They fight for their survival, they fight for their love, and they fight for the human race.
Euan left his home whole, only to return broken, battered, and partially blind. He has endured the torments inflicted upon him by monster and man, but they are nothing compared to the consequences of betraying Nick and Kira. Incapacitated, he has no choice but to concede leadership to the man he considered his enemy, and is powerless as the distance between him and those he loves deepens and grows.
But his recovery time is short lived. The commander of destruction still lurks in the shadows, determined to dominate and control what is left of the human race. The final battle is upon them. They need a champion, a hero for humanity. There is no where left to run, and there is only one person who can provide the ultimate catalyst for change: A little, blonde sun–sprite, with crystal blue eyes.
About the Author
From the age of sixteen, Annabelle lived in a youth refuge while she remained committed to her education. She spent two years
within a section of society that most overlook.
Her experiences are the foundations that drive her stories and her characters. They fight for their freedoms, have courage in the
face of adversity and always aspire for greatness.
Annabelle is privileged to live in a small rural town in country New South Wales. She writes to a distinctive Australian backdrop with
its captivating change of seasons. Outside of her love for reading, she spends her time with her husband, son and poodle named
Serendipity. She drinks her Whisky neat and can often be found at the local market hunting for blue cheese and artisan bread.
To find out more, visit Annabelle on her website.
You can also follow Annabelle on:
Read an Excerpt
Humanity needed a hero. But they would find no saviour in Euan.
The steel was cold beneath his fingers. He squeezed the rung of the ladder and the chill bit into his palms. He tilted his neck to look up. The open portal above him was the gateway to paradise, to fresh air and open space. Kira's head peeked over the lip of the gaping exit and the impossible living fairy consumed his diminished vision. Her blue eyes glinted with adoration and pride, and her lips quirked when he glared at her for too long.
'Do you need help?' she asked.
He huffed and shook his head. It was bitterness that clipped his words. 'Been in bed for long enough, sweetheart. Done waiting, done healing. If I can piss on my own, I don't need help to climb a ladder.'
He held in the smirk when she sighed in mock exasperation.
One foot. Two. He pulled himself onto the base of the ladder and hissed through his teeth at the pain. Each foot was bound beneath his socks, so there was little risk of further injury, but the skin remained tender, fragile. The discomfort sliced up from the healing skin, through his calves and into the base of his spine.
He paused, breathed. 'You say a word, and I will tan that pretty ass.'
'You'll have to catch it first,' she said with a smile in her voice.
He answered her taunt with a low chuckle. 'You'd like it if I gave it a try.'
Kira's tone was serious when she replied, 'I would.'
Four steps and his hands followed. The ache in his shoulder increased as it took on more of his weight. He blinked, and only one eye responded. The bandages were tight around his head and his hearing was muffled. His feet stung as if the stones still tore at his skin, as if the flames still licked at his bones. Rodger and his parasites had taken so much from him. Stripped him of not just the flesh from his body, but also his agility, his dexterity.
'About to leave this fucking bunker and I can't hear, can't see, can't fucking run —'
'You're almost there,' she interjected to distract him.
It worked, as it always did. She was a witch that wove a spell of enchantment, a netting that drew him to her call. It had been her words that had brought him from the temptation of death to the disaster that was his corporal self. But if she was in the realm of the living, Euan would be too.
He moved to place his palm against another cold rung. Kira's assessment from above was like a balm to his flaming skin. She filtered the shroud of despondency that clouded his thoughts. Under her gaze he would fucking succeed.
But his depth perception was shot and he missed his target. For a moment he wavered, his balance precarious. Mortifying images of his broken body sprawled out on the carpet below while Kira looked on propelled him to alter the direction of his fingers. At the last moment, he caught the support bar.
'You're doing great,' she said before the barbs of his self-flagellating thoughts could catch into his confidence and take hold.
But it was too late. His self-hatred had embedded its talons deep. His pride had done this. His pride and his ego. If only he had waited, if only he hadn't been so selfish. If he had listened to his heart and not his head, he wouldn't have risked their lives. They wouldn't have lost Ben ...
Kira's hand was in his vision. In front of his single working eye was the hand of a woman that was his heart, his humanity. Her long fingers were relaxed, pointed his way. The offering so sincere and innocent that the grunt that caught in his throat had nothing to do with the ram-rods of pain that shot through his nervous system. She had worked so hard to get him here, to keep him breathing, see him healed, on his feet, and strong enough to climb this fucking ladder without aid.
His gut was a pit of aggressive vipers. His breath erratic. His heart nothing but thunder and lightning. That damn throb in his shoulder.
'You can do it,' she whispered.
He took a deep breath and held it. Calmed himself. He nuzzled her palm instead of taking the offered assistance. When he brushed his lips against her skin, she let out a sigh.
'I'm good, sweetheart,' he told her, because he was. He may be less of the man he was when he had left them in his search for retribution, but he could, would, scale the ladder to the surface.
When her hand retreated, he moved to climb the final rungs.
His head penetrated through the portal of steel, concrete, and timber flooring to emerge into the light. Once a ghost that courted death, he was now a physical being. A man in truth. Born through fire, pain and hurt, but one who could now contribute to the protection of the two people that he loved.
The room was as he remembered. The single change was to the bed which had been shifted to one side of the room. There was no need for secrecy now as so many came and went. Thick curtains embellished with faded green vines hampered the daylight, teak floorboards, robin-egg blue walls that remained crisp and flawless. The bedding on the mattress had been removed, a light coating of dust on its bare padding was the only sign that the room's intention was to no longer support sleep.
That, and the gaping hole in the floor.
It smelt of lavender. It smelt of sunshine, goodness and life.
It smelt of Kira.
She was there, waiting with a smile so bright she lit up the dark room. Under the beauty of that smile, for a brief moment, the pain diminished. His hands didn't involuntarily tremble from the strain. His shoulders expanded, his body lightened. In the line of that smile, Euan was whole.
His features twisted into something that likely resembled a grotesque grimace instead of an answering grin.
There was a grunt. From the corner, a shadow moved. Euan was already shifting, moving his body to pull himself up and out of the hatch in a useless attempt to protect Kira, when he saw him.
The kick of adrenaline made his fingertips tingle. There was a wave of dizziness that associated the chill that gripped his limbs. He froze as the reality of Nick's presence here, with them, sunk in. Euan couldn't stop his gaze greedily eating up the man, devouring every scrap of lean muscle, hard line and rigid spine. Euan didn't give one single fuck that Nick's features were encased in stone, that the muscles in his cheek ticked, or that the eyes that he had missed more than the sun's light were narrowed and wary.
None of it mattered. He was here, in the room, with him. With them.
So fucking close, he could almost touch him.
'I'm glad you're here,' he said. It came out hoarse, ragged, desperate. Euan cleared his throat.
Green eyes softened, the tight spine eased, but the clenched fists did not change. 'Kira needed me.'
He tried not to wince, but his body reacted to the lance instinctively. The jerk caused him to lose his grip. The remorse that flashed across those hard eyes was almost worth the discomfort needed to snatch back his balance.
Kira's gaze flickered between a healing man and irate companion that no longer spoke to him. Her tone suggested both remorse and agitation. 'Nicky, can you help him out of the hatch?'
Euan's response was immediate. 'I'm not gonna say it again.'
He expected a flinch, instead, he received two raised white-blond eyebrows, a firm chin, and authoritative stare. 'While you're still under my care, you'll do as you're told.' Her focus shifted to Nick. 'Both of you.'
Euan didn't want it, but without Nick's help, this final push to get himself topside was going to be ugly. He lacked any finesse. His limited vision, a busted shoulder and fucked-up feet were more than a hindrance, they were a blockade. But he was determined to see daylight, and maybe somehow talk to Nick. He licked his lips and looked to the timber flooring for purchase in order to heave his wasted body up over the lip.
A masculine hand appeared before him. Golden fingers were stretched wide open, as if Nick had to force his muscles from creating the fist they craved to form. Euan's gaze lifted, and green eyes held his. Beautiful. So fucking beautiful. He couldn't look away, trapped by chains made of jade, his heart jerked, and his lips stretched into an instinctive twisted smile.
But Nick's mouth remained firm, his features impassive and Euan's attempt at a grin faded.
He had risked too much in leaving. Far too much.
A honey-blond eyebrow cocked, and Euan blinked himself out of his stupor. He grasped the offered olive branch and gripped it tight. Sparks, fire, the jolt of electricity they once shared zapped between them. While Euan was still lost in the sensation, Nick hauled his body from the portal in one, effortless jerk and stepped back.
'You need to eat more,' was all he said.
Euan didn't notice the thump of his heart at Nick's concern. For the first time in six weeks, he was out of the bunker.
He took a deep breath but couldn't hold in the wince.
Both Nick and Kira stepped forward automatically. But it was no surprise when Nick's face turned dark the moment he realised his instinctual reaction.
It was Kira who spoke to break the tension. 'Lily told me that if you're careful, don't push yourself, you can start to stretch your muscles, go for short walks around the house.'
Euan rubbed the heel of his hand into the pinch in his ribs. They were less of a consideration, the pain inconsequential to the ache in his shoulder, the burn in his feet. The weeping wound in his heart. The bandages were thick under his jumper, but even then, the fabric that had once been tight was now loose across his chest.
His flexed his fingers, created fists. 'And train?'
It was Nick who spoke. 'No time. We're leaving.'
It was the second time in two minutes that Euan's body had been jarred from shock. In a daze, his focus sliced to Kira who cringed at Nick's lack of subtlety. When she mouthed the word sorry, he transitioned his assessment to the man who spoke. 'Say again?'
'We are leaving.' Nick's voice was strong when he repeated himself. 'It's not safe here. The house can't be defended, the locking mechanism on the hatch door was destroyed. We can't use the house, we can't use the bunker. We're sitting ducks here. Waiting for Parker and his men to walk through that forest and find us. We can't wait any longer.'
His strength left him and Euan sat down on the bed. He stretched his legs out and leaned into the mattress. Kira took a step towards him, her knee brushed his, and he lamented the barrier of cloth that was between them.
'When?' Euan asked.
Nick's muscles bulged where his arms were folded. His mouth was tight. 'Soon.'
Euan scrubbed his face with his hand. He stopped when his fingers hit the bandage. 'Then we have time.'
'Not enough,' Nick said. 'We've stretched this shit out for as long as we can. You're lucky I didn't haul your ass outta that hole a week ago. They're coming. We need to get to the camp.'
Euan snorted. 'The eco-hotel Mickey-O has fortified?'
'Sneer all you want. It will keep us safe.'
Unlike you. The words were there, unspoken. But Euan heard them as loud as any foghorn.
He was on his feet again. His eye met Nick's and it was then he understood.
They had planned this. Kira's gentle encouragement to see him on the surface was more to do with the imminent danger than the progress of his mental health.
He didn't keep the growl from his voice. 'You've kept this from me.'
A jerk of Nick's head confirmed it. His hair waved over his shoulders, curled around his ears. Green eyes held his. 'What were we meant to do? Trust a man that wouldn't trust us?'
'Nick.' Kira's voice was stern, but it wasn't enough to dissuade him.
Euan swallowed the anger and the hurt. He crossed his own arms over his chest and ignored the pinch in his shoulder, the creak of his ribs. 'So, we lock up and go?' Nick's sneer was potent. 'Can't lock up, remember?'
Euan closed his eye. He deserved it. But Christ, it was agony. How could they come back from this? He turned to Kira and hoped that she would pull him from the darkness that despondency created. She did, but not for the right reason. The crystal blue flinted. Her cheeks were white, her lips bloodless. His girl blinked back the angry tears as he watched.
Euan reached out as the ire inside him dissolved. His palm faced upwards towards her. His voice was soft. 'Sweetheart.'
She moved to him and pressed herself close. Curves moulded to his. She was no longer soft. She was a woman of her time. Hard muscle and warm skin met his fingertips as he wrapped his hand around her nape. He bent over her, encased her in his body, his warmth, his strength, limited as it was. His muscles protested, but he endured. For her, he'd endure anything.
The origin of his pain was testament to that.
His nose was in her hair. He breathed her in, her scent. Lavender and woman. Sweetness and spice. Beauty and perfection. The ache in his chest bloomed, but it wasn't from the pain.
The words were there, in his throat. The apologies and regrets, the doubt and confessions. It was thick with them. But he didn't have the courage to set them free. He had given all his power to the men who tore them from his body with fists and steel. He had left it all with Ben on that bloodstained wooden floor.
He swallowed. It was all he could do.
Kira's hands were on his hips. They pulled the fabric of his jumper up and untucked the thermal shirt underneath. Her fingers touched his skin and goosebumps formed in their wake. He shuddered at her touch.
'We won't leave for a few days,' she whispered into his chest. 'Mickey-O's men arrived this morning. They are going to pack all of our equipment to take it with them. It will take time.'
'How many?' he asked. His arms wrapped around her slim waist. He wanted to absorb her, draw her inside himself and never let her go. Take her strength, her fortitude, her courage and stamina. If he understood what they were saying, they were all going to need it.
It was Nick who answered. 'Enough.'
Euan nodded, took one final breath, inhaled more of Kira into his lungs as she pulled from his grip. Fingertips slid down his forearms until her hands were in his. She squeezed and he clutched back. The power in them had diminished, but his determination had not. She tugged him forward, pulled him towards the doorway, to exit the room, the house. To breathe in the fresh, unfiltered air.
To lay his eyes on the sky he hadn't seen in over six weeks. A sky he never thought he'd see again.
But most important of all was to finally talk to the man that had orchestrated his rescue while not delirious with fever and pain. A man that had protected his home and those he loved while he was unable to. The man that he had thought of as his enemy, who was now the reason he lived.
Nick stepped forward and Euan caught his scent. His palms itched to touch the waves of his hair, the dusting of stubble on his chin. But Nick avoided Euan when he bent, cupped Kira's skull and gently placed a kiss on her forehead. Her eyes fluttered closed at the tenderness.
Then he turned his back and was gone.
Euan hung his head.
He had destroyed it. As effectively as Rodgers had destroyed his face, Euan had shattered the bond between himself and Nick. The pieces of their love lay about their feet, and Euan had no idea where to even begin in order to place the jagged shards back together.
The squeeze in his hand brought his focus back to the present. Kira pressed her lips together when their eyes met. No more words were said, no more words were needed. The cavern between them echoed with enough resentment and antagonism to fuel generators for eternity. Placates were of no use here, only action would see a victory.
But he would fight, he would battle and he would win. Distance was simply the path before the journey. Kira's hand in his, he took his first steps towards freedom and the first steps on the journey towards closing the gap between them. He would walk, he would run. He would crawl if he damn well had to. He would do anything to seek forgiveness and atone for his mistakes.
Anything. Everything. Nothing would stand in his way. Even the end of the human race.
Excerpted from "Eternal Refuge"
Copyright © 2018 Annabelle McInnes.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.