Heart of Survival by Ashlynn Monroe
McKaye Tanner lost everything when the world ended. She grew into adulthood without anyone she could trust. She’s not sure what’s left of civilization, but from what she’s seen, it’s not much.
Reece Rogers has worked hard to keep his small band of survivors alive. He doesn’t take any bullshit or risks. But when he sees a young woman running from a group of the contaminated he can’t turn his back on her and takes a gamble to save her.
Can two battle-scarred, lonely people find love in a world that wants to destroy everything good about being human?
Q) Tell us an interesting fact to your story.
This was a challenge to write because my hero only has one arm. The love scenes were especially difficult because of his disability, but like the strong man he is, he made it work. *wink*
Q) How did you narrow down what catastrophe to use for the apocalyptic theme?
I wanted to pick a world where the disease was realistic, but extreme. I picked a form of leprosy that was very contagious and made its victims dangerous. This infection was a lot like a zombie virus, but has a basis in reality that I hope is a little frightening with its what-if potential.
Q) If you were thrust into your story, do you think you’d survive?
Nope. My kids always come first so I have a feeling I’d die doing something foolish to protect them.
McKaye’s lungs burned and her legs ached as she ran. She’d stayed in good health considering most of her life she’d lived in the apocalypse, but she’d never exactly been a marathon runner. Her endurance hit the wall and her mortality rushed at her like a freight train. She would die.
Terror gripped her—and so did a hand. Shrieking, she fell helplessly through a doorway. Gazing up, she stared into the gray eyes of a dark-haired male. His graying beard was dark against his gaunt, but beautiful face. He was gorgeous. Thick lashes framed his eyes. He held her around her waist in one arm, and she realized his other appendage was missing below the elbow. His clothing was tattered, but clean.
Slack-jawed, she lay like a mindless fool as he pulled her inside the building and closed the door. He let her go, and then held his finger to his lips as the sound of sicks running past the building made her breath catch. She lay in his lap, still stunned, while the loud rumble outside began to lessen.
“Who are you?” McKaye whispered.
He held up his finger again, and she waited with him until the rabble outside had moved farther away.
“I’m a friend. I have to lead those contaminated in another direction. Follow me, and trust me.”
It took her a second to realize he was talking about the sicks. Trusting a stranger seemed as stupid as messing with that herd of trouble that just passed by. “Why?”
“I have people at the warehouse. I need to keep the contaminated away long enough for them to get away and go home.”
“Home?” She felt like a parrot, and not a very smart one.
“Yes, we have a safe place. You’re welcome to come with us if you haven’t been touched by the contaminated.”
“I haven’t. Besides, if I was, you are too now.”
“Fair point. Do you have people?” he asked.
“I’m sorry.” His condolences sounded genuine.
She nodded. “Thanks. It was a long time ago.”
“When I noticed you at a distance I thought you were a child.”
“No offense meant. I have a lot of questions for you before I take you to my people, but those will have to wait until that herd you’ve brought are taken care of.”
She didn’t like how it sounded as if he was blaming her. She wasn’t someone who would have brought danger to strangers purposefully. “I wasn’t trying to endanger your people.”
He shrugged. “Of course. Come on.”
He stood, and she followed him. Her body still ached from her dash from her house. Home.
He looked outside, then motioned for her to follow him out the door. She didn’t even know the man’s name, but she went with him across the street, and she noticed they were a few blocks behind the sicks.
He rushed to the old bank building and grabbed the fire escape ladder, pulling himself up and climbing. Arm strength wasn’t one of her survival skills, but she took a running jump and managed to pull herself up enough to get her foot in the bottom rung. The guy climbed with one arm, so she could at least try since she had two.
Something about this guy made her trust him. She’d stopped playing it safe the moment she went home. At this point following this guy seemed like as good a plan as any. So she climbed.
The guy pulled himself onto the roof. McKaye didn’t look down. She hated heights. She wanted to climb down, but curiosity made her follow him to the roof. He was all the way across by the time she made it up. He wasn’t even winded, and she was totally out of breath.
“What are we doing?” she asked.
He took off his backpack. “You’ll see.”
Scowling, she watched him take something out of his pack that looked a lot like a grenade. He pulled the pin and heaved the explosive, hard. McKaye scooted farther away from the edge of the roof and covered her ears as the boom shook the building under her.
“Are you fucking crazy?” she hissed.
He turned to look at her, grinning. “I’ve been told I am, more than once, but right now I’m totally sane. Trust me.”
This guy was asking a lot from her. More than he could possibly know.
He pulled out another explosive. “Ready?”
Before she could say no he pulled the pin. She covered her ears as he tossed the danger away from them. The roof shook. She sat there, uncertain. This guy was crazy! She tried to stay calm, but it was hard. She was at the mercy of a stranger—a stranger with grenades!
Another blast shook the world. She pressed her hands tighter against her ears, waiting.
The maniac seemed pretty happy as he pointed. “It’s working.”
“Yes. The herd is moving toward the river.”
“Water won’t kill them. They’ll walk on the bottom.”
“That doesn’t matter. They’re getting away from my people.”
She restrained her urge to freak out at him. Her hermit-like existence left her out of practice at being human. “Your people aren’t the only ones left. Don’t you know how many families are out there?”
“What?” His brows drew together as his lips compressed. He blanched.
“Yes, a bunch of boats are floating together in the center of the river. You’ve just sent sicks out there that will walk on the bottom of the water and could sink the boats.”
“I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. I had no idea there were people out there.”
“There are. What are we going to do now?”
He paused. “I have a few more of these.” He held up another explosive.
BIO & SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Ashlynn Monroe has been dreaming up stories all her life but didn’t share them with anyone until she was thirty. She’s a busy mom with a full-time job, great friends, and a unique sense of humor. She’s just a regular girl, who’s in love with the idea of happily-ever-after. She’s honored to be multi-published by some of the best publishers in the industry. Ashlynn survives each day by dreaming up her next tale of romance.
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