THE APOCALYPSE: A chimera devastates the human population. Technology fails and infrastructure crumbles. Civilization collapses.
AFTER: A generation apart, two women and the men who love them make incredible sacrifices to survive, and to destroy a brutal system of sexual slavery in a world where men outnumber women ten-to-one.
After two years roaming the devastated South alone, eighteen-year-old Eva is captured and held prisoner by the few surviving soldiers at a military base, who haven't seen a woman since The Dying. In Eva, Major Smith sees only the future of the human race, and he'll exceed all moral boundaries to ensure she gives birth to the next generation. But Eva and Johnthe man she is paired withare determined to fight for freedom and a better future.
Two decades later, on the other side of the country, a Resistance woman is captured and brutally punished for subverting the Sex Laws. When she flees to the Resistance, Nix must decide if the man who helped her escape can be trusted, or if he's a spy using her to infiltrate the counter-slavery movement. As Nix makes her way east, her story twines with Eva's in a way neither woman could have imagined.
Five were dressed in the simple, draping gowns of white traditionally worn by women in that town, on the day their virginity would be taken. Only one of the five knew this. She had lived "off the books," as they said in that region of the country, among resistance women until she was eleven. Then her cell had been infiltrated, and she'd been wrenched from her mother's arms and taken to the orphanage. All the years since, Andrea kept the truth of the world outside the walls of the institution a secret from the other girls. Let them have their peace. When they came of age, they'd lose it forever. Even the "lucky" ones. The bleeders.
As soon as they were robed, Amy was taken off on her own, nervous, but more excited than scared, and Andrea felt sorry for her. Andrea thought of her mom and figured that, really, Amy had it the worst of all of them. Even if her first wasn't so bad, as soon as she'd had her baby, she'd see.
Old Miss Mary herded Andrea and the other three downstairs, into a dark and polished chamber furnished differently than any of the rooms the girls were normally allowed to enter, with upholstered chairs and sofas, colorful drapes, and wooden tables with gleaming surfaces and ornate legs.
"Be still and quiet, now, until we're summoned," Miss Mary ordered in a hushed voice.
All the times she'd thought of this day, Andrea had imagined how she'd be brave. Not scared. It was just her body they'd own and use. Her self, her soul, would always be hers. But waiting in that somber room, it was hard to believe in the distinction. The thought of some strange person, a man with a rough face and rough hands, licking and touching and lying on top of her twisted her insides in a knot. The waiting, there in that foreign room filled with all their nervous uncertainty, her hands were ice cold and damp. She felt a little dizzy.
A heavy knock on a door by the window rattled her body under that heavy white gown.
"Keep quiet now, girls, and do just as you're told," Miss Mary admonished for the hundredth time, and led them through the door.
Silent except for the rustling of the white cloth draped around them, the four followed Miss Mary into the adjacent room. Then there was a small sound, like the sucking of air from a room just before the wind slams a door shut. The sound of four women catching their breath.
Andrea fought to keep her gait even, to do as Miss Mary was directing, but the stares of all those men, it was like a wave rushing at her, pushing her over, sweeping her feet out from under her. It must have been worse for the others. At least Andrea had seen men before.
As the four took their places, lining up along a wall papered in russet hyacinths on a yellow background, Andrea counted them. Eleven. Like she remembered from before the orphanage. All of them bigger than the largest of the girls or their watchers. Taller, wider, older, rougher.
Would they do it right here? With Miss Mary watching? Would it be all of them at once? Or would three girls watch what they did to the first, each knowing her turn was coming? Andrea glanced over at the others, and regretted her silence. The last few days of peace weren't so precious they were worth the shock, the terror they'd endure, now. She should have told them. Should have coached them, the way her mom and the others had coached her.
Just a body. Just a body. Just a body.
Andrea followed the strange bass voice to the man sitting at the center of the semi-circle of chairs. Blue eyes. White hair. Older, smaller than the others.
"Tamara." Miss Mary took the first girl's arm and led her before the crescent of men, their eyes following her, locking on her as Miss Mary let go of her arm and retreated to the wall, beside the other three. From there she instructed, "Tamara. Remove your gown."
Again there was that soft, quiet sound of air pulled from the room. Tamara stood there, her arms at her sides, fingers twitching to clutch at the white cloth or ball into fists or cross over her torso. They hadn't been trained to undress before strangers, but they'd been conditioned, ruthlessly, to do as they were told. Always. But she seemed frozen there, except for those twitching fingers, and her chest, heaving up and down under the folds of her gown.
If they hadn't been in the presence of the men, she wouldn't have gotten that warning.
Andrea breathed, "I'll go first."
"Shhh!" Miss Mary hissed back.
Tamara seemed to fix her gaze on the gold tassel at the end of a braided cord adorning one of the curtains behind the men staring at her. Her hands shaking, she undid the clasp behind her neck, and her gown fell to the floor, leaving her pale form naked to the eleven men. She brought her arms back down to her sides to stand as she'd been taught, except that her hands were balled in two tight fists.
The men's eyes scanned over her body.
In her stern, quiet voice Miss Mary commanded, "Turn around."
Keeping her light gray eyes fixed on the wall across from her, after a moment of hesitation Tamara pivoted slowly around, giving the men a chance to examine her from every angle. When she was back to facing that gold tassel, Miss Mary told her to pick up her gown and return to her place by the wall. Some of the men started writing on white, rectangular cards.