Desert Blade

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Harlequin, Apr 23, 2012 - Fiction - 77 pages
In the post-apocalyptic Midwest, now a ravaged dust bowl, former guardsman Derek Covington must find help for a sick boy. With nothing but memories of all he lost, Derek crosses the desert alone in search of the doctor who saved his own life ten years ago. Drifter gangs who loot and pillage don't dare come near, for Derek has a formidable weapon: a prosthetic arm with a deadly blade.

For a decade, Dr. Lidia Sullivan has fantasized about the handsome guardsman who'd been in her care. And now she can't deny his dangerous request. But as they make the treacherous journey back to Old St. Louis, they must contend with much more than fierce desert winds and their unthinkable attraction. A fearless gang has spotted Lidia—a rare woman—and will fight Derek to the death to get her. And though he risks his life to save her for the sake of the child who needs her, she fears there's one thing Derek will never risk: his heart.

27,000 words

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Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
About the Author
Copyright Page

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About the author (2012)

Derek Covington ducked beneath the Molotov cocktail slicing through the air. It broke, spreading ethanol and fire across a Chicago storefront. The swoosh of heat and cloying sweet fuel burned his throat. He dodged across the street, empty except for the ever-present vines growing in cracks, covered in fungus, crinkling brown and dead.

Black smoke disguising them, looters whooped and swung bats at the windows. The crack and clink of glass faded in the background. Keeping low, he ran for all he was worth. As a Guardsman, he should help the unit called to handle this latest violent outbreak, but he couldn't. The rioting around his old place had killed hundreds.

He had to reach Hester.

When the riots started and the phones went out, he'd walked out of the barracks and hitched on an Aggie train. A week through land covered with dying vines from boot camp to here. With nobody around to check on her, his foster mother could be dead already.

He skidded around a corner and onto a street straight from a war zone. The summer heat brought the stench of death, blood and desperation.

The place looked the same. Rows of townhouses stacked together. Hester's florescent purple door swung ajar. He vaulted over the three steps and into the dark, musty-smelling living room. "Hester. You here?"

"That you, Derek?" Shuffling through the door, his plump gray-haired foster mother smiled at him and tugged closed her yellow terrycloth robe. "I was just making breakfast. Come on in and have a cup of coffee while I scramble up some eggs. Just how you like 'em."

Hiding his knee-weakening relief, he followed her into the four-room railroad-style townhouse. He went straight for the cupboard to pull down two plates, the fragrance of coffee making his mouth water. "I haven't eaten much the past few days."

"You best be taking care of yourself. Sit down, sit down. I don't need you gettin' in my way." She motioned him to the small round table with only two chairs. "What? You have a break from basic training already?"

"Haven't you seen the news? They ordered the evacuation of Georgia...and Tennessee. It's spread up here, too. I came to get you out." He shifted in his chair and the weight of it came down all at once. Leaning forward, his elbows on the table, he buried his face in his hands. "I just need to sit for a few minutes. Then we have to go."

She ran her arthritic, gnarled hands through his hair. "Where'm I goin' to? So the Aggies about ruined everything." Aggies, what people called the scientists and politicians who started this all with their plans to feed everyone with special crops. "There's no place for someone like me, used up and on her way out." She patted his shoulder when his head jerked toward her. "No. It's true. With the world dyin', the future's for the young, for the able-bodied to work at saving what's left. Don't cry, son."

Hester handed him a tissue from her pocket and went to the refrigerator. She peered inside. "I forgot. Haven't had eggs in some time."

Shaking her head, she clucked in the back of her throat. "Shouldn't've forgotten that."

"Doesn't matter, Hester. Whatever you got, we'll make do. Everything else will just go to waste."

"Waste not, want not. Here." Serving him a mishmash of food from her Southern roots and her newfound community in Chicago, she put a plate with cold hushpuppies and pickled green beans in front of him. "I still got plenty of cornmeal. It's still cheap as dirt. Those puppies won't taste the same, though. Don't have all the stuff to make 'em. Not much left in the cupboard exceptin' those beans we put away a few years back."

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