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Authors: Maddy Barone

Eddie’s Prize

BOOK: Eddie’s Prize
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Eddie’s Prize

After the Crash Book 4

Maddy Barone

Published 2013

ISBN: 978-1-93176-144-4

Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © Published 2013, Maddy Barone. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Manufactured in the United States of America

Liquid Silver Books

http://LSbooks.com

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

Blurb

Lisa Anton was a world-famous fashion model before her plane crashed in a post-apocalyptic future where women are precious and rare, and technology is only a memory. Offered as a prize in a Bride Fight for the best fighter to take home, Lisa becomes the wife of a man she barely knows. Gorgeous and passionate in bed, her new husband tells her he loves her. But does he?

From the moment he saw the blonde beauty, Eddie Madison was determined to make her his wife. Beating a dozen other men in the Bride Fight was child’s play for him. Learning to be a husband is a bit trickier. She wants his complete trust, but Eddie has spent his entire life guarding a secret that could destroy their happiness. Is protecting his secret more important than winning his bride’s love?

Dedication

Eddie’s Prize
is dedicated to my friend and co-worker, Lisa Hill.

And to the Divas and Dudes at Romance Divas for their encouragement.

Acknowledgements

I want to thank fellow romance author, Suzanna Medeiros, for her suggestions and wonderful support during the creation of
Eddie’s Prize
. Also, a big shout out to my beta readers Christina Ihara, Debbie Bailey, and Tamara Tongatule. You ladies did an amazing job. Thank you!

Chapter 1

The wagon shuddered in and out of a rut big enough to swallow the Grand Canyon. Lisa held the side in a death grip and glanced over at Carla, who sat opposite of her.

“Is your butt sore?” Carla asked, raising her voice to be heard over the creak of the wheels.

Lisa shifted on the uncomfortable wooden bench fixed to the side of the vehicle. “A little.”

Actually, it hurt like hell. The bruises she collected during the plane crash were multiplying. Carla never complained, so Lisa gritted her teeth and tried to be positive. “At least we’re on our way to get help, right? And sitting is better than walking through dead grass in four-inch spike heels.”

When Carla glanced at Lisa’s feet, she felt an urge to curl them under the bench, out of sight. The new Manolo Blahnik ankle boots were sadly scuffed from the hike. When she got home, she would throw them out. She would throw out everything she wore. She didn’t need a reminder of the last few days. She would relive the terror of weightlessness as the plane fell, the screams and prayers of the passengers, and their dead, mangled bodies in her nightmares for years to come.

Lisa tried to distract her thoughts from the dead and dying by looking around. The sky was the deep, cloudless blue of late Indian summer, the color sharp against the dried grass that covered the bare, rolling hills like worn gold velvet. That was all there was to see. Not a street, house, or town in sight. Only this old-fashioned wagon pulled by two horses, a surly driver, and six men who walked alongside, dressed in badly fitted canvas overalls, shapeless hats, and work boots.

“It could be worse,” Carla agreed, but her voice lacked conviction. “At least the pilot was able to land the plane without killing everybody.” Out of the one hundred people who boarded the plane in Minneapolis, less than half were alive when the plane came to a stop. After the plane had stopped shuddering, Lisa and the survivors tried to help the injured while waiting for help. When no help arrived, the co-pilot decided they couldn’t wait forever for rescuers. Too many were dying without medical attention, so she organized three teams of two to go for help. Lisa had been flattered to be chosen for the mission. It showed someone thought she was good for something besides pouting for the camera. She and Carla had been paired up—an international fashion model and a country music star—and sent south to find aid.

“I wonder if anyone else has found help?” she asked.

“I hope so.” Carla was grim. “It’s been over a day.”

The wagon jolted over a rock, and Lisa’s mouth, open to ask another question, snapped shut hard enough to bruise her teeth. “Hey, try to be more careful!” She chastised the driver’s back.

He ignored her, just hunching further into the collar of his work coat, probably in an attempt to avoid sin.

She congratulated herself for squelching the urge to flirt to embarrass him. He was part of an odd, religious cult she and Carla had found this morning. Elder Pringle had told the women to keep quiet on the ride. Their escort was ordered to pay them no attention. Elder Pringle lectured the men about avoiding sin as Lisa and Carla climbed into the back of the horse-drawn wagon. Lisa privately gaped at that lecture, but she did try to keep quiet, only talking quietly to her companion now and then.

Carla tossed her thick, brown hair over one shoulder. She also tossed an unhappy glare at the driver’s back. “I hate to sound like a little kid, but are we there yet?”

If the driver heard, he didn’t answer. The wheel hit another rut, and Lisa’s teeth snapped together again. If this kept up, all her dental work would be ruined. No wonder people in the old days had bad teeth.

“I wish we could have found somebody to help us besides these people,” she said as quietly as she could.

The singer’s look of disgust toward the men walking alongside the wagon was eloquent. She didn’t bother to keep her voice down. “I can’t decide if they’re Amish or fundamentalist wackos who don’t believe in technology.”

“Remember how excited we were to find them this morning?” Lisa sighed. After the long walk of seeing nothing, the plowed fields indicated real live people, the first sign they’d seen since they had left the plane. The tall stone wall indicated it must protect the mansion of a wealthy farmer or rancher.

Carla’s mouth twisted sourly. “Yeah, and I remember how
un
excited we were when we saw the guards at the gate had guns.”

“I thought the owner must be rich and paranoid.” She tried to smooth her wind-roughened hair. “Or Mafia.”

When they were allowed through the gate, they discovered not the palatial residence of a wealthy man, but an industrious little village with a blacksmith, smelly chickens running around everywhere, and men wearing plain clothes who called each other “Brother”. She and Carla had been taken to a couple of men called Elder Pringle and Elder Cruz, who told them this was Odessa. They were a farming community who preferred to live separate from the worldliness of their neighbors. They had no phones, computers, cars, or any kind of electricity. And, going by the endless prayer Elder Pringle droned while their lunch got cold, they were fundamentalists. Lisa believed people and their religions should be respected, but having some dried up stick pray for her “worldly and clearly damned” soul rubbed her the wrong way. Clearly damned? It had taken all her meager acting skills to keep a smile on her face and her mouth shut instead of screaming, “Judgmental, much?”

But the cultists took the time to transport her and Carla to the nearest town where they would be able to get help for the plane crash survivors, so Lisa tried to be magnanimous. Elder Pringle said the mayor of Kearney would know what to do with them.

“I can’t wait to get back to civilization,” Lisa said. “I hope there will be a decent hotel where we can get cleaned up. If a flight is available right away, I might still make it to the bikini shoot on time.”

Her friend’s brow arched. “Really? After your plane crashes, you’re planning to go to your bikini shoot? How many of your bruises will the bikini hide?”

“I don’t have that many bruises,” she fibbed.

Carla had a point. Over the last decade in the cat-eat-cat world of modeling, Lisa learned a model was never more vulnerable to other models than when in a bikini. Lisa could already hear the other girls’ sickly-sweet tones of concern filled with gleeful acid. She could imagine Cherilyn speculating with overdone innocence what she and Brent did to give her those
interesting
bruises, when she knew very well Lisa threw the loser out more than a month before.

The ruts cutting through the grass shifted to dirt and gravel. It was rough, but clearly a road. The ride was still bumpy, though better than before. The singer loosened her death grip on the side of the wagon. “We must be getting close.”

Lisa dug through her bag for a comb and lip gloss. A town meant people and media. Even a small town would have a paper and TV news crews. She knew she looked hideous, but if any media people were there, she wanted to look as good as she could. It was a pity about her clothes being torn and dirty, and she was embarrassed by her broken fingernails, but there was nothing she could do about that. Maybe the media people would use it to show she was a heroine. She sighed. Some heroine. The real heroine was the co-pilot who kept it together even though she was badly hurt.

Carla watched her face with an arched brow and a small smile.

“You think I’m vain, don’t you?” Lisa asked. “Shallow too?”

The other woman shrugged, and her smile turned sheepish.

“Well, I
am
vain.” She ran the comb through her limp, blonde hair. “I need to look good whenever I’m in public. My face and my figure are my fortune. I have to take care of them, like you have to take care of your voice and your musical instruments, right?”

Carla nodded. “I guess.” Her face tightened. “But my guitar is somewhere out there, smashed to pieces.”

There was real grief in that smooth voice. Lisa felt a pang of sympathy for the country singer she’d spent the last day with. They might not have ever become more than acquaintances normally, but after the past twenty-four hours, she felt like they were true friends. Lisa didn’t have many friends. That required trust. She had competitors who smiled at her face while stabbing knives into her back. She didn’t think Carla was like that. For one thing, she wasn’t a model. The singer wore a dark green, western-style blouse with jeans, a big, buckled belt, and a red-fringed leather jacket with matching red cowboy boots, all torn or scuffed and dirty. She looked like what she was—a young country music star. Her hair was beautiful in its healthy shine and thickness, although it was currently dulled by dust. Carla went for the wholesome girl-next-door look, and it worked for her. It was different from Lisa’s glam look, and it had survived the trauma of the last day better too.

“Maybe you’re a little vain,” the singer agreed with a smile. The smiled faded into flat sincerity, and she looked pointedly at the bloodstain smeared over the front of Lisa’s sweater. “But anyone who watched you back at the crash site would know that there’s a lot more to you than your looks.”

Lisa shrugged, uncomfortable. She had done what a lot of other survivors did after the crash—she tried to help the injured. As she swiped the pink gloss over her lips, she noticed Carla staring ahead. Lisa dropped the gloss into her purse and turned to look. Was that the town? It couldn’t be. Could it?

“Is that Kearney?” she asked one of the men who walked beside the wagon.

He grunted, tugging his wide-brimmed hat further over his forehead to avoid looking at her. What was wrong with her? Okay, her makeup was minimal and her hair was uncurled. Yes, her powder-blue cashmere sweater was stained with blood, and the hem of her five hundred dollar jeans were shredded after getting caught on some jagged metal when she climbed out of the plane. But not answering a polite, direct question was plain rude. She hated rudeness. Her hand brushed over the unnatural stiffness of her sweater, and her stomach lurched.

Carla leaned forward. “Are you okay?” she asked. “Are you thinking about the little boy?”

Lisa nodded. Unlike some children she had encountered on planes, the four-year-old redhead sitting in the seat in front of her had been a perfect angel, quietly coloring and playing giggling peek-a-boo games with his mother. When the plane had come to its metallic screeching stop on the prairie, the mother was dead and the little boy so badly hurt he could only cry soundlessly. She picked him up and numbly carried him out of the plane, allowing Carla to help her to the ground, but never letting the boy go. She hummed to him while he bled and cried and finally died. Lisa didn’t know what his last name had been. His mother called him Alexander. All she had left of him was his blood on her clothes and the memory of his half-smile when he looked up at her before he died.

That memory of that smile was too precious and painful to linger on at this moment. There were other people counting on them now, those too hurt to go for help, who needed doctors so they could live. The mayor of Kearney, Nebraska, would get the crash survivors the help they needed. Even the crazy men from Odessa had done what they could to help by bringing them here. For the two hundredth time, Lisa forced her thoughts away from the crash to focus on the here and now.

BOOK: Eddie’s Prize
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