Authors: Ariel Tachna
Contemporary M/M Romance at its Finest
Inherit the Sky
“…a well crafted, beautiful book that I would recommend to anyone looking for a love story that takes courage.” —Guilty Indulgence
“This story is beautifully, realistically handled.” —Joyfully Jay
Her Two Dads
“…one of the most emotionally rewarding and uplifting love stories that I have read in a long time.” —Dark Diva Reviews
“This is one of the best books I have ever read.”
—Judging the Book by Its Pages
“…a great comfort read.” —Blackraven Reviews
“…a seductively sexy and romantic story.” —Night Owl Reviews
Out of the Fire
“This story tore at my heart.” —TwoLips Recommended Read
“…something in it for just about everybody who has a kink…”
—The Romance Studio
Once in a Lifetime
“… a coming-of-age story that introduces heart-pounding firsts and nostalgic lasts.” —¡Miraculous!
Her Two Dads
Inherit the Sky
The Inventor’s Companion
Once in a Lifetime
Out of the Fire
A Summer Place
Alliance in Blood
Covenant in Blood
Conflict in Blood
Reparation in Blood
All For One
Under the Skin
Healing in His Wings
Rose Among the Ruins
Why Nileas Loved the Sea
Something About Harry
Tying the Knot
382 NE 191st Street #88329
Miami, FL 33179-3899, USA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Ariel Tachna
Cover Art by Shobana Appavu
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 382 NE 191st Street #88329, Miami, FL 33179-3899, USA
Printed in the United States of America
eBook edition available
eBook ISBN: 978-1-61372-523-8
To the heroes of Fukushima Dai-ichi, whose willingness to risk their lives to save others inspired this novel.
Tropical Storm Elsa aimed its sights at the Texas Gulf Coast, Derek Marshall shrugged and checked his generator to make sure he’d have backup power if they lost electricity for more than a few hours. When the storm was upgraded to Hurricane Elsa, he checked his readiness kit to make sure he had plenty of water just in case the local water system was compromised. When Category 1 became Category 2, he made sure he had plenty of canned goods. When Category 2 became Category 3, he checked the propane tank for his grill. When it became Category 4, he closed his storm shutters and hunkered down with a bottle of tequila to wait it out.
The bitch stalled ten miles offshore, pummeling the Gulf Coast for days, stretching from east of New Orleans almost to Brownsville, spawning storm surges that rolled inward ten miles in places, Derek discovered later. At the time, he was only aware of the pounding winds and the incessant rain. His house was at the highest point in his neighborhood, but when he peeked out between the slats of his storm shutters, he could see the waters rising. His weather radio reported flooding throughout Galveston, Houston, Bay City, and farther west. Government officials warned people to stay inside. The 135-mile-per-hour sustained winds made it dangerous to even think about going outside. If they hadn’t followed the advice to evacuate, they needed to stay where they were and hope for the best until the storm passed.
Derek turned off the radio and opened a second bottle of tequila. If he died, at least he’d go happy.
When the winds finally passed and the rain slowed to a drizzle, Derek opened the storm shutters and peered outside with bleary eyes. Only one in every three houses still had its roof, and the other two in three had lost walls as well when the roofs collapsed. Even drunk as he was, it occurred to him that he was damn lucky to be alive, so he waded through the flooded streets to the houses nearest his, checking to see if anyone else had stayed and, if so, if they’d made it through.
He didn’t find any people, but he did find a dog in the rubble of one of the houses, shivering in fear. It came out when Derek called, though, its tail wagging even as it continued to shake. Derek searched through the house as much as he could until he found a couple of cans of dog food. If the owners were in the house, he didn’t see any sign of them. “Who the hell leaves a dog alone at home with a storm like Elsa on the way?” he muttered. He sat down next to the dog, heedless of the rain and the rubble. The mutt put its muzzle on Derek’s thigh, the trembling finally starting to ease as Derek stroked its head. “It’s okay, Fido,” he said, keeping his voice soothing. “I’m not going to leave you alone. You’re going to come home with me, and I’m going to take care of you. Are you okay to walk? You came out here to me pretty well. If you are, let’s get out of the rain and inside where it’s drier.”
Derek kept a close eye on the dog as they braved the floodwaters between the rubble of the dog’s house and Derek’s house. The water came up to the dog’s belly, but it trotted along beside him trustingly. If Derek hadn’t had the dog food in his hands, he’d have picked the animal up, but he couldn’t carry both of them, and Fido seemed willing and able to walk. When they reached his house, he cast a critical eye over the roof. He could see shingles missing, but it didn’t look like the tar paper beneath was damaged, so he hoped there wouldn’t be any leaks. The house had to keep him and Fido safe and dry until the floodwaters went down and the power came back on.
“It’s okay, boy,” he repeated as they walked into the house. “We made it through the storm. Everything after this is easy.” The thought of looters occurred to him, although as dead as the neighborhood appeared, he wasn’t sure anyone else had stayed—or survived if they did—but he decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep his gun handy. Just in case.
He pried one of the cans of dog food open with a pocket knife because the dog looked too pathetic to wait, and then powered up the generator and unlocked his gun from the safe. The whiff of cool air when the air conditioner kicked in was a relief after three days of unrelenting humidity. Derek plugged his cell phone in and checked idly for reception. To his surprise, he had one very weak bar. And ten new messages on his voice mail.
The first one was a simple request from his mother to call him when the storm had passed. He dialed her number quickly and let her know he was fine, if a little cut off at the moment. When he got off the phone with her, he listened to the rest of the messages.
“Marshall, when you get this message, call me.”
“Marshall, where are you? I need you to call me.”
“Marshall, where the hell are you? Don’t tell me you’re still at home.”
“Derek Marshall, if you don’t call me the minute you get this message, you won’t have a job to come back to.”
Derek rolled his eyes at that one. His boss at NASA regularly threatened his job, but since Derek was the best robotics engineer in the country, he figured he’d have to do more than not return a call before he’d be out of work.
The remaining five messages, all from his boss, grew increasingly frantic, culminating with, “Derek Marshall, if I find out you stayed at home to wait out this fucking hurricane, I will fucking kill you myself. Call me.”
Deciding the string of profanity meant the situation, whatever it was, really did merit immediate attention, Derek dialed his boss’s number.
“Where the fuck are you?”
“Hello to you too, Kenneth,” Derek said with a roll of his eyes. His boss was short on social niceties at the best of times. Derek didn’t know what was going on, but this clearly didn’t qualify as the best of times.
“Don’t give me that, you bastard. Where are you, and more importantly, where’s that piece of junk you call Number Five?”
“If you talk that way about it, I won’t tell you,” Derek threatened. He’d started building robots after he first saw the movie
. He’d fallen in love with the quirky robot who saw more than he should have. As a robotics engineer, Derek appreciated the difference between reality and fiction, but it hadn’t stopped him from naming his prototype Number Five when he’d started working on it three years ago. “I’m at home, and Number Five is right here with me. What do you need us for?”