Jean Marie Ward

fiction, nonfiction and all points in between

Excerpt: “Fixed”

Modern Fae Cover 1400

There were lots of advantages to being a part-time cat. Being chased by a Rottweiler named Bitsy through Holcomb Creek Park wasn’t one of them.

Heart pounding, chest heaving, Jack Tibbert raced down the bike path, insensible to the late November cold, the people on the path, or anything except escape. Bitsy’s heavy grunts grew louder as she closed the gap between them. His imagination added the heat of the dog’s breath on his neck as her massive jaws closed in for the kill. He had to take cover—high where her crushing teeth couldn’t reach. But where? To his right the ground dropped sharply to the creek. The leafless saplings masking the fall were barely up to Jack’s feline weight. They’d never survive the dog. The only trees worth climbing grew on the left side of the path. To reach them he’d have to cross a field of dead grass set with exercise equipment too low to fend off a Chihuahua. It was gonna be close.

He feinted right. With a triumphant woof and the crackle of dead weeds, his pursuer plunged into the brush. Jack veered left, gaze locked on the outdoor balance beam. If he could run the dog into the log…

“Look out!” a female voice screamed.

He turned just in time to see a bicycle twice his height tearing up the center of the path. Instinctively, he jumped. The wheel clipped his shoulder. He tumbled across the pavement and kept rolling until one of the saplings knocked all the wind out of him.

It took him a minute to put the world back together. Had to get up. Dog. Too close. Yelping? He shook his head.

“Are you all right?”

The light girlish voice seemed to come from heaven, which had dropped to a few feet overhead. The angel kneeling beside him had a perfect oval face, almond-shaped eyes and windblown black hair streaked with rusty brown. She looked about sixteen, maybe a year younger than him—the kind of girl you see in all those dumb TV shows set in high school but you never meet in real life.

Small teeth raked her plump lower lip. “Don’t scratch me, okay? I need to touch you to see where you’re hurt.”

Sugar, you can touch me wherever you want.

Somewhere in the background, Bitsy started to whine. Her owner wailed, “But it’s the cat’s fault!”

“Not if Bitsy was off her leash and chasing him,” Jack’s vision shouted over her shoulder. Foxy chick was a cat person, too. He purred, arching his back into the hand she trailed along his fur.

“Spine and hips, good,” she muttered to herself. She found his tail. He flicked the tip playfully. “All right. Anything else we can fix.”

She flinched at another blast from the Rottweiler’s owner. “Just keep her calm, Mrs. Saar. It’ll be okay. I’ve got my phone.

“It’s not like it hasn’t happened before,” she added under her breath.

She couldn’t keep her hands off him. Swearing at the hit-and-run cyclist, dialing her phone—the whole time, one of her hands was stroking him or scratching the sweet spots behind his ears and between his shoulders. He rewarded her by turning the baby blues on high. They worked their usual magic. Her bright brown eyes and pretty pink mouth got all soft. She forgot the phone pressed to her left ear. When the call connected, she bounced in surprise. Ev-er-y-thing bounced.

With a grin as wicked as feline lips allowed, Jack rolled his shoulders and hauled himself to his feet. Joints popped. A dozen different muscles and tendons hummed with pain. He tottered a couple steps, wincing at his scraped fore pads, and collapsed dramatically across her jeans.

(To read the rest of the story, check out “Fixed” in The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity.)