I Kissed a Dog - By Carol van Atta

Dedication

I dedicate this book to you, Jordyn and Jade, for putting up with all my whims and wackiness when I’m writing, and the rest of the time too. You are the best kids a mom could have. And to my mom, who instilled the love of reading in my life at a young age. Reading is better than TV, hands down. And lastly, and most importantly, to my Awesome God who gave me any talents I might have. Without You, I would be lost.

Acknowledgments

There are so many people to thank, individuals who helped make I Kissed a Dog come to life. If you played a role in this book’s publishing process please know I appreciate all your help. It must be said: without seeing Tessa Dawn’s book ad on Facebook, I might not have discovered my wonderful publisher, Charles River Press/Cambridge Press US. Her book promotion prompted me to buy her book, which led me to Charles River Press and the purchase of more books, where, ultimately, I realized I’d found a great place for my own series, if they’d have me. Thankfully, Jon Womack, a talented author in his own right, gave the green light for the book you’re reading. Thank you to the Dogman! To Mary Belk, editor extraordinaire, thank you for continually reminding me that more isn’t always better; you made the clean up process fun. Packaging a book is always important. Having a cover I love, but more importantly one that grabs you, the reader, enough to peek inside is a gift. This gift was made possible by my talented and creative cover designer Anne Falcone. Roger Hunt, your skills made the pages inside the cover reader-ready, thank you. Lastly, I want to mention those early readers who encouraged me to keep writing and gave invaluable feedback along the way: Jade (my daughter), Sean (who is always scaring me), Mariah, Michael, Becky, and my mom, and to author of the Blood Curse Series, Tessa Dawn, for her kindness and input with post writing tips and suggestions for marketing and more. A book is without a doubt a team effort, and I needed all of you!

Chapter 1

June 12, 2011 – The Oregon Coast

The lion paced to the left, top lip curled back, revealing his pointed teeth; he snarled at me for good measure.

Wary, I watched as his tail whipped from side to side, and he shifted into a crouching position, his eyes never once straying from mine. He was perched above me on the rocky ledge where he spent hours lounging in the sun.

Planting my fists on my hips, I stood taller, squaring my shoulders, and glared up at Butch, a regal three-year-old lion I’d known since I first started working for Luke Snider at the Plum Beach Wildlife Park, over two years ago. Never had I experienced the wrath of this particular animal, and I wasn’t enjoying being on the receiving end of the young cat’s fury.

Fred, one of the park’s volunteers, had gotten the absurd notion that lions were just bigger versions of their housecat cousins, and based on the faulty information, decided to enter the cage for a feel of their fur.

The two females were eating and ignored the intruder. Butch, always curious and fiercely territorial, wasn’t quite as welcoming. He’d cornered Fred and was preparing to paw at him when I’d noticed his dilemma. Counting on my positive relationship with Butch, I’d helped Fred escape and was turning to leave.

Butch had other ideas and decided to get frisky with me. Something I hadn’t anticipated.

Now I was stuck and angry. How dare Butch treat me like a prospective snack?

I could hear Luke, off to my right, warning me to exit the cage — now, but I refused to surrender to my growling challenger. This was one battle I didn’t intend to lose.

It appeared Butch felt the same.

My pride alone wasn’t holding me back; I wasn’t one hundred percent convinced I could escape unharmed and wasn’t ready to risk it.

To make matters worse, I’d become the animal park’s featured entertainment.

A considerable, mid-afternoon crowd swarmed the lions’ enclosure eager for some action. As if the town’s recent murders weren’t enough. Granted, most of the park’s patrons were tourists with their cell phones raised in hopes of capturing footage worth posting online later.

If I had any say, it wouldn’t be me dangling from the jaws of my former feline friend. Some vacation memory that would be for the kids watching.

Butch roared, sending a wave of nerve-induced nausea crashing

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