Alice in zombieland, p.49

Alice in Zombieland, page 49

 part  #1 of  White Rabbit Chronicles Series

 

Alice in Zombieland
 



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Page 49

 

  Funny thing. I began to believe her. Utter hurt radiated from her. Not from the punches I’d delivered, but from deep inside her. She had suffered. She suffered still.

  I sagged against Cole. “I’m sorry,” I told her. “For what I said. I’m sorry. ”

  “Whatever. ” The boys allowed her to wrench from their submissive hold. She stomped out of the barn, the door banging shut behind her.

  My shoulders drooped with the weight of my shame. How could I have been so blind?

  Well, I had my answer, didn’t I. I’d accused her of jealousy, but the emotion had been all mine. She was Cole’s ex. She lived with him. I had no idea if he still had feelings for her. I’d lashed out.

  “Let’s get you cleaned up,” Cole said. He laced our fingers and led me to the locker room, where he lifted me onto the sink counter. He disappeared, then returned with a first-aid kit.

  Oh, great. The stitches in my arm had torn open. Blood flowed down, pooling in my palm. And now that I’d noticed, I felt the sting. On top of that, I also felt a terrible throb in both of my cheeks. (The ones on top. )

  “You tried to tell me. I should have listened to you. ” Tears burned my eyes, and I lowered my gaze so he wouldn’t notice. The droplets spiked in my lashes. I wiped them away with a shaky hand—and came face-to-face with a piercing in Cole’s nipple.

  Uh, hello. Why hadn’t I noticed that before?

  “Yeah, you should have. ” He snipped away the threads, cleaned me up, numbed the skin with some kind of ointment, then sutured the wound. Even with the ointment, it felt like a hundred bees had decided to play Where Do You Hurt Most with my arm, but I merely bit my lower lip and endured.

  “You’ve had to do this before,” I remarked. He had a steady hand, knew where to thread the needle, when to clip the ends.

  “Yeah,” he repeated. “Even on myself. We all have. ” When he finished that, he wrapped the lower half of my arm with gauze. And when he finished that, he flattened his hands beside my hips, put his body between my legs and leaned into me, peering deep into my eyes. “Are you okay? Really?”

  “Yes. ”

  “Good. ” Then he kissed me.

  And it was just like before. I lost my mental hold on my surroundings and completely focused on Cole. On his mouth, pressing into mine. On his tongue, dueling with mine. On his taste, so sweet and addictive, like strawberries and chocolate. On his scent, a dark, rich spice. On his body, warm and strong and all around me, caging me in.

  I had no thoughts of resisting. My arms wound around him, drawing him even closer. We were flush against each other, and I loved it. I even wrapped my legs all the way around him and locked my ankles on his lower back, keeping him in place.

  I guess he was interested in me romantically.

  His fingers tangled in my hair, angling my head for better access. “You taste good. ”

  “Talk later. Kiss now. ”

  “Hell, yeah. ”

  There was something so familiar about our words, but at the moment, I couldn’t reason out what. Didn’t care why. There was only here and now and him. He was shirtless, and oh, glory, I could feel every ridge of his muscles, every bump from his scars, even the cold metal piercing his nipple.

  “What me to stop?” he rasped.

  “No. Yes. I—”

  His hold on me tightened, and I—

  “O-kay,” an irritated voice said from beside us. “This isn’t what I expected to find. ”

  Cole released me, spun and faced the intruder, staying in front of me to blockade me from a possible threat.

  His dad stood in the entrance. “Heard there was a catfight,” Mr. Holland said. Tall and menacing and now—amused?

  Someone kill me. Now!

  “No harm done,” Cole said easily.

  Mr. Holland scraped the tip of his boot against the wall beside him. “I see that. ”

  Please, please, please kill me.

  “We were just heading out,” Cole added after clearing his throat.

  Mr. Holland waved toward the door. “Well, then, don’t let me stop you. Go. ”

  I scrambled off the counter, moved around Cole and beat feet, never looking back.

  * * *

  One huge difference between living with an all-seeing dad and unaware grandparents was bedtime. Dad hadn’t had one, but Nana and Pops were tucked in by nine. The “early bird special,” they called it. This saved me from having to drug them, as Cole had warned me I might have to do in order to sneak out.

  At nine-thirty, Cole stepped into my backyard. Cole, who had kissed me. Cole, who had refused to discuss it afterward. Okay, fine. I had refused.

  Cole, who was driving me flipping crazy.

  At nine thirty-three I was outside the house and standing beside him—and the rank scent of rot coated the air.

  As Emma had warned, zombies were on their way.

  Nervousness blended with anticipation. I had spent several hours practicing the spirit-out-of-body thing, and I was getting quite good. I wasn’t going down easily tonight.

  “I can’t spare anyone tonight, I’m sorry, so I put up so many traps nothing will get past your gate, okay?” Cole grabbed my arm and bolted into a full-blown sprint, forcing me to keep up or be dragged. “Don’t step anywhere I don’t step. ”

  “I thought we were fighting them here,” I gasped out. There was a full moon tonight, the large golden orb surrounded by a long stretch of black sky. There were clouds but no stars that I could see.

  “Frosty spotted the first wave of them already and stayed on their tail. They’re headed to your house, but we want to see if they’ll follow you. ”

  A question I’d like to know the answer to as well. “And if they don’t?”

  “I’ll be notified and we’ll return. ”

  We broke out of the forested alley, his Jeep waiting at the curb. Bronx was at the wheel, his hair hidden under a dark bandanna, just like mine. Cole practically threw me inside, then slid in beside me. The tires gave a little squeal as we started down the road.

  Reminded me a little too much of the night my family had died. How my dad had tossed me in the car, how I’d had to scramble to get buckled in. I will stay calm. This night was different. It would end differently, too. Though it was pitch-black inside the vehicle, I could make out an arsenal of guns, crossbows and swords.

  Zombies were gonna die tonight, not us.

  “You armed?” Cole asked me.

  “Yes. ” Before he’d driven me home, he’d given me a switchblade and a double-edged dagger. Tomorrow I would learn the basics of wielding a shortsword and shooting a crossbow. I couldn’t wait. Until then, I was to stick with what I knew.

  The Jeep swerved, nicked a corner and bounced me up and down.

  “Careful,” Cole said.

  Bronx was his usual talkative self—meaning, he said zero. Several sharp turns later, a stint outside the neighborhood and into another, the Jeep stopped abruptly at a curb. Cole hopped out, dragging me—and two of the swords—with him.

  He hustled me up a hill, through another cluster of trees and into a clearing. Bronx stayed close to my heels.

  “What do you want me to do?” Though I couldn’t see his friends, I suspected they were spread out, watching and waiting. I could smell the floral scent of Mackenzie’s shampoo, the musk of Haun’s cologne and almost everything else I’d breathed in at Cole’s house.

  A darkened cluster of clouds moved in front of the moon, creating a dull, almost reddish color. It was the perfect camouflage for us. We were dressed in head-to-toe black, and there were black half circles painted under our eyes. I had no idea why Cole had asked me to add the paint, but he and Bronx sported the streaks, too, so okay.

  “Tonight you watch and learn. ” He threw the swords down, took hold of my arm and tugged me to a tree. He bent down and linked his fingers. “Up. ”

  Usi
ng his hands as a stepladder, I climbed onto one of the branches and crouched. I palmed both of my blades. “Let me help,” I said. “There’s got to be something I can do. ”

  He remained on the ground, those violet eyes pinning me in place. “We’re the last line of defense tonight, so we shouldn’t have to fight very many. If any,” he added. “Stay up there unless absolutely necessary. You’re still healing, and I should be able to handle any stragglers that make it our way. ”

  “But—”

  “Because you’re working with daggers,” he interjected, “you’ll have to get up close and personal to render one immobile. If you get close, and they open your wound, you’ll bleed and weaken, and they’ll tear you up the rest of the way. ”

  Okay, so, basically I was bait. “You shouldn’t have armed me if all you wanted me to do was watch. ” The temptation to act would be too great.

  “We have to be prepared for anything, always. ”

  I sighed. I might not like his logic, but I understood it.

  “I hate that we’re throwing you straight into the fire like this, that you haven’t done any simulations or practice runs. You’re going to be surprised by how this goes down. But if the zombies are hunting you specifically, we need to know it beyond any doubt, and this is the fastest way. ”

  A howl ruptured the night, stealing my bravado. Not a wolf’s howl, but a man’s. Hunkering down at the base of my tree, Cole moved the swords in front of him. “We usually leave our bodies at one of our houses, so that they’re out of the way and no one out here can harm us while we’re unable to defend ourselves. ” He withdrew the small crossbow from one ankle holster and a gun from the other. “That was impossible for Bronx and me, since we had to drive you here. We’re gonna leave ours right here, with you. Don’t worry if the zombies approach. Our bodies will be fine. You just watch for humans, and if you see any, you need to scare them away. ”

  I trembled as I said, “All right. ”

  “Did I tell you that the zombies don’t feel any pain?” he asked, still in teaching mode. “If you’re forced to fight, don’t try to hurt them. It won’t do you any good. They make noises when you strike them because they’re startled out of their rampage. Therefore, your only goal is to disable them. ”
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