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Authors: A. S. Fenichel

Mayan Afterglow

BOOK: Mayan Afterglow
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Mayan Afterglow

A.S. Fenichel

 

They called it The End of Days after humanity met with near
annihilation. Ten months later, the real end is coming.

Aileen Grant’s powerful psychic gifts have been nothing but
a curse since the day she was born. She’d given up all hope of escaping the
demonic grasp of Mictlan, The Lord of the Dead, until an enigmatic thief
snatches her out of Hell. With something to live for, she convinces Ian to join
her on a treacherous journey to save the world.

Ian Scott is stealing from long-deserted homes when he pulls
Aileen’s unconscious body from a strange bolt of lightning. Aileen is the last
thing that Ian wants or needs, but her quiet beauty and courageous heart bind
him to her in ways he never imagined, and ignite passions he’s never known.

Mayan Afterglow

A.S. Fenichel

Dedication

 

This book is dedicated to my mom, for being my biggest fan
and toughest critic, and to my husband, Dave, my best friend, my lover and the
hero of my life.

 

 

 

Acknowledgments

 

Thanks to my dear friends Debbie, Kathleen and Llonda for
dropping everything to read the first draft just because I asked them to, and
to Nancy Quatrano and Shelley Freydont for sharing their time and knowledge
with me. Special thanks to my wonderful critique partner, Karen Bostrom. I
could never have done this without you.

 

Chapter One

 

He’d already taken what he could find in the bedroom. A
small safe tucked into the master closet had been a challenge but well worth
his time. The tumblers had been no match for his explosives, and the trading
power of the diamonds and rubies he’d found would keep him eating and moving
for months. Even the costume stuff could be traded to the less-discerning
customer.

Messenger bag slung across his shoulder and flashlight
trained in front of him, he headed for the kitchen. Even though the house had
been abandoned for ten months since the infamous events of December 21, 2012,
the canned goods should still be safe to eat. He pulled the scarf around his
neck up over his mouth and nose as he entered the enormous kitchen. The smell
of rotting food penetrated the wool, but he was used to it. He made his way
past granite countertops and across the marble floor to a door on the far left.
In the walk-in pantry, he tucked beans, tuna and beef stew into his bag just as
a sharp pain at the back of his head snapped him to attention. He turned
sharply but no one was behind him. The pain dug into the base of his skull.

An instant later he heard static popping from the next room.
He knew he should take his bounty and leave the house. His instincts told him
to run as fast and as far away from Lake George, New York as he could. He
passed through the arched doorway. In his mind he was screaming, “Ian, run!”
but his legs pushed forward toward the sound in the next room.

Completely dark except for the shaft created by his
flashlight, the ornate room had two crystal chandeliers hanging over a long
table that must have seated twenty people at one time. Ian had a fleeting
thought about those people and their fate before pointing his light toward the
far wall. A fireplace covered in white marble took up most of the wall. Above
the mantle a portrait depicted a very happy family. A middle-aged, blonde woman
sat in a wingback chair with a dark-haired man behind her. Three blonde girls
in their teens surrounded her, all blue-eyed and all smiling like they lived in
a perfect world.
Maybe they had,
Ian thought.

The pain returned and Ian grabbed the back of his head in response.
Instinctively he turned off the flashlight. But even as he did so, a light
streaked and popped like electricity at the other end of the room. Ian advanced
toward the fireplace. Could the house have an open circuit of electricity? Was
that even possible? No, he told himself. The only electricity was what he
generated himself with wind, water or fuel. All of these homes were as dead as
the people who had once dwelled in them.

The crackle of electricity filled the air with the smell of
smoke and burning hair.

He tucked his scarf back up over his nose.

The light grew brighter and in the center he could make out
two figures embracing. Then they were gone.

He was in darkness.

Several minutes elapsed. He didn’t move or turn his
flashlight back on. He knew he was alone, but he couldn’t deny that he had seen
two people in the burst of lightning that had flooded the room. A man and a
woman, he was sure of it.

His first thought was that they appeared so clean. The few
people left alive on his journey had been struggling to survive. They had been
worn and dirty just like him, some much worse.

As well as being clean, the people in the burst of light
wore bright and new clothing. The man had been in dark trousers and a beige
shirt that flowed around him. His hair was dark but his pale skin was stretched
tight around his bones. Ian had noticed this in an instant but it was the woman
who had captured his attention. She was magnificent. Loose blonde curls flowed
down her back and across her shoulders, and her blue eyes were the color the
sky should be on a clear spring day. She had creamy skin that begged to be
touched, and a body lithely wrapped in a long tunic of dove gray. He recognized
her from the portrait. She was one of the teenagers though she was several
years older now.

He laughed. “You’ve lost your mind, Ian. That’s what this
is. You’ve been without a woman for so long that you’re conjuring them out of
the ether.”

The pain returned. He ignored it and waited.

The pop and crackle of electricity lit the room. His skin
tingled and the hair on his arms stood up in response.

The pair flashed into view again. Ian was closer this time.
What at first had appeared to be an embrace now seemed more like an assault.
The man was stealing her breath. Those heavenly blue eyes were round with fear.
She stared out of the light and looked right through him.

Ian didn’t think. He reached forward and thrust his arm into
the lightning. Searing pain coursed through his hand and arm.
Madness
,
he thought.
This is pure madness
.

He reached farther into the bolt and felt flesh beneath his
fingers. Closing his hand around her arm he yanked hard and fell backward onto
the floor, the woman falling on top of him.

She rolled to one side.

Ian saw the other figure in the light screaming with rage.

She held up her hand toward the enraged specter. Ian heard
her mutter something. Blindingly bright light filled the room for an instant
before it all went dark.

There was silence save for his own breathing.

She was dead or gone. Or had he imagined her?

He flipped the switch back on the flashlight he still
gripped in his right hand and pointed it toward the floor on his left.

She was there, crumpled next to him. Her touchable skin only
inches from him. He reached out and pushed the hair from her face. It felt like
silk on his fingers.

Her eyes popped open and he jerked his fingers back like a
child caught cheating in school.

There were several seconds before her eyes focused on him.
It was like she was in a trance and for the first time she was waking up.

When she spoke her voice was soft and low, barely a whisper.
“He’ll find another way through. You must run from this place.” Her head rolled
to one side and her eyes closed.

Fear spread through him. “Shit. Don’t be dead! Shit.”

He felt for a pulse at her throat. There it was. He sighed.

“Not dead. Good.”

He picked her up, pulling her upright by both arms before
hoisting her rear-end up over his shoulders like a fireman. She was small and
thin and her pelvic bone pressed against his shoulder. Her weight was not much
of a hindrance as he made his way back through the kitchen and foyer to the
front door.

At the bottom of the steep front steps he made a left and
traveled down the horseshoe-shaped drive. He heard the growl before he saw
anything. The bushes rustled. Ian lowered the woman to the ground without
taking his eyes off the movement to his left. These things rarely traveled
alone. Red eyes peered out of the brush. There was no moon or stars but the sky
glowed the same red it had for ten months. It was light enough to see the evil
that lurked in the darkness.

He put himself between her limp body and the creature just
as it crept onto the driveway. Like a wolf but bigger and mangier, it was some
kind of mutation. These horrible distortions of the world before were not
common. How did this one end up in a residential area?

A second animal moved out of the bushes. They snapped at
each other as if their proximity was a necessity rather than a choice. The
two-inch canine teeth of the larger animal nicked the snout of the other who
cowered and whimpered.

Ian took the opportunity to reach for the pistol tucked into
his waist. He fired quickly at the larger animal. It immediately rose on his
back legs roaring in pain. Ian moved as far back as he could without leaving
the woman exposed. The creature collapsed forward but as it landed its
substantial front claw sliced open the side of Ian’s calf.

The smaller animal wasted no time and leaped toward Ian.
Ian’s leg collapsed beneath him, but he fired. The shot was off by several
inches and only grazed the wolf’s neck. The animal cried out and ran for the
woods.

He stood up. She was awake.

He reached down to help her stand. “We have to go. There
could be more. They’ll come soon to scavenge that one’s body. They have no
qualms about eating their own.”

She made a face as she took his hand. “We’ll have to bind
that gash or you’ll be passing out too,” she said looking at his leg.

He agreed.

She leaned over, took the knife he offered her and cut away
the frayed denim. Then she tore a piece of cloth from the bottom of her tunic.
The leg wound exposed two inches of meat in his calf. Binding it tightly stayed
the bleeding. Pain shot up his leg. He gritted his teeth and groaned like a
tortured animal.

She tied the knot and cupped her hand over his injury. He
could feel the heat from her hand and the pain eased.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said, pulling her up off her
knees.

On wobbly legs she followed him to a cluster of overgrown
bushes. Tucked between them, barely cooled, stood Old Faithful. His Harley
Davidson’s gas tank was scratched, her chrome dinged and cloudy. Her fenders
looked like aluminum foil that had been balled up and then flattened out again.

He mounted the bike and started it. The motor growled into
action, filling the mountains with its rumble.

Ian stepped off and tucked his sack into the leather
saddlebag. He secured the bag with a piece of rope since its buckles had long
ago rotted and fallen away. A bungee cord secured a long nylon rope to the
pack.

He helped her onto the bike. Her eyes began to close again
and her body listed to one side. For a moment her eyes fluttered open but then
her head fell forward.

He leaned down and took her chin in his fingers. “Listen to
me,” he yelled above the cycle’s motor.

Her eyes fluttered open again.

“I’m going to strap you to me to keep you from falling off
the bike. It’s a long drive up into the mountains where I have a safe place for
us to rest. I swear you’ll be able to sleep soon, but not now. You’re going to
have to hold on. Do you understand me?”

Her eyes blinked and she sat up slightly. Ian took that as
an affirmative and nodded before wrapping the rope around her twice and
mounting the bike in front of her. He pulled the rope tight and tied the ends
around his abdomen. The action drew her body hard against his. He reached back
with both hands and took hold of her hands wrapping them around his middle. She
rested her head against him.

“Stay awake,” he yelled. In his heart he thought,
Stay
alive
.

He rolled the bike forward, around the bushes and into the
driveway. Her hands disappeared for a moment and he glanced back to see her
knotting her wild hair at her nape and tucking it into the back of her shirt.
When her hands returned to his stomach, he gave the bike gas and they were on the
road heading up into the mountains west of Lake George.

It felt strange to have a woman’s arms wrapped around his
middle. His left hand moved from the handlebars to where she gripped him and
touched her. She felt real, though some part of his mind still doubted her
existence.

It had been a long time since anyone had touched him. The
woman that he’d traveled with just after the End of Days had died of a fever.
The memory made his chest ache. His companion’s arms tightened slightly as if
she could feel his pain and she wanted to give him comfort. The gesture only
made his ache deepen.

Her name was Jane and they had gotten along well for the two
months she’d lived after December twenty-first. She’d had hair like midnight
and dark olive skin. Even at the worst of times her eyes had smiled at him. His
chest squeezed again. He missed Jane’s humor and the way she’d made any
situation bearable. Even on the last day of her life she had smiled at him and
told him not to look so tragic. It had only been a cold but she’d died just the
same. He’d buried her in Ohio somewhere and put a marker on her grave.

Cold tears rolled down his face just as they had the day
Jane had died. He let the biting wind wipe them away
. Tears do good to keep
a man alive during the End of Days,
he thought.
They only blur his
vision.

He felt his companion’s arms go slack and reached back to
shake her.

“Don’t go out on me now,” he said, even though she couldn’t
possibly hear him with the noise from the Harley and the wind.

Still her arms tightened and he returned his hand to the
handlebars.

After hours of riding they slowed and turned down a dirt
road. Ian stopped the bike in front of a wall of rock and some pine trees. He
untied the rope binding her to him and got off the bike. She gazed up at him
with heavy eyes but he could still see her question.

“What are we doing here?”

“Stay here a second,” he commanded.

He went to where the trees met the wall of rock and pushed
aside the pine, which gave way easily, revealing a hole in the stone wall.

He returned to the bike. “Can you walk?”

“I think so,” she said.

Slowly she dragged one leg over the bike and got to her
feet. Ian rolled the motorcycle into the cave and she followed behind.

It was pitch dark inside.

“Stand still. I have a lantern.”

He dug into his jacket pocket and struck a match to light
the Coleman lantern on his right.

He glanced back at her. She didn’t even look around at the
cave he’d made into a house and storage building. Her sky-blue eyes never
strayed from him.

In spite of his good intentions his groin responded. “You
had better stop staring at me like that,” he said.

She seemed amused. “I need sleep.”

He pointed to an area in the rear of the cave where there
was a bed.

She went to it and collapsed on the edge of it.

She looked up at him in surprise. “A real mattress?” she
asked. “How did you get a real mattress up here?”

BOOK: Mayan Afterglow
6.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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