With nothing but rumors to lead her, Lynn Harmony has trekked across a nightmare landscape to find one man—a mysterious, damaged legend who protects the weak and leads the strong. He’s more than muscle and firepower—and in post-plague L.A., he’s her only hope. As the one woman who could cure the disease, Lynn is the single most volatile—and vulnerable—creature in this new and ruthless world. But face to face with Jax Mercury…
Danger has never looked quite so delicious…
Other Books in the The Scorpius Syndrome Series
Despair hungered in the darkness, not lingering, not languishing . . . but waiting to bite. No longer the little brother of rage, despair had taken over the night, ever present, an actor instead of an afterthought.
Lynne picked her way along the deserted twelve-lane interstate, allowing the weak light from the moon to guide her. An unnatural silence hung heavy over the barren land. Rusting carcasses of vehicles lined the sides; otherwise, the once-vibrant 405 was dead.
Her months of hiding had taught her stealth. Prey needed stealth, as did the hunter.
She was both.
The tennis shoes she’d stolen from an abandoned thrift store protected her feet from the cracked asphalt, while a breeze scented with death and decomposing vegetation lifted her hair. The smell had saturated the wind as she’d trekked across the country.
The world was littered with dead bodies and devoid of souls.
A click echoed in the darkness. About time. Predators, both human and animal, crouched in every shadow, but she’d made it closer to what used to be Los Angeles than she’d hoped.
A strobe light hit her full on, rendering sight impossible. The miracle of functioning batteries brought pain. She closed her eyes. They’d either kill her or not. Either way, no need to go blind. “I want to see Mercury.” Since she’d aimed for the center of Mercury’s known territory, hopefully she’d find him and not some rogue gang.
Silence. Then several more clicks. Guns of some type. They’d closed in silently, just as well trained as she’d heard. As she’d hoped.
She forced strength into her voice. “You don’t want to kill me without taking me to Mercury first.” Jax Mercury, to be exact. If he still lived. If not, she was screwed anyway.
“Why would we do that?” A voice from the darkness, angry and near.
She squinted, blinking until her pupils narrowed. The bright light exposed her and concealed them, weakening her knees, but she gently set her small backpack on the ground. She had to clear her throat to force out sound. “I’m Lynne Harmony.”
Gasps, low and male, filled the abyss around her. “Bullshit,” a voice hissed from her left.
She tilted her head toward the voice, and then slowly, so slowly they wouldn’t be spooked, she unbuttoned her shirt. No catcalls, no suggestive responses followed. Shrugging her shoulders, she dropped the cotton to the ground, facing the light.
She hadn’t worn a bra, but she doubted the echoing exhales of shock were from her size Bs. More likely the shimmering blue outline of her heart caught their attention. Yeah, she was a freak. Typhoid Mary in the body of a woman who’d failed. Big time. But she might be able to save the men surrounding her. “So. Jax Mercury. Now.”
One man stepped closer. Gang tattoos lined his face, inked tears showing his kills. He might have been thirty, he might have been sixty. Regardless, he was dangerous, and he smelled like dust combined with body odor. A common smell in the plague-riddled world. Eyeing her chest, he quickly crossed himself. “Holy Mary, Mother of God.”
“Not even close.” A silent overpass loomed a few yards to the north, and her voice echoed off the concrete. The piercing light assaulted her, spinning the background thick and dark. Her temples pounded, and her hollow stomach ached. Wearily, she reached down and grabbed her shirt, shrugging it back on. She figured the “take me to your leader” line would get her shot. “Do you want to live or not?”
He met her gaze, his scarred upper lip twisting. “Yes.”.
* * *
Lynne glanced at the soldier, whose gaze remained focused above her head.
She swallowed and stepped back inside to shut the door. Tears pricked her eyes. How silly. What the hell did she care about some crazy woman who didn’t like her? Nobody liked her, and she’d always be alone. She placed the soup on the table, no longer hungry.
Even her bones were exhausted, and sometimes she wondered why she hadn’t just died. What had she done that was so terrible to have deserved this? Her heart beat steadily, the small glow showing blue through her shirt.
A tear fell.
Of course, Jax Mercury chose that minute to walk inside.
He paused, an oh shit expression crossing his rugged face. She would’ve laughed, but the struggle to stem the tears was too hard. A frown lowered his eyebrows, and he shut the door, placing several guns on top of the useless refrigerator. “Did I hurt you that badly?”
She paused and waited until his words sank in. “No.”
He blinked and glanced around the apartment. “Stop crying.”
At the order, a loud sob erupted from her chest.
He stilled. “Ah, what’s wrong?”
It was a simple question. A nice question. One a civilized person would ask. The easy words ticked through her, and something exploded deep inside. “Everything.” She threw out her hands. “Everybody hates me, the world is dying, and you fucking spanked me earlier.” She doubled over as the hurt overcame her.
“Well, shit.” A second later, she found herself lifted and cradled in very strong arms. Jax held her against his hard chest, his mouth near her ear. “Nobody hates you.”
“Yes, they do,” she hiccupped, crying harder, her body shaking.
He sighed and dropped onto the sofa, holding her closer, tucking her face into his neck. “We fear things in direct proportion to our ignorance of them.” His breath brushed her ear, and his size provided safety.
“Who said that?” she pushed out between sobs.
“Christian Nestell Bovee.” Jax settled his weight and kicked his feet out over the dented coffee table. “He was a writer in the late 1800s.”
She tried to keep her balance on his lap as her sobs increased and she let it all out. The fear, the fury, even the future.
Finally, with a couple more hiccups, her tears subsided. When was the last time anybody had held her? Letting herself go, she flattened her hand over his chest, marveling at its solidness. “How do you know so much?”
“Books.” He idly played with her hair. “The judge who gave me the choice of military or prison kept in touch, and he loved philosophy and literature. Would send me books all over the world. At first I read just because I owed him. Then I read because I grew. Finally, I read because the words began to make sense.”
“I shouldn’t have come here,” she said dully, her mouth nearly touching his corded neck.
He rubbed a big hand down her back. “Why not?”
“I probably can’t help, and now I’ve added more fear to people already terrified.” She’d been only thinking of herself, believing if she gave them knowledge of Scorpius, it’d be a fair exchange for what she needed. It probably didn’t come close. “I’m sorry.”
“I think you could be very helpful here. If you tell us all you know and don’t hold anything back.” He caressed small circles up and down her spine.
She bit back a moan of pleasure. “If I tell you everything, will you let me go?”
“No.” He stiffened. “Why would you want to leave?”
She lifted back to meet his gaze. “I can’t do it anymore. Be treated like a bad person, like an infection. People won’t even look at me, much less come near me. Touch me.” Without gloves and needles.
He cupped her cheek and wiped tears away with his thumb. “I’m touching you.”
Tears clung to her lashes and blurred her vision. Her heart hurting, feeling more alone than ever, she tried to pull away. Everything in her wanted to stay in his arms, to touch him, but like any Scorpius survivor, she was a carrier. She might infect him and thus probably kill him.
He held her in place.
“No, Jax. Let me go . . .” To be this close to him, to want him so badly, just heightened her loneliness. She was isolated by her own blood. “This is too dangerous for you. You’re risking infection.”
His searing gaze held her captive. “You can’t infect me.”
She blinked. “Wh-why not?”
“I’ve survived the bacteria.”
She stilled. Shock seized her lungs. He was a carrier, too? “The woman before, the one who yelled at me. She said I’d infect you.” Oh God. “They don’t know?”
“No.” His jaw hardened. “Nobody in the Vanguard knows. If they find out, I’ll be thrown out or lynched.”
“This dark, post-apocalyptic tale is a testament to the power of hope and love against all odds. The author does a marvelous job of presenting this opening gambit to a thrilling new series.” — 4 Stars, Romantic Times
“Thrilling post-apocalyptic romance at its dark, sizzling best!” —Lara Adrian
“Nothing is easy or black or white in Zanetti’s grim new reality, but hope is key, and I hope she writes faster!” —New York Times bestselling author Larissa Ione
“…there’s a sly subversion of the tiresome trope of the helpless little woman and the brawny protective man as, time and again, Josie proves more than capable of taking care of herself.” –Publishers Weekly
“Hands down, Jax Mercury is who I want to go through the apocalypse with. The whole apocalypse scenario is nothing new, but what really made Mercury Striking for me, was the man himself. Rebecca Zanetti wrote his character just right. The right amount of alpha maleness, mixed well with vulnerabilities that, even though he tries to suppress them, don’t come off feeling forced in order to make him a more relatable character.” – Vampire Book Club
“Holy moley, did this book pack a punch! It’s a gripping and intense story, full of action and drama and a page turner from the very start, with no boring spots in between . Just when you think you know where the story is going, wham, you get broadsided into another whole new direction. I loved it!” — Straight Shootin’ Book Reviews
“It’s an engrossing mixture of sci-fi apocalyptic contagion and a couple finding respite in the heat of battle. One of Zanetti’s best works to date.” — KT Book Reviews
“Zanetti has two very powerful characters that bring this story to life. The hostile world climate is on the brink of imploding and you can truly believe Jax and Lynn have what it takes to survive but I wasn’t 100% all in to them being a couple.” — Tome Tender
“This was an incredible book. Zanetti has created a realistic post-apocalyptic world with equally realistic characters who struggle to make everything work and I really liked that. Life is hard and unfair and you can either choose to accept that or do something about it.” — Sofia Loves Reading
“This is definitely Rebecca’s best series and it has just started. I am a fan of her Dark Protectors as well as her Sin Brothers series. This one has just enough of a dark edge to keep you worrying where she will go and will your favorite characters make it to the end.” — Ebook Obsessed
“I almost feel Mercury Striking is two stories in one. One half is the romance between Lynne and Jax. The other half is post-apocalyptic world and the survivors. Both are equally exciting but mixed together, they are explosive. Action, suspense, romance – Rebecca Zanetti certainly did not disappoint this reader.” — The Jeep Diva
“If you like post-apocalyptic stories, or even if you like a good action story than this one is definitely one you won’t want to miss.” — Book Binge
“If you love post apocalyptic romance with extreme emotions and profound connections you’ll absolutely love this amazing story. I am so hooked.” — Sizzling Pages Romance Reviews
“I just DEVOURED every page! It had almost everything I could ask for: Dangerous enemies, an even more dangerous hero, an intelligent heroine, humor, and some serious chemistry!” — Adria’s Romance Reviews