Beasts in Winter:Tangere Tales 1

By: Heather Rainier

DEDICATION





These stories required a stretch outside of my comfort zone. As long as I’ve wanted to be a writer, I’ve wanted to pen my own versions of these classic fairy tales. I didn’t know if I had what it took to step out of the contemporary world of Divine, Texas, and give readers something a little different. But step out I did, and I am blessed to have several people to dedicate this series to.

The Tangere Tales are dedicated to my husband, who has taught me more than any other person about what it means to stretch out of your comfort zone.

They’re also dedicated to my friend, Morgan Ashbury, who checked all my French and verified that there is definitely a difference between “fucking French” and “French fucking.” (No offense to the French intended, of course.)

And for the first time ever, this dedication extends to my very own lovely daughter, Juliet. She helped me plot the trilogy, laughing over dialogue, devising original fantasy places and names, and assisted in crafting secondary characters that are as entertaining as Fleur, Doop-Doop, and Flappy hopefully are.

Lastly, this series is dedicated to Lily, Angie, all the Facebook group admins, all the readers and bloggers, a phenomenal editor, and to my absolutely fantastic publisher, Diana. She was the one who told me, “Anything can happen!” She was right.

Seize the day, baby!



Love, Heather






Prologue




Mount Rainier National Park



“Do you see it?” Angel Hunter called as she peered beneath a thick growth of ferns.

She and her friends, Caresse Baker and Elaina White were searching for an extraordinary white cat that had just scampered past their campsite before disappearing into the forest. They were set up on the shore of a glacier-fed lake located miles from any habitation in Mount Rainier National Park, having a girls-only camping trip to celebrate Angel breaking up with her good-for-nothing, freeloading ex-fiancé.

“Poor thing!” Caresse said before calling out, “Here, kitty-kitty! She probably belongs to some tourist and she’s lost and scared.” She got down on her knees and clambered under the ferns, making sympathetic kitty sounds.

Elaina tilted back some foliage on the path, looking beneath it. “I spotted a collar but didn’t see any tags. It looked like the kind of cat some rich lady on Fifth Avenue would take to the kitty salon every week. Whoop!” She pitched forward and landed on a soft bed of ferns. “I’m all right! I’m all right! Poor kitty, I hope you weren’t under there or you’re now pancake kitty.”

They paused several yards into the growing shadows of the forest, and Angel looked at her friends. “What do you say? Do we let it take its chances?”

Caresse and Elaina both shook their heads, and Elaina said, “It might get eaten by a bear or something if we give up now.”

Casting a look back at the campsite they’d just set up, Angel nodded. She wanted to relax after the hellish week she’d had but knew she wouldn’t be able to for worrying about the cat. “Let’s split up. She’s probably hiding close by.”

“There!” Elaina said, pointing at a flash of brilliant white before running toward it. They set off in that direction, but after a minutes’ chase, they lost sight of it again.

“There!” Caresse cried as she pointed to the left, at the blur of sleek white fur.

The feline led them on a merry chase until all three of them spotted her on a low rocky ledge at the foot of the hill. She sat licking her paw, her attitude decidedly nonchalant, until they were within a few feet of her.

Angel climbed up on the ledge and approached the cat with a coaxing hand extended. “Come ’ere, sweetie. I have canned tuna at our campsite that I’ll share with you.”

Oddly, the cat gazed at her, her whiskers trembling as if she was weighing the pros and cons of canned tuna over continuing to evade capture. Finally, with a flick of her tail, she strolled farther along the ledge until she came to a shadowy alcove and then twirled, rubbed her body along the edge of rock, and entered into a cave.

“Shoot,” Angel muttered, halting when she reached the dark opening. “I should’ve grabbed her. Do we venture in?”

After finding a way up to the ledge, Elaina and Caresse looked at the cave entrance, and Elaina said, “We could go in just a little ways. I don’t want her to blunder into a bear’s home, but…I don’t want to get eaten either.”

Caresse nodded and then added, “Let’s just be really quiet, and”—she glanced at Elaina—“careful. We don’t want to disturb anything in there.”

“Meow…” echoed from the corridor, and Angel headed in first, drawn by the contented rumble of the cat’s purring. The feline was larger than most domesticated cats, with sleek long fur that shimmered in the light. It was surprising that her coat was a pure white, considering the distance she’d covered over the forest floor.

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