|An Excerpt From: PANTHER MOON
Copyright Â© REGINA CARLYSLE, 2011
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
Chantrea carried an armload of supper dishes to the sink, the muted sounds of the television playing in the living room, making her smile. Sounded like a baseball game to her. Being an addict to the game was her dadâ€™s one true vice. Her mother, Celia, laughed at something Brant said. Typical evening in the Morgan household. Outside the modest Texas home, crickets chirped as the wind rustled the leaves of ancient oaks and cottonwoods. An owl hooted from a faraway branch. â€śHey, Mom, dinner was great,â€ť she called as she loaded the dishwasher, turned it on and headed into the living room.
Celia smiled from her position curled up against her husband of several centuries. â€śLove it when a new recipe turns out.â€ť
Brant kissed the top of his wifeâ€™s blonde head and winked at Trea as she wandered into the room. â€śYou did good, hon.â€ť
As an unmated female panther, she had grown up knowing she wanted what her parents had. Love. Affection. The deepest kind of understanding between mates. It was so heartwarming to witness their love firsthand. She was constantly in awe.
Wandering to the wide mantel over the fireplace, she shoved her hands in the pockets of her worn jersey shorts and looked at the pictures lovingly displayed there. â€śI miss Maxwell.â€ť Her sigh was soft but even over the sounds of the game she knew her folks heard it.
â€śYour brother had to leave, honey. It was his time,â€ť her mother said with calm conviction. Trea turned at the slight hitch evident her motherâ€™s voice in her voice and knew Mom missed him too. â€śHe likes his job in Houston though he still hasnâ€™t found any females of our species. There are just so few of us left but maybe, just maybe heâ€™ll be one of the lucky males to find the perfect mate. You would think it easy in a city of over five million people. I know it hurts that he had to go but itâ€™s natural, honey. Heâ€™s a man and gods know there is no future out here in the boonies. Weâ€™ve lived like hermits for so long.â€ť Celia lifted a brow and glanced at Brant. â€śIt hasnâ€™t been fair to either of our children.â€ť
Trea picked up the framed photo of her brother and herself taken during one of their rare family vacations. Tracing the handsome male face, she blinked back moisture from her eyes as a blast of love caught her off guard. Like her, Max was blond and green eyed but there the similarities stopped. Where she was slender, small, and to her way of thinking, rather ordinary, her brother Maxwell was a bonafide heartstopper. The gorgeous rascal was built like a tree trunk, broad-shouldered and handsome as sin. He was the kind of guy whoâ€™d made the local girls melt but he had carefully avoided all but the most necessary entanglements with humans. Smart dude. Trea was so proud of him and couldnâ€™t help but wish him well in finding a mate of his own. The lady would be a very lucky feline. No doubt about it.
Behind her, Trea heard her parents shift position and she turned, surprised, when her dad pushed a button on the remote to turn off the television. Silence, sharp and somewhat ominous, fell into the depths of the small cabin. â€śWe need to talk, princess.â€ť
Frowning, she replaced the photo and gingerly sat on the edge of an overstuffed chair to look at her parents. Something about her fatherâ€™s tone sent worry to dance over her spine. â€śWhatâ€™s up, Dad?â€ť
Brant Morgan focused his gaze on her. â€śYour mother and I have been talking.â€ť He cleared his throat, obviously uncomfortable. â€śChantrea, you are nearing your time. Maybe this is a good moment toâ€”â€ť
Treaâ€™s face burned. â€śDad!â€ť
Celia patted Brantâ€™s arm. â€śLove of mine, you are so clueless. Let me.â€ť
He shook his head and sighed heavily, seeming downright relieved to let someone else tackle the delicate subject of a female were panther having her first heat. â€śGood. Go for it.â€ť
Celia wasnâ€™t deterred, focusing an intelligent gaze on her. â€śFor all these years, weâ€™ve tried to keep you safe out here in the country. You know panthers are solitary creatures and itâ€™s uncomfortable for us to live among crowds. Itâ€™s stifling. Invasive. It was a huge risk for us to even let you attend the public school in town but, honey, we have worried so much about you. Youâ€™ve been so isolated out here in the woods of east Texas. No friends. Nothing that normal human girls come to enjoy. You donâ€™t have a real life out here.â€ť
â€śBut Iâ€™m not human, Mom. Itâ€™s okay.â€ť Chantrea knew darn good and well her life wasnâ€™t normal. Sometimes it made her sad but this wasnâ€™t the fault of her parents. They had to protect her. It was their duty and she would never fault them for the lonely state of her life. She shook her head and smiled not wanting them to stress about the choices theyâ€™d made. â€śReally. Donâ€™t worry about me.â€ť
â€śWe have to, Trea,â€ť her dad said, leaning forward to prop his forearms over his sturdy thighs. â€śIt wasnâ€™t possible for you to date the local boys, honey. You know we donâ€™t mix but you are a woman now. Things are, umâ€”â€ť
Once again, Celia put her hand out to stop him. â€śHappening to your body.â€ť
Trea swallowed hard, knowing the utter truth of Momâ€™s words. Already she felt flashes of heat zip through her with astounding effect. Soon she would be helpless to the oncoming change and facing the shift from woman to panther would be the most horrible thing imaginable when dealing with it alone. She knew she couldnâ€™t do it. The time to mate was upon her. Discomfort climbed over her flesh and buried itself deep in her belly. â€śDo we have to talk about this now?â€ť
â€śWeâ€™ve decided to move to Sanctuary,â€ť her dad baldly stated. â€śItâ€™s time.â€ť