Authors: Olivia Starke
Project Terminal: Legacy
Project Terminal: Legacy
Copyright © 2013, Olivia Starke
Publisher: Beachwalk Press, Inc.
Electronic Publication: July, 2013
Editor: Pamela Tyner
Cover: Fantasia Frog Designs
eBooks are not transferable. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Back Cover Copy
Zombies and super soldiers? Laura is the one hope for a world gone Hollywood crazy.
In only a matter of hours Laura Swift has been bitten by a zombie, rescued by Mr. Tall, Dark, and Foreboding, and thrown into a world gone Hollywood crazy. She has no choice but to follow Damian into his underworld of manipulated viruses and genetically altered super soldiers. Even as her life hangs in the balance, she can’t deny the attraction she feels for the incredibly sexy and thoroughly imposing Infantryman.
Damian Gonsalves believes he has a cure for the virus changing innocent people into bloodthirsty undead. Within Laura is the key to stopping the horrific plague. All he has to do is keep her alive and safe, and stay one step ahead of those pursuing them. Her stubbornness frustrates him to no end, while her body drives him to distraction.
When they discover the secret behind Project Terminal, will they survive long enough to help stop the unleashed horror? Or will they just be two more victims of a virus threatening all of humanity?
Content Warning: graphic sex, strong language, and violence
As always, this is dedicated to my readers.
Laura Swift cringed, the odor from the dumpster appalling in the humid Mississippi evening. With a great heave she tossed in the last two loaded trash bags and dropped the lid, brushing her hands together, relieved the last of the night’s work was now finished. The restaurant had been unusually busy thanks to an influx of tourists heading for Florida, leaving her completely exhausted with extended hours. She rolled her shoulders, working out stress-knotted muscles, thinking of a hot shower and her bed with longing.
A rat scurried between her feet. Yelping, she sidestepped the disgusting little creature, praying it wouldn’t find its way inside her immaculate kitchen. She took pride in a clean establishment, even if she had to stay late to make sure floors and counters were scrubbed to her expectations. Tomorrow she’d call out the exterminator, just in case.
She turned to the back entrance of Nana’s then froze. A dark form stood in shadow at the end of the alley between the diner and empty neighboring building. Laura’s heart kicked into overdrive at the sight of the unexpected visitor.
“Hello,” she croaked.
So much for not sounding intimidated.
“Can I help you?”
She waited for a response, squinting in an effort to make out the stranger better. The figure remained silent except for raspy breathing echoing in the narrow passage. She sucked her top lip between her teeth, trying to temper a sudden sense of foreboding. In slow, measured steps she drew closer to the back door. The form shifted to the right, mirroring her movement. The hairs stood up along her arms and down the back of her neck. This wasn’t the usual sad soul wanting to scrounge food from the dumpster.
Light flashed from overhead, a summer storm building to the west, casting a peculiar radiance to the alleyway. She got an eyeful of the visitor, and a scream of terror gurgled up from the pits of her soul.
It never made it past her lips. In unnatural speed the black mass was on her, jaws agape in dead aim for her jugular. Pinned between it and the brick wall of the restaurant, Laura clawed at the slimy flesh around the horrible mouth. Her fingers slipped between jagged rows of teeth, the rancid breath making her gag. She brought her knee up between its legs, self-defense training kicking in but proving useless.
Images of her family danced through her mind. How would they react to her being murdered by an impossible thing behind her beloved diner?
Hell, no, I’m not going to die.
Growling through clenched teeth, adrenaline surged with determination. The thing snarled, trying to break past the hands gripping its face. Another flash of lightning brought the devil to life once more before her eyes. Sagging, pale skin accented sunken, glassy gray eyes. Zombies didn’t exist in real life, and she grappled to make sense of what was happening to her.
Its hands closed around her wrists, wrenching them to her sides. A rumble of thunder reverberated in the background, drowning out the sound of her pulse ringing in her ears. The rumbling grew louder. She sucked in a breath to scream again, but bile rose in the back of her throat as her nostrils took in the odor of rotting flesh. The rumble turned to a roar, and a beam from a headlight bathed the alley.
The thing turned toward the approaching motorcycle, flashing its teeth, hissing like a cornered animal. The Harley squealed to a halt, sliding sideways before a huge man jumped from the saddle. He swung a handgun in front of him. In the blink of an eye, the thing crumpled to the ground next to her, a bullet hole lodged between its eyes.
She gasped, stumbling back, nearly falling, her gaze flying to her hero approaching in long strides. Her spinning thoughts fought for solid ground in a world suddenly gone Hollywood crazy.
“Oh my God,” she managed, craning her neck back to look into his face. Chiseled features with the rough shadow of unshaven stubble greeted her. The hard line of a mouth pulled even tighter.
“You’re hurt. Did it bite you?” her hero asked.
She stared at her trembling but completely intact hand, shaking her head.
“The other one,” he snapped.
She blinked, lifting the other. Blood oozed from a small cut on her knuckle, most likely from the dead thing’s teeth.
“It’s nothing,” she said, studying the wound. She let out a long, shuddering breath. “Thank you so much for…”
Looking up, her heart dropped. He had the gun trained on her forehead and she stared down the black barrel of the silencer.
“I wouldn’t call it nothing.” He nodded toward the fallen thing still twitching on the gravel. “That thing could’ve been a lawyer or accountant yesterday.”
Laura waved her hands. “I’m fine, I swear.”
She swallowed hard, rising hysteria threatening to take over. The hand holding the gun never wavered. Her mind raced, she’d survived a fight with a zombie, but now what? She’d get shot by the man who shot the monster?
“Look, I’ll give you whatever you want.” Shadows cast over his face, making eye contact impossible. “I’ve got money. Inside the diner.”
“I’m not interested in money,” he said.
Days of lost sleep combined with the shock of the attack. Her head swam, black dots distorting her vision, her joints turning to jelly. She knew she’d lost the battle.
“Damn it.” The last thing she saw before passing out was the cursed barrel pointed at her skull.
* * * *
Training told him to finish the job.
Disgust warred with concern while Damian Gonsalves knelt next to the waif who’d collapsed at his feet, much like the corpse. She’d put up one hell of a fight though. Few civilians survived beyond a couple seconds with an undead encounter, the odds too much stacked in favor of a ruthless monster immune to pain. He rubbed his jaw, bouncing the Glock against his thigh.
It’d take twelve hours to know for sure if she’d been infected, and he had a place to hold her until then. She deserved at least that much after proving to be such a fighter.
He snagged the stinking corpse by its tattered shirt and draped it over the back of his Harley. He returned to the woman, brushing the hair back from her face. She looked to be in her mid-twenties, with a round, freckled face and full lips. Much too fragile to have survived the battle she just had.
Cradling the woman in front, he revved the engine of the Fat Boy and made for the side streets, cutting the lights. Things would end badly for a cop if he was pulled over, and he didn’t need something else added to his conscience.
The small town had fallen silent like many southern towns did after ten PM—an advantage for the hunter who needed darkness to cover tracks. Luckily, he hadn’t had to hunt in a major city. The undead didn’t like the lights and noises of hectic human schedules. Much like poisonous snakes preferred dark, quiet areas to await a strike, so did the undead.
Thick, hot air blasted his face as he turned down a county road, dust from the dried earth nearly choking him. He found a reasonable spot to dump the corpse. It would rot quickly, be scavenged by wild animals, just another John Doe for the cops with nothing left behind to raise suspicion. What coursed through its body would disintegrate quickly.
Damian pulled down a drive barely qualifying as such, then parked his bike in a shed next to the abandoned home he’d holed up in. Thunder jarred the ground and a humid rush of wind did little to dry the coating of sweat covering his body. The waif moaned, stirring as fat drops of rain pelted the roof of the outbuilding. If it hadn’t been for her, he’d have stripped and stood beneath the coming rain. He hadn’t had a shower in days, but he scooped her up and made a run for the back door.
After placing her on his sleeping pallet, he lit several lanterns before digging a fresh t-shirt out of his bag, needing to be rid of the corpse’s stench. Wind rattled the windows, whistling around the eaves, the brunt of the gale shaking the decrepit home. He watched trees bend double through the dirty glass. The victim stirred behind him, but he kept his attention outside.
“Where am I?” The woman struggled to her feet, bracing against an old armoire.
“What’s your name?” he asked. He wasn’t quite sure why he bothered. In a few hours she’d be one of the undead, and he’d kill her like the corpse in the alley.
“Who the hell are
?” she countered in a hoarse voice.
The corner of his mouth quirked in appreciation, she had balls. He turned to face her defiant gaze. “Damian.”
He caught her quick glance toward the front door, but before she could make her move lightning exploded outside, slicing a nearby tree in half and flooding the room in blinding light. She screamed and on instinct he ran to comfort her. She shivered in his arms, the primal need to protect coursing through his veins. She clung to him for a brief moment before shoving against his chest.
“Let me go. What do you want with me?”
He put some space between them, but didn’t release her entirely. “I want your name.”
Her delicate nostrils flared. “Laura,” she said through clenched teeth, her dark green eyes narrowed.
His attention caught on her full pink lips, slightly parted with rapid breathing. It’d been a hell of a long time since he’d felt a woman’s body pressed against him.
“Laura, I have to keep you here for a few hours. If you survive the night, then you’ll be free to go.”
She took on the look of a cornered rabbit and scrambled well out of his reach. “What do you mean if I survive the night?”
He followed and grasped her upper arms, craving her warmth again.
She bared her teeth. “You monster, let me go!”
Her small fists pummeled his chest then she brought a hard knee to his crotch. Stars flashed before his eyes, white hot pain searing through his midsection. He doubled over, trying to draw breath.
Bullet wounds hurt less.
Laura bolted for the door, and the storm howled through the room as she raced outside.
He caught her around the waist before she reached the top step of the porch. She cried out, doing her best to drive an elbow into his kidney, raking her nails down his face with the other hand. He growled, setting her on her feet, keeping her arms pinned to her sides.
“I’m not going to be the one who kills you the first time,” he tried to reason with the wildcat on his hands, dragging her back inside the home.
“You’re crazy.” Her hair free of its ponytail fanned a golden curtain over her shoulders. Full breasts heaved against the cotton of her t-shirt, her nipples peaked.
This is a hell of a time to be horny.
He took a steadying breath, releasing her. “Let me—”
“What was that thing in the alley? Why were you after it?” She backed toward the door leading to the bathroom. “Why won’t you let me leave?”
“It’s difficult to explain.” He ran a hand over his hair, not sure which to answer first. Laura folded her arms over her chest, feet braced wide. He needn’t have bothered with the corpse in the alleyway, he mused, she would’ve taken it out without him.