Zombies Don’t Give Up
The Don’ts of Zombie Hunting, Book 3
by Ashlynn Monroe
eBook ISBN: 07134-02298
[ SciFi Romance ]
Inside of them burns the salvation of humanity — if they can stay alive long enough to realize the cure.
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Gunfire erupted around Coralee Bradley, but she wasn’t fazed. She was desensitized to destruction. Carnage had become second nature.
Sergeant Jordan Parks, her lover, fought beside her. His military background made him the perfect mate to share her apocalyptic hell. The heat of his body penetrated her rain-damp clothing. She jerked her head and the damp tendrils of her hair swung away from her eyes. The misting dampness made the world cold and gray, but that didn’t bother the zombies. They kept coming. Zombies didn’t give up, but Cora was ready, too. Her body ached. Jordan’s survival kept her fighting. Without him she’d just let the battle end.
There was nowhere to go. Zombies couldn’t swim, but they did walk. When the crew of Poor lil’ Rich Girl founded their sanctuary on the little island in the middle of the Mississippi River they never thought about the fact their nemeses didn’t need to breathe. The horde created a pile of corpses. That pile became a hill of morbid danger. Overrun, cut off from the boats, this is where their stand against the horde ended. This is where they would die.
“Fight!” Jordan roared.
Cora turned just long enough to see her lover’s anguished face. Even with the ravages of grief drawing his features tight he was the most handsome man she’d ever seen, with thick brown hair and piercing green eyes.
A snarl to her left broke the millisecond of distraction. Cora turned. Raising her sharpened axe high, she swung hard. The infected zombie’s head sailed backwards off its body. The corpse’s arms failed, reaching, then it took a step and crumpled to its knees before toppling at her feet. Cora lurched right to avoid the carnage and bumped into Jordan. They were back-to-back again as the siege continued.
A woman’s scream echoed through the trees and Cora looked around, but the circling bodies made it impossible to see.
“Emily,” she screamed. “Em, you okay?”
No response. She heard a man’s agonized cry turn into a gurgle. Images of one of those monsters ripping out her sister’s throat caused panic to rise before she got herself under control. Cora shut the horror out of her mind and focused on the task. As she hacked at the mob, a growing sense of futility suffocated her. Anxiety wailed in her mind. This wasn’t her first rodeo, but she’d never seen so many infected before.
Yankee burst through the horde. His powerful arms slashed and hacked until he was in the circle where she and Jordan worked. He was panting, and sweat plastered his long, dark blond hair to his face. He held a machete in each hand and swung them in a lethal rhythm. Gore dripped off his bare forearms.
“Where’s Em?” Cora demanded without taking her eyes off the oncoming zombies. She had to yell over the sound of the oncoming mindless mob. Their horrible moaning droned on with nightmarish incessancy.
“With Thad. Got. Separated,” he gasped out.
She spared a quick glance in his direction. He appeared exhausted. So was she. Giving up tempted her again.
“No!” screamed Jordan. He whirled just in time to hack off the arm of a large infected male whose reach had come very close to Cora’s arm.
Startled, Cora gasped as a female zombie on her left grabbed her shoulder. She wasn’t in a good position to free herself. Yankee whirled and chopped the attacker’s head off. Jordan simultaneously grabbed her to keep her from falling under the weight of the body as it toppled.
“We can’t keep this up much longer,” Jordan grumbled.
Cora realized her apathy for death put the others in danger. Guilt became a thick lump in her stomach. She’d encouraged them to stay, even when things hadn’t been what they’d expected, because she believed this island to be a haven.
The sound of one of the boats roaring to life sent her pulse racing and filled her with relief. Maybe Em had gotten clear of this mess. She could die happy if she knew her sister was okay.
“Holy shit, those bastards are going to kill us!” Yankee said as he granted another zombie the peace of a final death.
“Better to be killed by friendly fire than infected,” Jordan replied.
Cora agreed completely. A bullet was a lot easier than being torn to pieces or bitten. Waking up as a dead monster was a horrific mental picture of what she didn’t want her afterlife to look like.
More gunfire thudded into the surge of attackers. Cora caught a glimpse of one of the small yachts circling the island. She wondered who was driving. Gratitude roared to life inside of her. The others hadn’t abandoned them. She didn’t want to watch Jordan and Yankee die. The idea of their deaths hurt too much.
“It’s the captain,” said Yankee.
Cora gasped. She thought he’d died earlier in the invasion.
That’s right beautiful. Come to your captain. Dance, beautiful…
She pulled out of the memory. “Are you sure?” she demanded.
“Yeah, pretty sure, unless someone took his hat,” Yankee said.
Cora had never seen the captain without his hat, and she doubted anyone would want a souvenir of the twisted man. Jordan turned towards her, and for a moment they exchanged mutually conflicted looks at the news of the captain’s survival.
A jubilant shout brought their attention to the shoreline. Thad and the captain’s right hand man, Jorge, fought alongside their survivor friends from day one, Willis and Nancy. Cora realized they were making a path. She saw Ailene Smith and her husband Thom working through the invasion in a different direction. They were all trying to clear a path. Jordan had caught on first, changing his position enough to work towards them, and she rushed to watch his back. Pressed together, they worked into the horde. Yankee realized what was happening and joined them. The three of them worked their way to the path created by the numerous kills the others were adding to the zombie body count.
“Emily!” Cora screamed. “Thad, is she on the boat?”
“Come on!” Thad shouted as he joined them in the safety of the circle. He didn’t answer Cora’s question. A sick feeling rolled through Cora’s stomach.
“Focus.” Jordan ordered.
Not knowing if her sister was okay made that a challenge, but she did.
Ailene screamed, and Cora turned to see Thom pulling her away from the mob just in time. Thom’s Tarzan-esque cry echoed as he swung his weapon into the encroaching horror with a passion for destruction that was as disturbing as it was comforting. Ailene rushed behind her husband, letting him do most of the killing as they burst into the circle to join forces with Cora, Jordan, and Em’s men. Cora nodded to Ailene and her friend returned a sad little smile in greeting.
Hot sun beat down on them, making the rotting, water bloated swarm smell even worse. Cora’s body ached. She didn’t want these terrible images to be the last she saw. She didn’t want her last moments to be here on the captain’s island. Purpose gave her a burst of adrenaline and energy.
She could see the boat. Yankee was falling behind.
“Come on, we can do it,” she called out. “Do it for Em!”
Those words seemed to give him a second wind. He worked his way back up to where she and Jordan maneuvered towards the boat. The others broke through.
“Run, Cora!” Jordan said.
“I’m not leaving you. Any of you,” she insisted.
“Please. I want to know you’re safe.”
She ignored his request. Every time she forced her aching muscles to move, she thought of him. Her pain, her fight, all of it was for Jordan. “I love you,” she told him.
“Tell me on the boat. We’ll make it,” he said in a tight tone.
Fear. In all the time they’d been together, she’d never heard him afraid before and the fact that he was now terrified her.
“Cora!” Em’s voice hit her ears and she looked around in a frantic, manic way. “Here!”
The sight of her sister on the boat flooded Cora with relief. She didn’t want Em to see her die in a gruesome mess of zombie-chow-down-bits-and-pieces. Cora fought harder and was glad she hadn’t given up earlier.
Nancy screamed. Cora saw Willis chop off the head of the one who bit their friend. The bite was on Nancy’s shoulder.
“No, fuck, no!” Cora cried. Jordan turned and uttered his own string of profanity.
Nancy had been with them since they’d fled the small town of Davis. They’d been separated for a while, but they’d made it to the island too. Blood dripped through Nancy’s fingers where she held the wound. Willis roared with rage as he hacked at the ones coming at her, the smell of blood enticing them and making the zombies crazed.
“I love you,” Nancy told Willis. She grabbed him and kissed him with real passion. “Get to the boat,” she shouted as she ran at the horde. The closest ones turned to follow her. The path collapsed behind her.
Nancy’s screams twisted Cora’s heart.
“Don’t let what she did go to waste,” Jordan said, grabbing Cora’s arm and running towards the boat. Thad was right behind them. Yankee followed and so did Jorge. Ailene and Thom all but trampled Jorge as they outran him. Willis fought at the rear. He kept the stragglers from pursuing the runners. When Cora and Jordan were safely on the boat, the captain grinned. He had a way of making mirth appear malicious.
“I knew you two wouldn’t disappoint me,” he said, leering at Cora.
“Come on, Willis. She wouldn’t want you to die,” Thad screamed behind him towards the shore as he ran up the gangway.
Yankee and Jorge boarded. The yacht rocked. Cora cried out and Jordan grabbed her to keep her from falling over the side.
“What the fuck?” Jorge wheezed. He grabbed his inhaler out of his pocket and took a puff of Albuterol.
More infected came out of the water and onto the shore. The captain was already raising the narrow aluminum gangway and pulling it on board the boat. Bloated dead hands grabbed Willis. Cora watched in horror as he suffered multiple bites while being dragged off the riverbank and into the water. There was no saving him now. A single shot rang in her right ear and she looked over to see that Jorge was the executioner. Red water sloshed where Willis’s remains suffered desecration by the revolting horde. Cora turned away from the sight as a sob lodged in her throat, making it hard for her to breathe.
* * *
Mercy or no, he’d killed her friend. Rage and shock caused Cora to whirl on the captain’s lackey. She slapped Jorge, hard, and his head turned to the side. When he looked at her, his dark eyes were cold and he raised his gun.
“No,” Jordan screamed. He ran across the deck towards them.
“Enough!” commanded the captain. “Jorge, take us into deeper waters. We will sail up river until I’ve decided what’s next.”
He scanned the group. Cora looked at everyone too. There weren’t many of them left. Only one other person besides Emily and the captain who hadn’t been in the group of runners, a young woman named Hanna, survived. She sat curled in a ball next to the wheelhouse, rocking and weeping silently.
“I’m still the captain,” he said as he grabbed Emily. Before any of them understood what was going on, he held Em, dangling her over the railing, and glared at the rest of them. Thad grabbed Yankee as the other man struggled to go to their woman.
“Cora, do we still have our agreement?”
“What agreement?” Emily cried out.
“Anything, just please put her back on deck,” Cora pleaded.
“Jordan, do I have your word?”
“Yes. Put the girl back on her feet!” Jordan growled.
The captain set Emily back on the deck. She stumbled towards Thad and Yankee. The men held her protectively in the shelter of their arms as they glared at the captain.
“What agreement?” Emily asked again.
Cora had never told her, or any of them, what staying on the island had cost. Jordan had sacrificed so that Cora could protect her sister. He’d let the captain use them so that they could stay and avoid more death. Cora was so sick of death. “Don’t worry about it, Em.”
“I will, too. What’s he mean? What have you done?”
“Don’t worry, please don’t make me say it,” Cora pleaded.
“Go below and clean yourselves up,” the captain ordered while pointing to the door. “Jorge, keep us on course and I give you permission to use deadly force if anyone attempts to come below.”
The lackey nodded vigorously and headed to the wheelhouse.
Cora couldn’t meet her sister’s eyes. “Don’t worry, it’s not so bad.”
The captain chuckled softly and slapped Cora’s ass, hard, as she passed. Jordan reacted instantly, raising his fist to hit the captain, but then the man drew his gun on Emily. Jordan dropped his arm.
“Hurry below and help her clean up. Put on the clothing in the closet, but nothing for the woman,” the captain whispered softly, but loud enough that everyone heard. Cora’s face burned. Jordan followed her below. They took turns showering quickly in the cold, but clean water. Cora wrapped a towel around herself. Jordan dressed in fresh pants and a clean white shirt. He had to use his belt to keep the pants up. They were too big.
“We can kill him now. He only has Jorge. He doesn’t have two dozen armed men like he did on the island. We can take the boat. He’s not going to keep fucking controlling you. Fuck it!” Jordan grumbled softly.
“I won’t put Emily in danger. You know how I feel. I have to protect her. She’s my little sister,” Cora whispered.
“She’s a grown fucking woman. You’re mine to protect. Emily has two guys looking out for her. This is as safe as it’s going to get to take that fucker out.”
“No. Please Jordan. I — I don’t mind it, really,” Cora mumbled and she could feel heat creeping up her neck and into her cheeks. She didn’t want to admit having the captain watching them turned her on.
Jordan scowled at her, frowning. “I wouldn’t care if the fucker was watching me fuck some chick, but you are not just some chick. I love you, Cor. I love you so damn much it makes me crazy. We’ve been through so much and I haven’t lost you yet. I won’t let you get hurt. Let me kill him. I won’t do it if you’re not okay with it because you make me a fucking idiot. I’d do anything for you.”
Guilt burned her soul to a crisp. She held onto a chair for support because her legs suddenly felt like Jell-O. Jordan didn’t deserve her cowardice. She should let him kill the captain. On the island, the captain had had over twenty armed guards. She hadn’t wanted to risk him or her sister, but here it was one-on-one.
The captain was armed. Jordan was strong, but the thought of him shot made her sick. She wanted to protect more than just Em. He was tough and brave, but moral.
“It’s not like the captain is having sex with us. I — the watching doesn’t bother me. Please, don’t risk your life. He has a gun and we don’t.”
“Please, for me,” she pleaded softly and reached out to put her hand on his chest.
“Sometimes, I wish I didn’t love you as much as I do. Fuck it,” he conceded.
Relief and guilt fought for supremacy in her head.
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