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7


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Blurb

When one thinks of the Seven Heavenly Virtues, hope, charity, faith, temperance, prudence, justice, and fortitude, and the Seven Deadly Sins, greed, sloth, anger, lust, gluttony, envy and pride, lessons in life come to mind. In 7, each Virtue and Sin is presented as a theme for a story, each one is explored, whether positive or negative, literal or figurative.

With a variety settings and styles, from courtesans on another planet to vampires of the Romanorum, from demons lusting after ghosts and a cat and dog chase of epic proportions, there's bound to be something for everyone. This fourteen-story collection comes from Mychael Black and Shayne Carmichael, the authors of The Prince's Angel and The Two Shall Become One.

Excerpt

The buildings around him were eerily quiet, but Cal was used to that. He’d been sent to forage for more supplies and had decided to search a previously unsearched area downtown. Cal was armed and alert, but he expected little trouble.

Monolithic, decayed ruins surrounded him; they looked like the broken teeth of a giant monster beneath the light of the moon. Most of them seemed to be apartments or office buildings, once filled with life. Now they were nothing more than the destroyed remnants of the past.

Just as Cal was about to turn a corner in search of hopefully more productive stores, he caught a glimmer of light in a smaller structure nestled between what he thought were apartment buildings.

The golden light flickered and a shadow passed by a broken window. What had once been a small church was now just a ruined shell of stone. A tattered cloth lay over the unevenly broken doorway, its frayed end barely brushing the ground.

It was unusual to find any survivors these days, but it wasn’t unheard of. If there were any inhabitants in the area, Cal wouldn’t be able to take whatever he wanted. The remaining small fragments of humanity were sporadic and far apart. His group had some contact with others in what was left of Chicago and Washington, DC, but he had no information on survivors in this area.

He approached the church, and then hesitated in front of the door. Pushing aside the cloth, he stepped inside. It wasn’t until he cautiously walked toward the hall that he saw a man kneeling in the center of the aisle beyond the first pews.

"If you have come to rob me, you're wasting your time."

Not at all bothered by the greeting, Cal stilled not too far away from him. The man appeared greatly careworn, far beyond the slight silvering of his dark brown hair. From his frock, Cal assumed he must have been the minister of the church. “I’m not here to rob you. I came here to forage, but when I saw your light, I realized there might be people here already.”

The man stood slowly. "To my knowledge, I am the last one in this section of the city. There were others, but they've since died or abandoned it altogether."

“I didn’t think there was anybody left in this place. My group left the city a few years back, and we only come here for supplies. Why haven’t you gone?” Taking care to make no sudden moves, Cal cautiously stepped over to one of the pews and sat down.

"And go where?" The priest stretched out his arms. "I gave over fifteen years of my life to this church and its congregation. My wife held on as long as she could, then left with the last group. I imagine she was tired of waiting on me. Fifteen years and for what? Ruins, abandonment by the very people I cared for? What else do I have to bother living for? If suicide wasn't a sin, I would've done it by now."

Faced with the bitterness of the man in front of him, Cal tried a blunt approach. “Frankly, my group needs all the living hands it can get. Some of us are still struggling to stay alive out there. I’m Cal Worth, and you are?”

His arms dropping limply to his sides, the priest sighed. "Thomas Gentry."

“Shall I call you Father Gentry, Mr. Gentry, Thomas, or just Tom?”

"Thomas is fine." Thomas dropped onto the front pew, half-turned toward Cal. "What is there left to live for when our world is gone?"

“Well, a large part of it is gone, but not all of it. Have you ever thought of that?” Cal leaned forward slightly, resting his arms on the wooden back of the pew.

Thomas looked away. "I gave up praying two years ago. Sometimes I wonder if there's anything left in me to care," he said quietly.

“I don’t pray, being an atheist and all, but some of the group does. I do see that you can either stay here by yourself, you can come with me, or I can just shoot you and put you out of your misery. Your call.”

Giving him a half-hearted glare, Thomas muttered, "Are you always so tactful?"

“It’s part of what men love about me.” Flashing Thomas a grin, Cal stood, then grabbed the minister’s arm and pulled him up. “Come on. You can show me where the food stores are in these parts.”

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