Strain of Resistance (Book 1) (13 page)

BOOK: Strain of Resistance (Book 1)
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"You wanna talk? Or you wanna do this?"

He licks his lips, his eyes dropping down to my chest again. I can see the very obvious effect my nakedness is having on him.

"Talking is so fucking overrated," he whispers, as he slips his arm around my waist. He pulls me close crushing my naked chest to his hot flesh, and I can feel that pleasurable ache throbbing between my thighs.

My hands slide down his thick forearms, and my fingers gently brush across his abdomen. He jumps at my touch. His hands tangle in my hair, the evidence of his overwhelming need fueling my own sharp desire.

I fumble at his waist, untying his sweats and he deftly steps out of them. A low groan vibrates in his chest as his throbbing nakedness comes into contact with my bare stomach. He starts to move and I clutch at him needily, trying to steady myself as he steers me backward toward the rumpled bed.

Lowering me onto the mattress, he yanks at my denims with a frantic urgency. I lift my bottom to better accommodate. In one fell swoop the jeans and underwear come off and get tossed carelessly to the floor. He falls onto the bed, bracing himself above me. I raise my arms to twine around his neck but he catches my bandaged arm in his big hand, a look of concern overriding the desire.

"Your injuries..." he says, but I shake my head at him.

"It's fine, just a few stitches. Don't stop," I urge pleadingly. I don’t have to twist his arm.

Slowly, he lowers his head until his lips are back on mine. The kiss is long and hard, and in it I can feel how much he wants this. How much he wants me.

He breaks away, his lips switching to my neck now. Feathery kisses pepper my neck, my collarbone, causing goosebumps to erupt over my fevered skin. His tongue trails down the valley between my breasts and I can feel every nerve ending spark to life. He dips lower still. Tantalizing, butterfly soft kisses trail down my stomach, along my inner thighs and I squirm in anticipation. He finally nestles between my thighs and my body spasms from the slight flickering of his tongue. I want to scream from the exquisiteness of the sensations. Soft moans of pleasure escape my lips in little breaths and he responds in kind, like some primitive mating call. I close my eyes reveling in the ecstasy, my fists curling into the blankets.

Right before that moment though, just before the point of my no return, he stops. I cry in protest as my eyes pop open in utter disbelief. Lifting my head I stare down between my legs, fearing he must have keeled over from a heart attack, or a brain hemorrhage, or some sort of tongue atrophy. There can't possibly be any other reason for him to stop doing what he’s doing.

Luke stares back at me, fit as a fiddle. A huge jackass of a grin plastered across his face at knowing damn well he’s just left me hanging on that precipice. I am going to kill him.

"What the fuck?" I say in disbelief.

"What's the matter, Bix?" He mocks, with this totally fake, wide eyed innocence. "No fun being blue-balled is it?"

Ah, so that's what this is. Payback. Sonofabitch.

"Okay, you made your point. Now finish what you started," I threaten through gritted teeth.

"Ask me nicely," he says, running a finger teasingly up my thigh.

"Fuck you," I growl in response.

"You can...if you ask me nicely," he chuckles softly.

I have every intention of telling him where to go and what to do to himself once he got there. Emma Bixby doesn't beg for no one. But his wandering finger skims across the apex between my legs, and dips teasingly, causing me to arch my back like some damned cat.

"Please," I beg huskily, biting my lip to keep from moaning as he continues his ministrations. Figuring he's tortured me enough, he thankfully does as ordered. I ignore his annoying snicker of victory at my conceding. At this point in time, I really don't care who won this battle of wills. There’s only one goal on my mind right now.

He moves back up, hovering over me once again. His body molds mine, as his lips take possession of my mouth. The kiss is filled with an urgency neither of us can deny anymore. He enters me quickly meeting my frantic pace, my overwhelming need for him, thrust for thrust. And as we finally become one, I know at that exact moment there’s no other place I'd rather be right now than here in his arms.

***

"
Luke
?" I whisper in the dark, and his rumbled "Hmmm?" is more irritation than question. I ignore his annoyance.

"What do you think we’ll find tomorrow?"

His arm curls tighter around my waist, pulling me closer to his body still slick with sweat.

"Go to sleep, Bix," he murmurs against my back.

If only I could. But my mind refuses to shut down. Amy's words are still ringing in my ears. That, coupled with the knowledge of what we may face tomorrow, has all sorts of scenarios playing out in my head. Scenarios that do not end well.

"But what do you think we’ll find? Do you think those things have already hatched, or evolved, or whatever the hell it is they do, and have already moved on? Or do you think they’ll be lying in wait for us?"

He sighs loudly, the puff of air tickling the back of my neck.

"You're not going to let this go, are you?" He sighs again, answering his own question. "No, of course you're not. I really don't know, Bix. Doc Rogers seems to think they accelerated the change of the others. So hopefully we’ll find the rest all still in stasis, and we’ll take care of them no problem."

He throws his bare leg over mine and snuggles deeper into my back, conversation done.

"Yeah, maybe," I say, but my voice lacks conviction. I let him snuggle a few more minutes in silence.

"But what if they’ve become those hybrids already? What if we find a shitload of those things just waiting for us? What’ll we do? What’s the plan?"

"You're fucking kidding me, right?" he growls at me as he rolls over onto his back and stares up at the ceiling. "You do realize we have to be on the road in, hmmm, let’s see...three hours or so. And now...
now
you want to be a chatty Patty?"

"I think it's called a chatty Cathy..."

"I don't give a fuck what it's called! It's 2am, Bix. Go to sleep."

"I can't," I whisper brokenly, my heart jack-hammering in my chest. "Amy told me I was going to die and...I'm afraid."

In all the time I’ve known Luke, in all the time we’ve been sleeping together, I’ve never admitted to being afraid of anything. I've always kept this wall between us, blocking him from getting too close. I've always treated him with a cool arrogance; sometimes downright bitchiness. Admitting any kind of emotion, even fear would be opening me up to letting him in. And I’m in no way ready to let anyone that close again.

Maybe it's because I'm overtired. Maybe it's because I'm still in shock from the events of the past few days, but here I am fessing up to being afraid of a stupid dream. I’m about to open up a whole new can of worms here and I can't help myself. I think my confession shocks me just as much as it shocks him.

He pushes himself up on one elbow, nearly blinding me as he snaps on his bedside lamp. In the harsh glow of the lamp, I immediately regret my words and I try to roll out of bed. To run away. But he doesn't let me. Flipping me over onto my back he pins me, his thick arms planted firmly on either side.

"Oh no, you aren't going anywhere. Not after a statement like that. Amy told you that you’re going to die? Why would she say such a fucking crummy thing?"

I squirm and try to get away again, but he pins me tighter. His demanding eyes bore into mine.

"Talk to me, Bix. Why would she say that to you? Why would she even think it?"

"It was just a stupid dream, okay," I hiss. "Just a stupid freakin' dream. And I'm letting it get to me way too much." I try to laugh, but I'm horrified to hear it come out more like a sob. Oh great. Now I'm going to blubber like a baby in front of Luke as well? I bite my lip, trying to hold the craziness in.

His eyes soften, reflecting the glow of the lamp and making them look like they were lit from within. I never noticed before, but in this light, his eyes remind me of velvety, melted chocolate.

"A dream? Come on, Bix. When have you ever been scared of a dream?"

"I know, right? I know it sounds crazy. But she made it sound so real. She said Sam came to her in her dream and told her I couldn't go on this outing because...because I wouldn't come back. She has herself convinced it's true."

He chuckles softly. "Amy also has herself convinced Cookie is a wonderful and giving person, and we sure as hell know that’s a crock of buttered shit."

I snort wetly at his use of my words, but turn away from him. I'm scared he's going to see the tears forming in my eyes.

"Hey," he says gently, trying to turn my head back. I fight against the pressure, but his hand grips my chin firmly and twists my face to meet his.

"This outing is going to be no different from any other outing we've ever been on. We’ll do our job and come back, same as always. Nothing is going to happen to you, Emma Bixby, not as long as I’m around. I won't let it. And that's not a promise...that's a guarantee. Got it? So dream Sam can take his dire warning and go fuck himself."

Horrified, I can feel the tears starting to leak out of the corner of my eyes. I can't help it. That’s one of the nicest things anyone has said to me in a very long time. Impulsively I raise my lips to his. The kiss is gentle at first. A slow and lingering 'thank you'.  But it soon heats up, fueled by my heightened jumble of emotions. And as if Luke understands that this is the only way for me to express my feelings fully, he takes what he can get and round two begins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

Morning
comes way too soon. Whoever made this decision to be on the road at 5am should be shot. I’m not a happy camper as I watch the sun rise, bringing to light the metal wasteland below us.

The forty foot embankment we’re standing on overlooks the eastbound lanes leading out of the city. Wrecks and pileups litter the road as far as the eye can see. Burned out husks of cars and minivans and tractor trailers block the interstate for miles. What had once been a cornucopia of supplies, now simply an abandoned jungle of rusting metal.

The tractor trailers had been the first to be looted, anything of value already claimed. And the dead inhabitants of the wreckage long since rotted away. Mother Nature had tried to repossess the once intrusive asphalt and metal, covering the ruins in weeds and tall grasses. But still, the sight of the vehicle graveyard spooks me. A chilling reminder of an era that no longer exists.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this stretch of highway. We’ve salvaged here ourselves more than once. But today it has an ominous vibe about it. The cold shiver that passes over my body is not caused by the cool north breeze alone. It's helped along by the thought of traversing this breeding ground for disaster.

The city we know like the back of our hands. We've already pretty much explored and memorized every shortcut and alleyway and safety zone.
This
...this is whole new territory. This is outside our comfort zone. A wasteland of unknown space. Hiding spots for the enemies we know nothing about. This highway terrifies me almost as much as knowing what waits for us on the other end.

My companions don't instill much fucking confidence either. It’s bad enough Cal and Badger are missing. Cal's broken ankle and Badger's messed up head made it impossible for them to go with us, as much as they wanted to. So we have new additions-ones I don't like at all. Kingsley and Kelly are alright, but having Wentworth with us makes me uneasy. Ever since the way he reacted to me at St. Joseph's, I don't trust him. He and Dom suddenly seem to be thick as thieves, and that worries me...a lot.

Add to that, the fact that we also have the little blonde doctor in tow. What did she call herself again? Jenny Lynn or Jessie Lee. Something stripper-ish like that. I call her a liability. I don't care that she’s a doctor, or that she was part of the extraction team that helped bring the 'infected' back to St. Joseph's, or that she can guide us straight to the warehouse. I think having her with us is just asking for trouble. I was surprised as hell when she insisted on going with us. Even more surprised when Cooper agreed.

I watch her now, standing in Luke's shadow as he surveys the highway below us. She barely comes to his chest, such a petite little woman. Older than what I had at first thought. I mean, she would have to be. Apparently she’d been a resident when the world went to shit eight years ago, so that has to put her in her early thirties, at least. But still, so damn cute. Ugh. I've always hated tiny women. At my height they always made me feel so gangly and awkward. I suddenly want to rip every shiny hair out of her perfectly formed ponytail and shove it right up her cute little, button nose.

Christ. What is wrong with me today? Why am I in such a mood? I'm sure the lack of sleep last night isn't helping. Although Luke didn't get any more sleep than I did, and he doesn't seem to be the crankass I am. Maybe I can lay blame to the injury on my shoulder blade. It's itching and burning like crazy this morning. As much as I told Luke last night there was nothing to worry about, I think I busted a couple of stitches during our first romp. Or maybe it had been during the second. Not that it hadn't been well worth it, but perhaps I shouldn't have been so...physical. Too late to cry over spilled milk now and all that shit. I’m just going to have to suck it up. There’s no way I am asking the 'doctor' to look at it.

I shift the M16 hanging on my back so that it rests against the backpack more than the injury. It doesn't feel right carrying the weapon, but after witnessing the 'queen leeches' in action I know knives alone are useless. If we come across any more of those bastards my plan is to blow their damned heads off, plain and simple. Taylor's decapitation still burns in my memory and there’s no way in hell I’m going to let those things get close enough to let that happen. As much as shooting a gun made me become that terrified little girl cowering in the corner waiting for her monster dad to rip her apart, it was preferable to losing my own head. Push comes to shove; I will use the damn thing. I'm not
that
crazy.

"Okay. All clear." Luke's comment elicits a groan of relief. This is the part of any run that I hated the most. The waiting. I know it’s a necessary precaution, but I’m anxious to get on the move. At least it will take my mind off of my discomfort.

"So you're positive this is the right way, Jessica?" Luke questions the tiny blonde, and she nods firmly.

"One hundred percent. I recognize that Mr. Christy truck. We took shelter in it from a wicked thunder storm. I'm not sure how far we traveled this highway, but I’ll know the turnoff when I see it. It was quite a walk, I remember that much. Sorry, I'm not much good with directions."

I snort loud enough that she hears me. Luke too, I take it, since the scowl he sends my way tells me I'm not helping. I give him my most innocent "What?" look back in return.

He chooses to ignore me. Instead, he addresses the group.

"We'll travel along the median. That's our safest bet. The tall grass and trees lining the highway are too risky. Leeches, ravagers, anything could be hidden in there and we wouldn't see it until too late. We stick close to the median, that way we'll have plenty of warning if anything tries to sneak up on us. Bix and I will take point-Jess you stick with us. Kelly and Dom left flank. Wentworth and Gordon right flank. Kingsley and Mike will bring up the rear. If Jessica's info is correct, we should reach our destination before nightfall. Get ready to move double time. We don't want to be stuck on this highway in the dark. Any questions?"

There aren't. Simple enough plan and we all know what we have to do. Get to the warehouse without becoming leech fodder and blow those hybrid bastards to hell. How hard can it be? Like Luke said, hopefully we can get there before nightfall.

Getting down the embankment is the hardest part. It had rained the night before and the saturated ground is slippery as hell, leaving us on our asses more so than our feet. Once we hit the highway however, it gets easier. The foliage that had grown up along the median isn't as deep and thick as expected. Pretty easy going actually and we soon find ourselves falling into a quick pace.

The first few hours go by in complete silence. Other than a few barked commands from Luke, we keep our eyes and ears peeled for the slightest sound or movement. Knowing those hybrids may very well be out there has put us all on edge. But eventually the monotony of the walk and the endless sea of wrecked vehicles have us feeling if not quite relaxed, then at least a little talkative. The blonde doc had first stuck to us like glue, but has now fallen back some and I can hear her faint comments and slight giggles as Dom and Wentworth flirt with her, vying shamelessly for the attention of the new chick on the block.

My backpack shifts slightly causing the gun to bump against the bandage on my back and I grimace at the sharp jab of pain. Luke, attentive as always, notices my discomfort.

"You okay?"

I nod. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just got a too little rambunctious last night is all."

He grins but plays dumb, pretending to have no idea what I’m referring to.

"Oh? What were you up to last night?"

I chuckle softly. Two can play at this game. "Not much. Went downtown, had a few drinks, picked up some random dude in a bar. Had a one night stand."

"Really. Sounds like you had a fun night."

"Meh, it was alright. Guy was a bit of a tease, but he had some decent moves."

He glances at me sideways. "Just decent?"

"Yeah, decent. I mean he wasn't bad and all, but I think he was a bit of a novice. I don't think he's had too much experience. Maybe he needs a bit more practice when it comes to pleasing members of the opposite sex, since I don't think the use of one's right hand counts as experience."

His laughter emanates from deep in his chest. "You are such a bitch sometimes. I didn't hear any complaints from you last night while I was curling your toes."

I respond with a very unladylike snort at his choice of words. "Really? Curling my toes? Did you pick that out of some fucking Harlequin romance novel? You crack me up, Luke Whitman."

"Ohhhh, I crack you up
and
curl your toes. Am I starting to see a hairline fracture in that hard exterior of yours, Emma Bixby?"

"You're gonna see my knuckle right between the eyes if you ever call me Emma again." I scowl at him threateningly. "You know I hate that name. Makes me feel like I'm five years old again for Christ's sake."

"And here we go with the threats again." He sighs dramatically. "You know, I would offer to curl your toes more often if you were nicer to me."

I snort a little louder at the look of bullshit innocence on his face. "Thanks for such a generous offer. I'll keep that in mind the next time my toes need 'curling'. Good of you to put yourself out there like that."

He shrugs at me. "Hey, what can I say? I'm a nice guy."

"And you know what they say about nice guys?"

"Yeah, they finish last. I proved that last night, didn't I? That's my code of honor; ladies first." He wiggles his eyebrows at me leeringly, and I can't help the cackle that rips out of me. Sometimes I tend to forget how funny Luke can be. It feels good to laugh. He joins in, our quiet laughter a soothing balm to our raw nerves.

Eventually the laughter fades away, and we walk in silence a bit more. Last night's events are swirling about in my brain, and I feel a little embarrassment at having shown Luke that emotional side of me. Sam had been the only man to have ever earned my trust enough to see that. Having shown it to Luke feels like a betrayal somehow, on my part. Betrayal mixed weirdly with gratitude.

"Luke."

He looks up at my quiet use of his name.

I glance around; making sure no one is paying attention. "About last night..."

He shakes his head at me. "Don't say it, Bix."

I stare at him in puzzlement.

"I know what you’re about to say. You’re about to say it was a mistake and that it shouldn't have happened. Last night was a milestone as far as I’m concerned. I saw a side of you I’ve never seen before. A vulnerable side and I'm flattered you chose to share it with me. So don't you dare say you regret it, because I sure as hell don't. Why do you think you have to be this tough, unfeeling bitch all the time?"

"Luke," I try to interrupt, but he cuts me off.

"No, let me finish. It's only human to be scared. And it's only human to want companionship. To have someone tell you everything is going to be okay. You don't have to go about this alone all the time, Bix. It was damn nice to see you letting those walls down and letting me in. So no, last night was not a mistake and I don't want to hear you say otherwise."

"You done?" I ask, when he finally pauses for breath.

"For now," he snaps.

"Good," I say, the laughter evident in my voice. "Because all I wanted to say about last night is 'Thank you'. Even though your opinion of me is less than flattering. Tough, unfeeling bitch, huh?" The look of consternation on his face is priceless.

"Always such a drama queen," I cluck at him as I walk ahead, chuckling to myself.

***

All
that's left of the sun is a red fireball in the evening sky, by the time Blondie pipes up.

"This is it. This is the turnoff to the warehouse."

Sighing gratefully as we pull to a stop, I drop the backpack and rub my aching shoulder. The off ramp she gestures to is blocked with vehicles and trucks, just like every other one we had passed these past few hours. And looks just the same.

"You sure?" I question, squinting down the road that leads through what was once a sturdy chain link fence. Now the fence is barely recognizable through the foliage of vines and flora that grow over it. She nods at my question.

"Yes, I recognize the sign."

She points to a sun faded billboard, half of it broken off. The remaining piece has the barely legible words, ...
Gateway Industries
. No wonder their hunters had been out this way. Gateway Industries had been a national medical supply chain, pre-invasion. A virtual smorgasbord of supplies could be found here. Unfortunately, those warehouses of supplies also came along with warehouses full of workers. Workers that were now leeches. And trust me, being caught in a building full of leeches that haven't feed in a while and having nowhere to run, is something you want to avoid at all costs.

"A fucking leech nest," I mutter to Luke, but Blondie overhears.

"It's just two warehouses. Our group had the first one cleared before they even noticed the activity going on with the second building. That's when they discovered the...people."

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