Claimed by the Catamount

By: Libby Bishop

Chapter One




Cilla



The smell of food bore down sharply on her senses, and she

moved swiftly through the trees and brush to follow it. She was almost

silent in her footsteps. Her nose and ears told her everything she needed

to know.

She stopped and sniffed the air. Then, she lowered herself

behind brushes, trees, and leaves, the autumn colors hiding her tawny,

black, and bits of white perfectly. She waited…

There it was. Dinner. From the west, unaware and getting

closer.

The whitetail came into view seconds later, dipping its head to a

mountain stream. It was rare that a doe was alone this time of year, but

here she was. At the perfect angle.

She lowered herself more, preparing, using her expert hunting

skills and knowledge to make the kill. She was very patient.

Then, with a burst of speed and precision, she attacked. The

deer realized her fate far too late and only ran but a few yards. Teeth

sank into the neck, and within moments, dinner was served.



****

It was the time of year. She just had to hunt more often to work

off the extra rush of hormones and need to feed. She was always

careful, staying close to or on her vast property. But today was

different. She was on a friend’s property, a trusted friend who was out

of town for the day. After retrieving her clothes from the porch of the

friend’s home, she jogged to her truck and grabbed a pen and paper





from the glove box. She wrote a thank you note and IOU for the hunting. Then, she got back to her truck and took off over the mountain

to her house…on the dirt back roads.

She couldn’t help but go a bit too fast today, knowing who

would be traversing them as well.

The flashing red lights in her rearview as she turned a corner

made her grin. She hoped he was in a playful mood this

evening—knowing he was on duty had been the reason she’d picked

this route home. Her grin widened as a six-foot-two redhead stepped

out of his own truck to walk to hers.

She rolled her window down.

The fair-skinned man grinned back as he rested his arms on the

door. “Cilla Walton, you know better than to drive that fast on this

road.”

Her blue eyes met his brown ones. “Aw, come on, Riley.” She

tried to look as sincere as possible. “I was only doing fifty/fifty-five.”

He chuckled. “On a forty mile an hour road.”

She laughed softly, loving the scent rolling off of him. She

knew he was smelling her as well. “Riley Cooper, are you going to give

me a ticket?”

He leaned in the window about an inch, inhaling. His grin

turned wicked, suggesting all sorts of tempting things. She tried not to

visibly shiver.

She won.

“Not tonight, I’m afraid. I’m heading for my parents’ house for

dinner with them and my brothers. As you know, my mom’s birthday is

tomorrow.”

“Yes. I have something for her,” she replied. “I’m also taking

her shopping over in Burlington in the morning, with Ginger and my

sister Cat.”

“Dad talked to you.”

She nodded. “We’ll be back before dinner, around four-thirty.”

He leaned against her door and reached a hand in to move stray

strands of her tawny-colored hair behind her ear. “You’ve been out

hunting…and you got the kill.”

She smiled softly. “Of course I did.”

“Over at Ram and Mara’s?”

She nodded.

“Yeah, Ram mentioned you asked permission to hunt on his





and Mara’s land. Why?”

She shrugged. “I just wanted a different place to hunt—the deer

near my house are getting suspicious.” She winked.

He chuckled.

Shiver, shiver, shiver… She managed to hide the shiver, but not

the scent it caused. Damn autumn air.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”

“Yes, you will. And by the way,” she said as he stepped away

from the door while she put it back in gear, “you smell edible.”

He grinned. “So do you, babe. And I plan on remedying that

soon.”

The heat rushed through her and she shook her head. “You

shouldn’t say things like that after I’ve hunted. It can cause

uncontrolled reactions!” She had to raise her voice because he was