“We can't fight evolution, only ride it out and hope the ending is in our favor.” Ryder Mattis
As a former Navy Seal, beating the odds is something Ryder excels at. However, the world has changed and his transformation into a vampire gives survival a whole new meaning. If that isn't enough to ruin his life, a plague unleashes utter destruction on humanity. He knows he has what it takes to protect those who survive even if they don't like his rules. What he doesn't count on is a female with stormy eyes and a will to live getting under his skin.
Kayla has lost everyone she loves to the red death. Surviving the plague is one thing, but a vow made to her dying father puts her under the protection of a predator. Surprised at how her body reacts to Ryder when he feeds, she has a hard choice to make. But when tragedy strikes and forces the vampire to give her his blood, she morphs into something no one could ever predict.
The new world doesn't come with a handbook and when fate brands them as potential mates, they are not prepared. They can either battle each other, or band together in a fight for survival. The future holds no guarantees, but being alone might be worse than death.
Release date: May 14, 2019
Print pages: 195
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Uprising: A Paranormal Romance Vampire Apocalypse Series
Ryder stared out the bank of windows at the city skyline, the buildings surrounded by gray clouds that threatened an early snow. Weeks seemed an eternity. One day he had been managing his nightclub after a brutal mission overseas where he and his Seal team had extracted a terrorist leader. The next he was fucking an exotic beauty only to have her bite him on the neck. His life changed that very instant. Blinding hunger tore through him and a dark need to tear out someone’s throat followed. He’d fought and won the battle. Learned how to feed without maiming anyone and started to adapt to his new life. Then the damn plague hit.
If he shoved away the knowledge locked in his brain and kept his focus to the sky, he almost believed things were normal. Might even convince himself he hadn’t been turned against his will into a creature who required blood in order to survive. Maybe even brainwash himself into thinking the world––as he knew it––coming to an end and losing people he cared about was simply a nightmare. Yes, if he stared long enough out the window, he might push the horrors away if only for a few minutes.
The problem was, his thirst for blood reminded him his humanity was now part of his past. When he swung his gaze to the streets below, the rotting bodies was another grim reminder of the death that surrounded all of them. Of the hell that had literally opened up and spilled its ugliness into his world. So much was wrong. So much different from only a few weeks ago. He hated it all.
A knock on the door brought him back to the present. A place he desperately wished to avoid.
The door swung open and the man he trusted like a brother entered. His heavy boots ate up the floor as he approached. “Ryder, I thought you might want an update.” Ace took a seat on the couch, the leather groaning under the weight of his muscular frame. The man’s presence in any room was hard to miss. Ace commanded the very air around him, always had, but since his transformation, he was different. It was difficult for Ryder to explain. Hell, who was he fooling, he couldn’t explain shit.
“How are you feeling?” Ryder asked his friend.
Ace rolled his eyes. “Fucking fine. Stop going all mother on me.”
“A lot is at stake. I need to make sure my team is functioning at its best.” He let out a chuckle. “Besides, I kinda am your mother.”
This time Ace snarled. “Fucker. Don’t make me regret the day I asked you to change me into a vampire.”
Ryder would never forget his friend coming to him and demanding Ryder turn the Navy Seal. Ace hadn’t shown an ounce of fear. Only determination to outrun the plague and survive. The same determination the man had shown his entire life. He had been a good candidate, and that was why Ryder had agreed to turn his best friend into a bloodsucker like himself. It had been risky but successful.
He moved from the windows and walked the expansive office. Most of Pittsburg had fled two weeks ago once word spread that the infection––aptly named the Red Death––had crossed oceans and taken hold of the major cities along both coasts. Those who hadn’t fallen ill ran for their lives. To where? Ryder didn’t know and no longer cared. He’d been protected by the archangel Tegan and the angel’s daughter Ashley, the Angel of Death. They had shared a little of their blood with him and the other vampires as an extra precaution against the plague.
They were fucked sideways. Unless a mortal carried angel or demon blood or somehow survived, their species would die out. Seemed the Almighty was tired of them pissing on his playground and was busy looking the other way, while his son Lucifer helped start an epidemic by unleashing a demon named Morbus. Otherwise known as disease, Morbus had been locked away in Hell, but now he was roaming earth spreading his infection. Here Ryder had thought the world would end from a nuking. How wrong he’d been.
A Navy Seal in his life B.A., now known as Before Arsenia––the female who’d made a snack of him and several others, thus starting the vampire species––made him resourceful. Perhaps it was a good thing he’d been turned because he had pulled together the best of the best. Many were his comrades and had watched his back more than once. One of them took up a large portion of his couch and currently scowled at him.
He and Ace had seen many battles together as Seals, and he trusted the man with his life. It also helped that Ace owned a warehouse down the street and had offered it up for the mission. Ryder had taken over and set up shop to prepare for the next leg of their journey.
“Seriously, how is everyone?” Ryder needed to make sure those he’d transformed into creatures like himself were faring well. When Tegan came to Ryder and explained about the plague, and then told him they were all on their own, Ryder knew he had to make some hard choices.
“I want to sink both my fangs and my dick into something soft, but I have a handle on it. So do the others,” Ace responded.
Ryder gave a curt nod. The reason he had chosen his Navy brothers was he knew they would be able to acclimate to the changes their body would go through. He needed strong men, trustworthy men beside him while the planet went to hell. It was the only way both they and humanity might survive.
“Good. I cannot stress enough what must take place if anyone breaks the rules.”
Ace’s dark eyes remained unblinking. “I remove their head.”
Another reason he had chosen his Navy comrades. They wouldn’t hesitate to carry out an order. It was how it had to be. No one could afford to have criminals in their midst. Ryder had bore witness many times in his life to the damage someone with a hunger for power could inflict. It was those memories––along with the knowledge that the Red Death would bring out the worst in any survivors––that caused him to promise protection to any who came to his door. In this, he refused to fail.
“We still have a line of people seeking refuge.” Ace shook his head. “It fucking sucks turning people away who are sick. This whole thing sucks on so many levels.”
“I know, but we have to be careful not to infect any who are healthy. We have no cure and don’t even know if we can keep the humans among us safe, but we will fucking try.” They were basically rolling the dice and taking a gamble that those they brought in survived. That was why it was imperative they get moving soon. The power grid had failed two days after the city was abandoned. Knowing he had to move fast, Ryder procured satellite phones and a couple ham radios as well as hand-held radios. His cell phone was now an expensive paper weight.
“How many have we accepted?” Ryder, along with the other three primordial vampires created by Arsenia, had put out the offer for refuge. Their requirements were high. Healthy females of child bearing age were accepted, no questions. They would be needed to repopulate the human race. As far as the vampire race, no one knew yet if they would be able to procreate, and if they did, what would their joining bear? At this point, he couldn’t even contemplate having children when he still fought an internal dark battle.
Only the most fit human males were offered the chance to become like Ace and him.
Vampires. Men who were strong with superior senses and likely a longer life span, but again no one knew for sure.
“We have thirty more men in today. Of them only five jumped at the chance to be turned.” Ace flashed a pair of pointed teeth. “Seems fangs haven’t become all the rage yet.”
“We can’t expect everyone to be on board. Women?”
“Started with thirty, but ten of those scattered when they heard our terms.”
Ryder scrubbed his face. In this decision he had to be a hardened bastard. The women entering their refuge must agree to become blood donors for the vampires as well as one day bear children. He felt like an ass, but at least he left them the choice of who would father their young. It was the females alone who would decide their destiny. If they wanted to settle down with one man or procreate with several, it was up to them. Women and children would be the future.
While vampires may or may not be able to donate to the cause of reproduction, Ryder could at least help the human race. He had been one, after all, before Arsenia had come along and ripped his life apart. He wasn’t sure if he should curse her or thank her.
“It is what it is. We will deal with what is handed us and move on. What choice do we have?” He walked back to the window. “We get ready to move out in three days. I sense storms on the horizon.” His senses were heightened since his turning. Something he was still getting used to.
“Good thing, cuz our generators have enough fuel to last until we depart. Otherwise, we have to go scouting again.” Ace left the room to carry out his orders.
There was a lot to do before they packed up and headed out. Ryder wanted to get everyone moving. Technology had already failed, and everything was going downhill fast. Not to mention the demons were still a daily threat. He wasn’t afraid of them, but it was just one more thing he didn’t want to deal with. It sucked that they had to travel to New York City when they were right here in Pittsburg. However, their current location had already been pretty much cleaned out of anything valuable. Ryder had word from a good source in New York that there were still places left ripe for the picking. Supplies were desperately needed.
Kayla shoved as much clothing and essentials as she could fit into her backpack, trying not to stare at the gruesome, black-skinned beast sprawled on her bedroom floor. Was this the one who caused the Red Death? The plague started about the same time as the appearance of the monsters. She remembered being horrified as she and her family stared at the television. News had first come from Peru where some strange events were happening. First, there had been an odd force surrounding Machu Picchu. While there, newscasters captured footage of an actual angel who had saved a female reporter from a terrible fall.
It hadn’t been long after that when the footage of monsters and people dying in the streets had been broadcast. Kayla believed the monsters to be demons. It’s what everyone said, besides what else could they be? What other than demons would have brought angels to the earthly plane? Her small town of Franklin had been a buzz of conversation and prayer. Many said it was the coming of the end, and angels were being sent to save those worthy. Her family had been worthy, yet they had all been taken from her. Allowed to die a horrible death. Her gut rolled and threatened to heave its contents, but she swallowed hard and forced everything back into place. There was a time and place for emotions. Today wasn’t the time.
The beast on the floor stirred. A groan slipped from its sawtooth mouth.
“Shit. I put a knife in your chest,” she yelled as she pulled the Ruger from the back of her waistband and pointed. Aiming between the eyes, her heart pumped so fast it threatened to send her to the floor in a heap of unconscious flesh and bone.
Suck it up, Kayla, and shoot.
She followed her mental orders and everything her father had taught her and squeezed the trigger. The bullet left a hole between the monster’s eyes and a splatter of red on the wall finally hushed its moans. Kayla went back to packing then made a hasty exit. At the bottom of the stairs, she took one last look around her childhood home and forced back tears. Her entire family now dead from the Red Death. A common cold that had turned into green pus-filled sores and then caused their demise.
Her mother was the first to show symptoms, and seven days later, the woman had bled through her skin, nose, eyes, and ears until she was dead. It had been horrific and something Kayla was sure she’d never be able to wipe from her memory. Next, her little sister caught a cold that had followed the same progression. When two weeks passed without her father getting sick, Kayla hoped they were in the clear, considering they stayed away from town. Her hopes were dashed when not only her father but Dylan, her boyfriend of two years, had taken ill. Kayla was now alone in the world. She stared at the pistol still in her grip and thought about pressing it to her temple. She could end it all, right here. Right now. As a tear escaped, she recalled her father’s last words.
“Run for your life. Get to Pittsburg, and no matter what, you survive. Survive for us and our memory.”
It was a tall order or, in her father’s case, a command that was difficult to obey and hard to ignore. The letter her father managed to scrawl out before he passed, begging Ryder Mattis to take care of his daughter, was tucked safely in her back pocket. Her father said he trusted Ryder with his life. Seemed her dad knew the man from his Navy days. Had been Ryder’s commander and actually had trusted Ryder with his life. Ryder’s broadcasts had come across their ham radio days earlier when he’d promised refuge to those who met his criteria. Kayla wondered what kind of monster made a promise to protect only a select few. Her father said it would be necessary for survival, and Ryder was well trained in that respect. He’d led many men into dangerous missions and came out alive every single time. No man lost. Ever. Even though she fit Ryder’s criteria of being a young female of thirty-five, her father drafted the letter anyway. Said Ryder needed to know who she was.
Part of her felt ill at the thought, but she had promised her father she would make it. She would never go back on her word and especially now that it was the last vow she had given to a dying man. No matter the price, she would pay it to survive. She rubbed her chest to dull the ache that resided there. She missed her father. Missed them all so much.
A shiver rippled across her skin. Apparently, another after-effect from the sickness. Over a week ago, the symptoms of a cold had started and then her skin began to itch so badly it nearly drove her to insanity. Fever spiked, but three days later she recovered. Since that time, her senses seemed heightened. Smells were so strong it sometimes gave her a headache. She also heard voices. Kayla’s world was no longer the same in more ways than one. She was a survivor of the plague.
A noise from upstairs shattered her thoughts. “Damn it! That thing can’t still be alive.” She wasn’t about to stick around to find out. If a bullet between the eyes didn’t kill it, then she had no means to do so. Jerking open the front door, she stepped into the bright light. The sun cast warmth over her skin, and birds sang their morning greetings. The world was messed up. People were dying by the thousands, yet nature continued like any normal day. She opened the door to the SUV, tossed her pack in, and slid across the leather seat. Placing the gun on the seat next to her, she started the vehicle. Slipping the shifter into drive, she tore off down the lane. There was no way to know what she would encounter on her three-hundred-mile journey to Pittsburg.
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