Read Project Terminal: Legacy Online

Authors: Olivia Starke

Project Terminal: Legacy (2 page)

BOOK: Project Terminal: Legacy
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“Well, why don’t you give it a good college try, eh?”


Chapter 2


Damian paced before her. Tall, broad shouldered, with a deep commanding voice, he represented the essence of male virility. If he’d walked inside Nana’s, Laura would’ve gotten weak-kneed in his presence.
Too bad he’s a complete loon.

Or perhaps crazy belonged solely to her considering the creature she’d seen earlier.

She rubbed her unhurt hand over her face, a dull throb settling in her temples. The cut on her knuckle burned, she could only imagine the germs she’d come in contact with while fighting the thing. A good shot of antibiotics would be in order when she got home. But germs were the last of her worries; she needed to get the hell out of this house first.

“I’m waiting,” she said, working out a strategy. “I deserve some answers.”

Damian made a sound somewhere between a snort and a chuckle. “This was supposed to be a one-time deal with the government, and here I am a year later still covering their asses.”

“The government? What are you talking about?” Laura made a mental map of the living room, a few pieces of broken-down furniture the only things left in the abandoned home. Absolutely nothing useful for a weapon, not even a lamp she could bash over his head like in the movies.

He paced the confines of the living room. “Hell, what does it matter? You’ve been infected.”

That snapped her attention back to him. “Infected?”

“The US government worked on a way to extend the use of super soldiers—genetically altered men and women—after injury. The whole thing, super soldiers and all, is called Project Terminal. They took the rabies virus, and with a little manipulation, concocted a serum to inject troops injured in the field. The virus was meant to take over body systems, temporarily, to speed healing.”

He moved to the window, staring into the void beyond, his hands on his hips. It seemed impossible not to notice the play of back muscle beneath his t-shirt. And the handgun tucked inside the back waistband of his jeans.
Maybe I can get close enough to grab it?

Laura licked her lips, forcing her gaze to the faded wallpaper so not to betray her line of thought. “Rabies? Why would someone want to use rabies?”

“It’s easily manipulated and highly contagious, plus it affects the nervous system so they could dull pain. That’s the best I could gather, but I’m not clear on their reasons. Of course, viruses have a way of altering on their own, which the scientists hadn’t considered a problem until it was too late to fix. The virus takes over those infected until they lose their humanity to it. They become the monster you saw in the alley.”

Laura shook her head, hugging her arms close, the words filtering into her escape plans. The hot, muggy air made it hard to breathe. “And how does someone get infected?”

Damian’s gaze dropped to her hand. “A bite is typically the quickest way it’s transferred.”

None of this is real.
She’d passed out from fatigue and currently lay sprawled in Nana’s kitchen, having this incredible nightmare. Come morning, the food prep team would find her.

She poked at her injury, the area numb, with heat spreading up her arm. The moldy smell of the room engulfed her, thick moist air hugging her tight, the sound of rain beating down on the roof of the house. If it was a nightmare, then why did it seem so tangible?

In slow motion, she slid down the wall. Damian was next to her within a heartbeat.

“How are you feeling?” With unexpected tenderness, he brushed the hair from her forehead.

She closed her eyes tight. “I want to go home.”

All she wanted to do was wake up in the safety of the diner’s kitchen floor.

“I’m fine, really,” she insisted. The pounding headache settled to the back of her skull. Exhaustion reminded her she’d pulled double shifts at Nana’s for the past several weeks.

With a gentle touch, Damian took her injured hand, studying it. Laura’s breath caught in her throat as his fingertips caressed her wrist. A light, searching touch, tickling her insides in ways making no sense for the situation. When his fingers moved to her knuckles she felt nothing. She nibbled her top lip, fighting down the fluttering of fear.

“Is there a cure?”

His military short raven hair glistened in the lantern light like black satin. He peered up through unruly eyebrows. “No.” He took a deep breath. “You feel feverish.”

Their gazes locked, his dark eyes impenetrable, like the stormy nighttime rattling the windows.

“I should’ve arrived sooner,” he said. “I could’ve prevented this.”

She inhaled his scent; the strong, male musk unexpectedly strumming her nerve endings. “How did you know where to find…whatever that was?”

“I’ve been following a trail of infected from Texas. I spotted this one and tagged it with a tracking device.”

“My horoscope told me to stay in bed today.”

Damian smiled. “I never put much stock in that sort of thing.”

She cocked a brow. “Oh yeah? I never put much stock in zombies.”

They were in a moment…of some sort. She studied his strong jaw, his lips at once masculine and sensual. Everything about him seemed a perfect specimen of virility. He held her gaze, as if searching the recesses of her muddled thoughts.

She broke eye contact, forcing her thoughts from the spell. “The government created super soldiers?”

* * * *

Damian’s gaze faltered, dropping to the floor. “It was a way to do more damage in attacks while putting fewer soldiers at risk. The program had the best intentions in the beginning.”

Laura watched him as one would watch a wolf, wary, but at the same time curious.

“You’re one of those super soldiers, right?”

His eyebrows lifted in surprise. “How did you know?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, just something about you doesn’t seem…” Her voice trailed off.

“Normal,” he finished for her. “I’m a government killing machine, Laura, you can say it. There’s nothing normal left in me.”

She pulled her hand from his, burrowing it in her lap with the other. “I’m so tired.”

Damian had never gotten close to a victim, and he realized he never would again. In the hours to come he’d be forced to watch this determined woman slide downhill toward oblivion. He toyed with the idea of sparing her the agony now; he could make death quick, painless—the merciful thing to do.

“I need to get a message to my family. Say goodbye. I can’t leave them always wondering what happened to me.” Laura got to her feet, using his offered hand for balance.

What she could reveal would be limited, but he couldn’t deny the simple request. “Wait here.”

He searched through some drawers until he found paper and a pencil.

She took them. “I don’t know what to say.
Hey, sorry I got bit by a rabid zombie. Had to die. Don’t forget to restock the napkins.
” She wiped a hand over her brow. “Can you open a window and let some air in?”

Damian did what she asked. A cool gust of air, heavy with the scent of rain and wet pine, blew through the window, stirring up dust motes. She turned to him, looking like an apparition in the low lighting.

“Are you married? Kids?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No, my relationships never got that far. How about you?”

He shoved his hands inside his back pockets. “No.”

The songs of tree frogs filled the stretching silence, her focus on the window behind him. A desirable woman needed a man in her life, what a shame no one had claimed her. If he’d had an opportunity…

“I really need to use the bathroom,” she said, breaking into his thoughts.

Damian frowned. “The plumbing doesn’t work.”

“Regardless, I have to pee. You can let me do it outside or I can make a puddle here.”

Her frankness threw him and he hid a chuckle behind a cough.

“Fine, there’s a roll of paper towels in the kitchen. I don’t have toilet paper.”

“Of course you don’t, you’re a super soldier,” she said with a tight smile. She turned and marched toward the kitchen. He listened for the jiggle of the backdoor locks, ready to intervene in an escape attempt. She reappeared with the roll, striding toward the front door. He caught up to her.

“You can’t come with me.” Her slim eyebrows drew together.

He folded his arms over his chest. “You can’t go alone.”

“Where am I going to go, seriously? I’m in the middle of nowhere, and Mississippi has way too many poisonous snakes and alligators to go running off into the woods.”

“I’ll turn my back, but you’re not going outside alone,” he insisted.

She lifted her hands. “Whatever.”

He grabbed a lantern and they walked outside. The rain had eased to a drizzle. “Stay near the porch.”

She wandered to the edge of the lantern light, leveling an annoyed stare on him. “Well, aren’t you going to turn around?”

He blew out a breath, turning his back to her. A twig snapped and he whirled.

Laura had vanished.

“Son of a bitch.” He leapt off the porch in pursuit.

* * * *

Laura charged within the dense pine, praying she wouldn’t run into a rattlesnake or a copperhead. Or worse, an alligator. She had no idea which direction to the nearest house, so weaved blindly within the stand of trees, the Mississippi muck sucking her feet down and threatening to yank off her shoes. Weeds whipped around her legs, and unable to see, she kept her hands extended. Arms wrapped firmly around her waist, yanking her off her feet.

“No!” She kicked, but Damian held firm. “I’ll bite you.”

“Nice try, but you’re not contagious until the virus takes over.” He flung her over his shoulder caveman-style. She squealed in frustration, beating on his back, making as much fuss as possible while he carried her across the yard and through the front door of the stinking house. He deposited her on a loveseat, making a dust cloud billow up around her. She sneezed several times as years of disuse floated up her nostrils.

“This isn’t just about you, Laura. If you get loose, you’d have the ability to spread this virus, like the thing in the alley. You’d be killing a lot of people.”

“I feel fine,” she insisted. She stood, a wave of dizziness swamped her and her knees threatened to buckle. Damian’s hands closed around her shoulders, keeping her upright.

“Do you now?”

“I’m just tired.” She shrugged out of his grip. “And thirsty. Do you have any water around here?”

His eyebrows shot up. “You’re thirsty?”

“Yes, because I had a long night at work and it’s a hundred degrees in this damn house.” She pulled her sweaty shirt away from her torso to emphasize her point.

He nodded toward the corner of the room. “There are some bottles of water in the cooler.”

Laura wavered on her legs. “Can you grab me one?”

The plan worked. He walked over, reached inside, and grabbed one. When he turned she already had the barrel of his gun leveled at him. His hand shot to his waistband.

“Snagged it when you carried me back inside,” she stated.

He lifted his hands. “Laura—”

“No, I don’t want excuses, I want to go home.” She cursed her trembling good hand holding the gun.

“I can’t let you go home, not right now.”

She squared her chin. “I don’t see you have much choice.”

“This is what I see, Laura. Your injured hand is your dominant hand, judging by the way you keep trying to use it. I can tell by the way you’re gripping the Glock you don’t have experience with handguns, adding to an already inaccurate aim. I’ve been engineered to handle pain better than most, you could empty that clip into me and I’d still keep coming. So if it’s not a kill shot to the head or heart first try, I’ll be on you in one second flat.”

She swallowed, stubbornness forcing her to stand her ground. “And what if I’m really lucky tonight? I mean I got attacked by a random zombie, who’s to say I won’t get a good shot off?”

Damian lowered his hands. “Then what will you do? Take this virus back to your town and infect those you love? Of course you’ll already be dead by then, so why should it matter to you?”

Chills raced over her skin despite the feverish heat coursing in her veins, making her teeth chatter. Pity glowered in her captor’s expression, reflecting back her worsening illness. If she were going to die, she could at least try to take the bastard with her. Her finger twitched on the trigger.

She lowered the gun, she wasn’t a murderer.


Chapter 3


Laura finished a bottle of water before snatching out another from the cooler, her insides burning and throat parched. Distracted thoughts returned to the terrible creature behind Nana’s.
Will I turn into it?
She poked at her injury, the numbness spreading past her wrist.

If she did, how would her parents ever get over her disappearance? She couldn’t remember the last time she’d let them know how much they meant to her. Though they loved him, her pothead brother had never amounted to much, so she was their parenting success. If only she hadn’t extended restaurant hours, she would have been gone long before the zombie showed up in the alley. Home and curled up in bed, oblivious to Damian’s underworld.

Damian was responsible for this. She turned to the man who watched closely and her eyes narrowed. “How could you have let that thing get away from you? If I’m infected, it’s your fault.”

He remained immobile and closed his eyes. She guessed him a few years older than her, but he seemed an ancient man in the timeworn house. Since she’d held his gun on him he’d retreated as much as the room allowed, keeping to the farthest and most shadowed corner. For some reason she felt bad about it.

“I’m sorry, Laura.”

Ringing in her ears dulled the words. He didn’t sound sincere, not entirely. Maybe he didn’t care he’d fucked up royally. Maybe he didn’t care her life had been stolen away.

“Sorry?” she sputtered. “I’m going to die and all you can say is you’re
? I can’t even go home to my family. I have to be here with a complete stranger in my last hours on earth.”

He remained quiet, adding to her rising ire.

BOOK: Project Terminal: Legacy
9.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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