Authors: C. D. Breadner
“And who knocked her up?”
“A Young Blood. He’d been in prison when the bombs dropped. Also spared from being sterilized.”
“Interesting.” Jasper’s nose ran up her neck, behind her ear. “You know what, honey? I was in prison, too. Makes me wonder what would happen if I cut this bastard out of you and planted my own inside you.”
She pushed at his hand on her stomach with a whimper. Jesus, her arm was killing her, bent back like it was against him.
“Although, you may very well give birth to a freak. Or the kid won’t make it.” His voice dropped lower, and she winced as his lips touched the curve of her ear. “I think I’ll wait and see what happens with you. If it turns out you’re good for more than what’s between your legs, I might make you the luckiest girl in the world and take you as mine. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
She shoved at his hand and he laughed, gripping her tighter. “We’ll all need sons to carry on our DNA,” he went on, that awful protrusion rubbing her back again. “Our traditions. Values. You could be queen of my bastards.”
Oakley slammed her foot down hard on his instep, and as he released her with a yowl her head snapped back. It caught part of his face, she wasn’t sure which, and as her own vision swam slightly she scurried away, dropping down and picking up her Glock. She turned and aimed just as he leveled a revolver at her head.
She’d never seen such a big handgun up close like this. She knew the Young Bloods carried similar, but having one staring you in the face was quite the experience.
Her own Glock didn’t so much as tremble, though. That was something to be proud of.
“Jasper, don’t!” Em was at his free arm, pulling back on his shoulder. “You promised me you’d let them go.”
“That was before I realized you had a breeder in the group, darling. I think you knew to keep that from me.” He smiled at Oakley but it was really meant for Em. “Are you a bit jealous, darling?”
Em scoffed, arm going around his waist from behind. “She’ll soon be as big as a whale. And why would you want screaming babies around when you can have me screaming for you instead?”
Jasper’s smile was sick. Oakley swallowed, not dropping her guard for a second. “She makes a good argument,” he conceded and it nearly felt like an apology. “So get up and get out. But I mean it. I’ll find you later.”
She stayed where she was. Finally, he sighed, annoyed. He waved with the gun—a Desert Eagle, she recognized it now—towards the door. “Go on. Get the fuck out so I can fuck my Emmy. Okay?”
Oakley swallowed, her eyes going to her friend now. No, she didn’t recognize Em, not then. Em was smiling, and it was almost wicked. Not in relief, not to assure Oakley she was fine. She was in love with this maniac.
She shuddered and stood, Glock still extended. One foot crossed in front of the other as she circled them, eventually backing to the entry. Jasper turned with her, his grin a thing of pure gruesome amusement. Em looked the same way.
When she was sure he would have trouble hitting her Oakley turned and ran for the front doors, stumbling out into a world with a dark sky. But everything was lit up.
The outbuildings were on fire. Even the brand new chicken coop, which was stupid. If they wanted the school and all the amenities, why get rid of the chickens?
There was a line of motorcycles outside the door, and too late she saw a man heading her way. He was pulling out a knife and licking his lips, eyes on her in a way that made her wish for a shower.
No thought, no hesitation. She brought up the Glock, fired, and the asshole went down, a neat hole in his forehead.
She turned to the shout, relieved to see Billie rushing her way with May. The warrior woman was pale, a rag tied around one bicep soaked bright red, but she was upright. She nodded to Oakley and jerked her head. “We got the bikes out,” she shouted over the noise and chaos. “We need to get the fuck out of here.”
“Is everyone okay?” Oakley asked, falling in step.
No answer came. Her ill feeling worsened, but her heart was still beating and she was still walking. There was no time to waste; her child needed her to get her ass in gear.
“We’ll find somewhere safe for tonight,” May was saying, sounding weary. “We’ll regroup, try to figure out what to do next.”
Behind the flaming barn seven more women were waiting; Jo, Maxene, Kitty, Brit, Coral, Abby and Patty. Next to them sat an arrangement of dirt bikes.
Oakley’s had a total of eight hours’ tutorial on how to work the things, and while they were fun in the light of day she was damn nervous riding in the dark with a pack of wild animals bearing down on them. There weren’t many options, however, so she nodded as Maxene handed her a key and nodded to the bike it went with. Oakley stuffed the Glock in her waistband.
She climbed on her designated ride and kicked the engine over, wincing at the sound. Jesus, anyone outside would know where they were and what they’d gotten up to. But no matter. They had no options.
Within seconds all the engines were running and May took off first in a flash of sand. One of her taillights was dead but the other became the beacon for the rest to follow. Behind them Oakley thought she heard shouting, but she used all her concentration to stay upright and accelerating. Next to her was Brit, face just as focused at Oakley felt.
Something pinged past her, and she looked over her shoulder briefly to see a bike behind them. “Shit,” she muttered, giving the bike a bit more juice but reluctant to throw it all in at once. Another bullet whizzed by, close enough to hear, and she grit her teeth.
“Son of a bitch!” Brit was hollering, pulling something out of the front of her pants. Like some kind of madwoman she half-turned on her bike and aimed her Ruger backwards, shooting around her own shoulder. She fired off two shots, then cackled. The cackle caught Oakley’s attention and she turned to see a bike turn sideways and roll in the sand, the bike behind it hitting it and its rider flying over the handlebars to plant head-first in the sand.
“Holy shit,” Oakley whispered, turning forward and resolving to only look straight ahead.
Her back was killing her. That was the first thing she acknowledged before opening her eyes. Then, when she was staring up at the ceiling, there was a moment of confusion. The ceiling was white and stippled, light up to brilliant proportions due to actual sunlight flooding through a window.
Oakley hadn’t woken with the sun since falling asleep in the barn with Stone.
Of course it came flooding back, sinking her heart into her chest and making her throw an arm over her eyes as they watered.
Only the ten of them had gotten free, as far as Oakley knew. The rest were dead or left to a fate much worse, all because those assholes couldn’t just set up their own sustainable living. Not fair. Not fucking fair at all.
That’s when her stomach
turned on her, and she rolled to her side, rising up on an elbow and waiting for the nausea to pass. She had nowhere to throw up here, that wasn’t an option. She’d have to tough this out.
Once the room stopped spinning she took a moment to appreciate where she actually was. The air was thick with dust particles swirling around, and it became worse as she flopped back into the bed she’d stolen for the night.
The walls were wallpapered blue and white, but it was peeling. The furniture was all antique; well-worn wood from the dresser to the washstand to the bed. The mirror over the dresser was clouded from dust and black crackling could be seen along the bottom, likely from the silver backing breaking down. The room had been left in a hurry, and she had no qualms sleeping in a stranger’s bed. It had blankets, pillows and a decent mattress. It was better than the cot at the school.
Footsteps sounded outside the door. Her fellow Gypsies were stirring, and she pushed herself upright with a groan. Riding most of the night wasn’t good for her body, not in its condition. Even the bean kicked again, and she laughed as she pressed her hand to the point of contact. “I know,” she mumbled. “I’m sorry. But I had to get you out of there.”
There was a knock on the door. The bedroom doors didn’t lock so Oakley called out “Come in.”
The panel swung in and there was Jo, eyes wide, skin like ash. She’d looked like that since they got free of the commune. Oakley had only really registered her shock once they’d found this old farmhouse.
They had nothing but what they were wearing, and what they had carried out. A few of those shakable, chargeable flashlights, the weapons and ammo currently in them, and the bikes. No food, no more protection. They really were gypsies now.
“I’m sorry, Oakley,” Jo whispered, sitting on the bed, tears welling up in her eyes as she stared at her belly. “I didn’t see this. I didn’t see any of it.”
Jo had been repeating that since the night before. It was upsetting to see her so unlike her usual, confident and calm self.
“I know Jo,” Oakley assured her softly, hands running over her stomach. It was itchy. “No one blames you, you know.” She’d have to guess very few people believed in Jo’s gift in the first place.
“They should. I should have seen something so terrible.” Jo closed her eyes and shook her head. “I only had one vision last night, and it was winter. I took it to mean we were in for a season change but…” her lip trembled. “Now I wonder if it wasn’t just a dream. Perhaps the gift is gone.”
The voices grew louder downstairs and a smell hit her nose that made her stomach growl. “Are they cooking?” she asked, then felt guilty for dismissing Jo’s obvious crisis of faith.
But Jo was smiling as she nodded and wiped her eyes. “They found canned goods, and there was a root cellar downstairs. I think they’re frying potatoes and beans.”
The bean kicked again and Oakley laughed, hands falling still. “I think he’s hungry.”
Jo smiled and touched her stomach as well. It was weird having people touch your belly all the time, but Jo was obviously in need of some kind of hope. “He’s strong,” she murmured as another mighty kick was delivered.
Oakley stilled when Jo said
. “I think it’s a boy too,” she whispered, eyes meeting Jo’s.
She nodded. “I’m sure of it. I just hope his father can find him now that we’ve moved.”
Oakley’s heart actually tripped at that. She hadn’t considered Stone coming back and finding the place ruined. Would he worry for her? Would Jasper’s men slaughter them all?
“You need to eat,” Jo said, breaking through her thoughts. She pushed to her feet and offered her hand. “That much I know for sure.”
Oakley accepted her help getting to her feet. Then they made their way down the creaking wood stairs to the main floor.
The house had held up fairly well. There were cracks in the walls that allowed the wind to blow inside, and the door had to be fixed in place with a heavy armchair. But really, the furniture was comfortable and there was even a woodstove in the main room. That’s where they found the other women, Brit standing over a pan and poking at its content with a spatula. The fire in the woodstove seemed to warm the whole main floor.
“Well good morning sleeping beauty,” Billie greeted her, placing a kiss on her cheek. “I’m glad you got some rest. How’s the little guy?”
Oakley smiled, her hands seeming to be permanently placed on her stomach these days. “He’s hungry. He won’t stop kicking me.”
“Sick this morning?” Maxene asked, holding out a mug of something that smelled like coffee. It was nearly too much to hope for. She took it with a smile.
“No. Well, a bit of nausea, but it passed. But my lower back is killing me, though.”
“Sit then,” Maxene insisted, taking her by the arm and steering her to a high-backed sofa. They were coddling her again, which made Oakley feel terrible.
“There’s a well here,” Coral said while striding into the room. “It’s got one of those windmill things. There’s also an electric pump downstairs, but, of course, that’s useless. We might be able to have water if that windmill works.”
May was nodding next to Coral, then she caught sight of Oakley and smiled. “How you holding up, Momma Bear?”
Oakley grinned. “Fine thanks. Living in the lap of luxury, just like everyone else.”
With a shorter nod May turned to the rest of the group who all knew enough to fall quiet and listen. “The Madmen attacked and took what was ours for a reason. It wasn’t just pussy. Something is changing outside, and they felt the need to get indoors. We know they were heading our way from the west so my guess is there’s a weather system coming that doesn’t look good.” May took a deep breath. “We haven’t had winter since the bombs, and the dust has been dropping from the atmosphere. I know I’ve noticed it. I think we’re in for snow. And that scares the hell out of me, but we need to decide if we want to move on or make our shelter here. I’ll go with whatever the group decides, but there’s underground water here and a wood stove, both of which I like. There’s a wood pile out back that’ll last quite a while, but only if we get it inside before it’s buried. The basement is dry with a dirt floor. There’s some food down there but it won’t keep us all fed too long. Some of us need to stay here and repair the house, the rest will need to go foraging for supplies. Which sucks, because we know how little there is out there anymore.”
Oakley felt the trickle of fear again. Being shot was scary, tortured, ditto. Starving to death? What a terrible way for it all to end.
Footsteps pounded on the porch outside, and they all turned to Kitty, one of the whores, who was sporting a rifle now. Her eyes were wide. “Trucks,” she breathed, catching her breath. “There are trucks out there. Someone’s coming.”
Everyone got to their feet, picking up their weapons and filing through the barely-holding-on doorway to line up on the porch.
Oakley forgot her Glock upstairs.
She stood behind the others with the iron fire poker she’d grabbed from next to the woodstove. It was better than nothing.
The vehicles in the distance grew larger, and as she began to realize they were large canvas-covered army style trucks Oakley felt her fear falter just slightly. There were more bikes, too. But these were a dirt bike variety, not motorcycles like the Madmen. These handled the sand and dust much better, keeping pace with the two large transports.
“It’s the Young Bloods,” Billie said, but her voice was tenser than Oakley would have expected.
Billie swallowed, meeting Oakley’s gaze. “There are only ten of us now. If they expect the same hospitality that’s like three or four of them for every one of us.”
It took her a beat to clue in to what Billie was saying.
“Their cooperation was based on sex?” Oakley asked, sounding slightly strangled.
Billie shrugged. “I guess we’ll find out.”
The trucks pulled to a stop fifty yards from the porch. The first person off their bike was Harley, pushing his goggles up onto his forehead. His wild hair flipped around in the breeze, his skin coated with filth and muck with the exception of where his eye protection had sat. They seemed extra dirty, the lot of them. Oakley wondered why.
May descended a couple of the steps and waited. All the women were tensed, waiting to see what was going to happen. Friendly greeting or not.
“May,” Harley said amiably, offering up a blinding grin.
“Harley,” she replied, face like stone.
“We saw the fire last night. Headed out there as fast as we could, stopped setting up camp and came to help. But I guess you were gone by then?”
May nodded. “They attacked at night. Raided the school. We were lucky to get out.”
Harley nodded. “They took out a few of us too. Interrupted our rescue attempt. I think Jasper’s increased his numbers substantially. He had enough to take us both out.”
May’s posture relaxed somewhat. “How many did you lose?”
That’s when Oakley’s stomach dropped. She couldn’t see Stone.
“We lost about ten,” he replied, smile faltering and losing some of its wattage. “Guys I’ve known a long time.”
“There are ten of us now,” May replied. “We’re still outnumbered.”
Harley frowned, smile gone. “I ain’t here to threaten you, May. We need a place to stay, so do you. I happen to think we could probably help each other. We managed to protect and save most of our supplies. We got fuel, tents, food, and manpower. I’m actually relieved to see you got out of there.” His eyes ran over the porch. Oakley wasn’t sure which particular woman he hoped to see, but it wasn’t her. Nevertheless, his eyes passed her over then snapped back, eyes dropping to her stomach.
She crossed her hands over it out of reflex.
“Holy shit,” he whispered, eyes widening and coming back to her face. “Holy shit.”
“Yeah,” May chimed in, casting her gaze over her shoulder at Oakley. “We’ve had a bona fide miracle in the meantime.”
Oakley was watching Harley, she almost missed the large body moving her way while unwrapping the scarf from his head and neck. He was nearly at May before she caught the flash of dark blonde hair, the beard the last thing to be revealed. May stepped out of the way and that’s when Oakley saw him, her breath catching.
His face was difficult to decipher. His eyes were wide and on her stomach, mouth slack, forehead free of wrinkles of concern. She swallowed then held her breath, watching him approach on the porch boards, boots loud. The other woman parted to let him through.
She turned to him, hands tightening on her belly. She was pretty sure he wouldn’t hurt her, but until he gave some indication of what he was feeling she was on guard.
Stone dropped to his knees heavily, hands coming out to her. Between the two of them her stomach was covered, smothered by his big paws as they slid over her shirt, caressing her shape. His face hadn’t changed.
Oakley finally found her voice. “Stone?”
He looked up, blinking a couple times. She watched the water well up in his gorgeous blue eyes. “I’m…this is…how?”
She had to laugh, in spite of her own tears starting to gather. “I don’t know. But he’s there.”
She shrugged. “I’m sure it’s a boy. I have no idea why.”
His smile came slowly, but it was huge and beautiful and her heart swelled before resuming beating. Her relief was like a shower of warm water.
Stone pressed a kiss right above her belly button then stood in a rush, collecting her in his arms as he did so and lifting her right of her feet in a bear hug. She squeaked in surprise, then held on, tucking her face alongside his neck and breathing deep.
“Doesn’t matter, boy or girl,” he grumbled. “It’s a baby. Holy shit, you’re having my baby.”
She loved that he never doubted being the father, immediately assuming that she hadn’t been with anyone else. And she hadn’t, not even when her urges had her tossing and turning in discomfort. She hadn’t even sought out a quick tryst with Coral or anyone else.
Other things were said, she had no idea what. Stone put her on her feet, arms falling around her shoulders to hold her close. He smelled terrible but she didn’t care. She was just so glad he was back.
It was decided the Young Bloods would stay. Cohabitate with the Gypsies. They would set up a perimeter, the Gypsys would set to work first on insulating and securing the house itself. Tents would be clustered close for sleeping quarters, all the trucks and supplies stored in the barn. Outbuildings could also be fashioned into separate living quarters for people getting on each other’s nerves.