Authors: Kristen Middleton
His eyes sparkled with humor. He must have sensed my disappointment, too. “Yes, is that okay? I mean, since it’s your eighteenth birthday, I’m inviting you to a romantic dinner.”
“Okay,” I said.
He smiled. “Good. By the way, my first present should be arriving just before dinner.”
He nodded and then planted another kiss on my lips. “I’ll be here to pick you up at six o’clock,” he murmured.
“Wow, it sounds like a real date.”
“It is,” he said. “So, be ready.”
“Other than that, meet me downstairs in an hour for class.”
Last week Bryce and Tiny had started a training program to help the other survivors learn some self-defense against the zombies as well as other criminals they might encounter. It was a little martial arts mixed in with street fighting and wrestling. I hadn’t even checked it out yet, I’d been too busy moping around and mourning my parents.
I sighed. “Fine.”
“And bring Allie.”
“She isn’t going to come,” I said. “She won’t even leave her room.”
“That’s easier said than done.”
“Dammit, Wild,” he said. “You’re her older sister and now her main guardian. She’s only twelve and needs someone to guide her.
her come to class. It will do her good. It will do you both good.”
He pointed at me. “You will do.”
I pointed back. “You’re bossy.”
He smiled. “It gets me what I want and I want to see you and Allie in the workout room in an hour. Don’t make me come get you girls.”
“I’ll try my best to wake the princess.”
“Doing is much better. Never try, just do.”
I saluted him. “Yes, sir.”
“Now you’re catching on.”
I slugged him playfully and he grabbed both my arms. “Save most of your energy for tonight, though,” he said and kissed me again. “So we can continue where we left off.”
I smiled. “You’re pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you?”
“Confidence builds character.”
“Right,” I snorted.
After he left I went into Allie’s room. She was in bed with the covers pulled over her face. I opened the drapes to let some light in and she groaned.
“Rise and shine, princess,” I said.
“Go away,” she mumbled.
“No. You have to get up. You’ve been in bed all day and it’s not good for you.”
She rolled over. “I’m sick.”
I walked over to the bed and grabbed the blanket from her. “You probably feel sick because you’re not taking care of yourself. Now, get in the shower. We’re going to eat something quick and then meet Bryce downstairs for a self-defense class.”
“Right,” she mumbled. “How about I meet you down there?”
“How about…no?” I answered. “You’re getting up and moving out of this bed.”
“Or what?” she asked with tears in her eyes. “You’re going to tell mom?”
I sighed and sat down next to her on the bed. “I only wish I could. But I can’t and I know how painful it is. It sucks. It’s total crap. But there’s nothing we can do about it now.”
She began to cry and I took her into my arms. “I miss them so much,” she sobbed.
I closed my eyes. “Me, too…but you know what?”
“What?” she sniffed.
“They’re watching us right now, wherever they are and they probably aren’t happy.
She pulled away. “Why?”
“Because our whole lives he taught us to be fighters. They both did. I guarantee you that if they were here they’d be pretty ticked off.”
She wiped her cheeks. “Dad would be for sure. Mom wouldn’t.”
“No, both of them would be for sure; they risked everything for our asses. I spoke to the others and she told me how dangerous it was to rescue us, the things they had to endure. But they never gave up and they fought for us until the very end. Come on Allie, we have to make them proud. We can’t let them die in vain. It’s just the two of us now and we have to stick together.”
She cleared her throat. “Okay.”
“Now, go take a shower and put on one of those pink outfits Kylie found for you. You kind of stink like one of those dead zombies.”
She started giggling.
“I’m glad you think that’s funny. Now, seriously.” I said, plugging my nose. “Go take a shower.”
Less than an hour later we were both in the workout room dressed in sweats, me in gray and Allie in hot pink. Of course everyone was excited to see my little sister.
“Oh, thank God,” said Kylie, hugging her friend. “I was getting really worried about you.”
Allie smiled shyly as everyone approached her and introduced themselves. When I saw her crimson cheeks after Luke had shaken her hand, I knew she was on the road to recovery.
“Hey there, Wild,” said Henry. “How’s it hanging?”
I laughed. “A little to the left, Henry.”
“You do have more balls than most men I’ve met,” he replied. “Of course you still drive like a woman.”
I shook my head. “You’d better watch yourself in here, Henry. Some of these women driver’s also know martial arts.”
He chuckled. “I’m only messing with you, by golly. But, seriously you should really stay off the roads until you’ve had more practice. See if that Bryce can give you some pointers.”
“I’m sure he’d love that.”
“Hey hon,” said Belinda. She was chewing gum and dressed in short shorts and a sports bra. Even I had to admit that for an older lady she had a kickin’ body.
“Hi,” I said. “How’s it going?”
“Oh, just awesome. Everyone’s been so wonderful,” she said. “Especially Henry. He’s even agreed to stay with me in the penthouse, to help keep an eye on Luke. You know teenaged boys, they’re a handful.”
“Oh, to keep an eye on Luke?” I said. “Well, that’s our Henry,” I said. “He just loves helping out women.”
“Yes and he promised to take me horseback riding when all this zombie crap gets cleared up.”
Henry gave me a big shit-eating grin. “She needs to learn from the best.”
“Yeah, Belinda,” I said. “Henry used to work in the rodeo and from what I hear, know his way around the saddle pretty good.”
She gave me a throaty laugh. “He keeps telling me that but sometimes I wonder if we’re talking about the same thing.”
Just then Nora and Billie showed up, both dressed in shorts and matching Pink Floyd t-shirts. Where they got those, I have no idea. I watched in awe as Billie flirted with her and her face turned beet red. He then began tickling her and before long they were wrestling on the floor. I knew right away that she was letting him pin her. As strong as he probably was, she wasn’t that easy to take down.
“Hey guys,” I said, smiling down at them as they rolled around on the floor.
“Hi Cassie,” said Billie with a sheepish grin. “Don’t mind us.”
“Looks like you two are having fun,” I chuckled.
Nora’s face became serious and she stood up. “Hey Wild. I um…need to talk to you later.”
“Okay,” I said. “After class?”
She nodded. “Yeah.”
The workout room couldn’t hold everyone who showed up for the class so we moved to the restaurant in the hotel. After clearing away some of the tables Bryce had us separate in smaller groups.
“Cassie,” he said. “I’d like you to help me demonstrate some basic defense moves and then if you help the others practice them that would be awesome.”
“Sure,” I said.
“Nora? Would you be willing to help, too?” he asked.
“Great. Now let’s begin by showing some basic karate moves which might actually save your life.”
For the next hour we went over different kicks, blocks, and strikes which would add some protection against the zombies. We all knew that to beat them it would obviously still take more than that. But it gave them a better chance for survival.
“I also advise all of you to keep an ax or other kind of bludgeoning weapon with you at all times. These martial arts defense moves won’t kill a zombie but they can give you some extra time before you actually strike their head or neck. It will also help to protect you against other living attackers. Keep practicing these moves and don’t ever let your guard down,” said Bryce when we were finished with the demonstration.
By the end of class Allie and Kylie were laughing and teasing each other. I was so relieved to hear the sound of her voice I actually hugged her at the end of class.
“What’s that for?” she asked.
“I’m just happy you’re here,” I answered.
“Me, too.” she replied.
After we were finished with class, Allie took Kylie up to our room to play with Goldie and Paige pulled me aside.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Okay, this thing with my mom and Tiny is really driving me bonkers. She’s falling for him
“Well, that’s great though. Isn’t it?”
She sighed. “It’s not that I don’t like him but my mom is on the rebound, you know? I’m just worried about her getting hurt.”
“Paige, you know they’ve already been through more than most couples go through in a lifetime.”
“I think you should give her a break and let her have some fun with Tiny. He seems to really dig her and she feels safe with him.”
“Fun, she’s having a little
“What do you mean?”
Paige snorted. “She got pretty damn tipsy last night.”
Neither one of us had noticed Kristie, who was now standing directly behind us. She tapped Paige on the shoulder. “What’s that you’re talking about?”
Paige scowled at her. “Mom! Quit sneaking up on us!”
Kristie crossed her arms. “So, what is this about me getting tipsy?”
“Oh for the love of God,” snapped Paige. “Last night? The hot tub episode?”
“Oh. Did you have to bring that up?”
I smiled. “Okay
, now you have to tell me what happened.”
“My mom got trashed and fell face first into the hot tub.”
Kristie’s jaw dropped. “I was not trashed. I’d only had a glass of wine or two and got a little…tipsy.”
“Well, it was really disturbing to catch you in the hot tub with Tiny. God Cassie, you should have seen it. My mom was trying to be all seductive like. She had on this sexy bathing suit and her hair was teased perfectly into place, makeup carefully applied and…” Paige started laughing.
“It wasn’t that funny Paige,” said Kristie with a stern expression.
This only made her laugh harder, still. Paige bent over trying to control her laughter and pointed towards her mom as the tears rolled down her face. “And…she was taking a step down into the hot tub and she slipped, falling face forward into the water!”
Kristie was also trying to hold back a smile. “Yeah, but I could have drowned. Seriously, it wasn’t
when she came back up her mascara was all over her face, her hair was drenched and things were sticking out that should have never seen the light of day, you know what I’m saying?” she laughed. “But no, that didn’t stop my mom’s big seduction. She stood there with one boob sticking out of her bathing suit, looking like a drowned rat and said,” Paige raised her voice. “Hey stud, I’m looking for a horse. Let’s say we go for a ride?”
I burst out laughing and so did Kristie, who couldn’t hold it back any longer, either.
“Well, it sounded good at the time!” laughed Kristie. “How was I to know you were there, Paige.”
“It was such a crime scene, I couldn’t take my eyes off it!” laughed Paige.
“So, what did Tiny do?” I asked.
Paige quit laughing. “I don’t know, I got the hell out of there.”
We both turned to Kristie who smiled. “Let’s just say I’m a
saddle sore today.”
Paige’s mouth dropped. “Oh my God, mom! Yuck!”
I followed Nora into the kitchen after she was done stretching out.
“I’m starving,” she said, searching in the pantry. We’d distributed most of the food to the survivors already so there wasn’t much left in the kitchen. It was just fortunate that the hotel had been stocked with food when we’d arrived and that Tony’s men had guarded everything against other thieves.
“So,” I said. “What did you want to talk to me about?’
She sat on one of the counters and opened up the box of crackers she’d lucked out finding. “My dad.”
I’d forgotten all about her dad, who’d supposedly been transferred to the C.D.C.
“I’m sorry Nora,” I said. “I’d forgotten all about that. We have to help you find him!”
She sighed. “Actually, I spoke to Carly and she saw my dad, but he left.”
“So he recovered from the virus, too?”
“I guess so. He never waited for me so I don’t know for sure.” She looked away for a second. I think it was to hide her tears. “Asshole
I was coming but left anyway. Same old song and dance, I guess.”
“Maybe he didn’t know you’d make it to Atlanta.”
She shrugged. “But he didn’t even stick around to find out. Nice father, huh?”
I knew how Nora felt about her dad. She’d told me before that she loved him but how angry she’d also been of the way he’d abandoned her. If it hadn’t been for her grandmother, Nora would have been even more bitter and angry than she already was. But her grandmother had been killed and her only reason for being in Atlanta was to find her dad and now she had no clue where he was.
“What do you want to do?” I asked.
“I’m going back to Minnesota,” she replied. “Carly thinks he went back there to check on his mother.”
“And you,” I replied.
I didn’t want to act like I knew what her father was thinking, so I didn’t press it.
“So, you’re going to Minnesota?”
She nodded. ‘Yeah. I was wondering if you’d want to come with. In case more of your family survived.”
I hadn’t even thought about going back to Minnesota, I’d been too busy mourning my parents. “I don’t think it’s a good idea. It’s too dangerous.”
“Don’t you wonder if any of your other relatives are alive? Your grandparents, uncles or aunts? Cousins?”