All PJ and Robert want is to be left alone to enjoy a long weekend on Erie Island, known to locals as Wildcat. When a freak winter storm traps them on this tiny island of few inhabitants, they quickly realize things aren’t as they seem. A mysterious stranger shows up at the door to their Bed and Breakfast, and nearly dies of exposure. Who is he, and why does everyone seem to want him dead? Where did he come from and how did he get to the island during the storm? And, will PJ and Robert ever be able to consummate their fledgling relationship? Or, will circumstances take away their chance at true love, and potentially their lives as well?
PJ Taylor stood in her kitchen at the stove, preparing a dozen scrambled eggs. Her secret recipe involved a touch of catnip and cream as well as an entire carton of fresh organic eggs. Between her brother, Robert, and her, they could easily finish the meal, halved between them. He never seemed to notice the catnip and she didn’t complain that he drowned them in catsup.
She still thought of Robert as her brother, in spite of the fact he was really her second cousin. Their parents had died married which, legally, made them siblings. It was awfully inconvenient for them, now that Robert had decided he couldn’t live without her. That had happened back in October and now it was December.
They’d been tiptoeing around each other since then. Robert had stayed at PJ’s last night because his thirteen-year-old daughter, Nanci, had a sleepover at her best friend, Bridgette’s. Nothing had happened between them, mostly because PJ was a cat from sundown to sunup.
She had to stop calling him her brother. The law thought of him as her brother. Her heart felt otherwise. She’d had a crush on him forever, in spite of the fact he became her guardian after their parents died. He’d reciprocated, once, the day after she turned twenty-one. Alcohol was involved—no surprise there. It was the best day of her life, but she’d learned to live without hope for so long afterward that it was difficult to believe he was serious now. Her death had really shaken him and, in his words, “rearranged his priorities.”
PJ slid the eggs from the frying pan onto two large plates and turned around to find Robert standing in the doorway to her bedroom, shirtless, watching her. He leaned against the jamb with his arms folded across his broad chest. His eyes seemed nearly translucent in the morning sun streaming in through her kitchen window. PJ’s heart beat faster at the sight of him.
“Morning, beautiful,” he said. “You know I love your eggs.”
She smiled and set the plates on the table. Robert came up behind her and slid his arms around her. He kissed her neck. She tensed.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. She could feel his hot breath on her bare shoulder.
“It’s illegal in this state,” she said.
He nuzzled her ear and a thrill of desire raced down her spine. “You don’t have to tell me that. I’m the lawman here.”
Robert was an FBI agent and head of his own one-man field office in Mayhap, Indiana, the place they currently called home, but probably not much longer. Once his divorce and custody of Nanci came through, they were planning to move to Ohio, where sibling relationships weren’t punishable by all kinds of dire consequences, including serious prison time.
“Come on,” PJ said. “Let’s eat. I’m starving.” She wriggled out of his arms and sat down at the table.
He shot her a crooked smile. “You’re always starving.”
PJ was too busy shoveling eggs into her mouth to answer.
* * *
After breakfast, they lounged on the couch together and PJ let Robert put his arms around her. She had her tablet computer in her hands and was looking at the website for an unusual bed and breakfast she’d found. It was located on an island in Lake Erie, on the Ohio side. The island was known as Wildcat Island and PJ read that it had been settled by the Erie Nation of Native Americans long ago, who were also known as the Cat Nation, because Erie translated as Wildcat. Unfortunately, the Iroquois had wiped them out in the seventeenth century, but PJ was intrigued, nonetheless. Anyplace known as Wildcat was a place already close to her heart.
Plus, it was in Ohio, which meant…well, PJ wasn’t one hundred percent sure what it meant, but she could guess. The thought made her scalp tingle. If she’d been a cat, her whiskers would have been twitching.
Robert rested his chin on her shoulder. “So, where are we going for our grand long weekend?”
PJ handed him her tablet. “Wildcat Island.”
“Sounds promising.” He scanned the island’s webpages. “Oh, interesting,” he said. “They had a famous author who bred Manx cats so there’s more cats with no tails on the island than there are people.”
“Yeah,” PJ said. “Gordon Lofty. He wrote smut, basically. But it was erudite smut. Even so, he was banned in every country he tried to publish in and died on Wildcat Island a broken and bitter man.”
“Except for his cats,” Robert said.
PJ laughed. “Except for his cats.”
“What are we going to do with Nanci?” Robert asked. “I suppose we could bring her with us and get her a separate room.” He sighed. “I’m not sure I’m ready to explain why we can’t just get married like a normal couple and have to sneak around in only certain states.”
“I think we should leave her with Jake,” PJ said. “She likes him and he’s very responsible. Plus, he’s the only one who knows she might turn into a cat suddenly.”
PJ’s niece had turned into a cat only twice in November, and neither Robert nor PJ knew how to tell when her shapeshifting would become more permanently intrinsic. Every time she was at a sleepover or a camping trip with her friends, it was a risk they were taking. PJ firmly believed Nanci should enjoy every moment of her nights before they were consumed by the family curse.
“True,” Robert said. “What about Blake?”
Blake Delgato was PJ’s half brother who lived downtown. He was the only male she knew who turned into a cat every night just like she did. PJ loved her brother, but she didn’t trust him completely. She was quite sure he had big secrets he hadn’t let loose yet. How old was he, really? Each of them had nine lives, and she hadn’t seen Blake’s toes to know how many he’d used up. Every toe was a life, and they started with nine. PJ now had eight. Blake studiously avoided open-toed shoes, so PJ had no idea if he was on his first, fifth, or any other life.
“He’s family, he’s got that going,” PJ said. “But…” She trailed off, uncertain how to phrase her concerns without being unkind.
“You don’t trust him,” Robert said.
“Jake can be pigheaded,” PJ said. “But I would trust him with my life. Blake, on the other hand, well, he seems to have motives I don’t understand.”
“His mother seems certifiable,” Robert said. “From the way he describes her.”
Blake’s mother was apparently over five hundred years old. She was a woman who had obviously used up a fair number of her nine lives. And, she seemed to have some kind of hold over Blake that was dangerous. He had abandoned PJ on more than one inconvenient occasion to run to his mother’s side for reasons unknown.
“I think it has to be Jake,” PJ said.
Robert smiled. “Does he know you’ve booked his weekend for him?”
“No,” PJ said. “Not yet.”
Robert set the tablet on the coffee table and caressed PJ’s face with his fingertips. He looked at her so intently that her heart flip-flopped.
“Only five days,” he said. “Then, we’ll be in legal country.”
She stared at him. “Is that all you think about?”
“I also think about food,” he said. “And, sometimes work.”
She rolled her eyes.
He kissed her and her entire body tingled from her prescient scalp to her eight toes. He leaned forward and bent her backward until he was lying on top of her, pressing her into the couch cushions. He stroked her hair.
“Let’s make out,” he said.
“Come on, Robert,” PJ said. “You know where that leads.”
He smiled wickedly. “Give me some credit. I have—”
PJ’s tablet rang shrilly. Robert startled. PJ squirmed out from under him and grabbed the screaming device. She pushed a button on the lock-screen.
“Hello?” she asked.
“PJ?” A familiar voice asked. It was Jake—speak of the devil. “Is your brother there?”
She glanced at Robert. “Are you here?” she asked him.
Robert cleared his throat. “Hi, Jake,” he said. “What’s up?”
“I’m just down the street, at Clara’s.”
PJ was immediately on guard. “What’s wrong?”
“There’s something I need you to see. You’d better come out here—now if possible.”
“On my way,” they both said simultaneously.
Excerpt from Wildcat Island: Murder on the Lake by Cy Wyss. Copyright 2019 by Cy Wyss. Reproduced with permission from Cy Wyss. All rights reserved.
Cy Wyss is a writer based in Indianapolis, Indiana. They have a Ph.D. in computer science and their day job involves wrangling and analyzing genetic data. Cy is the author of three full-length novels as well as a collection of short stories and the owner and chief editor of Nighttime Dog Press, LLC.
Before studying computer science, Cy obtained their undergraduate degree in mathematics and English literature as well as masters-level degrees in philosophy and artificial intelligence. They studied overseas for three years in the UK, although they never managed to develop a British accent.
Cy currently resides in Indianapolis with their spouse, daughter, and two obstreperous but lovable felines. In addition to writing, they enjoy reading, cooking, and walking 5k races to benefit charity.