In this frighteningly believable thriller from New York Times bestselling author and master storyteller Tosca Lee, an extinct disease re-emerges from the melting Alaskan permafrost and causes madness in its victims. For recent apocalyptic cult escapee Wynter Roth, it’s the end she’d always been told was coming.
When Wynter Roth finally escapes from New Earth, a self-contained doomsday cult on the American prairie, she emerges into a world poised on the brink of madness as a mysterious outbreak of rapid early onset dementia spreads across the nation.
As Wynter struggles to start over in a world she’s been taught to regard as evil, she finds herself face-to-face with the apocalypse she’s feared all her life—until the night her sister shows up at her doorstep with a set of medical samples. That night, Wynter learns there’s something far more sinister at play: that the prophet they once idolized has been toying with the fate of mankind, and that these samples are key to understanding the disease.
Now, as the power grid fails and the nation descends into chaos, Wynter must find a way to get the samples to a lab in Colorado. Uncertain who to trust, she takes up with former military man Chase Miller, who has his own reasons for wanting to get close to the samples in her possession, and to Wynter, herself.
Filled with action, conspiracy, romance, and questions of whom—and what—to believe, The Line Between is a high-octane story of survival and love in a world on the brink of madness, from “the queen of psychological twists” (New York Times bestselling author Steena Holmes).
Conventional wisdom dictates that there’s an insurmountable divide—an entire dimension of eternity and space—between Heaven and Hell. Lucifer managed to make the trip in nine days, at least according to Paradise Lost. That equates to a distance of about 25,920 miles, assuming standard rules of velocity.
But I can tell you it’s closer to a foot and a half. The distance of a step.
Give or take an inch.
Magnus stands near the gatehouse, shirtsleeves rolled up, collar unbuttoned beneath his brown vest. He nods to the Guardian in the booth and the industrial gate begins its mechanical slide. There’s a small door to the side of it just large enough to admit a single person, but I won’t be leaving by the Narrow Gate. My departure must be a spectacle, a warning to those assembled behind me.
I can feel their eyes against my back like hot iron. The glares mottled by anger and fear. Sadness, maybe, but above all gratitude that they are not me.
Two Guardians stand at my sides ready to forcibly walk me out in case I balk or my twenty-two-year-old legs give out beneath me. I glance at the one to my right and swear he looks impatient. Hungry, maybe; it’s just before lunchtime. I’m crossing into eternal damnation, and all he’s thinking about is an egg salad sandwich—and not even a good one. It’s Wednesday, Sabbath by the solar calendar. Rosella is managing the kitchen, and that pious sandwich is full of chickpeas without a single real egg in it.
The gate comes to a stop with an ominous clang. The road be-yond is paved with gravel, a gray part in a sea of native grass strewn with gold and purple flowers in stark contrast to the carefully and beautifully manicured grounds behind me. A meadowlark sings somewhere nearby as a combine rumbles in the distance.
I grip the plastic bag of my sparse belongings: a change of underwear, my baby book stripped of its photos, a stone the color of sea glass. Sweat drips down the inside of my blouse as I stare out at that feral scape. At that barren drive through untouched prairie that leads to the road half a mile away.
A car idles at the corner, waiting for me.
Don’t look. Don’t glance back. That’s Pride talking, a voice so faint this last decade I wasn’t aware it was still in there. Still, I turn. Not because I need a parting glance at the compound I called home for the last fifteen years or even Jaclyn, my sister. But because I need to see her.
My niece, Truly.
I scan the nearly five hundred Select assembled across the broad drive until I find her small form near the front, her hand in Jaclyn’s, curls wafting around her head in the breeze.
I’d planned to mouth the words I love you. To tug my right earlobe in our secret sign so she’ll remember me long after she’s told she can never speak my name again. To fight back tears at the sight of hers, to combat her confusion with love.
Instead, my heart stops.
She’s glaring at me, her face pink, growing redder by the instant. I open my mouth—to say what, I don’t know—but before I can, she tears her hand from my sister’s and runs away, disappearing into the assembly.
“Truly!” I gasp, and stagger a step after her. The Guardians grab my arms.
“No. Wait—Truly!” I twist against them, plastic bag swinging against my thigh. I can’t leave her like this. Not like this. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
None of it was.
I shift my gaze to my sister, where she stands beside the six Elders. Her cheeks are hollow, features chiseled far beyond her twenty-seven years.
“What did you say to her?” I shout as I’m jerked back around and hauled toward Magnus, who stands before the open gate, this side of that invisible line.
“Wynter Roth,” Magnus says, loudly enough for those behind us to hear. Which means he’s basically shouting right at me. Gone, the brown-and-gray scruff that was on his chin yesterday. I can smell his aftershave from here.
“Please,” I whisper in the space between us, trying to snag his gaze. But he stares past me as though I were a stranger.
“Because of your deliberate, prolonged disobedience . . .” His words carry to those behind me even as the breeze whisks mine away.
“Just let me say good-bye!”
“. . . including the sins of idolatry, thievery, and the willful desire to harm the eternal future of those most vulnerable among us . . . because you will not hear the pleas of the brethren and refuse repentance, you are hereby delivered to Satan for the destruction of your flesh.”
I hear the words as though from a distance. I’ve seen and heard them spoken before—I just never thought they’d be aimed at me. So this is it. There will be no good-byes. And I realize I hate him.
Magnus lifts up his hands. “And so we renounce your fellowship and cast you out of our holy number even as we pray for the restoration of your salvation, which you forfeit this day. Now, as it is bound on Earth, so let it be bound in Heaven.” He lowers his arms as the assembly echoes his words and says, more quietly as he meets my eyes at last, “You have broken our hearts, Wynter.”
He moves away before I can respond and the Guardians walk me to the line as I glance back one last time.
But Truly is gone.
I face the gravel drive before me.
One step. That’s all it takes to span the distance of eternity.
Tosca Lee is the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of The Progeny, Firstborn, Iscariot, The Legend of Sheba, Demon: A Memoir, Havah: The Story of Eve, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker. She received her BA in English and International Relations from Smith College. A lifelong adventure traveler, Tosca makes her home in the Midwest with her husband and children.
"VERDICT: Lee's perfectly crafted dystopian thriller will keep readers up all night and have them begging for a sequel."
– Library Journal (Starred Review)
"A tight, fast-paced thriller, with a winding, twisty plot and an intrepid protagonist."
"[A] moving dystopian thriller... Lee gets readers to invest in the characters, particularly her well-defined and sympathetic lead."
– Publishers Weekly
“THE LINE BETWEEN blurs the line between science fiction and terrifying real science. Tosca Lee gives us a cautionary tale that is beautifully written and deeply unnerving!”
– Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of V-WARS and PATIENT ZERO
"The perfect blend of spellbinding and heart stopping, The Line Between is an absolute must-read. Tosca whips up a thriller that is emotionally wrenching yet utterly believable, the kind of story that is sure to leave readers breathless and begging for more."
– Nicole Baart, New York Times bestselling author
"Everything you want in a thriller: suspense, intrigue and best of all, a truly captivating protagonist to cheer on. Throw in a white-knuckled race from Chicago to Colorado over backroads that this author obviously and respectfully knows well. This one's a slam-dunk that'll keep you reading, non-stop until the very last sentence."
– Alex Kava, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author
"A fast-paced and deeply human story. Tosca Lee has put together a terrifying apocalyptic scenario, made all the more real through the eyes of a protagonist who comes to life on the page."
– Patrick Lee, New York Times bestselling author of RUNNER
“Relevant and frighteningly real, The Line Between is an infectiously good read. Be prepared to lose sleep.”
– Brenda Novak, NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author of FACE OFF
"An utterly immersive tale of apocalyptic cult manipulation and all-too-possible infectious epidemics, this story will have readers holding their breath on every page and dearly wishing for their own basement survivalist shelter. Perfect, chilling entertainment."
– Lydia Kang, bestselling author of A Beautiful Poison