Sunday, November 13, 2011

ShapeShifter Sunday ~ Sheriff Bunny Welch and the Horse Thief

Sunday purrs, everyone. Here's my latest flash scene at SHAPESHIFTER SEDUCTIONS. For more shifting goodness from the rest of our authors, come on by.

This flash was partly inspired when I heard the name of a real woman sheriff. Yep, Sheriff Bunny Welch. This is my Sheriff Bunny’s story. So far, that is.

Sheriff Bunny Welch and the Horse Thief

On the trail of her perp, a suspected horse thief, Sheriff ‘Bunny’ Konejita Welch slammed on the brakes of her beat-up SUV. She blinked once, then put on her surveillance hat fast. With her eyes squinted in concentration, she gazed through the tinted windshield.

By gawd, it was a white tiger. Her eyes didn’t lie. A huge ole beast of a tiger frolicked in the snow, apparently rolling his own snowballs.

Well, do tell...she’d heard things about Talbot’s Peak...strange rumors that belonged on one of those popular paranormal radio shows. Oh yeah, she listened while patrolling at night -- just for entertainment.

But witnessing for herself was far different than hearing about it. Until this moment, Sheriff Bunny had never given the bar gossip, or the intel from other officers about Talbot’s Peak, more than a mental snicker. She’d promptly forgotten the warnings about packs of ravenous werewolves and other frightening creatures that went bump and hump in the night.

Dammit! Now all the details smacked her upside the head, and hard, especially since others nearby acted as if nothing about a white tiger playing in the snow was particularly unusual. Not only that, a beautiful woman seemed to fondly welcome the black-striped, monster-pawed beast.

Several loud complaining honks behind her caused Sheriff Bunny to pull herself together enough to continue driving, even though her hands shook. The last known sighting of her possible perp had been at a saddlery shop on a small ranch not ten minutes outside of Talbot’s Peak.

Hell, now she couldn’t wait to get through the bizarro, give-her-the-willies town.

Only a day ago, Janelle, one of Sheriff Bunny’s cowgirl posse and a good friend, claimed she’d seen a man who resembled the only artist’s sketch made so far of the suspect. One of the cowhands employed by the cattle baron, Charles O’Fallon, had spied a man among a herd of their breeding mares.

Next day six of the pedigreed mares had vanished, as if lifted away by a helicopter. No vehicle tracks were found, or any other evidence of how the horses had been stolen -- or spirited away. If the same MO hadn’t been happening for the last four months, Sheriff Bunny wouldn’t be so doggedly determined to catch the bur-under-her-saddle thief.

After all, she had her dang hands full enough taking care of her county’s people as it was. However, the icing on her cake -- Charles O’Fallon had promised a big donation to her reelection campaign if his mares were returned.

While Sheriff Bunny didn’t give a fig about throw-his-weight-around Charley, she did care about the people of her county. Plus, so many of them were family and friends. And a few of them had lost horses as well. With current times gettin’ real rough around the edges, Sheriff Bunny was all too aware folks needed her more than ever.

So here she was, chasing the elusive son of a gun into another sheriff’s territory, which was why she traveled incognito. If she found any solid evidence, she’d contact the local sheriff, and go from there.

Used to driving in all kinds of weather, the falling snow didn’t particularly concern Sheriff Bunny -- certainly not like that gigantic white tiger. The highway out of town remained clear enough, and her trusty SUV was tough enough...except when she turned onto the ranch’s gravel drive and hit the snow and slush-concealed ruts.

Jarred by the uneven ruts, Sheriff Bunny pressed on, her nose telling her she was on the right trail, alright. Mentally, she rehearsed her spiel about wanting a new saddle for her ropin’ mare.

Ahead of her, the Old West style, but modern-spiffed up saddle shop looked picturesque and serene covered by a half foot of fresh snow. To her right a large horse barn sat surrounded by several corrals that she could see, and by open pastures.

From her vantage point, Sheriff Bunny didn’t observe any horses. Likely, they were all sheltered. Still, something seemed mighty odd, and she glanced at her handgun just inside her open purse.

To her left, on a high rise of ground there was a low rambling house that appeared to be well maintained, and much larger than she would have thought for a small working ranch.

After pulling up to a hitching post and parking, Sheriff Bunny drew in a large breath, then stepped out of her SUV. The kind of quiet only created by a thick layer of snow greeted her.

Drawing her sheepskin jacket closer together, she scanned the area as if only interested in her surroundings, but turned at the soft creaking of a door.

“Something I can do for you, ma’am?”

The owner of the low-key, raspy-sexy voice met her gaze. His coffee-brown eyes didn’t own an ounce of back-down as he continued gazing at her. Yep, he was definitely the man she hunted, a match for the sketch.

“Yeah, name is Bunny. I was told you make a real good saddle. Didn’t plan on all this snow, though, when I started out. Forecasters got it wrong again.” She attempted a little smile.

“Come on in before you freeze...Bunny,” he invited. He’d twanged her name in a way that tingled her middle deliciously. That hadn’t happened in a whole hell of awhile. “My handle is Racer.”

As he widened the door, and stepped back, Bunny clutched her over-the-shoulder, leather-tooled purse, and moved inside. Dammit! Why did he have to smell so downright masculine, so fresh-hay good -- like he’d just come in from the barn. Just like her dream cowboy would have.

Beautiful, hand-tooled saddles and other tack, in various stages of being completed, filled the shop -- the smell of top quality leather was only outdone by the big pot of coffee brewing on an old wood cooking stove.

“Racer. That’s an intriguing name.” Bunny turned around to face him. “How did you...” Her words ended because his gaze could only be described as a stud who wanted to breed a mare bad. Real bad.

Now what? She was supposed to be chasing his tail. Not the other way around. Not that he didn’t look worthy of a long night’s tumble. He sure as shootin’ did. Especially with that high rise bulge tightening his denims.

Bunny gulped. No use letting her desires run loose and wild. Not with a perp.

“Racer,” he hoarsely began. “Nickname I got when I used to run track.” He eased the door closed, and took a step toward her. “Bunny?” He quirked a dark brow, then angled his head like she’d seen stallions do when prancing up to a mare.

Before she could stop it, the truth spilled from her lips. “My first name is Konejita, Rabbit in Spanish, only spelled with a ‘K’. And, if you want the down and dirty, I was an exotic dancer during my early twenties. So,” she drawled, “most everyone knows me as Bunny.”

Appearing to restrain himself, Racer crossed his arms and leaned a shoulder, one broad as the land shoulder, against the door frame. “What type of saddle were you lookin’ for, Bunny?”

“Got a top notch ropin’ mare,” she began. After hauling in a breath that only seemed to leave as heaving breaths, Bunny continued, “Anyway, saddle is gettin’ worn thin... and, I’m in the market for a new one.”

“I’ll make you any saddle you want.” He paused, and tensed, tightening his arms over his chest. “My specialty is makin’ the horse real comfortable. Can I offer you a cup of coffee?”

Bunny watched as his nostrils flared. “Yeah,” she answered. “Sure. I could use some warmin’ up. How many horses do you have?” she added as if it was only a matter of curiosity and conversation, once he peeled himself from the doorframe and moved toward the stove.

Grabbing a holder, he picked up the old-fashioned pot and poured the black liquid into two white porcelain mugs. Lordy, lordy, did he have the sexiest butt -- buns she wanted to personally butter.

“There’s ten of us. Right now.” Pivoting, he asked, “Take sugar and cream in your coffee, Bunny?”

Us? Bunny felt immobilized. Like the time she’d spotted a Big Foot. There’d been no mistaking the giant hairy creature. He’d strode right in front of her high beams during one of her patrols through an isolated area. Given many in the county had seen them also, Bunny didn’t doubt their existence.

“A little sugar and a lot of cream,” she managed through lips that felt frozen. Bunny watched him stir in sugar then add cream to both cups of coffee. When he turned, powerful and smooth as a wild mustang, holding the mug out to her, she forged ahead. “Uh, you said ‘us’. You identify that closely with your horses?”

“Gotta identify, if you’re gonna make a saddle feel good,” he answered. His intense gaze changed to enigmatic. Yeah, she had her perp. She just knew it.

As Bunny took hold of the mug, their fingers met causing a momentary electrical storm that surged up her arm. Damn! Here she was falling like a schoolgirl for a horse thief. Admittedly, a good one since she didn’t have a hat’s worth of real evidence. And how in ever-lovin’ hell had he left no tracks of any kind?

To gather her own wits, Bunny took a careful sip of the steamy brew yet observed him from beneath her lashes. He swallowed down about half the mug, his gaze steady on her. If Bunny gauged his expression correctly, he’d come to a decision about how to handle their interaction.

“Ever hear of shapeshifters, Bunny?” His serious tone threw her, as if she’d been suddenly thrown and hogtied like a calf.

“Of course.” With a careless shrug, she continued. “Heard about ‘em being in Talbot’s Peak. Didn’t believe it, of course.”

“Believe it,” he gravelly returned. Seconds ticked by. “I am one. I’m a horse shapeshifter, Bunny.”

Only aware her mouth hung open from pure shock at his words, Bunny didn’t move as he seized the mug slipping from her nerveless fingers.

“I know who you are.” He placed both mugs on the stove, then faced her. “Recognized you after a bit. Can’t forget a fine riding ass like yours, Sheriff Welch.”

When she did nothing but stare at him, her eyelids wide as the Montana sky, her body stiff as if he’d stuck her outside to freeze, he combed his fingers... at least, it wasn’t a hoof... through his admittedly impressive mane of bay-colored hair, then continued speaking. “I had to rescue my own kind. You see. I know you ain’t gonna believe me. But, they been stuck in horse form for too long to change without help.” He paused. “I know how to help ‘em.”

Bunny spun around, only wanting to flee this not-to-be-believed situation. She didn’t deny her sheriff instincts or years of experience, though. He didn’t lie. Of course, crazy people believed in their own fantasy world. Although, how did he know her last name?

“Gonna snow through the night. Don’t want you gettin’ hurt, Bunny. I’ve got a spare room you can bunk down in.”

Whirling around, Bunny pressed herself against the wood plank door, her hand automatically gripping the butt of her handgun. “I’m going to forget this ever happened. Far as I’m concerned this part of the investigation is closed. Just... just stay out of my territory... whatever you are.”

“Your ‘territory’ looks all too invitin’. I told you up front what I did, and what I am ‘cause I intend to get to know you better. A whole lot better.” He strode toward her, a stud scenting for her acceptance or non-acceptance of him.

“Look. I don’t want to shoot you.” Her gumption returning, Bunny snapped, “Even if you are an admitted horse thief.”

Whipping around, she jerked the door open. At the same time, he took hold of the door above her, his lean rugged body corralling hers. Through the cracked door, icy snow slapped Bunny’s face, and she could barely see her SUV.

“Perfect timing for a blizzard.” His husky whisper warmed her ear, even as he eased the door shut. “Ever rode in a saddle while being rode, Sheriff?”

Before Bunny knew it, he’d seized her purse, and given it a toss to the side. Then she’d been turned, and was now crushed against the door. His sinfully sexy mouth hovered above hers.

“Gotta frisk you for concealed weapons,” he rasped just before his lips fastened on hers, and staked a claim she didn’t want to deny.

Have a Magickal Shapeshifting November!


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~