Authors: Melissa Gibbo
d in Chaos
Book Two in the Nova Nocte Series
Copyright 2014 Melissa A. Gibbo
Tonight's new moon was perfect. After the busy month at Edith Hedburg's place, it was nice to watch Daemon and Cal fly without worrying about getting caught. It wasn't that our group distrusted the sweet – if flirtatious – old gal; it's just that her being an internet sensation put the two vampires in a predicament. We have to keep the world beyond the zombie quarantine from learning about vamps and Edith has a tendency to tell all in her video blogs. Our Undead allies have taken to walking on patrols for over a mile before being able to hit the skies; watching them has been akin to witnessing a bird after it's feathers have been clipped.
The other two dozen people in our community have become polarized; most want to remain here with Mrs. Hedburg and her grandson Liam, but a handful are pushing to travel. They think if we manage to work our way from Central Florida to Canada, we'll be welcomed out of the quarantine. I can picture the journey: half-rotted fleshies, cannibals, rogue vampires, pillaging humans, and almost no supplies or shelter.
Sounds fun. I can't fault my friends for wanting to try to get back to the normal world, though.
Sunny and Chase are desperate to escape this mess; they don't want their child born into this life. They just want their bundle of joy to arrive in a clean hospital with a real doctor far from the decay that surrounds us here. Cal and I spent hours yesterday convincing them to wait until the elder Undead could hear back from his contacts in the vampire community. Sunny threw herself into potting carrots in the new greenhouse. Her husband slathered sunscreen on his face and stormed out the front door.
“I'm gonna find a buddy and clear some of the Dead from the traps.” He yelled to us and grabbed a machete from the porch.
Cal, Daemon, and I have been spending a lot of time at the blue safe-house down the hill from the Hedburgs. With Liam's guidance, the house has been rigged with solar panels and we've added a greenhouse. Our group has settled into the two houses, but a lavender one nearby should be ready soon; we're still searching for more solar panels and materials for traps. The three of us only venture up to the main house when Edith isn't doing her video blogs; we don't want the outside world to be able to recognize us in case we have to cross the border in disguise.
Generally we only go there to check on the rest of our community and use the internet. Poor Cal spends an hour every night emailing coded messages back and forth. I got worried this evening when his brow furrowed and he stopped responding to the contacts. I waited for him, Daemon, and me to be alone in the remote abode before asking about his reaction.
“They may be working out logistics. This endeavor could take days or months; I'm getting little response thus far. No one is permitted past the quarantine line, not even aircraft.”
Caelinus rubbed his eyes, gradually working his fingertips out to his temples.
“But these people will help us, right?” I asked.
He turned to me. Daemon avoided my glance and pretended to be absorbed in his Buffy comic book.
“Some of them might assist us, yes. However, I'm unsure how many of our people they will opt to take. Nor do I yet know the penalty Daemon and I will be subject to upon arrival outside of the blockade.”
I stiffened as I watched Cal's face drain of the minimal color it contained. Daemon winced and put aside the comic. Neither would look at me.
What could scare these two this much?
“You guys can talk freely; it's not like we don't hold a fancy stash of secrets already.”
Cal nodded and straightened his posture.
Oh no, soldier pose.
“Squirrel, humans aren't supposed to know about our species. In fact, our kind has spent centuries ensuring we were thought of as myth. The penalty for revealing oneself to humans is rather severe. It ranges in type and duration: swift execution, decades of starvation, torture, and beyond into the more unpleasant sort. It will depend on how the situation is handled.”
I sat on the bed next to Daemon. The Roman cleared his throat and shared a look with the fledgling vampire. I felt my panic rise like smoke from a fire.
“So these others might help some of us, but probably not everyone will get to go. And those who they do decide to help will have to have our memories of you two wiped. And then both of you still have to be punished, maybe killed. Is that correct?”
“To start,” Daemon quipped, his gaze steady. “They might just arrive, kill everyone, stake us, and leave.”
“Daemon, she doesn't need to hear...”
Daemon sprung to his feet.
“What does it matter? Squirrel probably won't remember this or anything else about us if those guys come here.” He growled at his mentor. “We could get to the border on our own; you and me can clear a path and fly everyone over the border two at a time. We don't need those others. Just message them that we glamoured the group and took a few with us for food. It will work, Cal. Just try it.”
I felt like I should be doing something. Joining the argument or making the decision or even just telling everyone else in the group to call this place home. Instead I farted.
“Sorry, excuse me. Nervous belly and some bad pigeon.” I mumbled while both vampires crinkled their noses and stared at me.
Daemon burst into laughter.
“See, we can't let things go down that way. If they glamour Squirrel where we can't hang out, I'd miss her too much. Stinky farts and all. And there's no way I'm going to let those dudes hurt her. Call off the assist, Cal. We can handle this.”
Caelinus just stood, opened a window, and thought for a moment.
Without elaborating, he left the bedroom and shut the door.
Daemon and I sat alone in the bedroom for twenty minutes before I reminded him it was my turn to donate blood.
“Oh yeah. That's what I was thinking about, too. Just that, nothing dirty.”
He flashed a smooth smile and tied a bandana around his neck like a bib.
“Smartass.” I teased while I pushed my own impure thoughts away and tilted my head, exposing my neck.
“Better a smartass than a dumbass.” He slid closer on the full bed and pulled off the bandana. “Besides, wouldn't it be easier to hide the bite-mark if I fed from your thigh this time?”
I felt a gentle caress move from my knee towards my inner thigh. I caught his wandering hand in mine, but failed to keep my heart from racing.
“Yes, but we both know that leads to dangerous things that also involve your mouth. I think Cal might explode if we let ourselves go again; I did nearly die last time.”
I regretted the words instantly. Daemon's eyes lost that carefree spark and his smile faded into blankness.
“I didn't mean...”
“No you're right. I almost killed you.”
I brushed his long hair behind his ear with my free hand.
“I started things last time. It was a mistake, but a wonderful one. You know how I feel, but we both know where that limit has to be.”
He looked away and withdrew his hand from mine.
“Maybe you should start seeing Troy; he's not subtle about his interest and I know you've kissed. You two can be happy together.”
My world shattered for a second while I processed his words.
How did he know about that kiss?
“I'm not with Troy and it's not like I don't want to be with you...”
“But you did kiss him.”
I felt my mouth moving but there was no sound. I wanted to deny it, but I couldn't lie to Daemon, even to spare his feelings.
“It's okay to say it; I know you two kissed after the old camp burned down.” He stood up and paced. “And that's fine; we can't be together so you should be with a normal human guy. You should be happy. So I'm just going to bite you now and then I'll go patrol until I can chill out.”
When he stopped beside me, his pout revealed fangs. While the love of my life drank from my veins, I sat with my eyelids tightly shut and tried to force my emotions back into their tiny prison cell within me.
I woke up at noon and walked past the maze of booby traps to the main house. Vincent and his boyfriend Forrest – affectionately known as Bubba – were finishing another greenhouse when I passed the fading picket fence.
“Hi guys. Bubba, don't forget to go see Daemon tonight about that project; you may want to bring Ellen's mom with you to discuss some stuff with Cal.”
The middle-aged country boy doffed his hat in acknowledgment of the coded donation schedule.
“Of course, Squirrel. We'll drop by after supper. By the by, Jordy is making another fuss about going on the raid with us tonight. Good luck calming that young'un down.”
Dammit, when is this kid going to give up and just be a kid a little longer?
“Thanks for the heads up. Greenhouse looks good; we'll get some more pots and seeds to fill it up. Either of you seen Troy?”
Both guys grinned like a child with a firecracker.
“I believe he is out back with Sunny and Chase; they wanted to start planning the raid early.” Vincent answered.
I strode around the domicile to the back patio. Chase and Sunny sat in plastic patio furniture while Troy lounged on the hammock a few feet away. A printed map of the area was laid out on the table. Red X's marked our previous ventures and smooth stones held the corners down in the light breeze. Marley Guy and two others sat apart, listening but offering no input; they'd chosen to follow or get out of the way.
Definitely the easier two options. Leading sucks.
“Hello. You guys mind if I borrow Troy for a minute?”
The fit hunter rose and swaggered over to me with a cocky smirk.
“Fine by me; you can use me anytime.”
The others sniggered and pretended to ignore the remark and my rolling eyes.
“In private please. Bring your weapons; I'd like to talk while we clear the pits.”
He shouldered his crossbow and checked his belt-knife before following me. I moved towards the nearest zombie pit without waiting for him to catch up.
“So why do you want to speak to me out here in the trees where the others can't see, I wonder.”
Troy placed a hand on my hip as he spoke. I let my anger slip out and grabbed his wrist and twisted until he fell to a knee in pain.
“Ow! What the Hell, Squirrel? Let go of my arm.”
I held his wrist twisted in my hands and kept his torso in place with my knee; I applied just enough pressure to hurt but not injure.
“Now that I have your full attention, I want to know why you told him. Why did you tell Daemon about that one stupid kiss?”
“I didn't tell little boy bloodsucker anything. Let me go, this fucking hurts. You may like it rough, but this isn’t how I pictured holding your hand.”
I released the hold and Troy stayed on the ground a minute longer, rubbing his wrist and cursing.
“Then how’d he know? Did you tell someone else?” I felt my face reddening at the memory of the hurt in Daemon’s eyes. “That kiss meant nothing, so let it go.”
“You're the one all worked up over that kiss. And I didn't tell anyone; I'm not the sort to go bragging when I kiss a pretty lady; I let them do the bragging for me.”
He stood up to face me. This time he kept his hands at his sides.
“Why are you such an arrogant son of a bitch?”
“Why didn't you tell fang boy yourself, if the kiss meant so little. Why hide it?”
I hate it when he has a point.
“Because I didn't want to hurt Daemon's feelings; I care about him.”
“But you two can't get together, because he's a vampire right? Wouldn't he get all riled up and kill you?” He walked past me to the pit. “Empty, next trap.”
I followed Troy further from the house.
“Yes, but that doesn't mean we don't love each other.”
He stumbled and spun on his heel. The bravado in his face melted away.
You love him?
Not just think he's cute or dangerous or something, but you think you love that Undead goofball? He's a different species who drinks your blood.”
“Yes he is and I love him. I can't be with him, but that doesn't make my heart want him any less.”
I looked into the next pit and found the top half of a woman scratching to get at me. The creature looked at me with clouded eyes and chomped loose dentures. I knelt and drew my sword. I swung the blade down at the Dead and caught it under the ear. The skullcap fell to the bottom of the pit and the fleshie sagged against the earthen wall. I shook the coagulated fluids off my weapon and stood up.
“This one's done. Let's move on.”
“Squirrel, you're being stupid.” I halted and looked back. “You may think you want Daemon, but he's not available; I am. Hell, the boy's not even human, so I'd say I win twice. Forget about him and give me a shot.”
I shook my head and started walking to the next trap.
“Wish I could, Troy. Instead, I need to find out how he learned about our kiss and keep both of you away.”
After an hour of putting down fleshies, Troy and I returned to the raid planning. The raids had become a weekly thing now that everything is relatively close and the zombie population is sparse and decrepit. The meeting was brief and uneventful. Well, except for Jordy screaming at me to be treated like an adult and allowed to go on raids.
“Liam is only a little older than me and he's being searching this area for months by himself. I've been through plenty, I can handle it.”
I stretched my back and neck. Several pops rewarded me, but the tension remained in my stomach.
“The answer is no, Jordy. You can't go until you're older. I know you've been through a lot...”
“Would've been less if you hadn't let that creepy freak live with us.”
Everyone looked away and excused themselves while I tried to remember how to talk.
“I know. I wish I'd killed Yogi before he'd touched you. I'm sorry about that; you'll never know how sorry I am for not keeping him away from you. But that doesn't mean I can let you go into a dangerous situation before I'm sure you are ready.”
The thirteen-year-old crossed his arms and glared.
“I'm ready. Let me prove it, let me go on this raid.”
The vein in my forehead felt like it was about to pop. I rubbed it and forced myself to breathe slowly through my nose.
Keep control of yourself. Just breathe and remain calm. Find a solution, not a problem.
“I'll make you a deal, Jordy.”
Suddenly there were eyes all around. The boy dropped his arms and leaned forward on his chair.
“You start training with the adults today and we'll see how you're doing in a month or two. Not just combat training, either. You have to learn all of the survival stuff we need to know in case you get separated and have to fend for yourself: first aid, hunting, fighting, building, traps, fishing, edible plants, and etcetera. You learn all of that and do adult shares of chores until then, and I'll consider it. Deal?”
His hand rocketed out to shake mine.
“Yes ma'am. I'll start right away.”
Half a dozen voices bounced from all directions.
“Squirrel you can't be serious?”
“Jordy's just a kid.
“Are you crazy, he'll get killed on a raid?”
I held my palms up to squash the torrent of doubt.
“He's got a right to learn this stuff. If the kid can pull an adult's share of weight around here and learn to protect himself and others, then there's no reason not to let him be treated like an adult. This doesn't extend to donating, of course, but none of us are his parent. At best the community is his guardian and I say we start teaching Jordy how to be self-sufficient now. All of the kids will eventually have to learn anyhow. The matter's closed until it's been a month.”
Jordy spent the evening learning basic first aid from the Nurse. No one spoke to me for the rest of the night except for Edith – she wanted to know if Cal would like to share a shower with her.