USA Today Bestselling Author
Going home wasn’t part of his plan …
Agreeing to travel home to Maine to hunt down Ketch, a K9 dog the system had lost track of, wasn’t an easy decision for Zane. It meant facing his drunk of a father, his cold older brother and, worst of all, Angela, his kid brother’s widow—who used to be his girlfriend.
Finding Ketch looked to be the easiest part of this dysfunctional homecoming. Only he wasn’t the only one hunting Ketch.
Angela has been through a whirlwind of emotions in the last few years. But the good thing in all of this was the hope that Zane would finally come home again. They had a history to clear up and a future to forge … she hoped.
A call for help brings the injured shepherd to Angela’s doorstep, plus a hunter looking to finish what he started. All thoughts of a future with Zane are threatened now and forever as the hunter decides two-legged prey are just as good as four-legged ones.
Katch, the dog Zane is sent to check on is quite possibly in the worst situation he could possible be in, with a hunter. His last known location was Maine, near Zane’s hometown. Now Zane has to face all the reasons he’s stayed away as he searches for Katch.
The last time he was home was for his younger brother’s funeral, where his father made it known that it should have been him. Even worse was the fact that his brother’s widow Holly, had been his girl once upon a time, and those feelings still lived inside him.
Then there is his older brother Butch, he’s so much like his father but his wife Sandra seemed to balance him a bit.
What does surprise him is the attitude about the dog. Everyone seems to think the dog should be put down because he has PTSD from being in a war zone for so long. While it’s true the dog could be dangerous, the dog just like any other soldier, deserves to be treated for his illness.
Holly is now a veterinarian and actually is helpful in finding the dog. Someone had brought an unconscious shepherd mix to a colleague of hers, unfortunately he now can’t get close to him now he’s awake.
This is a favorite scene as Zane tracks the dog who had escaped the vet’s pen.
Zane followed the blood for the next half hour, wondering how badly injured the animal could be if he was still going at the pace he was moving. But these War Dogs were well-trained, and, when fear was involved, they could keep going for hours.
A creek was up ahead. Zane stopped, studied it, seeing paw prints heading into the water and coming out on the other side. Crossing the creek, he stopped, leaned against a tree and surveyed the meadow in front of him. A crackle of a branch to his right had him studying the trees closer.
He watched a man, rifle in his hand, up and ready to shoot. He could see nothing in front of the man, even out a good fifty meters. He called over to him, “Hey, don’t shoot.”
The man didn’t appear to notice. Or he was deliberately ignoring Zane. He changed direction and headed toward the shooter. He was about twenty feet from the shooter when the man suddenly heard him and raised his sights to study him.
Zane called out, “Don’t shoot that dog please.” But instead of lowering the weapon, the shooter trained it on Zane.
“Shit,” Zane whispered. He stopped in his tracks, held up his hands to show he wasn’t armed. “Is this what you do, hunt and shoot dogs?”
The hunter took several cautious steps backward. Good. Zane was hoping he’d turn tail and run, like the coward he was. When he came up against the first tree, the hunter stopped, kept his rifle trained on Zane, and then ducked behind the tree and disappeared into the shadows.
Zane was caught between wanting to run after the shooter and staying with the dog. But he knew the dog was injured already. Taking note of the direction the shooter had disappeared, Zane raced in the direction the shooter had been targeting. Sure enough, lying on his side was a black shepherd-cross dog. Zane approached cautiously, as the dog was still awake, a growl coming from deep in his throat.
Zane crouched and crept along until he was within six feet of the dog. He whispered, “Take it easy, Katch.” He presumed it was the right dog from the photos. Even his mannerisms fit that of a War Dog. “Take it easy, boy.”
His growls didn’t stop though. Zane closed his eyes and willed loving energy toward Katch. Zane had always had a way with animals, but it was important they understood and received the kind of reception he wanted to give them. And it wasn’t easy when animals were already injured and terrified and abused by men.
He sat at Katch’s side, just talking to him calmly, trying desperately to let him know that Zane wasn’t a threat. But how would Katch understand that when the last man who’d followed him back here was a big threat to Katch?
The dog lay here, breathing heavily. Zane studied his injuries and found blood on his chest and flank, running down his leg. “Well, Katch, you’re big, and you’re heavy, and you’ll be a hard load to get back to the clinic. Especially if you don’t go willingly.”
He shuffled a little closer. Katch growled again, staring at him. Zane could see the whites of his eyes, and his panic already started. Katch struggled to rise, then gave a whimper and fell back on his shoulder.
Zane waited, checking to see if the animal would open his eyes again or move. Zane shuffled forward yet again, realizing Katch had lost consciousness with the pain of his injuries.
Knowing Zane would cause Katch more injuries and pain if moved, but, not really having much choice, Zane checked out the dog’s wounds while he was out cold. Zane saw the bullet was still in his flank, and the dog had an open wound showing the white of a rib. The dog was easily 140 pounds, if not 180.
With great difficulty, he got his arms underneath the dog, positioned for a fireman’s carry, and, using his legs, Zane slowly rose. The biggest problem would be if the dog woke up again.
Focusing, blanking out the pain caused by Katch’s weight, Zane walked steadily back the way he’d come. He had no way to phone the vet to let him know to watch for him. But, as he came through the tree line to the meadow and over to the field, he could see the vet standing in the pen, looking in his direction.
Zane let out a whistle. The vet lifted a hand, bolted indoors, out of sight. Zane certainly hoped Reggie was bringing an anesthetic to keep the dog knocked out.
As soon as Zane managed to get Katch to the clinic, Zane still had to walk around to the side, carrying the dead weight of an unconscious Katch, and then in through double doors that Reggie opened for him, while pushing a gurney.
“Lay him on this,” he murmured.
Relieved to have the weight off his shoulders, he gently laid the big animal on top of the gurney. “He’s unconscious. I don’t know how badly injured he is, other than what you initially saw. I stopped a hunter from shooting him. He took off into the woods.”
“Did you recognize him?” Reggie asked.
“No, I didn’t,” he said, “but then I don’t know anybody around here. What I do know is, when I told him to stop, he turned that rifle on me. He then backed out and took off, but I definitely got the impression he wouldn’t have cared less if he shot me or not, except for the fact we were too close to civilization, and he probably would have been caught.”
Reggie shook his head. “What the hell has the world come to?” He pushed the gurney inside. “Now that the dog’s out cold, I’ll run through some tests and see what we’ve got.”
“You need a hand? He’s a lot to move around.”
“We’re set up for him,” he said. “If you want to take a seat in the front room, I’ll see what I can find out.”
And that was as good as it would get.
Dale Mayer. Zane (Kindle Locations 556-600). Valley Publishing Ltd.
I loved the interactions of Zane and Katch. The added intrigue of the hunter, and Zane’s unreasonable father had me turning pages and crying over the attitudes.
Then there’s Holly, these two belong together and seriously always did. Such an emotional read and one I couldn’t put down.
5 Contented Purrs for Dale!
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Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).
She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!
To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.