Book 3 in the Waves of Fate Series
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The world is splintered, and so are the survivors.
Adrift at sea for weeks, a rescue party finally offers safe haven to the four survivors who escaped the island. But the civilized society they’ve always known has fallen… and a fractured, dangerous anarchy has taken its place.
- Race against time
- World in Chaos
- Survival at all cost
The world is splintered, and so are the survivors.
Adrift at sea for weeks, a rescue party finally offers safe haven to the four survivors who escaped the island. But America is still in darkness and a fractured, dangerous anarchy has taken its place.
Gunner. Charging into the chaos of the mainland, Gunner is determined to find his wife and daughter. But he has a new hell to deal with—desperate people with cutthroat motives.
Zon. Returning home forces Zon to face his worst nightmare—losing Jessie, the only woman he’s ever loved, in order to save her family.
Gabby. Still trapped on the island with the other desperate survivors, Gabby and Madeline fear they’ve been forgotten. But nothing could prepare them for the danger that washes up on the shore.
America is gone. Hope is all they have left. In a world of disorder, will the remaining passengers from Rose of the Sea ever make it home? Or will the darkness of human nature destroy what little is left?
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
A wave of despair crashed through Gunner. Rescue was meant to be the answer to all their prayers. He’d thought he’d be on his way to his wife and daughter by now.
But he’d thought wrong. He wasn’t even close.
Across the table from him, Pauline ran her tongue over the split in her lip. Her sunburn looked angry and painful. But it was the confusion in her eyes that completed her look of doom.
Seated beside Gunner, clad in his designer clothing, was the man who’d rescued them with his multimillion-dollar yacht. And they were surrounded by opulence: luxury furnishings, polished silverware, a five-star meal decorated with tiny flowers . . . and yet they were still trapped in hell.
Swallowing the jagged lump in his scorched throat, Gunner looked into his rescuer’s worried eyes. “I’m sorry, Charlie, but I don’t think you understand. We need to get back to America.”
Charlie offered a lopsided smile that reflected turmoil and compassion with equal measure. “I sympathize with you. I truly do. But the world changed forever on the eighth of February. There’s so much you don’t know.”
“So, tell me.” Frustration reared like a scorpion in Gunner’s stomach, and he fought to tame it. If Charlie hadn’t rescued them from their crippled sailing boat, he and Pauline and Jessie and Zon would all be dead. Of that he was certain. This complete stranger had saved their lives, and he would be forever grateful for that. But there were still thirty-five people stranded on that deserted island who needed rescuing.
And nothing would stop him from fulfilling the promise he’d made to them.
“Let’s wait until everyone gets here.” Charlie’s eyes softened. “We all have so many questions. But first, you must eat.”
Gunner dragged his eyes from Charlie to the beautifully presented plate of sushi. His stomach groaned as if demanding that he put the food in his mouth. He did. The rice was sweet, the fish was tender, and the taste . . . it was heaven. For weeks, they’d had no choice but to eat raw fish. That had been nothing like this.
Pauline’s eyes rolled as she ate. “Oh, my God, this is so good.”
Months of searing heat and limited water had tortured Gunner’s throat, and just swallowing hurt. After forcing the sushi down with a drink of cold beer, he placed his glass on the crisp white tablecloth. “Charlie, we were stranded on Pelicia Island, which is about one thousand miles south of Hawaii. We sailed for seven weeks, hoping to get to the Hawaiian Islands, but when we capsized, our mast broke off, and we drifted for three more weeks. Where exactly did we end up? Are we close to Hawaii?”
Charlie’s shoulders slumped, and he shook his head. “You really did go to hell and back. I’ll let the captain tell you because I honestly don’t know. We, too, have been floating about for months. We’re what the world is calling the Great Unwanted.”
Gunner’s jaw dropped. “The what?”
“The Great Unwanted is everyone who was outside America when the EMPs hit. We’re all stuck in no-man’s-land. We can’t return to America, and we’re not able to stay where we are. At least with the yacht we can move from country to country. But anyone who was holidaying in say, Australia or Europe? Once their visas expired, they became illegals and were locked up in detention centers. Nobody knows what to do with them.”
Pauline gasped. “Oh, my God.”
Gunner twisted his hand around the knot on his robe. “But that could be millions of people.”
“Correct. It is. Ahhh, there you are.” Charlie stood and strolled to a man who walked toward them with an exaggerated swagger. Charlie and the newcomer kissed on the lips, and then with their arms around each other’s waists they turned to their guests.
“Pauline and Gunner.” Charlie’s beaming grin was photo-worthy. “This is my partner in crime and everything else.” He chuckled at his own joke. “Oliver.”
Oliver strode forward with his hand out; his linen shirt was so white it hurt Gunner’s eyes.
Gunner rose to greet him. “It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for saving us.”
“It was the least we could do.” Oliver shook Pauline’s hand.
“I don’t know how we can ever thank you.” Pauline’s voice quivered. “I didn’t think we were going to make it.”
Oliver clutched his chest. “My God, when we saw the state of your boat, we thought that nobody could have survived. I can’t wait to hear all about it.” He clicked his fingers, and the young waitress sprinted over. “Pricilla, darling, we’ll have champagne all round. Don’t you think?” He blinked at Charlie.
“Of course,” Charlie agreed. “Please sit down. You must be utterly exhausted.”
“You could say that.” Gunner waited until Oliver and Charlie sat before he returned to his seat.
The champagne’s arrival coincided with Jessie and Zon’s appearance. They, too, were in the yacht’s insignia-embroidered robes, but Zon had left his open to reveal his bare chest. His red hair was slicked back, and even with his scraggy beard, Zon actually looked decent.
Gunner stood again. “Oliver and Charlie, here are the other survivors, Jessie and Zon.”
As the four of them shook hands, Oliver’s eyes bulged, and he blatantly ran his gaze over Zon’s body. “My, my, my. Aren’t you a handsome one?”
A cloud rolled over Zon’s face, and maybe Jessie sensed his obvious disapproval of Oliver’s comment, because she stepped in front of Zon and clutched Oliver’s hand in both of hers. “Thank you so much for rescuing us. I thought we were going to die out there for sure.”
Oliver nodded. “By the state you were in, I’d say you’re right.”
A waitress approached Jessie with a selection of drinks on a tray, and she chose champagne.
“Excuse me, Zon. Would you like a drink?” The waitress shifted the tray toward him.
“Hell yeah. I’ll have two.” Zon clutched a beer and downed it in one go. Then he grabbed another. “Thanks.”
“Now, please sit. I have a million questions for you all.” Charlie pulled out a chair for Jessie, and she sat. Zon plonked into his seat at her side.
“So, let me get this straight.” Oliver paused with a crystal flute in his hand. “You were on a cruise ship? Is that right?”
“Yeah, until Captain Dickhead here fucked it up for everyone.” Zon swigged his beer.
Charlie gasped. Oliver’s eyes bulged, and Pauline scowled.
Jessie burst out laughing and placed her hand on Zon’s arm. “He’s so funny. Gunner, how about you tell them what happened?”
Gunner wanted to scream. He didn’t want to tell the rotten story—not now. Not ever. He wanted answers. But he also needed their help. And the best way to get that would be to gain their sympathy. Maybe then they’d understand how desperate he was to reach his family.
“I hope you didn’t start without me.” A man in a captain’s uniform approached the table with his hand forward. He aimed for Gunner. “Captain Thomas Hutchings at your service.”
Gunner stood and shook his hand, and in a moment of clarity, which he’d been lacking for months, he realized Thomas was the man he’d need to get on his side. Captain to Captain, he’d appreciate the turmoil Gunner was going through. For the first time since the captain label had been thrust onto him, he was glad he could use it.
He cleared his throat. “Hello, Captain, I’m Captain Gunner McCrae. At least I was until we had to abandon our cruise ship, Rose of the Sea.” He nodded at Pauline. “This is Pauline Gennaro, my second officer, and one of only seven crew who survived.” He turned to Jessie. “And this is Jessie and Zon, and they are two of only thirty-two passengers who survived.”
Thomas whistled. “Bloody hell.” His shoulders sagged. “How many souls lost?”
Gunner lowered his eyes. Acid boiled in his stomach, and he had to force his mouth to voice the gut-wrenching statistic that’d been blazing in his brain for months. “One thousand and ninety-eight souls lost.”
All eyes were on Gunner. Even Jessie seemed to be surprised by that shocking statistic.
It was shocking. But it was also the ammunition he needed to drive his point across. “Sir, we left thirty-five people on that deserted island. I made a promise that no matter what, I would save them. I plan to make good on that promise.”
Thomas huffed a forceful breath, dragged out a chair, and sat. “Well, as much as we’d like to help, I’m not sure what we can do.”
The waitress cleared away Gunner’s empty sushi plate and offered him a hot towel. As he wiped his hand, his mind shunted to a halt. It was impossible to grasp their change in circumstances in the space of just a few hours.
Pauline moaned and with her eyes closed, she wiped her hands with an expression that matched his sentiments exactly. Re-opening her eyes, her gaze shifted to their hosts, and she cringed. “Sorry, but you have no idea how nice this is. Just to have clean hands—” She didn’t end her sentence. Her expression said it all.
As those who hadn’t finished their sushi ate in silence, the ocean around them was silent too. Not a whisper of breeze blew, as if the whole world was waiting to hear their story.
Gunner placed the hot towel down. “Captain Hutchings—”
“Please, call me Tommy.”
Gunner nodded. “Tommy. We need to get to America so we can arrange a rescue party. And I need to find my wife and daughter, and my mother. I need to know they’re all right. They probably think I’m dead.”
“Umm, hello?” Zon blurted. “We can rescue the others with this boat.” He raised his hands wide. “There’s enough room for all of ’em.” He sat back and folded his arms like he’d solved all the problems of the world.
Gunner glared at Zon.
Damn it. I should’ve waited to discuss this with the captain in private.
Oliver and Charlie squirmed on their seats and flicked harried gazes to their Captain.
Tommy cleared his throat. “I’m afraid it’s not that simple.”
“Yeah, it is. Just drive this thing to the island and get ’em.”
“It’s not that, Zon. It’s what to do with you all once we have you on board.”
Zon raised his glass. “Give ’em a beer for starters.”
Everyone laughed, including Gunner. It must be nice to have such a simple outlook on life.
“How about we fill you in on what’s happened since the EMP strikes?” Thomas shared his gaze between his guests. “That way you’ll have a better understanding. Because seriously, the world you left . . . when was it?”
“Our cruise departed Los Angeles on the twenty-eighth of January.” Gunner’s thoughts tripped over an important question. “What’s the date?”
Thomas’s eyebrows nudged upward. “It’s the fifth of July.”
“Jesus,” Jessie groaned. “That’s over five months.”
“Correct,” Charlie said. “America is nothing like it was when you left.”
Five months! Gunner was lacerated with guilt. “I haven’t seen my wife in five months. I need to contact her and—”
Thomas halted him with a raised hand. “Hold up. Please . . . let me explain.” He rolled his shoulders, and his expression darkened like he was about to read a eulogy. “First, let me say that we haven’t been back there ourselves, but we’ve heard enough stories that we know are true. You have to understand, without satellites, there are no phones, and the world wide web . . . well, that hasn’t worked since about a week after E-day. That’s what they’re calling it. E-day.”
Gunner hadn’t even considered that the internet would be down. That would affect the entire world, not just America. “But how? I thought the internet was indestructible.”
Seven crew members strode to their table, and each placed a plate of food in front of the diners.
“Fuck yeah!” Zon bellowed. “Is that steak?”
Oliver clapped his hands. “I love it. Yes, it’s eye fillet.”
Zon sliced off a huge chunk and shoved it into his mouth with a couple of fries. “I haven’t had beef since that Chinese buffet on the cruise.” Meat rolled around his tongue as he spoke.
Gunner picked up his fork . . . and paused. Shit! I can’t cut my steak. A fresh wave of shock crawled through him. I’m a fucking cripple. Pierced by deep embarrassment, Gunner wanted to stride away. He wanted to crawl into a corner and pretend that none of this was happening. He wanted—
“Gunner.” Pauline reached for his plate. “Let me slice that for you.”
He swallowed the rusty razor blades tearing at his throat, and as Pauline cut his steak into bite-sized pieces, the gazes from Charlie, Oliver, and Thomas drilled into him.
Charlie cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, but may I ask how you lost your hand?”
The survivors all turned to Zon.
The brute shrugged and pointed at Gunner with his steak knife. “Captain Dickhead here got his hand caught in a winch when we were abandonin’ ship. He woulda gone down with it, too, if I didn’t chop his hand off.”
“You chopped it off?” Oliver clasped his hand over his mouth.
“Yeah. Saved his fuckin’ ass.”
“Holy . . .” Charlie’s eyes bulged, and he shoved his serve of steak away.
Much to Gunner’s disgust, he decided to use this information to strengthen their pity vote. He raised his mangled wrist, placing it in full view for all to see, and heaved a sigh. “It’s true. After that, seventy-one people and I drifted at sea for fifteen days in life rafts.” He shared his gaze between Oliver, Charlie, and Tommy. “I was just lucky we had a nurse with us.”
“Yeah.” Zon spoke with a full mouth. “Gladys, the cripple.”
Gunner’s jaw dropped. That’s the exact word he’d just labeled himself. He was wrong. Gladys was definitely a cripple. He was not. But Gunner needed to clarify Zon’s seemingly callous description. “Gladys lost the use of her legs decades ago in a horse-riding accident and has been wheelchair-bound ever since. Unfortunately, when we abandoned ship, we didn’t have room for her wheelchair, so I tossed it away. On the island, we put her into a wheelbarrow to move her around.”
“A wheelbarrow?” Charlie’s jaw dropped. “That poor woman.”
“Yes, it’s another reason why we need to rescue them as soon as possible. They are all suffering in some way. We left the island sixty-eight days ago. They probably think we’re dead. Or worse—that we’ve abandoned them.”
“Ahhh, that ain’t fuckin’ worse.” Zon shoved chips into his mouth.
“Yes, it is! I promised I would return with a rescue party.” Gunner clenched his jaw, forcing back the urge to pitch his knife at the gator hunter. Instead, he stabbed a piece of steak and ate it. Unlike Zon, who’d devoured his meal in minutes, Gunner took his time, savoring every single mouthful.
Tommy lowered his cutlery and raised his champagne glass. “What you’ve been through is shocking. But you need to understand that you weren’t the only ones who suffered. Millions of people have been affected by those EMPs.”
“Did the government know it was going to happen?” Pauline asked.
Tommy shook his head. “The information coming out of America has been patchy at best. For the first two weeks, major communications networks like AT&T were able to run off generators, but then without power and fuel, even they shut down. Internet exchanges were destroyed right across the country. Companies like Google and Yahoo and Facebook were hit hard. You know how they all went green, with solar panels etcetera on their roofs?”
Gunner nodded, though he didn’t really know.
“Well, that was their demise. The EMPs used the cables as gateways to decimate everything. So, at the beginning, just after the strikes, we received some information. Here’s what we know. The EMP strikes took everyone by surprise. The first indication that a nuclear weapon had been detonated in the atmosphere above Kansas was when the lights went out. The first EMP sparked massive explosions, and the resulting fires created catastrophic industrial destruction. The President acted fast—within hours, he had every agency mobilized: Air Force, Navy, Army, National Guard, CIA, SAS, and every other acronym you can think of. The President himself was in Manhattan. But with the city in gridlock, and his chopper taken out by that first EMP, it was hours before he was airborne again in another helicopter and headed back to the White House. Guess where he was when the second EMP hit?”
Pauline gasped. “In the air.”
“Exactly. Goodbye Mr. President.”
“Holy shit.” Jessie’s eyes bulged.
“But that was just the start of it. Air Force One went down with the Secretary of State, the attorney general, and the head of the CIA. The VP was at the White House, but he had a heart attack. And the Speaker of the House was visiting her family in Minneapolis, and she, along with nearly the whole damn city, froze to death.”
“Jesus!” Gunner’s thoughts snapped to his own family and fear blazed through him like molten lava. “So, who’s running the country?”
Tommy shook his head. “In short . . . nobody.”