No Safe Haven
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"This grabs you from the first page. It's fast action, on the edge of your seat suspense. You will not want to put this book down!"-Amazon reviewer
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Isolated at her family's wildlife refuge in northern Georgia, Raven longs to escape. Instead, she spends her days shoveling manure for bears and wolves—until her father contracts the deadly Hydra virus.
Desperate to help him, Raven journeys into town to get medicine, only to discover the outside world is collapsing into chaos. There are no police, no laws, and no hospitals. No one is coming to help.
The wildlife refuge she once resented now offers sanctuary—plenty of food, shelter, and the safety of electrified fences. Using the skills her father taught her, Raven knows how to survive.
But the threat is just beginning. A dangerous gang tracks Raven back to the refuge, and they'll stop at nothing to take what she has...
Raven can run. Or she can stand her ground, risking everything to defend the animals—and her home.
No Safe Haven is a fast-paced survival thriller perfect for fans of Hunger Games and Wolf Road. Set in the Last Sanctuary world, it can be read as a stand-alone or in any order within the series.
*Rated PG-13 for moderate violence and language.*
"This grabs you from the first page. It's fast action, on the edge of your seat suspense. You will not want to put this book down." -Goodreads reviewer
"If you like tough, strong, caring heroines, then you'll love Raven! Five big stars." -Goodreads reviewer
"An action-packed, fast-paced, heart-pounding read that hooks you from the start and reels you in for the duration." -Goodreads reviewer
"I LOVED reading Raven's story! There was an intensity in the pages I could feel! I could read it over and over." -Amazon reviewer
"A fantastic, unusual dystopia. Finally, something new!" -Amazon review
"What a wonderful book! You fall in love with Raven and her world." -Goodreads review
"Kyla Stone's best book yet!" -Goodreads reviewer
"I loved this book! This author did not disappoint, weaving together a striking narrative with realistic human decisions. I'd actually love to read even more!" -Goodreads reviewer
"Realistic and amazing." -Amazon reviewer
"Kept me up past my bedtime three nights in a row! It was worth the loss of sleep!" -Amazon reviewer
"Five stars. This is definitely a must read." -Goodreads reviewer
"I recommend it to everyone that loves suspense!" -Amazon reviewer
Release date: August 13, 2018
Publisher: Paper Moon Press
Print pages: 286
Content advisory: PG-13 for mild language and moderate violence. No sexual situations.
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
No Safe Haven
Silence could drown a person.
At least, that’s what Raven Nakamura’s mother had said three years ago—the day she left for good.
Her mom wasn’t quite right, though. It wasn’t silence. There were more sounds than Raven could count—the whirring of insects, the breeze rustling the elm and maple trees lining the flagstone paths, and the constant calls, screeches, hoots, bellows, grunts, and growls of the numerous and varied exotic animals that lived here.
Maybe it was isolation that could drown a person.
More likely, her mom was simply full of crap, telling herself whatever would justify leaving her daughter behind.
Raven watched the swishing tail of the Siberian tiger lying twenty feet below her. He blinked at her, yellow eyes shining with a vicious, uncanny intelligence. A seven-year-old male, Vlad weighed over five hundred pounds, and stretched nine feet from nose to tail.
He was a creature of incredible power and beauty. Rippling orange fur striped with luscious inky black. A majestic head with a thick white ruff. Sharp fangs glinting from impressive jaws. Enor‐ mous paws that could rip a man’s face off. Every inch of him was formidable—and exquisitely lethal.
The tiger was just fine with isolation. They were solitary crea‐ tures by nature, nomads of the jungle. Or, in this case, of Haven Wildlife Refuge, the family zoo Raven’s father owned and operated in the rolling hills of northern Georgia.
Raven wasn’t afraid of being alone. She vastly preferred it to human contact of any kind. She’d gotten that from her father. It was her mother who couldn’t stand the loneliness, who hated it so much she preferred to leave her daughter behind and seek companionship elsewhere than stay.
Raven gritted her teeth. Usually, she was successful at keeping thoughts of her mother buried in a dark corner of her brain, shoved somewhere down deep. Out of sight, out of mind.
Except for today. October sixteen. Raven’s eighteenth birthday.
Ironically, the only person who’d remembered was the one who’d chosen to leave. Also ironic; her scatter-brained, over-emotional, depressed mother had managed to send the package three weeks early—which was fortunate, since the postal service hadn’t delivered the mail for nineteen days.
Scraps of clouds drifted across the sun, shining brilliantly in the cobalt sky. It was sixty-five degrees. She was dressed in her usual cargo pants, black work boots, and a loose T-shirt. Her mask hung loose around her neck, just in case.
It was a beautiful fall day—too beautiful for the dark tangle of emotions knotted inside her.
She held the small unopened box in both hands. She didn’t want to know what it was. She considered chucking it into the tiger enclosure so Vlad could rip it to shreds as part of his daily enrichment activities.
But if she threw it away unopened and unread, the little niggle of curiosity tugging at her would remain unassuaged. This was the last birthday she’d ever have here, which meant this was likely the last present from her mother she’d ever receive.
Raven shifted on the tiger house’s roof, leaning over the edge to catch a glimpse of her hiking backpack slumped against the steel wall. She’d spent the last week packing, stealthily scrounging supplies: snare wire for small animal traps, single person tent and sleeping bag, life straw and water filtration tablets, a tin cup, plate, and pan, flint and spare lighter, compass, toiletries, hunting knife, granola bars, and a few self-heating meal pouches.
She’d packed in secret, but she needn’t have worried. Her father noticed nothing unless it had to do with the exotic animals or the maintenance of the refuge. He barely noticed her unless he was instructing her in one of his favorite subjects: survival skills, hunting and zoology, or how best to scrub black bear urine out of concrete.
And now, with the keepers failing to show for the third week in a row, her father was pulling sixteen-hour-a day shifts just to keep it all running. She was right there with him, working until her fingers blistered, until her bones ached with exhaustion. But to him, it was like she didn’t even exist.
She ignored the pang between her ribs. It was just as well. Today she was leaving.
She’d had enough. Enough of people that only hurt her. Enough of this place that once seemed fascinating and magical but now only held dark memories of disappointment and regret.
She knew how to survive on her own. Knew what berries were poisonous, which plants and nuts and mushrooms were edible, how to track game and set snares, how to construct a shelter in the rain, or start a fire a dozen different ways.
Her family owned a hunting cabin fifty miles away. It was deep in the woods, far from humans, far from the chaos gripping the over‐ crowded cities. Most importantly, far from her dad and the sharp, bitter memories of her mother.
A person could be loneliest around other people. Living, worKing, and breathing right next to someone else—a stranger who shouldn’t have been that distant.
A loneliness that hurt more than actually being alone. Maybe her mother had been talking about that.
It was time to go, to strike out on her own.
No matter how much she wanted to, she couldn’t leave the gift unopened. She despised herself for her weakness, but she couldn’t stop herself.
Raven set aside the attached letter and slid her fingernails between the cardboard flaps of the box, slicing through the tape. She dug through the balls of Styrofoam and pulled out a small knife.
The handle was off-white, a polymer imitation of ivory, and carved in the shape of a howling wolf. The blade was short, slightly curved, and sharp. It was a whittling knife for the animals Raven used to carve and display on her bedroom windowsill.
She hadn’t carved anything in three years. Not since the day her mother left.
Raven sighed, disappointed in spite of herself. What had she expected? Last year, her mother had sent a ridiculous hoverboard— as if she’d forgotten Raven wasn’t ten anymore. The year before that, an old, preowned SmartFlex, which was useless, because she already had one—just as old, just as preowned, and stuffed in a drawer.
Her mother didn’t know her anymore.
She flicked the blade closed and shoved the whittling knife into her pocket. She didn’t want it, but she couldn’t leave it on top of the tiger house. A strong wind might blow it into the enclosure, and Vlad, who ate everything, would swallow it whole.
Her gaze landed on the white square of the envelope. Only her mother actually wrote letters instead of messaging. But then, the internet had gone sketchy weeks ago. Nothing was working anymore. Maybe her mother was smarter than Raven was giving her credit for.
Her stomach tightened. She didn’t want to read it. What was the point? It would only make her feel like crap.
Almost against her will, her fingers crept toward it. Giving in, she grabbed the letter, ripped it open, and skimmed her mom’s familiar precise, flowing script with eyes that had suddenly grown traitorously blurry.
There were the usual miss-yous and love-yous, each one like a stab to Raven’s gut. A few lines toward the end caught her eye. I’m coming to get you, her mom had written. With everything that’s happened, it’s too dangerous for you there.
Her heart lurched in her chest. She fumbled for the envelope and rechecked the date stamped on the front. Almost three weeks ago. Her mom said she was coming. For the first time in three years.
So where was she?
I’ve messaged your father so many times, but the connection here has been spotty this last week. I don’t know how long it will last. Hopefully, you have been sheltered from most of it, but things are bad. Everything is falling apart out there. I’m worried this is it. The end.
The Settlement is a safe place for us. There are good people here, and it is well-fortified. Until I come, wear your mask. Be careful. If, for some reason, I’m prevented from reaching you, then come here. Find good people you can trust. Whatever you do, don’t be alone.
I love you.
Raven balled the letter in her fist and crumpled it between her fingers. Her hands trembled, her knuckles whitening. Had her mother really found a safe place? Was she really going to leave it to come for Raven?
Raven clenched her jaw. Old pain sprouted in her gut, tangling her stomach in knots. What did her mom know? She thought she could ride in on a white horse and save everyone, yet she hadn’t even bothered to visit in all this time. She was the one who’d run off—who was she to decide to care now?
No thanks. Raven could handle things just fine on her own. She’d been taking care of herself for years—since long before her mother had left. Aiko Nakamura had abandoned her daughter long ago, seeking something she’d never been able to find.
Still, despite her anger and resentment, Raven’s breath quick‐ ened as she stared at the letter. If her mom had really tried to come, she hadn’t made it. Had something happened to her? Raven knew the commune where her mother had found refuge was near Elijay in the north mountains of Georgia. It was dangerous for a woman to travel alone in the best of times, especially through gang-controlled Atlanta.
There were a hundred things that could have gone wrong, a hundred threats—from the roving gangs of thugs and killers, the hungry, desperate people driven to steal, or worse, the millions of coughing, feverish infected spreading the virus.
Raven tried to tell herself she didn’t care, that it didn’t matter. But of course, it did. Her mother was still her mother, no matter how thick and bitter the distance between them.
A frantic shout splintered the air.
Raven jerked her head up, stiffening. She wasn’t supposed to be on the tiger house roof—ever—and if her father saw her hiking backpack…but no, it was the head zookeeper, Zachariah Harris. He was stumbling along the path at the top of the hill near the bobcat enclosure.
Raven hadn’t seen him in days, not since he first started cough‐ ing. Her father had insisted he quarantine himself, holing up in his loft above the Grizzly Grill, the park’s restaurant.
Wearing her N95 respiratory mask and plastic gloves, she’d tried to bring him food and water, but Zachariah had locked the door and shooed her away. “Your father would kill me,” he’d said with a grunt and a pained laugh that swiftly dissolved into a phlegmy, wracking coughing fit.
What was Zachariah doing? Why had he left his room? Was it possible he was getting better?
If he had the virus, it was unlikely, based on the vlogger reports inundating the newsfeeds the last several weeks. The same hope she’d clung to all week flared through her—maybe it wasn’t the infection. Maybe he’d only contracted the flu.
She took a steeling breath, slipped to the edge of the roof, crouched, and leapt to the ground. It was a long drop, but she soft‐ ened her legs and curled into a roll before scrambling to her feet, brushing off twigs, pine needles, and mulch.
She whistled one long note, two short ones—Vlad’s signal for food.
Behind the tiger house, in an area off-limits to visitors, she could get right up to the eighteen-foot fence. The rest of the enclosure was circled by a deep ditch surrounding a perimeter wall that was six feet high on the tiger’s side, but only four feet high on the visitors’ side, giving the illusion of close, unobscured proximity.
Vlad usually lounged on a rock shelf beside his shallow bathing pool, a waterfall streaming above him. The rocks were a polymer replica airbrushed to look authentically aged and weathered; the waterfall poured from a hidden PVC pipe.
Vlad sauntered over and eyed her, ears pricked, waiting impatiently. She pulled a piece of dried venison from her cargo pocket. Normally, tigers only ate raw meat, but Vlad had developed a taste for jerky. She took several steps back and hurled it over the fence. Vlad’s head snapped toward it. He pounced and inhaled the venison in a blink.
Vlad prowled back to the fence and pressed his enormous body against it, chuffing eagerly for a good petting like some hugely over‐ grown house cat. Tigers didn’t purr when they were happy or content; they chuffed, which sounded like a cough.
Carefully, on full alert, she pushed her fingers between the chain-link and scratched his thick fur along his flank, far from his dangerous jaws. He chuffed encouragingly as she felt the solid bulk of him, his muscles taut as cables beneath the lush softness of his fur. No matter how tame he acted, she could never let her guard down—not for a fraction of a second. Vlad was a magnificent crea‐ ture; he was also a voracious, powerful, and efficient predator. Once, she’d seen him take down a hawk in mid-flight a full twelve feet off the ground.
And this particular tiger had an appetite for his human keepers. At his last home, Vlad’s uber-rich owner would parade him before his aristocratic, elite friends on a gold chain during decadent parties —until the tiger attacked two people, killing one and horribly maiming the other in the time it took for a security guard to raise his tranquilizer gun and dart him.
Maybe that’s what they deserved for forcing an obstinate tiger to socialize. More likely, they’d taunted and abused him to the point of desperation, until he finally struck back.
She withdrew her hand. The tiger turned his great head, ears flicking, and gave her a lazy stare, as if affronted. “Don’t look at me like that,” she muttered.
Another yell drew her attention. Zachariah was closer now, stag‐ gering toward her. There was something…off about him, something wrong in the jerky way he moved, in the ashen pallor of his face.
Instinctively, she took a step back. She pulled the mask hanging around her neck up over her nose and mouth. She cursed herself for leaving her gloves in her room.
“Zachariah,” she said. “I thought you were sick. I thought—” Her voice broke off, her throat closing like a fist.
The Zachariah she knew was a spry and cheerful black man in his sixties, his skin the color of rich, damp earth, his face scored with deep wrinkles, his eyes always sparkling with humor. Zachariah had worked at Haven as head zookeeper for fifteen years, as much a fixture as Vlad or Electra, the park’s elderly, arthritic bobcat.
This Zachariah was something different.
His bloodshot eyes bulged, the veins bursting until his entire eyeball glistened crimson. Blood was smeared below both of his eyes and around his gaping mouth. His skin was gray, his face both simultaneously gaunt and bloated.
Red-specked foam glistened at the corners of his mouth. A fetid stench emanated from him, one with which she was well-acquainted from living among carnivores—the rancid odor of rot, of decompos‐ ing, maggot-riddled flesh.
Raven took another step back. A small part of her registered that she was too near the fence, but the horror crashing through her blotted everything else out.
She swallowed the acid rising in the back of her throat. “Zachariah, you should lie down—” Zachariah didn’t seem to hear her. He lunged at Raven, seizing her arms with an impossibly iron grip.
Behind her, Vlad gave a tense, uneasy growl.
“Help me!” Zachariah screamed, only inches from her face.
Blood-flecked spittle struck her cheeks, landed on her eyelashes.
His hands were burning on her bare arms. His whole body radiated a terrible heat. She tried to jerk away, but he was strong, impossibly strong. “Let go!”
“Save me!” he shrieked.
Terror spiked through her. The mask was a flimsy thing, useless this close. If a single microscopic droplet entered her system through her mouth, nose, eyes, or ears—she knew what would happen. She’d watched the newsfeeds reporting the overrun hospitals, the millions of sick—then billions, all dying and dead.
Zachariah coughed again, splattering phlegm onto her face. His cheeks were hollowed, spidered with swollen, pulsing, purple-black veins.
Behind her, Vlad was working himself into a frenzy. He slammed against the fence, letting out a savage, rumbling growl.
She looked up, still half-frozen in shock. Her dad was running up the path from the direction of the lodge and the park entrance.
He waved his arms wildly. “Get away from him!”
Finally, Raven wrenched her arm free. She stumbled back, her spine striking the fence for an instant—Vlad snarling, hurling himself at the chain-link—before she regained her senses and staggered away.
Vlad’s massive claws scraped against metal inches from where her head had just been, the fence shuddering from his considerable weight. The tiger wasn’t focused on her—his piercing yellow gaze swung between her father and Zachariah, his ears flattened, tail lashing.
Raven leaned against the wall of the tiger house, gasping for breath. “Dad.”
Her father stood between her and Zachariah, a tranquilizer gun gripped in both hands. He pointed the gun at Zachariah, the man he’d worked with every day for over a decade. His expression was taut, his eyes blazing. “He has it, Raven. He has the Hydra virus.”
Go home, Zachariah,” Raven’s father ordered, steel in his voice. He spoke calmly, but the tranquilizer gun pointed at Zachariah’s chest told a different story. “You don’t belong out here.”
Zachariah blinked at him with eyes red as blood. “You have to help me!”
“Go home right now.”
Raven tensed, unsure what her dad was prepared to do if Zachariah defied him, if he came at them again. He was delirious, too sick to understand what he was doing, to recognize his own aggression.
On her left, Vlad paced and snarled at the fence line, lips pulled all the way back from his gleaming fangs. He reared onto his hind legs, growling, and lunged against the fence again and again. Vlad despised guns—the sight of one always worked him into a furious frenzy—but Zachariah’s sickly odor and bizarre, jerky movements were unhinging him. She felt as unsettled as he did.
She stared at Zachariah in growing horror. He was barely recognizable as Zachariah, let alone a human. But his eyes, even reddened and rimmed in blood, were filled with an all-too-human emotion—terror.
“Please,” she whispered, her gut churning with dread, with that twisted, palpable sense of wrongness. “You’re hurting yourself. Please go home so you can rest.”
“Home,” Zachariah mumbled. He shook his head violently, as if he were shaking off fleas or gnats. He took a step back, then another. Raven’s father tracked him with the tranq gun.
The zookeeper coughed again, a harsh, retching sound. “I have to go…I have to…”
He never finished his thought. His gaze roamed, disjointed, jittery and frenetic, then with sudden focus, fixed upon Raven. He blinked rapidly. For an instant, he was lucid. He saw her. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, throat gurgling. “I didn’t mean to—I didn’t want to…I’m so sorry.”
He lurched away, staggering up the path toward the foxes, the zebra, and the bobcat, in the opposite direction of the restaurant and his loft.
Neither Raven nor her father stopped him. She was just relieved that he was gone for the moment, that the threat was past. Except it wasn’t. Heart still thudding in her throat, she tentatively touched her face. Her fingers came away wet with speckled phlegm and blood.
“He coughed on you,” her father said in a low, rough voice. “Did it get in your eyes or mouth?”
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