Mercury Striking (The Scorpius Syndrome #1)

Mercury Striking (The Scorpius Syndrome #1)

Rebecca Zanetti

About the Book

With nothing but rumors to lead her, Lynne Harmony has trekked across a nightmare landscape to find one man – a mysterious, damaged legend who protects the weak and leads the strong. He’s more than muscle and firepower – and in post-plague L.A., he’s her only hope. As the one woman who could cure the disease, Lynne is the single most volatile – and vulnerable – creature in this new and ruthless world. But face to face with Jax Mercury, danger has never looked quite so delicious . . .

For more thrilling passion played out against the dangerous race for survival, look for all the titles in The Scorpius Syndrome series: Mercury Striking, Shadow Falling and Justice Syndrome.

This book is dedicated to my Kensington editor,

Alicia Condon,

who is brilliant, unflappable, kind . . .

and who jumped off a cliff with me

by saying the words,

“I like the Blue Heart story.”

Thank you.


I am so excited about this new series, and I have many people to thank for help in getting this first book to readers. I sincerely apologize to anyone I’ve forgotten;

Thank you to Big Tone for taking the kids snowmobiling for weekends while I wrote this book, for cooking interesting concoctions of noodles and, well, noodles for dinner, and for being a better hero than I could ever create. Thanks to Gabe for the entertainment and support, and thank you to Karlina for the fun and love.

Thank you to my talented agents, Caitlin Blasdell and Liza Dawson, who have been with me from the first book and who have supported, guided, and protected me in this wild industry;

Thank you to the Kensington gang: Alicia Condon, Alexandra Nicolajsen, Vida Engstrand, Michelle Forde, Jane Nutter, Justine Willis, Lauren Jernigan, Ross Plotkin, Stacia Seaman, Steven Zacharius, and Adam Zacharius;

And thanks also to my constant support system: Gail and Jim English, Debbie and Travis Smith, Stephanie and Don West, Brandie and Mike Chapman, Jessica and Jonah Namson, and Kathy and Herb Zanetti.

In the end, there is no doubt that Mother Nature will win.

—Dr. Franklin Xavier Harmony, Philosophies

Chapter One

The smartest minds on this planet agree that life will be wiped out by a slumbering virus, a rogue asteroid, or an unknown danger just waiting to strike.

—Dr. Franklin Xavier Harmony

Despair hungered in the darkness, not lingering, not languishing . . . but waiting to bite. No longer the little brother of rage, despair had taken over the night, ever present, an actor instead of an afterthought.

Lynne picked her way along the deserted twelve-lane interstate, allowing the weak light from the moon to guide her. An unnatural silence hung heavy over the barren land. Rusting carcasses of vehicles lined the sides; otherwise, the once-vibrant 405 was dead.

Her months of hiding had taught her stealth. Prey needed stealth, as did the hunter.

She was both.

The tennis shoes she’d stolen from an abandoned thrift store protected her feet from the cracked asphalt, while a breeze scented with death and decomposing vegetation lifted her hair. The smell had saturated the wind as she’d trekked across the country.

The world was littered with dead bodies and devoid of souls.

A click echoed in the darkness. About time. Predators, both human and animal, crouched in every shadow, but she’d made it closer to what used to be Los Angeles than she’d hoped.

A strobe light hit her full on, rendering sight impossible. The miracle of functioning batteries brought pain. She closed her eyes. They’d either kill her or not. Either way, no need to go blind. “I want to see Mercury.” Since she’d aimed for the center of Mercury’s known territory, hopefully she’d find him and not some rogue gang.

Silence. Then several more clicks. Guns of some type. They’d closed in silently, just as well trained as she’d heard. As she’d hoped.

She forced strength into her voice. “You don’t want to kill me without taking me to Mercury first.” Jax Mercury, to be exact. If he still lived. If not, she was screwed anyway.

“Why would we do that?” A voice from the darkness, angry and near.

She squinted, blinking until her pupils narrowed. The bright light exposed her and concealed them, weakening her knees, but she gently set her small backpack on the ground. She had to clear her throat to force out sound. “I’m Lynne Harmony.”

Gasps, low and male, filled the abyss around her. “Bullshit,” a voice hissed from her left.

She tilted her head toward the voice, and then slowly, so slowly they wouldn’t be spooked, she unbuttoned her shirt. No catcalls, no suggestive responses followed. Shrugging her shoulders, she dropped the cotton to the ground, facing the light.

She hadn’t worn a bra, but she doubted the echoing exhales of shock were from her size Bs. More likely the shimmering blue outline of her heart caught their attention. Yeah, she was a freak. Typhoid Mary in the body of a woman who’d failed. Big time. But she might be able to save the men surrounding her. “So. Jax Mercury. Now.”

One man stepped closer. Gang tattoos lined his face, inked tears showing his kills. He might have been thirty, he might have been sixty. Regardless, he was dangerous, and he smelled like dust combined with body odor. A common smell in the plague-riddled world. Eyeing her chest, he quickly crossed himself. “Holy Mary, Mother of God.”

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