Five stories of couples who just might find love at the end of the world. That is, if they can survive.
His Bounty by Jaye Shields
After the nuclear war decimated much of the population, causing widespread infertility, the Stork Company became a billion-dollar industry. Caleb Black is the company's top bounty hunter, bringing in healthy men and women to contribute to the breeding program and put babies into the hands of wealthy citizens. Few people willingly sign up to be a breeder, so hunters need to be tough and devoid of emotion. But Caleb's newest target cracks his hardened heart.
Aurora Jones grew up in the Alaskan bush. Adept at living off the land, she's thrived when others have failed to survive life post-nuclear war. She spends the majority of her time alone at her cabin, so when a handsome stranger shows up, curiosity gets the best of her. And it quickly turns into desire.
Caleb falls for the beautiful woman and decides he'd rather die than turn her into the Stork Company. But when she finds out who he really is and why he's in Alaska, will the betrayal end the only chance he's ever known of love?
Heaven for Us by Beth D. Carter
Jo was one of the lucky ones. She survived the virus that decimated eighty-five percent of the world's population and now searches for a sanctuary in a ruined world. She trusts no one, keeping to herself, until she meets Luke and his daughter, Casey.
Suddenly she's involved, and emotions she thought she had iced over long ago invade her self-imposed isolation. The more time she spends with Luke, the more she wants him, leaving her conflicted. Does she stay with him? Or will she continue her trek to find a heaven among the apocalypse?
Heart of Survival by Ashlynn Monroe
McKaye Tanner lost everything when the world ended. She grew into adulthood without anyone she could trust. She's not sure what's left of civilization, but from what she's seen, it's not much.
Reece Rogers has worked hard to keep his small band of survivors alive. He doesn't take any bullshit or risks. But when he sees a young woman running from a group of the contaminated he can't turn his back on her and takes a gamble to save her.
Can two battle-scarred, lonely people find love in a world that wants to destroy everything good about being human?
The Reset by Imogene Nix
Elaine is just an ordinary woman, but when the apocalypse occurs, she must find a way to survive in an increasingly hostile world. Enter Liam, the policeman who saves her at their first meeting and provides assistance as they try to cope with the zombie outbreak brought about by an unknown infection that's spreading out of control.
Together they form a community, trying to save as many lives as they can, a place where people can be safe. Even in the throes of disaster though, emotions creep up, taking both of them by surprise. Who knows? They might just get their happy ever after…if they can survive.
The New Era by C. L. Scholey
By the twenty-third century much of Earth was destroyed. Mother Nature played a significant part, but so too did the numerous meteors that slammed into the world. The Superiors, a self-aware intelligence, went online soon after their creator, Jason Superior—a kind man who abhorred violence or suffering of any kind—sent a signal to a lone satellite. The system's intelligence grew as Jason continued to add his own ideals until his passing.
The Superiors began to take control of the world and the few remaining survivors. Their approach to saving life was to destroy those who were capable of misguided influential acts. Only the innocent were allowed to live. Until they became not as innocent. This is their story.
Content Warning: these stories contain sexual content
His Bounty Excerpt:
Caleb contemplated taking the gun back from her, which would have been like taking candy from a baby, but then he'd have to take his hands off her butt—which he really didn't want to do. The round curves filled the palms of his hands nicely and he was quite content to leave them where they were, even if the woman did have his gun in her hand.
"I don't think you're going to shoot me. I think you want to finish what we've started." Caleb didn't blink, challenging her to assert otherwise.
He knew she'd been trying to search him in the beginning, but the way her body responded to his couldn't be faked. And the soft moans that had escaped her during the kiss sounded real enough.
"It was just an act to disarm you." Her viridian eyes challenged. "Which worked."
In an easy move, Caleb drew the other gun he had hidden on his person. He offered the barrel to her. "Trust me now?"
She took the weapon, but he didn't miss the blush that crept into her cheeks. Apparently, the woman wasn't used to being caught off guard. She cocked the gun he'd just handed over, and Caleb had two revolvers aimed at his face.
He almost smiled. "I'll take that as a no." His draw hand returned to her bottom so that he could hold her once more with both hands.
"Put me down…gently."
"Of course. You don't think I would be gentle with you?" As if he had something to prove, he eased her down so softly that her feet didn't make a sound when they touched the floor.
"I don't know you."
"We can change that," Caleb proposed.
Heaven for Us Excerpt:
"Look, thank you for protecting her, but you don't know anything about us," he said.
"You're right, I don't know anything about you two, but I do know what it means to survive. Turn her from your daughter into your son, if you really want to protect her."
Jo shook her head and started to march past him to leave the alley, but he grabbed her arm, stopping her. It was the first time in a long time that a man had touched her, and instinct had her trying to pull away, but the small spark of electricity when their skin met confused her so she stopped her struggle.
Instead, she glared at him. "Let go of me."
The man stared at her, hard, and when their gazes met, butterflies fluttered in her belly. "You're a woman," he finally said, surprised.
"You don't have to sound so shocked."
"I'm not. I mean…you're a pretty good aim…" His voice trailed off, as if he knew exactly how sexist his words were.
Jo was quite aware of how she looked. She'd cut her once-long hair off and deliberately kept her face a little dirty to disguise her rounded features. His disbelief was warranted, but instead of pissing her off his unease amused her.
"I'm a pretty good aim…for a female?"
"It sounded better in my head."
"I'm sure it did."
"My name is Luke," the man said. "And this is my daughter Casey."
"I'm sorry, Daddy," Casey blubbered through tears. "I didn't mean any of it!"
Casey's shaky voice jolted Jo, and she took the opportunity to pull her arm out of Luke's grasp, stepping far enough back so he couldn't touch her again. Despite herself, she was curious about Casey's words, so she waited for Luke to explain.
"We had an argument," Luke said over Casey's head. "She said she wished it had been me who died instead of her mother."
"Ouch," Jo said, wincing.
"I didn't mean it!" Casey wailed.
"Keep your voice down," Jo said. "Sorry to hear about your mom, Casey, but this new world sucks and girls like you are worth a lot of money, so try to put the teenage angst behind you in order to survive this fucked-up world. 'Kay?"
Jo turned to the dad. "Now, the chance of someone not hearing those gunshots are about zero to nil, so I suggest you skedaddle and forget about—"
Before she finished what she was saying, the sound of another gunshot ripped through the alley. Luke gasped and grabbed his side, stumbling forward into her and trapping Casey between them. As a shrill whistle pealed through the night, Jo instinctively raised her gun and fired, causing the whistle to abruptly end, followed by the dull thud of a body hitting the ground hard. For a split second, Jo couldn't believe she just killed one of the haven guards.
Heart of Survival Excerpt:
McKaye's lungs burned and her legs ached as she ran. She'd stayed in good health considering most of her life she'd lived in the apocalypse, but she'd never exactly been a marathon runner. Her endurance hit the wall and her mortality rushed at her like a freight train. She would die.
Terror gripped her—and so did a hand. Shrieking, she fell helplessly through a doorway. Gazing up, she stared into the gray eyes of a dark-haired male. His graying beard was dark against his gaunt but beautiful face. He was gorgeous. Thick lashes framed his eyes. He held her around her waist with one arm, and she realized his other appendage was missing below the elbow. His clothing was tattered, but clean.
Slack-jawed, she lay like a mindless fool as he pulled her inside the building and closed the door. He let her go, and then held his finger to his lips as the sound of sicks running past the building made her breath catch. She lay in his lap, still stunned, while the loud rumble outside began to lessen.
"Who are you?" McKaye whispered.
He held up his finger again, and she waited with him until the rabble outside had moved farther away.
"I'm a friend. I have to lead those contaminated in another direction. Follow me, and trust me."
It took her a second to realize he was talking about the sicks. Trusting a stranger seemed as stupid as messing with that herd of trouble that just passed by. "Why?"
"I have people at the warehouse. I need to keep the contaminated away long enough for them to get away and go home."
"Home?" She felt like a parrot, and not a very smart one.
"Yes, we have a safe place. You're welcome to come with us if you haven't been touched by the contaminated."
"I haven't. Besides, if I was, you are too now."
"Fair point. Do you have people?" he asked.
"I'm sorry." His condolences sounded genuine.
She nodded. "Thanks. It was a long time ago."
"When I noticed you at a distance I thought you were a child."
"No offense meant. I have a lot of questions for you before I take you to my people, but those will have to wait until that herd you've brought are taken care of."
She didn't like how it sounded as if he was blaming her. She wasn't someone who would have brought danger to strangers purposefully. "I wasn't trying to endanger your people."
He shrugged. "Of course. Come on."
He stood, and she followed him. Her body still ached from her dash.
He looked outside, then motioned for her to follow him out the door. She didn't even know the man's name, but she went with him across the street, and she noticed they were a few blocks behind the sicks.
He rushed to the old bank building and grabbed the fire escape ladder, pulling himself up and climbing. Arm strength wasn't one of her survival skills, but she took a running jump and managed to pull herself up enough to get her foot in the bottom rung. The guy climbed with one arm, so she could at least try since she had two.
Something about this guy made her trust him. At this point following a stranger seemed like as good a plan as any. So she climbed.
The Reset Excerpt:
The supermarket was empty, and shelves of food were scattered on the floor as Liam picked his way along the aisles. No one could have expected something like this outbreak to occur, and food was a priority. Scanning the shelves, he grabbed the items he needed, thrust them into the trolley, and moved as quickly as he could toward the end of the aisle.
A groan stilled him. He'd already seen the results of those infected, the way they set upon victims, the dripping, bloody teeth. If that moan was anything to go by, he was no longer alone in the shop.
"Get back!" The startled words of a woman almost had him jumping.
"Hello?" He cursed inwardly for now making himself a target as the sound of shambling footsteps echoed, moving in his direction.
"He's heading your way!" the woman yelled as the gray man turned the corner, eyes blank, mouth slack through dripping trails of scarlet. The outstretched hands moved toward him.
The handle of the trolley was just in reach and Liam tugged it backward, braced his legs, then ran in the direction of the shuffler. The trolley hit the creature in the chest, and it went down, legs and arms waving frantically until it rolled.
Liam reached out, his hand curling around the nearest can. Saying a silent prayer, he aimed and threw. The crack of heavy metal on bone and the spray of blood as the man went down without a whimper gave him momentary pleasure, but not before the woman from the next aisle scurried around to him.
"There's two more," she screamed.
He didn't glance at her, merely grabbed another tomato soup can and lobbed it. It hit without the power to cease the onward march. "Dammit!"
"I've… There's some kitchen string here. Would that help?"
He turned briefly and acknowledged the beautiful, curvy, red-haired woman thrusting the plastic-wrapped item at him, but he shook his head as they stumbled backward.
"We're going to need something a little more useful." He considered what might be here in this tiny store as the woman disappeared before returning with two long, metal-headed rakes.
"What about these?" she asked.
He laughed, grabbed one out of her hands as the walkers came within reach, and thwacked it down hard on the head of the nearest one. The rake dropped with a thud and rolled under the shelving unit.
She made a sound, rather like a moan, and turned away as he snatched the other implement and used it to push the other shuffler back.
This time he lined up the male, sidestepped its attempt at grabbing him, then swung this new rake like a bat. The infected individual fell to the floor, and he brought the rake down on its head. She turned and retched while he waited.
"They're… Those were humans! Why did you—"
"No, they aren't humans anymore. They were zombies, and they'll kill you as soon as look at you. Now grab what you need so we can get out of here."
He glanced down one last time at the remains he'd left on the floor. He felt bad about what he'd had to do, but sugarcoating the truth wouldn't make it any better. The only thing they could do was stock up and get back to safety.
The New Era Excerpt:
A small memory nagged her. She remembered her grandmother being pinned to a wall by her grandfather as he demanded to know why humans couldn't even make love to their spouse.
It was an odd concept to Infinity. Why would a woman want the weight of a man on top of her, pinning her? She shuddered and let the thought go. It would never happen to her, and she breathed a sigh of relief.
She smiled at Greyson and they walked further into the city, ignoring the moving sidewalks. Many couples were about the grounds, enjoying the day. Each smiling as she was. Some were situated in the abundant outdoor restaurants. Other couples sat in numerous shaded areas, watching colorful images dance to a sweet tune.
Flowers of various colors were located in many places. They were allowed to pick the flowers for their hair, and when she snapped a purple one she asked Greyson to place it behind her ear. As he did so, he was awkward; he normally was. For a second she imagined he lingered too long and muttered the word 'silky'. But there was no reason to want to touch her hair. Although he had been acting a little strangely today. Earlier he had mentioned that she smelled wonderful.
Infinity would have liked to put a flower in his shoulder-length, dark hair. But he would simply laugh at her. His dark eyes flickered for a second when she gazed up at him to thank him. He shifted suddenly, as though embarrassed or worried about something. He glanced down at his lower extremity and seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. She wondered if he needed to relieve himself.
"We can stop if you need to use a privacy chamber," she said.
"No, I'm fine."
A bee flew up to her, and Infinity held out her hand. The beautiful blue insect changed colors to make her smile. The bee seemed to study Greyson for a few seconds then winked at her and flew off. Infinity knew the bug must have sensed her fear for a split second and had come to find out if she needed assistance. She didn't, but she loved those little flying insects. And she reminded herself a man would never lay on top of her.