Edge of Valor: A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Survival Thriller: Edge of Collapse, Book 7
Grab the epic final installment in the Edge of Collapse series now!
When the country goes dark, ordinary people find themselves facing the end of the world as they know it. With society collapsing before their eyes, they'll have to risk everything to protect their home and the people they love.
From USA Today Bestselling author Kyla Stone comes Edge of Collapse, a riveting EMP survival series featuring flawed, complex characters and high-octane action adventure. Perfect for fans of Ryan Schow, Grace Hamilton, Harley Tate, Jack Hunt, and Boyd Craven.
*Rated PG-13 for mild language and moderate violence*
Release date: March 28, 2021
Publisher: Paper Moon Press
Print pages: 388
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Edge of Valor: A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Survival Thriller: Edge of Collapse, Book 7
DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWO
The pungent scent of antiseptic burned Liam Coleman’s nostrils.
The pain was worse. Much worse.
He groaned as he sank onto the cot and eased out of his chest rig. Everything hurt. His bruises had bruises.
He placed his Glock 19 and the M4 beside him. His fingers left smears of blood on the white cotton sheets. He needed to clean and reload his weapons.
“You again!” Evelyn Brooks snapped on her latex gloves and rushed to Liam’s side. Her voice was stern, a frown lining her smooth brown skin, but she couldn’t hide the concern in her eyes. “I thought we talked about this.”
He grunted. “Did we? I don’t recall.”
Evelyn checked his distal and pedal pulses. “No fighting. No saving the world until your injuries have healed. Remember that conversation? I believe we’ve had it multiple times.”
“I claim plausible deniability.” He didn’t remind her that she was at Molly’s home when he’d left to rescue Quinn. She had known where he was going.
Judging by her flinty expression, this wasn’t the best time to mention it.
Instead, he grimaced and shied away as she reached for his bloodied shirt to check his gunshot wound. He already knew it had reopened. He already knew it was a problem.
“Liam Coleman, hold still and stop acting like a big baby. I need to examine you.”
Despite the blood-clotting granules and dressings he’d applied in the field, blood leaked down his ribs. His spine felt like he’d been kicked by a horse.
Liam angled his chin at the doorway. “Check her first.”
Sixteen-year-old Quinn Riley limped into the makeshift medical bay formed out of several classrooms at Fall Creek High School. Desks were stacked in one corner, cabinets lining the wall, kerosene lanterns on the counters next to piles of bandages.
Hannah Sheridan held her around the shoulders as she led the girl to the empty cot across from Liam. Ghost trotted beside her, his shoulder pressed against her outer thigh like he was holding her up, too.
As soon as Hannah had settled Quinn onto the cot, Ghost padded across the dingy carpet and pressed his muzzle against Liam’s knee. His long, plumed tail swept the floor.
The Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog was huge, the size of a small pony, one hundred and forty pounds of solid muscle beneath a coat of thick white fur. He let out an unhappy whimper, as if both chagrined that he’d missed the battle and worried for the welfare of his charges.
It took every ounce of energy Liam had left to raise his hand and pat the Pyr’s massive head. “It’s okay, boy. We made it out okay.”
By the skin of their teeth. But he didn’t say that part aloud.
Ghost pricked his ears and tilted his head, intelligent brown eyes gazing at Liam in a way that implied he didn’t believe Liam for a second.
Evelyn strode across the room to Quinn’s side and bent over her, checking her vital signs with a brisk, detached efficiency. Her training as an ER nurse took over, her face revealing nothing as she assessed the girl’s injuries.
She tsked. “Taking after Liam, I see.”
Quinn didn’t answer. Her head lowered in pain—or shame. Shen Lee darted into the room, a neat stack of white towels in
his arms. Startled, the pediatric nurse shifted his gaze between Quinn and Liam.
They looked like they’d just returned from a battlefield. Which they had.
“We need more antiseptic,” Evelyn said.
“We’re running out—”
“Then get me salt. And clean water. We need to irrigate and
disinfect these wounds.”
She rattled off a list of needed supplies. Lee nodded once and
slipped from the doorway.
“And get Bishop,” Liam called after him.
With a wince, he returned his attention to Quinn. Worry
slicked his insides. Not for himself, but for the fierce teenage girl he’d pulled from Vortex Headquarters.
Quinn slumped on the cot, her head down, clumps of blue- black hair hanging in her face. Blood caked her torn, dirtied clothes. Her lip was split, the lip ring torn out, blood still dribbling down her chin. And she’d sliced her palm with the knife she’d used to kill Sutter.
She’d gotten the snot beaten out of her, and then some.
“I wouldn’t want to see the other guy,” Hannah said.
Quinn’s narrow shoulders stiffened. “The other guy is dead.” Hannah and Liam exchanged a grim glance. Her chocolate
brown hair was tugged into a practical ponytail. She wore jeans, her big cowboy buckle, and her oversized brown jacket, her pistol’s telltale bulge in the righthand pocket.
To Liam, she was as beautiful as ever.
Hannah didn’t have Charlotte or Milo with her. They must be with Evelyn’s husband, Travis, who’d taken to grand-parenting Liam’s infant nephew, L.J., like a duck to water. The Brooks had taken Hannah’s children under their wing, too.
“Sutter,” Liam said. “Quinn killed Sutter.”
Hannah’s skin paled, her green eyes darkening with concern— and anger. Liam shared her sentiment.
At least Quinn had eliminated the scumbag. Liam had seen Mattias Sutter’s slain corpse at the Vortex warehouse with his own eyes.
Outnumbered, he and Quinn had fought their way out, battling both the half-crazy nihilist gang led by Xander Thorne and a surprise attack by a private paramilitary force.
They were battered and bruised, but they’d survived.
Thanks to the aid of James Luther, who’d provided overwatch and eliminated a team of armed contractors about to overwhelm them.
Luther, the same former militia member who’d set fire to Noah’s home with Milo sleeping inside. The same man who’d turned informant and helped them beat the militia.
Liam despised him, too, but the man had saved their lives. Unsure what to do with Luther, Liam had stashed him in a safe house outside of Fall Creek.
But that was a problem for later. They had more immediate concerns.
Lee returned with a jug of sterilized water, canisters of salt, and a stack of bandages and set them on the counter. He pulled medical supplies from the cabinets that shared space with beakers, petri dishes, and microscopes for science classes. The air smelled of Betadine and bleach.
“Is anything broken?” Hannah asked Evelyn. “Will she be okay?”
“Check her ribs,” Liam said.
Evelyn shot him an exasperated look. “Already done. I am a medical professional, you know.” She finished her examination. “Quinn, you’re extremely lucky. No broken ribs. Several deep bruises and lacerations we’ll need to take care of, though. Including that hand.”
Lee brought over the supplies from the counter. He handed Evelyn a water bottle.
“This is a homemade solution of saline,” she said. “We’ll use it to flush your wounds, remove debris and bacteria, and inhibit its growth. Salt draws moisture from bacteria, which destroys it.”
Using a clean nail, she punctured a hole in the container and squeezed, using the narrow stream of saltwater solution to clean the cuts in Quinn’s hand.
Evelyn patted Quinn’s shoulder. “You need to rest and recuperate. You understand?”
Dully, Quinn nodded.
“And you,” Evelyn admonished Liam. “For once, you must take it easy—”
A commotion came from the hallway. Voices raised. Rapid footsteps.
Liam’s heart rate spiked. Ignoring the flare of pain, he reached for his Glock.
DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWO
The staccato click, click, click of a cane echoed off the tile floor. “Where is she?”
Lee attempted to block the door. “Molly, you shouldn’t see her like this—”
“Don’t you presume to tell me what I can and cannot do!” Molly Dũng snapped. “Try and stop me, see what happens. I guarantee it’ll be over my dead body! Or more accurately, yours!”
Liam let out his breath and released his hold on the Glock.
Molly pushed Lee aside, who threw up his hands in defeat and stepped back. “Yes ma’am.”
The old woman hobbled into the room, cane smacking the floor, sharp blue eyes peering from the wrinkled span of her face.
With an abashed expression, Lee trailed after her.
Molly caught sight of her and blanched. She gave a sharp, startled gasp. “Oh.”
She’d probably planned a royal tongue lashing to put her rebellious granddaughter back in her place. The horrific sight of the beaten, bloodied girl was enough to stay anyone’s tongue with pity. Even Molly’s.
Quinn looked up through the matted locks of her hair. A mix of dread, guilt, and longing tinged her swollen features.
“Gran.” Her face crumpled. “I’m—I didn’t mean—I’m sorry.”
“Hush, child.” Molly’s cane clattered to the floor. She shrugged off the Mossberg 500 shotgun, leaned it against the wall, and shuffled to her granddaughter.
She leaned forward and cupped the girl’s mangled face in her hands with incredible gentleness, as if cradling a fragile baby chick.
Before she could say anything, the hulking form of Atticus Bishop filled the doorway, his billowy afro making him appear even larger. Pastor of Crossway Church on Main Street by day, super soldier by night.
“Where’s my girl?” he boomed.
Three more figures crowded into the room. Dave Farris, the owner of Fall Creek Inn, ham radio aficionado, and town council member, and Jose Reynoso, the newest Fall Creek Police Chief. He was quiet and easy-going, solid as a rock.
Samantha Perez shouldered in behind them, her short black hair pushed behind her ears, an aggrieved scowl on her face. Her law enforcement uniform was wrinkled, and fatigue lined her bronze skin.
For a moment, the medical ward went dead silent as everyone absorbed the shock of Quinn’s condition.
Dave removed his winter cap and twisted it in his hands. His warm smile didn’t fade, though his weathered face lost some color. “We’ve been worried sick for both of you.”
Never one to mince words, Perez flat out asked what everyone was thinking. “What the hell happened?”
In a halting voice, Quinn told them. Her meeting with Xander Thorne and his crazy band of nihilists in the woods. How she’d glimpsed Mattias Sutter. Her rash decision to go after them and kill him herself.
How Sutter had gained the upper hand and outed her, though they’d both ended up in Xander’s makeshift prison cell. The attack on the warehouse.
Their escape as she fought side by side with a killer. How when Sutter had turned on her, she’d stabbed him.
Everyone listened in rapt silence.
“How did you know where to find me?” Quinn asked.
“Milo,” Hannah said.
With a wince, Quinn closed her eyes and nodded.
“You gave me a heart attack,” Molly said. “I could’ve died from
worry. You’ve got good people who give a damn. Pardon my French, pastor. Don’t go taking that for granted.”
“I know,” Quinn said through split lips.
Molly jabbed her withered finger at Liam. “That goes for you, too, big soldier.”
Bishop shook his head, guilt in his eyes. “I should have gone with you.”
Liam waved a weary hand. “I asked you to keep them safe. They are. You did everything I needed you to do.”
“Still, you shouldn’t have to go it alone. No soldier should ever be alone. I should’ve had your six.”
Liam shrugged him off. The attention made him uncomfort- able. As a Delta Force Operator, he’d had a team of brothers. His army unit always had his back.
In the years since, though...
Before the Collapse, he’d sought isolation, hiding away on his homestead in northern Michigan. It was easier, safer.
And devoid of purpose, joy, or meaning, a voice in his head reminded him.
Here, he’d found all three. Here, he’d found Hannah.
“We made it home. That’s what matters.”
“They’re right,” Evelyn said. “You both have people who care
what happens to you. Getting yourself killed in the name of honor doesn’t help anyone.”
She handed clean dressings to Hannah to finish binding
Edge of Valor
Quinn’s palm and returned to Liam’s side. She unbuttoned his shirt and eased him out of it.
Cold air hit his chest, his skin pimpled with goose bumps. Old scars marred his torso—slashes from knives, circular white blem- ishes from a bullet or two, the raised nubs of shrapnel peppered across his bicep and left upper ribs.
Evelyn told him to lay back as she peeled the pus and blood- soaked bandages from his lower left side.
With a scowl, she pointed at the red pucker of his most recent gunshot wound. “You can die of an infection as easily as the next guy. You must allow yourself to heal. No more heroics.”
“Point taken,” Liam said. “But I’m afraid that won’t be possible.”
“What does that mean?” Perez asked.
“How can there be more?” Dave asked.
Reynoso kept his steady gaze on Liam, already expecting the
worst. “Out with it.”
“The Sinclairs,” Liam said. “There’s another one.”
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