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Welcome to our annual Halloween blog hop. There are all kinds of authors to visit … all kinds of prizes to win along the way … including our grand prize of a Kindle Paperwhite. If you’ve stumbled here without jumping on the bus (or if you lose your way) click HERE to start at the beginning.

Our hop runs from now until SUNDAY, OCTOBER 21 at 3 pm EST so you don’t have to enjoy all the yummy Halloween goodness all at once.

Once again this year I accepted the challenge and let a “word generator” tickle my Halloween muse. I’ve been challenged to write a short scene using a BODY GUARD, WEREWOLF and DENTIST as my characters. I need to work in the characteristics of DRIVEN, DIRTY and LIFELESS. And it all has to take place in a THICK FOREST. Please enjoy this excerpt:

Catherine ran blindly through the night. Though a full moon hung in a cloudless sky, its light didn’t penetrate the dark forest. Branches slapped against her face and tangled in her braids. Tree roots grabbed at the hem of her skirt and the toes of her boots, but determination kept her on her feet. She had to keep moving—had to reach Elijah.

She hadn’t been in time to save Doc Nichols.

Though she’d arrived in Colorado six months earlier, Buzzard Roost’s local dentist had met their stagecoach, overlooked her dirty eastern high-society dress and her little brother’s cranky attitude and settled them into a small cabin just off the main thoroughfare. A second cousin to her late father, Doc Nichols had given her a job and a new start. Now he was dead and Elijah was missing and Catherine didn’t know if the future she’d seen in her dreams would become her reality this All Hallow’s Eve.

Catherine hadn’t believed her visions were true until tonight when she’d arrived home from town, her arms filled with local produce and kitchen staples. Discovering the cabin door ajar and the cloying aroma of an animal filling the small space, she’d known instantly the wolf she’d trusted had somehow come for Elijah. She’d run to Doc Nichols for help, only to find the first of her nightmares played out in gruesome reality.

There had been no doubt Doc Nichols had been killed only moments before she’d arrived. The stench of death and evil still hung like a moldy curtain in his small office. Blood oozed in a rusty puddle from his torn throat, his lifeless eyes and gaping mouth beseeching her to save him. But she hadn’t believed her dreams and had never warned Doc Nichols of the malevolent forces hell bent on destroying his little town. Catherine didn’t have time for guilt— nothing could undo the horror that had befallen the dentist—but there was no way she’d let the same fate come to her little brother.

Grabbing the good doctor’s spare pistol from his desk drawer, Catherine had bolted into the forest. She’d never been to Elijah’s favorite fishing hole. Didn’t know in the inky blackness if she was even on the path. Driven by love. fear and instinct, she pushed through the unfamiliar forest. Her brother was only nine. Sassy and full of anger at their circumstances—he was all she had left in this world. She’d give her own life if she could save him from the death she’d seen in her dreams.

Until this night when she’d sensed the wolf, Catherine hadn’t wanted to acknowledge the visions she’d recently experienced weren’t the nightmares of a woman on the brink of insanity. At twenty, she thought the murder of her parents and the trip across country had triggered the violent dreams. Images of torches and thick forests, angry men and vicious wolves, blood and death had filled her nights until she’d feared falling asleep.

And then just last month she’d seen the wolf of her dreams on the far side of the river as she’d been gathering water. With eyes the blue of a cloudless sky and a coat that rivaled the purest of snow, the animal had watched her every move. At the time, there had been no fear, only the overwhelming sense of peace, as if the animal were a body guard protecting her from harm. It had come nearly every night to watch her from afar and she’d taken it as a good luck omen.

Catherine wondered now if she’d invited the monster to steal everything from her.

And then she heard him howl. Not the playful wail of a wolf calling his pack, but the plaintive call of distress. Catherine quickened her pace, tripping in her haste to find Elijah, her knee coming down hard on a rock. Ignoring the pain, she followed the sound, pushing herself to save the brother, somehow knowing the wolf called directly to her.

She was out of breath and nearly panicked with worry when she finally broke into the clearing. The ebony surface of the fishing pond that had brought her brother such joy over the summer now sat still as death, its ebony surface broken only by the reflection of the moon—and the ghostly specter of the white wolf standing over Elijah’s still body.

Even in the muted wash of the moon, Catherine knew the dark shadow running across her brother’s forehead and down his cheek was blood. It had soaked into the soft chamois of his shirt, prickling her soul with dread. Instinct took over as she raised the pistol, not sure the lessons Doc had given her could bring down the animal from this distance. It didn’t matter, she had to try— Elijah’s life depended on her bravery.

The wolf sprang and Catherine closed her eyes and pulled the trigger. The bullet missed its mark and she heard the wolf land not two feet from her in the spongy moss on the edge of the pond. Bracing herself for the inevitable attack, she brought the pistol up to shoot again, opened her eyes and gasped at the sight of a man standing naked before her, his shock of white hair nearly luminescent in the moonlight.

“Catherine, I didn’t hurt your brother. I’m trying to save him—trying to save both of you.” He took the pistol from her trembling fingers. “Someone killed the dentist and tried to kidnap your brother. I—”

She pushed past the man and ran to her brother’s side. Falling to the damp earth, she cradled Elijah in her arms, tears stinging her eyes. The blood on his head had dried, but he was so still, his tiny chest barely moving. She searched for claw or teeth marks, but found none. “What did the wolf do to Elijah?”

The man knelt next to her, careful to shield his nakedness from her. “I did nothing. Men were in your cabin and I ran them off and brought the boy here. They must have knocked him out. I haven’t been able to rouse him. I knew you’d find us if I called for you.”

“You? But I thought the wolf—”

“Catherine, I am the wolf. A werewolf. Both man and beast. I’m the one who’s been watching over you. I’m not sure why fate has brought us together, but I know our paths are as connected as your heart is to your brother.”

A gunshot rent the stillness of the forest.

He took Elijah from her arms and pulled her to her feet. “And so our journey begins … run!”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Happy Halloween! I hope you enjoyed that little Halloween excerpt.

 *** CONTEST IS CLOSED ***

So what’s your favorite part of this spooky holiday? Leave a comment on this blog post between now and SUNDAY, OCTOBER 21 at 6 pm EST and you’ll be entered to win:

A signed copy of my erotic suspense “Healer’s Garden”
goodies from my prize closet
(shipping to US or Canada only. An international winner gets a $15 Amazon gift card)

One winner will be chosen at random from all commenters this weekend. Best of luck … and enjoy the rest of the hop!

I don’t know how many people are swinging by to check out my short story, Test Drive. It’s nearly finished … and I don’t mean to disappoint, but this week my “test drive” is going to Massachusetts to see Pretty Girl!

If you’re reading this on Saturday, DH and I are winding our way through western Massachusetts enjoying the mountains and a wonderful (and impromptu) visit with our eldest daughter. (See, we figured out this is the last available summer weekend before she goes back to her RA job at the University in August … that’s soooo sad our summer is that booked!)

It’s so hard when they move out. Seems we always have to go to her. She rarely finds time to make it home to northern Maine. (And if you’re wondering how I’m still posting my blog when I’m not near a computer … well that’s advanced magic … and you’re security clearance isn’t high enough for me to share it with you! LOL!)

If you’re reading this on Sunday, I’m spending the day at a butterfly garden and tonight we’re staying at a wonderful bed and breakfast! I love road trips! (I’m ignoring the gas bills …)

Next week should bring the conclusion of Test Drive and save poor Margo from the wretched predicament she’s found herself in!

Stop by the beginning of the week … when the magic posting continues. Mwahahahaha …

Here’s the third installment of my short story Test Drive. Hope you enjoy it.  

******** TEST DRIVE ********

Margo stood and ran her hands down the thighs of her wool pants. She readjusted the collar of her cashmere sweater, trying not to bring Rob’s attention back to her chest. Pulling the leather jacket off its hook, she morphed her features into her salesperson mask, shrugged her arms into the coat sleeves, and headed into the chilled sunlight.

“Good morning, my name’s Margo McCaffrey,” she said as she extended her hand to the potential client.

“Good morning lass. John. John Anderson.” The old man averted his eyes as he spoke. The hand that caught hers was firm and calloused, incongruous to the white hair sticking out at odd angles from under the tweed fedora. His hunched back didn’t appear crooked with age, but arched at a graceful angle. The cane he held in his left hand wasn’t supporting any of his substantial weight. 

“I’d like to take something out for a test drive,” he said, craning his neck to inspect the inventory. “It’s a surprise for the missus. Our fortieth anniversary. I want something sporty, not an old fuddy car.” His voice was strong, like his hands.

Margo laughed. “A two seater?” she asked in jest. But when John’s head shot up, the intensity of his gaze caught her by surprise. 

“No, two seats won’t be enough.” He toyed with his graying goatee, pulling at his bottom lip and distorting the words. 

“Excuse me Mr. Anderson? I didn’t hear you.” Margo shifted her weight between her feet. The nervous tick of his jaw and the constant motion of his hands put her on edge. 

“That blue one, that’s good.” John pointed with his cane, then used it to limp over to a midnight blue, four door Sebring with a spoiler. “This is the one.”

“That’s a stick shift, are you sure you wouldn’t want an automatic?” Margo hated to make assumptions about his disability, but he did appear to use the cane when he walked.

“Drove a stick all my life, no sense changing now.” He checked his watch. “Color’s perfect, can I try it out?”

“Sure, let me get the keys and the plate, and we’ll go.”

“Could I just drive it over to the house and pick up the missus?” The edge in his voice brought her up short. 

“Ahh, it would be just sort of more romantic,” he said almost apologetically. John’s cowboy boot scuffed the tar as he smiled hopefully. 

“Mr. Anderson, it’s fine if we pick up your wife, but it’s County Mall Motors’ policy to have a salesperson with you on the test drive.” Margo lied. They lived in a small town. She rarely went on test drives with potential buyers. “Let me just get the keys and some plates.”

As she ran inside to collect the necessary items, Margo wondered why she’d said it. It wasn’t policy. It wasn’t even their normal procedure. They often let people take cars out–sometimes overnight. What was it about this guy?

“Rob, back in a few, I’m taking the old guy out in the Sebring. He won’t buy, but it’ll give him a thrill.” She spoke to him before she realized he was on the phone. Margo pulled the keys off the rack on the wall in the manager’s office. As she reached for the magnetic “dealer” plate, she caught sight of John out the side window. He was facing the Sebring, talking animatedly on a cellphone. Kneading a knot out of his low back, he arched his spine, the useless cane hanging from the crook of his elbow. His lips moved rapidly as he spit words into the phone. Checking his watch, he yelled and slammed his fist on the car roof before snapping the phone shut and shoving it back into the pocket of his baggy suit jacket and resuming the arched stance.

Every instinct screamed at her not to be alone with this guy. Margo shot a look at Rob who was laughing with the person on the phone. On the other hand, she really didn’t want to put up with any crap from him if she turned this customer away. Not much of a choice.

Swallowing her discomfort, Margo forced her mouth into a plastic smile and headed out for a test drive. 

Copyright Kara Dunn 2008

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