Phaze • August 2008 (eBook) / March 2009 (Print)
ISBN-13: 9781606591055 • ISBN-10: 1606591053
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This book is also available in print as combo including the sequel UNLEASHED.
Celebrity dog trainer, Serena O’Toole, had the perfect life. She has a boyfriend, kind of, and a job she loves, well, she used to love it. And the audition for a national television spot could skyrocket her dog training show, “Woof”, to the stars…if it doesn’t bore her to death first. Then, when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, a sexy-voiced stranger calls to tell her that her brother, Michael, is missing. He’s hiding in the desert outside his new home in Eclipse, California. It only takes her a few minutes to pack her bags and head off to a town not marked on any map.
The last thing Jackson Hardy wanted to do was to involve another civilian. But, unless the horror writer, Michael O’Toole, was found in the next two days, he would die. But, from the moment Serena’s black VW Beetle rolls into town, Jackson knows he’s lost his heart. He can’t keep his mind, or his hands, off her. She’s beautiful, talented, irresistible. Everyone in town notices her charms… Everyone . But Jackson knows to fall in love with her, and make love to her, would be a fatal mistake.
When Michael is found, Serena decides to stay and get to know Jackson better. When she looks in his eyes, she realizes he exudes a sex appeal she is helpless to deny. Nor does she want to. But for a man who can’t keep his hands off her, Jackson is sure in a surprising hurry for her to leave. But someone in Eclipse is equally determined for her to stay…forever.
Read an Excerpt
The full moon peeked up over the horizon already lighting the yard as if it were daytime.
Her shoe bumped something and it fell with a clatter. Shit! She looked down to see what she’d stumbled over. Blessed God. It was a shotgun! She hadn’t fired one in years, not since she and her brothers had made soda cans quake in fear on the back fence. But with a shotgun, she wouldn’t need perfect aim. Heck, when they saw she had a gun, maybe they wouldn’t mess with her. Okay, so she was fooling herself. But she couldn’t help a quick rush of joy when she picked up the gun and saw that it was loaded.
Surprisingly, no one had come running at the sound of the clatter. Serena didn’t pause to wonder why. It only took her a few more strides to reach the front of the house and peer around the corner.
What she saw nearly made her drop the gun. Ben and the man were bent over. Had they poisoned themselves? Then, icicles of fear rushed through her veins. What was happening? Ben’s form was suddenly covered in silver grey hair that almost sparkled in the moonlight. His ears had elongated and his
face! She shuddered and stepped back, resisting the urge to run. The whole frontal section of Ben’s face elongated into a muzzle. Then, with shock, she realized the wolf’s savage gaze was locked on her. She stifled a scream as the thing’s mouth split open in a wolfish grin. Serena stepped back and pulled the gun up.
The wolves crept closer. Didn’t they see she had a gun? Perhaps they didn’t think she would use it. Well, they were wrong, she would.
As she ran forward, she could hear their growls. This had better work or she was dead—or worse than dead. Pulling the trigger, there was a pause when time stood still. The blast nearly deafened her. The wolves scattered.
One disappeared. She’d have to watch her back. One dashed off around the house, possibly to leap on her from behind or cut off her retreat. The other had been hit fully in the face and was now pawing at his muzzle and whining.
She ran toward the car, expecting a heavy body to leap on her at any moment. It wasn’t until she was sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition that she stopped to take a breath. A roar at the window made her jump. The third wolf, which was the largest, was launching himself against the window. Again and again, it leapt at the door, its claws screeching as they scratched against the glass.
She started the car and gunned the engine. The animal didn’t even flinch. Fingering the can of mace in her pocket to make sure it was still there, she backed out. The wolves followed her, stalking the car.
The little Beetle couldn’t do more than twenty-five miles per hour on the washboard road. Any faster and she’d knock the whole bottom out of the car and then where would she be?
In eerie silence, the wolves ran alongside the car. Then, they began howling. Ice cold panic filled her veins. Suddenly, another figure came dashing along the car, snapping and barking at the wolves. It was Tucker. The wolves turned their attention away from the car and toward the Labrador. Serena felt a surge of pity. The poor old dog would be torn to shreds. She had to do something.
Rolling down her window an inch or two, she pulled the can of mace out of her pocket. “Here doggie, doggie,” she called. The wolves turned as one toward her. Faster than she’d expected, they were almost through the window. Startled, she pushed the button on the mace. It didn’t fire. Oh, my god. She
leaned back as snapping muzzles filled the opening and she could feel their spittle sprinkling her face, neck, and arms. Then, there was a loud hiss and the wolves were gone. They rolled in the dirt, pawing at their muzzles while Tucker pranced around them barking. She called to him, but although he came over to the car, he refused to enter.
“Oh, well, buddy. Don’t say I didn’t try,” she told him then rolled up the window and drove away. Tucker’s fierce barking faded into the distance.
It was a momentary victory, but she pumped her fist in the air anyway.
Now, to get into town and find Jackson. Something bad had happened to him. But he was still alive. Ben and Doc Brown had talked about sending someone back to the jail to question him. The town was silent. There were no lights on in any of the houses, no sounds of televisions playing behind closed curtains, nothing but the roar of her car’s engine. Something really bad was happening and she knew she couldn’t stop it.
And above all, she had to find Mike. Please, God, don’t let him be dead. But he couldn’t be dead. Jackson had gone through all the trouble of calling her out to this god-forsaken place to help find him. No, she had to believe that Mike was still alive. And Jackson was the key. He knew what happened to her brother. He was the one who’d arranged the helicopter and set up the fake hospital story. Damn it, she’d make him tell her where Mike was. She grabbed the shotgun and left the car unlocked and running, just in case.
Pushing open the station door at a run, Serena started yelling his name. “Jackson, hey, Jackson.” Waiting a heartbeat in between her calls, she listened for a reply, for any noise. She pounded on the counter and rang the bell. Still nothing. Damn it. He had to be here or at home. She started to turn around when she spotted a door marked Staff Only. She ran around the counter, slipping a little on the linoleum in her haste. Grabbing the knob, she twisted, half expecting it to be locked. It opened easily in her hand and she felt along the wall inside for the light switch. She didn’t want to be surprised by any wolves in the dark.
The overhead lights flickered on and she stared. It was an old-fashioned jail, just like in the movies, complete with three cells. The first two were empty, their doors standing wide open. The third one had an occupant.
“Jackson?” she called, walking quickly forward. “You gotta tell me where Mike is. Where are the keys? I’ll let…you…” The words caught in her throat and she could only stare. It was a wolf, large and black, with amber eyes. There were clothes scattered on the floor of the cell, the same clothes Jackson had been wearing the night before. So, either the wolf had eaten Jackson and not left any blood or…
“Jackson?” Serena approached the cell.
Hackles rose on the wolf’s back and the creature growled. Saliva dripped from his fangs and it snapped at her, pacing back and forth from one end of the cell to the other. Serena felt her eyes go wide and she backed up. “Alrighty then.” Maybe there were notes or something in the files out front to tell her where Mike was.
Damn it. Howling. Right outside. They had found her already. Gripping the shotgun in her hand, she took another look at the wolf. She’d never make it to her car now. And if the wolves came pouring in, she’d be trapped. She looked around. Trapped and safe.
She stepped into the cell next to the black wolf and pulled the door closed behind her. It locked with a click and she had the unnerving feeling that it was the sound of her fate sealing. Serena cowered against the back wall. If the wolves could open the door to the cell, she was a dead woman.