the shock subsiding, it occurred to me it was my day off. I should have stayed
home. At least I’d have been safer there. With me, absolute safety was never an option.

“Ms. Carpenter, can I get a word with you?” an unfamiliar voice called from behind.

Waving him off, I exited through the side gate. Monday would be here soon enough.
I trusted it would be better than today.

 

Chapter 2

Monday, June 13, 2011 – The Oregon Coast

When my dog, Buddy Boy, communicated with me for the first time, following what I
now refer to as “the incident,” AKA coma catastrophe, I decided a smaller community
was the best place for someone with my disability, or talent, to put down roots following
high school and a few unsuccessful years of city living.

What I think about my special ability changes day to day, all depending on what type
of trouble I end up in because of it. So far, it’s been a pretty good summer, but
it’s only the second week in June. A lot can happen before September. I’ve found that
out over the years.

Luke Snider loves my talent. I’ve saved him tons of money since I started working
for him. At first, like everyone else I’ve told — Mom, Bob, Melanie, and Jordon —
he doubted my ability. After I diagnosed his male tiger with depression and provided
the solution, he was real appreciative. He knows the entire story. The other employees
understand that I have a unique connection with the animals, but they give me a pretty
wide berth.

The animals have shown me how they (humans) gossip

about me.

It’s something I’ve come to expect and accept. True, my ability isn’t quite as threatening
as mind reading. Yet imagine if a friend (or enemy) was complaining about you, your
dog overheard, and could show you the unpleasant scene’s images and audio.
Pretty
uncomfortable.

Yesterday had been beyond uncomfortable, but gossiping coworkers were always preferable
to a near mauling. The naughty lion would be getting a serious scolding today, and
I could count on Rhonda to spend more time complaining about me than working. I’d
choose confronting a lion over dealing with her any day.

Cracking the window, the fresh ocean air poured in, refreshing me. I found myself
replaying that fateful spring day when my life came to a screeching stop and made
a U-turn toward a traumatic death. The unforeseen events from 2002 were etched in
my memory:

Free from our final class, I glanced at my BFF, Melanie, and I decided a little girl-time
on my fifteenth birthday might be fun. “Hey, want to walk home with me?”

“I would, but my mom wants me to help her at the grocery store. When’s your party?”
Melanie said the party word loud enough to turn a few heads as we made our way into
the crowded hallway.

Great, now I’d have to deflect the interest directed my way. “Uh, I’m not sure. I’ll
let everyone know.” I made sure to say everyone in a way that demonstrated my inclusive
nature, all while knowing there wouldn’t be any big birthday bash.

An event involving boys would never gain Bob’s approval. My mom would find the idea
uncomfortable, her tag word for anything she wanted to avoid, which was pretty much
everything.

“Call me later,” Melanie commanded, before digging into her locker.

I knew if I didn’t, she would. Melanie wasn’t just persistent about parties.

Leaving her to sort through the mess in her locker, I hurried outside, eager to embrace
the sunny spring afternoon. Celebrating my birthday by taking the longer route home,
through a small, wooded area, seemed like a safe way to rebel against my stepdad while
enjoying the scenery.

Taking the long way wasn’t my parents’ idea of safe or responsible behavior. Bob was
near neurotic about my walking alone. He’d seen too many crime scene photos. My mom
went along with him to avoid creating any waves. She was vigorous when it came to
maintaining an environment void of any unnecessary discomfort.

I refused to let their paranoia infect me. It was like a plague to be avoided at all
costs. Doing something they wouldn’t approve of was how I inoculated myself from their
fears. I didn’t push the limit too far, just enough to maintain my independence.

Flinging their warnings aside, I marched through the school’s manicured lawn toward
the tree line where the brush parted and a trail waited.

I turned onto the narrow path. I could hear a baseball game starting back at the ball
field and school buses chugging away to nearby neighborhoods — safe sounds. Basking
in the moment, I took several graceful spins and celebrated my few minutes away from
prying eyes.

The afternoon sunlight filtered through the trees’ canopy, giving the path an other
worldly appearance. Birds chirped and the wind rustled the leaves. Talk about a fairytale
scene. At the trail’s end, the foliage parted, revealing a suburban Troutdale neighborhood,
and a huge growling dog.

I wasn’t familiar with the breed, but recognized, at first glance, its eyes were full
of suspicion, and its lips were curled back and trembling, revealing two gleaming
canines.

A five-foot fence, just to the left, would have to serve as my escape.

I lunged toward it.

Snarling, the dog charged forward, planning to intercept me.

I scrambled over the railing, thankful for my long legs and above average height.
My gratitude was cut short when, to my displeasure, I landed with a painful thud on
concrete. My head spun as I tried to right myself. Instead of standing, I collapsed
— this time plummeting into the icy depths of a stranger’s uncovered swimming pool.

My head thudded against the wall.

Little pins of light blinked behind my eyelids, giving way to murky darkness.

Several disjointed thoughts managed to linger in the moment before blackness swallowed
me whole. Happy Birthday, Chloe. Today you die. Cause of death: Attacked by a dog;
drowned in a pool. Not so cool.

I’d always heard that near-death experiences were strange. People have no idea just
how strange. Being in a coma for seven months can also be considered more than extraordinary.

Lucky me, I experienced both.

To everyone’s surprise, I woke up with total recollection of the events leading to
my coma.

After all the ooing and ah-h-hing over my miraculous recovery subsided; my parents
relented and told me the whole story. I learned from Bob I’d been under water for
about fifteen minutes; they’d restarted my heart three times. I should have been brain
dead, if not dead-dead. They were advised several times to pull life support, even
referring to me as a vegetable. In other words, I was a goner. But here I am breathing,
talking, and doing all the stuff
alive
people do.

When I finally left the hospital, after suffering through every test imaginable, I
was at last able to accept and celebrate I was alive. I recall having difficulty believing
that there were no lingering side effects. I’d read Pet Cemetery like five times,
and dead things never came back to life right.

Despite my worries, I couldn’t wait to see what the future had in store for me. As
long as it didn’t include more danger — or dogs — I’d be just fine.

It was after I saw my very own, man’s-best-friend, Buddy Boy, I grasped the entire
truth ¯ things wou
ld never be
fine
again.

Danger and dogs have continued to haunt and harass me since that historic day, and
considering my commute to work takes over an hour on Highway101, I have tons of time
to reminisce and often end up revisiting my perilous past.

Once at work, the impressions from the animals are my main concern, making it difficult
to sort through my own thoughts. When people question why I don’t move closer to the
wildlife park, I’m able to tell the truth — the long drive relaxes me; it helps me
process my past and plan for my future.

Glancing in the rearview mirror, I smoothed a stray ringlet behind my ear. I wished
the early nineties spiral perms would come back in style. My long curls were the source
of many compliments, mostly from women with super-straight hair.

It’s funny how women, me included, are never satisfied with their looks. My eyes,
emerald green, are my best asset, although a few men might tell you otherwise. Not
that they’ve seen more than me in a swimsuit sunning myself. Lean and lithe, but
with a fanny I consider too rounded, I move with grace. However, I’m clumsy. That’s
right; a graceful woman prone to accidents, yet another “gift” I unwrapped following
my coma.

The cell phone’s buzz tugged me away from my self-appraisal. “I’m on my way, Luke,”
I confirmed, trying not to sound snippy. He made it a habit to check in at least once
during my drive to Plum Beach.

“Of course you are. When is my Dr. Doolittle ever late? By the way, you took off yesterday
before I could check on you; did you get my messages last night?”

“Yes, I’m fine, and you’re right about one thing: I’m never late,” I replied dutifully.
It was a childish game we played; making small talk when a ton of sexual heat sizzled
between us.

As one of the last known virgins over twenty, I still notice that my employer is an
attractive man. Who wouldn’t? Six feet tall, sun-streaked hair, and sea-blue eyes
make him the all-American dream boy. Mom is always quick to remind me, during our
Sunday evening phone calls, how attractive and established Mr. Snider is. She also
points out the fact that he is single.

“Not true, Chloe, you were not only late, but also missed work with that flu bug.”

“Six months ago, for two days. Everyone else milked you for a week of sick time,”
I reminded him. Ensuring he appreciated my integrity, I rubbed in my superior work
habits every available opportunity.

“See you.” He hung up, ending our everyday debate.

I was relieved. He’d avoided quizzing me about my latest incident in The Lion’s Den.
I doubted anyone else would be as considerate.

Outside the passenger window, the Pacific Ocean glimmered in the Monday morning sunlight.
The water shimmered inviting me into blue depths for a swim. I was a certified sun-lover.
Weather like today reminded me of new beginnings. Maybe this would be the day someone
or something would bring a little spark of excitement to light up my life. A girl
could wish, right? Dealing with angry lions wasn’t the type of excitement I was seeking.

The siren and flashing lights behind me were the first indication that this might
be
the day
.

As always, I’d left home in plenty of time to account for any unexpected issues. Waiting
for the patrolman, his paunch leading the way, to reach my window wasn’t the spark
I’d been hoping for.

“Good morning, Miss. I’m Officer Tate. Do you realize you have a broken left tail
light and you were going seven miles over the posted speed limit?”

I decided to keep it simple and avoid any sarcasm.

“I didn’t realize …”

Woof! Woof! A dog barked from the cruiser, sounding fierce. My guts clenched in response.
Dogs always had that annoying affect on me.

“Pipe down, Barney!” Officer Tate hollered back.

Woof!

The dog didn’t seem to be minding his manners. I decided to see what had Barney all
riled up.

Relaxing my mind, I listened. The process worked better if I could look into an animal’s
eyes, but I could still glean enough from the barks to get a picture. My brain did
its special thing and the images started flowing. Barney was in pain. A tumor, the
size of a small apple was growing near his testicles. Ouch!

“Sir, did you know your dog is sick?” I decided to be direct. He could contact Luke
if he needed confirmation.

“Excuse me? What are you talking about?” He took a step back, looking like he’d seen
a ghost, or worse.

“I don’t have time to explain; I’m going to be late to my job at the Plum Beach Wildlife
Park. I work there diagnosing animal problems.” I hoped I sounded half-believable.
I wasn’t sure how else to describe what I did without going into a drawn out explanation
about my special skills. It was doubtful he’d believe me. If our roles were switched,
I wouldn’t.

“Your dog has a definite tone to his bark,” I improvised. “That tone makes me think
he might have some sort of a tumor, near his groin.”

“I’m familiar with the park, and Luke Snider. I’ll make sure to check it out. Heard
you all had a problem yesterday, something about the lions?”

“Problem solved,” I said, refusing to elaborate. “Thanks for getting Barney looked
at. He’ll appreciate it.” I hoped my free diagnosis would earn me the honor of keeping
my perfect driving record intact.

“You go on now. Take care of that taillight and slow down. There are too many campers
and trailers out here. And watch out for frisky lions.” He winked.

“Thanks!” I called, my voice syrupy with false cheer. “You have a good Monday.”

Eager to forget my brush with the law, I switched on the radio, tuning in the local
station. I was just in time for the news.

“At last night’s press conference, Police Chief, Robert Daily, admitted for the first
time, a connection between the two male victims. Both men were found in their respective
homes, stabbed.”

Groaning, I changed stations. I needed cheerful not dreadful.

“Plum Beach may have its very first serial killer. Police aren’t confirming —”

So much for my sunny morning disposition — getting pulled over, even though the results
were positive, and now murder and mayhem so close to home, gave me warning willies.
I should have known after yesterday that my good streak wouldn’t last.

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