Dakota and Logan continue their treacherous journey to escape the city, but danger threatens at every turn. They must avoid uncontrollable fires, unstable buildings, and deadly fallout contamination.
Dakota knows of a place to ride out the coming chaos - a safe house deep in the Everglades. If Logan helps her rescue her sister, she'll take him with her.
But Dakota's past has caught up to her. Amid the radioactive ruins of Miami, someone is hunting her. And he won't stop until he has her...or they're both dead.
Featuring fast-paced action and strong, complex characters, the Nuclear Dawn apocalyptic survival series is perfect for fans of Harley Tate, Bobby Akart, Jack Hunt, and Grace Hamilton.
Please note: This audiobook is suitable for older listeners due to mild language and moderate violence in the story.
Release date: January 7, 2019
Publisher: Paper Moon Press
Print pages: 234
Content advisory: Rated PG-13 for mild language and moderate violence.
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Fear the Fallout: Nuclear Dawn, Book 2
ZERO HOUR MINUS THIRTY-FOUR MINUTES…
Thirty minutes before the first bomb detonated, a sea-green Honda Odyssey pulled up to the curb in front of the Smithsonian National Museum in Washington, D.C., just a few blocks from the Capitol Building and the White House.
A fading stick-figure family sticker peeled from the rear lefthand window. A bulging diaper bag sat on the floor amid wadded Taco Bell wrappers and a sippy cup.
A bulky cardboard box took up the entire rear of the vehicle, the kind that might house a compact fridge or shiny new front-loading washing machine. The mid and rear windows were tinted black.
No one bothered to give the minivan anything beyond a cursory glance. It looked like a thousand family minivans they’d seen before. Even the man who exited the vehicle—a middle-aged guy wearing jeans and a wrinkled Star Wars T-shirt, a Washington
Redskins cap shoved low over his forehead—aroused no suspicion.
After he paid the parking meter, the man strolled along the side‐ walk, diaper bag over one shoulder, a selfie-stick in one hand.
Just another tourist enjoying the fine, sunny day in the bustling Capitol of the United States of America.
No one noticed the second car—dark blue Ford Taurus, nonde‐ script—slide up next to him and open the door as he slipped inside. The car pulled into traffic and drove away, just under the speed limit, toward the Anacostia River.
The man in the Redskins cap shifted in the passenger seat of the Ford Taurus and checked the GPS. He punched in a saved number on a pre-paid, disposable phone.
“The time was moved up,” said the deep voice on the other end. “Did you receive the message?”
“We did. We’re in position,” said the passenger. “Everything is ready.”
The man on the other end grunted in approval.
“There is a time for everything under the sun,” the passenger said as he pulled a small device from his pocket.
“God be with us,” said the other man.
The driver said nothing. He did not honk at a jaywalking pedestrian as he pulled onto a less congested side street and parked in Giesboro Park off MacDill Blvd, almost six miles from Capitol Hill.
With one hand still on the wheel, he pulled a specialized pair of sunglasses over his eyes. The passenger did the same. He glanced at the clock on the dashboard. 12:37 p.m.
“The judgment begins,” he said.
The man pressed the button of the device he held in his hand. A hundredth of a second later, the bomb exploded.
In the instant of detonation, the core of the bomb scorched a blistering 300,000 degrees Celsius, fifty times hotter than the surface of the sun itself.
In less than a second, tens of thousands of people were cremated, instantly carbonized into charred, smoking ash. They were vaporized where they slept, stood, walked, sat, drove—simply gone.
The intensity of the thermal blast ignited birds in midair. Clothing, trees, dogs and cats, and cars spontaneously combusted. Steel liquefied, melting like wax.
The fireball shot above the city, expanding as it rose until it blotted out everything in a great flash of extraordinary brilliance.
It was as if the sun had fallen to earth.
After the flash came a deafening boom. And then the shock‐ wave, a towering wall of tremendous pressure slamming through Capitol Hill, crushing monuments and museums: the Smithsonian, the Capitol building, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court building, the Washington Monument, the White House.
Six miles from ground zero, the Ford Taurus pulled away from the park and entered traffic already pouring out of the city. There was still room to maneuver around the crashed vehicles and escape, though there wouldn’t be for long.
As the Taurus fled the city, the passenger twisted in his seat, staring back at the broiling, radioactive mushroom cloud swelling above Washington D.C.—not in horror, but with an awestruck thrill of vindication.
It was only the third time in history a nuclear bomb had ever been used against civilians.
It wouldn’t be the last.
ZERO HOUR PLUS FIFTY HOURS…
The sky over Miami was a dour, sullen gray-brown. In the distance, smoke rose in hazy columns over the shopping plaza rooftop.
Nineteen-year-old Dakota Sloane suppressed a shudder. She hated fire.
Dread tightened in her chest like a closed fist. She’d felt the same sense of foreboding before each foster or group home placement.
And she’d felt it often during her years at the compound—each time she was compelled to the mercy room, where the only mercy she’d ever received was the relief of unconsciousness.
Her skin prickled at the memory. Phantom pain radiated from the old burns across her back with a throbbing heat. She couldn’t see the scars, but not for a single instant did she ever forget they were there.
“Dakota?” Julio de la Peña, the middle-aged Cuban bartender, asked. He stood in the shattered doorway of the Walgreens and raked his hands through his graying black hair. “You okay?”
Two days ago, a nuclear bomb had exploded in downtown Miami, only moments after similar bombs detonated in New York City and Washington, D.C. Dakota and her companions had been lucky to escape with their lives.
Now, after two days holed up in a theater to avoid the worst of the radioactive fallout, they were venturing out into the city to rescue Dakota’s sister, Eden, and get the hell out of the hot zone.
Dakota lifted her chin. You faced the future with courage or cowardice; it was coming for you either way. Just breathe. “Ready.”
She pointed at the fine layer of grit filming the shopping plaza parking lot ahead of them, toward the vehicles, shopping carts, and palm trees. “Most of the fallout in the air is gone, but we still need to worry about radiation contamination from groundshine.”
“What’s that, now?” Julio asked.
“After the radioactive particles descend from the mushroom cloud, they land on the ground and mix with dirt and dust,” Dakota said. “Not just the ground, but on the surface of everything. Remember, radiation is invisible. You can’t see or feel it.”
“In other words, don’t touch anything,” said Logan Garcia. “Pretty much.” She pointed toward a road at the west end of the parking lot. “This way.”
Though it felt like a lifetime ago and a world away, they were still only five blocks from the Beer Shack on Front Street, a few miles from downtown Miami. Just in case they ever needed to run, she’d memorized the various routes to Eden’s house from both the bar and her apartment.
“We can take 9th Street north toward Wynwood for almost a mile and a half, then west a half mile, until we hit Bay Point Drive. Another half mile, then it’s a couple of small side streets to Palm Cove. My sister lives off of Bellview Court.”
“Palm Cove, huh?” Logan cocked his brows. “Nice digs.” Julio was looking at her strangely, his forehead furrowed.
She knew he was wondering about her insistence on being paid cash under the table, the mile-long walk she made to and from work to avoid bus and taxi fares. Her cheap Goodwill clothes. Her lack of credit cards, bank accounts, or a driver’s license.
Now here was her sister, holed up in a fancy gated community where every house featured a kidney-shaped pool with a spa and automated waterfall, their manicured lawns perfectly green even in winter, with maids and landscapers to care for it all.
“It’s a long story,” she muttered.
She didn’t owe them an explanation. It wasn’t any of their business.
Not even Julio knew she’d been a foster kid. And no one but Ezra Burrows knew where she and Eden had come from.
It was too dangerous.
She adjusted the shoulder bag and the strap of the M4 and strode into the parking lot, winding between dozens of stalled and abandoned cars as the others followed her in silence.
She took the lead, Logan at her side, Julio helping Shay hobble along just behind them. Shay would slow them down, but some things couldn’t be helped.
Even adjusted for the slower pace, they should still make it to Eden and escape the hot zone in time.
She forced herself to focus on taking in their surroundings. In every building—storefronts, apartments and condos, office suites— the windows and doors gaped like broken-toothed mouths.
Shattered glass and debris littered the ground. Portions of some walls and ceilings had collapsed, but most were still standing.
The sidewalks were too dangerous, so they walked along the middle of the street, weaving between the husks of cars, SUVs, trucks, and buses.
Hundreds of vehicles cluttered the roads. Several were crushed or overturned from accidents, but some suffered only dented fenders or hoods.
Still others remained in pristine condition, their flung-open doors the only sign that something had happened, that their inhabi‐ tants had fled for their lives.
As far as they could see, nothing moved anywhere: no people, no birds or squirrels. Nothing living.
“Where are all the people?” Julio whispered.
“Those not too injured by the blast, flying debris, and car acci‐ dents must have walked out,” Dakota said.
“Even for those people exposed to high levels of radiation, the symptoms won’t manifest for several days or weeks,” Shay Harris said. “Except in the worst cases, like the man in the theater.”
Shay winced and touched the bandage wrapped around her head. Less than an hour ago, she’d been shot by the first survivor they’d met, a Blood Outlaw gangster defending his newly stolen turf. Luckily, the bullet had only grazed her skull.
Even luckier, Shay was a third-year nursing student who had talked Dakota through her medical care. Sweat beaded her brown skin. Her thick, springy coils were matted with dried blood. But she was on her feet, albeit with Julio’s help.
“If they can get medical care in time, most of them will make it,” Shay said with forced brightness.
Dakota had her doubts, but she kept them to herself. They lapsed into a strained silence.
As they walked, she studied Logan out of the corner of her eye. He was tall, lean, and muscular. A few of his tattoos peeked out beneath his new long-sleeved shirt. Though he was only in his mid- twenties, he already had a tough, weathered look to him, his dark eyes hard and alert—when he wasn’t drunk.
He stared straight ahead. She couldn’t read his expression beneath the scarf covering the lower half of his face, but she didn’t really care. She was still furious at him.
The idiot gangbanger had swung the M4 in the air like a toy, giving Logan his opening. A bullet to the brain would’ve dropped the thug like a rock.
The scumbag would be dead; Shay would be fine. And without a distraction, the second gangbanger wouldn’t have escaped to give their descriptions to his gangster boss.
All because Logan hesitated. And for what?
He wasn’t a soldier after all. Then what was he, besides a liar, a drunk, and an ex-con? And what had he done hard time for?
Did it really matter? Everyone had skeletons in their closet, baggage they didn’t want anyone else to know about. She had her own secrets to hide.
But her secrets wouldn’t endanger the group. She had a dark, uneasy feeling that Logan’s secrets would.
What about Maddox? a voice niggled at the back of her mind. She pushed it away. If she warned them about Maddox, she’d have to tell them the whole sordid story, and that she couldn’t bring herself to do.
The shame and the fear were buried too deep. Even the thought of someone knowing filled her with a rush of hollow terror.
If Maddox appeared, she could just tell Logan he was a gangster and have him shot before he could get a word out. Or maybe she’d pull the Glock from Logan’s holster and do it herself. That was the better play.
Either way, she had the situation under control.
She hated depending on anyone but herself. Everyone in her entire life had only let her down. Her parents had abandoned her in death. Her Aunt Ada had refused to protect her from the punishments meted out at the compound.
Maddox had made her a hundred promises she’d been naïve enough to believe.
Then there were the indifferent foster parents and group home leaders, either cruel, incompetent, or simply too overwhelmed to notice the terrible things happening beneath their noses.
Only Ezra had never let her down.
Dakota was the one who’d abandoned him.
Depending on anyone but herself left her open and vulnerable. She despised that sickening, out-of-control feeling, that panicky tightening of her chest.
She gripped the M4. She’d give her right arm to have a few magazines full of 5.56 mm caliber rounds right now.
The world had still gone to hell, but at least she’d have some semblance of control.
But the M4 was empty. All she had was her tactical knife. And the only one with a loaded gun was also half-drunk.
At least now she knew not to trust him as far as she could throw him. But she still needed to get the truth out of him and assess the level of danger he posed to the group in general and her goals in particular.
The sooner she rid herself of him, the better. She cursed herself for not just stealing his pistol back at the theater and leaving them all behind.
That would’ve been the smarter move.
But it was too late, now. All she could do was figure out what to do going forward.
In her head, she ticked off the new plan: rescue her sister; get Shay to a hospital outside the hot zone; head west to the Tamiami Trail without being accosted by Maddox or any other desperate souls; lose Logan; make it to the cabin with Eden.
That was it. She had no thought beyond immediate safety.
Once they were at Ezra’s where they belonged, she’d create a new plan—one for their future.
Dakota stopped suddenly. Her entire body stiffened. “What is that?”
Logan Garcia already regretted his decision to leave the theater.
The sweltering heat was nearly intolerable. His sweat-damp clothes clung to his body, and the scorched air felt like it was choking him, cutting off his breath.
That all-too-familiar thirst burned in his throat, buzzed in his head.
The world was too real, too harsh.
He was far too sober. He needed to wash all this horror away.
Keeping the pistol in his right hand, he pulled out his flask with his left and gulped down several swallows. The cheap liquor burned all the way down. At this rate, he’d need to find another store to scavenge to keep up his supply.
They’d slowed down for Shay. Julio slung his arm through hers, helping her along as Shay leaned heavily on him. Still, they both lagged behind.
They made an unlikely pairing—Shay tall and willowy, at least 5’10, her wild coils framing delicate features, her rich brown skin beaded with sweat, beautiful despite the heat and her head wound; and Julio, a heavy-set Cuban in his fifties, 5’8 at most, red-faced and huffing.
“Sorry,” Julio panted. He pressed one hand over his soft, heaving belly. “I spend my days slinging bottles and concocting exotic drinks behind a bar. I’m not cut out for this.”
“None of us are,” Dakota said darkly.
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