Evils both above and below ground arise once again, threatening the world and all its inhabitants with extinction in Obliteration, the final novel set in the James S. Murray and Darren Wearmoth’s Awakened universe—available now from Harper Voyager.
Thanks to the heroics of former New York City Mayor Tom Cafferty and his team, the world is once again safe. The villainous Foundation for Human Advancement has been dismantled, the cities of the world are safe from nuclear annihilation, and Cafferty is now on a hunt to decimate every nest of creatures on the planet.
When Cafferty enters a nest underneath the Nevada desert, he is horrified to find it completely empty. It can only mean one thing: the battle for survival is not over. Across the planet, creatures are emerging from their subterranean homes. Now, the all-out war against humanity has begun—a war in which only one apex species will survive. Humankind has finally met its match.
Cafferty knows that only one man can help him stop the onslaught. A man who is despised by the world. A man who has already caused the death of millions. A man who is a sworn enemy hell-bent on taking Tom Cafferty down forever: Albert Van Ness.
But even this desperate move may not be enough to stop the creatures and save humanity…
Mike Gianno walked along a corridor to his high-roller suite in Circus Circus. He grasped the hand of a lady he only knew as Cindy. She was wearing a tight red dress, showing her voluptuous curves. Maybe thirty years old. He wasn’t sure. She was most definitely out of his league, but his natural charm had clearly won her over.
This morning, he’d dressed to impress. Skinny jeans. A white linen shirt, unbuttoned to the center of his chest, ensuring he flashed his thick gold necklace. It was most likely real, too. He avoided tucking his shirt in to conceal his growing pot belly. A classic fat guy trick. The short sleeves flashed his inked biceps. He wasn’t exactly ripped, but for a balding man approaching his mid-forties, he thought he looked pretty good. Distinguished, even.
To complement his appearance, a squirt of Stetson cologne had given him a woodsy, citrus aroma compared to his competition at the casino bars: morbidly overweight desperados with cigarettes constantly jammed between their lips. He didn’t need to sink that low. The thought disgusted him. He upgraded to e-cigarettes long ago. And the ultimate ace in his pocket: he had a suite in the hotel. Women love suites, is what he had heard. He also had the decency to put his wedding ring in the safe, so all good there.
“You got booze?” Cindy asked.
Mike smiled. “Does a shark have a waterproof nose?”
“Forget about it. There’s a mini bar.”
So what. I’ll take the hit to impress her.
His excitement grew as they neared his room. He’d previously had no luck at the tables or the slots. Five-hundred bucks, hosed in under two hours. Something he couldn’t really afford with a wife and two kids back in Michigan. After his losing streak, he’d hung around the bar. Six rejections later, he’d met Cindy. A fitness instructor from Tyler, Texas. They’d immediately hit it off, talking about their love of action movies and barbeque food.
Cindy and he had talked for half an hour. It felt like he’d known her for years. It was like she understood what he was all about. She had an insight into the male psyche that he’d never encountered before. She knew what men were about, clearly.
Mike placed his key card against the door. He opened it and waved Cindy inside with the flourish of a ringmaster. “After you, madam.”
She frowned at him. “Are you sure you’re not drunk?”
“Only had five Moscow mules,” he replied proudly. “I could have easily had six.”
She shook her head and entered the room.
Mike closed the door behind him and spun to face her. Sure, the high roller suite at Circus Circus had only cost him one hundred bucks, but it was the best room in the hotel with a living area, separate bedroom, and a huge bathroom.
Cindy peered around. “Is this really the presidential suite?
Mike nodded. “Uh- huh.”
“Which President? Carter?” Cindy sassed back. She slipped off her purse and reached for the zip on the back of her dress.
Holy shit this is happening…
“Oh, one last thing…” Cindy said while unzipping her dress.
“Anything for you baby.”
“You need to pay up front.”
Mike’s eyes widened. “Oh…uh…excuse me?”
“That’s standard here in Vegas, baby. It’s not that I don’t trust you.”
“Oh…you’re…uh…working right now?”
Cindy rolled her eyes. “Does a shark have a waterproof nose?”
Mike hadn’t realized. The revelation momentarily hurt his ego. He imagined the bums in the casino bar laughing after he’d left. He’d given most of them a triumphant grin on the way past, like he’d been the victor in their unspoken competition. He might have even given one the finger.
“Uh, yeah. So how much are we talking?” he asked.
“Depends on what you want.”
Mike did fast math in his head. A few hundred lost on the casino floor, a hundred for the room, five Moscow mules, pay- per- view last night to watch that new hidden camera comedy movie that just came out, Uber X from the airport…
Damn, adds up fast.
“Um…two hundred?” he replied.
She shook her head and held up one hand. “That’s what you get. I’m gonna use the bathroom first.”
“Ok, um, it’s right through there.”
Cindy sauntered through to the bedroom and headed for the bathroom.
Excitement rose inside him. Feelings he hadn’t experienced since his last ‘business’ trip. He stripped naked and slipped on a terrycloth bathrobe, leaving it loosely fastened around his waist. Mike checked himself out in the mirror. He sucked in and puffed out his chest.
A clatter of noise came from the bathroom, followed by silence.
“Hey,” he shouted. “You all right in there?”
“You need to pay up front,” Cindy’s voice said from behind the closed door.
This sent a wave of irritation through him. If she planned on talking turkey all the way through their experience, it promised to be a total turn off.
“Okay, I get it,” he replied, opening his wallet and counting out two hundred dollars. That
left eighty dollars in his wallet. Plenty for the Uber back to the airport, and maybe another pay per view tonight. He had already maxed out his credit card, so reception would have to take cash. He was dying to watch Anaconda again.
Then, her identical voice again, from behind the bathroom door. “You need to pay up front,” she repeated.
“I said I get it,” he said, annoyed.
Mike entered the bedroom, attempting to push her parroted comment to the back of his mind. The crisp ivory sheets had been spread to one side, and her dress lay across the top of them. He sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for her to finish whatever she was doing in the bathroom.
He reached across to the bedside cabinet, and grabbed the half-drunk glass of wine he’d left there the previous night. It tasted warm and sour as it gushed down his throat. He squeezed one eye shut, wincing.
“You need to pay up front,” she called again.
“What the frick?” Mike replied.
He strode over to the bathroom and flung the door open, ready to demand that she leave his suite immediately. Enough was enough.
The large bathroom had a mirrored shower at the far end. No water was running. Cindy wasn’t on the toilet or at the sink. The curtain was drawn across the bath, and had stains across its white surface.
What the hell has she done?
Mike stormed over and swept the curtain to one side. Cindy lay slumped in the bathtub, eyes rolled back in her head. She had huge slash marks across her stomach and a shallow pool of blood lapped against the lower parts of her body.
He clasped a hand over his mouth to stifle his own scream.
What do I do now?
He glanced up for signs of any security cameras. None.
They’ll think I did it…
What do I tell my wife?
Mike spun to face the bathroom door. He needed to think this through.
As he turned, a massive black creature exploded through the mirrored shower screen. Blood dripped from its razor-sharp teeth. Its tail whipped from side to side as it advanced toward him, blocking off his escape.
Mike stumbled back in shock. His legs hit the bath and he collapsed back. His backside crashed against Cindy’s wounded stomach and he wacked his head on the edge of the tub. His eyes went hazy, possibly from a concussion. Cindy’s warm blood saturated his white robe.
The creature approached, wide-eyed with excitement as it towered over its prey. It leaned down close to Mike’s face. “You need to pay up front,” the creature said, its vocal chords mimicking Cindy’s voice precisely.
Equal parts terror and regret instantly spread across Mike’s slumped-down face. Before he had a chance to look up, two powerful hands clamped around his head. Claws immediately sunk into his temples. The hands crushed hard against his skull.
The creature ripped him out of the bathtub and held him a few feet in the air. Cindy’s blood dripped from his robe to the tiled floor.
Mike screamed, long and loud, hoping somebody would hear. Hoping somebody would help.
The creature swung his body toward the towel hook on the door.
Then it thrust him downward with tremendous force.
The blunt hook crunched through his spine, just below his neck. His legs went numb, and he could no longer move his arms. The creature took a step back and watched as Mike swung gently from side to side on the door hook, the life draining from his body.
He wheezed out a gurgling, dying breath.
Not yet sated, the creature raised its thick black arm and rammed three razor-sharp claws into Mike’s neck.
Everything instantly went black.
Just like that, Mike’s business trip had come to an end.
Excerpted from Obliteration by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth
Copyright © 2020 All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission from HarperCollins.