Page 8

Author: Kylie Scott

Tension drew her tight, across her shoulders, down her spine. She was a puppet at its mercy. “You’ve been on the road for six weeks and you think otherwise?”

“Yes. Though frankly, on the roads I used, I didn’t see anyone,” he said with the same cool, calm expression.

“We have a decision to make. We can stay here, holed up for a while, or we can sneak out. Avoid whoever the hell is out there and the infected, hopeful y.” Daniel rolled onto his side and put his head in his hand. The bed wasn’t big enough for him, his feet dangled off the edge. “You know what I want, this decision is yours. I’m not going to push you into anything.”

Which was a nice change from his high-handed pushy bullshit of yesterday. She kept her mouth shut, but her whole body leant forward, toward him. It was more than the dip in the mattress. Something about him drew her in, slowly but surely. A weakness in her armor needing remedy. Caring for someone else, given the state of the world, was crazy. She might as well just press the self-destruct button now and be done with it.

“We can give it some time, wait till you’re ready. We do however need to make a move sometime, babe. You see that, don’t you?

Staying here … it’s not good.”

The thought of leaving her hidey-hole had those rabbity instincts rising to the fore. Hide. Hunker down. And hurry up about it.

But where? Back up to the roof? For once, it wasn’t the answer. Not after cleaning up, sleeping in a real bed, talking and interacting with someone as if she were a normal person.

Whatever normal was now.

Moving on would involve trusting this man.

Sprung so tight, she barely trusted herself.

“You think I’m going to get cornered staying here?”

“Yes,” he said.

The rabbit kicked hard in protest. She rubbed her breastbone with the side of her hand. “Supplies are … they’re getting hard to find.”

He nodded.

“Yeah.” Her stomach dropped away, and she shut her lips tight to hold in the words for a moment longer. When she forced her mouth open, her jaw clicked in protest. “You’re right. We should go.”

He blinked, stunned. “Real y?”


The big man whooped like a kid let loose in a toyshop. She sat in his lap, his arms wrapped around her, kisses peppering the top of her head before she even registered he had moved. “You won’t regret it. It’ll be great. Promise.”

“Okay. Put me back.” She swatted at his arms, a half-hearted protest at best. Al the warm male skin surrounding her, the heat and scent of him, created a heady combination. The impulse to grab him back and hold on tight startled the crap out of her. “Enough.”

“Never. Or not yet. We’ll pack up what you want to take, and make for the highway. First, though …” He rubbed his cheek against the top of her head and made a happy humming sound. “Quality time together is very important for new couples.”

Sitting on his lap, the prod of the hard-on beneath her butt could not be mistaken.

“Since you’re in such an agreeable mood we could have sex to celebrate. That would be nice. A real bonding experience,” he mumbled against the top of her head, voice all low and rumbly. Highly sexed and self-assured, the arrogant ass. “What do you say, babe?”

She could hear the grin in his words, the amusement at her reaction. Her elbow caught his unprotected ribs.

He laughed outright at her then. “Ouch. Beat me, I don’t care, this is worth it. Tel me I’m right again. Slowly this time. Real y draw out the words, play it up for me. Feel free to pant in between if it feels natural.”

“You’re being an idiot. Let me go.”

“I might be, but you’re smiling and laughing. Why the hell would I care? I didn’t get a response back on the sex issue either …”

“Dan. Let go.”

He stilled, his big arms wrapped around her. “You know, that’s the first time you’ve said my name.”

“Real y?”


She shrugged it off, but deep down, it did feel kind of good. Warming, almost. Maybe she wasn’t alone. “Let me go”

He sighed and the octopus grip on her eased. “Right. Sex later maybe.”


Un-fucking-believable. They were arguing again.

Finn lay flat atop a cargo truck and watched through the scope of his rifle, rapt, as half a kilometer ahead the pair had it out in the middle of a four-lane highway.

These people defied logic.

They were an hour out of the city, with nothing but deserted cars scattered about and bushland on either side. No movement as far as the eye could see, and Finn was making sure he could see far and well. Those two made quite the target, hashing out their issues beneath the glaringly white, hot summer sky.

The woman had a shotgun nursed in her arms and the big guy had a pistol at his side. Neither kept watch. How they had survived this long, he did not know. The whole scene made the back of his neck itch.

He’d heard gunshots yesterday around noon, but arrived too late to find anything but a mass of infected loitering around a suburban street. Otherwise, everything still. No tel ing whether the shooter had gone to ground or been kil ed, though he hoped not the latter.

Enough had died in the past two months.

He had climbed up onto the roof of a two-story place nearby, reluctant to give up on the possibility of real, live, uninfected company.

He was numb to hope, but what else could he do? The only other people he had sighted had been criminal, trouble.

But maybe this time, maybe these people.

Watching and waiting was his lot these days. He had watched innocent civilians gunned down outside of hospitals, watched the bombing of Sydney. Al those necessary measures decided and taken and the orders passed down. It all kept turning over inside his head. The eventual death toll was a figure that kept changing, never static.

He had been unable to help so many. Maybe he could save her. His scope wandered over the woman. She was more girl next door than beautiful, curvy with a few years on his twenty-six. Her loose-fingered grip on the shotgun told him all he needed to know.

Finn had been willing to give the big guy the benefit of the doubt, but test time was over. This scene more than convinced him the man wasn’t taking care of her. He wasn’t protecting her.

Not like Finn could.

It hadn’t been easy, following them. He had hung back far enough that the purr of his motorbike remained undetected, close enough not to lose them. A time or two he had been forced to stop and wait, listening, tracking.

Thank fuck he hadn’t lost them.

The psychotically loud trail bike they had been using sat nearby while they quarreled. Probably needed refueling, a straightforward process with all the abandoned vehicles about. Some had been run dry, but not all. Resources weren’t an issue if you knew where to look.

And exactly what were they arguing about all this time? He neither knew, nor cared. The shadows were growing. The sun had begun its gradual slide into the west. There would be a couple more hours of light at best.

Time was slipping.

Eventually the big guy fled the fight, started siphoning fuel out of a nearby sedan.

Thank fuck he hadn’t lost them.

Nothing was harming her, not on his watch.

They finished up, got back on the bike. So noisy.

Finn crawled to the edge of the truck, shrugged the rifle onto his back and dropped back to the asphalt. He moved out a minute after they did, rolling with the whole stalker situation for now.

What else was he going to do? Where the hel else could he go? Nowhere, that’s where. He followed.


His girl was going to do herself damage if she didn’t calm down.

Ali paced the top floor of the two-story brick house they had found in the middle of nowhere. Inspecting, staking out her territory, pacing her prison cell. Daniel wasn’t sure which. Her shoulders twitched, and she wrapped her arms around herself, hanging on tight.

Downstairs, people had died. They saw lots of dried gore, though no bodies. He had ushered her through and up the stairs to the dank lounge at double speed. Ali hadn’t spoken a word since their arrival, didn’t even comment on the carnage.

He was terrified she would change her mind, demand he take her back to the pastel cottage in the burbs with its bedroom done in blood.

“You okay?” he asked.

She nodded, shoved her hands back to her sides. Inside him the worry escalated. He rubbed his fingers together, wanting to grab her but holding himself back. Maybe he shouldn’t have pushed to move on so fast. It wouldn’t have cost him to give her more time.

She crept up on the sliding glass door that led out onto a balcony. A timid hand reached out and slid the door open a hands-breadth, but left the curtains drawn. The setting sun gave him glimpses of a golden halo above her head as she peeked out through the gap. They were safe for the night.

“Careful,” he cautioned.

Another nod.

Outside, the climbing jasmine turned the balcony railing into a tangled tropical garden. It also blocked out the worst of the smel from downstairs. The garden didn’t warrant this level of fascination. Though clearly, his girl thought otherwise.

The highway close by made this place just a pit stop. There was nothing more than a couple of houses and a petrol station attached to a mini-mart named Creek’s Bend. The mini-mart had long since been wrung dry and set on fire, leaving the inside a charred, black wreck.

They would need to restock soon, tomorrow perhaps. But tonight they were fine and dandy, if only she would speak. Sometime soon would be good.

A whole day of nitpicking and now nothing, his girl loved extremes. And to reach a time and place in his life where he was desperate for a woman to talk to him about her day, mood, choice of shoe color, whatever she wanted to discuss – he would do his best by the topic.

“You hungry?”

She shook her head.


Another negative turn of her head.

Ali sunk down onto the carpeting, sitting cross-legged before the split in the curtains.