Sage Bishop grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her mother, father, and little brother, Luca. Her father was a silversmith, who owned his own jewelry shop called The Silver Spruce. Sage worked in his shop with him and was learning the trade.

Sage’s mother, Mona, was an artist who filled their home with beautiful paintings and pottery. Luca (who was seven years Sage’s junior) liked to invent things out of objects he found.

Sage was six years old when Death Storm began, and her mother was pregnant with Luca. When bombs started dropping across the country, people began to panic and moved away from major cities. Sage’s father closed down his shop, thinking it would be temporary, but he refused to be driven away from his home out of fear.

In the chaos from Death Storm, people were looting shops and homes, and gangs were growing in strength in Albuquerque. Widespread devastation across the U.S. had disrupted supply chains, so even areas not destroyed by the bombs were facing food shortages and fuel crises. Most looters in major cities weren’t looking to steal electronics and valuables — they were after food.

One night, a gang raided the Bishops’ home. Sage’s father had a shotgun, but the gang members shot him and Mona point blank. Sage heard them break down the door and tried to get Luca out the back, but the gang headed them off. Luca tried to defend his sister, but he was stabbed by one of the men.

Sage fought tooth and nail as her 12-year-old brother bled out beside her. She thought she was going to die, but since she was young and pretty, the gang said they had other plans for her.

They took Sage’s shoes to make it harder for her to run and then threw her in the back of a van. They drove her more than 200 miles to the Four Corners area where New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona meet. There was a lot of activity near the borders, and they knew there was a market for human trafficking.

The gang members brought Sage to a house in the desert and locked her in a room with little food or water. They left her there for three days.

On the third night, Sage managed to loosen her restraints and climb out a window. She stumbled along on foot for three miles before she reached the nearest town. She didn’t trust anyone enough to ask for a ride, and she had nowhere else to go.

Hungry, tired, and severely dehydrated, Sage stopped at a convenience store to steal some food. She managed to find a truck with some fuel left in the tank, so she got in and drove away as fast as she could.

Sage drove north until she ran out of fuel and then pushed forward on foot. After a few hours, she was sunburned, exhausted, and her bare feet were bloody. She wanted to curl up on the side of the road and die, but then she heard a motorcycle coming up behind her. She wanted to run, but she was too weak and tired.

The Sage saw Owen. Somehow she knew that he wouldn’t hurt her, and all thoughts of running flew out of her head. Owen asked her where she was going, and Sage just shrugged. She had no family, no connections, and no direction in life. Owen told her to get on his bike, so she did.

Sage liked Owen instantly. He was nice to her, and he didn’t ask questions. Sage liked that best. He didn’t have anyone, and neither did she, but from that day on, they had each other.

At first there was nothing romantic between them. Sage was nineteen — two years older than Owen — and Owen was a loner at heart. But then one night, things changed.

When Sage found out that Owen was a member of Nuclear Nation, she almost left him. But this gang didn’t seem anything like the group of men who’d brutalized her and slaughtered her family. There were even women in the group.

Soon, she struck up a few friendships with the other young people in Nuclear Nation. Most of them were men, which Owen didn’t like, but it meant that Sage didn’t have to be alone when Owen was off on gang business. She could never sleep if she was alone.

After Nuclear Nation got absorbed by the Desperados, she and Owen drifted apart. He knew she didn’t approve of Malcolm’s crew, and he was busier than ever. She loved Owen, but she didn’t love what he was becoming: angry, withdrawn, and more indifferent than ever to the violence around them. Plus, Sage had this nagging feeling that Malcolm was going to get him killed.

Over the next few months, Sage started distancing herself from Owen, but she never got very far. She always missed the comfort of his smile and the security of his arms. No matter how hard she tried, she always ended up back in his bed.