Surviving the End of Days was only the beginning of the journey for Nancy. After years of searching, she's finally found her missing sister, but when she attempts to rescue Robyn, she enters her worst nightmare. Captured by demons and about to be sacrificed, she's rescued by Asher, whose kindness and bravery arouse her lust, and leave her wanting much more than friendship.
Asher has been in love with Nancy since he first laid eyes on her, but her infatuation with another man left him unnoticed. Her sudden craving for him couldn't turn him on more. Together they find rapture, but the attraction can only be fleeting.
While danger and passion pull them together, doubt may rip them apart. Asher and Nancy will need more than a carnal connection if they hope to survive.
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Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
May 03, 2012
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Excerpt from Mayan Craving by A.S. Fenichel
"Damn her," Asher Dove muttered over the droning Cessna's engines.
"What was she thinking, going out here all alone?" He'd asked himself the same question over and over since setting out to find Nancy.
The closer to the Yucatan peninsula Asher flew, the more the sky blossomed with familiar dark-red clouds, just as it had five years earlier after the End of Days. The sky had clouded over, leaving most of the Earth in shadow. Some said that the heavens had burned. Once the Lord of the Dead, Mictlantecuhtli, or Mictlan, as they called him, was defeated, those red, ominous clouds had parted and slowly disappeared, allowing the land to live again.
Mictlan had nearly conquered the Earth. If he had succeeded, everyone who Asher loved would be a servant to Mictlan. However, humans had banded together to defeat the Lord of the Dead all those years ago. Unfortunately, it looked as if they had not done enough.
He prayed that Nancy hadn't been picked up by any demon patrols. Asher focused his attention on the single-lane highway below, searching for any sign of her. The roads she'd have to have taken stretched over eight hundred miles, a lot of ground to cover. A glint of metal caught his attention and he circled back for another look. He spotted a Jeep parked on the road about twenty miles west of Acayucan. His heart leaped. Nancy.
From the air it looked intact, but he could see no sign of the young woman driver. Before he could land and investigate further, something else caught his eye. Coming toward him from the south, a massive beast loomed dark against the red clouds.
"Shit," Asher swore. "Dragon."
An attempt to veer off to the right failed as the dragon moved too fast and slammed into the front of the plane. The impact rammed Asher back against his seat, but by some miracle, he managed to keep his hands on the yoke. The Cessna bucked against the added weight and plummeted toward the Earth.
"Not good." Pulling back to keep the plane's front end up, his heart leaped into his throat as the desert grew larger in the window.
The dragon's blood-red eyes stared back at him while the black, snake-like body clung to the nose of the plane. Twenty feet of leathery wings beat against the wind-shear, creating a tug of war between Asher and the yoke. Even over the wind and engine noise, those tremendous wings battered the air like thunder. Asher ignored the cacophony of noise pummeling his eardrums and the strain on his muscles.
As the land grew closer, Asher pulled back, hoping to glide in rather than collide with the ground. His shoulders and arms screamed with pain as the dragon's weight made controlling the descent nearly impossible.
"You are going to die now, little pilot. Join me and I will spare your life."
He knew that voice. The Lord of the Dead was the only one who ever called him that. Somehow Mictlan spoke through the animal clinging to Asher's airplane. Any fear he felt became overshadowed by rage. He agreed with only one thing the voice had said. He was about to die. The Cessna would crash to the ground and explode because he couldn't get the nose up.
"Join me. I will make you a prince," the voice taunted.
Asher and his friends had defeated Mictlan in Teotihuacan after the End of Days, but now it was obvious they had only delayed the Devil's plans.
He spoke out loud, though he knew Mictlan could hear his thoughts. "Tempting, but being a prince with pieces of my flesh rotting off and smelling like I died several months ago doesn't sound like much of a prize to me."
Asher braced himself for impact. The idea of dying didn't trouble him, but his heart filled with regret because he would never know what happened to Nancy. He pulled harder on the yoke in a vain attempt to live long enough to find her.
It was useless. The added weight on the front of the craft made gliding in impossible. The dragon's gaze darted toward the ground. The terror Asher saw in the dragon's eyes made him smile. It recognized the ground's fast approach. To Asher's surprise, the beast pushed away from the plane in an attempt to save itself. The absence of the dragon's weight on the nose allowed Asher to pull up just enough so that the wheels hit first. The impact snapped them like twigs and the belly of the Cessna skidded across the ground violently.
Asher took a moment to assess his situation. Not dead. Inside the cockpit, alarms screamed from the cracked instruments. Smoke filled the plane. Asher's heart raced with a mixture of terror and joy. He choked and pulled at the harness holding him against the pilot's seat. I can still find her. As soon as the forward motion ceased, he jumped up. He had no more time for gratitude or amazement over being alive. The first flicker of flame began in the electrical instruments and spread to the wires that had dislodged and were hanging everywhere. Heat quickly filled the small airplane.
"Dammit." Asher thought of how many times the Cessna had saved their lives. He grabbed an automatic weapon that had fallen from its place behind the rear seat and slung his duffle over his shoulder. The crossbow he always kept hooked to the pack hit him square in the back. Jumping to the ground stung his cramped leg muscles, but he ran as far from the wreck as he could before flames engulfed the craft.
Turning back, he searched the sky for the dragon. His heart pounded from both fear and exhilaration. No giant beast marred the blue sky.
The impact of the first explosion knocked Asher off his feet. He covered his head while shrapnel rained down, and two more blasts followed, filling the air with black smoke. The dragon's cry pierced the air. In spite of the ear-splitting pain caused by its banshee-cry, Asher turned toward the noise. He lifted his gun in the direction of the Cessna and watched as the dragon rose up from behind the smoke like a phoenix.
The dragon struggled to fly and Asher could see its torn left wing. Still, it climbed higher. Asher fired, expecting the dragon to come for him. The thing turned to the southeast and moved away, much to his surprise.
Asher collapsed on the dry earth, the hot metal of his AK-47 still clutched in his hand. The adrenaline that had helped him flee the burning plane and run from the explosions fled as quickly as it had come. He felt that energy rush away. Exhaustion enveloped him like a blanket and even lifting his duffle and rifle might not have been possible. He watched the Cessna burn for a few minutes.
A change in the wind caused the smoke to burn his eyes. They watered to the point where he could no longer see his precious Cessna. His lungs stung in protest of the black smoke and his hacking cough forced him from the area.
"Damn." He looked one last time at the little Cessna he loved so much. That plane once saved the world. He'd met Ian Scott and Aileen Grant in western New York and the Cessna had gotten them to Mexico in one piece. In spite of attacking crows, dragons and Mictlan himself, the little plane had held up and made it all the way.
He wanted to rest. Needed to. He could already feel bruises and bumps forming all over his body. He thought of Nancy and what trouble she might have gotten herself into. Rest will have to wait. He walked toward the road, where Nancy's car had been abandoned.
The Jeep hadn't crashed or met with any demon, as far as he could tell. He turned the key and the engine came to life for a second, then died again. "Out of gas." The extra gas cans she'd taken along were also empty. He shook his head.
Faint footprints in the sandy dirt headed south. He hiked up his duffle and followed.
The trail disappeared a mile further down the road, but he continued on what had once been the two-lane highway toward San Lorenzo. The passage of time, plus the lack of repair, had left the roadway cracked and broken. Flash floods had washed out part of the pavement and he had to climb down into a hole that could easily swallow a full-grown human. He began to worry about the things that Nancy might have encountered. Could she have broken a leg in one of the washouts? Or been dragged away by the giant wolves that had emerged in the world after the End of Days?
"Why couldn't she just wait?" he muttered. He would have helped her find her sister. As soon as Nancy heard testimony that Robyn might be alive, she'd left the safety of the settlement by herself to mount a rescue. Nancy would stop at nothing to get to Robyn. He cursed himself for having been gone so long trying to find fuel, but she should have waited for him. She never should have tried this on her own.
He watched for signs of blood or struggle as he walked, but found only empty road and a few prints that were not human.
The smell of rotting flesh filled the air as he neared the town. The humans and animals who followed The Lord of the Dead were not meant to live on Earth, so their bodies festered. Asher gagged from the stench and pulled his shirt over his nose and mouth while pressing forward.
Asher's air patrols to look for survivors and locate supplies had never turned up a town that reeked so unbearably. He moved off the road and waited for dark. The village's small size would make it difficult to safely sneak out any prisoners, but the rabble who populated these places didn't care much for community beautification. Abandoned cars and piles of garbage lined the streets of demon settlements. Conveniently, the mounds of trash would create cover on the way in. The escape might be more difficult.
A large outcropping of rocks gave him a relatively safe place to wait for nightfall and allowed him to doze in the late afternoon sun. He pressed his canteen to his lips, but permitted himself only a small sip. "I hope this dump has water," he said. More importantly, he prayed he'd find Nancy alive and well.
The cool night air revived him and he started across the desert toward the village. Staying off the road, he ran from rock to shrub, hiding and watching as he went. As expected, he found the town strewn with debris. A semi overturned in the middle of the square had burned long ago. Cars, tables, chairs and beds were all thrown in a pile near what looked to be a government building of some kind. A sculpture of a head stood taller than a man in the entryway.
The town appeared empty, but strange noises emanated from one building. Asher couldn't identify what the sound could be. It sounded a bit like monks chanting. He took the long way around so that he could cross the square closer to the piles of debris. The sign at the building's entrance read The Olmec Museum.
The noise grew louder, and though he could not understand the words, he realized it wasn't monks, but a group of demons. Their garbled voices rose to a fevered pitch and the chanting gained speed as their excitement seemed to be building. Under the growing hum, Asher also heard a woman's screaming rants. The combined noises created such disharmony, he couldn't decipher any of the words.
No demons guarded the museum and Asher wondered if they were all inside. Could they be that confident in their invulnerability? Built using modern technology, the museum looked like an old adobe, but with larger windows that no longer held glass. White fabric hung across the gaping holes and the light breeze caused them to flutter.
Asher rounded the building and pushed the fabric aside to peer through the window. Another Olmec head stood in the middle of the room. Twenty demons of various sizes and states of decay knelt around the head. They appeared to be in a trance, all swaying and chanting. Fires burned in large cauldrons at the four corners of the gathering and smoke filled the air. He could make out the hand of a human strapped to the face, and he moved to the next window to get a better look.
His heart jumped to his throat.
Nancy's wrists and ankles were tied spread-eagle to the face of the sculpture by heavy ropes. Dried blood coated the side of her head and face. Her matted hair stuck out wildly. Struggling against her bonds, she screamed and cursed at her captors.
Asher had to restrain his urge to rush the room, screaming and shooting those malignant abominations who were hurting Nancy. He clenched his jaw in his effort to tamp down his anger and slowly climbed through the window, careful not to be noticed.
The demons' focus remained on Nancy and the large demon in front of her. Less decayed than the others, the central demon's black skin was smooth and muscles bulged on his bare chest and arms.
Asher knew he'd get only one shot at this. Hiding behind a totem, he fished out a small stick of dynamite from his pack. He set his AK-47 on the ground next to him, then strapped the explosive to one of his arrows and nocked it into his crossbow. The bow clicking into place sounded like a gunshot while he was attempting silence. He looked around to make sure no one had heard. Luckily the demons were focused on the sacrifice.
Asher took a deep breath, aimed for the burning pot on the far side of the head and fired.
The pot exploded, and he let his breath out. Several demons blew up in the blast, spewing body parts in every direction. Asher trained his gun on the large demon standing only inches from Nancy. Consciously telling his heart to slow its rapid thumping, he pulled the trigger just as mayhem broke out. Asher's bullet hit the leader in the chest and he followed with a shot to the head. The demon crumpled to the floor. If it had been anyone else strapped to that statue, Asher could have stuffed his emotions deep in his gut and let his instincts push him into automatic pilot. Nancy's precarious position changed the game. He had to still his shaking hands every time he lifted his weapon and his pulse beat so fast it created an ache in his chest.
Still outnumbered fifteen to one, Asher shot rapidly as demons rushed toward him. Careful not to accidently hit Nancy, he continued to fire, stuffing his emotions down as he did.
The room's occupants spun in pandemonium. Screaming, dying beasts littered the floor, their bodies oozing black blood. Asher charged forward, shooting more demons as he went. When he reached Nancy, he pulled a long knife from his belt and cut the rope at her right foot. She kicked out, catching him in the shin.
He shook her shoulder hard and put his face close to hers. "Damn it, Nancy, it's me," he screamed.
"Ian?" she asked.
"No, Asher. Be still and I'll cut you loose."
Her eyes were wide and a little empty. She appeared not to recognize him at first, but then he saw her come back. He cut the rope, holding her right wrist.
"Yeah, it's me."