Vampires, werewolves, mages--the Others are very real, and wreaking havoc in Shiarra Waynest's life. But now, she's returning the favor...
Once, she was one of the good guys--or as close as a New York P.I. can get. Then Shiarra Waynest was drawn into the world of the Others. Every faction has its own loyalties and agenda. And Shia's recent betrayal by her ex-boyfriend means that she may be on the verge of becoming a rogue werewolf at the next full moon...
Of course, with all the threats against her, Shia's not sure she'll live long enough to find out. The enigmatic vampire Royce wants her back in his clutches, as do two powerful werewolf packs, along with the police. Instead of going into hiding, Shia is enlisting the aid of her enchanted hunter's belt and every dirty P.I. trick she knows. If she's going down, she'll take out as many of her enemies as she can--and hope that in the process, she keeps whatever humanity she has left...
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July 03, 2012
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Excerpt from Stalking the Others by Jess Haines
(Days left to full moon: 24)
My fingertips pressed against the cool stone of the ledge, helping me balance as I crouched on the balls of my feet. The heavy winds choked with smog and tainted with the stink of the Hudson threatened to push me off the edge of the apart�ment building's roof if I wasn't careful. People bundled against the cold moved five stories below me, oblivious, never thinking to look up. Hours had passed since I'd fled Alec Royce's apartment building with nothing but murder on my mind. It had taken me a while to find my current perch. I'd been waiting up here for nearly an hour after first checking inside the apartment, and my mark had not yet shown. Strain burned in my calves, but I remained as I was, held in check despite my desire to rampage through the city, destroying everything in my path until I found my targets.
'You are so impatient,' a voice, tinged with an edge of laughter, whispered in the back of my skull. 'Just wait. He has to come home sometime.'
I growled, the sound reverberating deep in my chest.
"Shut up," I snapped, running my fingers through my hair to shove the errant curls out of my eyes. "If he doesn't come soon, I won't have enough time to do anything. The sun will be up in less than an hour." I'd been counting on Dillon's being home so I could destroy the bastard before he hurt some�one else. Or at least beat him into new and interest�ing shapes to make him think twice before infecting another uncontracted human.
'Maybe he spent the night with someone. Or left for work before we arrived.'
I didn't say anything, a pang of doubt giving me pause. The belt wrapped around my waist was the source of the voice in my head, a voice that would be banished once the sun rose. Aside from getting rid of my moral support and snarky commentary, the first rays of morning light creeping over the horizon would also take with them all of my en�hanced skills and senses, leaving me frail and human again. Though most of the time I hated what the belt did to me, I couldn't afford to be with�out its help while facing down an angry werewolf.
'Then wait until tomorrow night to face him. Use the day wisely; get some rest and food to build up your strength, and use those P.I. skills of yours to track him down.'
I nodded, turning away from the street and huddling into my trench coat against the cold. Now that I'd had a few hours for my ire to cool, I found that I was suffering from a wintry, calculat�ing hatred instead of the heated, unthinking rage that had driven me here to begin with. Despite the wait's really weighing on my nerves, it had given me plenty of time to think about what I was going to do once Dillon showed his face, and what I would do about the other Sunstrikers who had driven me to hunt them like the cowardly dogs they were.
In the space of a few days, my entire life had turned upside down. It hadn't been particularly normal to begin with, but my now very ex�boyfriend Chaz had been cheating on me. He'd also been running some kind of werewolf mafia ring right under my nose. Though I had no solid proof, I was sure his pack had something to do with the murder of Jim Pradiz. Not that I'd liked the sleazy reporter, but it was terrifying to know that the were�wolves were willing to stoop so low to silence him.
To top things off, one of the Sunstrikers had scratched and quite possibly infected me with the lycanthropy virus. It would be weeks before I'd know for sure if I was going to join the ranks of the terminally furry come the next full moon. Clearly, thanks to the murder of Jim Pradiz-- which the Sunstrikers were somehow connected to, I just knew it--I would never be one of that pack, whether or not they accepted me. It was entirely possible that they were out to kill me, too.
Thanks to Chaz's pack, I was on the run from a bunch of murderous werewolves, the police, and half the media in the state. The last straw had been my father's telling me point�blank that I wasn't his little girl anymore. Being disowned by my family for my involvement with the Others had been a gut blow I wasn't prepared for. Recalling the raspy, accusing tones of my dad as he forbade me from ever coming home to him and Mom again made my eyes burn, but I'd cried my last tear over his pronouncement hours ago. I had work to do to make sure that the people involved with bringing this load of misery down on me and my family paid for everything they'd done. My resolve only firmed as I paused at the edge of the roof, looking down at the rusting metal frame�work of the fire escape that would lead me back to the filthy alleyways and webwork of New York City streets below.
Considering it was Chaz and the rest of his pack's fault that everything--my life, my livelihood, my family, and possibly my humanity--had been taken from me, I was not in a forgiving mood.
'That's an understatement.'
The droll tone of the belt had me grinning, though it was more a feral baring of my teeth than an expression of agreement. Stone chipped under my fingers as they tightened on the cornice mold�ing on the edge of the roof. I absently flicked blood from my fingertips before dropping lightly down to the fire escape. It clanged dully at the impact, the sound rattling through the framework. I barely gave it time to finish shuddering before I leapt over the side, my already�healed fingers catch�ing on the rail as I propelled myself down to the level below.
Ladders and startled faces in windows passed in a blur, my body moving with the grace and surety of an Olympic gymnast and my stomach edging up into my lungs as I gained speed. Soon, much too soon, I was airborne. Before I knew it, I was in a feral crouch on the alley floor, hair in my eyes and trench coat billow�ing around me like one of those clich�d action movie heroes, and the last echoes of my landing ricocheting off the alley walls. An inhuman feat I wouldn't have been able to accomplish a few weeks ago without breaking my legs, even with the belt's help.
Something about giving in and letting the belt take over had changed how we worked together; it augmented my strength, speed, agility, and stamina to a far greater degree than the first time I had worn it. Not to mention, it helped me heal my minor injuries nearly as quickly as a vam�pire. I wondered if this was what it felt like to be an Other.
Adrenaline burned in my veins, but I didn't give in to the belt's siren song or halfhearted pleas for violence. Instead, I shoved my hands in my pockets and edged out of the shadows, past the Dumpsters, and into the trickle of pedestrian traf�fic in the city street.
Clenching my fingers around one of the vials of Amber Kiss perfume and the box of ammo I'd shoved in my pockets didn't hurt, though flakes of dried blood and scar tissue from cuts received and healed on my way down from the rooftop rubbed off in the process. I didn't want to think about what I had become, or what I would be once I saw my quest for revenge to its end.
'If not for the vampire, you wouldn't be in this mess,' the belt whispered. 'You should plan to remove him, too.'
"Aside from the fact that he'd kill me if I tried it, Royce didn't do this to me," I muttered under my breath. "Don't push me."
A woman walking next to me glanced over, arching a silver�studded brow before ignoring me. That was the most attention I'd received from any of the sea of pedestrians all night. Not that I was complaining.
'He might not have infected you, but he's the one who brought you back into Chaz's sights, and he's also the one who keeps involving you in supernatural business. You wouldn't have been bitten by vampires--' "Enough!"
I nearly shouted the word, and this time I did merit a few stares from early morning strollers, late night revelers sloshing their way home, and a handful of people in power suits on their way to the office. Ducking my head and popping up the collar of my trench coat, I sped up the pace, growl�ing under my breath. I would've snarled some�thing nasty back at the belt, especially since it was laughing at me again, but I was attracting too much attention as it was.
In fact, only yards away from me, a black�and�white was cruising past. I couldn't help but watch over my shoulder as it went by before realizing how conspicuous that must look. I drew out of the press of foot traffic to pretend to consider buying a magazine at a nearby newsstand. My stomach did a turn at the headline on one of the local rags: "NEW YORK'S HOTTEST VAMPIRE�SPONSORING CHARITY CONCERT!" There was a picture of him on the cover of the latest issue of some financial news magazine, too. I twisted away, scowling. No matter how far I ran, it seemed Alec Royce would follow me everywhere.
Oh, great. When I looked back, the cops had pulled into the alley I had just come from, flick�ing on their searchlight as they parked. That was my cue to hightail it. I needed to be less conspicuous if I was going to carry out my plans without ending up dead or in jail before the month was out. Abandoning my feeble ruse, I turned and took to a brisk walk in the opposite direction from Dillon's apartment building.
I needed to figure out where to go once the sun came up. After the stunt I'd pulled, there was no way I was putting myself back under Royce's watchful eye. Knowing the vampire, he'd chain me up in the basement or something to keep me from escaping again. Going home was out of the question, as was Sara's house and my parents'. Arnold might let me crash, but he'd tell Sara, which meant the vampire would know where to find me. I didn't want that.
Not to mention that I didn't have any money to get myself to my theoretical daytime hiding spot. In my headlong rush to escape Royce's building, I hadn't taken any necessities with me but my hunt�ing equipment. My duffel with my clothes and my purse had been left behind.