Title: The Tiger’s Tale
Author: Kelle Z Riley
Genre: Cozy Mystery with Romantic Elements
Is she hitting her stride? Or going nowhere fast?
Fresh from a successful undercover operation, scientist/spy-in-training Bree Watson should feel on top of the world. Instead, the ground is shifting under her feet. When her handler abandons her to follow a lead with his sexy ex-partner, Bree must choose between a normal life, or proving her worth as a spy. Not an easy choice, when she factors in:
· A police detective’s amorous intentions
· Her handler’s mixed signals
· A teaching post at a university filled with intrigue
· A dead administrator with a sordid past
· A timid tiger and her tenacious trainer—both being framed for murder
Combined with fanatic football fans, beatnik poets, an orphaned monkey, a demanding boss, quirky colleagues, and her angry cat, the result may be a recipe for disaster.
Can she take the heat? Or will she get burned?
Six months ago, Bree had been a confirmed dog person. Until she'd inherited a cat from her murdered boss. Now she held a tiger by the tail. Or rather, by a leash. But when it came to tigers the difference was just splitting hairs.
"This way," shouted the tour guide, his thick Australian accent a sharp contrast to the murmurings of the local Thai tiger trainers. “And stay with your tigers.”
Bree was fairly certain he didn't mean for her to follow the energetic tiger cub over the dusty, rock-strewn flatlands to her right. But it tugged on the leash, intent on exploring, so she followed. Sweat trickled down her back as she scrambled over the barren, dusty terrain of the Thailand Tiger Sanctuary. Her foot caught on a rock and she stumbled when the wayward cub pulled her forward.
A strong male hand grabbed the leash and jerked the tiger back onto the path. Bree suppressed a shiver of awareness and turned to Matthew Tugood, both grateful for—and irritated by—his presence.
“Tell me again why we’re here,” he grumbled.
“My sorority is donating a rescued tiger cub to Terrance University for their exotic animal vet clinic.”
“I know that part. I cut through the red tape to make it happen, remember?” He slowed his pace, widening the gap between them and the rest of the tour group. “But why are we spending the day in a tourist trap?”
“I wanted to meet the cub’s trainer and get first-hand experience.”
Matthew answered with a dissatisfied grunt. His mouth firmed into a tight line as he scanned the horizon, squinting against the bright sunlight. “You’re wasting time you could spend preparing for your assignment.” His voice dropped low and he kept his eyes trained on the horizon. After a slow pivot, he leaned close, his breath warm on her ear despite his harsh tone. “Or have you forgotten about your mission?”
Bree disentangled the leash from his hands. “I liked you better before I knew you were a spy.”
“No, you liked my cover story.” His voice softened, and he glanced her way. “That’s not the same thing.” Despite the ninety-degree heat, a shiver chased down Bree’s spine, as if he’d touched her rather than just looking at her.
“What I don’t like is that you never stop thinking about your mission. Not for a minute. Look around you, Matthew.” She gestured to landscape, the tourists, the tigers. “We’re exploring a new culture. Bottle feeding tiger cubs. Having adventures. Living. And you’re missing it.”
“Lower your voice. We don’t want to be overheard.”
Bree eyed the terrain, wondering if the clumps of scrub grass and rocks were cleverly disguised surveillance devices. She dismissed the idea with a snort. “Can’t you think about something besides the mission?”
“May I remind you, that my single-minded focus on the mission saved your life on more than one occasion?”
Bree dropped the argument. For one thing, his interference had saved her life when a murderer—make that two murderers—had wanted her out of the picture. On the other hand, she hadn’t found a single dead body before she met Matthew. So, in her mind, it was a toss-up.
“I helped you with your project.” He glowered at the tiger cub.
“You can repay me by focusing on our mission. I don’t need thanks, I need you to complete your assignment.”
“Fine. You’ve made yourself very clear.” Bree shrugged. “Next topic.” Beside her Matthew bristled. Bree hid her smile, taking secret delight in being able to needle him the same way he constantly needled her.
“Zed will be at the Royal Thai Energy Summit tomorrow night. He is convinced you’re a brilliant researcher with access to cutting edge technology.”
Bree stopped in her tracks so fast the tiger cub did a back flip at the end of his leash. She whirled on Matthew. “In case you’ve forgotten I am a real researcher, complete with a PhD in science. Just because my cover story involves a fictional company doesn’t negate my real experience.” Behind her, the tiger cub let out a noise—something between a growl and a whine—as if to support Bree’s statement.
“Your science degree isn’t the only reason you’re an asset to the Sci-Spy organization.”
Another yowl, accompanied by a tug on the leash, made Bree turn back to her tiger cub. The rest of the tour group was no longer in sight. Ning, the tiger trainer she’d come to meet, hurried to them, chattering in Thai and gesturing. “Hurry,” she said, pointing to the others.
Bree followed Ning and her tiger, moving quickly to catch up with the group. Tugood kept pace, his voice low and insistent in her ear. “Your days as a simple researcher ended when you signed on with Sci-Spy. Your fictional energy research could be the key to thwarting a terrorist.”
“The meeting isn’t until tomorrow.”
“You need to prep for it today.”
“We’ve prepped for weeks. In the office. After hours at home. On the flights here.” Bree stopped again, at the edge of the tour group and turned to Matthew. “Please. I need a day to do something fun. Something... normal.”
As if anything about her days could be normal. Across the clearing, a large tiger roared, shaking the ground under her feet. The tour guide explained the procedure for approaching—and being photographed with—the massive, 500-pound animal.
Bree surrendered her leash to Ning, without releasing Matthew’s gaze. When he nodded in reluctant agreement, she turned to the tour group, but all thoughts of fun—and normal—had fled at Matthew’s mention of the man they’d code-named Zed. Tomorrow, she’d confront him, while trying to find information to link him to his network of associates. Compared to that, even the 500-pound tiger seemed docile.
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
This story was more intense than the usual light, easy to read cozy mystery. The plot was detailed and well planned and the sexual chemistry between characters smoldering. Likeable main character Bree Mayfield-Watson is a chemist, turned spy…There are two significant men in her life and you will find yourself trying to decide if you are on team Matthew or team James. Amazon Reviewer, 5 stars
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Kelle Z. Riley, writer, speaker, global traveler, Ph.D. chemist and martial artist weaves bits of her real life into the Undercover Cat Series books. The series features a scientist-turned-sleuth who juggles mystery, romance and the search for a perfect cupcake recipe.
By day Kelle is a full time chemist working in water treatment with multiple U.S. patents. At night she turns into an author whose accolades include finals in the RWA Golden Heart and numerous chapter contests. More information on her workshops can be found on her website.
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