I took on this case when a beautiful, headstrong photographer accidentally blew the cover of a federally protected witness. In stepped rogue cop Lucas West, and the two were in for a high-noon duel with some scary killers. But whose paw really steered the getaway car?
It amazed me to see the bipeds fighting their instincts to care for each other. Why couldn't they see what really matters in life? It's not like they have nine of them!
About the Author
Caroline Burnes is the author of over 35 Intrigues, many of them featuring Familiar the Black Cat Detective. A native of Mississippi, she also writes mysteries and crime novels under the name Carolyn Haines. An avid reader, Burnes grew up in a small town where novels gave her the adventures she craved. She is an animal advocate and also teaches creative writing at the University of South Alabama.
Read an Excerpt
Ah, back in the South, where food is an art form and no humanoid would ever dare mention that I'm back at the hors d'oeuvres table for the fourth time. Love those salmon puffs in dill sauce! The yellowfin-tuna croquettes are superb. Let the bipeds waste their caloric allowance on champagne; I'm indulging in sustenance that will make my coat sleek and shiny and my eyes bright. Brain food, yum!
Everyone is taking their seats. The harpist has started. I do believe it's showtime. And I've got to scurry to get to my seat beside my beloved owner, Eleanor.
I have to say, the bride is beautiful. The entire theme of a Civil War wedding, while admittedly strange to a feline, is beautiful. Charles looks handsome in his uniform, with the sword at his side and the gold sash, and Lorry is magnificent in a hand-stitched gown crusted with seed pearls. Maybe it's just pretend, but the bridal party's attire gives the wedding a solemnity that makes me believe Charles and Lorry will truly find happiness together. From what Eleanor tells me, Lorry deserves a break. Her life hasn't been easy.
Ah, the bridesmaids have assumed their places, and all eyes turn to watch Lorry float down the aisle like a dream.
Uh-oh. It looks like the tall, lean best man has seen something he doesn't particularly care for. It almost looks as if he's going to bolt from his place, but no, he can't, or the ceremony will be ruined.
But what does Lucas West see? All afternoon he stalked the wedding, as if he expected Jack the Ripper to show up, and now he's craning his neck to watch a woman with a camera? She's probably been paid to assist the guy who's photographing the wedding. Why should that unsettle Lucas so much? Two photogs instead of onenot cause for alarm as far as I can tell.
I have to say, though, the woman shutterbug should be in front of the camera, not behind it. She's simply beautiful, and she has no clue. She's all about getting her shot. And the money shot is the bride.
Lorry, with her honey-gold hair and inner beauty, is glowing with happiness. Miss Shutterbug is following her with studied diligence. Camera Girl is intense, that's for sure. She's going to get her picture, and the world be damned. She even stepped in front of the other photographer, which didn't go over well with him or with Lucas.
Now Lucas and Eleanor are both acting strange. I'm sure there's a story behind this, and I'll find out as soon as the vows are said.
The lighting in the old clapboard church was incredible. Michelle moved around the chapel, her cameras whirring as she recorded the wedding digitally and also on film. Of the four weddings she'd photographed so far on this assignment for Bride Magazine, this one was the bestat least photographically speaking. The magazine had offered florists across the nation a free ad for alerting the magazine to the most unusual wedding, and Michelle made a mental note to send Bloomers Unlimited a thank-you note. This wedding was fantastic.
She had no clue if the bride and groom loved each other or had a chance at "happily ever after." The truth was, she didn't care. What mattered was capturing the imagethat perfect blend of light, composition and human emotion, where one picture told the entire story.
As she moved along the west wall of the church, flanking the bride, Michelle noticed the best man giving her the evil eye. In fact, he looked as if he was going to step out of his role as Confederate attendant to the groom and confront her. Had she not been so focused on her work, she might have found that idea a tiny bit thrilling. He was the antithesis of the men she knew in New York. He was rugged and self-contained, and for some reason, she thought of the old black-and-white reruns of Marshal Dillon on Gunsmoke. Too bad he was eyeing her like she was a horse thief he meant to hang.
She tried to ignore him, but his steely gaze made her uncomfortable. Yes, she was an interloper at this wedding. What she offered this soon-to-be wife was something most brides would kill fora featured photo essay in Bride Magazine.
Michelle used only natural light, so the flash wasn't an issue during the ceremony. Yet when she caught a glimpse beneath the bride's veil, she saw a young woman clearly in despair. It made Michelle uneasy, but she continued to do her job. Heck, if Iggy Adams, her editor-in-chief, couldn't talk the couple into signing a release to use the photos, they wouldn't be used. No one wanted a lawsuit.
When the groom lifted the veil, the purest light filtered in through a loft window, and Michelle snapped a photo that every photographer waits a lifetime to get. The groom bent to kiss the bride, and then it was over.
Michelle sighed, wishing she actually knew this couple. But she'd never met them. As part of the deal she'd cut with Iggy, she had no responsibility to inform the bride and groom about the photographs. The whole idea of catching the bride and groom unawarewhile it had yielded some of the best wedding photographs she'd ever seenwas still a bit strange. But that was Iggy's problem. All she had to do was show up and get the pictures. Iggy would handle the sticky details.
Speaking of moving on down the road, she had another wedding to shoot. It was time to book out.
She picked up her camera bag and took long strides toward the exit, almost stumbling over a black cat, who stared up at her as if he had something to say.
"Hey, kitty." She bent to stroke his sleek fur, but his gaze never wavered. He watched her. Not critically, but with curiosity. Well, she'd always heard that curiosity killed the cat. Too bad she didn't have a way to take this black beauty home with her to the Big Apple. He had the attitude and demeanor of the perfect roommate.
When she walked outside, she was amused to see that the cat followed her. Maybe he didn't have a home. She gave him a critical once-over. He was certainly well-fed and cared for. He had loving owners somewhere, but why was he attending a wedding?
At the car, she popped out the digital memory card and stuffed it in her jacket pocket. She rewound the film in the other camera, put a sticky label on it and also put it in her jacket. As she reloaded her cameras and began to store them in the cargo bay of her car, the cat began to rub against her ankles and purr.
"Excuse me, ma'am."
She turned to face the lean man who'd been in the wedding. His chiseled features were ruggedly handsome, and his assessing gaze made her feel as if her blouse was unbuttoned. "Yes?"
"I'm afraid I can't let you leave here with those photographs," he said. His soft drawl belied the deadly sincerity in his eyes.
Michelle pushed her long red hair back. "My boss will be in touch to get all the necessary release forms."
"Iggy Adams, with Bride Magazine. We're doing a feature article on brides in out-of-the-way places. Blakely State Park down here in Spanish Fort, Alabama, is pretty darn out of the way."
"I'd like the film and the digital memory cards, please."
The man was made of ice. He acted as if she'd held up a bank or something.
"That's not going to happen." She started to slam the cargo-bay door when the cat jumped in. She reached in to remove the cat, and the man put his hand on the door, blocking her.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but you have to give me those photographs."
Whoever he was, he was trained to show no emotion. He acted as though he were asking for a piece of gum. "Those photographs are my property," she said coolly. "Now, if you want a court case, try to take them."
"No, ma'am. We don't want a court case at all. I just want those pictures. You had no right to take them."
"Look, I agree that the whole idea of photographing the wedding without notifying the bride and groom is a bit strange, but so far, every couple has been thrilled to be in Bride Magazine. The bride and groom will have total say over which photos are used."
"You don't understand." The man's jaw tensed as he spoke. "Those photographs won't be used at all."
She took a breath. "Iggy won't use them if the couple refuses to sign a release. That's between them and the magazine. But Iggy paid me to come here. I've spent at least a week of time, not to mention airfare and hotels. I've got to take something back to show for the expense."
She was out of breath when she finally stopped. He was looking at her with that steely-gray gaze that said so clearly that he didn't give a damn what her story was, and he wanted what he wanted.
"Ma'am, if it were any other wedding, I'm sure the participants would be delighted to be in a fancy New York City magazine. Not this wedding, I'm afraid. Ms. Lorry asked me to get that film, and that's what I intend to do."
He reached for the camera bag, pulled it out and removed her digital camera.
Before she could blink, he had the memory card in his hand. He went for the other camera. Michelle brought the door down on his arm, not hard enough to harm him, but with enough force that he knew she meant business.
"Don't touch my equipment." She eased off the door to let him remove his arm.
"You don't understand what's at stake," he said.
She could see that he was working hard at reasoning with her. What he didn't understand was that she'd never let anyone touch her equipment. Not ever. Not for any reason. Before she could answer, she noticed the black cat had hopped to the front seat. To her amazement, the cat opened the glove box and began to rifle through the contents. "Hey!" she yelled at the cat.
The man took her moment of inattention to strip the film from her camera. He dropped the roll in his pocket and handed the camera back to her.
"Sorry, ma'am," he said.
She was furious, but she still had her photographs. Whoever this Neanderthal was, he'd only gotten blank film. The best thing she could do was beat a hasty retreat before he tried to search her.
She walked past him to the driver's door. "Shoo, kitty!" She waved her hands at the cat until he hopped out a front window. She got behind the wheel.
"Ms ." the man started.
She gunned the motor and drove out of the church parking lot like Satan was on her heels.
When she looked in the rearview mirror, he was standing there in his Confederate finery, the black cat sitting beside his polished black boots.
Lucas West watched the red Alabama dust rise from the tires of the photographer's SUV, a rental from Atlanta. He memorized the tag number, but since he had the film, it was a moot issue. And it was thanks to the cat that he'd gotten the film. He looked down, but the feline had disappeared.
He stood a moment longer, pondering the strange events. Whoever the photographer was, she'd come into the wedding like a Texas tornado. He felt the corners of his mouth begin to tug into a smile. Well, maybe that was an exaggeration. She'd been quiet and professional, but the first time he'd looked at her, she'd given him a jolt. She was a looker. No doubt about that. With her lacey white shirt, tailored black slacks and stiletto boots, she'd almost stolen his breath. Until he'd seen the camera.
He sensed someone approaching and turned to face Eleanor Curry, a lovely woman who traveled with a black cat. The idea of it made him smile.
"Who was she?" Eleanor asked.
"Photographer for Bride Magazine."
Eleanor whistled softly. "That's the magazine to be in if you're into wedding royalty."
"Lorry can't risk it. I got the film. Cockamamie idea to send a photographer to photograph a wedding without asking the bride and groom."
"It's all about that candid moment," Eleanor said as she took his arm and they walked toward the celebration in an arbor beside the church. "But you got the pictures, right? No harm done. Let's have a glass of champagne."
Lucas felt himself relax. He had the pictures; the danger had been averted. Now he wanted to enjoy this new beginning for a young woman who'd proven to be courageous and strong.
"It's wonderful to see Lorry like this," Eleanor said. "I was afraid she'd never be happy again."
"She did a very brave thing for me." Lucas took two glasses from a passing waiter and handed one to Eleanor. "I promised I'd see her into a new life. A happy life. I think this is the first step. Lorry and Charles have the whole future ahead of them."
"They're so in love." Eleanor pointed her champagne glass toward a black shadow slipping along the chairs at the buffet table. "And I'd better get Familiar. He loves wedding food, but we have to catch a flight out this evening. It's back to D.C. for a few weeks, then on to my seminar in New York. Peter will join me there when he finishes lecturing in Chicago."
"Peter's lucky to have you, Eleanor. And your cat. I know you believe he's some kind of detective, but my imagination won't stretch that far."
"Oh, Familiar will stretch it." Eleanor linked her arm through his. "Familiar has a way of letting you know exactly how smart he is. Now walk me over to kiss the bride and groom good luck. Then I'm going to retrieve my cat and head for the airport."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Familiar, the detective cat, comes to the rescue of a feisty red-headed photographer and a tough independent ex-cop who are pursued by evil forces. Familiar tickles me, with his paragraphs of narration, his preternatural intelligence, and his affinity for seafood. It's formula, but a nice beach read.