Category Archives: Story Serializations

A Meeting of Souls – Final Installment

This is the final installment of A Meeting of Souls – A Tale from the Wasteland. The read the story from the beginning, start here.

If you enjoyed this story and would like to own a copy of your very own, you can purchase it from Amazon/Kindle here and Barnes & Noble/Nook here. The e-book includes a full-color cover and a special, steamy, NSFW bonus chapter at the end of the story that won’t be included on the blog. Every romance needs a “happy ending,” right?

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Chapter Fourteen

Out of the corner of his eye, Lash saw Chilli tug Zinara toward the gates, but he kept his attention on the two men in the buggy. He was surprised to see the man he’d pulled off Zinara at the slaver camp jump out and start toward him. He’d left him for dead last night, but apparently it hadn’t stuck. Lash watched his partner climb out as well but hang back. His shoulder twinged as he recognized the man who’d shot him yesterday.

“You stole somethin’ that belongs to me.”

“I don’t think so,” Lash countered.

“I’ve got the paperwork to prove it.” Arnie reached into his overcoat and produced a folded up piece of paper which he shook open and held up for Lash to read. As he did so, Bud took the opportunity to move slowly but steadily closer. Lash recognized the tactic: one tried to draw his attention while the other sought a position of advantage. They’d been partners for a long time and it showed. Predators through and through.

“That’s not mine. I didn’t sign any contract,” Zinara called from the gate.

“The lady says that’s not her signature. If she says she didn’t sign it, she didn’t sign it,” Lash said, pivoting and throwing one whip sideways, neatly cutting the paper in two. There was a restrained Oooooh from the gathering crowd.

“You sonofabitch!” Arnie growled, taking a step toward Lash.

“I wouldn’t,” Zinara called from the gate, stepping into the open with the shotgun braced against her hip and pointed at Arnie.

Lash swore under his breath but kept his attention on the two men in front of him. After what she’d been through, he couldn’t really blame her for wanting to make sure the bastard was really dead this time, but he didn’t need her trying to be a hero right now. The slavers saw the distraction and made their move.

Out of the corner of his eye, Lash saw Bud draw his flintlock. As he turned to address the threat, Arnie produced a huge Bowie knife and sprang. Lash’s whip snaked out, cracked, wrapped around Arnie’s wrist—

Bud came around the front of the buggy, leveling his pistol—

The knife flew from Arnie’s hand, sticking itself into the sand—

The shotgun BOOMED, the full load catching Bud in the center of his flak vest. He reflexively fired his flintlock impotently into the sky as he fell back against the buggy, his hands frantically feeling his chest for the gaping wound he expected would be there. At the same time, Zinara staggered back from the shotgun’s recoil.

Lash struck out with his other whip and caught Arnie across the cheek, a fresh line of blood welling up where the whip had torn his flesh. He yelped as Lash closed the distance, wrapped a whip around his neck, and threw him to the ground. His blood boiling, Lash felt around in the sand until he found Arnie’s Bowie knife. Imagining the vile things the slaver had planned for Zinara, he raised the knife and tensed to strike—

“Hold it!” Lash didn’t even have to turn to know that the Captain and a full complement of Guards were moving toward them, weapons drawn. As the Guards surrounded them, Lash forced himself to relax. The cavalry had arrived. Lash would pay dearly for getting them out of bed at this hour, but he was grateful for the backup. He stood up and let Arnie slowly rise to his feet.

“Bitch!” Bud cried feebly when he’d finally caught his breath. The front of his flak vest was shredded; blood oozed from a dozen spots where lead shot had penetrated his skin. His empty flintlock lay useless at his side.

The Captain strode up to stand beside Lash, facing the two men. “An assault on the Guard is a bannable offense. You two are no longer welcome in Wasteland City. Disappear. Don’t come back.”

“We got an exclusive right to recruit here, and he’s interfering with it,” Arnie whined.

“Your boss and I are going to have a meeting about that very soon. In the meantime….” He inclined his head toward Tank and Ryno. “Get them out of here.” The two big Guards grabbed the slavers and half-marched, half-dragged them to the outskirts of the tent city surrounding the walls, with Hydra and Gilmortar following behind, weapons at the ready.

“Isn’t that Rust-Eye’s buggy?” the Captain said, already knowing the answer. He shaded his eyes as he watched the Guards head back toward the gate and he gestured for the rookie Guard, Thumper, to move the vehicle inside the walls to await retrieval from its rightful owner.

“Looks like it,” Lash replied. He coiled his whips as he and the Captain headed back toward the bike.

“You’d better be right about this, LeSabre. If my ass is on the line …”

“She’s telling the truth.” He saw Zinara hurrying toward him and he pulled her close. She snaked one arm up around his neck and tilted her head up to kiss him.

“My hero,” she murmured. He pulled back slightly to check her expression and was relieved to see a mixture of amusement and admiration.

“Bastards kidnapped you and shot me. They had it coming,” he said.

“Sergeant,” the Captain began, interrupting. “I expect to see you at your post at 0700. Tomorrow.” There was a glimmer of a smile behind the Captain’s stern expression and as Zinara mouthed “Thank you,” he nodded to her and headed back to the wall, barking orders at the guards as Chilli trailed behind him.

“I’ll be there,” Lash called after him, turning his attention back to the girl in his arms.

“Lash, huh?” she said, smiling up at him.

“Yeah. And you are …?”

“Zinara,” she said against his lips.

“Nice to meet you,” he whispered, as they kissed, slowly at first and then deeper.

When the kiss ended, Lash straddled his bike and started it, gesturing for Zinara to climb on. She laid his shotgun jauntily across her shoulders and snuggled against his back.

“You hungry?” he asked.

“Starved.”

“Chilli makes the best breakfast in town. And if you like coffee….”

Zinara squeezed him gently and he urged the bike forward, passing through the gates and into the City. The Captain had given him the day off. Surely they could find some way to pass the time.

_____

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the organizers, volunteer staff and participants of Wasteland Weekend VI (2015), without whom the original spark of this story would never have happened. Special thanks to everyone in the original Wastelander Central Facebook thread (http://tinyurl.com/wwadventure) who responded so enthusiastically to the story. And extra-special thanks to everyone who contributed ideas. See you in the Wasteland!

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Author Bios:

LC Feeney spent a good portion of her childhood reading books under the covers with a flashlight way past her bedtime, finding the worlds of high fantasy, science fiction, and later, post apocalyptic romance preferable to her own. She started writing her own stories at the age of seven and has been known to leap out of bed in the middle of the night to jot down the plot ideas that come to her in her dreams. She’s only recently been introduced to Wasteland Weekend, but now she’s a convert.

She lives in Southern California and is married to an extremely patient computer programmer who indulges her love of science fiction, fantasy, and chocolate.

 

Currently a federal law enforcement officer, Curtis Gropp has had a long and varied employment history, including stints as editor of a reptile magazine, proofreader, and advertising copywriter. He has been writing as a hobby since elementary school. He has written numerous short stories and several feature-length screenplays, and is working on a novel. (Aren’t we all?) He lives in Huntington Beach, California, with his wife Lisa, their son Logan, their Rottweiler Jaxson, and Logan’s bearded dragon Jazz Hands.

He participates in Wasteland Weekend every year without fail.

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A Meeting of Souls – Installment #13

This is the thirteenth installment of A Meeting of Souls – A Tale from the Wasteland. The read the story from the beginning, start here.

If you enjoy this story and would like to own a copy of your very own, you can purchase it from Amazon/Kindle here and Barnes & Noble/Nook here. The e-book includes a full-color cover and a special, steamy, NSFW bonus chapter at the end of the story that won’t be included on the blog. Every romance needs a “happy ending,” right?

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Chapter Thirteen

Lash and Zinara flew through the desert toward the City looming on the horizon. Lash stole a quick glance to the rear and saw the buggy in hot pursuit, gaining. This is gonna be close, he thought.

As they neared the City gates, Lash began shouting: “Guard, LeSabre! Guard, LeSabre!” The last thing he needed was for the Guards in the towers to mistake him for a marauder and put a ballista bolt through them and then barbecue their corpses with the flamethrower for good measure. Lash braked hard and slid the bike to a stop, dismounting and turning to Zinara. “Get inside.”

He dropped the kickstand and moved away from the bike, unsnapping his whips from his belt.

“Morning, Lash,” Lt. Rain, the Captain’s second in command, drawled in her unmistakably British accent from the ballista tower. Lash didn’t know how she’d ended up out here in the Wastes; maybe one day he’d ask.

“Gonna do a little thing here in a sec,” Lash called back. “Pretty sure I can handle it, but … you know.”

“Keep it outside,” she warned, then called down behind the wall. “Get the Captain.”

Lash performed a series of tricks with his whips, partly to loosen up but mostly as a threat display. If he could get the slavers to think twice about continuing the pursuit, he could end the fight before it began.

He was executing a showy two-handed technique when the dune buggy skidded up, throwing sand and dust. He finished with a double crack in the buggy’s direction and flicked his wrists to arrange the whips in a ready position at his sides. Your move, he thought dramatically.

Zinara had been crouched down behind the bike to avoid the swirling whips, but now she stood and slid the shotgun from its scabbard. She’d just pulled it free when she felt a tug on her arm. She turned to see a woman at her elbow, her hair streaked with silver. She was urging Zinara to follow her, pulling her toward the gates, and with a last glance at her rescuer, Zinara did so. Once inside, she hesitated. “Are you …?”

“A friend. Get in here out of the way.”

“But we can’t leave him out there.” Zinara turned to go back through the gates, but the woman grabbed her arm again.

“He’s gonna have the whole Guard backing him up, honey. Don’t distract him by making him worry whether you’re safe or not.” Her words were confident, but Zinara could see the concern in her eyes. She let the woman pull her around the edge of the gate, but she kept her eyes on her rescuer, determined to help him if he needed it.

“I don’t even know his name,” she confessed as the woman angled herself behind Zinara so she too could see the scene unfolding.

“That’s Sergeant Lash LeSabre of the Elite Guard. You’d be hard pressed to find a better man to rescue you.” The pride in her voice was obvious, and Zinara found herself smiling.

Chapter Fourteen

A Meeting of Souls – Installment #12

This is the twelfth installment of A Meeting of Souls – A Tale from the Wasteland. The read the story from the beginning, start here.

If you enjoy this story and would like to own a copy of your very own, you can purchase it from Amazon/Kindle here and Barnes & Noble/Nook here. The e-book includes a full-color cover and a special, steamy, NSFW bonus chapter at the end of the story that won’t be included on the blog. Every romance needs a “happy ending,” right?

_____

Chapter Twelve

The sun was just peeking up over the horizon when the truck ran out of gas.

Zinara had been torn between wanting to circle back to the slaver camp to find her rescuer and wanting to put as much distance between her and the men who’d abducted her as she could. He’d said he had a motorcycle nearby. Surely he would make it back there and catch up to her, right? Unless he’d been caught, which would mean he would need her help. She was terrified to return to the camp, but she couldn’t just abandon him after all he’d risked to save her.

She’d just made the decision to turn around and go back for him when the truck sputtered a few times, died, and lurched to a halt. She tried starting it again, but when that failed she slammed her hand down on the steering wheel in frustration, struggling not to succumb to the panic and dread threatening to engulf her. She pushed her hair back out of her eyes, trying to decide what to do next, when her fingertips brushed against the slave collar still fastened around her neck, reminding her of the bolt cutters her rescuer said he had on his bike. Christ, she didn’t even know his name! And to thank him for rescuing her, she’d panicked and left him behind.

She opened the door of the truck and climbed down. Walking around the truck, she found a fuel tank on each side, but had no idea whether they were connected and could see no way to toggle between them. Maybe there was a switch inside the cab somewhere.

The sun was definitely up now, making it easier for Zinara to see as she rummaged around under the dashboard of the truck, but she knew that meant it would be easier for her to be spotted in the flat, open desert. When the search of the dashboard and under the seats proved fruitless, she pulled the back of the seat forward and found a pile of clothing. Halfway down the pile she found her skirt and boots, which she hastily pulled on, happy to be free of the smelly, scratchy wool blanket poncho, but her shirt and jacket were nowhere to be found. She tied the corners of the larger shawl around her back and neck in a sort of halter top and had just starting searching for the switch for the fuel tanks again when she heard the distinct rumble of a motorcycle off in the distance.

Peering through the back window, she could see a rider approaching from behind her on the road, moving fast and headed directly for her. She slunk down out of the cab of the truck and crouched behind the front wheel, keeping the truck between her and the rider and clutching the little baseball bat in her hand. Although she prayed that it was her rescuer, she wanted to stay out of sight until she could be sure.

The motorcycle pulled up to the driver side door, idled for a moment, then started around the front of the truck. Zinara waited until the rider came into view before she stood up, catching him by surprise. He had just enough time to turn and face her when she launched herself at him, throwing her arms around his neck.

“Oh thank God, it’s you!” she cried as she hugged him, threatening to topple both of them over. “One of the slaver guys found me in the truck. I didn’t know where the bike was. I panicked.”

“It’s okay, you did the right thing,” he said pulling back from her embrace to look into her eyes. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, but the truck is out of gas. It has dual tanks, but I can’t find the switch.”

“We don’t need it. We’ll make better time on the bike.” He dismounted and rummaged around in a saddlebag, finding his bolt cutters. He drew near to Zinara and she turned her head, exposing her neck to give him better access to the padlock on her collar. “Hold still. I don’t want to hurt you,” he murmured.

She reached up and grabbed the collar with both hands to keep it from moving. “I trust you,” she said. The padlock came free with one quick snip and she ripped the collar away, flinging it behind her and rubbing at the raw skin on her neck.

Lash stowed the bolt cutters and turned back to her. “You found your clothes?”

“Some of them, anyway. My jacket’s missing.”

He shrugged out of his leather jacket with a wince and stepped close, pulling it around her. “Here,” he said. “It gets cold on the bike.” His hands lingered on her shoulders and Zinara could feel the heat from his body, dangerously close. She tilted her head up to look into his eyes, yearning for his kiss, and he obliged her, his lips first brushing hers lightly, almost tentatively, before his mouth devoured hers. She slid her arms around his waist, pressing herself against him, wanting the kiss to go on forever.

A distant buzzing broke the spell, and he swore under his breath, pulling away from her reluctantly. He swung his leg over the bike and started it, and Zinara climbed on, pressing herself against his back with her arms wrapped tightly around his waist. “Hang on,” he called over his shoulder as they sped away toward the City, their pursuers just visible in the distance.

Chapter Thirteen

A Meeting of Souls – Installment #11

This is the eleventh installment of A Meeting of Souls – A Tale from the Wasteland. The read the story from the beginning, start here.

If you enjoy this story and would like to own a copy of your very own, you can purchase it from Amazon/Kindle here and Barnes & Noble/Nook here. The e-book includes a full-color cover and a special, steamy, NSFW bonus chapter at the end of the story that won’t be included on the blog. Every romance needs a “happy ending,” right?

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Chapter Eleven

Bud stood with his back to the Baja Bug, keeping watch while his partner fiddled around with the steering column, trying to start it. When he saw the man in charge of the slave camp leave his RV he tried to blend into the shadows, but when the boss started heading toward them, he nudged Arnie with his foot to get his attention.

“Evenin’,” Bud said, hoping he sounded nonchalant. Arnie hastily stood up next to him.

“What the hell are you doing? Are you stealing my Bug?”

“No, we … um, just need to borrow it for a quick trip.”

“You can’t take your own damn truck?”

“No, sir. One of the girls took off with it. I think that Guard helped her.”

“The Guard you assaulted.” The boss looked back and forth between the two men for a long moment. He’d never liked working with these two, and he’d been suspicious of their methods of acquiring new slaves for some time. This little development gave him the ammunition he needed to cut ties with them. “Get the fuck out of my camp—”

“We’re gonna take care of it—”

“—and don’t come back.”

Arnie started to protest, but thought better of it. The boss watched as the two men slunk off into the night. He wondered if it was too late to patch things up with the people running Wasteland City. He was a legitimate businessman, after all, and it would be a shame to lose his most lucrative market because of those two fools.

When he was sure they were out of earshot, Bud said, “Now what are we going to do?”

“We’re gonna borrow someone else’s ride and go after that bitch,” Arnie snarled.

“And then what? We can’t come back here.”

“I got a buyer lined up for the girl,” Arnie said, starting to double back toward the camp. “We cut the boss in, he’ll let us come back.” In their circles, flesh was just another commodity. There were people for whom “play slaves” weren’t good enough, people who’d pay plenty of caps for a young, pretty slave they could break themselves and they wouldn’t question or care whether or not she had been a willing volunteer. He just hoped the boss’s cut would be enough to cover the bribes he’d have to pay to let them operate in Wasteland City again.

“What about that Guard?”

“Desert’s a dangerous place. Shit happens all the time.”

They skirted the perimeter of the camp until Bud elbowed his partner, pointing out a small dune buggy parked behind one of the tents. “Grab that one,” he whispered.

Arnie smirked and hunched over the steering column while Bud stood watch. He knew Ol’ Rust Eye, the buggy’s owner, had plenty of vehicles. Even if they didn’t get back with the girl before he woke up, he probably wouldn’t even notice that his buggy was gone until after breakfast.

Chapter Twelve

A Meeting of Souls – Installment #10

This is the tenth installment of A Meeting of Souls – A Tale from the Wasteland. The read the story from the beginning, start here.

If you enjoy this story and would like to own a copy of your very own, you can purchase it from Amazon/Kindle here and Barnes & Noble/Nook here. The e-book includes a full-color cover and a special, steamy, NSFW bonus chapter at the end of the story that won’t be included on the blog. Every romance needs a “happy ending,” right?

_____

Chapter Ten

Kissing her might have been a bad idea, but Lash didn’t care.

He needed to concentrate on how to get them out of there, but right now, all he wanted to do was pull her into his arms for another kiss. He’d kissed his fair share of women, but he’d never felt a connection like this with anyone else. Kissing her just felt … right, as if they were meant to be together. He was almost positive she’d felt it, too.

“Focus, man,” he thought as he started working his way around the perimeter of the camp. He needed to cause some kind of distraction far from the entrance and from the area near the latrines where she’d been tied up. If they could slip away in the truck before anyone noticed she was gone, they might just have enough time to make it back to the bike and, with any luck, back to the City before anyone caught up to them. But the first step was to figure out the distraction.

Lash had just spotted a promising-looking fuel drum near a run-down camper van when he heard a truck start up and drive away. Swearing under his breath, he hurried back toward to where he’d left the girl just in time to see the truck tear off down the road into the night. What the hell is she doing? he thought, and then ducked out of sight when he saw a man standing in the road where the truck had been parked, his pistol drawn. Lash watched as the man reholstered his weapon, swore at the disappearing tail lights, and hurried off in the opposite direction.

Lash was torn between frustration that she hadn’t stuck to the plan and admiration that she’d managed to avoid being captured again. There was nothing to do now but go after her. He stayed low, dashing from cover to cover until he was fairly certain he wouldn’t be seen from camp, and then started sprinting toward the bike. He had to get to her before word got out that she was gone.

Chapter Eleven

A Meeting of Souls – Installment #9

This is the ninth installment of A Meeting of Souls – A Tale from the Wasteland. The read the story from the beginning, start here.

If you enjoy this story and would like to own a copy of your very own, you can purchase it from Amazon/Kindle here and Barnes & Noble/Nook here. The e-book includes a full-color cover and a special, steamy, NSFW bonus chapter at the end of the story that won’t be included on the blog. Every romance needs a “happy ending,” right?

_____

Chapter Nine

Bud rolled his head back and forth, feeling his neck crunch. He’d been sitting in this damn tent sipping a surprisingly good bourbon and waiting for Arnie to “get a little action” for too long, and he was getting restless. He didn’t like staying in one place. Staying still was how you wound up dead.

He stood and stretched, then slipped his flintlock back into the holster on his thigh and headed out of the tent. A cool pre-dawn breeze ruffled what was left of his hair and he scanned the area before heading toward the truck. A quick piss and then he’d go track Arnie down so they could get back on the road.

He walked several yards past the bumper of the truck and found a snake hole to pee into, then turned and headed to the driver’s side of the cab, intent on helping himself to one of the smokes Arnie always kept on the dash. He yanked the door open to find a slave girl crouched down in the driver’s seat fumbling with the ignition.

“Hey!” he managed to get out before she caught him off guard and shoved him onto his ass in the dirt. He was on his feet with his pistol drawn in another breath, intent on hauling her out of the cab and making her pay when she cold-cocked him with the stupid little club Arnie always kept in the crack of the seats. The blow connected solidly, breaking off several teeth and splitting his lip and chin open. He reacted without thinking, stumbling backward and clutching his mouth, his pistol falling at his feet as he staggered backward. Blood spurted from between his fingers and dropped onto his flak vest as he spat teeth but by the time he had the sense to recover his gun, the truck had started up and roared away. He took aim but then changed his mind. “Save it for between her fucking eyes,” he swore, striding back toward the tent. He needed to find his partner, now.

Bud pushed the flap of the tent open and took two steps inside before he froze. Arnie was heading toward him, or at least he thought it was Arnie. The man walking toward him had Arnie’s long hair and overcoat, but his face was a hideous blotchy purple and his eyes were bloodshot. There was an angry, swollen gash around his throat and for a moment, Bud wasn’t sure if he was alive or dead.

“What the—?”

“That bitch we picked up at the Atomic Cafe escaped. I think that Guard you shot helped her.” His voice was a hoarse, painful rasp from the damage to his throat.

“Yeah, she just clocked me and stole the truck.”

“What? Shit!” Arnie thrust his hands into his pants pockets, swore again and kicked at a chair, toppling it. He glared at Bud for a long moment before looking away, shaking his head. “We’ve got to catch her before …”

“With what? She has our ride.”

“I don’t know, but if she makes it back to the City and word gets out she wasn’t a willin’ volunteer, we’re screwed.”

Bud pulled an old T-shirt off the back of the overturned chair and splashed some water on it from a canteen on the table. He pressed it gently to his mouth, considering.

“She won’t make it back to the City. The truck’s still on the main tank. She’s got about two gallons, tops.”

“So what, we run down the road after her?”

“You wanna ask the boss if we can borrow his car?”

Arnie swore again and snatched his canteen and knife off the table, storming out of the tent. Bud trailed behind him.

Chapter Ten

A Meeting of Souls – Installment #8

This is the eighth installment of A Meeting of Souls – A Tale from the Wasteland. The read the story from the beginning, start here.

If you enjoy this story and would like to own a copy of your very own, you can purchase it from Amazon/Kindle here and Barnes & Noble/Nook here. The e-book includes a full-color cover and a special, steamy, NSFW bonus chapter at the end of the story that won’t be included on the blog. Every romance needs a “happy ending,” right?

_____

Chapter Eight

Lash and Zinara crouched down behind an ancient, corroded Airstream trailer at the opening to the camp. The slaver truck was a few yards away, parked alongside the road. Lash couldn’t tell whether it was occupied or not, but he had a plan.

“Can you drive?

“Yeah.”

“A stick?”

“Well enough.”

“Good.” He glanced around one last time and pulled her forward, hurrying across the open to the back of the truck. Gesturing for her to be quiet, he worked his way toward the cab and peered through the passenger side window. It was empty. He pulled the door open as quietly as the creaky hinges would allow and boosted Zinara up inside the cab, motioning for her to stay crouched on the floorboards below the windows.

“Stay out of sight until I get back. When you hear a commotion, start the truck, count to ten and then drive like hell.”

“Wait! Where are you going?”

“To start a commotion.” He turned to go but she grabbed his arm.

“I have a better idea. Why don’t we just start the truck now and drive like hell?”

“Because we won’t get far unless we get a head start on them. If we’re lucky, they’ll be distracted for awhile before they notice that you and the truck are gone.” He turned to go again, but she clung to his arm.

“What if you’re not back by the time I count to ten?”

“Don’t look back.” He gave her what he hoped passed for a brave, confident smile, but her worried expression told him she was unconvinced. “Look, whatever happens, you get the hell out of here. Get back to the City and ask for Chilli. She’ll be with the Guards.”

“I’m not leaving you here.”

“If I miss my ride, I’ll circle back to the bike and catch up to you.” She started to argue with him, but he pulled her forward all at once, catching her mouth with his in a kiss that stopped her protests and left her breathless. Before she could recover, he was gone.

Zinara could still feel the tingle of his lips against hers, the warmth of his hand in her hair, the soft scratch of his stubble against her mouth. She wanted to close her eyes and savor the moment, but she blinked and shook her head. Perhaps there would be time for more kisses later. Right now, they had to get out of there.

She crawled across the floorboards to the steering column, doing her best to keep her head below the window while she fumbled with the keys. The third one she tried slid into the ignition, and she let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding as she tried to maneuver herself into the driver’s seat while staying out of sight. She’d almost managed it when the driver’s side door opened and Bud stood there gaping at her, as surprised to see her in his truck as she was to be discovered.

“Hey!” He managed to blurt out before she shoved him backward and he lost his balance, landing on his ass in the dirt. She sat up and cast around for something, anything to use as a weapon as he scrambled to his feet and grabbed the edge of her poncho, trying to pull her out of the truck. Her left hand gripped the steering wheel as her right hand closed on something that felt like a miniature baseball bat wedged in the crack of the seat, and she swung her arm as hard as she could, catching her attacker on the corner of his mouth and chin. Blood spurted from his lips and broken teeth and he let go of her poncho, clutching at his face.

Her right hand found the keys again and she cranked the ignition hard. Nothing. “Shit!” she swore, and then remembered that the truck had a manual transmission. She stomped her foot down on the clutch to take the truck out of gear and tried again, relieved as the engine roared to life. She slammed the truck into gear and pulled away just as he was reaching for the door again.

Chapter Nine

A Meeting of Souls – Installment #7

This is the seventh installment of A Meeting of Souls – A Tale from the Wasteland. The read the story from the beginning, start here.

If you enjoy this story and would like to own a copy of your very own, you can purchase it from Amazon/Kindle here and Barnes & Noble/Nook here. The e-book includes a full-color cover and a special, steamy, NSFW bonus chapter at the end of the story that won’t be included on the blog. Every romance needs a “happy ending,” right?

_____

Chapter Seven

Zinara awoke to someone squeezing her breast. She kicked out as hard as she could and was rewarded with a muffled grunt and the sound of someone landing solidly on the ground beside her. She tried to stand, but with her hands tied behind her back and the leash on her collar tied to the pole behind her head, she only made it to a crouch before her attacker had rolled to his hands and knees and started toward her again.

“You wanna play rough, bitch?” came a raspy whisper. It was Arnie, and as she kicked at him again he grabbed her foot, flipping her face down in the dirt. There was just enough slack in the rope for him to press her face and chest into the ground, but the collar pulled tight against her throat, threatening to choke her. She squirmed and fought, trying to roll over, but his forearm pressed into her upper back, pinning her down. He was kneeling between her knees, shoving the filthy blanket Bud had given her up over her head and muttering something about not leaving any marks when she felt his hand between her legs. Panicked, she struggled for air, bucking wildly with the last of her strength as she felt herself slipping into unconsciousness.

The next thing she knew, she could move and breathe. She was scooped up off the dirt, her forehead resting against a leather-clad shoulder as someone worked at the rope binding her hands, then concentrated on removing the gag and cutting the leash free of the collar. As the feeling returned to her arms she pushed back, trying to put some distance between them as she coughed and gasped for air.

“Hang on, it’s okay. I’ve got you.”

She blinked at him for a moment, trying to place his face and then let out a little cry, throwing her arms around his neck. She pressed against him and he held her as tightly as he could, her small frame fitting perfectly in his arms. For a few seconds there was nothing but the two of them, pressed together, and he wanted more than anything to kiss her, to cup her face in his hands, to gaze into her eyes and promise her that she was safe, that it was going to be okay, that he was going to save her.

“It’s you!” she whispered gratefully.

He held her at arm’s length and examined her face. “You meant it. Needing my help, I mean.”

“They drugged me and forged the contract. Yeah, I meant it.” Her expression softened. “And you came for me.”

“I had to.”

“I thought you’d been shot.” She searched his face, reaching her hand up to touch the angry welts on his neck and jaw.

“I was.”

She gave a little smile. “You might be a keeper.”

“Too soon to tell. We’ve still got to get out of here. Can you stand?” He pulled her gently to her feet and she swayed against him for a moment before finding her balance. She noticed Arnie lying face up a few feet away, his eyes rolled back and tongue bulging, a length of plaited leather around his throat.

“Is he dead?” She nodded toward him, her arms crossing in front of her chest.

“Wouldn’t that be a shame?” He walked to the body, pulling one of his whips from around Arnie’s neck and coiling it before fastening it to his belt.

Never taking her eyes off her attacker, she reached up to tug at the collar still fastened around her neck, her fingers finding the small padlock at the clasp.

“Leave it for now. I’ve got bolt cutters on my bike.” He looked down, seeing her bare feet and the shawls barely covering her hips and breasts for the first time. He pulled his knife from its sheath, squatting down to cut a slit in the center of the blanket and then pulling it over her head like a poncho.

“We’ve got to find you some shoes. I can’t carry you all the way to the bike.”

“We could take the truck.” She ran the few steps to Arnie’s body, squatting down to rummage through his coat and pants pockets before holding up a fistful of keys.

“Or we could take the truck, yeah.” He took her hand and led her into the shadows behind the nearest tent, as they started inching their way along in the dark. He was pretty sure he’d seen the truck parked just outside the circle of vehicles near the entrance, which gave him five or ten minutes to work out a plan for stealing it.

Chapter Eight

A Meeting of Souls – Installment #6

This is the sixth installment of A Meeting of Souls – A Tale from the Wasteland. The read the story from the beginning, start here.

If you enjoy this story and would like to own a copy of your very own, you can purchase it from Amazon/Kindle here and Barnes & Noble/Nook here. The e-book includes a full-color cover and a special, steamy, NSFW bonus chapter at the end of the story that won’t be included on the blog. Every romance needs a “happy ending,” right?

_____

Chapter Six

Lash had a general idea of where the slaver camp would be, and unless they’d taken steps to be stealthy, the truck’s tire tracks should lead him straight to it. But when the sun went down, following the tracks would grow more difficult, even with the weak beam of the bike’s headlight. He would have to turn off the light well before he got near the camp, and eventually he’d have to leave the noisy machine altogether and make his final approach on foot. Then, at least, the darkness would work to his advantage.

He knew the camp wouldn’t be too far from the City in case a final customer or two decided on a last-minute visit before the slavers moved on to the next settlement. He had to be mindful that he didn’t just roll right into the camp. A blitz attack had its place, but stealth was the better option here. If he could get in, grab the girl, and get out undetected, they could be back to the City before anyone knew she was gone. If, he thought darkly, she wasn’t just toying with me.

Shortly after full dark, with the crescent moon just peeking over the distant mountains, Lash spotted a campfire and switched off his headlight. He toed the shift lever into neutral, killed the engine, and let the bike coast to a stop behind a clump of sagebrush. He dropped the kickstand and dismounted, removing the shotgun from its scabbard. Then he closed his eyes and stood still for almost a minute, listening and letting his eyes adjust to the dark. Even at this distance, which he estimated to be about half a mile, he could hear people talking and laughing.

From what Lash understood, the last night in a town became a party of sorts. There might or might not be fraternization between the slavers and the slaves, but there was definitely alcohol. And if there wasn’t a strong hand like the Captain’s to maintain discipline, responsibilities like guard duty would fall by the wayside. That was just human nature.

Sound carried very well in the desert at night. He would have to watch his step.

It took him more than an hour to make his way close enough to the camp to be able to pick out details in the dark: slavers, slaves, tents, vehicles, a glowing fire pit. He hunkered down near a thatch of scrub brush to wait until everyone had gone to sleep or retired to a tent. Some time after it had gone quiet, he looked again and saw only a single person sleeping in the open. Was it her? Or was it a guard, sleeping his watch away?

He stood up and prepared to move when a shadowy figure caught his eye. Someone—a man, it appeared—had slipped out of a tent and was clumsily creeping toward the sleeping figure near the latrines. There followed a struggle, and at that moment Lash knew he had to move.

Chapter Seven

A Meeting of Souls – Installment #5

This is the fifth installment of A Meeting of Souls – A Tale from the Wasteland. The read the story from the beginning, start here.

If you enjoy this story and would like to own a copy of your very own, you can purchase it from Amazon/Kindle here and Barnes & Noble/Nook here. The e-book includes a full-color cover and a special, steamy, NSFW bonus chapter at the end of the story that won’t be included on the blog. Every romance needs a “happy ending,” right?

_____

Chapter Five

It was nearly dark when the truck pulled into a small encampment miles from the City. Zinara had tried to notice landmarks and keep track of which direction they were headed, but the flat, featureless desert stretched out around them as far as she could see. She didn’t even think they were traveling along a road anymore, but the blinding sun and choking dust made it impossible to say for sure. She felt thirsty, sunburnt and miserable, and when no one had tried to rescue them after the first few hours, she struggled not to feel hopeless and to come up with some sort of plan for escape.

An odd assortment of vehicles, tents, and other temporary structures was arranged in a circle, and the truck drove through a small opening, coming to a stop beside the fire pit in the center. The man who’d abducted her and a thin, balding man she’d never seen before came around to the back of the truck and unlocked the cage door. As soon as the door was opened, the men took turns guiding the slaves down out of the cage before fastening a collar around each one’s neck. Some of the slaves cried and shied away, but most went along willingly. A deal was a deal.

One woman stopped and put a hand out as the driver reached up with her collar. “Arnie, is this really necessary?”

“It’s all part of the experience, darlin’.” She rolled her eyes, but let him fasten the collar around her neck. Arnie loved these “slavery tourists,” as he called them. Wealthy, bored (he couldn’t imagine) men and women who wanted a little taste of the “bad” life. The joke was on them.

Zinara watched as Arnie gathered up the other slaves’ leashes and led them into a giant tent near the back of the camp that served as a dormitory and holding area. The other man reached into the cage and grabbed Zinara by the arm, hauling her forward. She clung to the side of the cage, kicking and shouting, but he easily wrenched her toward him, wrapping her in a bear hug. He stepped back from the bumper and dropped her to her knees, knocking the wind out of her. The collar was on her before she could react and when she struggled to her feet to lash out at him again, he yanked the rope attached to her collar, causing her to stumble into him for another crushing bear hug, her feet kicking in front of her.

Zinara struggled to breathe as her feet dangled off the ground. As Arnie reappeared, she kicked out at him with the last of her strength, but he easily batted her legs to the side and stepped in next to her. She wanted to spit at him, but her mouth was too dry, and when she met his gaze she froze. He was looking at her as if she were some pretty wildflower he’d found in a field and was deciding whether to pick it or crush it under his boot and continue walking. Either way, she was going to get damaged.

“You need to relax, darlin’,” he said.

Zinara mustered up the last of her courage and looked him squarely in the eye. “I am not a slave. You kidnapped me and drugged me. I demand that you take me back to the City.”

Arnie smiled and reached up to finger a strand of her hair. “She demands,” he sneered. She tried to pull away, but her captor held her fast.

“This one needs to learn some manners, Bud. Sleepin’ out by the latrines will take some of the fight out of her,” Arnie said. Then, to her: “If you ask real nice, maybe he’ll leave you a blankie.”

Bud snorted and moved to leave, hoisting Zinara higher in his arms. “You bastard, let go of me!” she shouted, kicking and twisting to get free.

“Better gag her as well,” Arnie called to Bud as the sounds of Zinara’s protests faded in the distance. When they were out of earshot, he headed to a battered RV parked nearby and knocked. A man in an old military dress uniform emerged and accepted the stack of papers Arnie proffered, flipping through them with a cursory glance.

“Any trouble?” he asked.

“Nothing we couldn’t handle.” The man arched one eyebrow, waiting for Arnie to continue. “One of the Guards tried to start somethin’, but Bud took care of him.”

The man turned his full attention to him. “‘Took care of him.’ You assaulted one of the Guards?”

“Just a little warnin’ shot. No harm done.” Arnie was clearly nervous now, fidgeting with his coat pockets and shuffling his feet in the dirt.

“Our arrangement with Wasteland City is tenuous. If you have jeopardized our number-one market….” His voice was soft and low, but the menace in it carried easily. He counted out a handful of caps and dropped a pile into Arnie’s hands as he held his gaze for another moment, then went back inside the RV.

“Yessir, thank you,” Arnie squeaked, giving a little half-nod, half-bow to the closing door.

Chapter Six