In a post-apocalypse world besieged by monsters, Colonel Xavier, a military man with a deadly temper, deliberately challenges Maat Ferris, a fierce, werewolf hunter. When Xavier meets Maat, he can’t decide whether to shoot her or kiss her. There is no uncertainty in her. She promptly stabs him. His hot then cold attitude makes her crazy, and his tendency to protect her is even worse.
Unfortunately, the combative pair must join forces on a treacherous journey, across the bleak, barren country. Pursued by a dictator president and the vampire who holds him in thrall, they carry precious cargo that will give democracy seeking rebels a chance to remain free.
Maat and Xavier, true to their aggressive, passionate natures, must also battle their way through a most unusual courtship. Can their love grow amidst the destruction and rebuilding of a society under siege? Or will they kill each other first?
May 18, 2085 A.D
Avalon Agricultural Commune
Christopher worked his way down toward paradise. His tongue flicked in my navel and his fingers had already reached the gate. The lantern’s golden light played across our warm, flushed skin. I twisted my own fingers in his thick red hair, urging him on to the heart of gratification. He stopped, raised his head, and stared at me.
“What?” I didn’t expect him to answer. Christopher never spoke. One of the other members here at the AG Commune told me he could speak but wouldn’t because he was a Prime Oracle. His prophecies always came true—and he hated it.
To my dismay, Christopher rose from the bed, grabbed his robe, and drew it over his head. A frantic knock sounded at the door. The knock came again, this time accompanied by the voice of Julia, our leader Anolia’s young assistant.
“Maat? Maat, are you there?”
I glanced at Christopher, but his face remained impassive. The dark night terrified Julia. What was she doing at my door?
“Maat? Maat, please.”
Each word came with a higher and more desperate note. Christopher gave me one of his sweet smiles. Yes, I knew I had to answer.
“I’m coming, Julia.” I rose, grabbed my own robe, tossed it on, and went to the door. Julia jammed herself inside before it completely opened. She stood gasping, eyes wide, and pale hands clenched tight around her lantern handle. She shivered, even though summer had almost arrived, and it wasn’t cold outside.
“What is it, Julia?” I touched her arm. She jerked.
She closed her eyes and whispered a broken version of the serenity prayer. She didn’t seem any calmer when she finished. “Anolia wants you in the chapel dining room right now.” Julia blurted out the sentence like a single, multisyllable word.
“Why?” Anolia often sent Julia on errands, but she wasn’t cruel. What caused her to send the girl into the darkness she so feared? Julia shook her head, unable to continue. She glanced over her shoulder toward the door. “I have to go.”
I wouldn’t get anything else from her.
“Tell Anolia I’ll be there soon.”
Julia nodded. I opened the door and watched her lantern sway as she hurried up the path and over the hill. After I closed the door, I turned to Christopher.
“Something’s wrong. I better go see what she wants.”
Christopher seized my shoulders with hands made strong by his work at the forge. His fingers squeezed in a savage grip, and his striking face twisted in anguish.
“Take your guns, Maat. Take your guns.”
He spoke with a gravity that stunned me. He gave me a sweet kiss, and he too hurried out into the night. Seconds passed while I recovered from the shock of hearing him speak for the first time in over a year. Then I took his advice. I dragged my old suitcase from under the bed and threw it open.
The scent of gun oil and saddle soap filled the room. All my weapons lay there as they had for the past two years while I’d lived in peace here at the commune. Regularly cleaned, they patiently waited for the once familiar killing urge to strike their mistress again. I pulled on well-worn, black denim pants and a knit shirt, both softened with age. The supple boots that allowed me to tread softly across most terrain still fit comfortably.
I’m tall, lean, and have a moderately androgynous face. I’m not beautiful. Beauty is a blessing for women who need it to survive in this dangerous post-war, post disease world. I’ve never envied them, those lovely things with their smiles and sparkling eyes. All I needed was a gun, a blade, and a little luck. I may even run out of luck, but I kept my blade sharp, and my well-oiled guns didn’t age. The bullets retained their devastating punch.
I pinned my mass of unruly and not so lovely brown curls at the nape of my neck and wedged a small sheathed knife into the knot. The .44 Magnum Rudra, loaded with high impact silvers, the only ammunition I used, went into the unwieldy and uncomfortable holster at the small of my back. A more accessible shoulder holster carried a .45 caliber Aries under my left arm. I strapped a leather knife sheath to my left forearm, so I could grab the hilt with my right hand. I’d seen sheaths that buckled to the thigh, but I preferred my legs free, so I could run better. Knowing when to run had saved me more than once.
After twenty years in public service, Lee Roland retired to become a full-time paranormal romance and urban fantasy writer. Her first three published novels, the Earth Witches, series tells the stories of strong men and women who battle the evil hiding under the surface of the modern world. Lee hasn’t always been a writer, but has always been a daydreamer, constantly making up stories and noted for rewriting her school day into happy endings when telling her mother. Winner of numerous literary contests and a Golden Heart nominee, she currently lives and writes with her beloved dogs and cats in North Central Florida.