Her Maine Stud (SOS Multi-Author)
J. Hali Steele
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2015 J. Hali Steele

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As an agent for the U.S. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Special Outreach Services, Tyrant Blue Blade Runner dealt with shady characters of the shifting ilk, not beautiful women.

He thought back to the first day he saw Coral Gillespie. With a gentle touch and a sweet singsong voice -- along with cans of cheap tuna -- she trapped cats in her infinite supply of cages and carted them away. He'd monitored her as requested, and always after she left his property, he made a necessary trip to the local animal shelter to retrieve whichever cat she stole.

"Here, Bunny, here, kitty?" Her high-heeled feet clicked nosily on the pavers as she neared the single car garage next to Ty's new house. The door had remained up since he moved in, and Coral was absent all weekend. She couldn't park her modest SUV in the garage because it held too many traps. Along one wall stood an automatic feeder, which dispensed cat kibble, and a small bucket she kept filled with water. The other wall held towers of large carriers.

"Honey, a better name might get a response."

"Who's there?" He heard her voice right next to the fence.

Time to introduce myself. He crunched through gravel lining the joint fence on his side and strode onto her driveway. "I'm Tyrant Runner, your new neighbor."

She sucked in a breath of air as it dawned on her who he was. "You?"

"Is that a problem?"

Her cheeks turned a pretty shade of pink. "Well, no, I... I didn't expect to ever see you again."

"Did you want to, Coral Gillespie?"

"You remember my name?"

"Yes. Did you want to see me again?"


"Cat got your tongue?" Ty couldn't resist a bit of fun at her expense, especially considering the woman was responsible for many long drives to the shelter. She had warm hazel eyes and her neck-length brown hair appeared as if she'd run a hand through it a hundred times. The lime green skirt hugging her hips was too short and the vivid green and yellow print blouse had two or three buttons undone, showing a generous amount of cleavage. Hell of a way to dress for a business office.

Pivoting on spiked heels, she strutted back toward the house, calling, "Here, kitty."

Damn, he'd blown that. "Hey, I didn't mean to sound like a smart-ass."

"No need to apologize. Welcome to the neighborhood." She took another step before peering over her shoulder. "If you see a big silver-gray tomcat, he belongs to me."

"I'll keep a look out."

"Much appreciated. And don't ever close my garage."


"It's open for strays."

"Do you work at a shelter?" Ty knew the answer but he wanted to keep her in sight.

"No, I'm a personal assistant, you know, stuffy office work."

"Then why all the traps?"

"I rescue animals, mostly cats, and turn them over to shelters." She dug around in a large tan bag, and muttered, "Confounded keys."

"Don't they put them down after a certain amount of time?"

She spun to face him. "Where'd you hear such malarkey?"

Malarkey. Her choice of words were usually as colorful as her clothes. "I thought they all did it."

"My shelter doesn't."


Finally rooting out her key chain, she slipped one into her lock. "You'll see quite a few strays at night. Don't go calling or reporting anything to local authorities. God knows what those bureaucratic bumblers do." Before stepping through the door, she added. "I see to it most of them are spayed or neutered."

Ouch! "Do you think they like that?"

"The shelter appreciates not having to fork out money for it."

"I meant the cats."

"I'm trying to keep the population down."

"Just around here?"

Coral didn't close the door, but he thought she'd gone in to stay until she popped back out in her bare feet and walked across the paver bricks. "Are you a cop or something?" He'd seen that hands-on-hip move before, knew it meant he was going to get an earful.

"No, I'm not a cop." The or something didn't need to be addressed right now.

"You ask a lot of questions." He waited for the familiar tilt of her head. "For dinner I'm having steak and potatoes. Yes, I eat meat." She pinched her chin. "Perhaps you'd like to know I have an appointment to neuter Bunny on Thursday. Is there anything else you'd like to ascertain before I go in?"

God, she's beautiful all riled up.

He had picked this weekend to move knowing she attended a conference with her boss. "Thought it'd be neighborly to say hi." Tyrant hadn't had neighbors since, Christ, he couldn't remember the last time his family lived less than five or ten miles from anyone. It suited their situation to live away from others. "Talk about the weather, pass the time of day."

"It's hotter than a tar bucket." Coral fixed him with a stare. "Maybe what you need, Mr. Runner, is a project to occupy you. You could spend some time trimming your damn tree so the mulberries don't stain my drive and get tracked into my house." Arms akimbo, she added, "If that's not enough to do, I can find a few things around my house if you're feeling very neighborly."


She grinned. "Cat got your tongue?"

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