Betrayal cuts deeper than a double edged blade.
For Birch McKennery being stabbed in the back is par for the course. Until she met Zev and lowered her guard enough to fall in love. His betrayal dug deeper than any other, so much that Birch fled instead of fighting for what she wanted.
Zev Gridnev is known for his focus and for his obsession into searching for those responsible for his parents’ deaths. When he meets Birch, he becomes distracted and lost in her. Believes in her. Then she’s disappears like mist in the sunlight.
Ten years later, battered, betrayed and just wanting to be left alone, Zev meets his brother at Kliendorf Medical only to see an armed figure dart from the exploding medical building. Acting on instinct, he tackles the person to the ground and holds a knife to the their throat. Of course, the throat he holds the knife to was none other than the woman who had disappeared years ago with no explanation.
Determined to get to the bottom of why Birch left and why she had been in the exploding building, Zev refuses to leave her side. As they begin to untangle the mystery, they discover the plot to a war that began years ago with the death of Zev’s parents. Now the web’s grown to encompass the Mutants to the east, mercenaries, hostages, the military and the Brotherhood of Uriel. As they become embroiled in the plot to bring war to Amelorica, they rediscover the love they thought long dead was waiting for them to find each other again.
“Move your asses!” Birch grabbed her knives as she shoved the group towards the exit. The fleeing researchers ran directly outside, however Birch detoured to the medlabs. It took what felt like an eternity to convince Dahlia, Jace and the others that they needed to evacuate. She had a looping grid of a timer counting down in her head.
Birch watched as Jace grabbed two doctors to help drag the still unconscious Cymek outside the facility while a few others gently moved the beaten man. Birch snatched the Pneums and guns and then followed the group making their way out of the building. Just as she darted past the reception area the bomb exploded. Debris rained down on her as a cloud of smoke nipped at her heels.
Tears from the smoke streamed down her face as she raced for the exit. When she’d cleared the front of the building a muscled shape tackled her. Birch’s bow skittered across the grass as her battered body slammed into the hard ground.
“Oomph.” The breath was knocked from her body and stars danced in front of her eyes. The cold press of steel on her neck pissed her off. Rage reddened her vision and heated her blood. She must have missed one of the guards dammit! She should have checked the perimeter before ever entering the facility.
Twisting her legs up and around the man’s neck, she squeezed, but the bite of steel dug in unflinching. The trickle of blood down the side of her neck reminded her of how tenuous her position was. Her eyes narrowed as she pulled one of her knives and pressed it between the man’s legs. The way she was pinned made her unable to see if he felt her steel.
“Just a heads up,” she rasped. “If you cut mine. I’ll definitely cut yours.” She pressed the flat part of her knife against the man’s balls and tapped making sure he felt where she aimed to cut first.
She heard him gasp before the weight was ripped from her. Scrambling away, Birch grabbed her throat with one hand as the other swept across the dirt searching for her bow.
“What the hell, Zev! You could have killed her!”
Zev? Oh shit! Birch chanced a glance around, then stood and limped towards her bow. She wanted to curl in a fetal position and stay there until her body healed until she forgot what she’d been forced to do in that hell hole. Until she forgot the faces and the blood. Her stomach churned as she focused on getting to her bow and not on losing the bit of food she’d eaten earlier– this was not the time to fall apart. As she picked up her weapon, she prayed that it wasn’t her Zev. As if he had ever been hers, but surely fate wouldn’t be that cruel.
“Get off of me, Jace, dammit! I thought she was with them. How the hell was I supposed to know she wasn’t? She’s the only damned one armed.” Zev stood and adjusted himself.
“Well, wait next time.” Jace raked a hand over his face.
She struggled to pierce the darkness the man blended into. Was it Zev? This one was more muscular and moved with a predatory purpose. Her Zev had moved with grace, but didn’t give off the unstable vibe this one did. Hers was dangerous, but never towards her. Ugh! He is not your Zev. Get that through your damned head! He chose someone else. She shoved the pain into the deepest corner of her soul.
“Yeah, I’ll do that, while I see all of your people running from the building hollering about a bomb. People are shouting about guards and hostages and then I see a stranger running out behind everyone armed like a Bandit. I’d rather make a mistake and take care of the threat than having my friends die.” Zev stomped towards the group of medical personnel nearby.
Jace walked closer to her. “Sorry about that. Zev’s over protective and reacts before he thinks.”
She nodded, Birch was the same way with her family. Pressing her hand against her neck, she felt the steady trickle of blood. It and her thigh demanded attention, but she couldn’t seem to focus. Spots danced in front of her eyes and weakness invaded her limbs as the adrenaline slowly faded. “It’s fine. We take care of our own out here, it’s not like the MFZ where they have regular patrols. Out here, it’s us against whatever threat there is.”
Jace shrugged. “Yeah. Anyway, he’s my brother and sometimes he’s a pain in the ass, but I wouldn’t trade him for anyone.”
“Seriously, I’m not holding a grudge, because I understand perfectly.” Birch’s hand was slick with blood and though it wasn’t a steady stream, it was enough to worry her. “Jace, can you get Dahlia, please?”
Jace’s eyes finally came to rest on Birch. “Shit! Dahlia!”
His hand replaced hers and pressed into her neck. That’s going to leave a mark. Wonder if I can convince Pop that Jace didn’t really try to strangle me. Birch’s mind spun with disjointed thoughts. Collapsing to the ground with none of her usual grace, she absently noted how pretty the sky was with all the glittering stars. Exhaustion and the loss of adrenaline warred inside of her making her skin jump. Refusing to leave these people unprotected, she struggled to stay conscious. But she lost the fight as the blackness of oblivion dragged her into its vortex.