(Archive of the Fives, #1)
Publication date: February 12th 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Good luck and have a pleasant apocalypse.The end of the world is coming. How or when, scientists can’t agree upon. For decades, Earth’s best line of defense has been a team of young soldiers known as the Apocalypse Five, forced into virtual reality simulations to train for Doom’s Day. But, this is no game. Death on the grid is brutally final and calls up the next in a long line of cadets.Stationed aboard the AT-1-NS Starship, the A5 are celebrities thrust into the limelight by a calling they didn’t choose. All it takes is one unscheduled mission, showing seventeen-year-old team leader Detroit a harsh and unfathomable reality, to shake the A5’s belief in all they thought they knew. After questioning people with the power to destroy them, the team is framed for a crime they didn’t commit and marked for death. Now, the hunt is on.Can the Apocalypse Five expose the truth the starship would kill to keep hidden? Or, will their bravery end in a public execution?
Cranking up the speed on the treadmill, Detroit pushed her muscles to their limits. Sweat streaked down the flawless brown skin of her well-toned back as she stared out the circular window before her at the infinite mysteries of space. Even with her legs pumping like powerful pistons, she couldn’t outrun the demons of doubt lurking in her mind. It wasn’t for lack of trying. At her current pace, she was set to beat her personal best for a five-mile run.
Only a tenth of a mile away from her goal, Detroit’s calf cramped in a stabbing knot. Her had falling back, she screamed more out of frustration than in pain. After she keyed down the speed, she managed an awkward hobble in an attempt to loosen the spasming muscle.
“You need to stretch that out,” Houston called from the gym doorway. Thumbs looped in the pockets of his loose linen slacks, the muscles of his chest strained against the fabric of his fitted T-shirt. “Or you’ll be useless during tomorrow’s mission.”
After tapping in the code to end her session and run the report to her fitness log, Detroit limped off the machine. She snagged her vitamin-infused water from the top of the weight tower and treated herself to a healthy swig. “If you came in here to push your yoga agenda, save it. Calm meditation isn’t my thing. I need the endorphin release of good, sweaty cardio.”
“Biting my tongue on the very obvious dirty rebuttal I could make to that remark, I will take the high road and ask a far less suggestive question.” Closing the distance between them, he hitched one brow in question. “What about torn ligaments? Are those your thing, too?”
The water bottle still poised at her lips, Detroit took another swallow before answering. “Sometimes, it’s a necessary risk.”
Houston grabbed a fluffy white towel from the neat stack on the shelf and tossed it to her. “And, did it work? Do you feel all better now about your little epiphany?”
After padding down her chest, Detroit dropped her chin to swab off the back of her neck. “It wasn’t a big deal. This whole A-5 situation can just be … a lot. I had a moment where the walls were closing in. That’s all.”
With the gentle insistence of his knuckle under her chin, Houston made Detroit meet his stare. “You were trembling and fighting back tears. That’s more than a panic attack.”
“Actually,” Detroit corrected, shrugging away from his touch. As much as she treasured any fleeting moments of his skin on hers, in that instant it felt too intimate a contact. “That’s the very definition of a panic attack.”
“Dee, you can talk to me. You don’t have to—”
“There’s nothing to talk about!” Detroit snapped, wringing the towel between her hands. Whatever stress relief she’d achieved during her run was rapidly fading away. She could already feel ropes of tension tightening along her shoulders. Inhaling through her nose and out through her mouth, she tried for a calmer tone. “At least not here.”
Houston followed her glance to the camera dome mounted on the ceiling.
Somehow, someway, someone was always watching. Whoever had said it was lonely in space had clearly never boarded the AT-1-NS.
Wetting his lips, Houston took a step back. With a roll of his shoulders, he shrugged on the persona of the sexy hunk that made girls throughout the AT-1-NS swoon. “All the more reason for you to let me give you that yoga lesson.”
Playing off his lead in a little improv scene for those who filtered their candid moments for public viewing, Detroit jabbed her fist to one cocked hip. “Why do I feel like this is an attempt to get us pelvis to pelvis?”
“Not at all.” He blinked her way in feigned innocence. “This is about me, a concerned team member, taking an interest in your health and wellbeing.” Houston punctuated the sentiment with a saucy wink, and his lips twisted into a leering smile.
Her mouth parting with a pop, Detroit set her water bottle down and turned to face him with lightning bolts of challenge flashing in her eyes. “Oh, yeah? And what techniques would you use to assist my … ahem, wellbeing?”
Edging in close enough that nothing but a sizzling veil of electrified energy lingered between them, Houston’s voice dropped to a throaty whisper. “I’d start with a good quad stretch in downward facing dog. Then, I would grab your ankle and, nice and easy, guide you into a wide standing split. Taking you farther than you ever thought you could go. When you’re nice and limbered up, we’ll move together into camel pose. I’m thinking we go for the two-hump variety.” A smile playing at the corners of his mouth, he peered up at her from under his lush forest of lashes. “If you’re up for it, there’s nothing I’d like more than a nice … deep … plow. That can be rough on the back, though. If it gets to be too much, I suggest going down on all fours for a little Dog Tilt. With that one, it’s really critical that you arch your back. It might be necessary for me to hold your hips, and ease you back into it …”
“Are you about done?” Lips pinched tight, Detroit’s tone rang with a lilt of laughter she fought to squelch.
Houston’s shoulders sank with relief. “Thank the Blue Moon you stopped me! I was trying to figure out a way to work in an Upright Seated Angle, but anything I said was going to come out sounding straight up pornographic. Not on purpose, it’s just a really dirty pose.”
Adjusting the strap of her sports bra, a chuckle slipped from Detroit’s lips. “I can’t even be mad. The length of detail you went into was nothing short of impressive.”
With one arm crooked on the top of the weight stack, Houston bumped her shoulder with his. “Does that mean you want to let me play the part of your personal yoga master?”
“How would that go again?” Detroit closed the gap of space between them, rising up on the balls of her feet. Her lips teased over his, breath warming his face, without the blissful relief of contact. “You wanted your body brushing mine? For me to envelope your rock hard … form, while your hands grip my hips and sweat slicks our melded skin?”
Swallowing hard, Houston managed a gruff rasp. “That … would be a heck of a start.”
“But, see,” pulling back with a regretful cluck of her tongue, Detroit sucked air through her teeth, “that reaction? That makes me the master. I guess that means I don’t need help after all.” Turning on her heel with a victorious grin, she strode toward the locker room. There mayhave been a little extra sass in her gait, especially since she knew he was watching her leave.
Houston acknowledged her win with a slow clap. “Well played. You let me know if you change your mind. Or, if you need anything at all. Detroit?” Something in the way he uttered her name demanded her attention. Glancing back over her shoulder, she found his expression suddenly a somber one. A glimmer of the real Houston snuck through a crack in his staged façade. “If you need anything, I’m here.”
“I will,” she muttered, with a slight dip of her chin. Tossing her towel over her shoulder, she walked on.
“Anything at all!” he called, back in character. “Wash your back? Help you towel off? Have I found the line into creepy territory yet? How else will I know where it is if you don’t tell me?”
RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012 for Embrace, a Gryphon Series Novel
Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012
Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013
Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal Winner for Crane 2015
Stacey Rourke is the author of the award winning YA Gryphon Series, the chillingly suspenseful Legends Saga, and the romantic comedy Reel Romance Series. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. She loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head.
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