Copyright 2014 by Katelin LaMontagne
Copyright 2014 by Katelin LaMontagne
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Katelin LaMontagne. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. Cover design by Katelin LaMontagne. First Edition January 2014.
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following word marks mentioned in this work of fiction: 3OH3!, 50 Cent, A Christmas Carol, Adele, Adidas, Aerosmith, Afroman, American Pie, Animal Planet, B2K, Barbie, Batman, Beatles, Beastie Boys, Beenie Man, Betty Crocker, Billy Idol, Billy Joel, Blacksheep, BMW, Bob Marley, Bonecrusher, Boston Red Sox, Brandi Carlisle, Britney Spears, Burger King, Cali Swag District, Call of Duty, Campbell’s, Candy Crush, Carhartt, Cassidy, CCR, Cheerios, Chewbacca, Chia Pet, Children of the Corn, Christmas Story, Different Strokes, Disturbed, Don Mclean, Dora the Explorer, The Drifters, Dumb and Dumber, Dunkin’ Donuts, Dyson, Edith Piaf, Elvis Presley, Eminem, Evanescence, The Exorcist, Ferrari, Five Finger Death Punch, Florence + the Machine, Food Network, Ford, Freddy Fender, Freddy Krueger, GI Joe, Godsmack, Godzilla, Google, Goonies, Green Day, Green Mile, Gucci, Hangover, Han Solo, Hollywood Undead, Home Alone, Home and Garden, Hostess, Hunchback of Notre Dame, IPod,
Jägermeister, Jack Daniels,
Jaguar, Jenga, Jerry Springer, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Johnny Cash, Johnny Walker,
José Cuervo, June Carter,
King Kong, Kit-Kat, Kleenex, Kool-Aid, Lady Gaga, Led Zeppelin, LG, Lil Jon, Lion King, LMFAO, Looney Tunes, Lord of the Rings, Louis Vuitton, Ludacris, Luke Bryan, Lysol, Mac n’ Cheese, Mafia Wars, Matchbox 20, Maury, Mercedes, Metal Gear, Modern Warfare, Mommie Dearest, Moulin Rouge, National Lampoon’s Vacation, New York Yankees, Nightmare Before Christmas, Nightmare on Elm Street, Nirvana, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Oscar de la Renta, Otis Redding, Otter Box, Papa Roach, Percy Sledge, Pirates of the Caribbean, Poison, Prada, Princess and the Pea, Psycho, Puddle of Mudd, Queen, R. Kelly, Radiohead, Rambo, Ren and Stimpy, Resident Evil, Rihanna, Rolling Stones, Romeo and Juliet, Rosetta Stone, Saliva, Scooby Doo, Sean Paul, Sephora, Sesame Street, Shakespeare, The Shining, Sherlock Holmes, SpongeBob, Standells, Star Wars, Stephen King, Superman, System of a Down, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Temptations, Terminator, Theory of a Deadman, Tomb Raider, Toyota, Training Day, Transformers, Tupperware, Under Armor, U2, Victoria Secret, Waterboy, Wedding Crashers, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Wilsons Leather, Xbox,
I cringe at the sound of the bullet bursting from the chamber, causing it to veer off course, for the fourth time in as many minutes. Goddamn it all. I’m contemplating hurling the gun from the witch’s walk we call a roof, but a quick reminder that training is now a necessity for survival; immediately cools my temper. Even if that cool down is as slight a drop as going from a burning inferno, to a small blaze. My ears are still slightly ringing as I cock the hammer and reset my stance.
“Shoulders relaxed, arms extended, lock your elbows,” I repeat Travis’s words out loud as I prepare to do the steps again. “Feet shoulder length apart, stare down your target, deep breath in, and squeeze the trigger on the exhale.”
You’d think that four months of relentless gun training with Travis; a gun enthusiast with a license for the last six of his twenty years, would see some improvement in my aim, right? Wrong, I completely suck even with Travis’s older brother Cory, who’s an Iraq War veteran to boot, to aid in my guidance.
Shaking off some of the negative energy, I line up my sight with the target, take a deep breath and steel myself for the loud bang that comes with the release. Exhaling slowly, I’m just about to squeeze the trigger, when I feel two strong arms wrap like bands of steel around my waist and a chin rest on top of my head.
Immediately removing my finger from the trigger, I lean back against Travis’s broad chest. The familiarity and emotion that arises with such an embrace warms me in a way that even the humidity of the New England heat wave can’t. His warm breath tickles the sticky black hair away from my sweating neck.
“You tensed,” he accuses. “It’s causing your aim to be thrown off.”
“Damn it, Travis!” I exclaim without much heat. I slide the safety into place, as Travis obsessively taught me to do, before I lower the gun and abandon my attempt at what little’s left of a proper stance. “I could have shot you.” Even though I can’t hear his chuckle, I feel it in the barely repressed rumble against my back. “Okay, I could have shot in the vicinity of you. Or, I could have finally had a stroke of luck and nicked you.”
Now he doesn’t even try to suppress his full out belly laugh. Hearing it after a four month hiatus, I feel happiness surge all the way down to my toes, even if it happens to be at my expense. I don’t mind because it’s true that I happen to be one, if not the
, of the few remaining shooters that our world’s end has yet to see. And I’m not so prideful that I can’t acknowledge my own shortcomings.
That’s especially the case when I’m looking at the physical evidence of my obvious failure sitting ten feet in front of me. Nothing screams,
more clearly than a target with no holes in it, while being surrounded by a pile of empty clips. Give me a knife and I can nail a running wheezer from twenty feet, thanks to Knife Master Cory’s instruction. But if I’m equipped with a gun, then I may as well roll over, expose my belly and ring the dinner bell.
“No need to be cruel,” I continue with a small smile gracing my lips, due entirely to Travis’s levity surfacing. It can be described as sporadic at best since the outbreak of the infection. That’s just one more thing to add to the long list that the wheezers have stolen from us. “On the bright side, no one besides you and Cory know that I couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with both eyes open, the sun shining on a windless day, and me standing three feet away from it.”
“Even if I you happened to be equipped with a bazooka,” he huffs with a teasing smile pulling at the corner of his mouth.
“Oh, yeah?” I challenge as I set the gun down on the table.
“Yeah,” he quips nonchalantly. Spinning quickly to catch him off guard, my fingers graze his stomach and he tenses.
“Are you sure you want to take that wager, Travie?” I ask him in a lowered tone, pleased to see his Adam’s apple bounce when I trace a circle around his navel.
Enjoying the darkening of his cerulean eyes, seeing them swim with anticipation of what’s to come next, I instead blindside him with a cheap shot. A quick adjustment in my fingers turns me from seductress to tease, as my fingers slide to the right instead of down like he’s expecting, in order to squeeze the ticklish spot located right below his ribs. An all-out war ensues with Travis dodging and utilizing his longer reach to his advantage, while I use stealth and speed to evade. Its several minutes later, that I have Travis begging for mercy, and we stop to catch our breath.
Once our laughter subsides, I stretch my neck to look up to his towering 6’3” height to my measly 5’2” and ask, “Aren’t you the one that keeps saying that practice makes perfect, Mr. Sharpshooter?”
“That would be me,” he agrees.
With that, the last bit of mirth leaks from his eyes to be replaced with my new hardened version of fiancé. Slight disappointment wells up, but I beat that whiny bitch back down into submission with a baseball bat. In this new world, our ability to stay alive depends completely upon taking training seriously. It could make all the difference in a situation where the only outcomes are on opposite extremes like life or death. He must have seen the last sliver of my deflating mood, because his face softens a bit.
“But I didn’t say to run yourself ragged,” Travis continues.
I feel his strong, calloused hands encircle my arms and work their way to kneading my shoulders. I’m mentally switching out my wooden bat for an aluminum one to beat away the final traces of weakness and shove them into a closet, when Travis pulls me close and whispers in my ear.
“Livi, don’t you think you’ve practiced enough shots today?” His whispered words make me fight a full body shiver, still a losing battle even after four years together. “You’re doing great,” I’m not but I’m not about to correct him. “And your arms must be tired by now.”
Now that he mentioned it, I notice that my arms are starting to burn. With the combined forces of the gun’s heavy weight, fighting the force of the recoil for several clips of practice ammo, and a tickle fight for a finale, I’m beat and ready to call it a day on training. But not before I try just one more time.
“Since I’m a gambling woman, how about we make a wager?” I pause and Travis nods his assent before I continue. “If I miss the target with the last bullet in this clip, since you so rudely interrupted my very serious training, mind you.”
At this point, he does the picture of innocence look like a frickin’ pro. You know the one I’m talking about, the
look? Yeah, well how fair is it when I have to contend with beautiful baby blues that widen to the size of saucers, which only complement his dark blonde hair, and the addition of the small pout of his full lower lip to finish it off. Suffice to say, Puss in Boots has a strong contender for most adorable faces used to get their way. Though I’m extremely tempted to give in, I push through to name the terms of the wager.
“As I was saying,” I continue with a single brow lift to show that I’m not falling for the look. He lifts one right back with a cocky grin showcasing his straight white teeth, because he knows I’m full of shit, and I am, but I won’t tell him that. Oh no, this boy owns me enough as it is, and he relishes it. I’m good with it, since I own his ass just as much and he knows that, so I call it even. Rolling my eyes to support my bluff, I finish presenting my bet.
“If I miss the target, we go in now and I cook dinner tonight.”
Already I see the spark in his eye that says he’s won and I’d swear on a bible that I see him wipe a bit of drool. But you can’t blame the poor guy when he can’t cook to save his life. I mean, who manages to burn mac n’ cheese
every single time
they make it? I, on the other hand, was a decent cook prior to the infestation of wheezers. That talent comes in handy when there are only canned goods and the occasional fresh meat for ingredients. Therefore I kick ass in the kitchen. I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, but toot mother flipping toot. As Travis likes to say, I’m
‘The Gourmet Goddess.’
“But if I hit the target,” I press on. “You have to cook.”
“Deal,” Travis quickly agrees to the terms.
Obviously he’s thinking he has this game in the bag, and let’s face it, he most likely does. Queuing up the theme song of Looney Tunes in my head, in the words of Porky Pig’s,
‘Tha- that’s all folks!’
I reclaim my place at the table and pick up the gun before readying up my position to shoot. I’m about the fire it off when I feel Travis’s hands adjust my shoulders and stance. Tapping my feet until they’re shoulder length apart and adjusting the heels of both my hands on the grip to have the proper finger placement, he steps back to give me some room. I take a deep breath and slowly squeeze the trigger on the exhale.
The sound that usually has me cringing, doesn’t even register when I see the target; an apple from the tree next door, explode in a burst of seeds and red skin. Spinning around with a quick victory dance and a huge smile of triumph, my face freezes, when I catch Travis struggling to stuff his gun back into his holster with a guilty look. I feel like I’m the blonde one here and do a dunce slap to the forehead after I realize that my hands aren’t even tingling with the sensation of the recoil, on account of there not being one.