Authors: Kali Argent
Copyright © July 2015 by Kali Argent
Covert Art by SW Graphic Designs
Published by UnScripted INC
eBook ISBN: 978-1-940637-20-4
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal, except for the case of brief quotations in reviews and articles.
Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
When the Purge nearly wiped out humanity and gave rise to the Allied Races Coalition, Roux Jennings refused to become a paranormal’s new pet. Forced into hiding, she remains constantly on the move, never staying in one place for too long. It’s a harsh existence filled with too many dangers and not enough food, but at least she’s free.
Coalition Captain Deke Collins is tasked with protecting the citizens of Trinity Grove—both human and paranormal alike. Presenting the mask of a loyal and dutiful soldier isn’t always easy, but it’s a necessary evil. If anyone discovers he’s the leader of a group of rebels secretly known as the Revenant, he won’t live to see the next sunrise.
When circumstances force him into the path of a beautiful and tenacious female, he’s immediately drawn to the human. Dragging Roux into his world may put her in more danger than even he realizes, but it’s a risk he must take to protect her.
In a reality where paranormals rule and humans are nearly extinct, lines are drawn, sides are chosen, and a war for freedom rages in secret.
For my biggest fan, my greatest supporter, and my best friend. To my husband. Thank you for always believing in me.
The world ended on a bitterly cold Tuesday morning in January.
Well, it had for Roux Jennings, anyway. Technically, the world hadn’t ended at all, but on most days, she wished it had. Death would be easier, kinder. A year and a half after the Purge, and each day, things only seemed to get worse.
The stench of decay saturated the air of the abandoned fishing shed, seeping into her clothes, her hair, her skin. Clenching her teeth against the bile that swelled in her throat, Roux glanced sideways at the newest member of their group as she readied her pack. Their small band of survivors consisted of only six—four men, her, and…Nevah.
Nevah Ryans had joined them the previous week after allegedly escaping one of the paranormal cities, and while the group tolerated her, they didn’t trust her, not yet. With her appearance radiating a degree of health and vitality many of them hadn’t known in months, she’d become an object of instant suspicion—if not outright jealousy. Where hunger had reduced Roux to hard angles and sunken hollows, Nevah still flaunted feminine curves beneath her long, lean muscles.
Dragging her gaze away from the newcomer, Roux combed her fingers through her hair, wincing when they tangled in the matted, oily, corkscrew curls. The once vibrant chestnut tresses appeared dark and dull beneath the layers of dirt and things she’d rather not think about, a noticeable contrast to Nevah’s shiny ebony locks. Roux couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a pair of scissors, yet Nevah’s pin-straight hair had been styled into a severe bob, the tips ending precisely at each corner of her jaw.
Hell, even the woman’s skin made the group suspicious—the supple, bronzed glow of days spent in the sun. After a year of hiding out in caves, tunnels, sewers, and other underground places, Roux’s normally fair complexion now appeared ashen, if not outright sickly.
Nevah’s very presence served as a daily reminder of all the things Roux had lost, and a dark, unspoken part of her hated the woman for it.
“Everyone listen up!” Their unofficial leader, Cade Novak, stood near the crooked door of the shed. “Everyone knows the rules. Once we’re out there, we stick together.” His dark eyes landed on each member of the group in turn as he brushed his stringy brown hair out of his eyes. “If you do get caught, you’re on your own.”
In the beginning, the decree had seemed harsh to Roux, basic human nature fighting against the lack of compassion and solidarity. In reality, no other way existed, and it hadn’t taken her long to understand why. They had neither the resources nor the strength to launch a full-scale rescue, and any attempt would end with them all dead—or worse.
Sacrifice the few to save the many.
“Everyone got it?” Cade insisted, not relaxing his stance until they’d all mumbled their assent. “Good. Stick close, stay alert, and keep your mouths shut.” He turned, shoved the creaking door open, and stepped out into the gray light cast by the setting sun. “Let’s go.”
After securing her hair at her nape with a length of nylon cord, Roux slipped her backpack on, rolling her shoulders to shrug the canvas bag into a more comfortable position. A military-standard utility knife with a long, serrated blade and a leather-wrapped handle rested inside a makeshift sheath on the side of her pack, the only thing left from her old life.
Roux reached for the knife twice, testing for ease of access. Satisfied, she took her place at the end of the queue, mentally preparing herself for the two-mile hike to their target—a small grocer on the edge of city limits in Trinity Grove, Pennsylvania. The route left them too exposed for Roux’s liking, but at least they wouldn’t have to travel into the heart of the city. With their meager food stores exhausted, and only half a gallon of fresh water between the six of them, they had little choice but to risk the undertaking.
She followed Denny—a shorter, middle-aged man with thinning gray hair and beady brown eyes—through the door and down the two rickety steps. Being the smallest member of their group didn’t prevent the rotted wood from crumbling under her weight, and Roux gasped when she went sprawling into the rocks and mud.
Clamping her lips together, she bit down on the inside of her cheek as fire lanced up the inside of her right arm, just below the crook of her elbow. The jagged rock, no bigger than a baseball, rose out of the puddle, its broken edge stained and shiny with her blood. Beyond the pain and the chance for infection, she had a much bigger, much more dangerous problem.
“Shit,” Nevah cursed under her breath, dropping into the mud beside Roux. “Every vampire in a mile radius is going to smell that.”
As if she needed the reminder. “I know.” She understood what Nevah hadn’t said. Her presence would put everyone in danger. “I’ll stay behind.”
Nevah shook her head as she tore a strip of fabric from the hem of her flannel shirt, leaving her midriff exposed. “I can disable the alarm, but I can’t pick a lock, not like you.” She washed away the excess blood with water from the murky puddle, then wrapped the cloth tightly around Roux’s arm before securing it with a double knot. “That’ll hold for now. We’ll grab bandages and meds at the grocer.”
“Thanks.” Climbing to her feet, Roux brushed as much of the mud from her tank top and jeans as she could, though she only succeeded in making it worse. “It’s not going to cover the smell, though. I might as well paint a target on my neck and ring the fucking dinner bell.”
“Nope.” Nevah pulled a monogrammed, silver flask from a side pocket on her pack and tilted it from side to side. “You good with a little pain?”
Roux narrowed her eyes but nodded. “If it means staying alive.”
With a mirrored bob of her head, Nevah twisted the cap off the flask and held her free hand out for Roux’s arm. “It’s going to sting like a bitch, and not just for a little bit. We need to soak the bandage to mask the scent.”
“What is it?”
A smirk curled the right corner of Nevah’s mouth. “Vodka, and not the cheap shit, either.” With a firm grip on Roux’s wrist, she upended the flask, emptying its contents over the makeshift bandage. “Don’t scream.”
Roux didn’t need the warning. Grinding her teeth together, she stared into Nevah’s eyes, counting the flecks of brown that dotted the amber of her irises until the worst of the pain had passed. Her eyes watered from the fumes, and a sheen of sweat coated her forehead, but she didn’t make a sound.
“Good?” Nevah asked, dropping the empty flask into the pocket of her bag.
“Good.” If nothing else, the alcohol would slow the start of infection. “Let’s go.”
They moved wordlessly through the forest that surrounded the small lake, Cade leading the way with Denny struggling to keep pace behind him. After every few steps, the older man would reach up to readjust his glasses, and sometimes, he’d finger the tape that held the left earpiece together, as though self-conscious about the broken frames. No one else gave a shit, but Denny did. Hell, the former grammar school teacher still wore a sweater vest and yellow bowtie, though both had started to unravel at the ends.
When they reached the main road that led into Trinity Grove, they stayed within the tree line, following the asphalt from the cover of the forest. With a mile left in their trek, and night fully upon them, Nevah finally broke the silence.
“So, I know Cade is former military, and Denny used to teach third grade. What about Greg and Brody? What’s their story?”
Roux hooked her thumbs into the straps of her pack and shrugged as she stared at Brody’s back. “You should ask them.”
“Yeah, but I’m asking you.”
Gregory Strange had been with Cade from the beginning, before Roux or any of the others had joined them. Though pale and malnourished like the rest of them, his towering height and broad shoulders still made him an imposing figure. His hair had been shorter when Roux had first met him, but it now hung down past his shoulders in a dirty, golden sheet.
He stayed to himself, never one to initiate conversation. In fact, Roux had known him for seven months, and she doubted they’d spoken more than a handful of words to each other. She didn’t take it personally, though. He never talked to anyone except Cade, and even then, the conversations didn’t last long.
“Greg used to work in construction. That’s all anyone really knows about him, except for Cade.”
Nevah had hit the nail on the head with her assessment of their leader. Cade didn’t talk about his time in the service, but Roux had heard him mumbling in his sleep about insurgents on more than one occasion.
It had been Cade who had rescued her just months after everything had gone to hell. In the beginning, it had just been her and her younger sister, Evelyn. Roux had done what she could, but she’d been unprepared to protect them from the new evils of the world. Knowing so little about her enemy hadn’t helped, and one night, while searching for food, she’d walked them right into a vampire’s kitchen.
That single mistake had cost her everything.
Within hours of stumbling upon the house, Evelyn had been dead, drained of every last drop of blood while Roux had been forced to watch. In the days that followed, Roux had prayed for death, but her captor had enjoyed watching her suffer too much to grant her wish.
She still didn’t know how Cade had found her. Starved, weak, and half delirious, she’d thought he was an angel when he’d lifted her from the floor and carried her out of the farmhouse. He’d saved her life that day, and she trusted him—and the others in her group to a lesser degree—but she’d learned a hard lesson from the experience.
Love made her weak.
“And Brody?” Nevah asked, pulling Roux out of her thoughts.
“Brody was SWAT.” The things the man could do with a gun amazed her—when they actually had ammunition. “He kind of keeps to himself.”
“What’s up with his hair?”
Roux couldn’t stop the smile that stretched her lips. Unlike the other men who’d given up on keeping their hair and beards under control, Brody still fought the good fight. Unfortunately, the only weapon in his arsenal was a switchblade, leaving his inky black hair in shaggy, uneven tufts. He was also the only one who grabbed razor blades when they went on their raids, but since he shared with her, Roux didn’t give him a hard time about it.
“He doesn’t like it long.”
Nevah shrugged and dropped the subject. “After we get supplies, we really need to move on.”
“That’s the plan.” Roux glanced sideways at her comrade. “We never stay in one place for too long, and we don’t stick around after a raid.”
Nevah shook her head. “That’s not what I mean. We need to get as far away from this place as possible, away from Trinity Grove.”
“What’s in Trinity Grove? Other than a horde of vampires, that is.”
“Not just vampires, but all kinds of Gemini.”
The Gemini. That was what everyone called them—the monsters with two faces, with dual natures. Vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and whatever other strange supernatural creatures prowled the night. Normally, most looked no different than her or any other human, but their dark essence always lurked just beneath the surface. Roux didn’t know where the term had originated, but she definitely found it fitting.