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Book Blitz ~ Micah Percell

Extraordinary Love Bundle Cover

Book Bundle containing 10 full category-length novels

Book Description:

Everybody needs love — especially those sexy shapeshifters, gentlemen ghosts, misunderstood demons and witches, and intergalactic leaders. You’ll find all of these otherworldly heartthrobs — and the strong, sexy women who make their perfect matches — in this captivating collection of paranormal titles from Crimson Romance.

Titles include:

Of Eternal Life: Micah Persell

Her Ghost Wears Kilts: Kathleen Shaputis

A Demon in Waiting: Holley Trent

The Garnet Dagger: Andrea R. Cooper

The Peacekeeper’s Soul: Candace Sams

Embrace the Fire: Spring Stevens

Swamp Magic: Bobbi Romans

Discovery: Lisa White

Fated Souls: Becky Flade

The Nymph’s Labyrinth: Danica Winters

Chapter One Of Eternal Life by Micha Persell

Abilene Miller, sitting cross-legged on the floor, squinted at the rolls of gauze on the shelf in front of her through the fringe of her lashes. When the gauze blended into something resembling a snow-covered mountain, she sighed with satisfaction and leaned her head back against the wall behind her. The supply closet was the coolest place in the hospital, and with this little trick, she could almost fool herself into thinking she was not in the God-forsaken Mojave Desert.

“Southern California, you lying bitch,” she murmured as she took a vehement bite from her peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Dreams of rolling ocean waves, vibrant night life, and Disneyland had quickly given way to the reality that was Needles, California: a small town of 4,000 outside of the Mojave National Preserve.

Of course, the two military recruiters who had come to her hometown of Aspen, Colorado, right after med school to convince her to come work in their “cutting edge” research facility had played up those very tourist attractions in a way that merited a court martial for perjury. If that was even a thing that could happen. She didn’t know. Military I am not, she thought in amusement as she set aside her sandwich for a baggie of Oreos.

She sighed again, this time in disgust. Top 5 percent of my class at Duke University Medical School, and I get duped. She hadn’t even begun her residency, and these guys had wanted her. Really, really wanted her. Enough to throw an obscene amount of money at her, making “no” an impossibility. And if she had thought it was suspicious that they wanted to hire her before she had even seen the facility, the pull of finally being on her own had overshadowed the oddity.

She snorted. “On her own” was proving to be an elusive concept. In fact, she felt as though every step she took was measured. She lived in a military dormitory with the four other women who worked in the labs. They all carpooled to work each morning, and the head of the hospital, Major Taylor, seemed to lurk around every corner, as aware of her movements as her overbearing parents.

Abilene knew she’d made a mistake in taking this job. She just so badly needed to prove herself. What was that old adage? If it sounds too good to be true, don’t effing move into a military compound?

“Abilene, you in here?”

She gave an unfeminine grunt in response and returned her attention to her Oreos. The door edged open, and Dahlia looked in.

“Oh, Abi, hon, are you fantasizing that the gauze is snow again?”

“Among other things,” Abilene replied.

Dahlia shut the door behind her and sank down to the floor beside Abilene, reaching over and snagging an Oreo from the baggie. She turned her warm caramel-colored eyes toward Abilene.

“Tough day?”

Abilene met her friend’s gaze. “Dahlia, how many patients have you seen today?”

Understanding lit in her friend’s eyes. Dahlia had been at the facility longer than Abilene. She had been recruited straight out of the University of Pennsylvania, also before her residency, and had been working here for nearly ten months. From their talks, Abilene knew it had been a long ten months.

“Abi, I haven’t seen any patients today. You know that.”

Abilene nodded. Both women had come to this hospital in part because they believed in the cause. According to the military recruitment team that had visited each of them, the government was conducting an experiment in which they planned to refurbish small, abandoned military buildings in rural areas. These facilities would be for the local population as well as for the processing of the armed forces’ medical tests. The facilities would employ civilian doctors, but they would be funded by the government and sanctioned by the military.

It was nice in theory; however, the largely Native American population in Needles viewed any help from the government with suspicion, understandably so, and avoided the new hospital as though they still used plague-ridden blankets — a reaction the government had to have expected, which lead Abilene to wonder what the real purpose of this facility was. It was hard to believe she and the other women were here just to run labs.

“What are we doing here?” Abilene pushed a hand through her short blonde curls in frustration. “Damn it, I want to see patients. I want to save lives. I want to do something.” Dahlia broke eye contact and looked at the floor.

Abilene blew out a breath. “Sorry.” She offered a smile. She’d gotten carried away again. “Jeez, I’m sorry, Dahlia. I know you’re frustrated, too.”

Dahlia gave Abilene’s knee a squeeze. “Hey,” she shrugged, “the government is paying us to run labs and make friends. What’s to complain about?” She rose to her feet in effortless grace, turning to offer Abilene a hand up. “Come on. Treat you to a Diet Coke from the vending machine?”

This was turning into a tradition among the women at the hospital. Whenever one of them had a meltdown, it always ended with Diet Coke, which, personally, Abilene loathed. The other women sucked it down like ambrosia.

“Oh baby, you know just what I like,” Abilene said in a breathy voice, grasping Dahlia’s proffered hand while shoving thoughts of her disappointing career aside. She rose to her feet, much less gracefully than Dahlia. “You and your weird Swan Lake moves suck, you know,” she grumbled.

Dahlia chuckled and glided out into the hall.

• • •

Awareness flooded his senses so quickly he choked on his gasp of air. For several moments all he could do was gulp as his body took over in its need for oxygen. His lungs burned. He could hear his ragged breaths echoing around him, bouncing around an empty cavern.

Where am I?

His instinct urged him to take in any details he could. He heard a measured beep. His frantic mind wouldn’t place it. In fact, he couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything but that hysterical pull of air. Panic crept into the edges of his consciousness, causing his heart rate to thump.

Where was he? What was happening? Why was he … afraid?

God, not fear.

His mind clamped down on him. Fear was dangerous.

Regulate breathing. Determine surroundings. He clenched his teeth behind closed lips. Slowly, steadily, he drew a measured breath through his nose. The debilitating fear in his chest abated. Again, an internal voice whispered.

He pulled another breath through flared nostrils, this time blowing it out between parted, parched lips. As the panic receded, he noticed the incessant beeping slowed. In an instant, he discerned the beeping: his own heart rate.

A medical facility.

I’m hurt? He took mental inventory of his body. The sudden awareness of his limbs brought an onrush of pain. His bones felt crushed, agony knifed through him, and he groaned in the back of his throat.

Pain. Familiar pain. He was not a stranger to this anguish. He eased his eyes open. An involuntary moan escaped his lips, and he squeezed his eyes shut against the bright lights.

“1457, subject is stirring. Shows signs of light-related visual pain.”

Intense, animal fear arose at the sound of the clinical voice above his head. At the alarming reference to a subject.

As in test subject? Ah, God …

He held his breath as he processed this new information, what the presence of that voice meant.

I’m not alone.

For some reason, instead of calming him, this revelation ratcheted the terror tighter, to the snapping point. The inner voice whispered urgently:

This man is dangerous.

A lock fell from a hidden cache of information in his brain. He recognized the voice that whispered to him. The Voice had been his constant companion since this nightmare had begun. Now, the Voice whispered the identity of the other person in the room: The Tormentor. The beep above his left shoulder sped up as panic rushed in again. The muscles in his arms and legs clamped down as his mind scrambled over fight-or flight.

This involuntary movement caused more pain to slice through him, and he just stopped another moan from rising out of his chest. He could not let himself make any sounds of distress. Another revelation from that hidden instinct: Hide your suffering. He loves it.

Oh, God. How did he know that? There was no doubt in his mind that he knew that from personal experience. This newest revelation solved his fight-or-flight dilemma: flight.

He moved his left arm infinitesimally to determine how much pain he would be dealing with when he fled. He became aware of the cold, cutting metal impeding further movement.

A new flare of panic. Oh, no. Not that. He moved his arm again and met the same immovable restraint. He tried to move his feet. He was shackled. The sharp edges of the metal binding his wrists and ankles bit into his skin, adding to the buffet of pain, but his terror would not allow him to cease his struggles.

His mind screamed at him, urging his body to do the impossible.

“1500, subject is showing usual onset of panic at regained consciousness. Thrashing has opened wounds at the sites where he is restrained.”

The last of his confusion melted away. He remembered. He remembered everything, and knew he was lost. There would be no escape, just as there had been no escape for the past eight years. He’d been through this before. The panicked awakening. The fierce pain swamping every corner of his existence. The dawning horror of remembered tortures.

When he forced his eyes open, ignoring the sting of the bright operating room lights, a familiar figure approached.

“Always such a fuss, hmm, Eli?” The Tormentor tsked. Eli recoiled. His name was not safe with that man. He never heard it without being reminded that he had no control over himself or his situation.

His struggles against the metal restraints now resulted in a rather satisfying cacophony, but still only caused blood to drip down his arms and pool beneath his feet. The Tormentor approached, eyeing the damage Eli had done to himself with a sadistic leer that turned Eli’s stomach.

“Blood is strength, you know.” The Tormentor shook his head in mock-sorrow. “What a pity that you seem to hold it in such low regard.”

A feral growl resonated in Eli’s chest, and he punched his head up from the stretcher to glare into the Tormentor’s eyes. “I’m going to kill you.

I’m going to make sure everyone knows what you’ve done here, and then,” he paused to ensure the Tormenter was looking at him, “I’m going to kill you.”

The Tormentor cocked an eyebrow and raised a recording device to chin level. “0817, subject is displaying the symptoms of aggression that have heretofore been associated with memory recollection. Has threatened death. Again.” He clicked off the recording device and slipped it into the pocket of his scrubs.

“‘What I’ve done here,’ hmm?” He leaned down until his face almost touched Eli’s. “What I’ve done here is what you signed up for, soldier.

Nothing more, nothing less.” He straightened with a sneer and turned toward the door.

One of the two guards on the other side of the see-through barrier keyed a code into the door, and the hiss of released pressure and a grinding of gears announced that the door was unlocked. The Tormentor paused with his hand on the handle and turned to announce over his

shoulder, “Number 140 begins in four hours. Perhaps you should use this time to gather your strength instead of waste it.” He twisted the handle and left the room.

Four hours.

In just four hours they were going to conduct their one hundred fortieth experiment.

Number 14: gunshot wound to the chest. The cold feel of steel pushed against his sternum. The force of the bullet driving his body into the unforgiving metal at his back. Gunpowder stinging his nostrils as his teeth chattered from the cold caused by his bleeding out.

Number 58: asphyxiation by smothering. Excruciating burning in his lungs. The flailing of his limbs as he fought the restraints in a need to knock the oppressive hand from his mouth and nose. Stars dotting his vision as his brain fought the lack of oxygen.

His heart rate sped up to match his ragged breathing. Number 100: dismemberment. He couldn’t stifle the moan that memory dredged up, hearing in his mind the buzz of the bone saw, feeling the heat of whirring metal on flesh. His Tormentor had informed him that they had wanted to make the one hundredth “special.”

He was panting like an animal now. Four hours. In four hours, they were going to kill him.

For the one hundred fortieth time.

About the Author: Micah Persell Author Pic

Micah Persell, winner of the 2013 Virginia HOLT Award of Merit for her first novel Of Eternal Life, holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a double master’s degree in literature and English pedagogy. She is an avid reader of all types of literature, but has a soft spot for romance. She currently teaches high school English classes in Southern California. Her paranormal romance series, Operation: Middle of the Garden, and her “wild and wanton” editions of Austen’s Emma and Persuasion are available now through Crimson Romance.

www.micahpersell.com

www.twitter.com/MicahPersell

www.facebook.com/MicahPersell

www.goodreads.com/MicahPersell


Cover Reveal ~ T. F. Walsh

Cloaked%20In%20Fur%20Banner%20Cover%20Reveal4%20%20450%20x%20169

9781440571619

As a moonwulf, Daciana never expected to fall in love with a human. Hell, she never imagined that she’d abandon her pack, endanger everyone around her, and break the worst rule possible. But she did.

A rogue werewolf is killing Daciana’s friends, and she sets on capturing the creature. She’ll do whatever it takes to stop the beast. The police and her boyfriend, Inspector Connell Lonescu, are starting to question her involvement in the murders, which is endangering the pack’s secret existence. But when the pack alpha kidnaps Connell, revealing the awful truth about the creature and its connection to the pack, Daciana must choose between saving the man she loves and saving her pack family from certain death.

OPENING OF CHAPTER 4

The phone’s strident ringing woke me up, and I glanced over at the bedside clock blazing

5:13 A.M. Too damn early for anything.

Tempted to dive back under the covers, I checked the caller ID: Connell. Crap. The previous night’s events came pouring back: me turning into a wulfkin outside the full moon, running with the pack all night, collecting my keys from the woods, and ditching Connell again. On top of that, I never retrieved the old books for the elixir. Double crap.

I pushed my legs over the edge of the bed, scrunched the sheet in my fist and answered the call. “Hi.”

“Where are you?” The panic in his voice turned my stomach.

“At home.”

“What happened to you last night?”

My throat dried up as my mind whirred with excuses. “I uncovered something in my research and got stuck into it, not realizing it was past midnight when I checked the clock. I didn’t want to wake you and went straight home. I’m sorry.”

“I suspected you wouldn’t come. Looks like I was right.”

“Come on, Connell, give me a break. I’m working on something majorly important.

When you’re on a case and spend nights in the office, I don’t give you shit about it.”

“That’s not what pisses me off. It’s that you never tell me anything. Send me a message if you’re going to be late or not turn up, anything to let me know what’s going on. It feels like you’re only staying with me on until something better comes along.”

“That’s not true. I only want you.”

Silence.

I lowered my head and stared at the dirt beneath my toenails from the previous night’s run.

“I don’t want to talk about this now,” he said. “We found two more bodies this morning. The victims were located on the opposite sides of the city.” He paused. “Why would a wolf bolt across the city after a kill? They attack in packs, don’t they?”

A shiver rippled down my spine, the possibility of two more dracwulf kills made me furious. There was no convincing myself the attacks weren’t related to the others; I felt the truth in my gut. Worse yet, I wondered whether the dracwulf was simply hungry or territorial, and Sandulf had to know. I flopped onto the bed and curled into a ball.

When I gave no response, Connell continued. “I need you to review the reports from the previous attacks today and visit the new scenes to see if you believe it’s the same animal.”

I cringed at the innocent wolves who could lose their lives over Sandulf’s stupidity.

“Your team can test the evidence and see if it’s the same predator without me.”

“We have limited testing resources in this country, so we need your expertise to move things along.”

The way he said “your” sounded full of contempt, and it pained me to hear him talk like that.

“The chief wants a hunting party issued this weekend, preferably with Romania’s Animal Research Institute’s approval. He’s already spoken with your boss, Vasile.”

I climbed up and paced the room, shaking my head. Typical Vasile to agree to anything the cops asked.

“If I could leave you out of this, I would, but I can’t. Trust me, I tried.”

“I appreciate that. Where should we meet?”

“Piaţa Square. Half an hour?”

“I can do that.”

He hung up.

A snarl ripped past my throat at the terrible start to the day. Who could blame Connell for being upset? I’d be livid if he kept avoiding me.

I threw on a pair of Levi’s, boots, and a gray hooded top. The bathroom mirror reflected gray wolf eyes from my recent transformation, and already the silvery color was fading into a darker shade. I pulled every strand of my nest-style hair into a ponytail and rushed outside into the morning twilight.

clip_image002About the Author:

T.F. Walsh emigrated from Romania to Australia at the age of eight and now lives in a regional city south of Sydney with her husband. Growing up hearing dark fairytales, she’s always had a passion for reading and writing horror, paranormal romance, urban fantasy and young adult stories. She balances all the dark with light fluffy stuff like baking and traveling.

http://tfwalsh.wordpress.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/TFWalsh

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tfwalsh

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/tfwalsh/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/TFWalsh


Guest Author ~ Samaire Provost

Sanctuary Tour Button 300 x 225

The year is 2017, and the Black Plague infection has swept across most of the United States, leaving death and chaos in its wake. Martial law is the rule rather than the exception, with outbreaks cropping up when they’re least expected. Alyssa and her friends must not only battle outbreaks of the disease, but also find themselves pursued by government agents – men and women determined to track them down at any cost.

Fleeing north to the fabled Sanctuary, Alyssa, Jacob, DeAndre, Caitlyn, Risa and Luke face disturbing ordeals and terrible tragedy as they encounter unbelievable situations in their struggle to reach safety. Using their skills and wits in their fight to survive against ever worsening odds, they weather hardship, betrayal, and the ever-present specter of death as they flee north, all the while vowing to protect one another – and most of all their precious 5-year-old Luke, from a world gone mad.

Sanctuary, the second installment in the Mad World series, is a heart-rending adventure of astonishing revelations, tragic discoveries, agonizing separations and devastating losses that test these friends to their limits. With heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat suspense at every turn, this is a story you will not be able to put down.

Find out what happens next.

Sanctuary

Excerpt:

We were about 50 feet from the barn when suddenly the lights inside went out.

“Oh, that is so not good,” I said under my breath.

Risa stopped completely and stared, trying to see any danger before she got to it. I stopped, too, and we just stood there for the space of a few heartbeats. This night was getting creepier by the hour. After a minute, Risa shrugged and said, “Well, whatever. I can’t just sit here waiting. Let’s go see what scary horrors lie in wait for us in there.”

At this I burst out laughing, and hung my arm over her shoulders. She had broken the tension, and I felt immensely better. Laughing together we walked toward the now dark barn.

We got to the barn door and peered in. It was pitch dark, so we switched our flashlights on and tried to illuminate the massive interior.

“Hmmmm,” I said, trying to see in the darkness beyond the twin beams of light. The barn was too big to see; there was nothing for it, we would have to search the dark expanse cubic yard by cubic yard.

We split up and began searching and calling every few minutes. I heard a snuffling in the dark reaches, but it was Risa who said, “Awww, hi there little guy.” And then, “Alyssa, come look at this.”

I trotted over to where Risa was standing at a stall door, shining her flashlight on the interior. Peering over the tall wooden door, I looked inside the stall and saw a mare with what appeared to be her newborn foal. The baby teetered over to its mother on long legs and then ducked its head under and began to nurse.

“Awww,” I said softly, smiling. We watched the two for a while, marveling at the wonderful sight. It was so adorable. A reminded that life goes on, that the plague hadn’t affected this little family one bit.

We didn’t hear what had just entered the barn until it was almost upon us. As we watched the mother and baby, the mare’s head shot up and she snorted nervously. At the same time, we heard the low growls, several of them, coming from the direction of the door we’d just come in not five minutes ago.

“Oh, crud,” Risa said as she turned. The hairs on the back of my neck rose as they did every time I heard those growls when I wasn’t expecting them.

“Quick, switch off your flashlight,” I whispered. “Maybe it’ll help.” I switched mine off as I said it, and then ducked and ran softly on the hay-covered floor to the far end of the huge barn. Risa followed me, making hardly any sound. We tiptoed along the side of the stalls and tried to make ourselves as small as possible. After we got to the last of the doors, we crouched there in the darkness. I was unwilling to go inside a stall to hide; I didn’t want to be caught in one, with no way out.

The growling became intermittent, and I thought I could make out at least three different voices. So, at least three zombies now shared this barn with Risa and me, and the mare and her foal. Somehow, I didn’t think the horses had much to worry about.

In the five-plus years since the epidemic began, scientists had been studying the problem and testing different theories. In the process, they had discovered a few interesting facts about the people infected by the plague. The zombies. First of all, they didn’t seem to be attracted to animals. Lucky for us people, they seemed to only want to taste us. Great, huh?

Second. They seemed to have very poor vision. Guess that might have had something to do with the way their eyes quickly went milky, as if they had cataracts. Gross. Anyway, they seemed to hunt by smell mostly, and also used their sense of hearing to find their prey. Speaking of prey, we were it. That’s right, our own people, who had been ravished and zombie-fied by this terrible plague, turned back on us and hunted the humans who had yet to be infected.

Smell. Sounds. These things were on our minds as we huddled there in the dark in the corner of that strange barn. We knew the zombies acted mostly on instinct; they weren’t too smart. But then again, they weren’t too dumb, either. We’d seem zombies duck shots fired at them, and think things through in their seemingly insatiable quest for human flesh. They would attack strategically, looking for any weakness. If we were barricaded in the van, locking the doors on one side, they’d come around to the other side of a car to try the windows there. Luckily, the barn we were in was full of smells other than ourselves. The big pile of horse manure in the corner, for instance.

We had no choice but to try to find a way out of our predicament, while making as little noise as possible. The three zombies we knew of were growling and shuffling around toward the front of the barn again, while we crouched in the back. I began searching for any back door or window we could use as an escape route, and Risa, seeing what I was doing, began looking with me. We must have been about 8 feet apart, at the back wall of the barn, when the zombie we didn’t know was there jumped down from the loft and onto … me.

“AHHHHH!!!!!!” I yelled, startled, as I tumbled to the ground. Luckily, the zombie had fallen more than ten feet, so when it landed on me, it rolled off to the side and was momentarily stunned. I quickly scrambled to my feet and unholstered my shotgun, bringing it forward and leveling it at the figure on the ground.

Risa reacted quickly as well, bringing her the .33 up and training it on the creature. One thing we had learned fast in the last five years was not to hesitate. So I walked up to the figure that was starting to rise, and I fired at its head, the muzzle of my sawed off not a foot away. It quickly dropped to the ground and was still, but the shot, that had been deafening in the closed area, had alerted the other zombies to our presence.

We both looked up toward the barn door and heard the low growling become even more menacing, if that were at all possible.

“Oh, to heck with this,” I mumbled, and turning behind me, I shot out the nearest wooden board in the wall of the barn. With Risa covering me, I kicked out a hole large enough so we could get through. I scrambled through the 2-by-3-foot hole I’d made, and Risa emerged after me, with a zombie hot on her heels. The thing actually stuck its head through the hole, and stretched an arm out too, reaching. Big mistake. Huge.

Quickly holstering my shotgun, I brought my bowie knife up and then down, slashing the thing trying to eat us. The sharp blade sliced cleanly through its neck, and its head rolled free at Risa’s feet, dripping black blood. Hey, what can I say? I liked to keep my blades razor sharp.

“Oh, gross,” Risa said softly.

Laughing, I quickly switched back to my shotgun, reloading it in less than 30 seconds. “We need the men here,” I said, pointing my shotgun to the sky. I let off three rounds, at five second intervals. POP!! POP!! POP!! The shots echoed across the farmyard. We heard the growls stop on the other side of the barn wall, and then resume, sounding angrier than ever.

Looking around, I saw a small water tower on stilts, about three stories tall. We could climb the ladder and, if the zombies came, we’d be able to pick them off one by one. We’d be safe up there. Indicating it with a tilt of my head, I holstered my shotgun and we both trotted over to the ladder.

“Up you go,” I said, boosting her up. The water tower ladder started about 5 feet off the ground so we had to scramble a bit. The growls had faded away, but I was worried the zombies were going to come around the corner any minute. Boosting the skinny teenager up, I prepared to hoist myself up after her.

Then I heard the zombies growls, much closer than before. Without stopping to look around at the direction they were coming from, I jumped and grabbed the third rung and hoisted myself up, my foot catching the bottom rung on the first try. There was nothing like being hunted by zombies to hasten your climb up a ladder, I tell ya.

Risa and I clambered up to the ledge on the bottom of the large, barreled, wooden structure; it was 10-12 feet up. We stood on it, we didn’t want to sit and then have our legs dangling off the end out into possible grab territory. We waited.

We didn’t have long to wait. It was less than a minute after I started up the ladder that the first zombie shambled into view. It was a female, in an old housecoat that had seen better, non-zombie, days. It walked out into the open, not sure where we were, but definitely smelling us. It was followed by two more zombies, both male, one looked to be an old man and the other a middle aged man. It was almost funny to watch, because the old man zombie appeared to have been a bit crippled by old age before being infected, turned and subsequently infused with zombie strength. So what we were watching was a crooked old zombie that look arthritic, but moving pretty fast and not appearing in pain at all. These three zombies began a zigzag pattern, using their noses to find us.

They were about twenty feet away when things got really nasty. And by really nasty I mean that a dozen or more young zombies, of varying ages, came to join the adult zombies in their hunt for us humans. Apparently, this had been a pretty large family. It looked like a grandfather, a great grandfather, a mother, and at least a dozen youths ranging in age from around ten all the way up to early twenties. I suspected the father might have been one of the two I’d killed by the barn, but I wasn’t sure. Trying to count these things was useless, plus in the end, we couldn’t know how big the family had been, how many members there were. Heck, we could try to mentally calculate the whole family only to miss the Uncle Bob zombie or the Auntie Tweedie zombie or something. In this situation you just had to assess the threat as best you could and meet the danger head on as it came to you. Deal with the zombies you knew about, and never let down your guard.

“Shoot, where’s my extra ammo?” Risa said, fumbling in her side bag.

“I put it in the back pocket, there,” I pointed. I fumbled for my own ammo – we were going to need it. I located the box of cartridges in my side pouch and checked my shotgun. I was ready.

“Okay, hold my belt,” I said, and after Risa hooked her arm around the wooden structure and grabbed hold of the back of my belt, I leaned over and shot out the ladder. Good. Now they had no way of climbing up to us, I hoped.

We watched them come, both of us calm, holding our firearms at the ready. We’d been through over five years of this so we were somewhat used to it. This wasn’t even Risa’s first situation of this type. Three other times, we’d been trapped and either holed up or treed like cats and had to pick off zombies one by one to free ourselves. But this was the first time Risa and I had done it alone. I was really counting on her. Glancing sideways I asked, “You okay?”

Risa looked at me and nodded her head, a look of calm determination on her face. “Absolutely,” she said, then looked down on the advancing horde.

___

We later learned that Jacob had heard my three shots and had begun jogging through the trees toward our location. He was almost a mile and a half away, and there was underbrush to deal with, but he made pretty good time. He had slung his shotgun over his shoulder and was trotting steadily, zigzagging through the trees, following the sound of the shots.

DeAndre had heard the shots, too, but was a bit farther away – over the low hills and south of the water tower. The shots I’d fired sounded faint, but it was closing in on midnight and the night was very quiet and peaceful. The stars were brilliant, and together with the quarter moon, they stood watch as D hiked up through the foothills toward our location.

___

Risa and I stood there, waiting for the zombies to wander closer. My shotgun needed to be fired at close range to knock one out for good. I’d shot from several dozen feet away, and you just got a wide spread. The result was a zombie with a pitted, icky, gross, dripping-with-goo face. No, I would need to wait until they had closed within about 6 feet or less. But that was okay, we were up high. I figured we could pick them off one at a time. Unless by some miracle they decided to work together. I’d heard of this happening sometimes. I hoped it didn’t happen tonight.

“Here comes the first one,” Risa said, taking aim. The zombie shambled up to the water tower and looked up, its eyes all milky and its scalp shredded where it had apparently been bitten when it was a human. It looked like it had once been a teenage girl, maybe 16 or 17. It still wore pedal pushers and a flowery sweater. Growling at us, it stretched its arms upward and jumped, trying to catch the ledge we were on. Risa steadied her .33 and shot off a round: *POP* The bullet caught the zombie right in the temple; it dropped heavily to the ground and was still.

“Good shot!” I said. And then, “uh, oh,” as three more zombies began jumping for the ledge.

POP! I knocked another zombie down. It was taller than the first and had actually been able to slap its fingers to the edge of the wood when it jumped. Now it was slumped against one of the wooden stilts that supported the water tower. It would never jump again.

Risa tried to shoot a third zombie, but it was moving around more erratically and it was harder for her to get a bead on it. It took her four shots, but she finally nailed it in the head, and it fell to the ground.

The third of the closest zombies just growled and moaned as it looked up at us. I had no pity for the thing. If we were within reach it would not hesitate to attack us. And I did not hesitate. Lowering my shotgun muzzle and sighting down at it, I pulled the trigger and blasted the thing’s face off. It fell backward onto the ground and lay still.

I looked up to get an idea of what to expect next, and my eyes found the old man zombie approaching. It moved pretty fast – it probably hadn’t moved that fast when it was alive, for several decades. But now, in its crooked, arthritic, sideways shamble-hop, it was fast. And shrewd as well. Looking up at us and staying back a ways, it seemed to study us. Its eyes had not gone completely milky yet, and apparently it could see us. It was kind of creepy in a way, almost as if it was actually sentient.

“Will you look at that,” I said softly. At the sound of my voice, its gaze focused on me, and it cocked its head.

“Whoa!” I said, nearly losing my footing in surprise. The old man zombie seemed to notice this, and then it dropped its eyes down to study the area under our feet.

“I really don’t like the looks of that one,” Risa said. “It’s giving me the creeps.” I nodded. I didn’t like the looks of it either. But my attention was drawn to another wave of zombies trying to get at us. I blew three of them away in quick succession and then leaned back to reload. Risa was getting better with her .33, which was good. That gun was not terribly accurate at greater distances, so you had to wait until you had a clear shot at a zombie no more than ten feet away to have a really good chance of hitting it in the head and stopping it.

I finished reloading and covered Risa as she also reloaded. Sighting down the muzzle of my shotgun, I picked off two more zombies, then stopped to look up. The grandfather zombie had moved back a bit and was now about a dozen feet away from the base of the water tower. As I watched him, he all of a sudden let out a huge roar that made all the zombies stop all of a sudden. Then it grunted and growled and gestured and OH MY GOD IT WAS COMMUNICATING WITH THE OTHER ZOMBIES.

“Oh, this is not good,” I said.

“Oh my God. Oh my ever-loving God, what is happening?” Risa said.

There were maybe six zombies left, including the old man zombie and, believe it or not, they were in an informal huddle, looking like an amateur football team. Those zombies were concentrating their attention on the old man zombie, and he seemed to somehow be GIVING THEM INSTRUCTIONS.

“I don’t believe this,” I said. Looking around us, I saw that we were trapped like treed cats. “Listen, Risa. If this situation starts to go south, I want you to make a break for it, okay?”

“I won’t leave you, Alyssa,” Risa said.

“I’m not planning on becoming a martyr or anything, but I have a bad feeling about this and I …,” I said.

“Alyssa, don’t even think that way. We will come out of this alive and we will find Luke,” Risa said.

Looking around again, I once again pointed my shotgun at the sky and let off three rounds about five seconds apart. I nodded to Risa and reloaded again. Risa nudged my arm, and when I looked up she gestured to the zombies. They were breaking apart slowly and something was happening.

They seemed to be a bit confused I thought, but then the old man zombie let out another loud roar and then hobble-charged right at us!

The other zombies followed him, and all of a sudden we had a small mob of half a dozen zombies rushing at our water tower. Risa and I could only watch as they came. Our guns pointed down, we wondered what was going on. This was not a good scenario at all. When dealing with zombies, I had always preferred to be on the side making the active decisions and controlling the game. Now they were calling the shots, executing some bizarre strategy from their zombie playbook.

We fired as they ran toward us. POP! POP!! POPPOPPOP!!

Two of the zombies fell to the ground, but four others just kept charging, in fact, they ran right under our ledge.

A split-second later we felt the water tower shudder and lean slightly before righting itself again. The zombies had hit the stilts holding us up. I couldn’t believe it. They had launched a coordinated attack and were trying to knock the water tower over to get at us.

“How on earth…?” I said. I didn’t have time to finish my sentence. They were still directly under us, pushing at the stilts in an effort to finish the job.

We teetered as the zombies below us pushed at the stilts. The water tower swung back and forth several times as we hung on to the wooden planks. Then for a few seconds, it stopped moving to the side and I thought perhaps the zombies had given up. But apparently they had just stepped back to gather their strength for another push, because all of a sudden the movement started again and it was worse than before. We hung on tightly to anything we could grab, but it was no use.

“Oh! OH!!” Risa said, as the water tower leaned alarmingly to the side.

“We’re going to have to jump! Come on!” I said, as the thing began to topple over.

 

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About the Author:

Samaire Provost

Samaire Provost lives in California with her husband and son. Her love of paranormal stories, odd plots, and unique tales as well as the works of Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Susan Cooper, Madeleine L’Engle and Stephen King has deeply influenced her writing.

Find Samaire online at her blog, Facebook, Twitter