Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What Remains: Wasteland

Though I'm starting to think my brain has become a wasteland. I was doing so well, blogging, then like always, fell off the bandwagon. I'm sure I could recite a number of excuses, but it all boils down to motivation and time. I seem to be lacking in both of these lately. I also seem to do better at getting things done when I have hard deadlines. I know I make it worse for myself by not using what time I do have wisely, but we all have our flaws, I suppose.

Anyway, since way back when I've had my second book in my What Remains series release. Wasteland is the next instalment and looks at another set of larger-than-life men and the lucky lady that makes them take a risk more dangerous than fighting hordes of undead. Only the twist here…she's just as kick-ass as they are. A soldier herself, Emersyn is about to put these men through some hard learning curves, because it'll take more than bulging muscles to impress her.

I'm actually pretty stoked about this book. I think it's a great second addition to my zombie apocalypse reality and honestly, I just really enjoyed writing it. There's something inherently fascinating about creating a world out of your own worst fears. And I'm can't think of anything worse than the prospect of some zombie-like creature as the monster in the closet. Think about it. It's instinctual with humans to not want to be eaten, lol. Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution has bred it into us. But this isn't just about getting eaten, as in a shark attack or other kind of animal predation. This thing can turn you into the very creature you despise. You aren't going to become a powerful vampire or werewolf. Nope, you're going to stumble around with chunks of your body falling off trying to eat others. There's just few other horrors that really compare to this…a death that doesn't end.

So…here's the blurb and a quick excerpt. It's currently available at Resplendence Publishing, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

One deadly mission—one last glimmer of hope.

After fighting to survive for eighteen months, Emersyn Harlow has become emotionally withdrawn. Hardened by loss, she’s hidden away what’s left of her heart, keeping it under lock and key. While she secretly harbors feelings for members of her recon team, she refuses to act on them—not when she knows the eventual outcome.

Hunter Brown never knew how much he cared for Emersyn until he lost her. Though she’s no more than a breath away from him, her heart is long gone. It’s not until a desperate mission changes the rules of engagement, that Hunter’s willing to throw caution to the wind and make a play for the woman who’s stolen his heart. But he’s not alone. Armed with two other men worthy of her love, Hunter doesn’t plan on losing.

Three men against one might not seem fair—or it might be the perfect combination to finally turn the tides in their favor and prove to Emersyn that what remains is more than an endless wasteland.


Survivor Compound, Northern Colorado—sixty weeks after initial outbreak.

“For the love of god, is there ever going to be a time when we return from a mission and don’t have to give up half our weight in blood just so the good doctor can run a bazillion tests that won’t tell him anything other than that we’re not infected?” Emersyn Harlow tunneled her fingers through her hair, brushing the stray strands that had escaped her ponytail out of her eyes as she crossed the compound, her boots kicking up billows of dust. The distant moon gleamed in the sky, casting a welcomed glow across the compound, the hallowed light making the ragtag atmosphere seem almost peaceful.

Hunter snagged her arm, giving her a slight shove as he shook his head. “What’s wrong, Em? You turning all girlie on me now? Too fragile to spare a vial or two?”

She glared at him, hating the way he dodged the punch she aimed at his chest. She needed a new move—one he wouldn’t expect. “I’m man enough to kick your ass. And it’s not the blood I care about, it’s just…shit. If one of us had gotten infected, does the man seriously believe we’d risk the lives of the entire colony by returning?” She shook her head. “I’d have you put a bullet through my head first.”

Hunter grabbed her this time, stopping her short. “Don’t. Don’t even joke about that. Since Rhys vanished, you and Billy are the only family I have. So just don’t.”

Raw emotion creased Hunter’s forehead, and Emersyn reached up and trailed her thumb along his jaw before she had the good sense to draw her hand back. Family. Just her luck he saw her as the little sister he’d never had, despite the fact she’d saved his ass more than once in the past four years. Through two tours in Afghanistan and a few dozen missions between, she’d hoped she’d shown him she was worthy in more areas than just watching his back. Hell, with the world crumbling around them and death a constant threat nipping at their heels, she’d hoped to gain his heart.

The thought settled hard in her gut, and she looked away before he saw the disappointment mirrored in her eyes. While the man didn’t seem to notice the way her breathing hitched when she was around him or Billy, or how she found endless excuses to hang out with them, even during their down time, Hunter knew her well enough to recognize when something was off. And the last thing she needed was him grilling her about feelings she couldn’t reveal. Not when she knew they weren’t reciprocated. And it wasn’t just him. Billy seemed as equally oblivious to her desires as Hunter. Hell, even Rhys had never picked up on the way she’d taken to all three of them before he’d jumped ship two months ago, simply vanishing without so much as a note. She’d hoped that the changes in acceptable pairing within the compound would allow the four of them to finally discover a relationship beyond the fighting, but the only thing that had changed was her.

She clenched her fists, praying the simple act would stem the emotions threatening to break free as she spared a quick glance at Hunter over her shoulder. “Where’s Billy?”

To his credit, Hunter took the change in topic in stride, giving her another playful shove as they headed for the clinic again. “He muttered something about meeting us there. Said he had to check something out with the doctor first. Who knows? He’s been a bit touchy since we searched that church and barely made it back to the Hummer in one piece. I think those creatures are starting to get to him.”

“Those creatures want to eat us. I’d be more concerned if they weren’t getting to him. God knows they creep me the hell out.”

“Yet you keep coming back, even though I know there’re more than a few groups of guys eyeing you up.” He nudged her as he moved in a bit closer. “Why don’t you hang up the sniper rifle and shack up with a trio? Not a bad deal if you ask me.”

Hurt and anger burned through her veins. Of all the insensitive…

She rounded on him, blocking his way as she palmed his chest, shoving him backward. “If playing June Cleaver times three appeals to you so much, then I suggest you shack up with those men, ‘cause it’ll be a cold day in hell before I do.”

She ran off, ignoring the way he called her name as if she meant more to him than just a comrade. God, how could the man be so damn blind? She’d gone out of her way to make her feelings obvious, yet the jerk couldn’t see past the end of his nose.

Footsteps pounded behind her, but she kept going, reaching the clinic several steps ahead of Hunter. Tears blurred the edges of her vision as she palmed the door handle and shoved the metal slab open, taking a hurried step inside before a set of hands clenched around her shoulders, tossing her sideways. She hit hard, cracking her head against the floor, flickering black spots across her field of view. The scent of blood infused her senses as a series of grunts and growls lit the air.

The familiar sounds sent a spike of fear skittering down her spine as she rolled to her knees, her pistol already drawn and centered on the room. Gunshots popped to life beside her as Hunter unloaded three rounds, striking the bastard pinning him against the wall. The loud reverberation shook some of the shock off, and she reacted, killing two zombies as they raced toward her, their pale limbs outstretched, their mouths gaped open.

The creatures fell in a bloody heap, the dull thud of their bodies hitting the floor ringing through her ears. More dead littered the small room, hints of white bone poking through the shredded flesh. Em put a shaky hand to her mouth as she slowly gained her feet, her gun heavy in her hand. She glanced at Hunter, the bewildered expression on his face only increasing the roiling panic thundering her pulse in her head.

Hunter closed the distance, grabbing her roughly by the shoulders as his gaze swept the length of her body. “Shit! Em. I didn’t mean to toss you so hard, but…fuck! Are you okay?”

She shook her head, brushing off his hands as they moved along her limbs. “What the hell? How did they get inside the compound, let alone into the clinic? We were just outside. Why didn’t they attack us there? How—”

“We can figure that out later. Now look at me and tell me if they touched you.”

She glanced at his face, confused why he was worried about them touching her when nearly a dozen bodies were scattered around the room. “How the fuck could they touch me when you damn near threw me into the far wall? We’ll have to ensure the rest are permanently dead. Shit! How the hell did they get inside?”

Hunter huffed, raising a hand to her face as he gripped her jaw, forcing her to look at him. Droplets of blood covered one cheek, ending in a smear beneath his left eye. Panic churned low in her gut as she watched fear wash in and out of his expression.

She sucked in a shaky breath, trying to pull away to get a better look at him. “Oh god. Hunter. Please tell me you didn’t…that they didn’t…”

She couldn’t finish. Couldn’t get her tongue to form the words. If he’d been bitten…

The hand holding her chin softened. “I’m fine, Em. It’s not my blood. Nothing a shower won’t wash off.”

Relief nearly took her to her knees, and she didn’t fight him when he pulled her into his chest, one strong arm holding her waist. She breathed in his scent—a spicy combination of man and musk. God, what she wouldn’t do to spend the foreseeable future just like this. To have a moment when zombies and death didn’t rule her life. To finally live. The thought burned tears in her eyes, and she had to blink them away when he eased back.

She glanced away, swallowing the pain that clenched her heart. “If you’re fine, then why did you look at me like that?”

“Like what?”

She gazed back at him. “Like you’d just lost your best friend. I’d already told you I was okay.”

Hunter sighed, toeing the floor as his shoulders slumped ever so slightly. She furrowed her brow, not sure why he seemed so lost when another thought hit her hard.

She glanced at the bodies, searching each face. “Where’s Billy? You said he was meeting us here.”
The look Hunter gave her was answer enough. “That’s what he said. That he was going ahead to check something out.”

His words sounded hollow. Flat. As if speaking them had cost him somehow. The panic she’d felt earlier returned, and she yanked her arm free as she stalked forward, once again searching the dead. When his hand settled on her shoulder she rounded on him, her chest heaving, her breath loud in the stillness.

She pointed at one of the corpses. “That’s the fucking doctor. Something took a huge chunk out of him before he turned and made his way out here then killed everyone else.” She shook her head, turning in a circle. “This is crazy.”

“Easy, Em. You should go. Get backup.”

She glared at him. He’d never asked her to turn tail before, and the simple fact he wanted her to leave meant things were about to get far worse.

She moved into his personal space, hovering her face an inch from his. “What aren’t you telling me?”

“Nothing. I have the same information you do, it’s just…” He scrubbed a hand along his jaw, the lines around his eyes more prominent than they’d been just moments before. “These people haven’t been dead for more than ten or fifteen minutes. The blood’s too fresh. None of that makes sense, unless…”

His voice drifted off, the unspoken words hanging like the smell of death in the air. Bile crested her throat, threatening to spew her dinner onto the floor when something grunted in the adjoining room. Her head snapped around as she stared at the closed door, all too aware of what waited behind it. She took a step forward only to have Hunter grab her again.

His chest pressed into her back this time as his arm curled around her waist. “You should leave. Now.”

She shook her head, hating the tears that escaped down her cheek. “No. It can’t be.”

His grip on her waist tightened. “Please, Em. You don’t need to see this. He wouldn’t want—”

“Wouldn’t want what?” She shook her head again, breaking his hold as she spun to face him. “It’s not him. He wouldn’t have returned if he’d known he was infected. It must be another team. Maybe a survivor they pulled in.”


“It’s not Billy!”

Her voice drowned out Hunter’s, the echo of it ringing through her head. After all they’d been through—the missions, the horrors—it simply couldn’t end this way. She clenched her jaw, staring Hunter in the eyes as she backed up, her left hand finding the doorknob. Hunter’s brow furrowed, and he shook his head, but she couldn’t leave. Couldn’t abandon the only men she’d ever cared about, not when the two of them were all she had left. The only glimmer of hope in the wasteland she’d once called home.

She forced herself to swallow, taking a deep breath as she turned the handle and silently swung open the door. Shadows shrouded the room with remnants of glass and debris scattered across the floor. Whatever had happened inside, it’d obviously been one hell of a fight. She reached for her flashlight, her gun aimed at the darkness as she unclipped the unit from her belt, turning it on with a flick of her thumb.

A circle of light appeared amidst the black, the edges blurring into gray. The exam table had been toppled, along with a series of instruments she didn’t recognize. Something scraped off to her right and she angled the beam sideways, illuminating the back of a man’s silhouette. Army fatigues topped by cropped blond hair gleamed in the artificial light, the skin above the man’s collar an eerie shade of gray.

Her stomach dropped, all sense of emotion bleeding into a numbing haze as she watched the man turn, his familiar blue eyes staring blankly at her. Hunter yelled something behind her, but all she could hear was the raspy wheeze of Billy’s breath as he curled his lips into a snarl. He took a step forward, the unnatural motion making his body jerk to the side. She raised her gun, the barrel aimed at his head. He stopped, cocking his head sideways like she’d seen him do a thousand times before as he watched her, his gaze still centered on her.

Her finger compressed the trigger, the metal piece cold against her skin. The report of the gun exploded in the room, the deafening sound echoed by the thud of Billy’s body impacting the far wall before slowly sliding to the floor. Blood traced his path down the wall, pooling beneath him as he slumped over, his gaze finally releasing her as his head tilted forward, his chin falling to his chest.
Emersyn stared at him, her arm still outstretched, her breath lodged tight in her chest. Hunter’s hand settled on her arm again, gently pushing it down. She turned to glare at him only to choke back a sob at the pained look on his face. He stepped closer, offering his arms, but she pushed past him instead, holstering her gun as she glanced at the scene one last time over her shoulder.

“Em. We should talk about this.”

She allowed her gaze to meet his, ignoring the way his eyes pleaded with her. “Nothing left to say.” She took another step away. “Nothing at all.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Changing tides…

For those of you who don't know, I haven't had the best of luck recently. Cat gone missing, another acting out. Personal interactions I'd rather not have to have and things just generally sucking. But this morning, I dare say (though now this will most likely jinx it) that the tides, they are a changing…

I got a bunch of good news this morning. First…I spotted the wayward cat last night. He's just down the block, but still too scared to come to me or anyone else. But he's alive. I honestly wasn't sure at this point, so that, in and of itself, is a small victory. I'll be trying to 'catch' him tonight. Again, it's a start. Small victories here, folks. Small victories.

Second…my other cat finally decided to use the litter box early this morning. Yes, I know this because he woke me. I'm a light sleeper and him jumping around isn't exactly ninja style. Now, keep in mind, it's only one day and I freaking put a litter box on the chair where he was relieving himself, so it wasn't a stretch or leap of faith in any way. But again, I'll take this one. A day of not doing laundry to remove cat stint is a good day.

Now the next two bits of good news are professional. And while I feel quite vain mentioning it, I've been waiting for a while for something positive so…spoiler alert. Shameless self promo and declaration of success ahead. You might want to jump ship now, since all the cute feel good moments have been mentioned.

I woke this morning to a lovely email from ARe…all romance ebooks. My newest release WHAT REMAINS: UNTAINTED, is a best seller. And not only is it a best seller (I've had several before) but this one is on their top 50 list! Top fucking 50! Now it's only 48 but damn, I'll take it. Take it and run and smile and scream hell yeah. 'Cause I don't think I've been on a top of anything before (this is where you remove your head from the gutter, as no sexual innuendoes were implied). Though, I don't check, but either way, it's such a great feeling. And to celebrate, here's a shot of the page…

Not too shabby, dear Abby. Yes, vain as it is, I'm stoked. Seriously. Stoked. And if this wasn't good enough. I discovered that UNTAINTED was available at Amazon yesterday. Just yesterday and guess what? It's on the top 100 paid for in Sci-Fi! It's just sitting there at number 65! And it's only been there a couple of days! Here's that shot…

Seriously, I needed this. August hasn't been the best month and I really needed something to kick-start my motivation and muse. And this is just the ticket. So I'm off to work. More zombies. More hot men. But thanks to all who've made my day. For buying my books and making me feel ten feet tall and bulletproof. Today, I can honestly say…I only bleed on the inside :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Shit my kids say...part 6

So, we're at the hairdressers (for the kids, not me. Go figure, the 'boys' wanted their hair cut) and the boys are done and waiting for Syd. Being the awesome mom that I am, I give them money to go get some pizza.

They get back and it goes like this.

Me: You do realize that I could buy an entire pizza from Costco for what the two personal pan ones were.

Kyle: Yeah, but these are delicious.

Jared: (looks at receipt) Hey, my Hawaiian was cheaper than your meat.

Me: Pineapple please...

Jared gives me some... eats a piece, puts the crust in the box and closes it.

Me: Are you going to eat that crust or what?

Jared begrudgingly gives me the minuscule sliver he didn't eat.

Me: Wow. That edge is kinda burnt.

Jared: Yeah. It's like the pizza you make us at home...

Kyle tries not to spit his mouthful across the salon. Looks at me does the hand in the air snap and says : Snap.

There's a word for that boy...but I won't use it here:)

Thursday, August 15, 2013


So, this has been a hard week. Well, a hard ten days, actually. For those who don't know me, I'm an animal person. I've had dogs for forever, and four years ago, rescued a mother cat and her five kittens. I kept mommy and three of her kittens (one for each kid, of course) and my gal pal Shelley adopted the others. 'Cause hey, if I was going to have four cats she had to as well...yes, she already had two. She's a cat person. 

Now I have a dog as well. Bandit is a malamute/husky mix and is an awesome dog. And somehow, the four cats and the pooch have managed to get along. Then last Monday, someone left the door open and one of my cats escaped. His name is Halo...yes, after the video game. And he's a big softy and quite the ham. But, he's also an indoor cat an very leery of strangers. 

At first, I didn't panic too much. His brother has gotten out before and always returned after two or three days. Being skittish, they seem to have to work up the courage to make their way home. And I felt certain he was close by. Of course, when two days turned into five, then seven, panic more than set in. Being more outgoing than his brother, who'd come home far quicker, I never considered he might not make it home. But as the days have rolled on, with no clues, nothing at all, I've started telling myself to prepare for the fact he might never return.

Then this morning I got a phone call. The lady who lives behind me is sure she saw him on her back deck at two a.m. this morning. He'd set off her motion light and was just sitting there. She said he saw her, waited a bit, then took off. I looked around their property, but it's impossible to tell for sure. So, tonight I'll be setting a humane trap to see if hunger will lure him in. Wish me luck...'cause since he disappeared, I haven't been able to get anything accomplished. I'm totally obsessed with trying to bring him back doesn't help that the other cats are all acting weird...or that one of them is having other issues...all I know is that I'm about to go coo coo for cocoa puffs.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The apocalypse has begun…

Or perhaps it's really in the middle. I guess that depends on how long it lasts. But either way, it's here, and it's not going anywhere quickly.

Okay, so it's not really the apocalypse in this reality, but in my new book, What Remains: Untainted, it's definitely on. But I guess that's why it's part of the New Reality line at Resplendence Publishing. Stories that look at life here on Earth after some kind of decimating incidence has occurred. For me, there's only one apocalypse—zombies!

To be fair, I'm not fond of the Z word. Zombies makes me think of really cheesy Hollywood movies from the 60's. That was until a few movies set a standard. I think of all the 'older' films, Shawn of the Dead is my favourite…that scene in the bar with the dart. My son and I watched it over and over. What a great take on the genre.

Of course some new variations are out there—28 weeks being one of the creepiest. Mostly because I'm not sure many of us would have a chance. Have you seen how fast those bastards run? Crazy. I also thoroughly enjoyed all the Resident Evil movies…what's not to love about Alice. But of course, the new benchmark has to be Walking Dead.

Now I'm a hardcore Walking Dead fan. Yes, I screamed in vain when they justified taking their only doctor zombie hunting (and with Lorie ready to calf? Seriously?). And I suffered through many a bad plot issue. But all in all, it's an addicting show that you can't help getting caught up in. Thus, when I had an opportunity to write my own Zombie Apocalypse, I knew I couldn't pass it up.

Now my reality is a bit different. The root cause is definitely an infection you have to 'acquire'. Simply dying isn't going to change you. But the extent of the infection—that's where it'll get interesting. I just touch a bit on it in the first book, and plan to slowly evolve the scenario over time. So look for more information on the science behind the zombies in the second. Because for our crew of four, merely surviving is hard enough this go 'round. That's if they can remain, untainted…

Add caption

The apocalypse has passed. The dead have risen. But what remains…

Colby, Darcy and Barrett are hardened soldiers with a new war. A deadly disease has decimated the human population, reducing it to small pockets of survivors who fight daily again the raging hordes of undead plaguing the planet. The three men are part of a recon mission, scouting locations where humans have been reported still alive amidst the dead. But after ten months of searching, they're ready to give up.

Abby Brennigan has been surviving on her own for half a year, hiding out in an old abandoned control tower. She hasn't seen anything remotely alive in what feels like forever, until the three men stumble upon her hideout, and into her heart. She'd promised herself she wouldn't get close again…wouldn't put herself through the torture of watching another person she cared about slowly fade until they turn into a monster straight off the pages of a horror novel.

But the boys aren't taking no for an answer and as they face one test after another, the big question is—how long can they all remain untainted.


Colby swore under his breath as he swung his sub-machine gun across his back and started up the ladder, checking behind him as he crested the first balcony. The zombies still clamored at the fence, the noise from the ladder gaining their attention so that they renewed their efforts to get inside. He pulled up the ladder, then grabbed hold of the rails and took the twisting steps two at a time. The rusty metal clanked beneath his feet, sending out a steady beat of his progress. He shook his head, covering the three flights quickly before stopping at the last level. The edge of the roof hovered several feet above him, while a door graced the side of the building. He took a deep breath and pulled at the handle, swearing loudly when it didn’t budge. If someone had ventured up the fire escape, he had no idea how they’d managed to get through the door, unless they’d never climbed the ladder to begin with.
He pounded his fist against the wall in frustration. He should have broken down the damn door with his fists and gotten to her before she’d had a chance to disappear. Now, they were stuck chasing shadows. He released a weary breath. Too many dead. That was the problem. In the ten months they’d been doing recon missions, they’d never found survivors who weren’t infected and nothing but dead in the past four months. Darcy was right. They’d lost hope. Seeing the woman…it was like something out of a fantasy movie. Hell, he still wasn’t convinced he and the lads hadn’t simply imagined the entire incident. Perhaps, they’d actually been killed and this was Hell.
The thought sobered him, and he glanced up, calculating the distance as he climbed onto the rail, praying he didn’t fall to his death. He reached out his arms, moving them to maintain his balance before launching his body upward, grunting as his hands closed around the lip of the brick. He kicked at the rough stone, using the uneven surface for traction as he slowly pulled his body over the edge until he could swing one leg up to straddle the wall. His breath puffed in small clouds about his face as he worked to get the rest of his body over the barrier, finally swinging his feet onto the asphalt surface. He paused to catch his breath when a gun cocked off to his right.
“You so much as twitch, and I’ll put a bullet through that thick skull of yours. Now, I suggest you keep your hands where I can see them and turn around real slow.”
He tried not to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Here they were, surrounded by zombies, stuck on a rooftop, and the woman was worried what he might do to her. Just his luck he’d probably stumbled upon the one person left alive who wasn’t looking to get saved.
Colby turned, his gaze clashing with a set of green eyes. They stared back at him, fear flashing in and out of the bright orbs as she shifted restlessly on her feet. But it was the intelligence in her expression that held his attention. A look he hadn’t seen outside of the compound in nearly a year.
She nodded at him, her hands white-knuckled around the gun. “I’ve never seen one of the Gray climb a ladder…not like that. Sometimes they get over the fences, but never a ladder. Not enough coordination, I think. So that leaves only a few possibilities. Either you’re not your typical Gray, only infected or…”
Her voice trailed off, as if speaking the alternative might somehow change the outcome. She tilted her head, scanning the length of his body as she held the rifle against her shoulder. It was impressive, though not the gun he would have chosen for fighting his way through hordes of undead. The M16 was a good long-range weapon, but didn’t have the versatility he liked for close combat. His gaze dropped to her waist, drawing a smile. Twin Berettas graced her hips, the handles within easy reach. The girl was well equipped, he’d give her that much.
Colby motioned to the horde. “I’m not one of them. What did you call them? The Gray?”
She twisted slightly, glancing from the mass back to him. “The Gray…on account of their skin.” She furrowed her brow. “Where the hell have you been? It’s what we all call them.”
“All?” His heart skipped. “There are more? Humans?”
The edges of her mouth tightened before she gave him the slightest shake of her head. “Used to be, but…”
She didn’t finish. She didn’t need to. He knew how the story ended.
She nodded at him again. “Just because you’re not one of them, doesn’t mean you’re not a threat. At least they kill for a reason. I can’t say the same about all humans. Where did you come from?”
“We were kind of hoping you’d tell us the same thing.”
The woman gasped as the voice sounded behind her, and she dropped the rifle, unholstering the two pistols quicker than Colby thought possible before aiming one at him and the other at Darcy. The rifle swayed back and forth at her waist, secured by a strap across her shoulder. She didn’t flinch, just held one hand out toward each of them, her fingers already compressing the triggers.
Darcy spared him a quick glance, one gun pointed toward them. “Easy, now. I’m not going to hurt you.”
She lifted half of her mouth into a mocking smile. “Your gun suggests differently.”
Darcy shrugged. “I’m not the only pointing a pistol, darling.”
She gave them both a wry grin. “I didn’t survive for four-hundred days by being careless, not when it’s two against one.”
“Neither did we.” He glanced at Colby again, then lowered his weapon. “But I’m willing to take the risk if you are.”
She drew a sharp breath, her hands wavering slightly when a shot sounded in the distance followed by shouting. She looked off to her right. “There are more of you?”
Colby pushed to his feet, swinging his rifle off his back. “Damn, that’s Barrett. And if he’s making that much noise, it can’t be good.”
Darcy took off running. The woman stared at Colby for a moment, then cursed, following the other man across the roof. Their footsteps fell in sync as they raced to the other side, stopping at the edge. Colby skidded in behind them, drawn to the man limping down the narrow corridor between the fence and the building. A mass of pale flesh moved behind him in a nauseating line.
Darcy growled, holstering his gun as he reached for his rifle. “Fuck. We gotta move. Now, Colby!” The report echoed off the side of the walls as the closest zombie fell in a pool of blood.
The woman jumped, hitting Darcy across the shoulder. “Are you insane? You’ll only draw more of them.”
“You didn’t seem to have any issues firing off a few rounds over by the fence.”
“I didn’t think I had any backup, and besides, the noise doesn’t echo down there like it does up here. A few more pops from this rooftop, and we’ll be surrounded.”
He spared her a quick glance before dropping another one. “We’ll deal with that later. Right now, Barrett’s safety is all that matters.”
She looked skyward as if searching for divine help before shaking her head. “I agree, but there’s more than one way to help your friend.”
Darcy killed a third, then stared at her. “One more effective than plastering their brains all over the sidewalk?”
“And when fifty more show up, then another fifty?” She looked at Colby. “Come on. There’s another way down. We can cut your man off and head for the tower before they reach us.”
Colby grabbed her as she tried to dart past him. “Tower? What tower?”
“Move now, ask questions later.” She pulled her arm free and took off, her boots clicking on the asphalt.
“Fuck! Darcy, cover Barrett’s ass but don’t fall behind.”
Darcy nodded, unleashing another bullet. Colby ran, catching sight of the woman as she ducked behind an old air-conditioning unit. He picked up his pace, rounding the unit only to stop as the girl jumped, clearing a small gap and landing on an adjacent roof.
“Jesus Christ! Where the hell are you going?”
She didn’t stop, just raced off again, heading for the other end of the roof. He slapped his hand against his leg, then ran, clearing the gap and landing on the other side. He heard Darcy’s footsteps behind him as he took off again, nearly bowling her over when he dashed around the side of another large air vent.
He grabbed her shoulders to prevent taking them both to the ground as he stared at the rope strung around her waist and down her leg. “What the fuck is this?”
She inhaled roughly, one hand fisting around his shirt as she fought to steady herself. The tips of her fingers brushed across his skin, sending a jolt through his chest and straight to his cock, stiffening the damn thing against his pants. He clenched his jaw, knowing she could feel his dick harden against her leg as he held her close. Her eyes widened in surprise as he released her, taking a step back.
He took a steadying breath. “I know what you’re thinking but…” He shook his head. “It’s common for men—”
“We can talk about your erectile issues later. Now are you with me or not?”
“Guess that depends on whether this will save Barrett’s ass or get yours killed.”
She flashed him a smile as she backed up to the edge. “I’m hoping for yes to the first and no to the second. Wait until I reach the ground. It’s not safe for more than one on the rope at a time.”
He lunged at her, but she jumped off the side, repelling smoothly down the rope.
“Fuck! That girl has more balls than sense.”
A chuckle sounded behind him, and he glanced over his shoulder at Darcy.
Darcy nodded after her. “Sounds like the woman of our dreams. You go next. I’ll cover you.”
Colby grunted, then wrapped the rope around him, following the path down. He landed next to her on the pavement, the sound of groans and thunderous footsteps deadening the impact of his feet on the cement. He untangled the line and moved back, joined by Darcy a few moments later.
The man swung his rifle against his shoulder, motioning to the far bend. “We can grab Barrett at that end of the corridor, but god only knows where we’ll go after that. The Hummer’s in the other direction, and I have no idea if the path’s clear or not.”
“We’ll worry about that once Barrett’s safe.” Colby grabbed the woman’s arm as she tried to dart past him again. “Would you stop running for one bloody second? Now I realize you’ve survived here—without us—for a long time, but so help me god, we did not fight our way in here searching for survivors only to watch the first one we’ve found in months get herself killed. Now either you stay behind me or I swear I’ll toss you over my shoulder and carry you.” He hardened his stare. “Barrett first, then you can tell us about this tower.”
She clenched her jaw but nodded, pointing at the far corner. Colby rushed ahead, slowing as he neared the edge. He pressed his back against the wall, swearing when Goldilocks popped out into the lane, signaling Barrett to hurry.
Colby grabbed her arm and pulled her back, checking Barrett’s progress before turning to her. “Do you have a death wish?”
“We need to know what we’re dealing with. Hiding won’t help your friend.”
“And getting yourself mauled in front of him will kill him just a quickly as the fucking zombies. I said stay behind me, and I meant it.”
Something flashed in her eyes, but he couldn’t tell if it was irritation or gratitude. He turned toward Barrett, dropping two more zombies behind him.
She tugged at his arm. “You’re going to draw the entire horde if you keep shooting that gun.”
“He needs more time.”
“No, he needs not to have to face a hundred of those things once he joins us.”
Colby stared down at her. “A hundred?”
“That’s just a small group. The main horde’s on the other side of the building…the same direction we need to go. We won’t make it to the tower if they block us off.”
“Then we’ll try for the Hummer.”
“Fuck!” Darcy joined them at the corner. “Bad news, bro. There’s another group coming in from the other end of this corridor. We need to move, or they’ll block us in.”
Barrett closed in on them, grabbing the arm Colby stretched out toward him. The man all but fell against Colby’s side, blood streaming down his leg. The sight stopped Colby’s heart. God, if Barrett had been bitten…
“Don’t look at me like that.” Barrett punched Colby in the chest. “I cut it jumping through a damn window when they cornered me in one of the other rooms.”
“Can you run?”
“What the fuck do you think I’ve been doing, Colb?”
Colby smiled. Barrett couldn’t be too far gone if he could still joke. “We’ll head for the Hummer. Try to get out and around them at the other end.”
They took off, Colby shouldering most of Barrett’s weight as they ran in the other direction.
Darcy darted ahead, peeking out before waving them back. “There’s too many, too close.”
Colby looked back over his shoulder. The other group stood at the junction, looking around before staring at them. He clenched his jaw, not sure which mass to fight through when the woman shouted at them. He turned in time to see her slamming her shoulder against a door. There was a loud screech then the slab gave way, swinging inward. Shadows filled the view beyond, and he sighed in relief when Darcy caught her before she could step through.
She tugged against his hold. “It’s fine. I have the key.” She held up a small ring with several keys dangling together. “Hurry, before they get here.”
The men charged the doorway and ran inside. Darcy grasped the handle, closing it as the first group reached the threshold. Scarred fingers tried to wrap around the frame, only to land in a heap on the floor as Darcy shoved the door closed, cutting them off. Small wedges of light scattered across the floor from the occasional window, filling the room with a dull glow. Colby looked at the girl, not sure whether to thank her or put her over his lap.
She pointed across the room. “Through here. There’s another door on the same side as the tower. But we’ll have to be quick. With all that racket, they’re sure to keep moving…keep hunting.”
Colby caught her arm. “Can’t we just wait here until they’re gone?”
“And chance a group of them hasn’t broken a window and found another way inside? Trust me, the only safe place is up where they can’t follow.”
“I thought you said it was fine.”
She shrugged. “It’s better than outside. Besides, I have the feeling you wouldn’t have risked it if I’d suggested otherwise.”
“You are something else, sweetheart.” He pointed forward, following her through a maze of hallways until they reached another door. He stopped beside her, motioning for Darcy to check the window off to their left.
“There’s a mass off in the distance, past some kind of structure.”
The woman nodded. “That’s the tower. There used to be an airstrip here, and the old control tower is still standing. Our group barricaded the doors and stacked a bunch of vehicles along one side for when we need to get out undetected. There’s a ladder on this end that provides entry to the cab on top when we’re in a hurry. So far, the Gray haven’t been able to breech the building.”
Colby laughed in absurdity. “You expect me and my men to trap ourselves in a tower in the middle of a god damn open airstrip? Why on earth would anyone with any kind of sanity do that? It’s got to be the worst idea I’ve ever heard of?”
She crossed her arms on her chest, jutting one hip out slightly. “Would you rather go back and face your fans?” She sighed her impatience. “Look. We tried making a go of it in the buildings, but sooner or later a group of the bastards always found a way in. This is the safest place. I’m the one who’s been living here. You’re just going to have to trust me.”
“Trust is a luxury, sweetheart. One we don’t have much of these days.” Colby released a ragged breath. “Fine. We can’t stay here. We’ll head for this tower, but mark my words…as soon as it’s safe enough to leave, we’re out of here. Period.”
Her mouth twitched ever so slightly, but she nodded, looking over at Darcy. The man gave her the ‘all clear,’ and she unlocked the door, yanking it open. A loud metal hiss filled the air, and she cringed as she cleared both sides, then took off, running swiftly across the open pavement. Colby followed after her, carrying Barrett as much as he could while Darcy pulled up the rear, his attention focused behind them. They’d covered half the distance when Darcy jogged up beside him.
“There’s a huge group on our tail. We need to move faster.”
Colby grunted and picked up the pace, feeling Barrett’s bad leg drag slightly. The man moaned but tried to help, limping faster. The girl had raced ahead and now stood waiting at the side of the tower.
She looked in both directions, her fear clearly written across her face. “I thought you guys were Marines or something. Get the lead out!”
Barrett mumbled something under his breath, making Colby smile. Their new member certainly had a way about her. Shots rang out behind him as Darcy started dropping the creatures closest to them.
The woman moved aside, granting him access as she swung her gun to her chest, joining Darcy in the assault. She nodded for him to climb, and he growled in frustration. This wasn’t going at all along the lines he’d envisioned. He muttered obscenities under his breath as he shuffled Barrett over his shoulder and began climbing, willing his feet to move against the added weight. More shots echoed across the open space, and he knew the rest of the horde was on their way.
He moved faster, watching as Darcy shoved her toward the ladder. It looked as if she muttered something to him but started climbing, catching them quickly. Darcy kept firing as he inched up the ladder backward, trying to keep the mass at bay. Colby heard the woman curse before she reached into her jacket pocket.
Her voice sounded above the howling wind and growling voices, and Colby had just enough time to wrap one arm around a rung before the world erupted in a flurry of bright light and deafening sound. His head throbbed from the noise as the flashbang exploded, burning the zombies closest to it and knocking the others down. Darcy groaned but started climbing again, shaking his head when their gazes clashed. Colby sighed and resumed his ascent, cresting the tower’s ledge a few moments later. He placed Barrett on his feet just over the rail, watching as the man tried to steady himself against the side only to slide down the wall and onto his ass. More blood pooled at his feet, drawing Colby’s attention. He vaulted over the railing and knelt at Barrett’s side. The man attempted to push Colby back when he reached for the wound, but Barrett only succeeded in making his breath hiss out through his clenched teeth.
The girl stopped beside them, tapping Colby on the shoulder. “Let’s get your friend inside.” She opened a door and disappeared.
He glanced at Darcy. “Give me a hand.”
Darcy double checked the ladder, then swung his rifle out of the way and took Barrett’s other arm, wrapping it around his shoulder. The two men shuffled through, easing Barrett down against the inside wall. The man grimaced but managed to push himself back a bit. Colby smiled and turned, his smile fading as he stared into the barrel of a rifle. His gaze met hers as her lips curled slightly at the corners.
She nodded at them. “Now, where were we?”