While most of Cat Muldoon's stories are romance, paranormal, futuristic, science fiction, fantasy, and suspense, you never know what she'll dream up next. Yes, she does dream up stories at times. She also converses with her characters, which is what makes them so lively.
In Rue the Day: The Undercover Heir, Book 1, magic is dying. The only person who can restore it is the Queen, but she is in a coma. Everyone believes that grief over the presumed death of her only child, causes her mysterious condition. But the child - now a woman - lives, and she is their last hope.
When Aislinn is retrieved from her unintended exile the mortal world, she discovers that treachery, not grief, is the cause of the Queen’s condition. Someone has been poisoning and spellbinding people in power, but whom? The keen observer soon finds her own life in peril as she tries to discover and stop the culprit before anybody dies – and before Faerie falls into evil hands.
Sure sounds like a must read for fantasy suspense fans to me. But in case you're not convinced just yet, get a load of this awesome cover. Oh, and here's an excerpt:
RUE THE DAY EXCERPT:
Lynne felt as if she were in a waking dream. Night had brought an unexpected chill that the hidden October sun could not warm. Her incessant headache throbbed worse than usual. At times, the pain was so bad she thought it might kill her. She gazed out of the only window in the tiny hut, breathing deeply and attempting to drain the pain out of her head. Fog shrouded the hills and trees in a milky white blanket. She had learned not to fear the frequent misty mornings in the Ozarks, but there was something unusual about this one. She felt restless.
The cat rubbing insistently against her legs ended her reverie. It occurred to her that he still seemed to be a young cat even though he had been with her ever since she and Mother were separated forever on a misty morning much like this one. After more than seventeen years, he was still, unaccountably, as spry as a one-year-old. He had been with her through placements in over a dozen foster homes and was her only true friend. Smiling and scratching him between the ears, she said, “I’m sorry, Bree. I know you think you’re starving to death.”
She fed him and focused again on the veiled world beyond her door. No breeze rustled in the trees. No birds sang. Nothing moved at all. Why was it so still?
A yearning rose within her that she did not comprehend. A compulsion to go into the mist overtook her. Although Lynne did not understand what drove her actions, she felt she should make ready for travel. Trusting her instincts had saved her life more than once. Following the urge, she pulled her well-used backpack from under the bed, checked its contents, and found she had enough supplies to sustain her for a while if her journey was an extended one. An experienced journeyer, she filled the canteen and set the pack by the door. Lynne was sure-footed even in rough terrain and enjoyed being in the woods and sleeping in the trees.
A stubborn thought screamed for attention. She felt as if someone was trying to pressure her out of the house, so she fought against the desire to leave. Instinct had saved her life on many occasions, but it never felt like a compulsion, and she hated to be forced to do anything. Maybe this is not my instinct trying to save me …There is nobody else here. Why do I feel someone trying to chase me out of here?
Bree had finished his meal and was licking the bowl, pushing it around the floor with the vigor of his tongue. The sound stopped abruptly. Lynne turned to see the cat standing, tail fluffed, back arched, staring transfixed at--what? Whatever Bree saw in the middle of the room, Lynne did not. He let out a low “mmmm” that was neither growl nor purr.
“What’s the matter, Bree?” she asked shakily.
Not acknowledging the sound of his name, the cat stared fixedly at whatever only he could see and made that strange, guttural sound again.
The back of Lynne’s neck prickled. She tucked her golden-red hair behind her ears. Her mouth went dry. “Bree?” Lynne realized that she was clenching her fists only when the pain of nails digging in her palms alerted her. She let out an exasperated sigh. “Get a grip,” she admonished herself. “I'm being ridiculous.” The unsettling feeling remained.
Determined to bring normalcy to the morning, she sipped some water. Willing herself to calm, she practiced the Tai Chi centering breath that helped keep her in the present moment as she turned back to watch the cat. Bree’s murmur soon ceased. His tail shrunk to its usual size, and his back lowered. He stood more relaxed, but still stared at that specific empty point in the middle of the room. Lynne’s uneasiness mounted.
The throbbing pain in her head was almost more than she could bear. She splashed cold water on her face, hoping to shake off the mental fogginess that so perfectly mirrored the weather. Fighting for calm, she took several deep breaths in an effort to calm herself and diminish the pain. Maybe this time the deep breathing would help.
Lynne’s breath caught. She felt the presence of someone standing behind her. Her heart pounded. She whirled around and sunk into a battle stance, ready to attack the intruder. Nobody was there. “I must be losing my mind.” She grabbed the counter to steady herself.
Bree purred--a real purr this time. Lynne released her grip on the counter. The gray cat slowly raised a snowy paw and stepped forward. Though Lynne’s anxiety remained, his behavior aroused her curiosity. She knelt beside her beloved friend. Bree’s long grey whiskers twitched as he took another step, this time with less hesitation. His purr grew louder as he tilted his head upward with an expression of bliss on his face, as if being scratched under the chin by an unseen hand.
Lynne had the strangest feeling someone was trying to comfort her. This only heightened her sense of alarm. Who could be trying to soothe me and my cat, and why? She feared for her cat’s safety and wanted him away from the mysterious presence. “Bree, no!” she yelled, but he stayed where he was and purred contentedly. Not knowing what else to do, she scooped Bree into her arms, grabbed her pack, and dashed through the door into the misty woods.
The feline tensed and squirmed in Lynne’s arms as she raced away from the hut. Bree squalled in protest and dug his back claws into Lynne’s stomach, but she held him close. Her footing faltered as she slipped in a mud puddle. Reflexively, her arms spread to catch her balance, and Bree dashed away. “Bree, BREE!” she yelled, pursuing him.
Lynne rebuked herself for fleeing into the fog like a frightened deer. Bree had lived his whole life indoors, and she had terrified him. Certainly, he would not come to her call. She let out a cry of anguish as she started searching for her companion. She rarely cried, but now hot tears rolled down her cheeks. She tried to make her voice calm as she called to Bree.
Maybe if I act like a normal person, he might come to me.
The only sound was her breathing. Her incessantly throbbing head made it difficult to focus and quiet her mind. She forced her breath to quiet as she walked more calmly, listening for him. Without noticing, she held her arms out to help guide her, since her eyes gave her no useful information in the milky mist. At one point, she felt a branch break beneath her foot. A few minutes later, it occurred to her that she had not heard the branch crack. Walking with purposeful disregard for the terrain, she did not even hear her shoes contacting the earth. Though an expert at moving quietly through the woods, the headlong dash through fog surely must have taken her through countless crunchy autumn leaves and fallen sticks. She could not see her feet, and could not imagine moving soundlessly in these conditions.
Experimentally, Lynne stomped her foot hard. She felt the impact through her leg, but heard no sound. She clapped twice and heard two dull thuds. She raised a hand before her face. All she saw was a vague shape. She shuddered. The temperature had surely risen; the fog should be lifting. The back of her neck prickled and her sense of danger increased.
“Bree, I’m not going home without you,” Lynne called. Her voice did not travel through the woods as it should have. Finally, weary and hoarse from hours of anxious searching and calling, Lynne slumped against an old tree and sank onto the ground. Bree might be lost forever, and it was all her fault. If only she had kept her wits and stayed to face whatever was happening at the hut, none of this would have happened.
Lynne shivered. Had the day grown so cold? She was no closer to locating her beloved companion. You’ll never find him sitting on your pity pot. She cautioned herself to stay centered and keep her wits. Be in the present moment.
Just then, a sense of imminent, mortal danger shocked her into action.
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