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April's Affections and Intrigues: Love and Mystery Bloom







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A new beginning for a pet rescue mystery series 

In the Pet Rescue Mysteries, ?no-kill? refers to pets, not people.

Pet Rescue #1
Berkley Prime Crime
March 2011
On Sale: March 1, 2011
Featuring: Lauren Vancouve
298 pages
ISBN: 0425240215
EAN: 9780425240212
Kindle: B004H0M8MC
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
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Lauren Vancouver is the head of HotRescues, a no-kill animal shelter north of Los Angeles, but it's often human nature that puts her in the path of danger. Just like when she helps rescue four adorable beagle puppies that were dumped down a drainpipe at a nasty puppy mill.

One of the mill's employees has a history of dog abuse-and a bone to pick with Lauren. And when he's found dead at HotRescues after threatening her, Lauren will have to sniff out the real killer to keep herself out of a cage...


Chapter 1

I am not a killer.

At least not a killer of animals. I save their lives whenever humanly possible, especially pets. Their sole purpose on this earth is to love and be loved, like perpetual children.

People are something else.

Right now, I’d have gladly used my own hands—nice, strong ones for someone in her forties, since I do a lot of enclosure cleaning, lugging and opening of animal food containers, and other physical labor—to strangle Efram Kiley, the man who stood in front of me. His expression

was the picture of innocence even as he squared his thin yet sturdy body, as if attempting to hide the filled floor- to-ceiling cages in this torture chamber of a mega shed from my view.

Impossible, considering how many there were.

He couldn’t hide the smell, either. It was awful. The caged puppies and their parents obviously had no choice but to eliminate their wastes in the same place they lived and ate and suffered. The only surface beneath them was wire mesh that undoubtedly hurt their feet. No comfy rugs or mats for them.

And the sounds. Their cries. Their barks.

The outraged comments and shouts of the three Los Angeles Animal Cruelty Task Force members who’d leaped in like superheroes to reinforce regular animal control officers, all intent on saving these poor creatures.

Efram must have read the fury in my expression. Or maybe he’d learned enough about me, in the past few months, to know what I was thinking.

He quickly turned, and before I could say anything, he’d plucked an adorable beagle puppy from one of those appalling crates and gently placed her into my arms.

What could I do but nestle the squirmy little body close to my face, stench and all? "You poor little thing," I whispered against one of her long ears as I used my free hand to extract a small towel from the tote bag over my shoulder and wrap her in it.

"She’ll be all right now, Lauren," Efram assured me. As if he had anything to do with this rescue. Instead, the opposite was true. He was a party to the horror of this puppy mill. Even so, he said, "Isn’t this just a terrible place?" He shook his head slowly, as if he was as upset as I about the condition of this hell house and the innocent beings who lived here.

"Yeah," I agreed. "Terrible. So why do you work here?"

"I don’t."

"Then are you one of the owners?" I demanded.

"You know better than that, Lauren."

What I knew was that he was involved. I didn’t need to know exactly how, although I doubted he owned the place.

But I’d have bet he profited from it somehow.

I glared into Efram’s doleful brown eyes as I shifted the puppy in my arms. Towel or not, that smell was getting to me. But I wasn’t about to release her till I saw she would be taken care of.

She was just one of dozens of puppies here that the ACTF and animal control officers were handling with great care and angelic concern. And I would, eventually, have to hand her over to them.

Efram was in his twenties, with dark, messy hair that hung over his forehead. He worked out a lot and favored T- shirts with torn-off sleeves to show off his muscular biceps. His jeans were worn, his sneakers new.

He did a lot of work for me at HotRescues these days—the no-kill animal shelter I had helped to open a few years ago and now ran.

Oh, yeah. Efram was an animal care apprentice tending to creatures in need. He even had a choice about it: either learn how not to abuse pets and help care for them while they waited to be adopted, or forgo the substantial amount of money that was part of the legal settlement we’d entered into a while back.

Guess which he’d chosen.

Last year, Efram had threatened to sue HotRescues and me for rehoming his dog, Killer, without attempting to find the lost pup’s real owner. I, in turn, had been furious about the condition of that poor dog, now called Quincy, who had been brought to HotRescues as an apparent rescue from a public shelter, or so I’d chosen to believe. The settlement of our dispute had been fair. It resulted in Efram’s being paid to learn how to really care for animals. I’d even thought that, after all we’d taught him, he had become genuinely contrite for having abused Quincy. He certainly had seemed to throw himself energetically into his quasivolunteer work with HotRescues.

I wondered now if every bit of it had been an act.

"You’re Lauren Vancouver, aren’t you?" One of the uniformed animal control officers I’d glimpsed outside approached me. She was tall, her ginger hair pulled starkly back from her round face.

Efram looked relieved, as if this official, who could arrest him, was easier to deal with than me. Maybe she was.

I expected J. Gibbons—the ID on her nametag—to demand that I leave. Now. Civilians weren’t particularly welcome here, in the middle of an official investigation. I knew that.

But this wasn’t the first animal rescue that I’d crashed.

Nor would it be my last.

Start Reading BEAGLEMANIA Now

Pet Rescue Mysteries

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