Authors: Sylvia Ryan
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Both danger and sex are inescapable in the Amber Zone.
Jaci Harmon was born a Sapphire, but after she’s summoned to receive her final designation, the testing reveals she carries a gene slated for eradication. Within a day, she’s sterilized and dumped in the Amber Zone, where the damaged are corralled away from the rest of New Atlanta. Scared and alone, Jaci would rather die than face her future as an Amber.
Born in the Amber Zone, Xander Dimos is a product of a lifetime spent under the oppression of the Repopulation Laws. Decades of suffering have taught the Ambers to make the zone a place where touch, sex, and unconditional acceptance ease the pain of their fate. Jaci has a lot to learn about her new home, and it’s Xander’s responsibility to guide her through the differences and the dangers safely.
With the simmering undercurrents of sexual chemistry growing between them, and in the midst of discovering the Gov’s true motives, Jaci and Xander must overcome his secret and accept their love as undeniable…even if the time allotted to share it is short.
CONTENT WARNING: This title contains explicit sex, graphic language, ménage a trios, use of sex toys, and anal sex.
“Why didn’t you just let me die?” she whispered.
“Because you’re mine to take care of now.” He leaned in close so that his lips were brushing her ear. “It’s okay to stumble and fall. I’ll be here to catch you. I’ll take care of you Jaci, I promise.”
Xander squeezed the words out through a tight throat and then sat on the edge of the bed. He settled her in his lap and tucked her into him, wrapping his arms around her to keep her warm and let her know she was safe. After a few beats of stillness, Jaci started shaking her head. Almost imperceptibly at first, but within seconds, a sob escaped her. “I don’t want this. Let me die next time,” she cried. “Please. Please,” she sobbed. “I don’t want to feel like this. I don’t want to feel it anymore.”
“That’s enough,” Xander growled. “I don’t want to hear any more of this. I’m going to take care of you, Jaci. I’ll help you chase the pain away. We’ll do it together.”
Book 1 of The New Atlanta Series
This book is dedicated to the only person who really knows me.
The first cases of the deadly influenza were identified January 22, 2050 in New York City. Martial law was declared and mandatory quarantines were enforced by the National Guard, but the spread of the virus proved to be aggressive and unstoppable. Death of an infected person usually occurred within seven days of the first signs of the disease.
Mortality rates grew exponentially and government services collapsed sixty days after the first identified cases. By that time, there were not enough people alive for society to carry on as normal. Millions of dead were left unburied and made cities uninhabitable for the few uninfected by the virus.
By the time the pandemic was over, an estimated ninety-two percent of the world’s population had not survived. The majority of the deaths were the result of the virus, but some were a result of being cut off from food and water and from the chaos reigning in the aftermath of the pandemic. Those the flu left alone were left isolated throughout the world. Suddenly, mankind was an endangered species.
In the United States, remaining government and military leaders rallied quickly in an effort to save surviving citizens. Skeletal remnants of military forces concentrated on making three US cities–Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta–inhabitable. The densely packed skyscrapers of the downtown areas were left untouched, and loomed like ghosts haunting the new cities hastily constructed in their shadow. In outlying neighborhoods where the population had been less dense, corpses were buried in mass graves so their homes could be assigned to the thousands of people that descended in hoards to the closest of the three cities.
During this time, martial law ruled with brutal authority. Everybody participated in the rebuilding, except for the very young and the very old. Those who didn’t fall in line were exiled outside the safety of the tall walls that surrounded the “new” cities. The area outside the walls, what would later be named the Onyx Zone, was unlivable and lawless.
As the population gathered, and the momentous, uphill struggle of rebuilding society began, it became clear that some genetic traits in humans, like blond hair and blue eyes, were on the verge of disappearing altogether. In an effort to propagate these endangered genes, and eliminate unwanted genes as well, the government decided that the repopulation of the US would occur slowly and under their supervision. Backed by a heavy military presence, the Repopulation Laws were enacted in 2052.
The Repopulation Laws mandated significant and difficult restrictions on the pandemic survivors all in the name of saving the unique and diverse qualities of the human race. They also established guidelines to eliminate unwanted genes, such as those that passed on chronic illnesses and mental health diagnosis. In time, they reasoned, the US would be completely populated with humans who had near-perfect genetic profiles.
By the end of 2053, all citizens living under government control had submitted to genetic, psychological and intelligence testing and were classified according to the results of those tests. Four classes were established and given corresponding color marks. Every person was required to bear the color mark of his or her class and follow the Repopulation Laws established for that classification. The ruling class, those determined to possess significant talents or have made significant contributions to society, were designated as Emeralds.
The overwhelming majority of people were classified as Sapphires or Ambers, with Ambers being the lowest and most restricted of the classes. Those marked as Ambers were determined to be of undesired genetic makeup, low intelligence or emotionally unstable. As a result, they were forced to make most of the sacrifices for the greater good of mankind.
Anger and insurrection from the Ambers swelled from the start as they were segregated from the rest of the population. Thousands of Amber women were sterilized, so many that a new term, fallow, was coined to identify those who were forced to suffer through sterilization at the Gov’s hands. Feeling helpless and persecuted, the Amber population in New Atlanta started to organize and resist their subjugation. Their efforts began to successfully gain sympathy and sway public opinion against the Laws.
The Gov feared revolution and the leaders of the resistance movement were eventually asked to attend secret accord meetings to negotiate terms and accommodations for the people of the Amber Zone, in hopes to find peace and balance in the new social structure.
Eventually, they reached an accord that appeased the Amber Resistance. The Repopulation Laws remained, but several government concessions improved the quality of day-to-day life in the Amber Zone. In the end, the Gov granted the Amber population the liberty to police themselves with the stipulation that it would remain their right only as long as Amber citizens didn’t impact society outside of their zone. If Ambers were successful at containing their population, they would be free from the National Guard and associated government persecution.
The message was clear. Once a person was designated Amber, the Gov expected him to be invisible to the rest of the population in the “new” cities.
The secret accord between Amber authorities and the Gov has stood since that time.
The tightness in Jaci’s chest nearly suffocated her. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm the nervous flutter in her stomach. She rubbed her damp palms on her jeans while her gaze darted around, taking in the barren walls of the cubicle. The pervasive pall of the Designation Center was bleak, right down to the ugly green tint of the fluorescent lighting.
She wondered how many people sat where she sat right now with their hearts beating in their throats and breaths coming quick and shallow. How many lives had been irreversibly changed right here? Goose bumps rose on her arms as the acute apprehension building within her exploded. The information contained in the large white envelope she held would impact every moment of the rest of her life. Once the designation was given, there was no turning back. The results would be her color until the day she died.
Hands shaking, Jaci opened the flap and pulled the top sheet of paper free from the envelope.
Dear Jaci Harmon,
As the result of score assessments in all three major areas of testing you have been given the designation of Amber…
Her breath caught in her throat as her vision narrowed to the underlined word.
…If after reviewing all accompanying paperwork, you have any questions regarding your designation, please com the contact listed on the back of this form.
You have been given the job designation of Painter. Your reporting date and supervisor name are enclosed.
You are assigned to Amber Housing Zone Building 17, Apartment 404.
Due to your genetic profile indicating the presence of an Automatic Disqualifier, you are to report to the Amber Sterilization Center for mandatory sterilization tomorrow, June 1, 2075.
Jaci let the page fall to the table in front of her. “Oh my God,” she whispered numbly. Her face heated, and her ears filled with high-pitched ringing. She pulled the rest of the packet from the envelope and leafed through the pages. When she got to the IQ section, she studied the scores for all of the individual testing segments. They were all good. She had an IQ score high enough to be a Sapphire. A slight sense of pride washed over her. At least she was smart enough. But, that didn’t really matter now, did it?
Jaci clumsily rifled through each remaining page, trying to find the reason why she’d been designated an Amber. Then, toward the back of the stack, she found her genetic profile and zeroed in on the highlighted section.
…An Automatic Disqualifier was found in genome CD247 indicating a genetic predisposition for scleroderma and probable perpetuation of the disease through offspring…
Scleroderma. She’d never heard of it but clearly, it was one of the chronic conditions the Gov was trying to exterminate. Information regarding the disease was highlighted but she didn’t read it. She put the papers down and leaned back in her chair. All of the studying or talent in the world wouldn’t have made a difference. There were some genes deemed undesirable in any person, and she had one of them.
Jaci sat stunned, her gaze unfocused, unblinking.
Like an animal helplessly looking up at its demise, she experienced a frozen panic. She was road kill, unable to make sense of the unexpected ruin that just hit her. She’d been leveled by the Repopulation Laws. There was no recovering from this.
Disoriented, she followed a woman to a different cubicle to get her tattoo.