Thanks so much for inviting me back to your blog. I truly appreciate it.
Alphas in the Wild is actually a collection of three 35K word novellas, for a total of over one hundred thousand words. You’d requested five fun facts about the characters in the book, so I will give you six. One for each of the main characters.
Moira is a park ranger and an accomplished climber. Too bad her personal life isn’t as neat and tidy as her professional one.
Tim is a doctor. Moira is the only woman he’s ever loved, but his magical order forbid lots of things. Like telling her why he wasn’t free to marry her.
Tina is an emergency room MD who’d rather be mountain climbing any day of the week. She made a pact with the devil seven years ago in the Bolivian Andes, and her time is almost up.
Craig is a professional climbing guide. Tina was once the love of his life, but she turned him down flat when he proposed seven years ago. He’s confused—and pleased—when she calls and asks to sign on as team doctor for an upcoming climbing expedition to Bolivia.
A Run For Her Money:
Sarah is a park ranger, a post she’s held for almost twenty years. She’s a loner and lives half the year in the Sierra backcountry with her search and rescue dog, Jake. Something very odd traps her in the backcountry and forces her to use every single one of her survival skills.
Jared is a medical researcher who loves the outdoors. He’s hiking the Muir trail when all hell breaks loose. Should he hide out in the backcountry or return to civilization to find answers? His decision will impact the rest of his life.
Dream Shadow Press
Release Date: 12/21/15
Genre: Paranormal Romance Anthology
Dark. Delicious. Unforgettable.
The hottest alphas live–and love–in the mountains.
Tumble into second-chance love, where magics collide, mountain gods are out for blood, and aliens invade Earth.
Earth magics collide, forcing Moira Shaughnessy to take a chance on a man who hurt her so badly she never forgave him.
A ranger for the U.S. Park Service, Moira is in serious trouble. Fleeing from her cheating husband, who’s a Native American shaman, she stumbles into the arms of a man she never thought she’d see again. He hurt her once by choosing his magic over her. Would she be a fool to take a chance on him now?
Tina made a pact with the devil seven years ago. It’s time to pay the piper—or die.
Independent to the nth degree, Tina meets everything in her life head-on—except love.
Caught between misgivings and need, Tina signs on as team doctor for one of Craig’s climbing trips to the Andes. Though he was the love of her life, she pushed him away years before to keep him safe. Even if he doesn’t love her anymore, there’s still no one she’d rather have by her side in the mountains. And if she’s going to die, she wants to make things right between them.
A Run For Her Money
Sara’s day begins like any other. A routine extraction in tandem with a local Search and Rescue team. Routine crashes to a halt when she ends up trapped in a hut, high in the Sierras. Four days later, running out of food for herself and her dog, she makes a bold dash for safety.
Jared’s walking the Muir Trail when all hell breaks loose. After hunkering beneath a boulder pile for days, he dares a difficult cross-country route, hoping it’ll put him into position to approach a backcountry ranger station. He locates the station, but it’s locked tight. He’s packing up to leave when a helicopter lands, with Sara at the helm. There’s no time to trade war stories. It takes a leap of faith, but they throw in their lot together. Can they face the impossible and come out the other side unscathed?
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Hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.
Paul Simon, Sounds of Silence
Moira Shaughnessy’s booted feet hit the ground in front of the Family Medicine Clinic. Slamming the door of the dusty white Park Service pickup, she considered ignoring her boss’s orders, peeling out of the parking lot, and heading for the Baxter Pass trailhead. She had a crew to oversee, goddammit. A work project to complete. But her boss, John, had been painstakingly clear, both yesterday at Park Headquarters in Three Rivers, and a mere ten minutes ago on the sat phone. Granted, he’d been far more pointed on the phone.
“It’s not a suggestion, Moira,” he’d growled. “This is a directive—from me. I want to hear from someone with MD after his name before I authorize you to head up that work detail. Do not set one foot on the trail before you receive my orders, e-sign them, and e-mail them back to me.”
“But that’s usually a formality—”
“Not this time. No buts. I made you an appointment at the clinic in Bishop that clears some of our crews. They’re open until six. I already lost two rangers this summer in the Pinecrest fire. That was two too many in my book, so get your butt into that clinic.”
Moira gritted her teeth. She’d thought she could avoid dealing with the whole mess by leaving the office early yesterday and taking one of the northern passes over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but John tracked her down.
Phooey. I ran, but guess I couldn’t hide…
It was downright annoying that her boss needed a doctor to reassure him she wouldn’t collapse—or something—in the backcountry. For the briefest of moments, she felt like pounding her fist into the nearest tree, but then she pulled herself together. Nothing was wrong with her, except her slimy, cheating husband. Sure, she’d lost a few pounds since she left him, but she hadn’t been all that hungry.
Problem was, John remembered similar struggles from years ago when she first started working as a park ranger. She hadn’t eaten enough then, either, and grew far too thin. Just her luck, he’d been overseeing a backcountry work detail when she got woozy and fell off one of the mules.
Understanding surfaced; embarrassment followed. Her boss cared about her. That wasn’t a bad thing. Anger bled out of her with a whoosh.
“May as well get this over with,” she muttered.
Moira walked briskly to the clinic, pushed the door open, and headed for the counter. The antiseptic smell common to all medical offices hit her like a wall as she strode across the scrubbed linoleum floor.
“Yes?” A young woman with dyed red hair looked up from her computer screen with eyes so green she had to be wearing colored contact lenses.
“Moira Shaughnessy. I think you’re expecting me. My boss called from Kings Canyon-Sequoia Park Headquarters.”
The receptionist clicked a few keys. “Your insurance card, please.”
Moira blew out a frazzled breath and dug through her fanny pack for her wallet. Once she found it, she extracted the plasticized Blue Cross card, handing it over. “I’m really in a bit of a hurry—”
“Here’s your card back.” The clerk gestured at the nearly full waiting room. “The doctor will be with you as soon as he can. He had a full schedule before he agreed to work you in.”
“Is it okay if I go outside for a few minutes? I need to lock my truck. I, uh, didn’t think I’d be in here for very long.”
“Sure. So long as we know where to find you.” The phone trilled, and the receptionist picked it up, Moira obviously forgotten. “Family Medicine, how may I help you?”
Moira let herself back outside. Too restless to return to the overcrowded waiting room, she paced up and down the parking lot. Fall had turned the aspen trees lining Bishop’s streets to shades of red and gold that were quite striking, but all she could think about were the minutes ticking by. It was twelve miles from the trailhead to the top of the pass, and a couple more to where her trail crew was. Leaving today would be foolhardy at this point. She’d never even make the pass before night fell.
“Damn it!” She glanced at her watch. How long was this going to take anyway?
“Ms. Shaughnessy?” A man’s voice sounded from behind her.
She spun, surprised out of her funk.
And stopped dead.
Moira stared at the tall, rangy man with long, white-blond hair and ice-blue eyes. He was dressed in teal scrubs and sandals with a stethoscope draped around his neck. A broad grin split the clean planes of his face. She’d forgotten how heartbreakingly beautiful he was.
“I saw the name and hoped it was you.” He held out a hand, but she remained frozen in place. “After all, how many Moira Shaughnessys could there be?”
She stood there, flabbergasted. What were the odds? She hadn’t seen Tim O’Malley since they’d both graduated from U.C. Davis. When she realized her mouth was hanging open, she shut it with a snap.
“Is that any way to greet an old friend?” One corner of his mouth turned down in an expression she remembered all too well.
“It’s just… I mean I never expected…” She felt warmth rise from the open neck of her buff-colored uniform shirt. Heat suffused her face until she was certain every freckle was outlined in bright, living color.
“Hey, mo ghrá. I know we didn’t split up under the best of circumstances…”
“No shit. And you can skip the beloved part.” A familiar anger stirred, but she batted it aside.
“Moira, I’m sorry. I was sorry then, and I still am.” He sounded so sincere, it tugged at her heartstrings. Part of her wanted to believe him, and part of her was afraid to.
“Grannie told me some of it—about the Arch Druid stuff. And you having to be celibate or something.”
He creased his brow, the smile fading. “I’m glad she did. I was sworn to silence about Druid affairs.” He cleared his throat. “In truth, I still am.”
“What she told me didn’t make it any easier. I tried to call you—a bunch of times.”
“Christ, Tim, it’s been close to ten years.”
He looked chagrined. “I suppose I know that too.”
Her heart, already damaged from her sham of a marriage, squeezed painfully in her chest. She’d loved Tim once. And thought he loved her. They’d known one another since they were children growing up in the same sprawling Irish immigrant community.
“So what happened?” She eyed him, struggling for equanimity. “It’s a long way from Druid to doctor. Or are you a nurse here?”
“Nope, I’m the doc. My training took up eight of the ten years since—”
The clinic door flew open. A harried-looking, overweight woman in white scrubs rolled her eyes. Her short brown hair stood up in spikes, and her muddy green gaze shot darts. “There you are. Dr. O’Malley, you have patients.”
He waved her to silence. “Fine, Bridgette. I’ll be in soon.”
He made shooing motions with both hands. “I said I’ll be in soon.”
Bridgette screwed her face into a disapproving frown. “Whatever,” she snapped and banged the door shut.
Tim closed the few feet between them and laid his hands on Moira’s shoulders. “Can I buy you dinner? Or maybe just a cup of coffee, if you’re still mad at me and not willing to risk an entire meal.”
“I’d like that, but I’m on my way to work. See…”
She took a big breath, and an annotated version of her story tumbled out. She mentioned her divorce and her lack of appetite, but skipped the low points about her marriage, figuring it wasn’t really any of Tim’s affair.
“Last time I wasn’t very hungry was right after you and I broke up. I’d just started working for the Park Service. Unfortunately, John—that’s my boss—has a long memory.”
Tim listened until she was done talking, and then placed his stethoscope in his ears. “Take a deep breath.” He moved the bell to several locations on her chest, and then had her turn around and positioned it on her back. “Your heart sounds healthy to me.” He gripped her wrist, taking her pulse as he ran his gaze over her body in a familiar way that tightened her throat and made her belly clench with heat.
“What do you weigh?” He eyed her again. “Maybe one thirty?”
Moira nodded. No point in lying since he could drag her inside and plunk her on a scale. “One twenty-two.”
“It could be worse. Have you had issues with anorexia since—” color blotched his cheeks “—well, since us?”
Moira shook her head. “I’ve maybe lost ten pounds this time round.” She looked away. “The problem was a whole lot worse ten years ago.”
“Moira.” His voice cracked with emotion. “I’m sorry. Scarcely a day goes by—”
“Don’t.” The word tore out of her. “Just don’t. I have to get to work. I’d never have stopped, except John insisted.”
He stepped back a pace and nodded. “You should be fine, so long as you start eating again. What is it your boss needs?”
“A phone call, I think.”
“Not a fitness for duty statement?”
She shook her head. “No. Nothing so formal.”
Not yet anyway.
“Good, because that would require a real physical and some labs. Jot his number down for me.” He pulled a small notebook out of a pocket and handed it to her, along with a pen.
As she gave it back, he caught her hand in his. “I’ve thought about you so many times over the years. I guess I always believed—” The color in his face deepened. “When will you be back through Bishop so we can talk? Or better yet, I’ve got a few days off after today’s clinic. I could backpack with you. Meet you wherever you’re—”
“Uh-uh.” She shook her head. “It’s against regulations to bring civilians, other than the trail crew, on Park Service work projects.”
His blue eyes twinkled. She’d forgotten how intense they were, like a multihued ocean. “You told me you were heading over Baxter Pass.”
“Yeah.” She smiled back because she couldn’t help herself. “So I did. I’m also telling you not to follow me.”
He bent his head, and brushed his lips over hers. The kiss was so sweet and so fleeting, memories flooded her, and she pulled away, her heart doing flip-flops.
“If it won’t be different this time, don’t start.” Her voice held a thin, strained note.
“Things will be different. I would’ve called you. Almost did a hundred times, but I felt so rotten about—”
“Dr. O’Malley.” Bridgette clumped across the yard and grabbed his arm. “You have patients.”
He shook her off. “When have you ever known me to leave before I’ve seen each and every one of them?”
“Never.” She sounded sullen.
“And it won’t happen today, either. Get back inside, and hold down the fort. If you could take vitals on everyone it would be a big help.”
Bridgette’s gaze moved from Tim to Moira. Pursing her lips in an unpleasant expression, she stalked back into the clinic.
Tim turned to Moira. “It was wonderful to see you again. Here.” He scribbled something on one of the tiny sheets of notebook paper, tore it off, and handed it to her. “My cell. Call anytime.”
“I just may take you up on that.”
* * * *
Tim wasn’t ready to go back into the clinic. His emotions were too close to the surface. He watched Moira’s truck drive out of the parking lot heading south. The last time he’d seen her ate at him like an out-of-control cancer. They’d spent hours in his apartment arguing. Though he’d dissected it a hundred times, trying to figure out what he could’ve done differently, he’d never come up with anything useful.
He made a strong effort to stuff the memory into its subterranean hidey-hole, but it wouldn’t cooperate. Since the professional objectivity he’d need to face a waiting room full of patients had just scattered like so much dust, he set off at a brisk pace intending to circle the block. He knew from experience that once that particular memory surfaced, he had to let it play itself out.
Bridgette and the clinic would just have to give him a few minutes more.
“I tell you I’m done. Not just done. Fucking done.”
Tears streamed down Moira’s swollen, blotchy face.
“I’ve waited for you since I was sixteen years old, Tim O’Malley. That’s six years in case you can’t count. I didn’t expect much back then, but we’re nearly done with college. You won’t do any more than kiss me. You won’t live with me. You won’t talk about getting married. Fuck! Why am I even bothering?”
She jumped to her feet and ran to a window, gripping the sill hard enough to whiten her knuckles.
He grabbed her arm. “I—I do love you, Moira. I’ve told you I want to save sex until after we’re married.”
“Well I don’t. Besides, you never asked me to marry you.”
“You’re not being fair. There are things I can’t tell you.”
She whirled, her golden eyes on fire. “Fine. Keep your fucking secrets. And keep your fucking virginity. I talked with Father O’Brannigan—”
A chill marched down his spine. “You what?”
“You heard me. I had to talk to someone. Even he said it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we had sex. He said God would forgive me so long as we got married. What’s the problem? Do you like boys? Jesus, even the clerk at the corner store is hotter for me than you are.”
“Don’t ‘mo ghrá’ me.” She twisted out of his grasp. “Get out of here. Don’t worry. I’ll be gone by the time you get back.”
“For the love of Christ, just leave. If you ever loved me—” Her face crumpled and she sobbed helplessly, turning away from him.
Feeling like he was being torn in two, Tim stormed out of his apartment. The minute he got to the bottom of his steps, he began to run. He loved Moira. Loved her with every fiber of his being. But he understood his duty to his Druid heritage too. Slated to be the next Arch Druid, he was forbidden physical congress with women. His magic needed to be honed to the highest possible level.
Sex would interfere.
Tim ran until sweat streamed down his sides, despite the chill of an unseasonably cool June in California. A full moon hung low, clinging to the horizon. It was a lover’s moon. He cursed, drowning in irony. A lover’s moon, but not for him.
He wasn’t surprised when he ended up ten miles north of Davis at the Druids’ priory. Despite it being three in the morning, he pulled the bell chain. Its somber chime matched his mood.
The intercom next to the carved oak door crackled. “What business brings you here?” It was a standard Druid greeting, though the speaker sounded half-asleep.
“I must see Liam. Now.”
“Tim O’Malley. Is that you?”
Tim blew out a ragged breath. “Yes. Let me in, goddammit.”
A tone sounded, and the door swung open soundlessly on well-oiled hinges. A man he didn’t recognize hustled up the long hallway. “Master.” He inclined his head.
“I’m no one’s master. Go back to sleep. I know the way.”
Liam McAllister’s quarters were on the third floor of the rambling stone structure that had once been a Catholic monastery. Tim pounded up the stairs, his stomach so tight he wondered if he’d vomit. He’d just raised a fist to hammer on Liam’s door when it opened, and the Arch Druid stood before him. If the older man had been asleep, it didn’t show.
“Welcome, son.” Liam held out his arms, but Tim shook his head. Without waiting for an invitation, he stomped into the spacious quarters lined with leaded glass windows on two walls. The moon mocked him, front and center in those windows.
“You have to release me from my vows.”
Liam drew his thick eyebrows together. “You must know I cannot do that. You didn’t take vows. You were born to your calling.”
Tim spun to face the man who’d been like a father to him. Long, white hair framed his bearded face. Bright blue eyes radiated concern. The Arch Druid was tall—of a height with Tim—and wraith-thin. Black robes flowed around him.
“But it’s not like I’m the Dalai Lama.” He took a breath to steady himself. “You don’t understand. I love Moira. It’s tearing me up that I can’t have her. Christ! I can’t even tell her why I can’t make love to her—or marry her.”
Liam nodded slowly. He reached a kindly hand toward Tim. “Actually, you are a lot like the Dalai Lama. ’Tis the goddess who picks our progression. Would you care to sit, son? I believe a spot of spirits might calm you.”
“Irish whiskey won’t solve this.”
Liam made a snorting noise. “A dram of good Irish whiskey will solve practically anything. Or at least soften it till it feels more manageable.”
He pulled a decanter close and poured amber liquid into two cut-crystal shot glasses, pushing one toward Tim. “You will be able to wed once your training is complete, and you sit in my place.”
Battling frustration, Tim drained his glass. The whiskey burned going down. It matched the fire in his soul.
He trained his gaze on Liam. “You don’t understand. That may have worked hundreds of years ago. Not anymore. Look at you. Goddess willing, you’ll live another twenty or thirty years. Maybe more. By then Moira will be long since married to another. Hell, she could be a grandmother.” He banged a fist on one of the tables scattered about the room. A lamp rattled ominously, and he reached to steady it.
“Please,” Tim begged. “At least let me tell her why I can’t wed her.”
Liam shook his head. “I cannot do that. The workings of our society have always been secret. ’Tis how we’ve shielded ourselves from the machinations of the Church.”
“The Church isn’t still out to get us. Not actively, anyway.”
Liam turned on him, blue eyes ablaze. “Thinking like that will land you in trouble. Have you not followed their exorcisms? Or their dogma? And ’tis not just the Catholics I’m talking of here. What do you believe clerics think of those like us who call magic, engage in astral travel, and commune with gods, spirits, and the dead?”
Tim’s shoulders sagged. He felt like a sail with the wind knocked out of it, attached to a ship that would never find port. “That we were evil.”
Liam nodded. “Organized religion’s raison d’être is to rid the Earth of wickedness. Moira is Catholic. She goes to confession. I tell you, son, we cannot risk it. ’Tisn’t been so very long since they killed one of us. Surely you recall Sean Newbry. ’Twas scarcely an accidental drowning. His astral self came to me whilst he was dying.”
“The parish priest caught him in the midst of a blood offering ceremony, talking with Earth spirits. Sean was certain the cleric followed him since he’d taken care to go deep into the Sierra foothills.”
Tim fought a sinking feeling. “You said drowning.”
“Are you certain you want the grisly details?”
“Four priests waylaid him late one night, bound him, gagged him, tied a heavy weight about his waist—”
“Enough.” Tim sat heavily. He dropped his head into his hands and remembered what Moira told him about talking with Father O’Brannigan. What a fucked up mess this had turned into. He still cared about Druidry, but did he care enough to give up Moira for the rest of his life?
“Tim?” Liam asked after a long silence.
He looked up. “No matter how I slice and dice this, I don’t want to live without her. Hell, I don’t know if I can.”
“I understand.” A considered intake of breath and Liam continued. “I gave you permission to attend medical school. That was a concession as I’d rather you were here by my side. Then you came up with that idea about a public health degree.
“Mayhap it would be best if you didn’t see Moira—or even call her—at least for a while. Try to immerse yourself in your studies. Believe me, son, when I tell you the goddess takes care of her own.”
A sob rose from the depths of his soul. Mortified, Tim tried to swallow the next one down. He stuffed a knuckle in his mouth and bit down hard.
“’Tis all right. Life does not give us easy choices.” Liam got to his feed, walked around the table, and patted Tim’s back. “There is no shame in tears.”
Forcing himself to return to the present, Tim took a deep breath, and then another. He wasn’t twenty-two anymore. He could stand up to Liam if it came down to it. He pulled open the side door to the clinic and went to the tiny staff room, where he knew he’d find the afternoon’s schedule posted. Despite reliving painful memories, he felt more alive than he had in years.
The goddess had brought Moira back into his life. Things would be different this time. He’d see to it, even if it meant confronting Liam and walking away from Druidry forever.
Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), I finagled a move to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. Stories always ran around in my head on backcountry trips, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made me fear for my life, sometimes for company.
Eventually, the inevitable happened. I returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. It wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. I learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel, and I’ve been writing ever since.
In addition to turning out books, I enjoy wilderness photography. A standing joke is that over ten percent of my pack weight is camera gear, which means my very tolerant husband has to carry the food — and everything else too.
Find Ann At:
@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)