The bastards riding up and down the streets intermittently blocked off their lone escape route, a rickety old railway bridge. It didn’t seem to bother them that infected roamed the night. Because of their patrols, the only pissy footpath to freedom wasn’t an option. No one was getting across the river tonight.
Smoke remained thick, but the flames hadn’t reached them yet. No more fires had been lit close by. Even the bastards had to have deduced they risked being caught between the fires and all the infected.
Finn crawled over on hands and knees, favoring one side. His arm was tucked up against his chest. Daniel added that to his list of worries. But Finn could take care of himself.
“There are less infected on the streets than there were a month back,” the kid commented, dropping onto his belly with gritted teeth.
“Noticed that while you were out and about?”
Daniel nodded, traced a hand over his girl’s back. She slumbered on, on top of him. He slid his hand beneath her shirt, pressed his palm to her back. Feeling her breathe, taking in the warmth of her skin soothed him. “Yeah. They’re running low on food.”
“Fine. How is she? Woken her up recently?”
“About an hour ago. She threatened me.” Dan grinned, heart swelling with love. He was just beginning to understand the things a man would do for love. “She has such a creative mind.”
Finn chuckled, casting an eye over his sleeping beauty. His gaze glommed onto the side of her breast where it pressed against Daniel’s chest.
After a hell of a long moment, wherein he was certain the guy had stopped breathing and quite possibly swallowed his own tongue, the kid’s gaze shot back to Daniel’s face. Hungry-looking eyes turned guilty in an instant. “Shit. Sorry, man.”
“Don’t worry about it. I know what it’s like.” Yeah, he knew what it was like. He stil wanted to hit the pretty asshole, but he did know what it was like.
Therein lay the root of the problem.
Sharing was not in his nature, but nature would have to adapt. Ali needed this kid. Finn was a modern day gunslinger. Deep down he fucking hated it, but his girl needed this one nice and close. Preferably wrapped around her finger and deeply concerned about her health and happiness.
Every goddamn minute of every goddamn day would be best.
Daniel did not want to share her. Not with the kid, not with anyone, not even a little. He knew it would work, this insane idea of going halves, he just didn’t want it to. He had only recently found her and she was his. But he couldn’t keep her safe on his own, a fact that bit deep and hard and hung on as a pit bul would. How the hell to convince her? What Ali wanted and what would keep her safe and alive would likely be at odds in this case. She’d accused him of being pushy a time or two. His girl had no real idea how far he’d go to protect her.
The kid hung his head, shoulders rising awkwardly with a deep breath. “I’l go do another lap.”
“No.” Daniel sealed his eyelids tight, then opened them. Belief that he was actually about to take this step was a long, long way off.
“You’ve been at it for hours. It’s my turn at guard duty. You be the pillow.”
There was a moment of relief followed by a flash of
“what the fuck? ” on the kid’s face. “What? Whoa, aah … I don’t think she
would be okay with that. Let’s not upset her.”
Funnily enough, the thought of his girl upset at Finn didn’t bother Dan. Stil , it wasn’t a step in the required direction. “I think she would be less keen about having the hard ground beneath her when she’s feeling tender.”
“I can get my towel from my pack, roll it up for her. You know, like a pillow.”
Even in the low light, he could see the emotion playing out over the kid’s face, wary and want going to war. Desperation lit his eyes and he licked his lips before locking them tight. There was a certain satisfaction in making Mister Cool and Calm squirm. He didn’t hesitate to lie to the dick. “She has nightmares sometimes, loud ones. You need to be close. We can’t afford the noise. Lie down on her other side.”
Finn’s eyes flared in panic.
Sweet baby Jesus, the man could go al urban guerrilla warfare but was too shy to snuggle up to Ali. And he knew the kid wanted to.
“Dan, it’s been a while, and … Man, I …”
The kid nodded. Emphatically. “Yes, I like her. Uninfected female, how could I not? And we’ve got enough on our plate.”
“Yeah, she’s very likeable. Especially when she’s asleep, all soft and cuddly.”
“Sort of my point. I don’t want to cause any trouble here.”
“I appreciate that, really, I do. But take in the big picture here, buddy. World gone mad, chaos, carnage, we all nearly died today.
That we’ve survived this long is pretty wild when you stop and think.”
The kid groaned. “So you’re saying you won’t shoot me in the back if I’m jonesing for your girlfriend?”
Tempting, but no. Dan shook his head. “Nah. You’re more use to her alive than dead.”
“Right. Thanks. I think.” The kid shot him a wary glance but lay down, setting his gun close by.
Daniel rolled Ali over, shuffled and rearranged her so she splayed out across the kid instead of him. It hurt.
His girl grumbled something beyond comprehension. Actually, it was a direct assault on his familial line, but she’d had a really hard day, so he let it slide. “Easy, baby. Go back to sleep.”
“What’s going on?” Her eyes drifted open. She blinked up at him, knocking him for six without even trying, bruised and dusty or no.
His girl. “Are we making a move?”
“No. I’m swapping guard duty with Finn. Go back to sleep.”
“Finn?” She raised her head and peered down at the face in question, rearing back in surprise when she registered his proximity. “Oh, hey.”
“Hi, Al. I’m your stand-in pillow,” the kid explained, shrugging, then flinched when he remembered his shoulder too late.
“My pil ow?” Her voice sounded slurred from sleep. She couldn’t be badly hurt. He wouldn’t allow it. They’d dosed her up on some super strength aspirin. Knocking her out for hours with something stronger was out of the question in case they needed to move.
“Is that okay?” The kid’s voice held a boatload of tension, like this girl could make him or break him. Daniel would have found it cute if it had been about any other girl than his. “Or not? Your call.”
“Sure. How’s your wound?”
She was fine. Finn was good. Hell, the kid had those lush breasts pressed nice and tight against him. Daniel wanted to gouge the jerk’s heart out with his fingernails. Bathe in his blood and howl at the moon. Shit like that.
He forced himself to crawl away as Ali mumbled something to her brand new very best friend. Some something that made Finn chuckle all low and rough and reeking of sexual interest.
It was like giving candy to a baby.
He didn’t hear any noise for a long time. Just as well. A man could only stomach so much in the name of true love and the survival of same. He peeked out front through the guardrail, watching the street for a while. Gunshots fractured the silence farther down the lane, and a couple more infected ambled past, drawn by the noise.
Same old, same old.
When the view from the front got dul he meandered over to the side, followed soon thereafter by the back. He skulked about, not letting himself catch too much of the two bodies entwined.
Yep, he didn’t see Finn’s hand kneading the muscles of his girl’s neck. He also didn’t see her sleeping like a baby, curled up and draped over him, out like a light.
And he especially didn’t need to see what the kid was packing behind his zipper. No matter how pronounced it might be.
“I hate you, man,” Finn bitched, somehow making everything better.
“Al? Al. You have to wake up.”
Problem was she didn’t want to. Really, honest to God, did not want to.
And they couldn’t make her.
Her face pounded, and her brain ached like a rusty nail had been embedded deep. The worst of hangovers didn’t measure up to this.
Despite it all, he had a really nice voice. Low, smooth, and … earnest, that was what it was. Earnest was the word for the day, earnest and sleep. Besides, her bed smelt nice. The sort of warm, male scent her hormones cried out to curl up to. No way she’d move.
“Come on, Al. Time to make a move.” Earnest turned edgy, not at all in keeping with her mellow, no-moving frame of mind. Best if she ignored it. But a hand gripped her chin, tilting it upward, and the voice went al hard-assed and demanding. “Al, wake up. Now.”
She huffed, but did as directed. Pale green eyes set in a breathtaking face watched her determinedly in the pre-dawn light. Holy shit.
The hows and wheres of her situation took a moment to hit home. When they did, the embarrassment floored her. She stopped breathing for a moment. No morning after walk of shame could measure up to this.
“Hey,” he said calmly.
“Hi,” she croaked.
“You had me worried, I couldn’t rouse you. Come on, we’re making a move.” He sat up, taking her with him on account of her being wrapped around him like melted plastic. “We think they drank themselves unconscious. There hasn’t been any noise for over an hour.
The infected have dispersed with dawn coming. Streets are clear.”
“Okay.” Business. Right. She could talk business and peel herself off him at the same time. Hurrah for multi-tasking.
“Could it be a trap?” she asked, hand fumbling on the ground for her gun. Her gun. Shit. Her shotgun had been lost yesterday. She had loved her gun, stupidly enough. The rabbity heart squirmed in her chest.