A Different Yesterday
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by Linda Mooney
Category: Erotica/Erotic Science Fiction/Romance
Description: The Apocalypse. One evening the sun grew bigger and hotter, and its searing rays devoured over three-quarters of the world's population. Now the world is colder, food is scarce, and people are fighting to stay alive. Andrew Michael Tollson is a man who roams from settlement to outpost. Years ago, when he was a boy growing up in a small Texas town, he had felt his first crush for the little tomboy he knew as Jo. Now, as a grown man, he has to see if Jo is still alive. JoBeth Wythe has never forgotten the pudgy little boy she'd known when she was growing up. Every time she thinks of him, it only brings back pain and a wistfulness for a past that no longer exists. For Drew and Jo, it's only a matter of time before they are reunited to fight together, to survive together, and to discover that the innocent kisses they shared as children has grown into a love that will overwhelm them with desire.
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2010
eBookwise Release Date: December 2010
24 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [310 KB]
Reading time: 194-272 min.
"I found A Different Yesterday to be an outstanding, uplifting read by Linda Mooney. The author gives outstanding and vivid detail so the reader can feel they are in the story experiencing what the characters experience. I truly enjoyed this book and would recommend it anyone needing a great book to curl up with." ~ Nora Barteau, A Paranormal Lover's Point of View
There were six of them getting ready to attack.
Tollson lowered his field glasses as he ducked behind the empty water tank. He had been following this gang of outcasts for the past two days. Ever since he had picked up their ill-disguised trail, he had watched them do the usual vandalism and odd pilfering. Nothing serious or far-reaching. Not until now. Sooner or later Tollson knew the group would set their sights on bigger prey. It was only a matter of waiting them out to find out when. And when they did, they would have to answer to him first.
The small caravan had been trundling along the ruined highway, moving slowly through the accumulated snow sludge. The entourage consisted of two open wagons loaded with an odd assortment of what Tollson guessed would be provisions and warm clothing. The usual. The wagons were guarded by at least four armed figures on horseback, not counting the two drivers.
A gust of freezing wind came from around the tank and tried to lift him off his feet. A glance upward proved the clouds were tumbling in from the northwest in thick gray piles. Tollson grimaced. The weather was proving to be a nuisance in tracking this gang, and it looked like things were quickly going to hell in a handbasket. Unless he was wrong, and he normally wasn't when it came to the weather, it would start snowing again around nightfall, and not let up until dawn. On the good side, however, if this bunch of miscreants was going to do anything, they'd have to do it soon. Tonight, more than likely, if they were smart, before the worst of the storm hit.
Quickly, Tollson slid off the top of the water tower. Years ago one of the tower's legs had buckled, sending the huge tank to the ground where it burst open upon impact. Of course, by the time that had occurred, most of the population of this town had either died out or dispersed to the larger cities where there were greater chances of survival.
Coming around the side of the tank, Tollson glanced at the faded red lettering on its outer walls. Capertown, Home of the Trouncing Tigers. The name brought a smirk to his lips. If there were any tigers left in the world, it would be a miracle.
Another quick glance through his binoculars finally confirmed what he had been suspecting would happen. The gang of outcasts had spotted the caravan and were making a beeline straight for it. They weren't going to wait for nightfall.
Tollson mouthed a curse word as he shucked his backpack. Carrying an extra forty-odd pounds when he was walking was one thing. Trying to stop six armed, half-starved renegades while wearing it was another. He glanced down at the pack, as if promising it he would be returning, then started off at a fast jog down the slope toward the caravan.
The small group of travelers had already spotted the outcasts. It wasn't difficult, since they were on pretty level ground, and there wasn't much in the way to help cover their advance. The caravan had two mules pulling their loads--two valuable animals in this day and age. The mules were tightly bound and wrapped for warmth, to help protect them against the ice and cold.
Like wagon trains of old, the two vehicles pulled next to each other, and the four guards took a stance around them. They were so intent on watching the advancing party, they were unaware of the one lone figure approaching from the opposite direction. But even if they did throw a look in Tollson's direction, chances were they would never spot him. Tollson was better than good. Better than the best. After all, he hadn't earned the moniker The Silent Wraith without a valid reason.
Pausing behind an abandoned car, Tollson sized up the weaponry. Each guard had a rifle. The drivers both had guns of questionable parentage. His eyebrows lowered. Having that many guns usually meant the small caravan had the ammo for them, and that could only mean one thing. The caravan was from a nearby city, and possibly had their own munitions factory. Tollson nodded, impressed.
The outcasts, from what he could tell, had one gun among them, but an assortment of blades, and at least one axe. If the group somehow managed to overtake the caravan, their haul would better than they had originally anticipated.
It was six against six. Tollson rubbed his stubble through the ski mask. The caravan had the odds in its favor, but one never knew, especially when it came to outcasts. He'd once heard the story of how less than a dozen outcasts had managed to overtake a small town of nearly a hundred armed inhabitants. It wasn't a happy story, with an even unhappier ending. Despite the fact that it looked like things shouldn't be a problem for the caravan to ward off the oncoming attack, Tollson decided to remain close by, just in case.
A shot rang out. Tollson jerked in response. It had come from the caravan, yet all six outcasts continued to advance. Now that they had been fired upon, the lowlives sent up a cacophony of hoots and howls as they drew closer. The sound ran an icy finger down Tollson's spine. He hated what most people called the "hunting cry". It reminded him of the time he'd gone to the zoo when he was a boy, and the monkeys had gone berserk around feeding time. Their screams and bellows had bothered him then, and the noise he heard coming from the advancing bunch bothered him now.
There was another shot, and this time he saw the man who fired it. One of the outcasts shrieked and clutched his shoulder. Winged him. With ammo being scarce, few people were able to afford taking target practice. Most hoped to be able to aim and hit something, anything, and hope for the best.
A third shot came from the caravan, this time from a different guard. There was no reaction from the approaching outcasts, and Tollson's evaluation of the caravan's ammunition went into the cellar. The group had ammo, but it was carefully hoarded. There was no munitions factory. Otherwise the caravan would have some crack shots traveling with them.
He stretched his fingers inside the rawhide gloves. When the time came, he would take the gloves off before doing what he did best. Otherwise the gloves would stay on, keeping his hands warm. Crossing through a deserted parking lot, he ducked behind another stalled vehicle to watch the confrontation.
Realizing their prey was armed and not above shooting at them, the outcasts split to begin circling the tightly packed caravan. As one tall, thin renegade passed in front of him, Tollson hissed to get the man's attention. A bearded, scraggly looking face turned to stare at him in surprise. A neat right hook to the man's temple put him down temporarily. The blade of the man's Bowie knife made it permanent. One down, five to go.
The next nearest man was advancing low to the ground, using the scattered remnants of old cars and trucks to help provide some cover. Since two could easily play the same game, Tollson followed behind, always keeping one eye open for the rest of the outcasts.
The next shot Tollson heard ricocheted off the trunk of the car not three feet from his face. A soft, low growl rumbled in his chest. The caravan had spotted him, and mistakenly assumed he was one of the outcasts. Well, there was no way he could let them know otherwise. At least, not yet. He hoped their aim would continue to be poor enough to keep the renegades at bay long enough to let him do his job.
Poor soul number two was the one with the axe. Tollson hefted a fist-sized rock and clocked the guy squarely in the back. The man huffed loud enough to draw the caravan's attention to him, and when the outcast turned and raised the axe to accost whoever had come up his rear, a guard's bullet managed to find his upper torso. Number two went down without a sound.
Four to go.
The mules were beginning to get skittish, and the wagons parted for a moment. While the drivers tried to get the animals back together, two of the guards were forced into grabbing the animals' halters to help control them. That left just two guards to watch all four ends of the compass. Tollson shook his head and mentally chastised them. Stupid, stupid. Dropping the watch would provide the perfect opportunity to rush them, if the outcasts were smart enough to see the opening.
A sudden movement from the corner of his eye confirmed Tollson's worst fears. The renegades were smart enough; they'd spotted the lowered defenses, and now they were going for broke.
A shrill whistle was their signal for an all-out attack. As the four men broke from cover, Tollson joined them. It would take them precious seconds to realize they were two men short, and that a new figure had joined them. But it would be enough time for Tollson to cause a bit more damage.
Four raggedly dressed men began running directly for the four on horseback. It was a tactic Tollson had hoped they would choose. The men were hoping to pull the guards out of their saddles and disarm them. If they managed to accomplish that, then taking the wagons would be child's play.
Tollson aimed for the nearest man pounding the turf toward one of the guards trying to control a mule. The outcast was unaware that he had gone from hunter to hunted. Neither was he aware of the knife that seemed to come from nowhere before it lodged itself up to its hilt in the back of his neck. He went down face-first in muddy slush, sliding at least another yard before his body ground to a halt. Reaching the man, Tollson pulled his knife from the body and wiped the blade clean on the rags as he gauged the location of his next victim.
Outcast number four had almost reached the other guard occupied with a shying mule, when a free guard put him down with a bullet in the chest at nearly point-blank range.
Two to go, but not for long. Seeing that their company had shrunk drastically in the past few minutes, the other outcasts suddenly dropped their plan to overtake the caravan, and began running for the nearest deserted buildings a little more than a hundred yards away.
Tollson started to watch them go without any urge to follow after them when one of the remaining outcasts paused momentarily and glanced back to see if they were being pursued. Tollson blinked. The man looked... No, it couldn't be him.
Memories flooded back like poison. Bad memories. Painful memories. Memories washed in blood and death that had never faded or lessened in intensity over the years. Memories that often wore the face of one particular man.
Tollson cursed himself for not having his knapsack where he could get to his binoculars. If the man was who he believed...
Fuck. He should have gone after them and killed the other two, but his whole intent had never been to see how many of those poor souls he could kill. As long as the outcasts kept to themselves and didn't resort to murdering innocent people who, like them, only wanted a chance to survive in this post-apocalyptic world, Tollson saw no reason for wholesale slaughter. To him, the outcasts had just as much right to life as everyone else, regardless of why they had been cast out of their communities and townships. It was only when the renegades set their sights on killing innocents in order to confiscate their food and whatever else they saw fit to own that Tollson put his foot down.
It was why he had been trained to do what he could do. And it was why he now went from township to village, to offer his help and protection to those who might need it at that time.
Turning to leave, one of the guards raised his rifle just as another guard cried out. The bullet sliced through Tollson's jacket and two additional layers of clothing right at the upper bicep before taking a nice chunk of skin along with it as it exited out the other side. A lucky shot, but unfortunately one he hadn't seen coming, or else he would have made sure to seek cover. He knew a couple of the guards had seen his assistance with the outcasts, but hadn't taken the others into account.
His own damn fault.
The shot stung like a son of a bitch. Worse, it was bleeding heavily. Tollson scrambled for cover, with his hand pressed over the wound to try and staunch the flow. Behind him he could hear more shouting, but his concentration was focused on the bitter taste filling his mouth and the hot pain in his good throwing arm.
Damn them and their refitted carbines. Damn them.
There were bandages and painkillers in his backpack, if he could make it back to the old Ford where he'd stashed it. If he could find a semi-safe place to camp for the night, Tollson knew he could manage until the morning. Right now his primary concern was stopping the blood loss, and getting the hole in him cleaned and packed.
He managed to scramble away from the caravan, out of the line of fire, in case another guard tried to take another potshot at him. He could feel the blood running down his arm, cooling as it reached his wrist and dripped to the ground. With a little luck he would soon get it under control. It didn't feel like a major artery had been hit.
He reached the water tank and found his backpack without any difficulty. Shrugging out of his heavy jacket, Tollson winced at the fire slicing up into his shoulder and down to his fingers. His sleeves were soaked in blood. Sighing loudly, he dropped to his knees and pulled out the wad of rolled bandages from the side pocket. The entire operation took longer than he liked, since he had to use his nonpreferred hand to pack and wrap the wound.
A gust of freezing wind sought him out, making Tollson shiver. Slowly he managed to get his jacket back on. Already his damaged arm was stiffening up, and he gritted his teeth against the pain. His biggest mistake, though, came when he tried to get to his feet. Apparently he'd misjudged the amount of blood he'd lost. The ground tilted at a crazy angle, making steady footing near impossible. Tollson grabbed for the doorframe, missed, and stumbled. He fell heavily to his knees before listing sideways.
Rest. Just a minute or two of rest, and he'd be able to stay on his feet. A minute or two, but no more. There was no telling if the last two renegades had seen him get injured, and at this moment might be circling back around to seek revenge.
Tollson sank to the ground, unaware that he'd passed out.