Dawn of Deception - Book 1 - Unbound
Dawn of Deception - Book 1 - Unbound
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"I never thought I would be in this situation, fighting for survival in a world turned upside-down. But here I am, doing everything I can to keep my daughters safe in this apocalyptic dawn. It's hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, our biggest worries were school, soccer practice, and what to make for dinner.
Now, we're living in constant fear. The pack of abandoned dogs we've taken in helps, but it's a dangerous world out there. We've had to maintain a charade to keep looters at bay, by making our home, and the others on our street look like still occupied by our old neighbors. I live in fear every second of the day that someone will catch on. So far the ruse has worked, but for how long?"
Night before Dawn
Sloane Delaney and her daughters abandoned the first floor of their two-story home along Horseshoe Lane altogether. A tsunami wave—caused by a massive earthquake along the Pacific Rim—hit after some phenomena no one could yet explain, sending floodwaters that overtook their neighborhood situated in the once-picturesque setting of Cannon Beach, Oregon.
The displaced seawater had receded from the first floor, leaving an indelible layer of thick, brown, chocolate pudding-like sludge along the painted sandstone walls and Italian tiled flooring. The wayward sea currently hid at a lazy standstill below in the basement like a freeloading relative, getting stinkier by the day. It wasn’t done with them yet. The basement was full of it, only having ebbed an inch since the day before.
And yet, on the queen-sized bed she used to share with Brady, Sloane slept in peace for the first night since the fateful day that she’d married him a few unpleasant years before. She wasn’t worried about marauders storming the neighborhood or anyone breaking into her food stores like she should be. She hadn’t even boarded up her blown-out sliding glass door yet. Any opportunistic person—or hungry animal, for that matter—could waltz into her disaster of a house and take everything left of value. Those worries could wait. Sloane wanted to enjoy the one solitary, peaceful night given to her because of what had happened to her husband earlier in the evening. Across the street, in the sodden backyard of Larry Baker’s house, Brady lay dead—murdered, in fact, by a single gunshot wound to the head.
She wasn’t the murderer, and she didn’t plan it, yet she had hoped that it would happen. Brady had sent her, unwillingly, directly across the street to gather information on Trent Carson’s plans to leave town, with several other neighbors, to a hideout he knew of.
Trent was guarded with his information. They’d been friends once, but that was before her marriage to Brady. None of her friends and neighbors liked Brady much, especially not Trent, and a short time after the marriage, she didn’t like him either.
Then Sloane informed Trent of her own fake plans of heading to Hillsboro. She had hoped Trent would catch on to her hint when he advised her to be careful on Route 23. She told him she’d planned to take Route 30 instead. She and Trent both knew Route 30 didn’t go anywhere near Hillsboro. Her act of going along with his advice was cunning desperation; she knew Brady was listening to her every word. Unfortunately, Trent didn’t realize the ploy and ended up thinking she was in on Brady’s mad plan to steal one of the few running vehicles from Larry Baker, Trent’s next-door neighbor. Trent ended up shooting Brady in Larry’s backyard that night when he’d refused to drop the shotgun he carried.
Immediately after taking Brady out, Trent hurried across the street to Sloane’s driveway, warned her to stand down, and drop the concealed weapon he knew she carried onto the ground. “Is he dead?” she’d asked. That was really all she wanted to know.
“Yes,” Trent said with what she’d call a little trepidation in his voice.
“Good,” Sloane said and didn’t care what Trent did to her for her part in Brady’s scheme to rob her neighbors of their only working vehicle. Her only thought was that Brady being dead ensured her daughters’ safety now. She no longer had to endure his mistreatment of her and the girls.
The verbal abuse started shortly after they were married. The threats and physical abuse escalated over the past year to include Sloane’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Wren, and her thirteen-year-old daughter, Mae. She’d never forgive herself for not saving them sooner. They were already scarred from losing their father to a pandemic flu four years prior.
She was hospitalized in the ICU for weeks with the virus without knowing where her daughters were. When she finally escaped the hospital three weeks later as one of the lucky few to recover from the pandemic flu, she found her twelve-year-old and nine-year-old living alone in their house. Those were vulnerable years in a young girl’s life in normal times, marred with insecurities and night frights. The Carsons and Bakers had done their best, under the circumstances, to keep track of them and bring them food. Unaccompanied and not knowing that their father had died or that their mother was desperately trying to get home to them, the girls were scared to death.
She was broken after Finn, her first husband, died. She felt utterly lost when she discovered that even her distant, extended family in Hillsboro had perished from the flu as well. So when Brady came along and offered stability as a family again, she did it for the girls’ sake, thinking it was the right decision. She wanted to replace the things they’d lost. She wanted to fix them. Ultimately, her decision couldn’t have been more wrong.
After Trent left her alone in the neighborhood the night before, she retrieved her Glock off the ground, returned to her home, and locked the main door. The girls had waited inside, so Sloane ushered them up the stairs and into her own room. She locked the door and looked into their frightened eyes, which beckoned her for answers. “He’s not coming back,” she said. “He’s gone for good.”
All three of them cried tears of relief as they cuddled on the big bed, and Sloane held them until they fell soundly, and safely, asleep. Afterward, she remembered what Trent said to her before he left. “Help yourself to anything you can salvage.”
She had responded with a thank you and said that, in return, she’d keep an eye on their houses. She knew what tomorrow and every other morning would bring to them, so she pushed herself into a peaceful slumber. There would be days of dreadful labor and danger ahead of her and the girls. If they were to survive this—and they would—she’d meet it willingly, and never again would she succumb to a weakness of mind or an empty soul to fill the void Finn’s death left in her heart.