Authors: Thomas A. Watson
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Military
With the second shot, Nathan knew where the shooter was. Before Amanda hit the ground, Nathan stood up, aiming at the top of the hill behind the barn. “Ares, kill!” he shouted, running toward the hill with bloodlust in his heart. Ares bounded past him, growling, as Nathan kept pulling his trigger, spraying the top of the hill.
As he ran past the others, Jasmine stood up and started shooting, then the others followed suit. Seeing bullets kick up dirt all along the edge of the crest of the hill, Nathan saw movement on the left side of the hill top. Dropping his empty magazine, Nathan slammed in a new mag and concentrated his fire where he saw movement.
When Nathan reached the hill, Ares was getting close to where he was shooting. Nathan dropped the partial mag in his rifle and put a new one in as he ran up the side of the hill in a dead sprint. Nathan heard another rifle shot, then a person screaming. Screaming at the top of his lungs, Nathan charged over the crest of the hill, wanting blood.
He found Ares dragging a man around by his arm, shaking it violently. Ares let go of the arm and latched onto the back of the man’s neck, shaking his body back and forth. Letting his rifle drop to hang on its sling, Nathan pulled his knife and charged the man Ares was attacking.
Diving on the man, Nathan started plunging his knife in the man’s back. The first thrust felt like he was trying to drive it through concrete, but Nathan didn’t care. When the man stopped fighting, Nathan sat up. “Ares, break.”
By Thomas A. Watson
A WINLOCK PRESS BOOK
ISBN (eBook): 978-1-61868-738-8
Journey: Finally Home
© 2015 by Thomas A. Watson
All Rights Reserved
Monique Happy Editorial Services
This book is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author and publisher.
Thomas A. Watson’s Author Page on Facebook
The moon and stars were bright so Nathan kept his group on small dirt roads and trails. Emma looked up at him, babbling. Nathan shook his head. “Emma, you have to start saying words. I don’t know what you’re saying but it really sounds important.” Emma paid him no mind as she continued to babble along pointing at stuff.
Jasmine rode her horse beside his. “Nathan, you sure you don’t need to rest some more?”
Nathan let out a long sigh. “I could sleep for a month,” he admitted.
“Let’s find a place to hole up for a day or two and catch our breath,” she offered.
“Let’s get out of this area first and see how things are going. If we can we’ll take a day off,” he said.
“How far out of the area?” she asked.
“I figure after we set up tomorrow, if we don’t see or hear trouble, we can rest for a night,” he said.
Jasmine smiled at him. “I want you to get some rest. I’m not going to lie, we are scared when you’re tired.”
“I’m sorry. I’m doing the best I can,” Nathan apologized.
Jasmine grabbed his arm. “I didn’t mean it to be condescending. You are doing too much. Let us help, please. At least let me help.”
He patted her hand as he smiled at her. “Thank you,” he said. “I never looked out for more than me or my partner. Having all these kids and you around has thrown me for a loop,” Nathan confessed.
Jasmine sat up straighter in her saddle when he separated her from the kids. “I have to admit, we really do love you. Every one of us tried to stay awake as you led us out of that dangerous area, but we couldn’t.”
“I know you did. I wish I could’ve stopped to let you rest, but the net was closing fast. We had to push on.”
Looking up at the sky then at Nathan, Jasmine smiled. “I’ve never seen anyone push themselves that hard before. We could see you were worried about us.”
“Yeah,” Nathan shot back. “Never in my life would I have guessed I would like little girls pestering me, having teenage boys copying everything I do, and a hottie trying to give me a heart attack every morning,” Nathan said.
“At least I’m a hottie now and not a little girl,” Jasmine said.
They rode in silence for half an hour. Jasmine was afraid she had upset Nathan. Just as she was about to ask him, Nathan spoke. “Jasmine, I’m twice your age. I’m flattered that you flirt with me, but you can do a lot better. I really think if you had other choices you would see that.”
If Nathan had slapped her, he would’ve gotten the same look. “What?” Jasmine asked. “What has your age got to do with anything? Don’t you think I know what I like?”
Hearing the attitude, Nathan took a deep breath, hoping to tread carefully. “I’m just saying Jasmine and yes I’m sure you know what you like, as I do. For argument’s sake, when I’m sixty you will be forty.”
“Wow, that really worries you. You’re scared of a younger woman being around you,” Jasmine said shocked.
He whipped his head toward her. “No, I’m not,” Nathan popped off. “You aren’t thinking about the future. I am.”
Jasmine snorted. “What if I told you my fiancé was sixteen years older than me? The youngest person I’ve ever dated was six years older than me. What do you say to that?”
“Ahh…I don’t know,” Nathan stuttered, caught off guard.
“It’s true,” Jasmine said, looking down the trail. Then like a light switch everything fell into place. “Damn,” she said, shocked. She could see it plain as day now. Having listened to Amanda question Nathan about every girlfriend he ever had and how Nathan acted so distant around the group. Nathan was scared to let anyone close.
Nathan pulled back on his reins, thinking Jasmine had heard or seen something. “What is it?” he whispered.
“It all makes sense now,” Jasmine replied as her horse kept walking. Kicking Smoke back into a walk, Nathan caught back up to her.
“What makes sense?” he asked.
“I’ll tell you later,” Jasmine replied. She pulled her reins back, slowing her horse to fall behind Nathan.
Nathan looked down at Emma, who was still jabbering away. “Women are so weird,” he informed her.
“No,” Emma said.
“What about it?” Nathan asked.
“Moke,” Emma said pointing at Smoke.
“Yes, that’s Smoke,” Nathan said, patting her head.
“Moore,” she said, holding up her sippy cup.
Nathan refilled the sippy cup without any enthusiasm. “You know, I used to be cool. Now I’m relegated to bitch boy,” he said, handing it back to Emma.
“Bitch,” Emma repeated very clearly and clapped her hand on her sippy cup.
Hearing that, Nathan froze. What should he do or say to the little parrot? Not thinking of anything, Nathan chose to ignore any actions. “Emma, that’s not nice,” Nathan told her as she continued to jabber nonsense.
Nathan didn’t push too much but pulled up beside a small lake, having only traveled fifteen miles. It was only three a.m. but he didn’t want to risk hurting the horses. The idea of lugging Emma to Idaho in her sling really didn’t appeal to him in any form or fashion.
After he spread out his woobie and put down the sleeping Emma, Nathan helped the group set up camp. The horses immediately started eating the grass along the shoreline. Amanda and Casey sat down on Nathan’s woobie with him and Emma. “Nathan, I want you to sleep,” Amanda commanded.
He slowly looked up at her, “I will,” he said.
“No, I mean all day. I’ll take your watch and get your horse ready,” she informed him.
“Amanda, I’m—” Nathan started to say, but Amanda threw her little hand in his face.
“It’s not open to discussion,” she said with a firm expression.
“Did anybody put you up to this?” Nathan asked.
“No, I told them this is how it was going to be,” Amanda stated. A thousand replies came to his mind instantly, none of them nice. Just as Nathan chose one Amanda crawled over Emma and into Nathan’s lap, wrapping her arms around him. “When you’re tired I’m scared,” she mumbled, nuzzling her head in his chest.
All frustration left Nathan as he rubbed her head. “I will get some sleep then, so you won’t be afraid,” Nathan assured her. Hearing that, Jasmine turned around and gave John two hundred dollars.
“I didn’t think that was going to work,” Jasmine admitted.
John scoffed. “Hundred bucks says if Casey asks for everyone to go swimming we will.”
“I’m not taking that bet,” Jasmine said, brushing her horse. “The only reason I took this one was because Amanda was asking him to do something he normally wouldn’t.”
“I never heard her ask,” John pointed out.
Jasmine snickered. “For Amanda, that was asking.”
Watching Casey crawl into Nathan’s lap, John smiled. “I don’t think Amanda wants Nathan to be her boyfriend anymore,” he told Jasmine.
“Why do you say that?” Jasmine asked.
“I’m just saying,” John replied, brushing his own horse.
Nathan had the girls in his lap barely ten minutes before both were sound asleep. He gently laid them down and pulled off their boots and vests. Getting to his knees, he brushed the hair out of their faces. Standing up, he looked at the girls, gave a long sigh, then headed to Smoke.
John, Tom, Natalie, and Jasmine were on the shore brushing their horses as Nathan began brushing Smoke. “I thought you were asked to sleep,” John said.
“She never really asked. It was more of an imperial decree,” Nathan replied.
“Go do it before I wake the princess up,” John threatened.
“I will sleep today, John, I promise,” Nathan assured him. “Did you plant the idea in her head?”
“No, she came up with it all on her own. I just agreed with her,” John said in a grumpy voice.
“I just want to make sure the horses are doing well and get some food, then I’ll sleep. I promise,” Nathan replied.
John walked over to Nathan, “Amanda’s not the only one scared when you’re tired,” John told Nathan.
Nathan hugged John. “I know how hard I can push myself. What you saw was my limit. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep you guys safe,” Nathan vowed.
John hugged him back. “Without you, we won’t make it. Not just here but also in Idaho, when we get there. You keep us focused and let us know we have to fight to live. I’ve never been so happy to be alive. You’ve shown me so much and treated me better than anyone except my mom. Please don’t push yourself hard like that,” John pleaded.
“I will try but I’m not making promises. You guys have given me something I never thought I would have again: a family,” Nathan explained.
The sky started to lighten up as Nathan let John go. John smiled at Nathan. “Since I’m the oldest kid, you have to share some of the responsibility with me,” John said. Hearing the conversation, Jasmine smiled and waited for Nathan’s response. She and Natalie were some distance away but the hunter’s ears Nathan had given them made eavesdropping easier.
Nathan thought before he answered. “Well you do have a point. So what do you classify Jasmine as? Surely not an older sister?”
“Nah, she’s like a really hot stepmom, and you are the super-cool stepdad,” John explained. Jasmine bit the back of her hand to keep from laughing. Nathan did laugh at the description.
“If that’s the way the family tree grows then I’m glad I know,” Nathan chuckled.
John put his hand on Nathan’s chest. “I do want more brothers,” he informed Nathan. “Tom and I don’t stand a chance against those four girls.”
“I’m not going to look for them,” Nathan declared, stepping back. “And if we ever do have more join they will be potty-trained. Dignity leaves your soul when a toddler assumes the position to be wiped. I’m sure I never did that and I don’t know if any of my friends’ kids have either. Emma is trying to humiliate me.”
Tom joined the conversation, shaking his head. “No, sir, I’ve babysat before and it’s all toddlers.”
“Tom, for last time, it’s Nathan, not sir,” Nathan warned. “I had some of my friends’ kids over to spend the night so I’m going to have to disagree,” he added.
“How old were they?” Tom asked.
“Oh, I don’t know, little though,” Nathan said.
“Then they were potty-trained,” Tom said. Jasmine was having a hard time standing as she listened to the conversation. The back of her hand had deep impressions from her teeth where she bit it to keep from laughing.
Nathan threw up his hands. “I’ve changed hundreds of diapers. Babies are different, they can’t walk. Let me inform you of something I have a theory on. I think when we are born we know everything. Emma never shuts up, she babbles all the time. I think she is trying to explain the universe but we don’t understand her. By the time she learns the language we use she will have forgotten it,” Nathan said crossing his arms, proud of his theory.
Both John and Tom looked at Nathan in utter amazement. Jasmine just hit the ground beside her horse not caring if it stepped on her or not. Tom stepped closer to Nathan. “It’s just baby talk,” he explained.
“Have you listened?” Nathan asked and before Tom could answer. “I’ve had to listen to it for hours on end. She is trying to tell us something. I don’t know what, but it sounds important,” Nathan clarified. “Oh yeah, I think she has telepathy.”
Hearing that, Tom stumbled back into John. “What?” he asked but didn’t really want an answer.
“I just caught it last night. I wasn’t hungry but suddenly I was digging in my bag and pulling out a food bar for Emma. She was totally quiet, just staring at me, when food popped in my mind. I’m telling you, she has some kind of power,” Nathan said, nodding his head. That’s when Natalie fell down beside Jasmine, laughing quietly.
John grabbed Nathan’s arm. “Why don’t you lie down and get some rest? We’ll take care of the horses.” John said trying to guide Nathan back to camp.
“Guys, I’m serious,” Nathan declared, pulling his arm away from John.
“We know you are,” Tom said with wide eyes. “She’s just a little girl.”
“Hey, I’m just stating my observations,” Nathan explained.
John shook his head, “The next thing you’re going to say is that Amanda can read minds.”
“No, she can’t,” Nathan said blowing a raspberry and John felt much better. “She can control them,” Nathan declared. John and Tom stumbled back together hearing that and fell on their butts. “Would you like me to explain?” Nathan asked and both boys shook their heads.
Not paying them any attention, Nathan explained, “It’s not just Amanda. Natalie and Casey can as well. Like when we got here tonight. Natalie unbuckled her saddle and slid it off onto the ground. She walked around her horse checking it over but you, John, walked over and picked it up and moved it for her. She never asked and you put it just where she wanted it.”
“I was just being nice,” John mumbled.
“Sure you were. Why didn’t you ask where she wanted it?” John just hung his mouth open. “Ahh, see? Not so crazy now, huh?” Nathan said. Nathan looked at Tom. “How about night before when we stopped and you collected water bottles? Casey handed you hers, yet you went to her saddle and pulled out two more. She never asked or volunteered the information, you just knew,” Nathan said nodding his head at them.
The two boys started getting scared, not of Nathan but what he was saying. “Holy shit,” John said. “Last night I rode up to Amanda and handed her some batteries for her night vision goggles. She never asked or said anything,” he muttered.
“See? I told you,” Nathan said, kneeling down beside them.
“What about Jasmine?” Tom asked.
Nathan shook his head, “I don’t think women have that power. Men have become so conditioned to it they have to hint at what they want done. She hints at what she wants and we do it because we know that she used to have that power. We do it to appear like we are going out of our way for them.”
Jasmine and Natalie were both in tears as the guys stood up. “Do boys have any powers like that?” Tom asked.
Nathan thought about it for a minute. “We can pee standing up,” he offered.
“They get mind control and we get ‘peeing standing up?’” Tom asked, dumbfounded. Nathan nodded his head. “That’s not fair,” Tom mumbled.
“Can we fight it?” John asked.
Nathan looked John in the eye. “No,” he said, and turned back to brush down Smoke. Discouraged, John brushed down his own horse. Jasmine helped Natalie up as they both giggled and continued brushing their horses.