Title: Coyote Games
Genres/Themes: Paranormal, Action-Adventure, Suspense, Romance
Shapeshifters, Men and Women in Uniforms
Author: Anne Kane
There’s coyote trouble in the canyon. One coyote, to be specific. A male. He’s been creating havoc in the small rural community of Pine Valley — enough havoc it’s time to call in the Feds.
The S.O.S, U.S. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Special Outreach Services Division, investigates crimes involving shifters. Special Agent Kinsey is the absolute expert on coyote shifters. Because she is one. And Greg expects nothing less than the very best.
Life is about to get interesting in Pine Valley…
“Seriously?” Kinsey shook her head, listening to the babble of hysterical voices surrounding her. It seemed everyone in town had shown up for the meeting and they all expected her to fix their critter problem. Fast.
As if she didn’t have a problem of her own. Greg. Her ex. She could sense his presence, even if he hadn’t bothered to pop up where she could see him. Typical. He’d show up at the worst possible moment just to throw her off balance. It’s what he did the best.
She took a deep breath and tried to picture something soothing, like Greg being cornered by a timber wolf in Yellowstone Park. They liked to teach stuff like that at the team building meetings back in D.C. Meditation exercises. Who knew? Maybe this time it would actually work.
The townsfolk were all scared, and her job was to make them feel better. She understood that. First though, she needed them to quit making such a racket, and take their seats. Taking a deep breath, she hollered loud enough to be heard over the angry residents. “Shut up and sit down. Now!”
An eerie silence fell as the townspeople stared at her in shock. Okay. Maybe her delivery could have been a little bit less aggressive. Still, it worked. Slowly, the people found their chairs and sat down. Maybe she should have started with the yelling thing.
“That’s better.” She tried out what she hoped was a soothing smile. “Now, where’s the mayor?”
An impeccably dressed man with a receding gray hairline got to his feet. The thunderous expression on his face did not bode well. “That’s me. Which you would know if you’d bothered to show up at my office for the pre-meeting briefing that I arranged for you.” He paused to glance around the crowded hall, giving the townsfolk a practiced smile. “I guess government officials don’t feel they have to keep us in the loop.”
“So far there is no loop.” Just what she needed. A grandstanding politician. “And since I barely managed to make it to town in time for this meeting, a pre-meeting briefing wasn’t possible.” It took a great deal of effort not to bare her teeth at him.
“You should have arrived earlier.” The sneer on the mayor’s face was not helping her control her temper. Not one tiny little bit.
“Good idea.” She didn’t bother to hide the sarcasm. “But the supersonic jets were all out on other missions so I had to make do with a commercial flight. Perhaps you could have waited to schedule the meeting until after I arrived and was brought up to date on the situation?”
“Impossible.” He strutted to the front of the room. “This town is on edge and we want to know what you plan to do about this rabid coyote.”
“Rabid?” Well that would simplify things, but unfortunately it wasn’t true. “I understood the animal was acting strangely, snatching pets and then releasing them in someone else’s yard. That implies restraint. A rabid animal would just kill indiscriminately.”
“Yeah, well. Whatever the damn thing’s problem is, we need it gone. We tried trapping it and we tried shooting it. Neither worked. It seems to know what we are doing and when it’s safe to pull its tricks. And those eyes…” The mayor shuddered theatrically. “Green as summer grass. It’s not natural. So what are you going to do about it?”
Kinsey sighed inwardly. Great. The thing had human eyes. The boss had been right. It had to be a shifter, and it sounded suspiciously like Greg. She finished silently counting to ten before she spoke. “Well, first I’m going to find the creature and capture it. Then the department veterinarian will have to examine it and see if there is any reason to be concerned. If it appears to be a healthy specimen, we will rehome it in a less populated area. Regardless, I promise that we won’t release it back into your community.”
The mayor looked skeptical, mumbling something about promises and the probability of them being kept. Must be an election coming up soon, because one annoying coyote should not cause this much concern, especially since it had yet to hurt anyone or anything. Still, he returned to his seat without creating any more problems for her, and that was about the best she could hope for at this point.
“Next question?” She looked around the packed room.
A man detached himself from the shadows in the back of the room. “Can you tell us how long you think it might take you to track down and ensnare this unfortunate animal?”
She had to give him credit for his balls. Not a shy one, her Greg. If looks could kill, he’d be writhing on the floor in agony about now. “I anticipate a fairly quick turnaround on this. The animal obviously has no sense of self-preservation or he would have picked an area outside of the reach of the S.O.S.”
His eyes were the color of grass on a warm summer evening. She’d spent a lot of time staring soulfully into those eyes. Time that would have been better spent studying. Or running away from the most intense affair of her life. Kinsey gave her head a mental shake. Focus. Don’t let that gorgeous body of his and those dreamy eyes suck you in again.
The corner of his mouth curved upward in a wry smile. “You must think this animal is pretty smart if it knows about the S.O.S.”
“I make it a habit to never underestimate an opponent, either the two or four-legged variety.” She favored him with her iciest glare. “Did you have another question?”
“No, ma’am.” He raised his eyebrows as if daring her to say anything further.
As if. He knew she wouldn’t dare do anything in this volatile crowd, but her fingers itched to pull the tranq gun out and watch that smug smile disappear as he sank into a deep sleep. Deep enough for her to safely cage him and transport him back to the secure facility buried deep in the mountains of Tennessee. Maybe she could arrange for one of the labs to run some experiments on him to see what it was about him that turned her into a melting pool of hormones every time he got within five feet of her.