Authors: Rachel Higginson
Tags: #paranormal romance, #zombies, #action and adventure, #undead, #dystopian, #new adult romance, #novella series, #apocalyptic suspense, #serial romance
Love and Decay
A Novella series
[email protected] Rachel Higginson 2015
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Other books by Rachel Higginson currently
Love and Decay
Love and Decay, Season One, Episodes
Love and Decay, Season Two, Episodes
Love and Decay, Season Three, Episodes
Love and Decay, Season Four, Coming December,
The Star-Crossed Series
The Reluctant King
The Relentless Warrior
The Redeemable Prince
The Starbright Series
Heir of Skies
Heir of Darkness
Heir of Secrets
The Siren Series
Bet on Us
The Five Stages of Falling in Love
Every Wrong Reason
To the Readers,
I hope you all have your own Parker.
1076 Days after initial infection
Question: How does one survive the night when
one’s worst nightmare has come true?
Answer: By imagining how to kill said
nightmare over and over and over.
Matthias Allen paced in front of my cell like
was the caged prisoner and I was the one announcing the
death sentence. His face cringed with fury, his dark eyes
glittering black in his raged out state. He looked more insane than
And all of that fury, or most of it, was
directed at me.
It was odd to have someone hate me this much.
I had never been the recipient of this many negative feelings.
Not that I didn’t deserve Matthias’s bad
mojo, it was just bizarre.
Before the Zombie Apocalypse, in those
carefree days that seemed more and more ridiculous compared to my
new reality, everyone liked me. I had been a likeable person.
I didn’t enjoy conflict, so I didn’t cause
big scenes or drama with my friends. I didn’t even stand up to
Quarterback Chris when he acted like a total douche. I just went
with the flow, happy to have a ripple-free life.
But now my entire existence rippled. No, not
rippled. That was too tame of a word. I rocked. And crashed. And
wrecked every single thing I touched.
I was an ocean in the midst of a perfect
storm. My waves crashed with deadly ferocity, pulling everything
around me under before tossing them to the surface again.
I was an earthquake. The earth trembled
beneath my feet. The ground opened up where I stepped and
threatened to swallow whole everything I held dear.
I was a volcano. I was a tsunami.
I was a tornado that razed everything in my
path, destroying everything in my wake.
And that destruction had come to Matthias and
annihilated his carefully controlled life. No matter how often I
justified my actions or accepted Kane’s sacrifice, I took
everything that Matthias loved.
And killed it.
Yes, he was an evil dictator bent on
controlling everything and every person he could get his hands on.
Yes, he was a sadistic lunatic that would strangle the life out of
me at his first chance.
Yes, he planned to torture me until I
screamed my submission and paid for my sins.
But he was also a man that had been upended
by the force of me. While I didn’t exactly feel repentant for my
actions, I did have to adjust to this new version of me.
I wasn’t Reagan Catherine Willow, good
daughter, good friend, good girlfriend, good-ish student. I didn’t
have a promising future laid out before me. I didn’t float
mindlessly through the day, believing everything would be wonderful
because I was happy and nothing could take away that happiness. I
didn’t have good chances for survival.
I was now, Reagan Catherine Willow, Zombie
hunter, dismantler of evil regimes and savior to freedom. I was a
rebel. I was a zealot. I was a fighter that would never give
I made enemies wherever I went. More people
hated me than liked me.
I could die today or in fifty years, but I
would not die a shallow, fickle child that stood for nothing and
fell for everything.
I would die a woman. A woman with convictions
and principals. I knew what I believed, without doubts and without
fear. I knew the difference between good and evil and that
sometimes they bled together, but there was always
knew I had a purpose. I knew I would always need a purpose.
And I knew what it was like to care more
about other lives than my own.
The Zombie Apocalypse had changed me in a lot
of ways. But not all of those changes were bad.
They were just bad enough to smudge the edges
of my moral compass. But I still believed in freedom. In justice. I
still stood for liberty. I still held convictions that defined who
I was and who I would always be.
I just had enough life experience to make
murder a gray area.
Because I sure as hell wasn’t going to let
quality of life
get in the way of ending Matthias
Hendrix’s strong hand wrapped around mine and
squeezed. I dropped my head to his shoulder, feeling the heavy
exhaustion from too many sleepless nights.
“We’re going to get out of here, Reagan,” he
whispered into my dirty hair. His lips brushed the top of my head
and I closed my eyes against the intensity of his sweetness. “I
“I believe you,” I whispered back. I believed
him because I couldn’t face not believing him. “We’re going to get
out of here, but not before I wring every last drop of blood from
his lifeless body.” I purposefully raised my voice so everyone
could hear my threat.
Matthias’s big head swung my direction, the
expression that he wore promised a world of pain. “If only y’all
could put your money where your mouth is.”
“Let me out and I’ll do my best,” I returned
with a smile. Hendrix’s hand squeezed tight. He hated how I
antagonized Matthias. He’d much rather I waited until the right
opportunity and then let my gun do my talking for me.
If only I had that self-control.
A slow smile spread across Matthias’s face.
“Haven’t we done this before? Your best just is not good enough.”
He rubbed at his side, arrogance and victory blasting off him.
I had tried to kill him before and didn’t
succeed. Although I did wound him. That had to count for something,
right? It wasn’t exactly a bull’s eye, but I hit the outer
Fifty Points to me.
The door opened and one of his men rushed
inside. The dusty wind chased him in, whistling through the narrow
crack to the outside. Something that looked like ash drifted over
his head and I sniffed the air, wondering what it could be.
The man stomped his feet and shook out his
head the moment the door was closed. He brought the stench of
rotting Zombies and embers with him.
“It’s nasty out there,” he growled, spitting
dirt with each word. “I didn’t know they had weather like this down
here. You can barely see the hand in front of your face ‘cuz of all
the dirt and the wind’s blowing so hard it ‘bout knocked me
“You scared of a little dust?” Matthias
taunted. The rest of the men snickered. “We’ve got bigger problems
to worry about than the forecast.”
The man took a step back and turned to the
side. “It makes hunting down children difficult, is all I’m
sayin’.” He shook his head again. “And the fire is picking up. The
boys are having trouble keeping it contained.”
Matthias cursed under his breath before
grabbing two of his men by the backs of their collars and shoving
them toward the door. “If you want to get anything done right, you
have to do it yourself. Let’s go.” They pushed through the door,
into conditions that looked, from my vantage point, more dangerous
than a little bit of dust, and disappeared into the shocking
darkness of early afternoon. The usually glaring sun was blotted
out by churning clouds that flashed the whitest lightning.
The Mexican man that had stayed with Diego,
who had told us his name was Javi, started laughing animatedly and
pointing toward the door. His eyebrows pushed into his hairline
while he spoke rapid Spanish. I had no idea what he said, but I
guessed he didn’t see weather like this very often. He laughed
under his breath and rubbed his rough, dirty hands over his scruffy
I looked at Hendrix and raised my eyebrows.
“Do you think your brothers got out okay?” I whispered, hoping
nobody else would hear me.
“They did.” I read his lips because his voice
hadn’t made enough sound. “They’ll know how to stay alive.”
I hoped the same was true for us.
I looked around at the rest of our cell.
Vaughan and Tyler sat huddled together, their arms wrapped around
each other. Tyler looked more relaxed than usual, even though we
were locked up and her father had promised to kill us.
I hadn’t noticed the turmoil in her
expression or rigidness in her manner until it disappeared. It was
something she had always carried with her, an impenetrable armor
that had protected her wounded heart. But today that armor had been
stripped away and replaced with something that looked a lot like
I could relate. I dealt with the same prickly
exterior until a few days ago when Hendrix and I worked things out.
Now the stone and mortar I’d used to erect walls around my heart
and soul had crumbled to nothing but ash. It didn’t imprison me or
keep me out of reach. I was wide open to Hendrix and everything our
relationship brought with it. Even if that was scary. Even if I had
never felt more vulnerable.
I had a love that surpassed this world and
made everything in this world worth it. I had the love of a man I
did not deserve and the hope of an unshakable future that could be
something like greatness if we both survived long enough to get
And that made me strong. And brave.
That made me the opposite of fragile.
Now I could hate Matthias and wish him the
worst kind of death, but still know who I was as a person, still
know that at my center goodness remained… loyalty, love and hope
I was happy for Tyler. And I was even happier
that in the pits of hell, both of us had found our way. We were not
Diego shifted abruptly in his sleep and the
pain of the movement jerked him awake. He sucked in a gasping
breath, like it was the first he’d ever taken, but it quickly
turned into violent coughing. I winced for him because I knew that
had to hurt like a
son of a bitch
His eyes scrunched shut and he started to
make the ugliest wincing sounds. Javi dropped to a squat and tried
to adjust him so the pain would ebb. It didn’t for a long time.
Finally, when he was conscious but still, his
head swung to the side and he absorbed where he was and who was
with him. Whispered Spanish obscenities fell from his cracked lips
before he blinked me into focus.
“Reagan,” he wheezed with his horrible
“This can’t be a good thing,” he remarked
dryly. His hands were curled against his stomach as if he needed
them to hold his insides in. When he spoke he tried to lift one
hand to gesture at his body, but only his fingers managed to
“This is not a good thing,” I confirmed.
“Matthias killed most of your men and your entire Zombie horde.
Then he took over your village. We’re waiting for him to pack us up
and drag us back to America.” I thought about that for a second and
added, “I think I mean that literally.”