The much anticipated fourth book in the highly acclaimed Age of Embers series is available now! Brace yourself for the next blistering installment of this post-apocalyptic adventure series by bestselling author, Ryan Schow! The Age of Exodus is perfect for fans of Matthew Mather, Jack Hunt, Mike Kraus, Boyd Craven, Kyla Stone and James Hunt.
Two thousand miles of hell lie ahead…
Tragedy has claimed its pound of flesh from the Chicago survivors. Homeless, low on supplies and struggling to find weapons, the group weighs the dangers of squatting in Chicago against the merits of reuniting with Rock in California. No matter the choice they make, the weeks and months ahead will exact a devastating toll. The measurement of such losses will be incalculable. Some will make it. Others will make their final stand. But who will they become along the way? And what will they risk for each other when all hell finally breaks loose?
The Age of Exodus is an emotional roller coaster ride with plenty of peaks and valleys, a few shocking twists, a handful of well-timed laughs and all-but-guaranteed loss of sleep. Before you head out with our survivors on the adventure of a lifetime, grab some caffeine, find a quiet place to read, then sit down, strap in and hold on because the ride is about to get bumpy…
* NOTE: The Age of Embers Series can be read as a stand alone series or in addition to The Last War Series. Both of these series are written in the same universe on the same timeline and some characters will overlap, especially in the series finale, The Age of Defiance. With tens of millions of pages read, more than seventy-thousand books sold, and hundreds of five star reviews, The Complete Last War Series is the perfect compliment to The Age of Embers Series.
ORDER OF BOOKS IN THE AGE OF EMBERS SERIES:
- The Age of Embers
- The Age of Hysteria
- The Age of Reprisal
- The Age of Exodus
- The Age of Defiance (Sept/Oct 2019)
ORDER OF BOOKS IN THE COMPLETE LAST WAR SERIES:
- The Last War
- The Zero Hour
- The Ophidian Horde
- The Infernal Regions
- The Killing Fields
- The Barbarous Road
- The Terminal Run
Release date: August 13, 2019
Publisher: River City Publishing
Print pages: 374
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
The Age of Exodus
DAY 1… We’re not going to make it. Not all of us. Maybe none of us. That’s what I’m thinking the second my eyes open. I look over at Adeline and she’s asleep, comfortable, her face bearing no expression. To see her relaxed these days…it’s nice. I watch her for a few minutes, listen to her breathe. Moving a strand of hair off her face, I take in every last detail. Then I think to myself, this is the woman I love, the woman I need.
But if I can’t protect her, if something happens to me…
Turning away, I lay back down, start thinking about what’s ahead, about what we need to do to put this life back together. Then I think about Eudora and again, I’m struck with the notion that we’re not going to make it.
The thing I know for sure is that from this moment on, I need to stay focused and on point. And I can’t bend to my emotions, or feed my fears.
I’m so pissed off at her right now. And so sad. I feel a hard shine touch my eyes, and a shaking in my chest. These sudden tremors have me taking a deep, stabilizing breath. Rolling over on my side, I think about finding Eudora. Her legs were sliced open and stained with blood, her body slumped over and pale. That wasn’t the worst part. It was her face. She had that slack look, not a hint of expression, and cold.
She was so cold.
I can’t even imagine what Draven must be going through right now. The man is so many shades of himself: a computer nerd, a boy who likes my daughter, a hunter, an up-close killer, now a grandson grieving the loss of the only family he had left.
Who will he be now? Will he be just one person? Or will he become many versions of himself—the grieving child, a hardened killer, an angry survivor in need of revenge?
I watched Xavier go through this. I saw that crazed light in his eyes and knew he wanted to set the world on fire. I watched his spine curl, his shoulders shake, his eyes drain for hours. He loved Giselle. Missed her every day. Lost his mind, killed, slaughtered, then crashed down on his knees to beg God for forgiveness. I’m still not sure if he’s going to make it or not. Would I? If one of my kids died, if Adeline…
Don’t think like that!
A hand slides over my side, settles on my chest. I warm to her touch, feel that soul-to-soul connection. My pinched features settle. Scooting next to her, I take her into my arms. My sweet Adeline. My wife.
“What are you thinking about?” she asks.
“You and the kids.”
“Yeah?” she asks, snuggling up to me, nestling her face in my neck.
“This trip we’re about to take, I’m not sure how it’s going to go, but I know one thing for sure,” I say.
“What’s that?” she askes between butterfly kisses below my earlobe.
“It’s going to be grueling.”
“At least we have each other,” she says, drawing my hair back in a sweet gesture. I feel myself smiling. The calm before the storm.
“Do you want to make the most of this morning?” she asks, a glint of need in her eyes.
Slowly nodding, I say, “Yes, Mrs. Dimas. I think I do.”
“We need so many things it’s almost overwhelming,” Ice said. “Food, water, sleeping bags, more toilets, toilet paper, lighters, a camp stove, kindling…”
“We’ll make a list,” Adeline interrupted, an odd freshness to her voice and spirit that Ice recognized not only in himself, but in Eliana.
“We need a windshield for the Barracuda, too,” Fire said, a weariness to him that wasn’t getting better. If anything, it was getting more obvious. Like a scream trapped behind a closed mouth. Or anxiety clawing to get to the surface, if only there was a way to relieve it.
Eliana came behind him, took his hand in hers. He looked down at her. She stood on her tippy-toes, gave him a kiss. He wanted to smile, but there was too much to consider. Plus she hadn’t showered in days. She was still beautiful, though. But she didn’t want to be beautiful. Not until they reached safety.
Is there such a thing as safety anymore? he wondered. Did anyone feel safe a hundred years ago? A thousand years ago? Were the Dark Ages peaceful? Even for a day?
Hell no. No on all accounts.
Looking into her eyes—this warrior of a woman, this young woman who scared him—she put him at ease, made him feel loved like he hadn’t felt in years. But as much as he had this new woman in his life, as passionate as she could be, he couldn’t stop thinking about the damned windshield.
It had been on his mind since last night. It had been on his mind since the second he and Fire kicked it out when they were mobbed back in Chicago.
There’s no way in hell they could travel the country with a hole in the front of the car. They’d burn up, freeze, get wind shear, get assaulted by bugs, debris, possible road raiders. But what options did they have?
“Do you really think we can find a windshield?” Ice asked. “It’s not like it’s a Honda, a Toyota, or for God’s sake, a Mazda.”
“We’ll have to be creative,” Fire replied.
“If we can find something close,” Ice said, “maybe we can try and rig it.”
“We have duct tape,” Nyanath announced as she walked into the kitchen with Nasr. The small boy was rubbing his eyes, just waking up.
Nyanath looked like she hadn’t slept a wink all night long. Her hair was pulled into a ponytail and sleep tugged at her eyes. Nasr put his arm around her waist. She covered his hand with hers.
“That will help for sure,” Fire responded, “but we have two thousand miles ahead of us. If we’re going to rig it, the glass has to be sturdy.”
“Let me rephrase,” Nyanath said. “We have LOTS of duct tape.”
“I’m hungry,” Nasr said, looking up at his sister.
“We’re all hungry, honey,” the attractive black woman said.
Xavier joined them in the kitchen, his gaze going to Nyanath, then to Nasr, and finally to the rest of them. Ice looked at his brother’s friend and former boss, and he wondered what he was thinking.
Nyanath was easy on the eyes, Xavier was a nice looking man. Both of them lost their special someone. Would they end up friends? Partners? Two people who needed salvation enough to lean in and bear the weight of the other when the full measure of grief came to exact its toll?
In the apocalypse—and that’s what this was—people needed each other. They needed comfort, love, something to look forward to, someone to make a life with if only to have something good and worthwhile in this God-awful existence.
For him, that was Eliana.
He knew he needed her, homicidal maniac with a death wish or not.
Then again, she’d say the same thing about him. Ice spent the last two years killing his way through his grief. It gave him a head start to this life, but it also showed him he couldn’t change the fact that his family was dead.
At least he had Fire, Adeline and the kids. And Eliana and Carolina. Now perhaps he would see his younger brother again, too. Was it a foolish notion to think they could all be together again?
Orlando and Brooklyn moseyed into the kitchen.
“Are we leaving today?” Orlando asked. “Because most of our stuff burned up back at the house.”
“We were just talking about that,” Adeline said.
Draven walked in and the room fell silent. “I’m going out to find food, gas, water.”
“I want to go with you,” Orlando said, surprising his parents by the look of it. “I just need to get my shoes on.”
Draven looked at the boy, almost like he was thinking about it, like maybe he didn’t want company but he had to be sure first. For a second, the long, silent stare pumped discomfort into the air, causing people to dry swallow and shift on their feet. Then Draven gave a slow nod and said, “Yeah, I guess.” The tension immediately fell away, but not for Ice. In all of that, Draven managed to reveal not one single expression, save for ambivalence.
Ice knew that look. He knew exactly how it felt. That’s how it felt when his wife was killed. It felt worse when he thought about his girls, too. The three of them…dead—that thought, the ripping, tearing, soulless tug of those emotions left his face with the same expression. That was all he felt for two years.
He still felt it.
Fortunately he had Eliana and his family to distract him, to renew in him some higher purpose. Back then, all he had was vengeance, hostility, rage.
Now, he had more.
* * *
While Adeline, Eliana and Nyanath scraped together a breakfast, Ice and his brother set out to look for a windshield. But first they took stock of their weapons.
“This is pathetic,” Ice growled as they went through what was left of their things on the back of the trailer.
“We lost it all,” Fire said.
Draven and Orlando walked past them, but Fire couldn’t help himself.
“Draven,” he said. The tall, blonde haired fighter looked his way, his eyes empty, lifeless, almost like he was on autopilot, not aware of anything as he went through the motions of the day. “Orlando is your responsibility.”
“I’m not a kid, Dad,” Orlando said. “Draven and I are about the same age.”
“No, you’re not,” Fire said. “Not even close. And he’s in charge, so what he says goes, got it?”
“Yeah, I got it.”
“You still okay taking him?” Fire asked Draven.
Ice heard the concern in his older brother’s voice, but Draven barely seemed to notice. He nodded his head in acknowledgement.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Fire said. Draven nodded again, his eyes dark and heavy, his expression vacuous.
When they left, Fire watched them go. He watched the entire time, almost like he was afraid he wouldn’t see his boy again.
When they disappeared around the corner, Ice said, “He’ll be okay. If anything, Draven’s more dangerous than ever.”
“That’s what worries me most. Orlando is too soft.”
“Even if it’s true, brother, don’t spout that crap. If what you just said gets back to Orlando, you’re going to either ruin him or give him a reason to get reckless. You know how we were, always trying to prove ourselves to Dad and Mom.”
“Don’t say her name.”
“I didn’t,” he replied quickly almost like no time had passed.
“I don’t care how much time has gone by, or how old we are. Rules are rules and we don’t bring her up.”
He put up his hands in surrender, then said, “Okay, man. Okay.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Brooklyn said from behind them. Ice turned and looked at his niece. She handed her father the tape measure he asked for.
Fire took it, then answered his daughter. “We’re discussing things before your time.”
“Such as go help with breakfast,” Fire said, no humor in his voice.
“Jeez, Dad,” she scoffed, walking off.
“Lighten up, bro,” Ice said, “we have a long road ahead of us.”
“You mentioning mom put me in a bad mood,” Fire confessed. Then, waving his hand like it was no longer worth discussing, he hopped up on the hood of the purple beast and said, “Let’s figure this windshield thing out.”
While measuring the opening for the Barracuda’s windshield, Ice let himself get lost in their childhood. The three brothers had been thick as thieves back then, bound together by the secrecy of everything they’d done together as kids.
Thinking of his own girls—how they were little angels compared to him and his brothers—he tried to imagine what his mother (she who will not be named) must have felt the first time they were escorted home in the back of a police car. Or how pissed off his father was that he was a cop and his kids were now deviants he had to cash in a favor to protect.
When Rock got caught peeking into the neighbor’s shower, his father whooped him so hard he didn’t walk straight for weeks. Fire took to him after that. The big brother interrogation of the little brother necessary to establish the pecking order. He made Rock tell him everything. Then Fire told Ice. Their neighbor, Cindy, had been a year older than Fire and she’d just gotten her boobs.
Rock held his head in shame as he described what he saw.
Fire and Ice took to peeking on her two weeks later, then got the same beating when Cindy caught them both with their wide, intrusive eyes on her brand new body parts.
Word got around the neighborhood that their mother raised a bunch of perverts. She didn’t raise them that way. That’s just how they were. Ice’s father said every boy has a natural curiosity about women and so it got around the block that Ice’s father was just as perverted as his boys. It was all his mother could do to keep her wits.
When Cindy snuck over one night to hook up with Fire, both Ice and Rock snuck into the bedroom and listened as their older brother lost his virginity. That month, they all lost their virginity to Cindy, which made it impossible to figure out which one of them got her pregnant.
“Boys will be boys,” their father said. He paid for the abortion, even though Ice’s mother insisted Cindy have the child. She wanted a grandbaby. But Cindy’s mother wanted to press charges instead.
That was what precipitated all of it.
When Ice’s mother went next door to confront the woman, she did so after having it out with their father. She was already hot. Already primed. It didn’t take much, but before long, there was a commotion on the front lawn. Their mother was kicking the crap out of Cindy’s mom and Cindy was calling the cops.
Cindy’s mother pressed charges, but she who shall not be named disappeared. No one knew where she went, but years later, their father told them she’d run off with one of his CIs (confidential informants), a younger kid with a drug problem.
Later, when Fire pulled the CI’s file, they saw a good looking dealer with a rough past but that extra something in his face—a smirk that touched his eyes, almost like it was amusing getting roughed up by the law.
Their father said the only saving grace was that when he was turning that little turd from a slap-dick pusher to a confidential informant, he got to beat him for like fifteen minutes straight.
That was their dad. That was also their mother. They never heard from her again. It was rumored, however, that the CI turned up dead with his head half blown off and his arms and legs broken.
When his father tried to track down his estranged wife, he was led to a man who was part of a body broker scheme. A body broker was someone who dealt with cadavers. He paid Mrs. Dimas almost $5,000 for the CI’s body, which—when he was pressed—he admitted to selling even deeper into the underground market. The CI’s surviving various joints were then sold to three different companies, which turned out about $15,000 in total profit. After that, the paper trail ended. No one ever heard about either of them again.
Now they were about to leave the only place their mother knew, meaning all the hopes they ever had that their mother would return home were now officially done. With their father dead, too, there would be no record of their departure.
“What are you thinking about?” Fire asked, hopping off the hood. He saw it in Ice’s eyes and Ice knew it.
“Just forget it,” he mumbled. “Did you get the measurements?”
Shaking his head, he said, “Yeah. I got ‘em.”
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