From the Ashes: A Post-Apocalyptic Survival Thriller: Nuclear Dawn, Book 3
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"This is one wild rollercoaster ride with all the drama, intrigue, and action-packed, pulse-racing thrills that makes for one electrifying experience."-Amazon reviewer
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From the ashes, heroes will rise...
Entire cities are hot zones. The nation's supply chain is crippled. Hundreds of thousands of citizens are homeless, hungry, and growing more desperate with every passing hour.
While the government scrambles to respond to the worst humanitarian crisis the United States has ever seen, Dakota and Logan are still trapped in Miami.
They may have fled the hot zone, but the insidious radiation can't be escaped. It's already inside them.
Their only chance to survive is to reach the nearest emergency hospital at the Miami airport, but deadly foes are determined to stop them. And in the background, unnoticed, a formidable enemy rears its head...
Don't miss the riveting post-apocalyptic nuclear survival series from USA Today bestselling author, Kyla Stone! Perfect for fans of Bobby Akart, T.L. Payne, Mike Kraus, and Grace Hamilton.
The complete series is available on ebook, paperback, and audiobook:
Point of Impact
Fear the Fallout
From the Ashes
Into the Fire
Release date: April 2, 2019
Publisher: Paper Moon Press
Print pages: 292
Content advisory: Rated PG-13 for mild language and moderate violence.
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From the Ashes: A Post-Apocalyptic Survival Thriller: Nuclear Dawn, Book 3
Dakota Sloane was a survivor.
She’d survived the blast from the nuclear bomb terrorists had detonated in downtown Miami. She’d escaped the brunt of the lethal fallout, fought violent gangbangers, and braved a burning house—all to reach her sister.
She’d done it. Eden was safe; she was alive. They’d both made it. Dakota could hardly wrap her mind around it. Despite everything that had happened over the last few days, Eden seemed okay. Pale and shaken, but okay.
Maybe the radiation just hadn’t set in yet.
Dakota kissed Eden on the forehead. She held her little sister tight, never wanting to let her go.
Eden pulled away first and fluttered her hands furiously, shaping them in a way Dakota recognized as sign language. She had no idea what any of it meant.
“Use this.” Dakota pulled the notepad out from beneath her shirt and thrust it into Eden’s dancing hands. The unicorn rainbow cover was sweat-dampened, the edges of the paper curled from the heat.
“I went into that burning house to find you,” Dakota said hoarsely, “but you weren’t there.”
“She was with me,” said a familiar voice.
Dakota stopped breathing. An icy chill skittered up her spine.
“Eden, come here,” the man commanded.
Before Dakota could react, Eden pulled free of her arms, leapt to her feet, and scurried out of reach. She dashed behind Dakota, toward the house. Toward the voice of the man Dakota had hoped never to see again.
Dread pooling in her gut, Dakota rose on trembling legs and turned around.
It couldn’t be. No. No, no, no…
The world sharpened. She saw everything, every color, every detail.
They were standing in the trimmed front lawn of someone’s fancy six-thousand-square-foot house in the exclusive Palm Cove subdivision. Smoke billowed into the darkening sky. To the east, at the end of the street, the unrelenting fire raged on.
The blaze had already consumed a half-dozen houses; it would reach them soon.
Watching them quietly, Shay Harris—the nursing student—knelt a few feet away. Her brown skin was ashen above her filthy clothes, and a faint bloom of blood stained the bandage wrapped around her head.
Logan Garcia, the tough Colombian ex-con, leaned against the trunk of a shiny red Tesla parked in the brick-paved driveway thirty feet away, arms crossed over his chest. Next to him, Julio de la Peña, the stocky Cuban bartender, finished his granola bar and stuffed the wrapper in his pocket. His gold cross glinted on the chain around his neck.
Patiently waiting at the end of the driveway were the first responders they’d rescued. Yu-Jin Park rested on the stretcher parked next to the curb, his broken forearm splinted with scavenged pieces of pipe. Nancy Harlow, the female first responder and casino security guard, bent over him and held his uninjured hand. The empty M4 nestled on the stretcher next to Park’s leg.
Dakota swayed on her feet as a sickening wave of dizziness lurched through her. She was still light-headed from the smoke inhalation. Her throat was raw, her lungs scorched. Her head pounded with a vicious headache, and her bandaged hands stung from a dozen cuts.
But none of that mattered.
“You should sit back down, Dakota,” Shay said. “You need to rest…”
Dakota heard her voice from some distant, far place. Everything faded away—almost everything. Except him.
A man stood a dozen yards away, hidden in the shade of a magnolia tree planted in the center of the manicured lawn. He remained in the shadows, his hand slung loosely over the pistol at his hip.
She knew exactly who he was, what this meant. In her jubilant reunion with Eden, she hadn’t even noticed him. Silently, she cursed her lack of situational awareness. But there was no time to berate herself now.
She could hardly force oxygen into her tortured lungs. Her heart was a fist in her throat.
No, no, no…
She’d made it so far, come so close…
“I saved her from that fire,” the man said, mirth in his voice, as if there could possibly be anything to laugh about. “Good timing, wouldn’t you say? Almost like a divine appointment.”
“He said he’s your brother.” Logan glanced from Dakota’s stricken face back to Eden, who nestled next to the man, happily gazing up at him with a delighted, earnest trust that twisted like a knife in Dakota’s belly.
Of course, Eden trusted him. She didn’t know.
Dakota had made the decision not to tell Eden the truth. She’d thought she knew better, trying to protect her sister the best she could.
But if she was completely honest with herself, she knew it was because she couldn’t bear the thought of Eden discovering what she’d done. It had been so much easier to allow Eden to continue to trust her blindly, without the complications of the harsh, bitter truth between them like an unbridgeable chasm.
Deep down, Dakota was terrified that Eden would never forgive her.
Now her choices had come back to bite them both in the ass.
“Maddox,” Dakota whispered in a strangled voice.
The man stepped out from beneath the shadow of the tree, Eden at his side. He slung his left arm around Eden’s shoulder, his right hand still resting carelessly on the butt of his gun.
Like he was just a friendly family man. As if his every move wasn’t a threat.
She knew better.
Maddox Cage was always ready, always prepared.
His movements only appeared languid and casual to the others. His narrow shoulders were slightly hunched, his neck and spine stiff. Every fiber of his being strained with tension like a rubber band about to snap.
At twenty-three, Maddox had the grim, rough handsomeness of a man several years his senior. His face was long and angular, his features even, his dirty-blonde hair shorn close to his skull.
He was lean and rangy as a stray dog—tough, powerful, and dangerous.
Over the last three years, she had only glimpsed him twice, but he remained exactly as he’d looked in her memories—and her nightmares.
Yet now his pallor was tinged a sickly, unhealthy yellow, his lips dry and cracked, his sharp blue eyes glassy with fever.
He’d been exposed to radiation. How much, she didn’t know.
Not enough to kill him or slow him down. Not yet, anyway. Otherwise, he still looked as strong as a horse.
Shay clapped her hands in delight. “Oh, a family reunion! How wonderful!”
Maddox grinned at her with a flash of white teeth. “It’s some kind of reunion. Isn’t that right, Dakota?”
Dakota’s fingers twitched, desperate to go for the Sig Sauer pistol holstered at her belt, but Eden was right there in the line of fire. And in the time it would take to draw her weapon, Maddox could do whatever he wanted to Eden. Put a gun to her head. Slit her throat.
Eden should be the last person on earth Maddox would ever hurt. But then, she’d once believed that about herself. She knew better than to discount any possibility.
Like his father, Maddox Cage was capable of just about anything.
She couldn’t do a thing to stop this from happening, and Maddox knew it.
“It’s so good to see you, Dakota.” His words sounded real, his smile genuine. It even lit up those feverish blue eyes, drawing her in with disarming warmth. “I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve missed you.”
Dakota was never quite sure whether it was a ruse, or if he truly believed in his own goodness. He was a man of many faces: at turns kind, indifferent, or cruel.
He kept you off-balance, using your own weaknesses against you, twisting tenderness and affection into weapons wielded to control, to dominate.
But Dakota wasn’t a scared, timid sixteen-year-old anymore. She knew better now.
She knew what he wanted, what he’d come for.
A hundred yards to the east, the raging fire consumed house after house, hissing and crackling. To the west, at the other end of the cul-de-sac, an elderly couple stood on their front porch, pointing at the fire.
A few houses closer, another couple ran out of their house clutching several suitcases, headed for the new Ford-150 parked in their driveway. No one paid them any attention.
Some people here had sheltered in place after all. Now, with the fire, they were forced to flee.
The sun sank slowly toward the horizon, twilight hovering at the edges of the sky. The breeze cooled her feverish skin, though the heat was still oppressive. Somewhere, a bird burst into song.
It could almost be a normal, everyday evening—but for the smoky stench stinging her nostrils and the fear stuck in her throat like a hook.
She could still fix this. She had to fix it.
She dragged her gaze back to Maddox. Her bandaged hand inched toward the butt of her gun. A coughing fit gripped her. When she could breathe again, she glared at him.
“You shouldn’t be here,” she said hoarsely. “You don’t belong here.”
“I have a right to be here more than you do,” he said, still smiling. He licked his cracked lips. “We both know that.”
She swayed on her feet, dizzy from the lack of oxygen, from whatever damage the smoke inhalation had done to her lungs. “Eden, get away from him. Right now.”
Eden gestured something that Dakota couldn’t understand, her expression bewildered. She remained at Maddox’s side.
“Easy now, Dakota,” Maddox said smoothly. “I think the smoke inhalation did something to your head. It causes confusion and mental changes, doesn’t it? You know me. We’re family, right?”
His gaze shot to the holster at her hip, to her fingers creeping toward the butt of the Sig. His eyes sharpened, glittering like a predator’s.
He gave the smallest shake of his head. Don’t even try it.
Defeated, she lowered her hand. Helpless anger, fear, and hatred slashed through her veins. “You’re nothing to me,” she spat.
Logan was up off the fender of the Tesla now, on edge and alert.
He hadn’t reached for his own weapon yet; he was smart enough to know that would instantly escalate an already tense situation. But she caught the twitch of his fingers. He was ready to draw his pistol if needed.
Shay and Julio stared at Dakota, too startled by this abrupt turn of events to say or do anything. At the curb, Harlow and Park watched silently, their faces perplexed, eyes wide.
No one understood what was really happening here.
“Dakota, what’s going on?” Logan asked.
“I can explain,” she said, her voice cracking, panic creeping in.
“Why don’t I give it a try?” Maddox tightened his hold on Eden’s shoulder. “I’m sure I can explain everything just fine.”
“No,” she whispered. “You can’t.”
Maddox smiled at her, sharp as a blade. His pale skin and sunken eyes gave him a gaunt, almost ghoulish appearance. Even sick, he still had that keen-edged hunger in his gaze.
He was the kind of man who was never satisfied, who always craved what he didn’t have, who always wanted more.
All the old terrors she’d worked so hard to defeat came roaring back.
A tremor went through her body, like she was standing too close to the edge of a cliff, about to fall. Her bones vibrated beneath her skin. Her heart shuddered inside her chest.
The brands on her back throbbed—just like the moment she’d received them at Maddox’s hand. The stench of scorched skin and hair. The red-hot burning jabbed into her spine, like boiling oil sizzling her flesh.
And his words, hissing in her ear: For the Lord shall execute judgment by fire…you deserve far worse. You know that, don’t you? But I am merciful, because I love you…
She swallowed the acid stinging the back of her throat. Her knees trembled, but she forced herself to remain standing. “You need to leave. Just turn and go, right now.”
Maddox turned to the others. “My name is Maddox Cage. And I am Eden’s brother.”
“Eden’s—?” Logan’s bewildered gaze flicked from Eden to Dakota to Maddox.
“She told you they were sisters, didn’t she?”
“We are!” Dakota croaked.
“She’s a liar, too,” he said with relish. “And a thief.”
“No,” she said weakly. “No—”
“Dakota Sloane is no sister of Eden’s,” Maddox said in triumph. “Dakota is her kidnapper.”
Eden stared at Dakota in confusion.
She’d been overjoyed when her brother found her, trapped in the stifling, pitch-black bathroom, frozen in terror as the stench of gas grew stronger, as the rank smell of burning fabric, plastic, and drywall mingled with the swirls of smoke sifting through the cracks around the door jam.
She didn’t know what she was supposed to do. The terrors outside that closed bathroom door—lethal radiation, a bombed and ruined city, death and destruction everywhere, her own house on fire—loomed so large she’d been utterly overwhelmed with paralyzing fear and indecision.
At first, she thought it was a figment of her imagination—a hallucination due to dehydration and lack of food, or the choking, disorienting smoke.
The door abruptly jerked open, a male voice cursing. The towel Eden had pushed into the crack was caught beneath the door.
Panic surged through her veins. She shrank back against the cool porcelain tub. That wasn’t Dakota’s voice. And it wasn’t her foster parents, Jorge or Gabriella Ross, either. Jorge’s voice was higher, almost musical, while this voice was deep and rough like gravel.
Maybe it was someone coming to hurt her. A thief robbing the house or worse, looking for a girl like her to hurt…
And then she heard her name. “Eden! Are you in there? Eden!”
Her heartbeat stuttered in her chest. Was that…? Was it even possible? How could it be? If she was delirious—if she’d drifted into a fantastical dream as she lay dying—she didn’t want to wake up.
She couldn’t call out to him. Her mangled voice wouldn’t let her. She whistled instead. Her tongue was thick and swollen, her lips cracked. It barely made a sound.
“Answer me!” the voice shouted. “Eden!”
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