Running from a nightmare stalking her every move, Phoebe Martin arrives in Echo Falls hoping she has finally found a safe place to stop. But trouble has a way of catching up and soon the signs are there.
After a vicious attack in an alley, policeman Aidan O'Bryan is left with Phoebe as his only path to understanding why the Echo Falls werewolf pack - his pack - is being attacked. When another pack member is killed, Phoebe is forced to confront her past before she loses Aidan and everything she has come to love.
Love and duty become one as Aidan strives to prevent Phoebe from becoming the next victim. But with Phoebe just as determined to protect Aidan and her new home, secrets from her past threaten to tear them apart. Will love give Phoebe the strength to trust Aidan and face her fears, or will her past destroy her future?
How many steps can there be?
She should know. She lived in this apartment building.
Tears ran down her cheeks and her lungs burned for air. Only the random irrational thought broke through the panic keeping her feet moving down the steps. Keep running. Keep running. The light of the emergency exit came into view. Almost there…
The door to the stairwell slammed open with a hollow boom. She tripped and clung to the railing to steady herself. Keep running.
The shock of the cool night air sent a shiver of relief through her body. She’d come out a side exit into an alley. If she could just get to the front –
Suddenly she was thrown to the ground from behind. She hit the concrete, what little breath she had knocked from her lungs. Blood began flowing from where her head hit the ground, and small sparks of light floated into her vision.
How did he catch up so fast?
Desperately she tried to gulp down as much air as she could, willing her lungs to cooperate. Instinct kicked in as the attacker slashed at her, and she curled into fetal position.
A dog. He’d turned into a dog. A big dog with vicious claws and teeth he used to tear into her exposed back, thigh and shoulder. She slowly regained her breath but could only use it to scream her throat raw.
Her vision faded, taking the small sparks of light with it. Searing pain ripped through her shoulder as a claw dug down against her bone. One last, long scream tore from her lungs before she was left gasping and sobbing, her fear slowly smoldering into rage.
Things can’t end like this.
She opened her eyes as the dog stood over her, trying to get to her throat. A paw came into her line of vision and she saw her chance. She reached out, grabbed it and squeezed with all the strength she had.
The dog yelped and tried to twist away, but she held on with all the strength she had. She knew she’d only bought herself time. She couldn’t move the dog off her and she couldn’t squeeze his paw all night. He tried uselessly to bite her, his jaws having no strength so long as she squeezed his paw. But she could already feel her strength waning.
Suddenly the weight of the dog flew off her, taking the paw out of her grip. Without thinking, she used her one cooperating arm to drag herself toward the front of the building.
She shivered, her arm giving out, and caught a glimpse of a second dog. No. A wolf… Squeezing her eyes tightly shut, she listened to the dogs fighting, the battle just a few steps away. She tried her best to curl up against the building wall and willed the growling and snapping to go away. They sounded like they were tearing each other to pieces.
The universe granted her wish, the battle ending with the sound of two bodies hitting each other and a sharp whine. She shivered and softly whined as well, dreading the approach of the winner as one of the dogs yelped and ran away.
A few moments later warm, human hand brushed the back of her head and she screamed again. If it could be called a scream. Her throat burned and rebelled at her abuse of it.
“Ssh. You’re safe now.”
She tried to scream again and move away, but her body wouldn’t obey her commands. She groaned as the full force of the pain washed over her.
He murmured and she relaxed her desperate grip on staying conscious. Sleep seemed so tempting, the black abyss singing a siren’s song to her. Her rescuer – or captor – tried to soothe her, but something dark and dangerous in his voice betrayed him. He was different. She tried to bat away his hands but gave up after a few attempts, not sure if her good hand was actually moving.
As she slipped into the darkness, she wondered if death had merely granted her a short reprieve from the inevitable.
Jaime: Yes, definitely. B.A. Chepaitis has a sci-fi series called The Fear Series that I love. She doesn’t hold back from pushing her characters or going into the deepest, darkest places in the human mind. I am fortunate enough to call her friend, and I have said once (or twice) that she should forgive me for going fangirl on her.
Ali: If you could co-write with another author who would it be and why?
Jaime: Hm. This is a hard one because I don’t know how well I would go co-writing with anyone… That said, I would love to co-write with Caridad Pineiro. She’s such a good author and her recent Sin series has me hooked! Talk about working with a master.
Ali: The world is under attack and you are forced to run for your life. You only have room for one book in your survival kit, what book do you take?
Jaime: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. I’ve read it many, many times and will no doubt read it many more.
Ali: Who are your favorite literary characters? (Yours or someone else's)
Jaime: The Lorax from The Lorax by Dr. Suess, John Mischief from Abarat by Clive Barker, Alanna from The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce… The list goes on and on.
Ali: If you friends were asked to describe you in one word what would it be?
Jaime: One word makes it a little difficult, but I think it would be ‘enthusiastic’. I tend to jump right into things with my heart and soul. My dive right in attitude has gotten me in trouble before, but I think, on the whole, it’s a good thing.
Ali: Where do you do your best work?
Jaime: As much as I would like to claim some lovely place with perfect chai lattes and an abundance of bread things for me to eat… my best work comes when I park my rear end in my office chair and make myself write. No distractions, a little bit of soothing music and off I go.
Getting myself to do that is another matter…
Ali: Do you find it harder to write a full-length novel or novellas?
Jaime: Shorter works are harder for me, though I am trying to work on that. However, according to industry standards, my work still falls into novella (under 60k words) territory. So I suppose I find it harder to writing full-length novels because I don’t write that many words.
Ali: When did you fall in love...with writing?
Jaime: Oh, I fell in love with writing a long time ago. When I learned to write, it was like discovering sugar – I was addicted. Not only that, I was thrilled. Finally I could remember all the things I had happening in my head instead of having to let them fade away.
My second falling in love came when I was about 12 years old. I wrote a couple short pieces of fanfiction and then it hit me – really hit me – that I could do anything in writing. The world was mine to shape as I pleased.
That power? Oh, so lovely.
Ali: Are you a plotter or fly by the seat of your pants writer?
Jaime: For most of my life, I have been by the seat of my pants. Outlining took the fun out of it for me. But – and it’s a big but – that’s because all along, I thought I had to outline like I learned how to outline in school. That’s much too intensive. No wonder I grew bored with it!
Now, as an adult with appointments to go to, schedules to manage and meals to cook, I see the value of an outline. I also know that there are more ways – less detailed ways – to outline and help keep me on track when writing.
Ali: What is your favorite thing to do outside of writing?
Jaime: I like to go out and just be around people. Whether I’m talking, listening or stepping back and people watching, I like immersing myself in what life really is beyond the computer and the words bouncing around in my mind.
Favorite food Pad Thai noodles. Mmm
Boots or heels Boots
eReader or Print Print
Social Media: Love it or Hate it Undecided, to be honest
Beer, Liquor or Wine Liquor
Favorite place to get it on besides the bedroom Hello! Haha… Hotel room
Favorite TV Show Mythbusters
Favorite Book series (besides your own) The Immortals by Tamora Pierce
Pj’s or Lingerie PJs
Vampires vs. Shifters Shifters
Favorite Genre Romance
About the Author
Jaime McDougall is a citizen of the world, currently loving life in beautiful country Victoria in Australia. She loves eating sushi, kidnapping her husband and naming her pets in honour of science fiction authors.
A love of fiction has always coursed through her veins and she told stories as a child even before she knew how to write them. Settling into one genre was never her style and she has plans for novels in women’s fiction, urban fantasy and more – all with a touch of romance.
She has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: High School: The Real Deal and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles. She has also enjoyed writing the So You Want ebook series for authors looking to establish their names online.