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As a decorated Army Ranger, Eric Emerson is honor bound to defend the helpless, and trained to survive against a ruthless enemy, yet these skills were useless to protect his family. Riddled with guilt, he’s torn between his combat experience and the rules governing society. The conflict shatters his marriage, his job, and his sanity, until she saves him from his demons. Together, they stumble upon the Osiris study, a secretive government report that predicts a direr future unless there are draconian sacrifices. The attempt to unravel the mysterious nature of the study targets them for assassination until, once again, Eric embraces his dark side. The revelation about Osiris demands a horrific choice: ignore what they’ve found or become the seed to mankind’s survival, but at a terrible cost.
Excerpt 1 from TAINTED HERO
The explosion ripped the three-man team off the ground and tossed them into the air. Eric slammed face first in the sand. He pushed up on his knees, pressed the detached flap of flesh back down on his forehead, wiped the blood from his eye, and fought the pain hammering inside his skull. He turned toward his friend, but Mac was gone, only a hole remained where he had been seconds before. He saw Duke lying in the sand ...
The sound of the vehicle pulling into the driveway brought him out of the dream and back to the kitchen in his small house. Eric stood up from the table, walked over to the window above the sink, and stared at the two figures in the black car. The glow from the streetlight was insufficient to see their faces, but he knew, there in the passenger seat, it was her. The head of the passenger disappeared below the edge of the car window. When the head of the driver leaned back, Eric gripped the sides of his coffee mug. He watched for a moment to confirm his suspicions, and then he closed his eyes and lowered his head. He fought the impulse to end it all, to rush outside and set things straight.
Perhaps she’s right. Maybe if I had been here, things would have turned out different.
He took a deep breath, started to glance out the window one last time, but instead returned to his seat at the table, and waited.
Eric tapped his knuckles on the table as he sat alone in the dark. His eyes bored into the kitchen door until he heard the key turn in the lock. He listened to the door close and the light footsteps as they echoed through the small two-story house and advanced on his position. When the entry to the kitchen opened, the woman flipped the light switch and was startled.
“Damn, you scared the hell out of me. I didn’t know you were home from your trip. Where’s your car?”
“In the garage.”
“Why are you sitting in the dark?”
Eric surveyed his wife’s attire: the three-inch heels, the opal earrings he gave her on their first anniversary, and the strapless black dress. The same outfit she used to wear only when they went out, the one that made him proud she was his and no one else’s.
“It’s a bit late to be coming in, isn’t it? Where have you been?”
Karen paused for moment, tossed her keys on the counter, and responded without looking at her husband. “I was out with friends.”
“Do I know these friends?”
“It’s really getting old, to come home to an empty house every night, and find out you’ve been with your…friends.”
“Then stop traveling everywhere for that damn job. Besides, why the hell should you care what I do when you’re gone? I’m aware you’re not alone on those trips. I know you take one of your sluts with you, like that red headed major.”
Eric stood up. He scanned the hard expression on his wife’s beautiful face, the glistening black hair he longed to stroke. He glanced at the tight lips that once smiled whenever he was near, the soft lips he needed to touch, to taste. “No matter how many times you accuse me of infidelity, it doesn’t make it true. I swear I have not been with any other women during our entire marriage. Can you say the same for yourself?”
With an expression barren of emotion, Karen ignored the comment and turned toward the doorway to leave, but not without making one final cutting remark. “I don’t believe you. You haven’t been with me for a long time, so you must be screwing someone else. As always, this conversation has given me a headache. Don’t wake me when you come to bed, or when you go jogging in the morning.”
Eric remained alone in the kitchen with only the light beneath the doorsill stretching across the floor. While he stared past the door into the next room, he whispered to the only woman in his life, “Where did it go, Karen? You loved me once. Is it so easy to forget what we used to have, together? I still remember. I’ve tried hard not to let it go, but it becomes more difficult each day.”
Eric listened to the clock on his nightstand, and resisted the need for sleep. He knew it waited in the shadows of his nightmare. After two hours, he lost the battle. While he slept, the vision that hounded his dreams for so long returned: the fawn grazed toward the edge of the woodland, unaware of what lurked just inside the trees. In an instant, the beast lunged onto his prey. While it consumed her innocence, Eric was helpless. Chained to an oak tree, he was forced to observe while the demon mocked him. He could only watch from the hill as he lost her forever to that ruthless bastard. He ripped at the chains as they cut deep into his skin. He struggled against the bonds until the shackles that had imprisoned him all these years were covered with his blood. He ignored the gnawing pain, pushed against the tree with his feet, until the steel tore deep into his flesh and exposed the bone, but the chains remained, stopped him from saving her. Eric looked away and closed his eyes, but the tears continued to pour down his cheeks. The beast grunted with pleasure as it wrested the life from her small slender body. Eric screamed in agony, but no one was there on the lonely hill to listen. While he watched her die alone, he wept.
Eric sat up in his bed. The nightmare left him soaked in sweat. He gazed at his wife lying next to him, and started to reach for her. He needed to feel her soft skin, touch the taut ridge that flowed down her back. He yearned to be absolved of his guilt, or to achieve some semblance of comfort, but he pulled back, afraid of being rejected, again.
He felt alone, as always, all alone. He got up, walked into the spare bedroom, and curled up on the bed. Eric lay motionless, staring out the window at the stars in the night sky, until the tremors from the nightmare disappeared. After thirty minutes he fell asleep again, by himself, in the dark room.
Thursday, June 25, 2009