“You have me.” She slicked her fingers over his back, comforting him. “I’m right here.”
“With conditions.” Face against her neck, his teeth sank into her. The sting of it had her body bucking beneath him, her pelvis pushing. He was still hard, amazingly enough.
“Yes.” And she wanted him worse than ever. She still wasn’t going to lie. “With conditions.”
Finn drew back, up onto his elbows, and studied her hungrily. Her neck stung, her body ached and she still couldn’t read him for shit.
Whatever was going on in his head, she remained out. It nearly started the tears again.
“Don’t,” he said.
“Don’t what?” she asked.
“Don’t cry. Shit. Don’t.” His hand slid between their bodies as his mouth slid over hers. Sweet and hungry and perfect.
The press of his cock against her pussy seemed natural and right. She canted her hips, tightened the pul of her legs around his waist.
The head of his cock nudged her entrance and his hand guided it back into her. They both panted.
Finn stared at her. She followed suit, watching the pleasure take him. The tongue swiping out over his lips and the clench of his teeth.
He started slow but it didn’t last. Long, satisfying slides of his cock inside her made everything right. His strokes grew harder and faster.
He held nothing back this time.
Blonde hair clung to his forehead and the pale green of his eyes seemed swallowed by black. He was beautiful. So fucking beautiful she didn’t know what to do.
He took possession of her hands, first one and then the other, pinned both of her wrists to the mattress above her head. Her rib cage tilted, her back arched. Her nipples scraped against his chest as he moved, sending sparks of pleasure through her.
The feel of him all over her was deliriously good. Him moving inside her, building the hot and brilliant sensation. The tension running through him, making him shake, took hold of her too. But nothing compared to the surge she got from watching him. He was exquisite.
Finn dropped his head and his teeth found the place on her neck he had made his own. He came, body shuddering above and inside her.
She didn’t feel the least bit alone.
A line of smoke rose into the blue sky, cutting the horizon neatly in half.
Finn sat on the front step and watched the world wake, enjoying the birds singing and the sun rising. He felt happy, relaxed. But then the smoke snapped him to attention.
What signal was it sending, good or bad? Distances could be deceiving, but he didn’t think it was more than an hour away. Perhaps less.
“Hey.” Dan stomped out onto the concrete and tipped his chin at him. “Ready to move on?” And for a second, just a second, Finn thought he was being given his marching orders.
“Is that smoke?” Dan asked.
Finn cleared his throat, shook himself free of the flash of panic. Neurotic idiot. “Yeah. I thought we should check it out.”
Al wandered out with two cups of coffee in hand, and passed one down to him. He overreached on purpose, letting his fingers slide over hers as he took the cup. He wanted to touch her. Resisting those impulses hadn’t gotten him anywhere, so why fight it?
“Thanks,” he said.
“You’re welcome.” She smiled at him, and the tight knot of tension in his chest eased, unwound. Because the smile was pushing at the edges of her lovely mouth, threatening to morph into a grin, and it was just for him.
“Babe, we got smoke signals.”
She raised her face to the morning sun and squinted into the distance. The bite on her neck was prominent against her pale skin. His handiwork. He couldn’t help but be satisfied in some way. What a lie. His face hurt from smiling. They’d woken wrapped around each other and taken their time leaving the bed. Then she’d gone to talk to Dan and Finn had given them space. Making the only decision he could in the circumstances, the one that would bring her back to him.
“Huh,” she said, staring at the smoke.
“Huh?” the big guy enquired, slipping an arm around her waist. Finn wanted the ease of familiarity. To be able to tuck her in against him whenever the mood hit him as Dan did. Finn would have it. “Care to elaborate on that, my love?” the big guy asked.
She shrugged. “Last time we did a meet and greet it didn’t work out so well.”
“We’ll be careful. Scout things out,” said Finn, watching her careful y. “I think we need to.”
Dan nodded approval. “I agree.”
“Okay.” The frown on her face did not lessen. Her reluctance made sense after the past few days, but they needed to know if these people were legit. If they stayed on the road they’d eventually run into trouble beyond their ability to handle. Their chances of survival were lower alone in the open.
“But you’re not happy about it.” Dan kissed her forehead, rested his chin atop her head. Finn had seen the man do similar a dozen times, still didn’t stop a twinge of jealousy running through him. He didn’t normal y get territorial. Nothing about this situation was normal behavior, however.
“We will be careful,” said Dan.
Al forced a smile, nodded. “Yep. I know.”
“No, really, it’s okay. I know we need to do this, check out other people and such,” she said. Al squared her shoulders, ready to fight. The way she picked herself up time and again got to him. Taking her back to bed right then was out of the question, but he wanted to, badly.
Finn watched her, sipping at his coffee. Not hot coffee, room temperature, but he would take what he could get. “Time to hit the road then.”
In the end it took them forty-eight minutes to reach the fortified settlement to the north. It wasn
’t the Great Wall of China, but an
impressive barrier stood before them all the same.
The wall consisted of everything from a string of semitrailers to a toppled freight train. Bulldozed buildings filled in gaps here and there. The barrier stood as tall as a house and surrounded the bulk of the center of Blackstone. A sign told them the town had been founded in 1875 with a population of 1150.
Finn revised the figure to approximately a hundred. Stunning, given the severity of the plague and how quickly most places had succumbed to the accompanying chaos.
They had paused at a rest stop just outside of town. He gave a low whistle and swung down from the tree limb he had perched on while Al watched on nervously. Whether she was nervous over his jump or the township, he didn’t know.
“Seems they’ve managed to save whole families,” he said. “There’s a creek running along the front so they’ve got water. A cleared area over the other side of town, maybe a sports ground, for livestock. A few guards at the front gate, some along the wall. It’s impressive, reasonably wel organized.”
Dan dug at his front teeth with the tip of his tongue. “Wonder what their welcome wagon’s like?”
“Good question.” Finn shoved the binoculars back into his pack.
“Finn, have you still got your badge?” Al enquired. The first words she had spoken since they set out.
He nodded. “I’ll test the waters.”
“No,” she grabbed at his arm, held him in place. Her gray eyes were emphatic, deadly serious. “We go together or not at all.”
Dan shot him a look, and he met it with one of his own. “Al …”
“No. Again,” she growled, “to the both of you.”
“Yeah, ah …” The big guy started, sighed and stopped. “But it is two against one, sweet. We do kind of have the majority here.”
Al let Finn loose but appeared the antithesis of cooperation. Her hands rested on her hips and her mouth tightened as she looked between the two of them.
“Don’t make the mistake of believing you make decisions for me, either of you.” Her fingernails tapped against the butt of the gun tucked into her belt.
He knew the safety was on. He had checked it himself. Stil , he wondered if the threat of her finger was real or imagined.
“I wouldn’t appreciate it,” she said quietly. The tapping of her nail grew louder.
Finn stepped forward. “Al, we just want you safe.”
“If we misrepresent ourselves to these people they’re going to mistrust us from the start. There are families in there. You said so, Finn. They’re going to be cautious, not crazy,” she said. It made sense but he hated the thought of taking her into the unknown. He checked out the trail behind them to hide the grimace on his face. Weighing the odds gave no comfort at all. There wouldn’t be anything controlled about this situation. She could get hurt. Or, this could be their ticket back into civilization. What remained of it at least.
“Think about it,” she said. “They might be less likely to send us packing if they see we’re together.”
The big guy nodded slowly, eyes glued to Al. “Like a family. Alright. I happen to agree with you this time. Sending the kid in on his own doesn’t feel right. Shall we walk it? Might seem less aggressive, more open. Show them we come in peace.”
“I hate it. Though I think it would be best.” Finn nodded. “Al, if I tell you to get down at any time, you do it. No hesitation.
She gave a tight, brief smile. “Okay.”
“Okay.” Finn wanted to reach out to touch her, but didn’t. In all likelihood she was right. A group with a woman would seem less of a risk than a lone male. It had already been proven that women were a prized commodity. If anyone was in danger of being shot on sight, it wasn’t her. “I’ll lead. Stay close to Dan.”
Time to go to work.
Al dragged her heels along the dusty road, kicking rocks and looking straight ahead. A recalcitrant school kid would have shown more enthusiasm. Even she, however, couldn’t put off the inevitable. They were going to meet other people.
A big surly guy who most closely resembled Santa with a sniper rifle met them at the gate. The gate being a garbage truck with a few extra sheets of metal welded on. Crude, but effective.