Deep beneath the ocean, stretching hundreds of miles alongside the Pacific Northwest coastline, lies the Cascadia subduction zone—a fault on the verge of unleashing a catastrophic earthquake, thirty times more powerful than the San Andreas. Unfortunately, like most tourists, Elena Cordova is oblivious.
She’s got her own pent-up stress to deal with, a humiliating breakup that’s driven her to end her tenure as a human doormat once and for all. So, when a pickpocket makes off with the last remnant of her relationship, she takes action—only to get trapped with him when disaster strikes.
Now, if either one hopes to survive, they’ll have to get past their initial impressions and work together… because in fifteen minutes, half the town will be underwater.
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
In AS WE KNOW IT, our hero spends part of a scene thumbing through a book by Sandi Doughton—that was a not-so-subtle nod to the author/journalist whose non-fiction title, FULL-RIP 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest, inspired me to write a novel centered around Cascadia. Although mine is a work of fiction, it's based on a very real threat!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I knew I wanted a diverse cast of strangers, because disaster doesn't only strike when we're home with our loved ones. So, we've got our heroine, a second-generation Spanish American who's on a trip to shake the effects of an abusive relationship; and then we have our hero, a local homeless veteran struggling with PTSD and alcohol dependence. On paper, they’re so different. They’re coming from such different places. But when trapped together in midst of disaster, a friendship develops on this raw, human level.
From there, we see them fight to survive everything folks are going to face in real life, i.e. the earthquake, tsunami, aftershocks, scarcity, landslides, violence, isolation, etc. It sounds morbid, but there's real grit in there. People have this enduring, dimensional capacity to still seek humor amidst grief and love amidst chaos.
Thank God it’s not bikini season.
August in Seaside, Oregon is pleasant enough—sixties with a salty breeze blowing in off the Pacific—but it’s
no tropical oasis. A woman can stuff herself into a pair of leggings, mask her bowing curves with a jacket, and blend
right in. Bring on the weekend.
I drum my fingers on the bar and twist my engagement ring. Again. I need to stop fiddling with the darn thing—truth be told, I should probably pawn it while I’m down here. But I can’t bring myself to part with it yet. Once it’s gone, things are really over. I’m on my own.
My phone belts out an embarrassing chorus just as a redhead with gorgeously intricate tat sleeves sets my rum and Coke down. I smile my gratitude and answer, “Hello?”
“Hey!” my best friend shouts through the receiver.
“Did you make it there safe and sound?”
“Yes, Meg. I’m even out exploring, as you suggested.”
“That’s my girl.”
I owe her a lot more than a breakdown of my itinerary. She’s the one who sent me on this destination pity party, offering up her family’s unused timeshare as an escape route. Apparently, hearing your fiancé has been cheating on you because he doesn’t find you attractive anymore does have a plus side.
“How’s work?” I ask, knowing it’s a ridiculous question. We’ve worked in the same HR department for the better part of a decade. I just don’t want to give her an opportunity to continue last night’s lecture about me using this trip to “get my groove back.”
Do people even say that anymore?
“How has work been in the six hours since you left?” I can almost see her shaking her head. “Same ol’.”
“What’s the weather like?”
“Elena!” She raises her voice. “Stop trying to distract me.”
“Sorry,” I mumble, raising my glass as I scan the bar. The place is nice, but there are couples galore. In fact, the only other loner in the room is nursing a beer and. . . catching me staring.
“Did you wear the orange sundress?” Meg jars me from my panic. “That one’s my favorite. It goes perfectly with your, you know, tan.”
“My, ‘you know, tan,’ huh?” I laugh, sidestepping the fact that I hadn’t worked up the confidence to don the dress.
“It’s called pigment. Maybe you’ve heard of it?”
The man turns again at my laughter, and an avalanche of ice slides down my glass, bumping me in the nose. I quickly set it down and give my face an inconspicuous swipe with a napkin.
He’s built like an athlete, but is hunched over on his stool, elbows resting on the polished wood. The way he swings a beer bottle between his thumb and two fingers is absentminded, almost as if it’s second nature. Whatever he’s mulling over has got to be heavy.
I clear my throat. “Hey, Meg? I, uh, gotta go . . .”
Her distraction, while appreciated, is a little too much right now. I don’t want to be the jerk who goes to a public place to broadcast a private conversation—especially one that’s bound to end with me snot crying again.
“Okay, I love your face,” she tells me, as per our weird tradition.
“Say you love my face.”
I sneak another glance at the guy and, thankfully, his head is down. Before I can fully comprehend what I’m doing, I tug at my ring. With a quick slip, it’s in the outside pocket of my new boho-chic bag. There. No more screwing around with that. It’s probably the first step necessary in my
post-breakup program, anyway. I’ll just stick it in the hotel
safe when I get back to my room. “Iloveyourface.”
“What was that?” She’s snickering now.
With a deep, cleansing breath, I repeat myself, “I love your face, too, Weirdo. Tell the hubs and kids I say hi.”
“Will do! Now go and have fun. I expect stories.”
With the tap of a button, I’m thrust back into the hyperawareness that comes with traveling alone. I pocket the phone in my purse, take a drink, and let a familiar burn tickle my throat, leaving an almost vanilla aftertaste. This, I’m comfortable with. Frigid cubes re-assault my nose as
I tilt the glass back and drain it. Maybe with a little liquid courage, I can actually enjoy this trip.
The bartender raises a perfectly arched brow in my direction. “Another one, sweetheart?”
She sets to work, keeping an eye on me now that the rush has settled down. “You on vacation?”
“Something like that,” I tell her, touching my ringless finger out of habit. “I’m, uh, recovering from a breakup.”
Why did I say that? I make it sound like an illness.
Her lips thin as she scoops more ice from the bin. “Sorry to hear that. Were you together long?”
“Six years.” I trace the water ring where my glass had been, busying myself so I’ll stop touching my finger. “We were engaged.”
“Honestly, I don’t know how I’m this calm about it now,” I admit. “I always thought if I lost Brent, I wouldn’t be able to go on. Everything I did revolved around him.”
That’s putting it lightly. Before he left, I begged him not to go—even after he admitted to the affair. Even after he told me he was sick of watching me eat my feelings! It was the most humiliating moment of my life, and I panicked. I would’ve grasped for anything to keep me from going
The bartender sets my glass on a coaster and wipes down the bar where someone has just left. “Well, the way I see it, you don’t know what you can survive until you have to. Now that you’re faced with a new reality, you can either fold or embrace it. You only have two choices.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right. I’m the bartender.” She winks and tosses the rag under the counter. “Free therapy, all night.”
I’d be dangerous with that level of confidence.
I stay long enough to finish my drink, and then toss a few bills on the bar. Two is my limit—at least, until I raid the mini bar in my room and spend the evening binge-watching Netflix. I hop off the stool and shoulder my purse, pushing my hair back in the process. Meg always says she’d kill for my chocolate-brown curls, but she’s never had to tame them. It’s a job in and of itself.
The open door promises sunshine as I make my way through the dim room, the clopping sound of my wedge heels muffled by a chorus of conversation. I’m within inches of the sidewalk when someone brushes against my shoulder and places a firm hand on the small of my back. I freeze.
“Sorry,” a deep voice mumbles, “wasn’t looking where I was going.”
As I turn in mortification, the scent of mint-tinged alcohol invades my personal space. It’s the guy from the bar! The guy from the bar touched me!
He offers a cool smile and tilts his chin toward the doorway. “Ladies first.”
“Th-Thanks,” I manage to reply, bolting ahead with burning cheeks. Up close, the man is pure daydream material. Rugged features, a few days of scruff—not to mention the body of a superhero. He’d be the perfect palate cleanser after Brent.
If he were drunk.
Okay, it’s not going to happen. I sneak a quick glance back and spot him booking it down the street toward a coffee shop. He didn’t strike me as a fellow tourist, trying to hit all of the local highlights, but to each his own. Maybe he wants a muffin.
I make my way back to the promenade and am greeted by a chorus of barking. Seriously, it’s all I can hear over the waves—a boxer on the beach, a shih tzu on a nearby patio, even the bulldog on the sidewalk behind me. They’re all going nuts.
Like any other technophile in the modern age, I reach for my phone to take a video of the phenomenon. My fingers brush the device, but nothing else. No ring. I stop walking and fish around, my heart leaping into my throat. No, no . . . there’s no way I lost it that fast!
I pull the pocket open wide and squint in the sunlight. Nothing. There’s nothing else in there.
My breaths go ragged as I retrace my steps with renewed vigor. Nothing glitters on the pavement in the ten feet I’ve made it from the bar. I’m about to head back inside when it hits me. This is where that guy ran into me. He totally picked my pocket!
Now I’m running—or at least, hobbling. I really should have broken these heels in before the trip. If that jerk is still in the coffee shop, he’s about to experience the fiery wrath of a woman scorned. Then I’ll call the cops and he’ll go to jail, where the other inmates will rough up that stupid, handsome face of his . . .
A bell signals my entrance as I burst through the doorway, my eyes raking every corner. Behind the counter, a kid wearing an Oregon State t-shirt under his apron smiles wide. “Welcome to—”
“Have you seen a man come through here?” I cut him off, holding my hand over my head at the pickpocket’s approximate height. “Dirty blond hair, buzzed short; lightish eyes, muscular build?”
“Uhh . . .” Panic registers in his expression, and he flashes a look toward the back.
“Do you know what happens to people who harbor fugitives?” I smack the nearest display rack for emphasis. Sure, it’s a stretch, but I’m getting pretty sick of men lying to me lately.
“I apologize,” he tells me, with the slightest hint of an Indian accent. “I have not seen the man you—”
A sudden, weightless jolt shoots up my spine alongside my already building panic. A chill chases that feeling, as my body rails against an abrupt loss of control.
The kid must’ve felt it too, because his eyes are huge. “No way . . .”
Outside, a car alarm starts going off. Another one joins it. So help me if that thief is stealing a getaway vehicle! I turn to storm back out onto the sidewalk, when a barreling force knocks me off my feet. I skid across the tiles under a man’s crushing weight, friction burning my shoulder, and let out a scream like I’m being murdered.
“Naveen, get down!” My assailant barks the order behind us, a second before the ground starts shaking.
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