Edge of Instinct: Rabids Book 1

EDGE OF INSTINCT

RABIDS BOOK 1

 

By Amy Cook

Text copyright © 2014 Amy Cook

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

Book cover design by BespokeBookCovers.com

 

Edits by Todd Barselo
w
https://www.facebook.com/ToddBarselowEditor

 

This book is a work of fiction drudged from the recesses of one woman’s mind. All characters, events and portrayals are mere reflections of her imagination and not meant to stir mass hysteria or delusions of zombified glory. Should a zombie apocalypse of a similar nature actually occur, she takes no credit for the creations of her writing coming to life and or eating you.

Dedications and thanks

 

To my husband and children; you mean the world to me, and I’m so grateful to you for your love and support on this journey to fulfilling my dreams. Thank you Jeff for understanding when the house was a chaotic mess and your clothes often disappeared for long vacations in the laundry pile. Your willingness to help me edit my book into the wee hours of the night, despite having put in a hard day of school and work, was heartwarming and so greatly appreciated. Kids, thank you for fueling my imagination and confidence with your nightly pleas for
my
made up stories, rather than stories from the bookshelf. I love you all!

I’d like to thank my sister Jennifer for encouraging me to get back on my writing feet, so to speak, when I was tempted to give up all those years ago. I’m here because you wouldn’t let me give up on my dream.

Thank you to my brothers Jason and Matt for their help with all the macho manly details I needed in this book. You’re awesome. But then, you already knew that.

A big thank you goes out to my cousin Mallory and sister in law Ashley, for all of their tireless efforts in editing, reading and rereading through my manuscript. You’ve supported and guided me along the way, and I couldn’t have reached the finish line without you. Thank you for always being there to listen to my complaints and non-stop book chatter.

I’d also like to thank Robin Renee Ray for her kindness in helping a newbie author navigate the rigors of publishing in the literary world.

Cheryl from Imajin Books, you have been a lifesaver! You helped me so much during my publishing process, always replying to my questions quickly and thoroughly and pointing me in the direction of a wonderful editor! That brings me to…

Todd! Thanks for the hard work you’ve done on helping me get my baby ready for publishing! I appreciate your patience with me as a new author and your dedication to helping me make my book the best it could be. I know it was a rough road, but we made it through! And I’ve learned the importance of properly numbered dots. ;)

My cover art designer Peter from BespokeBookCovers.com definitely deserves special mention here. Having worked with many authors in the past, he was so helpful in answering questions about publishing and was always cheerful in our exchanges. His work is truly amazing, and I’m in love with the way my book has come alive visually through his artistry.

And finally, thank you to all who read my work. For as long as I can remember, my dream has been to share the stories that are dear to my heart, in hopes that others would find as much joy in them as I have. I sincerely thank you for your time and the part you play in making those dreams come true. I hope you enjoy my books, that my characters struggles and sorrows will draw you in, and their triumphs become your own.

 

Chapter 1

 

Amiel

 

He looked like some half-human half-robotic experiment with tubes running all along the length of his body. He lay motionless on the bed, the circles under his sunken eyes dark bruises standing out on his face. The once thick shiny mahogany hair was now dull and falling out in spots. The muscles that he had once crowed over constantly were wasting away giving him an emaciated, sickly appearance. He was her best friend, her brother, and he was a shadow of his former self. He was dying. The army agreed to send him home after he got sick, and Amiel had been with him every day since.

“Hey wimp,” he croaked out, forcing a smile over teeth gritted in pain.

Amiel smirked, refusing to show him the pain she felt at his appearance, or the tears that begged for release. “Hey loser, what’s this I hear from your doctors about you causing problems?”

He shrugged, then grimaced, and made a show of repositioning the tubing of his IV. “These stupid things are always getting caught on something,” he muttered. Amiel crossed her arms over her chest, shifting to one leg and raising an eye brow. “Yeah yeah Mom, I heard you, don’t get all in a tizzy over there,” he said in response. She rolled her eyes but couldn’t help smiling. “I don’t know what they’re complaining about now. They’re just jealous of my charm and intense good looks. And who could blame them?”

His body was shaken by a long racking cough, and her warm smile faded. She stayed right where she was; she knew he wouldn’t appreciate her making a fuss over him and his pride had already taken enough of a beating being laid up in this hospital bed. “The nurses have the hots for me, and not them,” Jaron smirked humorlessly, referring to the doctors tending him.  “It tends to put a cramp in a guy’s style when the sick dude gets more action than he does.” He coughed again and Amiel sighed quietly. She walked around the bed to sit in the chair next to him. Once, she might have sat on the bed next to him, but as time had progressed the slightest movements caused him pain.

Amiel could tell her brother wasn’t doing well, in fact he looked worse than she had ever seen him. Still, she dared not give up the charade of normalcy and banter that they both enjoyed so much. “You should take it easy on the poor ugly doctors,” she playfully reprimanded, “It’s not their fault they can’t match up to your sheer awesomeness.” He smiled, and for a moment she could see the glimmer of his old playful and arrogant smile.

Seven years her senior, Jaron had always been her protector and best friend. Their father died when she was young and her mother was one of those uppity rude widows that took all her anger out on her children, especially her daughter. Despite Amiel’s emotionally taxing childhood, Jaron had taken it upon himself to instill humor in her life. He would make light of every problem she faced and he never failed to bring a smile to her lips. Jaron had once been incredibly handsome, and women did indeed trip over themselves around him. But the bravado and mocking self-praise hid a truth that only Amiel knew. Behind the bravado, deep inside, he hid an irreparably damaged self-esteem and though he’d never admit it, she could see the hints of fear in his eyes. She scooted closer to the bed, and placed her hand close to his but not touching it. His paper-thin skin was so sensitive that touching brought more pain, than comfort.

“Jaron, you’re the bravest, sweetest, and most self-sacrificing guy I know,” she confessed seriously. “Who wouldn’t be jealous?” She added the last part to lessen the syrupy praise.

“You forgot hot,” he groaned as he leaned his head weakly against the pillow.

“Well, that part is so obvious it goes without saying,” a woman’s voice said from the doorway. A nurse walked into the room, winking at Amiel as she headed to the machines to check the read-outs. Her name was Caterina-or Cat as she demanded they call her-and she was Jaron’s favorite nurse.

“Hey, gorgeous, when are you gonna take me up on that date and get me outta here?” Jaron flashed his most charming smile her way despite his obvious discomfort. Had circumstances been different, Amiel was sure that Jaron would have made good on his banter. Although he had casually dated plenty of girls, he had only ever dated one of them seriously, and that had ended disastrously. It was ironic, Amiel thought, that after all these years Jaron didn’t find the one girl he was looking for until he was lying on his death bed. Fresh tears of sorrow welled up, burning Amiel’s eyes. She turned her face down, pretending to check her phone as she fought to banish the offending pools of water. Jaron didn’t need the burden of her tears.

Cat moved to Jaron’s bedside and smiled down at him. “Just as soon as we get you better, handsome,” she promised sweetly. Her affection for Amiel’s brother was obvious, and the sadness she didn’t quite hide every time she looked at him confirmed it. “If you would behave yourself and do what the doctors ask you to do, maybe we could get you out of here sooner.” Her voice held a pleading tone and Amiel’s tears finally streamed down her cheeks.

“Eh, they don’t know what they’re doing. All that poking and prodding they do, it’s just their petty way of torturing a hunk down on his luck,” he joked. Even so close to death, Jaron was still trying to make others smile.

Cat smiled sadly and nodded, quickly making her way to the doorway before turning back to Jaron. “I’ll be back to check on you in a few hours, Hun.” Her voice was little more than a watery whisper as she hastily exited.

“She’s in love with me. It’ll be a June wedding,” Jaron joked halfheartedly before breaking into another coughing fit. Amiel nodded, her head still bowed over her cell phone. “Hey twerp, stop texting your boyfriends, or I’m going to have to crawl outta this bed and choke out some losers with my IV.” Another fat hot tear rolled down her cheek despite her valiant efforts to force them away. She was suddenly angry at her lack of control, for his benefit. He had been so strong, always so strong for her, even now as his body failed him, and she couldn’t do the same for him. She hoped he didn’t notice.

“Amiel,” he said, his voice soft and gentle. “Use that thing to take a picture with me.” She looked up at him, unsure. He nodded encouragingly and she moved to sit near him. He wrapped a careful arm around her waist as she held her cell phone up and clicked the picture. Enfolded in her pain as she was, she had forgotten to take her eyes off her brother and smile into the lens.

“Hey, I know I’m eye catching and all, but you’re supposed to look at the camera and not me, goob,” he said when he saw the picture, “Let’s try again.” This time she forced herself to smile at the camera as she snapped another photo. After showing it to him, he weakly dropped his hand from her waist and nodded in approval. “I want to make sure you have a picture with me, in all my glory.” He smiled weakly. “You can use it as a guide for future dating. If the guy isn’t at least half as gorgeous and cool as your big brother dump him on his nose.” He paused, eyes growing serious. “I’m glad you came in today.”

“I come every day. Always will, you know that,” she whispered.

“Not for always.” His voice caught and he paused. “I’ll miss you, squirt.” She couldn’t take it a moment longer. The tears betrayed her inner turmoil followed closely by a pitiful whimper, and she quickly slid off the bed so that her sobs wouldn’t rock it.

“Don’t cry, Baby Girl,” he soothed. Baby Girl was the nickname he gave her when she was born, and her tears only came harder at his endearment. “I’m sorry I’m kinda ditching you. I had every intention of being here to beat the crud out of any guy who tried to pull a move, and walk you down the aisle when you finally found someone worthy of you.”

“Jaron don’t talk like that,” she protested, her tears turning to great sobs. “The doctors…”

He snorted angrily. “The doctors don’t know crap, Amiel! We both know I’m not going to make it through this. No one ever does.” He paused and looked out the window, watching the rain beat against the window pane. When he spoke his voice was calm and steady. “They’re just doing tests on me for their research, because maybe some idiot down the line of corpses will finally benefit from it. I’ve put up a good fight, but a soldier can only fight so long before he catches a bullet. Now it’s my turn. Only my bullet is from an enemy I can’t even see or fight this time…” His voice trailed off as he closed his eyes.

Amiel quietly shook her head, but deep down she knew he was right. He was always right. They both knew the truth, and she didn’t want to waste his last days faking false hope.

His voice soft, he said, “Listen, Baby Girl, you’re gonna be on your own now. I’m not gonna be around to look after you anymore, and you dang well know mom won’t either.” His eyes flared with anger at the mention of their mother. He began to shake his head, but flinched with pain. “I wish I had forced you to learn self-defense when I offered to teach you, instead of caving under those green doe eyes.” He chuckled quietly. “You were always good at charming your way outta things. Maybe that will come in handy now.” He watched her carefully, eyes pleading for her to be strong. She shuddered, trying to calm the waves of sobs and hiccups.

“You know I love you, sis?” he asked as he met her eyes. Amiel nodded and listened as he continued. “I know I’ve screwed up the last seven years, but I’ve tried to always be there for you, as much as I possibly could be.” She opened her mouth to deny it, but stopped as he shook his head. “No, it’s true. After things went to hell with, well I just wanted to get as much space between me and her as I could. I should have been there for you. I know I should have thought things through before running away to join the army…” He let the words hang in the air, breathing heavily with fatigue.

She nodded, recalling the difficult years living with their mother while he was away. “I was fine,” she lied.

He smiled sardonically at her weak assurances. “I grew up with mom too, you know, and after Dad
left
…”
He didn’t finish the words. Saying dad left was Jaron’s way of trying to protect Amiel from the tragedy of her father’s death, but she suspected the loss of their father affected him more deeply than he let on. Since that day Jaron had painted a lie that their dad had simply gone on vacation and never returned, and Amiel never questioned his delusion. “I know Mom has been a lot more difficult to deal with since then, especially to you. I’m sorry.”

Amiel smiled wanly, nodding. Jaron was more right than he could ever know. It had been hard living with their mother, and more times than she could count, she wished she could run away and fight with him. Deep down she knew she lacked the courage to do what he did in the army, but being with her brother at war would have been preferable over the war in her home. He had always been her foundation, her strength. She had never begrudged Jaron for getting away when he had the chance. He coughed again in a long painful fit, grasping his chest, and his face turned paler, sweat beading across his brow. She stood up and went to his bedside, worry plastered across her face as she caught her breath. He held up a hand for her to keep her distance, and slowly regained his breath.

“Be strong for me, Baby Girl, and keep moving on. Don’t let mom, or anyone, or anything hold you back from what you gotta do. Mom could take care of you financially, but you gotta make your way in the world with your head and your heart, not your bank account.” He paused to take a breath. “Stand up to mom and get away if you can. You need to be who you wanna be, and not who mom wants you to be. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough.” He paused again, coughing violently, fighting to catch his breath.

She stood hovering above him, uncertain if she should call for help. “Okay, Jaron, it’s fine, just take it easy for a minute,” she pleaded.

He waved her off again, and forced the words out in labored breaths. “I’m serious. Don’t stick your head in the sand. The world out there is nothing like the world you’ve grown up in, inside these city gates. It’s gruesome and it’s dangerous, it won’t take pity on you. Things are gonna happen around you whether you pay attention to them or not. But missing those details could end up costing you your life someday. I need you to prepare yourself and use common sense, but follow your instincts.” He reached for her hand, and after hesitating a moment, she let him take it as gently as possible.

“Promise me you will,” he demanded. She nodded, blinking against the tears. “Good.” He dropped her hand and squinted into the dim lights above his head. “One more thing,” he said. “Promise me you won’t marry a total loser. Not sure where I’m going after this, but I’m pretty sure they don’t allow a two way ticket to come back and beat the crap outta idiots whenever you want to.” She smiled a teary eyed smile at his effort in humor, despite his obvious growing pain.

“I always knew you were a closet romantic,” she joked in return. The humor and her smile faded when he clutched his chest and groaned.

“I mean it,” he gasped, forcing the words past his agony. He lay still for several moments as his heavy breathing steadied slightly. “Stay away from losers like Freddie Dip Head. Everyone has a right to be stupid once in a while,” he smirked, “but that guy flat out abused the privilege.”

Amiel laughed softly, despite the gravity of her surroundings, agreeing with that sentiment. “I know, I can’t believe mom tried to set us up. He turned out to be a real jerk didn’t he?”

“All the guys she sets you up with are.” Again, Amiel couldn’t argue with that. “No more Freddie Mortons. Find a guy willing to put you ahead of his hair products.” She laughed, loving her brother more and more with every word he spoke. He was her brave, dear, sweet brother, and she had no idea how she would ever find a guy anywhere close to matching his heart and strength.

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