Authors: Camryn Lynn
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, and incidents are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real in any way. Any resemblance to person, living or dead, actual events, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by Camryn Lynn
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back on it, the memory of my first encounter with a zombie seems so surreal that I sometimes wonder if it really happened. Late at night, after the world around me has settled down and the quiet breathing of my fellow survivors fills the room, I can almost convince myself it was all a bad dream. That there was no terrorist attack on Washington DC, and a killer virus was never released on American soil. My parents didn’t die, and neither did my friends. I’m not sleeping in the cafeteria of my old high school, surrounded by people I barely know and have no desire to get to know better. The future is not grim.
Then I drift off.
When I’m asleep, the horror of the situation can’t hide from me. Even when I know they’re just dreams and I try to force myself to wake up, I can’t. I’m trapped. Trapped in a world of grisly memories so sharp they overshadow everything else. The screams of my loved ones echo through my brain, and the groans of the dead as they feast on human flesh are more sickening than anything I’ve ever dared imagine.
And I was a horror writer in my previous life. Go figure.
Nighttime sucks, so when the sun sets and my body grows heavy with exhaustion, I do whatever I can to force it to stay awake. Even if checking to make sure all the doors are still secure gives me an excellent view of the dead roaming the schoolyard. It’s for this reason that I find myself wandering the halls in the middle of the night. A habit that will inevitably stretch out until the sun bursts over the horizon, bringing with it a new dawn and a brand new set of horrors.
How many of these monsters are people I once knew?
Footsteps echo through the hall behind me, and even though it causes the hair on my scalp to prickle, I don’t look away from the shambling bodies outside. It’s hard to make them out in the moonlight, but sometimes if I stare hard enough, I can convince myself I recognize someone. Only, I’m not sure if that’s better or worse. I hate thinking this happened to my friends.
“I hope they’re not trapped inside those rotting corpses,” I whisper.
“What did you say?” comes a deep voice from right behind me.
My back stiffens involuntarily and my fingers tighten on the baseball bat clutched in my hand. I knew it was Riley before he spoke, but it still gets under my skin. He refuses to give up in his efforts to be my buddy.
“Nothing,” I say, keeping my eyes straight ahead.
Riley stops at my side, and the masculine scent of Axe body spray tickles my nostrils. I glance his way out of the corner of my eye and frown. His shaggy brown hair is wet, the ends still so damp that as I look a few drops of water fall onto his black t-shirt. A shirt so tight it stretches across his muscles, bunching up on his biceps. Revealing tattoos I’ve worked hard to avoid studying. I don’t want to know who this man at my side is or was, because he’ll never be anything more than what he is now. If I got to know him—or anyone else here for that matter—it would just hurt too much when he died.
Because we will all die. There is no other ending to this story.
“You took a shower in the dark?” I say, even though I don’t feel like starting a conversation.
He nods and turns to face me, and without thinking about it my body shifts his way.
“Want to take advantage of the water while it’s still working.”
He’s right. We’ve been in the school for five days now. Without electricity for three days. The gas cut off two days ago, which means the water is like ice. But it won’t be around much longer. We’d be stupid to think otherwise.
“I’ll go down with you if you want,” he says casually, as if he’s offering to do something more than fuck me. “Stand guard. Hold the flashlight so you can see.”
The moonlight glows through the window and reflects off his brown eyes as they hold mine, and it almost takes my breath away. If we were somewhere else, I’d want him. There isn’t a thing about him that isn’t beautiful. His dark hair that’s just a little too long, his chocolate eyes. Strong jaw and cheekbones that are defined, yet masculine at the same time. Then there’s his body. I noticed it the first day. I may have been shaking from shock and covered in blood, but there was no way I could miss it when this sexy man pulled his shirt off. Every inch of his body is perfection, from his thick biceps to his chiseled chest and abs.
But we aren’t somewhere else. We’re here. Stuck in an abandoned high school while the world goes to shit all around us. Biding our time until we join them.
“I don’t need your help,” I say, turning away from Riley and heading toward the locker rooms.
He follows, of course. Riley’s been following me around since the second day, only I don’t know if he’s just trying to get into my pants, or if he’s clinging to the only other person his age in this place. There are seventeen survivors here. Three children, two teens, then a handful of people age forty and up. Then Riley and me.
He has to be close to twenty-five, and just I celebrated my twenty-first birthday two weeks ago. A bar hop across town with some girl friends that had started with short, tight dresses and lots of laughter, and ended sometime early the next morning with me sneaking out of some guy’s apartment. I don’t remember him or how I got to his place, or what transpired after the bars closed down. It had seemed like the epic twenty-first birthday, but now it just felt like a waste. Squandering one of my last nights of normalcy getting so drunk I can’t even remember whether or not I had a good time. What a moron.
“Kyra!” Riley calls, jogging up behind me. “You shouldn’t go wandering around alone.”
“Wrong. I’ve been alone for hours. Plus, you just took a shower alone.”
“Trust me, I would have preferred company.”
I stop walking and turn to face him, but he just grins. An adorable smile that shows off the dimple in his right cheek. Damn. Why does he have to be so hot?
“I’m kidding.” He winks, and even though I try to hold onto my melancholy, I can’t stop myself from smiling. Riley’s grin grows. “You
My smile melts away faster than an ice cube on a hot July day. “Seriously? Exactly what about this whole situation should make me smile, Riley?” A million other things almost come out of my mouth, but I know it’s pointless and I’m not going to waste any more time on stupidity.
So I turn away from him and keep walking. He follows as I go down the hall and make a right into the women’s locker room. It’s pitch black, but my eyes have adjusted to the dark by now, so I’m able to make out the shape of the sinks and showers in the distance. Then a light flicks on behind me, illuminating the room. For some reason, it feels even creepier than it did when it was totally dark.
“I’ll keep watch,” Riley says from behind me, panning the flashlight around.
I don’t respond.
I lean my bat against a bench, then step into the first stall and pull the curtain shut, turning the water on before I strip as if I’m giving it time to warm up. A pointless gesture. Before I step under the stream I suck in a deep breath, knowing the water is going to be colder than a lake in mid-December.
When the icy stream hits my skin, I let out a little squeal. My body is instantly covered in goose bumps so pronounced a blind person would probably mistake my skin for a brail copy of
War and Peace
. The shampoo and soap I’ve been using is right where I left it, so I get busy washing myself. Scrubbing my skin—still tan from the long summer days I spent stretched out on the beach—then washing my brown hair. It’s thick and long, and as I scrub it I realize that it won’t be too long before it starts to get in my way. When the water shuts off for good, I may need to cut it. Which for some reason makes me sadder than the thought of losing the water.
I’m done in record time, but the second I turn the water off I realize I made an epic mistake. No towel. Shit.
I’m shivering from head to toe. So hard my teeth chatter together like a cartoon character. Putting my clothes on without drying off would be dumb, but my only other option is to ask Riley for help.
Just thinking about it causes certain parts of my body to heat up.
“You okay in there?”
I jump at the sound of Riley’s voice echoing through the empty locker room, and my legs shake so hard that I almost fall over. Wrapping my arms around my chest, I steady myself and count to ten while I try to decide what to do. Realistically, I know I don’t have a choice. If I get my clothes wet, I’ll spend the whole day shivering while I wait for them to dry.
“I f-forgot to get a t-towel,” I call, squeezing my eyes shut and hugging myself closer.
“I’ll get you one.” Riley’s voice is almost lost in the shuffle of his footsteps as he makes his way across the tile.
I hold myself tighter and lean against the wall, my entire body wracked by tremors from the cold that seems to have invaded my veins. The hair on my legs has grown out, and it’s so coarse it feels like pinpricks against my own skin. There are so many things I’ll miss about my old way of life, and even though it seems shallow and stupid in the middle of everything else going on, shaving my legs is one of them.
The curtain moves, and the soft glow of the flashlight fills the dark stall. Riley steps in, holding a towel. “Here it is.”
A warm glow moves up my neck to my cheeks, and I rip the towel out of his hand. “Dammit, Riley,” I snap, holding the towel to my breasts. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“I thought it was an invitation.” With the light behind him his whole face is covered in shadows, making it impossible to read his expression. But the laughter in his voice is hard to miss.
I turn my back to him, wrapping the towel around me in the process. “It wasn’t. If I were to extend an invitation like that to you—which I won’t—you’d know it.”
“Good point. As I recall, you aren’t very good with subtle.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I snap, spinning to face him.
He puts his hands up and takes a couple steps back until he’s no longer in the stall. It puts him in range of the flashlight and I’m finally able to see his face. His eyes are wide with surprise.
Do I know this guy? I don’t think so. As far as I know, I never laid eyes on him until our first day in the school. I’d remember someone who looked like Riley. He’s pretty memorable.
“You seriously don’t remember?” he whispers.
He sounds so devastated that all my anger melts away. Shit. Am I supposed to know him?
“Have we met?” I ask hesitantly. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I honestly can’t remember him.
“Dammit,” he mutters, running his hand through his still damp hair.
He turns away and starts mumbling under his breath, which makes me feel even more like shit than before. I’m still freezing, but I hurry after him without bothering to grab my clothes. I don’t really know why I care so much, though. Hasn’t my goal these last few days been to not make any lasting connections with the other survivors? Clearly Riley and I have some history, and it meant something to him. So that should be my signal to run away, not toward him.
But I don’t.
Instead, I keep moving until I’m standing behind him. I wrap my fingers around his muscular arm, tugging until he turns to face me. His brown eyes sweep over me. Down my face and lips, over my neck to the swell of my breasts. I clutch the towel against my body even tighter, but I don’t think it will matter. Not with the way the air around us sizzles, and not when a heat I can’t even begin to describe begins to make its way through me.