Hadean 2: Survivor Road, Chapter 7

KoboChapter 7

Ellen braced her body against the bathroom door. The banging had disappeared leaving behind an eerie silence. The crazies always attacked in silence. Palms flat against the cream colored panels, she struggled to drag air into her lungs. Protecting her family was her responsibility, and right now her sister, Rosa, was out there. Facing God knows what.

With Drew.

She sieved air through her teeth.

And she could have told them, instead of hiding in here. Doh! She’d completely forgotten the security system. She needed to get to it. Needed to see what they were up against. Which meant leaving her children and cousin. Black and white tiles striped the floor and halfway up the walls. The bar design echoed in the towels and the open shower curtain. Adrenalin jump-started her heart. If the threat got past Drew and the others, she and the rest of her family would be trapped.

Killing them would be easy in such a confined space.

Her children, Erin and Rafe, climbed into the tub, lying flat in hopes the cast iron would protect them from flying bullets. Cheyenne perched on the toilet and drew her knees up against her chest. Colton set an oversized hand on her shoulder. The much bruised Jason checked the double latches of the dual pane, frosted glass windows.

Raine used a hair clip to hold back her bleached hair then opened the built-in medicine cabinet. Six cans of hair spray lined the bottom shelf. She removed all the cans then opened the right hand drawer and removed three orange lighters.

Jason turned from the window. “Nice.” He picked up one of the cans. “Homemade blow torches.”

Cheyenne shuddered but accepted the can when it was handed to her.

Crouching next to her, Colton whispered in Cheyenne’s ear.

Ellen’s gut clenched. What was wrong with her? Being jealous because a child was comforted when there was no one to tell her it would be all right? But there was someone. Someone who was risking his life for her. For her children. She shook out her hands. Agitation twitched through her and she scraped a hand down her face.

It was time for her to step up, to be the older sister her parents depended upon her.

The mother the situation demanded.

The kind of leader her family needed her to be.

Shaky hands fumbled in her pockets. Her fingertips brushed a warm cylinder. The bear spray. She tugged the canister free. “I need to go.”

“Mommy?” Six-year old Erin gripped the edge of the tub. Her knuckles flashed white.

The division of loyalties tugged at Ellen. Yet, if she was the one thing that stood between her children and death, how could she stay?  Leaning down, she kissed the top of her daughter’s head. Raine and her friends would look after the children. “I’ll be right back. Be good for your aunt.”

Then, Ellen tossled her son’s hair.

She had to think all would be well. She had to believe it.

But she had to make it so.

Steeling herself, she straightened. This was her home. She opened the bathroom door and slipped through.

The hallway stretched toward infinity. Fan blades of light cut shadows in the darkness. Human-shaped silhouettes stretched along the saltillo tiles of the great room. Down the funnel lined with doors, she eyed the entrance into the garage.

Closed.

So why did she only count three shapes? Three people to stand against God knows how many invaders. She tightened her grasp on the can of bear spray. A poor defense if the invaders have guns. Once the Zindells arrived they’d bring more weapons.

Better weapons.

She knew her father had stashed more than just sporting equipment in the locked cabinet in the garage. She hoped he’d bought the Kevlar vests and guns, she’d asked him to purchase.

She hoped for courage to finish the walk down the hall.

Taking a deep breath, she stumbled toward the great room. Her legs were wooden pegs; her feet blocks of ice. In her ears, her heart thrummed to a fast beat.

Ellen turned the corner.

Rosa stood on the counter, frying pan in hand. Marcus brandished a knife, looking more likely to cut himself than the enemy. A dark shadow emerged from the gray light outside.

Pistol in hand, Drew approached the door.

When he jerked open the blinds, his brother stood on the other side.

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Friday Funny—Lost Churches

The lost churches of New York and New Jersey..

When devastating hurricanes struck the east coast, even houses of worship were not spared.

A local television station interviewed a woman from New York’s Harlem area and

asked how the loss of churches in the area had affected their lives.

Without hesitation, the woman replied, “I don’t know ’bout all them

other peoples, but we ain’t been to Church’s in years. We gets our chicken from Popeye’s.”

The look on the interviewer’s face was priceless.

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New Release: Hadean 2: Survivor Road

It’s here! And only 99cents until the end of the month, so hurry and pick up your copy!

KoboInsanity is tearing America apart.

Mobs of crazies own the streets and club anyone who provokes their wrath.

Government officials are dead or are being hunted to extinction.

The National Guard is killing everyone in sight

The Air Force is bombing anything that moves.

Is this the legacy of genetic tampering or a terrorist attack with weaponize rabies?

As madness consumes the Vally of the Sun, a group of family and friends will run the gauntlet to escape the city.

They will depend on each other for safety and comfort.

They will trust in each other’s sanity.

Unaware their worst enemy is already among them, waiting to strike.

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Hadean 2: Survivor Road, Chapter 6, coming tomorrow

KoboChapter 6

Drew palmed his gun and aimed the business end at the vertical blinds covering the sliding doors to the backyard. So much for the golden plan to shelter in place. They’d been here less than an hour and already invaders wanted in the house. He wished that thin plate of glass was bulletproof. Then again, shit ran downstream and he always stood in a gully. He thumbed off the safety. “Marcus, if you don’t feel up to killing something, give the gun to Rosa.”

She already had one kill under her belt.

What was one more face to add to the night terrors? They would both find out tonight. His body count was up to five, might as well make it an even half-dozen. Drew steadied the gun.

“Um…” Marcus cleared his throat. “I left the gun in the bathroom when I showered.”

A fist banged on the glass, rattling it. “Open the fucking door.”

Drew’s eyes twitched. “Smooth move, Einstein.”

With a brain that big, he’d thought there’d be room for common sense. Guess, he was wrong. At least, Einstein wasn’t holding a gun. The golden plan called for sports equipment to be turned into deadly weapons. He glanced over his shoulder.

Everyone at the table played at statues.

Drew swore under his breath. “What are you? Amateurs on opening night?  Shake a leg before someone breaks it.”

Ellen blinked. “Kids. Bathroom. Now.”

She set a hand on her daughter’s shoulder, steering her, then her brother behind the gaggle of teenagers heading down the hall.

Good. She would have access to the gun. If the invaders got past Drew, she might be able to finish off the rest of them.

The older couple headed for the garage. Drew hoped they had deadly sporting equipment on their shopping list.

“Geez, diva much.” Standing by the kitchen island, Rosa pulled a large knife from the block and handed it to Marcus. She rose on tiptoe and pulled a large cast-iron skillet from the rack overhead.

Drew cocked an eyebrow. “You planning to cook ’em an omelet, science chick?”

She tossed her head, brown hair slapping her shoulders. “It worked for Disney.”

“And so did all the furry forest creatures, Cinder-scientist. That don’t make it real.” So much for the family being immune to the crazy. Drew crept closer to the blinds. If he were smart, he’d pull back the blinds and shoot through the glass door to the invader on the other side.

But then he’d have to repair a door, and a trip to the local HoDee’s just wasn’t on his list of stupid-ass things to do.

He adjusted his hold on the gun. “Ready?”

Rosa scrambled onto the granite counter near the door and raised her skillet above her head. “Ready.”

Marcus cut the air with his knife, then hunched down like a defensive lineman preparing to tackle. “Ready.”

Definitely amateur night. Still, it was better than facing a jacked-up dealer in a dark alley. Drew yanked on the cord to the vertical blinds. The top of the white slats jerked to the left while the bottom fishtailed to the right.

A large black man filled the view. Blood marred his bald scalp. Raw skin dotted his cheek.

Drew’s ribs bound his lungs in a tight cage. Holy shit! Were hallucinations part of the crazy?

“Open the fucking door, Whiteangel, so I can kick your ass.”

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The Last Cab Ride

Please take a moment to appreciate those in your life, and be kind to someone, a stranger may be the only person they have.

I  arrived at the address and honked the horn.

After waiting a few minutes I honked again.

Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked..

‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being
dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened.

A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and
a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s
movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters.
In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said.

I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness.

‘It’s nothing’, I told her. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would
want my mother to be treated.’

‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive
through downtown?’

‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly..

‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice.. ‘The
doctor says I don’t have very long.’

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city.

She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator
operator.

We drove through the neighbourhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds.

She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a
ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit
staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired. Let’s go
now’.

We drove in silence to the address she had given me.

It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that
passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked, reaching into her purse.

‘Nothing,’ I answered.

‘You have to make a living,’ she said.

‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.
She held onto me tightly.

‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.
Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life..

For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten
an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?

What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven
away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.

But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in
what others may consider a small one.
PEOPLE MAY NOT REMEMBER EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID, OR WHAT YOU SAID.BUT
THEY WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL.

Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance.

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The Book is done; Write the Book

It is amazing the number of times I write the same book. I go over it 3 -4 times then pass it along to beta readers and revise again. After that it visits an editor. Then comes back and is corrected before being read out loud to me on my iPad. Mistakes get through. Why? Because I’ve read it so many times, I don’t what is there, but what I think is there.

At some point I just scream uncle and let it go out of my hands.

Then I start writing the next book. It is a masochistic cycle. One that will never end. Ever, but I keep writing.

Even now, waiting for the final edits of Hadean 2, my brain is cycling through 8 story ideas. 8.

But here’s the secret. It isn’t the editing that I find the hardest. It’s getting the words onto the page. I can fix anything. I can’t fix nothing:D. If that makes your head want to explode, then you know how I feel most days.

The end.

Chapter 1 

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Hadean 2: Survivor Road, Chapter 5, coming July 21st

KoboChapter 5

Rosa Robelski tore the pizza crust to pieces in her shaky fingers. Had she just said that her family and friends would have to leave their home? Yes. Yes, she had. The golden brown scraps plopped onto the grease congealing on her paper plate.

“We’re not safe here.”She repeated, hoping her words would sink into her skull and stick.

Around the long table assembled for family gatherings, her cousin shifted in her seat. Her teenage friends stared at their plates of pizza and salads. The others blinked, as if exposed to daylight after a long night.

Little Erin, Rosa’s six-year-old niece opened her mouth. A wad of chewed food plopped onto her plate before she burst into tears. “I don’t wanna be mean like daddy.”

At the head of the table, Rosa’s sister chucked her paper napkin onto her plate and shoved back her chair. The legs scraping the tile ripped apart the silence. Ellen glowered as she rushed to her daughter’s side. “Really, Rosa? You couldn’t have waited until after lunch?”

Rosa crumbled the sliver of crust. Her sister could be such a pain in the ass. And everyone thought she was in denial. “I thought we were talking about our day.”

A day that had started normal enough, but ended with the psychotic guard from her workplace stealing her purse, identification, and keys.

The guard who’d invaded her house.

The guard who’d vandalized a month’s supply of food.

The guard whose brains she’d blown out to save Marcus Westmoreland’s life.

On her left, her coworker Marcus stiffened. Moisture stuck his burnt gold curls to his skull and dripped onto the Alice in Chains t-shirt. The borrowed shirt stretched taut across his chest, reminding her he was much more than an IT repair geek. He, too, had killed—to save her life.

“I would think you’d want your children to know what’s going on so the could be prepared.” Rosa glanced down the table to her neighbors on the right.

Mr. Brent, sitting in her father’s usual spot, clasped his wife Kelly’s hand. “Prepared for what exactly?”

Mrs. Kelly shoved her salad around her plate with her plastic fork. “And how is it related to food?”

Rosa’s stomach clenched, threatening to return her lunch to her mouth. This was it. The moment of truth. But would they believe her? She clasped her drink. Condensation slicked her palm. “The food is what’s causing everyone to go crazy.”

Erin buried her face in her mother’s chest. Her tiny fingers clutching Ellen’s shirt.

Ellen rolled her eyes, while smoothing her daughter’s brown hair. “Auntie Rosa isn’t talking about this food, sweetie. She’s talking about the other food, not the kind that mommy cooks with.”

Most of the time. Rosa took a sip of her soda before she corrected her sister. They all enjoyed soda and fast food. They were all at risk of catching the crazy. The sweet liquid turned bitter on her tongue.

Ellen’s neighbor, Drew took a pull on his beer before setting the glass bottle across the green tablecloth. “This is the organic thing, yeah?”

“Not again.” Cousin Raine shook a sliced mushroom at Rosa before shoving it into her mouth and chewing. “Your crusading still gets me the stink eye from the lunch ladies at Beaver Creek. Now, you’re going off that it’s making people crazy.”

At the head of the table, Mr. Brent swiped at the tomato sauce on his lips. “I remember your folks saying something about it. Genetically engineered foods, or such.”

A cascade of words blocked Rosa’s ability to speak. There was so much to say. Where would she begin in a manner that they would understand?

Clearing his throat, Marcus twirled his plastic fork in his fingers. “Genetically engineered is one word to describe it, although it is misleading. I for one usually associate engineering with precision and a knowledge of strengths and weaknesses. What is done to the genome of a seed is more akin to buckshot from a shotgun.”

Rosa winced. The memory of the guard’s head exploding played out on her eyelids. She wished he’d chosen a better image. His IQ was high enough that he should have been able to think of something. “Marcus has a PhD.”

“Two PhDs.” A blush stained his cheeks.

If he was embarrassed to be a smarty pants, he shouldn’t have corrected her. But she’d known why he’d done it. Credibility. Mr. Brent and half the table were looking for another reason. She set her hand over Marcus’s, stilling his spinning fork. “Marcus has two PhDs, and his family owns the research facility where I work.”

Ellen settled her daughter back into her chair then swiped up the blob of regurgitated food. “You can eat, sweetie. The pizza and salad are safe. Mommy and Grandmother made it.”

Sniffling, little Erin scrubbed her damp cheeks. Watery brown eyes glared at Rosa. “I’m not mean like Daddy.”

“Of course you’re not.” Instead of reaching across the table to comfort her niece, Rosa wrapped her arm around her nephew on her right and hugged him close. “You and your brother are nice. Your mom makes sure you eat good nutritious food.”

Although that wouldn’t explain why Ellen’s ex had flipped out. They’d only been divorced for a little while, so his exposure to genetically-engineered foods wouldn’t have been that long. Rosa glanced at Marcus. Could they have missed something?

Her nephew, Rafael, squirmed out of Rosa’s embrace. “I knew I wasn’t crazy.”

Rafe stuck his tongue out at his sister.

“Right.” Tosseling his hair, Rosa doubted crazy people knew they were crazy. Wouldn’t they justify their actions by blaming others? This morning, folks wouldn’t have surrendered to road rage if the car hadn’t broken down and blocked a lane of traffic. God knew what the guard had thought. She shut down memories of the guard. Now what had she been saying?

Mr. Brent folded his pizza and pointed it at her. “We eat regular food and we’re not crazy. Heck, there were lots of folks on the bus home, and they didn’t look like the granola-eating Hippie type.”

Rosa gritted her teeth. Hippies were the ones who promoted free love, freer drugs, and freedom from responsibility. Wanting to know what you were eating wasn’t the same thing. “We require labels to make informed decisions. Our clothes have labels, our medicines have labels, even our mattresses have labels.”

“So does a can of corn, dear.” Mrs. Kelly nibbled on a piece of Romaine lettuce.

God, could the woman be any more obtuse? Rosa leaned over her plate. “The label doesn’t tell you that a pesticide is grafted into the genetic code of the corn. That label doesn’t tell you that a virus is added, to make sure the corn is constantly producing the pesticide, at the cost of nutrition or your health.”

Mrs. Kelly chewed slowly for a moment before shrugging.

“I don’t think the government would let us eat it if it wasn’t safe.” Mr. Brent tore off a piece of his pizza.

Rosa rose from her seat. “The government is more concerned with biotechnology and business than the safety of the people. The people at the head of the FDA are appointed based on their political connections, not their concern for public health or their scientific acumen. They’re nothing but corporatists, who put profit over people.”

Swallowing, Mr. Brent dropped his pizza onto his plate. “Would you prefer that we turn communist?”

“Name calling is the resort of those who have no data to back up their views and are afraid of change.” Rosa wadded up her napkin and chucked it on her plate. And she wasn’t going to stand here and be insulted.

Marcus stood, shifting so he blocked her exit. “This is your family.”

And he’d given up his ride home to be with her and her family. She flattened her hand against his chest. His heart thudded against her palm. Her shoulders bowed.

Ellen’s chair creaked when she sat. “What makes you think it is the food?”

Marcus cocked his head. A honey-colored curl  drooped over his forehead.

Rosa nodded and dropped onto her seat. “The animals that we’ve been feeding the genetically-engineered food to were dead. We’d thought we’d had a break-in, but the evidence indicated that many had flown into a rage and…” Her gaze cut to her niece and nephew. “Their actions led to their deaths.”

“Suicide?” Ellen’s neighbor, Drew leaned back in his chair and stacked his two empty plates. “Like people have been doing?”

“It was a form of suicide,” she supposed. Or a bid for freedom. And yet…

Marcus scratched his chin like he did when he was thinking. “There was also evidence that they killed each other.”

Mr. Brent snorted. “People are not rats.” He gestured to the closed drapes blocking out the emerging sunshine and the arcadia doors. “This is because people are fed up with the government, politicians, and… corporatists.”

Cousin Raine wrinkled her nose before turning to her dark-hair, bruised friend from school. “From what Jason said, he eats organic.” She set her hand on his arm before turning to Brent and Kelly Zindell. “But I know Cheyenne and her parents don’t.” After shoving her white-blond hair out of her eyes, she pointed to the guy across from her. “Colton didn’t eat organic until he came to live with us. If it’s the food, then why aren’t they crazy, too?”

Rosa stacked her fork on her uneaten food. And there it was, the facts that smashed her perfectly good theory.

Lips twitching, Mr. Brent finished his slice of pizza.

Marcus slid his empty plate under hers. “Not everyone gets sick at the same time. There are bound to be people resistant to the crazy, whose body can repair rogue genetic code faster, mitigating the effects. It makes sense that it would follow blood lines.”

God, she could kiss him. Such an explanation was brilliantly simple. Rosa stood just as he moved away. “And there’s the rage itself. Aside from the ACTH, there’s two hormones involved in the rage response that do double duty in pair bonding. Since we’re a close family with lots of touching, the secondary hormones could calm us so we don’t trip into crazyland.”

Somehow she doubted the government would go for the whole touchy-feely therapy. Gathering her nephew’s plate, she picked up Marcus’s discarded napkin and fork near her sister.

Drew side-eyed Ellen. “So, touching is the cure, yeah? I like to touch.”

Shaking her head, Ellen rolled her eyes but patted his hand. She leaned over her soup bowl, and her shirt gaped open. “Feeling calmer?”

Drew’s attention dropped to her exposed skin. “Well, I definitely ain’t feeling unusually crazy.”

At the far end of the table, Mr. Brent cleared his throat. “So if some of us are immune, and touch is the cure, there’s no reason to leave our homes, or the valley. We stick to the plan.”

Picking up Ellen’s empty soup bowl, Drew pushed to his feet. “What is this golden plan I keep hearing about?”

Ellen smoothed her crumpled napkin then began to fold it. “Well, um.”

Crafting had always been her sister’s way to deal with stress. Rosa had gotten a quilt out of her divorce. “We stay here and wait until the all clear is given. Then we resume life as usual.”

Simple.

Easy.

Rosa didn’t think it would work. They might be safe from the crazy, but everyone else’s train had derailed the tracks of sanity.

Embarrassment painted Ellen’s face in broad red strokes. “We have food for a month. Dad bought a filter for us to drink the pool water. We have propane tanks for cooking. Food, water and shelter all in one place.”

“And protection?” Drew’s hand dropped to the gun at his waist.

Rosa looked away. She didn’t want to see a gun for a while.

“We have knives, bats, and hockey sticks.” Mr. Brent used his beer bottle to point to the garage. “And enough adults to keep watch while the others sleep and prepare. We’re set.”

“If they’re gonna challenge you to a game of shirts versus skins.” Drew’s disbelief bounced off the high ceilings. “I mean real protection. Something to hurt or maim badly.”

At the thud on the table, Rosa flinched. That weight. It had to be the gun.

“My father doesn’t allow guns in the house.” Ellen’s statement produced a snort.

“Do any of you even know how to use a gun?” Drew tossed his scorn on the table.

Rosa raised her hand.

So did everyone else at the table, even little Erin. They’d all had gun safety classes after Cheyenne’s rape. And self defense courses. And survival bootcamp. Her parents were quite thorough.

Smiling, Mr. Brent slowly lowered his hand. “So you see, we aren’t as defenseless as you think. Paul Robelski believed the best way to survive was to band with others and use force only if absolutely necessary.”

“Sorry I missed the sign post to Fairyland when I walked into the neighborhood.” Drew stomped to the sink. “At least, we have two guns—Rosa’s and mine. Someone comes with another, and we’ll have that one, too.”

The flap of the garbage banged open when he dumped the dirty plates inside. He slapped on the tap to wash his hands.

Rosa shivered. The plan had so many holes, it might as well be made of Swiss cheese.

Mrs. Kelly dumped her empty plate onto her daughter Cheyenne’s. “Help with the clean up, Sweet Pea.”

Flicking it off, Cheyenne snapped. “I’m still eating here.”

Silence blanketed the room at the outburst.

Rosa froze; her breath locked in her lungs. Could she be wrong about the touch thing?

Colton nudged Cheyenne before spearing up his salad. “We eat, then we’ll clean up.”

Cheyenne nodded then glanced up. “What?”

Rosa’s shaky laugh joined the others’. She could deal with normal teenage angst. “Marcus and I will clean up. Why don’t you guys play board games with Erin and Rafael after you finish?”

Monopoly and Sorry didn’t involve violence or shooting. Circling around the table, she picked up Drew’s stacked plates then stopped by her niece Erin’s spot.

“Mom said we could have ice cream.” Erin leaned back in her metal folding chair and wiggled her loose tooth with her tongue.

“I think we have ice cream.” Non organic. Rosa bit her tongue. Ice cream had to be exempt from crazy-inducing or what was the point of living?

“And go swimming.” Rafe shoved the last bit of crust into his mouth. His cowlick fell over his eyes when he shoved his plate at her.

Swimming… Swimming was outside. The crazies were outside. Rosa glanced at the door. The sun must have scuttled behind a cloud as the outside darkened. Surely her sister wouldn’t let them go out there?

Ellen cleared her throat. “Why don’t you play a few games while you eat your ice cream. I’m pretty sure I saw lightning, and you know you can’t swim when it’s lightning out.”

Nice save. Rosa padded into the kitchen. The vertical blinds clacked together in the breeze of the ceiling fan. Between the gaps in the slats, movement shifted in her peripheral vision. She paused by the kitchen island. Was someone outside?

Her memory kicked back the image of the dead guard.

Marcus tugged the plates from her clutched hands and tossed them onto the granite counters. His arm swept around her shoulders. “You’ve gone pale on me. Are you going to pass out?”

“I thought I saw…”

Boo, the chocolate lab, lifted his head. His ears pricked up as he stared at the sliding door.

A loud rap echoed around the room. “Let us in. Or we’ll break the damn glass and come in anyway.”

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