Edge of Valor: A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Survival Thriller(7)

Her fingers closed over the marble. She gripped it tighter than she’d ever held anything in her life, until her nails bit into her palms and the cuts throbbed. The pain kept her from bursting into tears.

Bishop gestured at her to come closer. “It’s been a while since we’ve talked.”

Without thinking, she trudged across the muddy, matted grass and stood beside him, her arms limp at her sides, her swollen face stinging from the cold.

Quinn sucked in a bracing breath, steeling herself. “I know I messed up.”

“I won’t pretend what you did was smart, Quinn. Liam is foolhardy, too, but at least he knows what he’s doing. You’re lucky you’re still alive. And that Liam is alive, too.”

She looked down at the marble and rolled it between her fingers. Guilt scoured her insides. “I know it.”

“Sutter is dead. That nihilistic group is gone. It was reckless, what you did, but God had His eyes on you. He kept you safe.”

Her head lowered. She felt numb, emptied out. Sutter was dead by her hand. She’d killed him, but the risks had been too great.

She could see that now. She’d never be so stupid again.

With all her heart, she longed to save people, not the other way around.

“How do I make it right?”

“Apologize to the people you’ve hurt. And then move on. You have great things ahead of you, Quinn. You’re a fighter. Anyone can see that. You deserve a chance to fight for what you believe in.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I doubt that. You’ll figure it out. You can always ask me for advice.”

Quinn made a face.

“Point taken. Just so you know, if you don’t want to talk to me, you can always talk to God.”

“I bet God hates me.”

“Why do you think that?”

“I’ve killed people.” Her mind seared with images of Sutter sinking to his knees, blood gushing from his thigh. Of Rosamond clutching at her blood-soaked throat. “And I’m not sorry.”

Bishop chuckled.

“I’m not.” There was darkness in her heart—the part that wanted to kill and keep killing. Her face burned with shame. “Does that make me a bad person?”

“No, it doesn’t.”

“How can you be a soldier and a pastor? How can you preach love and mercy and then kill people?”

“I fight when I must. When defending the innocent is the right thing to do. In the Old Testament, many of God’s people were warriors, called by God to fight to end tyranny, slavery, and great evil.”


“People are more than one thing. They carry both good and evil inside them, darkness and light, violence and peace. Mercy and justice.”

Bishop stared at the crosses. “The key is to make sure your cause is righteous. And to keep the darkness from taking over your soul.” He gave a heavy sigh. “Easier said than done on both counts.”

“How do you not give in to it? The anger. The hatred.”

“Find that thing that keeps you human, and hold onto it with all your might. For me, it’s my faith.”

“Okay,” she said in a choked voice. Her split lip hurt, but she kept talking. She needed to get it all out. “I’m still so angry.”

“Be angry. Nothing wrong with angry. But control it, channel it. Use it; don’t let it use you.”

She let that sink in.

“Anger can fuel you. Empower you.”


“There’s an anger that motivates you, that drives you. That seeks righteous justice. There’s nothing wrong with that anger. But it can turn bitter and toxic. If you’re not careful, it can eat away at the part of you that makes you who you are. That’s the anger you have to watch out for, Quinn. It’s like fire. It both gives life and destroys. How you use it is what matters.”

She nodded, letting that truth sink in deep.

She didn’t want to end up like Xander, a boy consumed by his rage, who’d wanted to destroy everything, to tear down the world.

The fight inside her needed to be controlled. Not diminished, but changed.

Something shifted within her. A release. Like a dam had given way and the darkness inside her had leaked out. Anger still roiled inside her, but it was different now.

It was hard to name or describe, though she felt it.

“I have faith in you, Quinn.”

“You mean that?”

He shot her a broad smile beneath his beard. “Absolutely.”

A great weight inside her chest lifted.

It wasn’t gone completely, but it was a start.

“I doubt Liam feels that way, though.”

“Don’t be so sure.” Bishop rose to his feet, his knees cracking, and brushed off his pant legs. “Talk to him. Shame thrives in secrecy and silence. Talking frees us.”

She kicked at a stray pile of dirt-encrusted snow. “I knew you’d be helpful, Pastor. You should charge a fee.”

“I’ll take some of Molly’s lamb’s ear plants.” Now it was Bishop’s turn to look sheepish. “I’ve run out of, you know, TP.”

Quinn made a face. “And that’s my cue to go.”

“Quinn.” Bishop reached out, took her forearm, and squeezed it. “After everything, it is love that endures. We need people to survive. We need each other. It’s the only thing separating us from the darkness.”

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