The Underground insignia.
There are scenes, for every author, that rip your heart out and leave it bleeding and raw. For me, the worst of those scenes center around Underground’s darkest moments, in HERO’S HOPE and VENGEFUL HEART.
Excerpt from VENGEFUL HEART (Underground, Book 5):
Nothing changed, except for the thin layer of dust even the Underground’s air purifiers couldn’t prevent. Tamia hugged Michael’s squirming body to her, sure her heart was about to beat its way free of her chest, as she stood frozen in the open doorway of her quarters. Rick’s quarters.
The breath she dragged in tore her lungs like nails, and memory crashed down around her at the faint scent of Rick’s soap lingering in this air, even after two years. Amazing what the body could remember long after the mind forgot. Hers recalled Rick’s touch, his smile, and the breath-stealing effect of those cobalt eyes.
Tamia’s knees trembled and gave out as memory assaulted her, and she slid to the floor, pounded down by waves of grief she hadn’t felt so keenly in years. She was barely aware of Michael as he wriggled loose from her arms, and his babbling little voice was miles away as pain drowned out everything except memories she desperately wishes were more.
“Rick.” His name pulled from her lips on a hoarse whisper, a prayer this place could bring him back to her when nothing succeeded in erasing him from her heart or mind. For the first time in over a decade, she craved the oblivion of being high more than she wanted to breathe.
“Ah-ma.” Small hands patted her face, before a little frown marred the perfect face before her. Michael patted her face again, perplexed, and his blue eyes grew fearful. “Ah-ma?”
“Oh, baby.” How had she forgotten her promise? She gathered Michael into her arms as the craving subsided, driven away by the knowledge she could do him harm, high. She made Rick a promise that those days were forever behind her. No matter what happened, she wouldn’t go back to drugs.
Her resolve steeled by that reminder, Tamia rose from the floor and grabbed up the single rucksack containing all of hers and Michael’s worldly possessions since leaving the Underground two years ago. With the rucksack over her left shoulder, and Michael on her right hip, she forced her feet to move forward, into the darkness that was more than just physical.
Turning lights on as she went, to chase away the ghosts of memory, Tamia entered the bedroom. Her gaze latched onto the bed she once shared with her husband, and her lungs froze for one terrible moment. It took almost more effort than she had, but she tore her eyes away. They landed instead on the crib sitting, forgotten, in the far corner. They picked it out together, she and Rick, and smuggled it into the Underground when her pregnancy was still a violation of the now-abolished Fertility Code. The memory of hours spent laughing and teasing as they assembled the baby bed stung her eyes with fresh tears, even as she sat Michael on the center of her own bed and turned to unpack and shake out the crib sheets she packed away after her release from prison, when she and Michael left for Tibet, two years ago.
With a few quick motions, she made up the crib and turned back to her bed. A small laugh broke her lips as her gaze landed on Michael, fast asleep in the center of the bed, his thumb hanging on his lower lip.
Poor thing was probably exhausted, after the commuter trip, and then the unfamiliar hustle and bustle of a city that never sleeps. She didn’t have the heart to disturb him. So, as carefully as she could, she stretched out beside him, still fully-clothed, and laid back against the pillows. A sigh broke her lips as she shifted to her side, ever mindful of her son’s sleeping warmth, and gathered the pillow beside hers close to her face.
She drew in a deep breath, and the scent that still clung to the cloth embraced her senses and pulled a tender smile to her lips as a familiar, beloved face filled her mind’s eye.
“I love you,” she whispered to the darkness of a memory, as much as to the breathing warmth of her child. And, with that affirmation, she slipped into the first true sleep she’d had in two years.