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Windrusher and the Trail of Fire

In this third heart-pounding adventure, Windrusher is separated from his Hyskos family, rescued and taken to a sprawling cat sanctuary where he soon learns only danger awaits him.

Facing the treachery of two-legged villains intent on forcing the cats from the sanctuary, Windrusher’s destiny is mysteriously linked to a mythical cat from legendary times. Can this dream-link protect him and the other cats that stand in the way of a ruthless developer’s greedy desires?

In his most dangerous challenge yet, Windrusher finds there is no sanctuary as he must battle conniving humans, a raging wildfire, and save two hundred other lives before he can save his own.

Excerpt

ONE

A soft rustling to his right brought him fully alert. Barely audible, the sound might have been a breeze riffling through the trees. He froze, ears erect, sniffing the night air for signals of danger. The rustling grew louder and now he saw the source of his agitation. A spotted giant bounded through the jungle underbrush toward him. Green eyes blazing, powerful legs churning, the killer raced through the trees.

It came to him in a flash that he was about to die.

Now he caught the scent of the predator, but it was too late. How could he have missed sensing this monster stalking him? Moments before he had been the skillful hunter, patiently tracking, lying in wait until the time was right, and then striking before his prey could flee.

Because of his carelessness, he had become the prey. No time to berate himself. If he didn’t move, and move swiftly, this night wouldn’t end pleasantly for him. It would be his flesh ripped by vicious claws. His neck pierced by the terrible fangs.

He darted over a fallen branch, his claws scratching the bark, and dashed through the clearing toward the thick cluster of trees on the other side. His brief glimpse of the spotted predator told him it was little more than a cub. Cubs this young were usually found hunting with their mothers. Perhaps an orphan learning how to hunt on its own, he thought. Maybe he had a chance after all, but the cub was still many times larger than he was; stronger and faster, and very deadly. If he lived long enough to reach the nearly impenetrable knot of trees and vines on the other side of the clearing, he might have a chance.

Stray images tumbled through his mind as he darted toward the trees. He recalled the brief fight the furry creature gave him before submitting to his teeth and claws. This was his last meal, now hanging heavy in his belly, weighing him down. He thought of the sleek, young female he’d rubbed noses with earlier that day and wondered if he would ever see her again.

Behind him, he heard the cub crashing through the underbrush, gaining on him with each step. He raced into the tree line, scurrying into the darkness, cutting one way and then the other hoping to confuse the young predator. The night shadows deepened beneath the thick canopy of trees. He couldn’t count on the darkness shielding him since the predator’s sight was even better than his own. The great god Nut-atna who controlled the creatures of the night had given this swift killer in the spotted robe the keenest of senses.

Running wildly over the leaf-covered jungle floor, eyes searching for hidden vines that might trip him and send him tumbling, he ran faster than he ever had before. He felt his heart hammering in his chest, and heard heavy breathing as his pursuer closed the distance between them. Any moment it would pounce, claws raking his ribs, sending him flying. In one swift movement, the creature’s fangs would stab into the back of his neck, slicing the life from his body.

He instinctively changed directions as the cub leaped. He heard it growl, but kept running, nearly colliding with a tree tilted crazily, roots sticking out of the ground like giant whiskers probing the air. It leaned against another tree, no space to fall in the overgrown jungle. A sickeningly sweet smell of decaying flesh rose from beneath him.

Some poor animal had crawled into the hollow below the roots to die. Quickly, he scurried along the fallen trunk, following it until he came to the standing tree. He leaped onto the lowest branch. The slim branch quivered, the leaves rustling loud enough for even the dullest of night creatures to hear.

In the darkness, he heard the cub bounding through the underbrush. There was no pretense of stealth from the young hunter now, only single-minded pursuit as it closed for the kill. He paused momentarily to decipher another sound. In the chaotic rush through the jungle he thought he’d heard it before, but couldn’t be sure. No doubt this time; soft steps, the swish of a tail. Another predator pursuing the young hunter? Or perhaps the cub’s mother had followed to watch how the young one performed on his first solo hunt.

Silently, he reversed his course and scuttled down the other side of the rough trunk, hoping the cub hadn’t seen him. He wormed his way along the ground until he reached the fallen tree and slipped into the cavity beneath the roots. Burrowing into the depression, he drew closer to the nauseating smell.

He dug into the loose soil, claws scratching, pulling himself deeper below the exposed roots. Closer to the source of the stench. With any luck, the cub hadn’t seen him slip away. He hoped it would climb the tree to find him, and prayed to the night gods that the horrible smell now enveloping him would cover his scent.

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