Authors: Shay Savage
Copyright © 2015 Shay Savage
All Rights Reserved
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems-except in the case of brief excerpts or quotations embodied in review or critical writings without the express permission of the author, Shay Savage.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author
Special thanks to Anthony for all your bodyguard and military expertise as well as your constant willingness to provide me with interesting stories. You always entertain! Also, thanks to Caesar and Jim for answering my countless questions about varying topics and to Christine and Chuck for being such an adorable couple. All of you helped me to bring the
characters to life!
As always, thanks to my team for their encouragement and support. Because of you, this book is done in record time!
Table of Contents
No one ever saw them.
We didn’t know where they came from or why they came here. We only knew that in one blast, the planet was left in ruins. For weeks, the bodies of men rotted in the streets.
Men. Not women. Not children.
The women and children were gone.
With the cities destroyed and communication impossible, we could only guess what happened. Men gathered in loose tribes, trying to get answers, but there were none to be found.
As the weeks turned into months, survivors emerged from secluded, rural areas, underground shelters, and subway systems in the larger cities. Only a handful of women were among them. Men outnumbered them a thousand to one.
During the first year, the weather warmed. Rainfall nearly stopped. Lights began to appear in the sky, moving slowly over our heads, but they never came down. We had no face for our enemy, so we turned against each other.
Fights broke out as survivors struggled for limited resources. Clean water and food were at the top of the list and would only be traded for fuel, guns, or ammunition.
The few, unfortunate females still to be found became the most prized commodity.
Life has given me shit.
Maybe I should take that sage advice and make some damn lemonade, but I’m pretty sure any lemons I choose at the grocery will have already turned. Maybe it’s my own fault.
Life didn’t start off all that bad. I can’t complain about my parents too much—they did what they could, given the circumstances. They just had things on their minds that took precedence over me. It’s all okay; I understand why they were like that. At least they weren’t abusive, and they did pay for my college education. I should thank them for that since I have a good job.
I changed all that in only one afternoon.
I lean my head against the window of the plane and stare at the clouds below. I’ve been left alone with my thoughts for too long again, and even though I’m exhausted, I doubt I’ll sleep.
I reach down and scratch my knee. I hate wearing panty hose. In fact, the entire getup I’m in makes me feel even more on edge that I am already. Navy blue skirt and matching dress jacket over a frilly white blouse—it’s definitely not my style, if I even have one. I can barely walk in the heels though they aren’t that high. Even at work, we only had to dress in business casual clothes. On my own time, blue jeans and T-shirts are definitely more me.
Closing my eyes, I breathe deeply and try to focus on something inside my mind that brings me some peace. It’s always the same image—a meadow full of sunshine and bright yellow dandelions. I’ve never been to such a meadow, but I imagine it would be peaceful.
The meadow changes. The dandelions go to seed, and the seeds float on the wind, leaving nothing but naked stems. The meadow morphs and bends until it’s a metal shell. The scent of spring blossoms is gone, and instead, I smell sweat and feel the pressure of bodies all around me.
“For those of you who checked luggage, your bags will be waiting on carousel six. We hope you have enjoyed your flight, and thank you for flying Air Choice.”
I startle awake at the sound of the voice. I can’t remember exactly the dream I had been having, but the feeling of being immobilized lingers in my head. I take a deep breath and look around at the other passengers for a moment before quickly checking around my seat for any items that may have fallen out of my purse.
I shamble into the aisle, making sure to place one foot in front of the other so I don’t trip in the damn shoes. As I try to make my way out of the plane, my eyelids droop against my will. I stop and have to wait for the guy in front of me to get his bag out of the overhead bin. Despite the brief doze against the window of the plane, I hadn’t slept much over the past two days. I want to lean a hand against the seat in front of me to keep from falling over, but it would likely put me in contact with the man struggling with his carry-on. I shake my head a little to clear it and glance over my shoulder.
There is a woman a few rows back with long, dark hair. She’s holding up her phone and taking a picture of me. I almost smile out of habit and then consider flipping her off. I do neither. The last thing I need right now is more press. Instead, I turn back around quickly, wondering what happened to subtlety, and bump the man in front of me as he finally retrieves his luggage.
I flinch from the contact. At least it had only been through my sleeve, but I can still feel the spot where the pressure of contact was made. I close my eyes for a moment and try to push away the thoughts in my head, but they come at me anyway.
Hands pushing me down, holding me in place. Hot breath on my neck. Pain.
I bite my lip, and the sting brings me back to the moment. It’s the same spot I’ve been biting on a lot, and it’s already sore. I’m sweating along the underside of my bra and down the small of my back. I had never had any claustrophobic inclinations before, but they’ve emerged over the last few months and seem to be getting worse. I need to get out of this plane.
Placing my oversized sunglasses on and pulling my shoulders up close to my ears, I exit the plane. I look at my feet as I walk up the ramp, dodging other passengers as I go.
“Hey! Aren’t you the lady from Archive Industries? I saw you on T.V.!”
I don’t respond. Instead, I walk a little faster, suddenly very aware of how alone and unprotected I am right now. All the people around me are too close; any of them could reach out and grab me at any moment. I taste bile in the back of my throat and walk faster.
Maybe I shouldn’t have refused the escort for the first flight.
Paxton and I had fought about it at some length. At the moment, I’m not even sure why I was so adamant about being on the plane alone. I think I just wanted a little bit of time pretending I was just me again, not some hunted corporate spy or whatever the media is calling me today.
I hear additional whispered comments, but I don’t look toward whomever is speaking.
As I head through the doorway, an airsick passenger from another flight sits listlessly in a wheelchair as paramedics check her over. They’ve got her right in the middle of traffic flow, and everyone has to step around the hindrance. I don’t mind; it’s given everyone something else to look at and allows me to get around the crowd at the gate. As the space opens up, I see a line of men dressed in black suits and wearing earpieces with small wires curling around their ears. In dress and demeanor, they look exactly like the team that escorted me to the plane in Chicago.
I look away from them, down and to the side. I don’t need to look to know that they’re coming for me. I’ve had a group of them around since the death threat.
They should have been with Daniel.
I see the shiny black shoes first and let out the breath I’ve been holding before I look up to face my escort. I blink several times before I realize my mouth is hanging open.
The man is tall—at least six feet, maybe a little more. His hair is blond and closely cut. His eyes are intense and give me the impression that he sees everything. He’s older than me by several years—maybe in his early thirties—and has a military bearing.
I take in the rest of him as my heart starts to beat faster in my chest. He’s all muscle underneath the suit jacket that doesn’t fit quite right around his biceps. His dark eyes don’t exactly match his complexion, and he has a strong jawline and high cheekbones. There’s a thin scar near his temple. He looks like he just walked out of a black-and-white movie, maybe something from the twenties or thirties. He just needs a fedora and maybe a tommy gun in a violin case.
“My name is Falk Eckhart,” the tall, blond man says. He doesn’t offer me his hand to shake but keeps staring at me with those piercing eyes. It’s unnerving and sends a shiver down my spine. “My team will escort you, ma’am.”
Falk. What the hell kind of name is that, and why am I reacting to him this way? I haven’t thought about men in months, not since…since…
I bite my lip again, effectively erasing the thought as the sharp pain hits me. While I’m at it, I dismiss my reaction to him as well. He’s not classically attractive or even cute though I have to admit there is definitely something to his look. He’s strong, composed, and a little intimidating in size and demeanor. I’m unnerved by my response to him.
“Ms. Savinski?” he says again, and I realize I haven’t answered him at all.
He bows slightly toward me as I nod in acknowledgement and quickly glance around to see if anyone’s heard him say my name. There are a few people who slow to look toward us.
One of them—a young, rotund man—stops in his tracks and stares at me for a minute before taking out his phone.
“Hannah Savinski!” he calls out. “Hey! Are you going to Washington to testify?”
Before I can even begin to form a response, Eckhart is in his face.
“Back off,” he says sternly as he towers over the man. He’s just an inch away, but he doesn’t touch him. “Put that phone away, and get to wherever you’re going. You hear me?”
“Yeah, whatever. Asshole.” The guy shoves his phone back in his pocket as he backs away and heads toward the tram.
“Ms. Savinski, are you all right?”
“Yes, sorry,” I reply as I try to remember what I should say next. “It’s good to meet you. Please, call me Hannah.”
His eyes widen minutely, and I see the corner of his mouth twitch.
“No, ma’am,” he says softly. “I couldn’t do that.”
I narrow my eyes at Eckhart as I meet his eyes again and realize he’s been watching me look him over. His lips remain in a line, but his eyes twinkle a little. He’s not laughing though—just a slight smile that sets me at ease even as I feel heat rise to my cheeks.
I consider insisting he call me by my first name, but the set of his shoulders makes me think that any effort to change his mind would be wasted. It’s hard not to be annoyed by the way people treat me now as if I weren’t the same person I was before. I tell myself that it doesn’t really matter, that this team is only supposed to keep me out of harm’s way until Monday and that I can put up with the formality for that amount of time, but it’s difficult.
Well, I can be formal and stick with last names as well and refer to him as Mr. Eckhart. Maybe that will keep my mind from wandering too much. I won’t have to try to remember
“This way, please.” He holds out his arm to direct me toward the rest of his team, and I tense slightly, but he doesn’t touch me. The last security head kept grabbing a hold of my arm until I finally screamed at him not to touch me. I can still feel the heat from Eckhart’s body close behind me, but I’m okay with that. It reminds me that he’s keeping others away.
There are five additional men in the entourage. Two walk ahead of me, one on each side, and two behind, but none of them makes physical contact, and I manage to relax a bit more. There is a crowd starting to form, and I can hear the clicking of people’s phones as they snap pictures, but I feel reassured by the protective shell the men around me create.
It’s strange that these men in suits aren’t making me panic. Maybe it’s because I know they’re being well paid to protect me. Otherwise, what sets them apart from the others I’ll be testifying against?
“The flight’s been delayed.” The guard in front of me turns around to speak to Eckhart.
“How long?” Eckhart asks.
Glancing toward the windows, I see the downpour of rain and flashes of lightning, but I can’t hear any thunder from inside the Atlanta Airport. As we close in on the gate for the next flight, hundreds of people are standing around, all waiting for their flights to be called. I want to sit down, but there isn’t an empty seat to be found.
“They’re changing the gate.”
Feeling like a cow in a slaughterhouse, I’m led to the end of the concourse and eventually get on the next plane headed for Washington, D.C. Eckhart is in the seat beside me—the first row of first class. We’ll meet another team from his company when we land.
As we settle in, the flight attendant offers us a drink. Falk refuses, but I’m not too proud to admit it sounds pretty good, and I order a rum and coke. I figure the caffeine could do me some good. I glance out the window as I sip at the drink. It’s still raining but not like it had been before. I look at Eckhart, but he’s checking out the passengers to our left out of the corner of his eye.
“How long have you being doing this?” I ask him.
“Four years,” Eckhart replies as he looks back in my direction.
“Is everyone you escort being hunted like I am?”
“Mostly government officials,” he says, “senators, representatives, and cabinet members.”
“Have you ever escorted the president?”
I’m impressed. If Falk Eckhart is good enough for the president, maybe I should relax a little and get some sleep. He certainly seems to be aware enough of everything going on around us, so I should be safe.
Such a simple little word. I haven’t felt safe since I was nine. That’s when my fourteen-year-old sister, Heather, disappeared. We had no idea what had happened to her. It wasn’t until I was at work years later when someone in accounting asked me to check on a data discrepancy that I discovered the truth. One little transaction lead to so much more, and my life has been upside down ever since.
The captain’s voice comes over the intercom.
“Apologies everyone, but I’m afraid we’ve got some bad news. We’ve hit our maximum flight time, and we’ll have to head back to the gate.”
“What does that mean?” I ask.
“Flight crews have a maximum number of hours they can work,” Eckhart explains. “If we take off now, they’ll go over the limit. We’ll have to wait for another crew.”
“How long will that take?”
“They’ll have to locate a fresh crew. It will be hours.”
I check my phone for the time. It’s already after nine o’clock. It will be the middle of the night before we reach our destination.
I listen to the grumbling and exasperated sighs of other passengers as they drag out cell phones and start contacting loved ones to inform them of the delay. Eckhart taps on his phone and sends a message to the rest of his group to come back to the gate.