Authors: M. Lauryl Lewis
M. Lauryl Lewis
M. Lauryl Lewis / Larson Falls Publishing
No part of this work may be reproduced or shared publicly
without written consent of the
This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.
Cover image used under license / Shutterstock.com
Kiselev Andrey Valerevich
THE GRACE SERIES
Grace Lost (#1)
Tainted Grace (#2)
Dark Grace (#3)
Fallen From Grace (#4)
And by Blythe Santiago
(a pseudonym of M. Lauryl Lewis)
THE SUN TRILOGY
new adult romance - due for release in 2014!)
This Side of the Sun (#1)
Under a Brighter Sun (#2)
The Heat of a Thousand Suns (#3)
The pain of losing you is too great to put down into words.
Your absence still takes my breath away and my heart still aches
Sleep in peace, gentle giant & if you can, visit me in my dreams.
If I could only hold you one more time…just one more time…
“Gus!” I yelled, sitting bolt upright in bed. He didn’t stir. His heart had stopped beating. “Gus!” I screamed louder, hitting him hard on the chest with my fist. While my arm was coming down to strike him a second time, his own hand reached up and grabbed my wrist. Before I could fully realize what was happening, he had flipped me onto my back, had both of my arms pinned, and was sitting on top of me. I couldn’t see his usual life spark in the depths of his eyes and he looked utterly wild. I stopped breathing, clenched my eyes closed, and waited for him to end my life. I knew that it would hurt like hell as he tore at my flesh with his teeth, but it couldn’t be any more painful than losing him or Molly. I waited for agony to consume me.
It seemed an eternity of anticipation before something finally happened.
His grip on my arms loosened and at last I felt his face next to my own. I closed my eyes tighter and heard myself wince as his mouth drew near to my neck. I thought to myself ‘it shouldn’t be this gentle.’
“Do it already,” I spat through clenched jaws with all the venom I could muster in my voice.
His lips pressed against my flesh. I had expected them to be cold, but instead their heat was near-searing. His tongue searched slowly, finding my earlobe. He moaned against my jawline, his grip on my arms once again tightening. His mouth became fevered in its caressing of my neck, sucking vigorously.
At some point I became aware that he was desperate to make love to me, rather than wanting to consume my flesh. I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling as my insides began to respond to his attempts to devour me in a way that was so different than what I had bargained upon.
panted. I wanted to give in to his advances but was too worried about his heart.
“Shhhh,” he soothed against my shoulder. “Don’t talk.” He had let go of my arms
and was busy lifting my shirt. Before I realized what he was doing, he had lifted my upper body off of the bed and tugged my top over my head.
“Your heart,” I mumbled as his mouth found my right breast.
It was the more tender of the two, as he well knew, and I winced as he began sucking deeply. As my milk began to flow, he was driven wild.
He paused to look into my eyes. “You know my heart belongs to you, Zoe,” he whispered tenderly.
Before I could respond, he went back to my breast.
I closed my eyes and tried to relax, the sensations he was creating making it easier to forget my panic.
My hands found his bare back and I gripped onto his shoulders. His skin was warm. Whatever I had or hadn’t heard, he was as alive as I. Of that I was certain.
finally allowed myself to lay back and enjoy his touch. His lips were hot as they trailed down my belly. As his large fingers began tugging at my panties, I lifted my hips off the bed to help him. Despite pleasuring me with his hands only hours earlier, he had left me hot and wanting. Right now all I craved was to feel him inside of me; to have him be a part of me. He seemed as eager as I as he pressed his hardness against me.
“We can’t for another week, remember?” I said softly, while my fingernails gripped at his back.
“Trust me, baby,” he mumbled. “I promise I’ll stop in time.”
I had only been wearing a birth control patch for hours
and it would take at least a week to become effective. Neither of us wanted to risk another pregnancy. Not now. Not in this Hellish world.
He put his arms under my thighs and pulled me down in the bed. Spreading my legs wide, he
dove his face into my sweet spot. It was rougher than anything I had experienced before, be it with him or Boggs, but I found it exciting. My heart was still pounding from the events of the past couple of minutes. I was panting, trying to catch my breath. My head was reeling as his tongue entered me and he growled into my sensitive flesh. I reached down to his head of dark blonde hair and wrapped it around my fingers. It caused him to groan louder and plunge his tongue deeper. I arched my back and pulled on his hair gently. As my hips searched for him longingly, he broke from me and returned to kissing my neck. His body was heavy upon my own and I could feel his erection searching for me.
“I need you, Zoe,” he mumbled near my ear.
“God I need you so bad.”
“We shouldn’t,” I moaned.
I must not have been very convincing because he filled me deeply in the next moments. I cried out when he didn’t take it slow, as he had the two other times we’d made love. As I stretched to accommodate his size, I finally relaxed and matched his rhythm. He was more vigorous than before, his strokes landing deep inside of me. I began to cry out from one of the most intense orgasms I’d ever experienced. I could sense his body tightening from his own release. I watched as Gus finished his own pleasure, the look on his face almost pained. He collapsed onto the bed beside me, his breath heavy from exertion.
“Fuck. I’m sorry, darlin,’” he whispered as he took one of my hands in his own.
“That was totally irresponsible of me.”
Once I caught my breath I finally spoke. “We have to talk.”
“Uh-oh. That sounds bad.”
Your heart. I was listening to it after you fell asleep. It wasn’t beating.”
chuckled, obviously thinking what I had said was absurd. “My heart beats only for you,” he said in a joking tone.
“Be serious, Gus.
Feel your own pulse.” I was growing frustrated with him.
“I’m sure you were just dreaming darlin’,” he whispered and squeezed my hand.
I sat up and looked at him in the dim glow of the candlelight. “I was not,” I said very seriously. “Just humor me and feel your damn pulse.”
Just calm down.”
I didn’t appreciate being told to calm down, but made myself be quiet while he leaned back into the pillows and felt the side of his neck with two fingertips.
He was looking at the ceiling for a long, silent moment, and then adjusted his fingers and repeated his ceiling-stare. Finally, he sat up and looked at me, his expression confused.
“Well?” I asked, breaking the quiet spell.
“Huh,” was all he said. It was more of a grunt than a word.
What do you mean
? Gus, talk to me.”
“It’s not beating?”
“I’m not sure what’s going on.
It’s only beating once or twice a minute.”
“Gus, what the fuck?”
“Don’t freak out, ok? I’m obviously alive.”
“Will you stop telling me what to do?”
I was growing irritated. He didn’t usually talk to me like I were a child, and we didn’t usually argue. “You’re heart isn’t beating, and I’m not supposed to freak out?”
He sighed rather heavily, sounding irritated.
“Zoe. Calm down.”
I took a deep breath and forced myself to count silently to ten.
“Ok. I’m calm.”
This was proving to be one of the oddest conversations I’d ever had.
Talking. Now what?”
“I’m not sure, Darlin’.
But for now let’s keep this between us, ok?”
“I just don’t want to panic the others.”
I climbed out of bed, unable to just sit there.
“Crap, Gus! Crap, crap, crap!” I paced the room.
“I feel fine, really.
“What are we supposed to do?” I asked. I was beyond perplexed.
With a yawn, he climbed out of bed. “We know we’re both infected. So…we just keep going as long as we can.” He walked to me and set his hands on my shoulders. “That’s really all we
I took a deep breath, stared at his chest for a moment, and slowly placed my palm against where his heart should be.
He placed his own hand over mine. His hand, and the skin of his chest, were both warm. I leaned into him and let him hold me close. Our souls touched again; an electricity of sorts running between us. There was a bit of an edge to this experience that I hadn’t noticed before. It was almost painful; just almost. My heart began pounding faster, as if beating for us both. We broke our embrace, but kept our hands on each other, and walked back to the bed. Sleep came, but not easily.
Days passed. Most were uneventful, for a change. Gus and I mostly kept to ourselves, sensing anger from some of the others in our company. We still ate as a group, usually in the safe room below the motel lobby. Meals became routine and food held little in the way of pleasure. Abbey had climbed into her literary world and seldom left this zone of comfort. Susan and Nathan spent most of their time on the beach, attempting to catch fish. Bobby would spend some evenings in our room with us, playing cards or reading. She claimed she felt the most comfortable with us, and Gus and I agreed that her presence was never a bother. None of us felt a great need to talk,
resulting in conversation that was seldom deep. Boggs would go off by himself most days, leaving at dawn and returning after dusk. I tried not to worry, but I still treasured him as my childhood friend and the father of my only baby. My thoughts too often drifted to Molly and the precious few hours we had spent together. Those thoughts would lead to the misery of knowing I would never hold her again. Gus and I kept his lack of a heartbeat a secret, against my better judgment. I waited each day for him to show signs that he was indeed dying, but those signs never came. The hordes of living dead hadn’t bothered us in days.
finally upon us. Nights were still cool, but days were often warm. Plants were budding and soon flowers would be in bloom. The air had begun to smell clean again, lacking the aroma of the dead. We knew, though, to never let our guard down. The dead were out there, somewhere.
Deciding on an early morning walk on the beach, I rose before Gus. I dressed warmly and tied my hair back into a messy braid, and tucked my pistol into the back of my jeans before quietly opening the front door. I ignored my grumbling stomach and walked quickly down the sand pathway that would lead to the shore. Gulls were flying overhead and I found myself wondering if we might be able to shoot them down with bows-and-arrows.
If I hadn’t been used to the smell of death by now, I could have passed off the odor that blew by as something rotting in the sea. But no, that stench was unmistakable. The hairs on my arms stood on end, my hand went to my pistol, and I turned a full circle looking for the source. My mind was clear of the living dead, but I knew to trust my gut. I cocked my gun and held it at my side, aimed down at the sand. The gulls continued to screech above me. A gentle breeze blew from the south. The smell hit me in an overwhelming wave of offensiveness. Several yards to the south, a new pile of driftwood had collected from the constantly changing tide. I walked slowly toward it. As I drew closer, several smaller sea birds scattered. I had obviously interrupted a feast and they cawed at me in anger.
At first all I saw was a heap of dirty cloth. It was gray and wet from dirt and seawater. Flies were buzzing around the pile, and the smell of death was
unbearable. I covered my mouth and nose and tried to limit my breathing to spare my stomach from the assault. Unable to turn away, I stepped closer. I already suspected the worst, but had to see for myself. As I came within arm’s reach of the bundle, I saw a few tufts of soft wavy dark hair poking out from the edge of the soggy towel. The waves crashing against the shore nearby echoed the sinking feeling in my heart. I dropped to my knees alongside the pile. I peeled back a corner of the filthy cloth and saw a tiny hand. The skin was rotting away, exposing tiny finger bones. I didn’t need to lift the cloth any more to know that it was my Molly. Still, I had to see her. The world had grown quiet around me. I could no longer hear the angry birds that had been eating on my daughter, or the crashing of the waves, or the wind that blew gently. All I could hear was the beating of my own heart; the rushing of blood through my veins. I peeled the rest of the towel off and gazed at my dead baby. She was face down and her backside had sloughed off. There were areas that were liquefied and others that were shredded from the birds. My vision grew blurry from tears forming. How could they have eaten on her like this? I reached out and laid my hands upon her cold body. She was limp and felt as if she’d fall apart in my hands. The back of her head had a hole in it that had been widened likely from time itself consuming her. I knew then how Gus had ended her life as the undead. How could I have asked him to do such a thing? I should have been the one…
My hands trembling, I gently rolled her onto her back. Her face was grossly swollen, deformed from the beautiful angel I had first set eyes upon. Her lips were drawn back, her gums blackened. A small sa
nd crab crawled across her neck before falling back to the earth and scuttling away. Her eyes were lost in the puffiness of her face. Her tiny, perfect baby feet were missing and her belly had bloated, the skin peeling away and now translucent.
“Molly,” I whispered
through tears. “Who did this to you?”
I reached for the old towel we had buried her in and brought it to her with my free hand. I tucked it under her and wrapped her. I scooped her up and held her against my chest. I no longer cared about the smell
of death or potential dangers that might be near. I sat on my butt and rocked her gently, closing my eyes as I did so. I sang to her the same lullaby that my own mother used to sing to me.
I barely heard my name being called in the distance.
There was more than one person calling
for me. They needed to be quiet. My baby was sleeping; didn’t they know she was sleeping?
I kept my eyes closed and clutched Molly close. The voices grew nearer. I held onto my baby tighter, knowing they would try to take her. Deep down, though, I knew I had to let her go.
Finally, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“No,” I whispered. “No, I’m not done.”
“Zo, where’d she come from?” It was Boggs.
“Someone get Gus,” I heard Nathan say. “Susan, go get Gus now! Send him down and get Bobby and Abbey into in the safe room.”
I heard someone run away. Their footfalls were soft in the sand. I was glad, because Molly was sleeping.
“She doesn’t need Gus,” I heard Boggs hiss to Nate. “She has me here!”
I felt Boggs place his other hand on my other shoulder. I flinched.
“Zoe,” he whispered. “You have to let go of her.”
Shhhh,” I said back, very quietly. “Shhhh. She’s sleeping.”
Where’d you get her?”
I answered by continuing the lullaby, humming the tune softly. I refused to look at either of the men standing over me. I could feel Molly’s decaying body falling apart as I held her tight.
“Zoe…” It was Nathan’s voice. He couldn’t understand. He shouldn’t be here. This wasn’t his moment. He had no right to be here. Neither did Boggs. He’s the one who left both of us…
two men were talking to each other, but I tuned the words out. They were going to try to take her from me. I held her tightly with one arm, and used my other to help me scoot closer to the driftwood. The sun, now well over the horizon, was shining brightly and we needed the shade. I settled into a small space between two clumps of mangled sea debris, my back facing anyone who might try to separate me from my sweet baby. I could hear Boggs cursing at someone.
“Molly,” I groaned when I felt someone settle on the sand beside me.
“Zoe, you need to look at me.”
I turned my face and stared into Gus’ eyes. “They brought her to me,” I whispered.
“We need to get back to the motel, darlin.’ It’s not safe out here right now.”
, he added, speaking to me silently.
I can feel their eyes on us
“I can’t let her go again,” I said. I was tired; so very tired. I could barely utter the words.
“She wouldn’t want you to hold onto her. You know that. You know she’s not in this little body anymore. You know she’s with Emilie, right?”
I looked down at my little girl’s decayed corpse and sighed.
Who did this to her? Who dug her up?
I asked silently.
“I’m not sure, baby, but we need to put her to rest again. Will you let me do that?”
“No, Gus. I can’t bury her again. Not for someone to dig up again. Can you cremate her? Please?”
“I promise,” he said softly, kissing me gently on the forehead. “Let me take her now?”
I looked down at Molly one last time and nodded. “Just don’t let anyone hurt her again.”
“Never again,” he said as he reached for my baby. He picked her up as gently as he had the day she was born, and again when she died hours later.
“Her feet are missing,” I murmured.
Gus nodded in reply.
“Nate. Boggs. Take Zoe back to the motel?”
“No, I want to stay here with you,” I protested.
“Not this time, Love. I want you to go back and wait for me. Remember Molly like she was when she was alive. Not like this.”
“Nate, take her back please,” I heard Boggs say through clenched teeth. “I need to be here to put the baby to rest.”
I felt Nathan’s hand take hold of my arm. “C’mon, Zoe. Let’s get back.”
I allowed him to escort me back down the beach toward the motel. I could feel the dead in my head now. The buzzing was dull and somewhat foreign. I did my best to ignore it. The wind blew across my face, carrying with it a small childlike giggle.
“Did you hear that?” I whispered to Nathan.
“Don’t let it fool you. It’s not alive.”
“Ok. Should we run?” His voice was hushed.
“No,” I replied, trying to not sound as shaky as I felt.
A small dark figure flitted past on our left. I barely saw it in my peripheral vision. Faint humming of the tune “Ring
Around the Rosie” sounded from behind us, followed by a giggle to our right.
Nathan grabbed my hand and squeezed. My hip was burning, an old familiar sign that we were in the company of the dead.
, I thought as hard as I could. I turned to look back for him. He and Boggs were standing several feet apart, a pillar of smoke reaching toward the sky between them. Sensing me, he looked up. I watched as his hand went to his shotgun and readied it. He understood that danger was near.
A single thought filled my head.
Nathan’s hand still in my own, I looked forward toward the motel. My heart was pounding. Standing in the small parking lot that still separated us from the safe room door were four small children. They faced us and swayed unnaturally.
“They’re here for me,” I whispered to Nathan.
Their rudimentary thoughts filled my head, leaving me dizzy. Someone, or something, had told them to bring me a doll. If they brought me the doll they’d get food. They were so hungry. All four were little girls, outfitted in dresses that I was sure had once been frilly and pretty. Now, though, they were torn and stained with dirt and old blood. There was another nearby; a Runner. It was trying to hide its thoughts, even its presence, from me. I could sense it, though, in the background, as a mild flutter deep within my mind.
“They ones in the parking lot are Roamers,” I muttered under my breath. “There’s one more, a Runner, that’s hiding.”
Do you have a gun?”
The girls wanted to walk toward us. They wanted to feed on our warm, living flesh. They were held back, though, by an unseen force that told them not to advance. The Runner wanted me, and it wanted me alive. I sensed that bit not from it, but rather from the decaying girls staring at us.
In my mind, I wondered what the Runner wanted with me. As soon as I did, its signature got stronger and I knew instantly that it was inside the safe room. It was hiding in the last place we’d suspect. It was in there with Bobby, Susan, and Abbey. It was using them. They’d have no choice but to let us in when we knocked. It knew we would kill the Roamers out front. They were disposable.
“We have to go to the safe room, Nate. The Runner’s in there. I have to go with it.”
“What the fuck’s going on?” Boggs was suddenly behind us,
causing me to jump.
“What are they doing?” echoed Gus.
“Waiting for us,” said Nathan.
There’s five,” I whispered. “The Runner inside wants me.”
“What the fuck does that mean?” asked Boggs.
Before I could answer, I heard one of the girls inside yell out in pain. I flinched.
Zoe, there’s one inside the safe room
? Gus was inside of my head.
Yes. It’s going to force the girls to open the door. It wants me.
I turned and looked Gus in the eyes.
Around the Rosie’ filled my head again, immediately followed by another shadow streaking by in the distance. There was even more going on around us than we were aware.
There’s more around us.
I said silently to Gus, who nodded in acknowledgement. I reached my free hand out for his.
“Nate, Boggs. Take out the dead children. I’m going in with Zoe.”