5 EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENTS HAVE ALREADY HAPPENED. CAN HUMANITY SURVIVE A 6TH?
In two weeks life on Earth would end. Victoria Phillips was one of the fortunate ones, she'd won a spot in Earth's underground sanctuary. Unfortunately, it came with Phoenix Tanner. He'd been sent to escort her to safety, but the man drove her nuts with his arrogant, annoying, sexist attitude. She was torn between kicking his shins and running her nails down his back, tracing that delicious tattoo.
She was relieved when they picked up more winners, and his attention shifted away from her. But the more time the group spent together; the more she got to know Nix… she began to suspect that the lottery wasn't all that random after all.
About the Author
Always an avid reader and writer, she spent many youthful nights, past her bedtime, under the covers, with a flashlight and either a book she couldn't put down or scratching out the stories that danced in her head, in a notebook.
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Wearing only boxer briefs and dog tags, Phoenix Tanner rolled off the bed and dropped to the threadbare carpet, getting his blood moving with a quick set of push-ups and crunches. He stood, raising his arms above his head, leaning to each side, before swinging his arms in front of him, all while shooting dark looks at the irritating lumpy mattress. After one last glare, he stretched his body loosening it up while he crossed to the ancient dresser. Grabbing the vitamins, he downed them with a sip of stale soda left over from last night's dinner. He took a quick glance at the window before he began to dress. He hopped around as he pulled on his fatigues and then snagged his binoculars from his duffel. Phoenix had caught a glimpse of her the night before and was eager to get a look in that apartment again. His superiors had them book rooms close by their first pick-ups, so they could be on hand immediately when it was time to obtain their assignments. Lifting the field glasses, he zeroed in on the bedroom window.
Ahh, there is that curvy little minx, he thought, catching sight of her getting out of bed. His fingers adeptly dialed in the zoom, grinning as she stretched. Her long t-shirt was raising up, giving him a good look at the top of her thighs. She shook her hands through her honey-colored hair, shaking out a bit of the bedhead so that the locks bounced on her shoulders. He tracked her carefully, as she mindlessly made her way to the kitchen. She snapped on the small television sitting on the edge of the breakfast bar, the local news filled the screen. Phoenix paused a minute on the television, the camera showed a close up of the newsman's face, and even though he didn't have audio in the apartment, he knew exactly what was being reported. Phoenix willed her to look at the news, but clearly, he had no psychic powers since she didn't even glance at the set. "Come on sweetheart, don't go into your day blind. Listen to the TV." He muttered softly.
He flicked the zoom wheel to get a closer look when he switched his view back to her. She was squinting against the morning sun, and clumsily bounced a hip off a counter as she groped for her coffee maker. A low chuckle escaped from him, at her lack of grace, then watched her pop a pod in the machine, snapping the top down to pierce the small container. She waited a moment, staring at the machine, doing nothing, then to his amusement, her lip curled up in a snarl. She reminded him of a kitten arching her back, hissing and swiping at an irritation. A tiny, cute, seriously angry, little kitten. He swore he could hear that hiss from here. She roughly grabbed the pitcher next to the pot and stalked to the sink, flipping the water faucet like she was mad at it, filling the pitcher and then the unit's reservoir. Her face and shoulders relaxed after a moment, and she poked at the button on the machine, her fingers drumming the counter impatiently. Entertained by her, he kept up his surveillance, sipping on the flat soda.
* * *
Victoria Phillips had no idea she was the subject of a stranger's amusement. Swiping her messy hair from her face, she sighed in relief when the Keurig spurted out the last bit of coffee. Dumping creamer and sweetener into it then, giving it a quick stir before taking her first sip, she moaned in pleasure as the flavor hit her tongue.
"Oh yeah ... oh god so good," she whispered to the hot cup, gazing at it lovingly.
"Damn, Tori, if I were a guy, I think I might be turned on." Her roommate's high-pitched voice interrupted her mouth orgasm.
Tori snorted, before taking another sip. "This is better than a guy, any day."
"Been around the wrong guys then, hun," Heidi replied. Tori shrugged, unable to argue in the face of truth.
It was too early to think about men, so she brushed it from her mind. She turned her face so the warm sunbeam streaming from the window created a soft warmth that whispered across her skin. This was her favorite stool at the breakfast bar, even though it faced an old hotel across the street. The sun shone brightly from above. She basked at the warmth on her face, smiling softly, she let out a tranquil sigh, before opening her eyes again. Her gaze followed Heidi as she popped a tea pod in the Keurig. She shuddered slightly, never understanding tea drinkers. It was just light brown water. She shook her head in mock pity, but didn't say anything.
Heidi stirred her tea before continuing, "Oh, can you be a doll and drop off my coat at the dry cleaner on your way to the train? And do you mind taking the trash out? I just did my nails, and don't want to ruin them." Tori rolled her eyes at the list, but nodded.
"Sure." The acceptance of the request was automatic. She wondered how she would juggle the heavy coat, the trash, her laptop, and the work she had brought home over the weekend. She was just a receptionist, but the staff accountant tended to slyly use Tori's analytical skills and math ability, often asking her to look over some accounts for her, then taking the credit. She groaned to herself when she realized she might have to make two trips down the flights of stairs. She truly did need to find the ability to say no to both Heidi and the accountant.
"I think I may have a shoot this weekend! I meet them today. They are the same ones I did a gig for before I moved in here. The one where I had to be this beautiful mommy and had this totally hot hubby and we had a totally perfect little boy? Remember? I told you about it? Well, they must've liked me! Cause they wanted me back and I need to be perfect! I don't want my nails ruined or clothes wrinkled." She babbled her excuses, then gave Tori a dazzling smile and a swift air kiss near her cheek. "I'm so glad I saw your ad looking for a roommate! You really are a doll."
Tori nodded absently. She had heard this since their first meeting three weeks ago. She remembered thinking how gorgeous and nice she seemed. A few minutes later, she realized the woman didn't seem to have a whole lot going on upstairs and was a tad bit self-centered. But Tori needed the help paying the rent on her little apartment, and Heidi came with a daddy supplied bank account. But it came with a condition, Heidi had confided that her father wanted her to experience life. He cut her allowance and she could either get a crappy apartment or find a roommate he had told her.
Yay for me. She thought, hands wrapped around her cup. She scrutinized Heidi's tall, lean body. She looked like a Victoria Secret's model standing there in her nightie. She shook her head slightly. "My ex-husband should have married someone that looked like you, to begin with. Then maybe he would have had everything he wanted." She tried to keep the bitter edge from her voice, but it sneaked out anyway. Heidi looked down at her with a pleased smile playing around her lips, flipping a long lock of hair over her shoulder, then leaning against the counter.
Pushing her ex from her thoughts, she hopped off the stool and went back to the coffee machine for cup number two. As she passed her roommate, she was once again struck by their height difference. Even without the heels, Heidi had eight inches on her. "You're what? 5'10?" Heidi confirmed the guess with a nod. "So, you're tall, slim, beautiful, and perfect." Tori summarized wistfully, glancing down at her own body. Her breasts were so heavy they hung a little low under her sleep shirt, her hips wider than they should be. It was her own fault. Well, hers and chocolate.
"Darling, you have a very pretty face; you just need to lose a few pounds or twenty." Heidi looked at her critically. Tori's back stiffened as she lowered her chin, eyes on the carpeted floor. She bit her bottom lip. "And maybe a boob reduction." Heidi paused thoughtfully before gasping excitedly. "Oh! Can I have your extra? Do they do that? Like, have a boobie donor?"
Upon that last question, Tori snapped her head up. She saw that Heidi was actually considering her last question. Wait! Why am I embarrassed? I'm smart, pretty, strong, and confident. She replayed her therapist's words in her head. Thinking about what Heidi asked, her lips twitched to hold back a wicked smile. She schooled her face into a deadpan expression.
"Yes, but you would have to cut off your boob first. You know, to see if we were a match." Tori watched Heidi put a hand to her chest and take a step back, shaking her platinum blonde head emphatically.
"Never mind then." She backed away from Tori.
Maybe she shouldn't pick on someone that doesn't even get when you are picking on them. She should've felt a twinge of guilt, but she had been taking her roommate's "helpful" snide comments for a few weeks now. Hiding a small grin, she flipped off the news, not even noticing it had been muted. She headed to her small room to dress for work.
* * *
Twenty minutes later, she was dressed in a pressed brown pencil skirt and a soft green scoop-necked sweater that hugged her breasts, following the indent of her waist. She grabbed her cute tan purse from the breakfast bar, she slung it on her shoulder. Then stopped by the trash bin, in the kitchen.
Heidi appeared behind her, pressed and perfect. She smiled when Tori glanced at her. "Oh! Adorbs purse, Tori! Where did you get it?"
Tori beamed, waggling a foot in front of Heidi. "The thrift store! How perfect does it match my pumps?"
Heidi grimaced at the mention of a thrift store, offering a bland smile without further conversation. She handed her the bulky coat and pointed at the trash.
She shrugged off the judgemental look and gathered up both items and her briefcase, slinging her laptop bag over the same shoulder as her purse. She reached the front door. Heidi gave her a big, accommodating smile, stepped in front of her, holding open the front door.
"Thanks for the help," Tori muttered drily. "You're a real treasure." As soon as Tori exited, her roommate breezed past her. Her heels clicking once she reached the staircase and began her descent.
Obviously, I'm too slow, you know ... carrying your shit and all, gritting her teeth holding back the snarky words. Careful not to fall down the stairs, she blindly felt for each step, making her way down to the lobby carefully. Heidi stopped dead on the last stair, causing Tori to stumble back or run into her.
"What are you doing?" Tori scolded, struggling to keep her balance.
"Holy shit, that guy was hot!" Heidi gasped. Tori poked her head around the statuesque woman for a better view.
"Where? I need to see some hotness!" She grinned. Her green eyes scanned the area, checking out the dusty potted ficus in the corner, then the sitting area by the faux fireplace. Seeing no one in the lobby, she felt a sense of disappointment
"He left. I think I fell in love and he left." Heidi affected a pretty pout.
"Pshht. I've known you, for what? Like three weeks? You have already been in love four times." Tori joked, nudging the younger woman to keep walking. "Come on, this stuff is heavy."
After taking the extra time for Heidi's errands, Tori had to jog to make the train. Out of breath, she flopped onto an available seat and fished out her Kindle. Immediately, she was sucked into the paranormal murder mystery with her newest book boyfriend, a hot, dangerous detective. She was so focused on the witch princess sticking her nose into his case, she didn't notice the man observing her from five seats behind her, nor the rumbling and anxiety of the other passengers. Just as the train stopped at her station, her phone buzzed for a text message. She stood up, ignoring it, trying to keep her balance when she was jostled between the exiting passengers. Almost at a jog, she made her way through the dirty cement station and up the stairs that lead to the streets of Philadelphia. Moving out of the flow of pedestrians, she opened her text message.
Heidi: Think we should of watched the news.
She resisted the urge to correct the "of" to "have" and typed back: Why???
Her phone immediately chimed
Heidi: I think the world is ending.
She laughed outright, ignoring the heavy set woman that gave her an evil eye as she passed. She texted back to her roommate a simple: LOL
Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting Heidi the drama queen, she thought, pocketing her phone and ignoring the next text chime. She walked the half block to the mid-rise office building. The phone chimed again. She ignored it, needing to concentrate on outsmarting the Devil's Vortex, also known as the revolving doors from hell. They were determined to bite her heels or pin her when she tried to step out.
* * *
Once her eyes adjusted from the bright September sun, she noticed an abnormally large crowd gathered in the lobby. They were gathered in small animated clusters, the chatter was indistinguishable, but their expressions were earnest. One of the guys from marketing stood by the elevator. He ignored the doors when they dinged and slid open. His entire focus was on the smartphone in his hand. Not far from her reception desk, the human resource assistant talked to two other women, gesturing frantically with her hands.
Her skin went hot then cold, Heidi's text replaying in her head. It was never like this; usually everyone walked in with a glazed look, coffee in hand, making their way like a zombie to the elevator. Her pace quickened to her desk. She dropped her briefcase next to her chair and slid her laptop out of its bag to boot it up. She licked her lips nervously. As the receptionist, it was her job to greet everyone as they came in. But the crowd was so huge she wasn't sure what to do. What was going on? She opened her mouth to question three women that were gathered near her desk. However, before she could say a word, her vision was filled by Kenton, the hot sales analyst from floor five.
"Hey, beautiful." The blond man smiled at her and Tori felt her face heat as his voice melted over her. She had gone out to a happy hour with him and some other employees a few times. Then one night, she made the mistake of going to his place for a nightcap that ended in a walk of shame. Since then, he had been flirting hard. He clearly wanted a repeat of that drunken evening. Tori couldn't help but feel flattered; it had been a long time since a man noticed her. The feeling of freedom from Roger was heady, and she often flirted back with him. There was a small high in the way he wanted her. Kenton was fun-but-not-serious relationship material. His gaze wandered to every pretty girl that walked by him. Tori wasn't even sure she wanted a serious relationship, but she knew she didn't want to be just a booty call. However, they had fallen into somewhat of a flirting friendship that they both enjoyed.
She gave him a playful smile, then winked at him. "Hey, handsome. What's going on?" She waved her hand indicating the crowd.
"Seriously? You missed the news this morning?" He did a quick double take and raised an eyebrow. Slyly glancing down Tori's body, lingering at the scoop neck of her sweater and the way it molded to her breasts. He cleared his throat, his lips curved into a sly grin, before raising his eyes back to her face. "The president is going to announce something at noon today. Speculation is all over the Internet. They say an asteroid is going to hit us." Kenton's lips spread into a smirk, clearly not believing the rumor. "So, I'm thinking, we should hook up again. You know ... before the end of the world. I have a couch in my office." His face moved closer to hers, his minty breath, brushing across her cheek.
She laughed, pushing at his shoulder to back him up, not taking him seriously, "Well, if it is the end of the world ..." She trailed off, teasing him. Then she flicked his tie. His gaze met hers, while his lips curved in a seductive grin.
"Sorry, Casanova. She can't." A deep voice interrupted, a tan hand gripping Kenton's shoulder and forcibly pushing him to the side. Kenton glowered at the interruption, but Tori's breath caught in her throat causing her to choke. She leaned one hand on her desk the other was at her throat, trying to stop the insane spluttering. In front of them, stood the sexiest, most dangerous looking man she had ever seen, in her life. Her eyes locked with his steel gray ones before she unconsciously licked her lips and examined the rest of him. His short black hair was disheveled, reminding her of morning-after bed head. His deeply tanned skin had a shadow of whiskers that stretched over his jaw and down to the top of his long throat. She saw a small bit of ink creeping up onto his neck. She appraised his broad chest. His tight black t-shirt did nothing to hide his muscular chest, the sleeves were tight over his thick biceps, and she saw more ink. Her mind wandered. Was it one big tattoo? Did he have multiple? Oh, my god, I want to lick it. The thought surprised her. She never felt such an immediate lust. Heat spread over her face, and she bit her bottom lip, her concentrated study worked its way over his flat stomach and down to his black and green camo pants.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Burn"
Copyright © 2019 Helen Hyland.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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