Recipient of the 2011 Prism Award
“Dark Future is simply everything you hope a book will be when you open it up to the first page and begin reading.”
Awarded the Reviewer’s Choice Award by Two Lips Reviews
“Dark, gritty, and utterly entrancing, this book absolutely blew my socks off…”
Jess the “Romanceaholic”
A woman caught between two futures…
Awakened in the middle of the night by a future version of herself, Kris Davenport is given a mission: go travel in time to save the world–and his life. Of course, her future self doesn’t tell her who he is just sends her into the darkness and straight into an alien invasion.
…must choose between the man who has her heart…
He turns out to be ConRad Smith, the callous, untrusting military commander of Earth’s army and the world’s last defense. There’s only one way for Smith to know for sure if this strange woman is an alien spy–slice her throat. Except, he didn’t anticipate the desire he would feel as he interrogates the hot-tempered, warm-blooded woman.
…or the fate that saves the world.
As Kris and ConRad struggle to trust each other in a world on the brink of destruction, they each will have to face the ultimate choice of whether to fight or die… survive or forgive.
My eyes popped open and my heart thudded against my chest. I scanned the familiar shadowed shapes of my bedroom. Dresser, mirror, closet, the blinds on my patio door. Nothing, all familiar, all quiet. But why my rush of panic?
I had heard a sound. Was it the swish of a door being closed or the beeping of buttons being punched on a keypad? Had someone punched in my code for my home alarm?
My pulse tripled in time, while my cowardly body froze in fear. Dredging up courage I shifted my gaze a half-inch to the right, straining to see past the heavy cream curtains that obscured the door leading to my backyard. A soft yellow light glowed around the perimeter. My motion-detector lights had clicked on.
No need to panic. Probably just a cat … but the beeps?
Dammit, maybe I dreamt the noise. Did downing a half package of cookies increase the chances of carb-induced nightmares?
Ignoring the cold bead of sweat that coursed down my side, I turned my head and read the neon blue of my digital clock—4:30 A.M.
Swallowing, I strained to hear over the swish of my blood being pumped past my ears. But I had heard something. No way would I have awakened from a deep sleep in the middle of the night for no reason. I needed to investigate. A mature woman would.
Maturity was overblown.
I wiggled farther under my Egyptian cotton sheets and pulled them under my non-blinking eyes. Nothing to be afraid of. Just some car alarm being reset from the outside.
A soft click of a light switch echoed through the stillness, and a sliver of light peaked out from under my bedroom door. Terror clawed at my throat. I shot a glance back to my bedside table—empty. Damn, I’d left my mobile phone in the kitchen.
Someone was in my house.
I sat straight up in bed and … froze.
Get up. Get up.
Shoes sounded on the tile down the hall. I had a choice. I could lie here and be murdered on my sheets, or die standing. Decisions. Decisions. Terror clawed its way up my throat, and all I wanted to do was throw the covers over my head. Instead, I flung off the blankets and leapt out of bed. Bloodstains on cotton are a pain to get out.
Weapon … weapon, I need a weapon.
I dropped to my knees and searched for the bat I kept under my bed. My fingers brushed cool metal. I grabbed the bat, straightened, and ran toward the door. Clad only in a pink tank top and Hello Kitty panties, I prayed I didn’t end up in the coroners’ lab with a cheerful cartoon stretched across my rippled behind.
My bat rattled against the wall as I watched the doorknob turn. I braced myself, ready to swing, but I couldn’t feel my arms. The door opened quick and hard, slamming me against the wall. Before an umph even left my mouth, a hand reached around and disarmed me.
I was flipped, driven face first into the wall, my right arm bent high at an odd angle. White pain sliced through my shoulder. A thigh jammed between my legs. Fingers grabbed tight to my hair, and cranked my head back.
A taut body pressed flush up against mine, and the scents of fresh-turned earth and sweat washed over me. Hot breath warmed my ear as images of rape and death exploded in my mind.
“Kris, I need you to listen to me.” A female voice whispered calmly.
Shock zipped through my nervous system. A woman? How did she know my name? I tried to turn my head, but a painful yank to my scalp had me back to my intimate kiss with the plaster.
“We don’t have a lot of time. Everything I say is of extreme importance.” Her voice was soft, but edged with steel. She spoke with authority, like a commander leading troops into battle. Poor troops. She paused, then a heavy sigh. “Unbelievably, the future of the world rests on your … pathetic shoulders.”
Her voice was familiar, yet not. I scoured my adrenaline-filled brain for a match, but all I could think about was one slight move and my arm would snap.
“I am going to let you go now. And Kris, it’s imperative you remain calm. Do you understand?”
I nodded, since my mouth was too dry to form words. The piercing hold to my shoulder was released, my hair freed. I turned and marshaled enough confidence to swallow my own spit, but no courage could be mustered standing braless in juvenile panties.
The light from the hall didn’t fill the room, leaving the shadows bold and far reaching. Her darkened form stepped back to the opposite wall near the light switch. She reached out and flipped it on.
A face identical to my own stared back at me.
A scream ripped from my throat. I jumped back. My head slammed hard against the solid wall, and then I slid down to the floor.
My vision blurred around the edges. I refocused, then gasped, couldn’t help it. I stared at … me.
The woman glaring at me in her take-no-prisoner stance was my identical twin. Except, I didn’t have an identical twin.
If the fashion police ever got a hold of her, they would’ve revoked her visa. Her failure to use an ounce of originality was criminal. Her black tank top looked like it had been ripped and the ends tied, showing off her washboard stomach. Form-fitting, night-camouflaged pants and black combat boots completed her uniform.
Her hair was longer, but with inexcusable inches of regrowth showing dark against her blonde hair. She stood with her feet wide, hands fisted, one on each hip. Her arms were ripped with muscles, shoulders broader than I’d ever seen my own. She was tougher, stronger … edgier.
We both stared at each other. She and I were the same, yet not. She was tan; I had a phobia about sun bathing. Her hardened blue eyes were punctuated with thin lines; I carried wrinkle cream in my purse.
Her gaze traveled to my tangled mop of hair, down to the tips of my French manicured toenails. Disgust marred her already strained features.
I raised my eyebrows, and then in a streak of obstinacy I’d never outgrown, I wiggled my freshly painted toes.
Her gaze, as inviting as a newly dug grave, leveled with mine. “God, I’d forgotten how young you are. And the panties …” she shook her head, “embarrassing.”
I couldn’t agree more. I scrambled off the floor and slipped on a pair of sweats. With both of us standing face to face, there was no denying the similarities; I had a double, except the body was better.
Or had I gone crazy? Neither option left me giddy with relief.
“Who are you?” I asked. I had to be dreaming; this was a better third option.
She didn’t answer, instead ran over to the bathroom, flipped on the light, and opened my sliding closet doors. She yanked out a duffel bag from the top shelf and began riffling through my clothes.
Dreaming or mental breakdown, I was sure both roads started out pretty much the same.
She dashed over to my dresser and pulled out my sports bra and black running shorts. She threw them at my head. “Put these on. We don’t have much time. We need to leave.”
“Where … why?” Crazy I may be, but one thing I knew—I wasn’t going anywhere with this woman.
“You’d never believe me, so you’re going to have to trust me.” Her behavior bordered on manic as she dived into my closet and threw every one of my shoes across the room. I hovered near the corner, not sure if I should call the police or a hospital with padded rooms.
“Where are your freaking running shoes?” she yelled, glancing over her shoulder at me.
The crazed leer in her eyes scared me. And I realized that though I may’ve become a new member of club insane, she could’ve run for a place on the board.
“In the bathroom,” I said meekly. That’s where I left them when I stripped before showering.
“Of course,” she said, smacking her palm to her forehead. “You never put anything away.”
She disappeared into the bathroom and it took every ounce of gumption I had to slide my feet in the direction of the door. If I made a run for it, would she catch me? She had that chiseled look of a sprinter.
She was back before I took two steps.
“Why aren’t you dressed?” she asked and leveled me with the steel blue of her eyes.
I took a deep breath. Maybe there was a small part of her brain that could still respond to logic. “Look, I don’t know who you are or why you’re in my home, but you need to leave before I call the police.”
She pulled out a gun. And damn if it didn’t look like she knew how to use it. The barrel was aimed somewhere in the vicinity of my head. She jerked it up and fired a shot that blew out a nice-sized hole in the plaster.
“What the—” I ducked and threw myself behind the bed for cover.
“Next time it’ll be for real. Now. Get. Dressed.”
I peered over the mattress, first at her, then toward my new skylight. “Hell lady, this is Scottsdale, not South Phoenix. The neighbors here call the cops for gunshots.”
“You’ll be gone by then.” She shrugged. “But damn, I’ll be here. Hell. Don’t make me use it again. A body is a lot harder to explain than a bullet hole.”
She tucked her gun into the waistband of her pants and began dismantling my medicine cabinet, throwing things at random into the duffel bag.
Okay, note to self: You can’t reason with Crazy. I stripped and put on my running clothes. Things might go better if I played along. At least I’d avoid getting shot at. “Who are you?”
This time the question stopped her. She leaned over, bowed her head, and braced her hands on the bathroom counter. She shuddered, as if suppressing a sob. Then she found me with her gaze in the bathroom mirror. “I’m you, Kris. But from the future. I’ve come back to send you forward.”
In the harshness of the bathroom lighting I could see the dark circles under her eyes, and the permanent downward turn of her mouth.
For a moment her eyes glistened, but she blinked, and her cold dead stare was back. “I failed. I don’t know why, but I failed The Prophecy. You need to go back and do the cycle again. We’ve done this before, but this time you have to do better. Better than me. You have to save him.”
“Save who?” I could barely get the question out. My stomach twisted with a sick sense of déjà vu.
Her shoulders were bunched around her neck, and she shivered as if plucked from an ice storm, though her skin glistened with sweat. She had the look of a woman on the edge, and only sheer grit kept her from jumping.
“ConRad. I’ve killed him. And now you have to go back to the very beginning, back to when he first met you and get it right.”
My better-body-double or BBD, as I was calling her, drove my car at a reckless speed along the semi-deserted highway. I sat in the passenger seat, bracing myself against the dashboard and clutching a duffel bag heavy enough to include the kitchen sink. Daybreak was imminent as the dark sky lightened to a blue-black. My BBD seemed overly concerned with the approaching dawn and kept glancing to the eastern horizon, muttering things like, “running out of time,” and “she’s got to go back.”
“So, the future huh?” I’d been trying to reason with her for the last five minutes, but it wasn’t working. I didn’t believe any of her deranged talk, but playing along seemed the best avenue of getting information. “Your weapon, it doesn’t seem very advanced. The gun you’re toting is pretty standard of what’s on TV. What, there’s no ‘set the laser to stun, Scottie,’ in the future?”
I thought my joke was pretty darn funny considering the circumstances, but my BBD shot me a glance that quelled all humor. I could almost believe that she was my future-self, except for the eyes. They were stone cold and so very callous. Every time she shot me a look, my skin crawled.
“The future, it’s not like that. It’s not … better,” she said, focusing back on the road.
“What do you mean?” Her tone of impending doom was starting to wear on me.
“Do you remember our grandfather and how we would go and visit him during the summer?”
I nodded. I’d given up on rationalizing how she knew intimate details about my life. Crazy was a river you just floated along on.
The summers with my grandfather were some of my favorite memories. The days filled with sweet tea, fly fishing, and no one worrying when you stayed out past dark.
“Do you remember how he would talk to us about the end of the world? How we were living in the last days?”
I nodded again, not really understanding where this was leading. Grandpa had been a pastor at the local church. He hadn’t taught brimstone and hellfire, but he was concerned about “Judgment Day,” as he called it.
“Well, it happened, Kris. Armageddon is for real. And the future is not better.”
A shudder crawled along my skin. Whatever this was—a delusion, a psychotic episode, a carb-induced nightmare—she believed it. In her mind the end of the world was the absolute truth.
We turned into a deserted parking lot that led to the hiking paths up into the mountain preserve. The trail head was marked with a sign asking dog owners to pick up after their pets, along with a supply of “doggie bags” for the forgetful owner. A copper water fountain and empty horse trough filled in the rest. She parked the car and turned off the ignition, then focused her attention on me.
“I don’t want to tell you too much. I don’t want to bias your decisions. You just need to have more … integrity, more trust.” She ran both hands through her hair and slicked back the disheveled mess. “Ah, I wish I knew, but I don’t. This time it has to work.”
“Tell me too much? You haven’t told me jack. What has to work this time?” Wisps of apprehension swirled in my belly. This woman looked too familiar and knew too much for me to keep dismissing her. “Is that what I’m supposed to do? Stop Armageddon from happening?”
“No.” She shook her head. “That’s already happened. You’ll be too late for that.”
She spoke with a conviction that only an eyewitness would have.
“Jesus,” I said.
A bitter laugh flowed from her lips. “Oh, how I wish, but he’s already come and gone, so the world will have to make do with you.”
Great. Only a savior fits the job, and instead the world gets a surgical intern.
I unzipped the duffel bag, curious at what she deemed vital for my “do it better this time” quest. A glass jar of pasta sauce, no noodles, a half dozen cans of baked beans, one tuna—no can opener. I dug some more, dental floss, a wad of tissues, a box of Band-Aids, and a lone tampon.
“What am I suppose to do with this?” I lifted the bag to show her the contents.
She seemed as shocked as I about what made it into the duffel.
“Okay, so you never perfect the skill of packing under pressure.” She grabbed the bag and threw it into the back seat. “All you really need is what you’ve put in your fanny pack.”
She looked at me as if expecting me to do something.
“Now what?” I asked.
“Go where?” This was insane. Was I really contemplating doing what this woman was telling me?
“Go out there.” She pointed toward the trail head. “Go climb the mountain. Go for a run.”
“And then what?”
“Don’t worry. The ‘what’ will happen. Just go. Dawn is almost here. We don’t have much time.”
I arched my eyebrows in disbelief. “So you’re really going to make me do this?”
“Yes, dammit. Just go already. Are you always this annoying with the questions? Go. For. A. Run. Is that specific enough for you?”
I had enough of her attitude. I opened the car door and slid out.
“Wait!” she shouted, before I closed the car door. “One more thing.”
I hunched over so I could peer at her through the opening.
“Don’t tell ConRad that you saw me. Or anyone else for that matter. He doesn’t believe in The Prophesy. When you first meet him, he’s very suspicious and very … um … angry. So if he believes you’re a spy—he’ll kill you.”
And this was the man I am supposed to save? The whole story was nuts. I mean, she kills him and then he possibly kills me. This made no sense. Of course, that’s the definition of insanity.
I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her. I always had a tender spot for crazy people, my mother for one. It might not be pretty, but hey, insanity happens.
“Let’s talk?” I said. “We can make our way over to the hospital. Get you a nice warm shower and a hot meal.” And then whatever colored pill that would make you uncrazy.
In one quick move she pulled out her weapon, and I was staring down the barrel of a gun for the second time in my life.
“Don’t make me put a hole in your arm.”
But this time I wasn’t scared. Twisted logic traveled both ways on this mentally unstable freeway. “You wouldn’t shoot me. It would be like shooting yourself. And how stupid is that?”
Yeah, right back atcha, babe.
“I’ve lived through worse. The question is—have you?” Her voice back to command mode.
In that second I believed her. She oozed of hard core. But me? Nope, I didn’t do pain well. I slammed the door. “You’re crazy, Lady! Absolutely nuts. You belong in a padded room where they give you drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.”
She opened her car door and barreled toward me, gun waving. I froze, second-guessing my impeccable logic that she wasn’t going to kill me.
The gun cocked with a sickening click. She aimed, then shot the ground by my feet. I screamed, threw my arms over my head, and did the one-legged dance.
“I’ll give you a five-minute head start, and then I’m coming after you. And so help me God, if you’re not half way up the mountain, I’ll make you dig our grave, and I’ll put us both in there myself.”