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Viper's Hope (Anguis Defenders Book 1)

By´╝ÜStephanie West

Preface

Hope covered her ringing ears as she stared wide eyed at the molten rock strafing across the sky. It got larger and brighter with the smoke trail parting the horizon. The sudden eruption of water out at sea was cataclysmic as the meteor struck. The wave of water that barreled towards San Francisco a moment later was small at first but grew in size. Hope watched aghast as the water pushed aside massive buildings. She couldn't even fathom the level of devastation occurring in front of her.

As if the tragedy she'd witnessed wasn't enough, something lurked in the trees outside her campsite. Hope watched as a portion of the tree separated from the trunk. The colors morphed into a bronzed, earthy tan figure of a man. The camouflaged man was at least seven feet tall with well-built legs and a massive broad chest. He swayed hypnotically as he walked like some kind of sleek predator. His facial features were not human, yet not altogether frightening. He was an alien, a giant freaking alien, and he was abducting her!

Before the scourge of the universe struck Viper had never aspired to do more than rule his people, but his entire life had changed in the blink of an eye. The tragedy galvanized him with a single-minded purpose to see to it that he defended the Anguis and any other race unfortunate enough to cross paths with the plague and wipe it from existence.

Finding his mate was the farthest thing from his mind as Viper attempted to rescue the humans off the doomed planet. With his own planet in turmoil over aiding so many other species, and the universe at risk from the catastrophic plague, Viper never expected to find Hope.



1 Getting Away From it All



Hope

"I'm glad you made it safe Hope. Now enjoy yourself and relax."

Hope was pretty sure that's what her friend Tara said despite the shitty cell reception.

"I will, I promise. I'm pulled off someplace called the Marin Headlands, and it's got a great view of the bay and bridge. Hey, I better let you go the cell reception sucks. Kisses."

Hope hung up, hoping Tara heard all that.

The view of San Francisco Bay high up here in the headlands was great and Hope was going to do her damnedest to suck it all in.

"I have no excuses. I'd earned this break." Hope sighed as she looked out at the water and the horizon out west. "Work will survive two weeks without me."

Hope planned to commune with nature and maybe regain a fraction of her sanity. She'd just finished the nastiest part of her job lately, which involved jumping through hoops outlined by a government grant the free clinic had received. She would never understand why someone would hand out funds but then make you complete a three-ring circus act, that exhausted just as much time, energy and resources, as the damn money seemed to cover in the first place. She felt like a dancing bear.

Okay maybe it weeded out those that weren't serious or had horrible plans, but it also was difficult for small groups who were doing good things and busting their ass in the process.

The place Hope worked was a not-for-profit community clinic that desperately needed to expand to serve an increasingly larger indigent population. The money they received would help them grow, buy equipment, and start up a residency partnership with the local university.

"Ugh you're doing it again. Stop thinking about work!"

It was easier said than done. Work was her life, literally. It's not like she had a husband and kids, like her sister Faith. Hope served as office manager working more than a forty-hour week, but there was no nobler cause than aiding your fellow man. She also acted as receptionist when Louise wasn't in. Louise was a retired nurse that volunteered three days a week though it probably should've been two. She was supposed to be retired. Hope was pretty sure the woman spent the other two days cooking meals that she shared with them.

Hope giggled as she recalled Louise chastising Tara for being too busy to eat, in her matronly Latina accent.

Tara, Hope's best friend from college, was their head physician. She'd basically inherited the practice fresh out of med school from her uncle. Then there was John Paul their full time nurse, who rounded out her happy little family. Besides her sister and her brood, her co-workers were Hope's family. So it was hard not thinking about work. Well she'd try to not think about the work part of it at least.

The view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge was spectacular from this height. Hope could see the city on the island across the bay. Only a few misty clouds floated around the giant red pillars of the bridge. It was crazy how massive that red behemoth looked even from this distance. The cables swooped lazily from tower to tower. The skyscrapers of downtown San Fran looked much smaller from this vantage point. Somewhere down there she'd eaten at the best Burmese restaurant last night. The odd tea leaf salad would no doubt feature in her dreams for years to come.

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