About Me

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My name is not really Erica Stevens, it is a pen name that I chose in memory of two amazing friends lost too soon.I was born in New York and moved to Mass as a child. I spent my time growing up between NY and Mass so I have some interesting times when sports games roll around. I was fortunate enough to marry my best friend over two years ago and I don't know what I'd do without him. I have a large, crazy, fun loving family that just loves to laugh. My parents are the strongest people I know. I have an older brother and sister, and a younger sister, who have blessed me with many nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews. I am nowhere near as old as the great nieces and nephews make me sound. I love to read and have wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old. I also write more adult romance novels under the pen name of Brenda K. Davies.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Upcoming Plans!

I'm happy to announce that Untamed, The Awakening Series Book 3 by Brenda K. Davies, went out for its first round of editing today! I'm going to take a couple of days off to celebrate my upcoming 4th anniversary with my amazing hubby! After that I'm going to start the next book in The Captive Series. It is going to be a prequel about Atticus before he was king. I know people are looking forward to William's story, and he will get one, but Atticus has been talking to me for awhile and he's demanding to be heard. His story will answer some questions but it will also be important in the upcoming books in the series. I do plan  a little bit of a treat for everyone at the end of it. ;) I'm not sure if it will be a novella or not, it depends on how it all unfolds!

The Survivor Chronicles: Book 4 (Chapter 14, Mary Ellen)


Mary Ellen,

 

   The musty smell of the cabin was the first thing that hit her as soon as the door was open; the second thing that almost hit her was a raccoon that would have run into her leg if she hadn’t jumped out of the way in time. The animal grunted its displeasure all the way down the steps as Nancy and Donald scurried to get out of its way.

   “Well if that was still alive inside then I don’t think any of our not so friendly neighbors are,” Carl said.

   He kept his gun in front of him though as he pushed the door back with the tip of his boot and slowly entered the dim cabin. Mary Ellen tried to peer over his shoulder but Carl’s back blocked her view of the cabin. John, Xander, and Riley filtered in ahead of her; Al was by her side as they stepped into the shadowed interior.

   Riley and Xander clicked on their flashlights and shone them around the large room they had all entered. Inside the cabin, the smell of must mingled with wild animal and the strong ammonia scent of urine. It would take a long time to get the smell out but even though her eyes watered, it was still one of the best places she’d seen in awhile.

   The floor beneath her feet was gray linoleum, speckled with shades of green and blue throughout it. The corners of the floor were peeling up in some spots but it didn’t appear to have much wear over the years as it was still in relatively good condition. The beams of the flashlights bounced over the dark wood paneling of the walls. There were antlers hanging on the walls, a deer head, and a bear. Mary Ellen looked quickly away from the sightless black eyes staring out at her. It felt as if those eyes were following her around the room even though she didn’t make contact with them again. She’d had enough of rooms filled with dead animals and hoped to be able to take these ones down.

   An old table sat in the middle of the large room. There was still a deck of cards sitting on it and an empty glass. Two old brown sofas were pushed against the walls, their best days were last seen in the seventies, but their cushions and backing were still intact. In between the table and chair was a metal wood burning stove that still had a pile of wood sitting beside it.

   Everything within the room was covered with a layer of dust but it appeared as if the cabin had been kept relatively clean before it had been locked up. Carl moved to the left and the others followed behind him. He stepped into a kitchen with a small green fridge, a white two-burner stove, and a steel basin sink. There were four cabinets on the wall but only two ground ones on either side of the sink.

   Carl opened and closed all of the upper cabinets but they were bare and nothing was lurking within them. In the left bottom cabinet was a trashcan and in the right were a handful of cleaning supplies, including bleach. She despised the smell of bleach but judging by the smell of this place they were going to need it.

   Stepping back, she flicked on her flashlight and pulled out her gun as she shone it into the room just to the right of the kitchen. Two sets of bunk beds were within; she knelt down before she entered the room and shone the light around the small space beneath the beds. She was half expecting to see some eyes reflecting back at her but other than a whole lot of dust bunnies there was nothing else beneath the bed.

   “Clear?” Carl inquired.

   “Yes,” she told him and rose up.

   Carl stepped past her and into the narrow room. He stood on his tiptoes to peer into the shadows above the beds. Nodding, he dropped back down and walked to the end of the room. Mary Ellen followed behind and opened up the drawers on the dresser to the right while Carl went through the left one.

   “They should be empty,” Al said from the doorway.

   Mary Ellen closed the last drawer and nodded. “They are.”

   She left the room and they all moved toward the last two remaining rooms on the other side of the cabin. Riley was already standing in the doorway of a tiny bathroom. Mary Ellen spotted the stand-in shower in the corner with a toilet beside it. She frowned as she stared at the toilet paper holder; it took her a minute to realize that it was a deer antler. She couldn’t figure out if she was amused or repulsed by that.

   Turning away, she looked into the other bedroom that Xander and John were already searching. Just like the other one, it had two sets of bunk beds and two dressers in it. The mattress on the bottom bunk to her right had been torn apart, springs and cushion had been piled up around the hole. It must have been where the raccoon was nesting, she realized.

   She turned her attention back to Xander and John as Xander toed open the closet at the end of the beds to her left. Xander pointed the gun and flashlight into the closet, it was completely empty but some of the insulation from the ceiling had fallen down. “Is there an attic?” Xander inquired.

   “Just a crawl space,” Al answered.

   “This is where the raccoon got in.”

   “We’ll have to find the hole and patch it,” Carl said and left the room.

   Mary Ellen turned back to the large main room and stood there staring at it. She didn’t know what to say or do. She didn’t know what was expected of her anymore.

   “Now what?” Riley inquired.

   Mary Ellen was glad she wasn’t the only one that seemed to have no idea what to do now. They’d been running for what seemed like forever now, with this one goal in mind. Now they had attained their goal and she felt that they should still be running, that moving was safer, but it wasn’t. It couldn’t be. They’d lost people while moving, there were constant dangers lurking out there, constant obstacles they had to overcome. Here they would be able to hunt; they would be able to scour the area in search of food and gas. They may even be able to start a garden next year if the weather and sky continued to make their steady return back toward normal.

   She felt helpless now, even more lost than when all of this had started and she’d had no idea what was going on, where to go, or how to escape. At least she had been moving then. When she’d been moving, she hadn’t had time to think. There was too much time now and the thoughts were something she would prefer not to focus on.

   “Now we make it a home,” Al said quietly. “We get the boards down, we clean, we search the area; we set traps for animals and for possible enemies. We see if we can make a stand here, make a life.”

   Mary Ellen remained standing with the others though, her shoulders pressed against Riley’s and Carl’s. Outside of the open doorway she could see Nancy, Donald, Claire, Josh, Freddie, and Rochelle gathered on the porch and at the bottom of the stairs. Rochelle was holding Spooky in her arms as she stared out at the lake. Mary Ellen couldn’t bring herself to move toward them and let them know that it was safe to come inside.

   “There is still plenty to do,” Al said. “We’re not safe here, not yet.”

   “Should we go back and lock the gate?” John asked.

   “That is the only road in or out; barricading it probably isn’t the best idea. We can work on cutting another road out over time. There’s a shed in the woods with an ax in there and I’m sure we’ll find some more axes and chainsaws on the other properties in the area,” Al told them.

   “Let’s hope for the chainsaws,” John said.

   “Where do we start first?” Mary Ellen asked.

   “We’ll split the tasks. For now we should start on making this place ready for us to stay in. We should set up a security system around the perimeter so we can know if someone is coming. Are there any hunting stands near this cabin?” Carl inquired. “They might be useful as lookout points.”

   “There are,” Al answered. “I’ll show them to you.”

   “John do you want to come with us?”

   “Yeah.”

   “I’d like to go,” Mary Ellen inserted. She’d thought that cleaning this place would be the thing she’d want to dive into, but a walk through the woods, movement, seemed like a much better option right now.

   Carl nodded his agreement. “That’s fine. We should probably go quickly though, night will be here soon.”

   “I’m going to give Victor another dose,” Riley said. “And bring him inside.”

   “How many doses have you given him?” Carl asked.

   “This will be number four.”

   “How many do you plan to give him?” John asked.

   “Until the bottle runs out. The medicine does nothing for us and it doesn’t seem to be harming him so I don’t see any reason to stop.”

   “Neither do I,” Carl agreed. “Come on, let’s go.”

   Walking out to the porch seemed to give Mary Ellen a purpose again, and she did so with far more speed than she’d thought she’d have after standing aimlessly in the middle of that cabin. The others turned toward them as they descended the steps of the porch. “It’s safe to go in,” Carl informed them. “We need to get these boards off the windows, the cabin cleaned up, and the supplies inside before the sun sets. We’re going to check some things out but we’ll be back soon.”

   “Got it,” Donald said and hurried into the cabin.

   “Be safe,” Rochelle said to her.

   “I will,” she promised and kissed the top of her daughter’s head. “Stay close to the others.”

   Rochelle nodded and hurried over to join Riley by the car. “Winter up here can be brutal,” Al explained as they moved further into the woods. Mary Ellen searched the large pines and oaks around them as the fading light of the setting sun filtered through the heavy cover over her head. “If we’re able to stay here that long we’re going to have to figure out a way to stay heated and cook without producing much smoke.”

   “That shouldn’t be too difficult,” John muttered.  

   “The sick people are still human, if winter is bad there’s a good chance they won’t survive it then,” Carl said.

   “Well at least we won’t be alone then,” John said. “Those things are too damn smart to freeze to death, they’ll go south or they’ll burn something. Hopefully it’s not our frozen bodies they decide to use for fuel.”  

   Carl scowled at him. “Frozen bodies probably wouldn’t burn well and I think they prefer us for food.”

   “That’s looking on the bright side.”

   If John hadn’t always been a sarcastic SOB Mary Ellen might have actually been worried about him after the events of last night. As it was, she knew this was just the way he normally handled things. Carl didn’t seem at all worried about him though as he told John to go screw in not so nice of words.
   “We don’t even know if we’ll have a winter with this crazy weather and events we’ve had.” Al stopped beneath a large maple and pointed up. “Here’s one.”

   Mary Ellen eyed the wooden boards nailed into the tree about a foot apart until they reached a square wooden platform about thirty feet up. Her stomach dropped as she eyed the cracks in most of the boards used as a ladder and a broken board in the base of the stand. The last thing she wanted to do was climb up there. 

   Carl lit a cigarette before he grabbed hold of the bottom board and tested his weight on it. He climbed cautiously up the steps, pulling on each board a little before putting his weight on it. Mary Ellen held her breath as he reached the smaller square hole in the bottom of the stand. He placed his hands on each side of the stand and tested the security of it before gingerly pulling himself onto it.

   Her breath exploded from her as he rose to his full height close to the trunk of the tree. “What do you see?” John called quietly up to him.

   “Trees,” Carl answered. “Lots of them.”

   “Maybe if you move closer to the edge,” John suggested.

   “You come up here and get closer to the edge,” Carl retorted.

   “Can you see the cabin or anything around us?” Al asked.

   Carl shook his head, stomped on his cigarette, and climbed back down the tree. “This one won’t be of any help to us,” he told them when he reached the ground. “Maybe in the fall, when the leaves drop we’ll be able to see better, but not now. Where’s the next one?”

   “This way,” Al said and led them through the woods on a perpendicular angle to the cabin. “This one was my friend’s stand. I never used it but it might have a better view of the cabin and area.”

   The twigs and leaves crunched beneath their feet as they continued through the woods. The scent of rotten leaves and pine needles assailed her, bringing forth memories of fall and Halloween as she went trick-or-treating with Rochelle through the neighborhood. She’d always loved the smell of fall, the leaves as they changed color, the pumpkin everything that seemed to pop up, and warm apple cider. She almost shoved her hands in her pockets as the memory of the crisp autumn days assailed her. 

   What she wouldn’t give for some warm apple cider right now, but that wasn’t going to happen today. Maybe they’d be able to find an apple tree and make some cider of their own in the future.

   Al stopped beneath a large oak and nodded toward the metal ladder that had been nailed to the tree. It didn’t look anymore stable than the wooden boards on the other tree, but the stand above appeared to be fully intact. John seized hold of Carl’s arm when he went to grab the ladder.

   “I’ll go this time,” John offered.

   Carl nodded and stepped aside as John grabbed a rung and began to carefully climb up the rickety ladder. Mary Ellen hissed out a breath as the metal bowed beneath his weight but held firm. John pulled himself onto the stand and like Carl stayed close to trunk of the tree. He shaded his eyes as he searched the forest.

   John nodded before climbing down the ladder again. He was almost to the bottom when one of the rungs beneath his feet gave way. Mary Ellen gasped loudly, Al and Carl lurched forward as John’s feet fell out from underneath him. She winced as John’s chin bounced off of one of the rungs, but he kept his hold on the ladder and eventually got his feet onto another one.

   “You ok?” Mary Ellen asked when John jumped off to land on the ground nearby.

   He rubbed his reddened chin as he nodded. “Yeah.”

   “Will it be useful?” Carl asked.

   “I could see the cabin from up there and part of the road.”

   “Good, are there anymore stands Al?”

   “There’s one more that could be of help,” Al answered. “The others are further into the woods.”

   They fell into step behind Al as he walked at an angle that took them further away from the cabin, but brought them closer to the lake. The sun had almost completely set by the time they reached the final stand and Carl climbed into the tree above. Mary Ellen glanced nervously around the woods as silence descended with the twilight.

   She’d been so eager to escape the cabin, now all she wanted was to get back to the shelter. She pulled her flashlight out as night descended earlier in the woods. Carl climbed back down the ladder and landed almost silently on the ground beside her. He grabbed hold of her hand before she could turn on the light though and shook his head. “Not unless it becomes necessary.”

   “Did you see something up there?” she asked nervously.

   He shook his head as his gaze traveled around the forest. “No it’s all clear. This one will be helpful too.”

   In the distance the forlorn hoot of an owl drifted through the trees. Even if he hadn’t seen anything while he was up there, the hair on Mary Ellen’s neck stood on end as the woods took on an ominous feeling that made it feel as if the woods had come alive.

   “Let’s get back,” Carl said.

   Mary Ellen tried to be as quiet as possible as they headed back toward the cabin. Every step seemed to echo loudly through the trees though. She knew that it was only her imagination but she felt like she was Big Foot stomping through the woods in search of food.

   Relief filled her when the cabin finally came into view again. The boards had been taken down from the windows; the dim glow of a flashlight could be seen through the glass. It was a welcoming glow, one that drew her quickly onward. As she approached the right side of the cabin, she could hear the murmur of voices drifting out and for the first time she got the real sense of a home.

   “Did you find anything of use?” Mary Ellen almost screamed out loud at the voice that came from the left of her. She jumped and spun as Xander emerged from the boulders by the lake. “Didn’t meant to startle you,” he apologized. “I was just keeping watch.”

   “There are a couple of stands that we can use to keep watch from. They need to be fixed up a little but they’ll come in handy,” Carl answered.

   “Good,” Xander said as he fell into step with them.

   Mary Ellen climbed the steps to the porch and entered the cabin. The others looked half-asleep as they sat in the chairs around the table and on the couch. Beneath the scent of lemon polish and bleach that filled her nostrils she could still detect the faint aroma of musk and urine. The layer of dust had been removed from the table and coffee table. A slight breeze drifted through the open windows, bringing with it the fresh mountain air. There was still more work to be done inside, but it already looked better than when she’d left.

   “Dinner?” Riley asked and held up a bag of chips. “I never thought I’d say this but I would give anything for a veggie right now, even if it was cauliflower.”

   “I still can’t say that,” John said as he took the chips from her.

   Mary Ellen glanced down at Victor, sitting in a small chair in the corner with his head bowed. She was about to turn away from him when he lifted his head. His eyes latched onto hers as a single tear slid down his cheek.

 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Stolen Heart is now Live!

 
A Stolen Heart is now live! For those of you that don't know Brenda K. Davies is my other pen name.

After a devastating event that changed both their lives, Alexandra and her brother Hugh turn to stealing in order to get revenge on the ma...n that destroyed their lives. But neither of them are prepared for the day when everything changes, and the lawless life they’ve been carrying out is irrevocably altered.

When he agreed to accompany the shipment of money into Kansas for his latest benefactor, Jarett never thought that anyone would dare to try and steal it from him. He realizes he was greatly mistaken when he comes face to face with two thieves, and the robbery goes horribly wrong. Now on the hunt for the boy that shot him, he is determined to uncover the bandits and have his revenge before moving further west.

Jarett isn’t ready for the stonewall he comes face to face with when dealing with the townspeople though. Nor is he prepared for the enigmatic Alexandra Harris when she appears in the mercantile. Determined to get closer to Alexandra, he’s thrown off by her insistent refusal of him. Fighting against her growing attraction to a man she knows would prefer to see her hung if he uncovered the truth, Alexandra tries to stay far away from Jarett. The more they are forced together though, the more she realizes that the man she considers her enemy is the only one that could save her ravaged heart…

If he doesn’t kill her first.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MQ5JJAE

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/a-stolen-heart/id904283901?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-stolen-heart-brenda-k-davies/1119986469?ean=2940046068719

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/a-stolen-heart-5

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/461637

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Stolen-Heart-Brenda-K-Davies/dp/1500732028/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408992190&sr=8-1&keywords=1500732028

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Survivior Chronicles: Book 4 (Chapter 13, John)


John,

 

   It took the rest of the night to remove Jim and Peter’s bodies from the house and bury them. John went through the motions with an almost mechanical nature. He spoke with the others; he carried Peter’s feet with Carl at his shoulders. He helped to dig Jim’s grave with one of the two shovels they had found in the shed, and though the man had been a murderer and most likely a psychopath, he helped to dig Peter’s grave too. He couldn’t bring himself to help lower Peter’s body into the grave though, and no one asked him to do so. 

   He stood silently by and watched as the dirt was tossed onto the bodies. He’d just killed a man, he’d thought there would be a million thoughts running through his mind, thought he’d feel guilt, or hate himself. Instead, he felt this odd sense of detachment. Felt as if he was standing outside of himself and looking down over his own shoulder as he watched the shallow graves fill with dirt. 

   The only thing running through his mind was the thought that they would all end up here. That one day they would be tossing dirt onto someone else’s body and it would probably be one day soon. They would be doing this again and again until there was only one person left, and there would be no one left to throw dirt on them when they finally passed too.

   The last thing he wanted was to die, no matter how detached he felt right now, he was going to fight to stay alive. He didn’t want to be that last person left standing though; he found death a far more preferable proposition than being the only one left standing.

   The last shovelful of dirt fell onto the mound. With an air of finality, Carl tamped it down with the head of his shovel. The sound of the metal shovel tinging off of the rocks in the dirt finally snapped John back into his own body. Claire and Freddie began to sob as Al stepped forward to recite a prayer over Jim’s grave. Though they all stared at Peter’s grave, it was Josh that finally stepped forward.

   “Goodbye Mr. Dade,” he said quietly. “You were once a good teacher and I thank you for that.”

   John stared at the young man as he remained by the grave. In the end, none of them had liked Peter anymore, but Josh had been the one with a real connection to him. Peter had been a link to his old life, a link that had been severed by Peter’s death. John didn’t know if the tears in Josh’s eyes were because he was grieving for the man or if he was grieving the loss of that connection. Either way, the tears in Josh’s eyes were real, and he was grieving. 

   Guilt trickled through John; he turned his head away, unable to stand the sight of Josh’s sorrow any longer. He stepped away from the grave just as the first rays of the sun broke over the horizon. The crystal clear blue of the sky seemed like such a sign of hope but he couldn’t find any as Rochelle climbed into the middle seat of the truck. John glanced back at the two graves before following her into the truck.

   He hadn’t seen the bag of Twizzlers in her hand when she’d gotten into the vehicle, but she held one out to him. “I can make you a straw,” she offered.

   Forcing a smile to his face, John shook his head as he pulled one from the bag. “No straws, not today.”

   She stared sadly at him as she sat back in the seat and pulled out another piece of licorice. “Are you going to be ok?”

   “I’ll be right as rain soon enough.”

   She gave him a look that clearly said she thought he’d lost his mind. “Who says that? And what does it even mean?” 

   John chuckled as he bit into his Twizzler. “My mom used to say it all the time. I think it meant all good, or something like that.”

   “Next time just say all good.”

   “Aye aye captain.” She shot him a look as Carl climbed into the truck. The bandage wrapped around his head was stained red on the side but the blood was a dark rust color and John didn’t see any fresh blood seeping into it. The bleeding had stopped but Carl’s color still hadn’t completely returned.

   “Do you want me to drive?” John asked.

   “No, I’ll be fine,” Carl answered.

   Relief filled him, he would drive if Carl needed him to, but it was the last thing he felt like doing right now. The sun was clearing the horizon when Carl started the truck and pulled out of the driveway. Though he tried not to, John found his gaze drawn back to the mounds of dirt now fading from sight as they pulled onto the road again. They drove a couple of miles down the road before returning to the highway. His Twizzler was forgotten as he sat back in the seat and watched the trees and rock walls of the mountains pass by.

   He really had thought he’d feel worse about killing someone, and he was surprised to realize that what bothered him the most was that he didn’t feel worse. Maybe if it had been someone other than Peter, but no that wasn’t the reason either. He didn’t feel as if he were the most horrible form of life because he had done what needed to be done. It didn’t make it right but it also didn’t make it wrong. It just made it life.

   John inhaled deeply and took a bite of his licorice. Yep, life was a crapshoot and he felt as if he were just skirting the edges of rolling a snake eyes right now.

   He was so busy staring out the passenger window that he didn’t realize they were getting off the highway until they were in the middle of a winding exit ramp. Sitting up, he dropped his feet from where he had propped them against the dash. A four-lane road spread out before them, he wasn’t sure if it was a highway or not as there was a set of street lights about fifty feet ahead of them and another one a couple hundred feet past that.

   The poles from the first set of streetlights were lying across the road while the second set remained intact. Another road branched up to their left; he could see two gas stations up on the hill. Having no choice but to go up the hill, Carl took the left. A diner came into view as they cut through the parking lot and filling area of the first gas station. The door and windows were still intact but John couldn’t see much inside of the store.

   “Where are we?” John asked.

   “Monticello, or at least that’s what the exit sign read,” Carl answered. “These gas stations might be some good places to search if they’re near the cabin. They don’t look as if they’ve been broken into.”

   John nodded as they drove down a hill toward the other set of lights. They passed the diner, a pizza place, and a hotel all on their left before driving through the other set of lights and reconnecting with the main road once more. 

   John frowned as the trees on his right gave way and rows of barns were revealed. There were at least seven barns along the road; each one was labeled with a black letter. The first one was A and the one at the top of the hill, closest to him, was G. Another row of barns stretched up the same hill on the other side of the first seven barns. As they drove onward an oval, dirt track came into view.

   “What is this place?” Rochelle asked.

   “If I have to guess I’d say a racetrack, horses,” Carl expounded when they both gave him a questioning look.

   But even as Carl answered, John spotted a grouping of the large animals standing on a grassy area close to the metal fence near the road. John closed his eyes and counted to five before opening them again. The horses were still there, their tails twitching in the summer day, and their heads bent to the green grass beneath their hooves.

   “They’re alive,” he breathed.

   Carl slowed the vehicle as they approached the gate; he pulled in at the last second and parked the truck in front of the closed and locked gates before the little guard booth. The dirt track was on their left and had a few more horses walking around the middle of it, munching on more grass. John opened his door and stepped out of the truck. He slowly approached the fence and slid his fingers through the cool metal links. He could hear the others approaching but he couldn’t tear his gaze away from the animals.

   There had been so many dead horses along the way that he had become convinced that they would never see one alive again. Even with the locked gates, there was a sense of freedom to the animals that kept his gaze riveted on them.

   “Should we open the gates to let them out?” Rochelle asked.

   “They’ve made it this long and they seem safe enough in there. Maybe these gates are what has kept them alive,” Carl said.

   “Maybe we could use them to get around though. I can ride.”

   “They’re not those kind of horses,” Al answered. John turned his head to look at him, he hadn’t heard him approach but there was a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes as he studied the track. “They’re Standardbreds, harness horses.”

   “So they can’t be ridden?” Rochelle inquired.

   “They probably could if you broke them to a saddle, but right now I wouldn’t recommend trying to jump onto their backs. They probably wouldn’t appreciate that much.”

   “Oh,” the word was filled with disappointment as Rochelle looped her fingers through the fence beside his.

   “Maybe one day kid,” John said quietly. “We’ll get you a horse, maybe even one of these, but we’ll have to make sure you have a helmet.”

   “That would be nice,” she whispered.

   “I used to come to this track years ago to make some bets and drink some beers.” Al’s voice held a touch of nostalgia in it as he stepped closer to the fence. “There was a driver here; he used to sing to the horses, you could hear him clear across the track even with a grandstand full of people. I always bet on him just because of that singing, it wasn’t on tune, it wasn’t good, but it always made me smile. I made some good money off of him over the years. Those were some fun times.”

   “Sounds like it,” Mary Ellen murmured.

   “Well,” Al said as he stepped away from the fence. “We’re almost to the cabin. We should get going if we’re going to make it by sunset.”

   He turned away from the fence but John and Rochelle remained behind, staring at the barns and horses. He didn’t want to turn away from them, he was afraid they would vanish or be in some kind of freaky mound when they returned here. “I’ll get you one,” John promised her. “First chance I get.”

   “You don’t have to do that.”

   “Yes, I do. Come on; let’s get to our new home, hopefully.”

   He rested his hand on her shoulder and pulled her away from the fence. Climbing back in the truck, he slammed the door and watched as they drove past old buildings, two trailer parks, a few apparently empty business and a lot of trees. Most of the houses fell away as they climbed up a large hill and then back down before making a turn. John had no idea how they were going to get back out of the winding roads as they made turn after turn. He didn’t feel as if they were going overly far from the main road but it was such a convoluted path that he quickly lost track of it.

   Trees pressed closer against the road, he spotted small streams and mossy banks along the drop off beside the truck. More than a few times they had to drive around debris blocking the road. Once they were forced to stop, pick up a small oak and carry it out of the way, but they were also forced to double back and find another way twice. The sun was beginning to set, and John was beginning to think they were never going to make it, when the car pulled into a small alcove on the side of the road that he never would have seen.

   Trees and thorny vines hung over what appeared to have once been a driveway. It wasn’t until he had gotten out and approached Xander, Riley, Nancy, and Al that he spotted the gate blocking the road. Victor was still motionless in the backseat of the car with his head bent. John’s stomach churned as he stared at the child. That medicine simply had to work; Victor had to wake up. Something good had to come out of the mess that had been created in that house. There had to be a reason he had killed a man, but then he thought that outcome had been inevitable with Peter, and if they had made it here with Peter still alive a lot more damage could have been done. It would have been easy enough for Peter to lead some people into the woods and simply never return with them.

   John turned away from the child and back to the gate. He assumed the triangle shaped gate had once been the color of metal but now it was covered with rust and sagging at the end. The post it was attached to seemed to be newer as there wasn’t as much rust on it, and it remained solidly upright.

   Al walked up to the gate and grabbed hold of a box attached to the ten-foot long chain that had been wrapped around the gate and pole three times. Al typed in a code that opened the box and pulled out the key hidden within. He slid the key into the lock inside the box and the massive padlock popped open.

   “Is it fenced in all the way around?” Nancy asked.

   “No, this gate was just to discourage people from driving their vehicles or four wheelers down the road. There are about seven other cabins in the area and they’re all like this. There’s not much to steal from them, and its enough of a walk to the cabin to deter anyone just looking to party for the night, but I wanted to keep people from driving onto the property. If they could do that, it would be a nice place to throw a party or crash for awhile. There was also a security system and cameras.”

   He pointed to a sign nailed to a tree that John hadn’t noticed until now. It read, This property is monitored by video surveillance. Trespassers will be prosecuted. “Never had a problem here,” Al continued as he pulled the chain free.

   Hinges squeaked as Al walked the gate open and pulled out another piece of chain attached to a tree and latched the gate open. John stared down the rutted dirt road. Years of neglect had allowed the woods to creep in to reclaim the land that had been taken from them. This was about the time in a horror movie when he would start yelling at the morons on screen not to go down there. Now, he was one of those morons as he returned to the truck.

   He grabbed hold of the handle above his head and braced his foot on the dash as Carl carefully drove the truck down the road. They were barely doing five miles per hour and yet they were still jostled and bumped in their seats. John’s teeth chattered even though he kept them clamped together. Over their heads, low hanging branches and vines scratched across the roof of the truck. The sound of the scraping made him think of skeletons, hanging down from the trees to drag their bony fingers over the metal roof. The clacking of thicker vines and branches on the roof was actually the their maniacal laughter as they drove deeper into the skeleton’s lair. The skeletons were just taunting them, and biding their time, until they emerged from the vehicle.

   Shuddering at the thought, he cursed his over active imagination as he tried to shut out the image of the dead above them. Try as he might though, the image lingered and the bouncing of the truck over the ruts became the skeleton’s teeth as they chattered in eager anticipation of getting their hands on their prey within.

   John was half convinced he was never going to get out of this truck again when the woods gave way. They drove into a cleared area that appeared to be about a quarter of a mile wide circle, with a small cabin sitting in the middle. On his right hand side, a lake emerged from around a boulder. The blue water shimmered red, yellow, and orange in the fading rays of the sun. He could see four other cabins along the water but the closest one looked to be at least half a mile away.

   The car pulled up beside the cabin and Carl parked next to them. Though he didn’t think there really were skeletons hunting them, John still hesitated before opening the truck door. The scent of water, algae, and fish hit him as soon as he stepped out of the vehicle; he inhaled deeply as he savored in the scent. It was so refreshing that he could picture himself throwing out a fishing line and sitting on one of the boulders surrounding the lake. His father would be there with him and maybe they would talk, but he knew that most of the day would be spent in companionable silence as they tossed back the fish they caught and drank beers. It was all so clear in his mind that for a moment he almost saw his father there amongst the boulders, grinning at him, and waving for him to come and join him.

   Before he could become lost to the mirage, and the sorrow it brought, he turned away to study the cabin. It was only one story with a large porch that took up the entire front of the building. The wood of the porch was sagging a little but it appeared in otherwise good repair. There were four windows in the front and two on the side that was facing them; all of them had been boarded over with large pieces of plywood. A large, upright propane tank sat on the side of the house. Numerous rust spots had broken through the white paint coating the tank.

   “It’s empty,” Al said when he caught John eyeing the tank. “I made sure to have it emptied out when I knew I wouldn’t be coming back for awhile, if ever again. I also had the windows boarded up.”

   Carl rubbed at his chin as he nodded. “Good idea.”

   “Well, let’s go check out our new home,” Riley said as she stepped up beside them. “It doesn’t look as if anyone has broken into it but I’d still like to check the outside before trying the door.”

   “So would I,” Carl agreed.

   John followed them around the building but all the boards remained intact and the concrete foundation had no windows in it. “There’s no basement,” Al explained as they walked. “It’s just a slab. There was electricity, cable and a working bathroom but the water was turned off and I’m not sure we’ll be able to get it back on or that the pipes have even survived.”

   “It still sounds like a little bit of heaven to me,” Nancy said.

   John slapped at his neck as he felt a stab there. He pulled his hand away to reveal the smooshed mosquito and his blood. “Of course they would survive,” he muttered and wiped his hands on his jeans.

   They stopped at the front steps and stood staring at the cabin. “Well there’s only one place left to check,” Carl said and pulled his gun free as he cautiously approached the front door.

   John didn’t know if he was ready to see what was inside, he was terrified that they would open that door and find something monstrous waiting to eat them or that the ceiling would have collapsed. They had come so far, lost so much, all he wanted was a chance to stop and relax, even if it was only for a few days. He was terrified they wouldn’t be given that opportunity though.

 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Month long Giveaway!

*****MONTH LONG GIVEAWAY!!!!*****
This giveaway will run on both Erica Stevens & Brenda K. Davies page. The grand prize winner will receive a $25 GC to Amazon, signed paperback of choice, & a bookmark. Four other winners will receive a $5 GC to Amazon, signed paperback of choice, & a bookmark.
To enter the giveaway simply go to Erica Stevens FB page! https://www.facebook.com/ericastevens679

The Survivor Chronicles: Book 4 (Chapter 12, Xander)



Xander,

 

   The first distinct memory he had of his life was of him standing in a park. He’d been three and tottering awkwardly through the grass to get at a dandelion. His chubby fingers had crushed the yellow flower when he pulled it out of the ground but he’d still happily toddled back over to hand it to his mother. She’d oohed and ahhed over the crushed flower as she’d held a sleeping Carol against her chest. He could still see the radiant smile on her face; still clearly recall the cut grass and almost burnt aroma of the dandelion upon his fingers. The smell of dandelions still brought him back to that moment. His mother had looked so beautiful that day, so radiant in a way that he had never seen her before.

   For years, he’d never understood why that day had been his first memory or why he remembered it so vividly. Then, when he was fifteen he’d found that dandelion pressed into the pages of his mother’s scrapbook, and he’d felt that love all over again. It was then he’d realized that he could remember that day so clearly because it was the first time he’d ever truly known what love was, and just how deeply he was loved. That ugly, crushed little weed had made his mother’s face light up as if he had just handed her a hundred roses, and she’d cherished it even more than she would have a hundred roses.

   He didn’t know where the memory came from now, his life didn’t flash before his eyes as he’d heard it would before possible death. Instead, all he saw was that simple time of a little boy with his family. All he felt was the unconditional love of his mother as his ears rang with the resounding echo of gunfire. Maybe it was the burnt smell filling the room that had triggered the memory; maybe it was because he felt almost childlike again as he stood there helplessly amongst the chaos that had unfolded. Or maybe it was because the only woman he’d ever been in love with had shoved herself away from him. He’d been holding Riley, trying to keep her safe, but she’d jerked free of his hold, drawing Peter’s gun away from him as Peter pulled the trigger.

   As silence descended upon the room he knew there was no reason to look down at himself; there were no bullet wounds in him. At the last second, the shot had not been fired at him.

   A simple dandelion from a field in a park that he’d spent a lot of time in over the course of his life. It was one of his most cherished memories, and as he’d grown older that park had continued to play a part in even more of his memories. Riley had been in a good chunk of them over the years spent growing from childhood to adolescence to adult. Carol, Lee, and Bobby had often been present during the laughter, and sometimes tears from skinned knees and broken bones, but those three were gone now. They were nothing more than the movies that played through his mind, he was terrified to look and see if Riley was nothing more than a movie now too.

   It had only been seconds since it had all unfolded but he couldn’t bring himself to move, couldn’t bring himself to face Riley. But he had too; he couldn’t stand here within his memories forever, it was simply impossible to do so. Gathering his courage, he forced himself to turn his head and look at where Riley had landed beside him on the floor.

   He’d handed his mother a simple dandelion and she’d treasured it for as long as she’d been alive. It felt as if someone was handing him the most precious gift in the world as Riley stared dazedly back up at him. There was a look on her face that said she’d just seen into the eyes of the devil, and he supposed, in a way, she had.

   Yellow stuffing had exploded from the ruined cushion on the couch behind her; bits of debris had rained down to fall on her head and shoulders. Xander could see the still smoldering bullet hole just two inches to the right of where her head was.

   So close, she had come so unbelievably close to death today.

   Xander knelt beside her and before she could get herself into a full sitting position, he took hold of her cheeks and kissed her. There were no dandelions here; there was only sweetness and love, and such simple relief as he tasted her lips and mouth. He couldn’t get enough of touching her as his hand slid away from her face to cradle the back of her neck. There was an out of control feeling tearing through him as he held her against him.

   Her breath was coming in rapid pants when she pulled away to look up at him. A small smile curved her mouth before her gaze darted to the others within the room and the smile slipped from her lips. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to look away from her and at the devastation that had taken place within the room. Jim was on the floor against the wall; his hands covered the chest wound that was still pulsing blood out of it. His chest rose and fell slowly but his eyes had closed and Xander could hear a strange rattle escaping him on every exhalation.

   Al was still kneeling on the floor near Jim, his hand was wrapped around the butt of his gun, but it hadn’t moved from the floor. Blood had splattered close to Al’s hands and there was a few drops on his face. His mouth hung open in shock as he stared at the man lying just a few inches away from his hand. With a trembling hand, Al reached up to wipe the blood from his face.

   A pool of blood was spreading out from beneath Peter. Xander could see the black bullet wound in the center of his left temple. Blood, and bits of something he didn’t wish to identify, had exploded over Mary Ellen, Donald and Victor, who remained unmoving and seemingly oblivious on the floor. Mary Ellen looked as if she was torn between screaming, crying, and vomiting as blood dripped slowly off of her cheek to land silently upon the cream carpet. Donald was the color of dry wall; even his lips had turned white. The only color on the man was Peter’s blood, his hair and eyes, the blue shirt he wore, and his jeans. Donald’s hands were still empty as they remained in the air over his head. 

   Xander had been avoiding looking everywhere but the other direction he knew Peter had fired in, but just as he’d known that he had to make sure that Riley was still alive, he knew he could not deny looking to Carl and John anymore. Carl was just turning back toward the group; blood was spilling around the hand he had pressed against his forehead. Carl froze in mid turn as his gaze landed upon John.

   The gun clasped in John’s hands was still extended and Xander swore that there was a tendril of smoke curling out from the barrel. He wouldn’t have been more shocked if it had been a dog standing there holding the gun as he was to see John with it. John’s face was resolute; his hands on the gun were steady. The look in his eyes though told Xander, more than the fact that John had pulled the trigger, that he would never be the same. He considered John one of his friends now, he was good for a laugh, and Xander knew that John would have his back, but he’d never been certain that John would have this in him.

   John’s gaze lingered on Peter’s still form and then he turned to Carl. “I told you,” he said in a voice that Xander hardly recognized. “That I would do what needed to be done, when the time came.”

   Carl continued to stare at him in disbelief before he gave a brief nod. After a prolonged silence, Carl reached out and gently pushed John’s left arm down with his free hand. John’s arms remained unmoving at first but he finally relented to Carl’s pressure on his arms. “You did the right thing,” Carl said.

   John turned to look at him. “I did what needed to be done, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was the right thing.”

   Xander had never expected anything even remotely philosophical to come out of John’s mouth, and yet those might have been the truest words he’d ever heard. Carl opened his mouth to say something but the sound of pounding feet coming from the front of the house snapped all of their heads around.

   “Check on Jim,” Al commanded. “I’ll stop them.”

   There wasn’t much to check on with Jim, Xander already knew that, but he moved toward the large man’s side and knelt next to him. He pressed his fingers against the vein in Jim’s neck, there was a weak pulse there but it wouldn’t last much longer if the slowing of the blood from the wound was any indication.

   Helplessness swamped him, there was nothing they could do for the man except sit here and watch him die.

   “Where is Jim?” Claire demanded from what sounded like the den.

   “What happened?” Nancy asked shrilly.

   “Is everyone ok?” Josh inquired.

   He heard Al talking to them in low tones but he couldn’t make out the words as Al ushered the others back toward the dining room. “I’ll go help him,” Donald said in a tremulous voice.

   Riley tore her gaze away from him and Jim. Bits of stuffing fell onto the floor around her as she rose to her feet.  “Not like that,” she whispered. “You’re covered in Peter’s blood.”

   Donald’s hands fell limply to his sides as his gaze ran up and down his body. “Crap,” he muttered. “Just...”

   “Crap,” John finished when Donald’s voice trailed off. “Yeah I’d say that’s the best way to describe this situation.”

   A strange rattle drew Xander’s attention back to Jim. He no longer felt the beat of Jim’s pulse beneath his fingers and as he sat and stared at his massive chest, he became increasingly certain that Jim was no longer breathing. Xander’s hand dropped down, he leaned back on his heels to study the unmoving man.

   “This is all my fault,” Riley muttered.

   “You didn’t pull that trigger and what we’re doing with Victor is something we all wanted to try, this is not your fault,” Carl said. “I wanted this as much as you did.”

   John grabbed hold of his arm to help him as Carl took an unsteady step forward. “Are you ok?” John demanded. Carl waved John’s hand away but he sank onto the intact cushion on the couch. Beads of sweat broke out on his brow and lip and his face had taken on the hue of someone who was about to be ill. “Did you get hit by some debris or something?”

   “Or something, I’m pretty sure I was shot,” Carl mumbled.

   “What!” Riley cried.

   She hurried to Carl’s side and dropped to her knees beside him. Donald and Mary Ellen crept out of the corner but the both of them still looked as if they were about to pass out at any minute. Neither of them had made a move to try and clean themselves up, but there wasn’t anything they could use within this room anyway. Victor remained unmoving on the floor, oblivious to the pool of Peter’s blood creeping steadily closer to him.

   Mary Ellen gathered herself enough to bend down and pick the child up. She carried him over and deposited him on the loveseat. Riley grabbed hold of Carl’s arm and tried to pull his hand away from the wound. Xander didn’t want to look; he had an awful image of a bullet hole in the center of Carl’s forehead, of brain being exposed, or some other hideous thing. He thought it was at least a little possible, he’d heard of people surviving much worse from a gunshot wound.

   Carl was walking and talking, but it could also be shock that was keeping his body going. He could actually be dying, these could be his last few minutes on earth, and it was simply the adrenaline coursing through his body that was carrying him through like a chicken with its head cut off.

   “I have to see,” Riley said when Carl continued to hold his hand to the blood seeping down from his skull.

   The wound had to be awful for that much blood to be spilling forth but Xander couldn’t tear his eyes away as Carl finally relented to Riley’s insistence. A gouge had been torn across Carl’s skull. It started on the side of his head, and was about an inch above and to the right of Carl’s right eye. The bullet had torn off skin and hair, leaving behind a clear trail of its trajectory. Though blood was pouring from the wound, Xander had a feeling that the white bone of the skull would be evident if the bleeding was stopped.

   Riley placed Carl’s hand back against the wound. “It’s ugly looking but you’re going to live,” she assured him. “I need some supplies to stop the bleeding.”

   “I was never that good looking to begin with,” he told her with a wan smile.

   The fact that he still had a sense of humor was reassuring but they had to do something about that blood soon if he was going to continue to have one. “I’ll get them,” Xander told her.

   “They’re in the trunk of the Cadillac, or they were,” Mary Ellen said. She was starting to regain some of her color but she was still covered in Peter’s blood.

   “I’m coming with you,” Riley said as she rose to her feet. “We’re also going to need some fresh clothes and water for Mary Ellen, Donald, and Victor.”

   Xander nodded and turned to leave the room. Though he knew it had nothing to do with the air quality, he found it easier to breathe as soon as he stepped into the den and away from the massacre. He took hold of Riley’s hand and pressed it against his chest when she joined him. He took a minute to simply stand there with her, to look at her, and to let some of the tension and horror ease from his body.

   “I thought you were dead,” he said honestly.

   Riley frowned as she glanced back at the room. “It probably should have been me…”

   “Carl was right, this isn’t your fault. If we can help those people with the L-Dopa we are going to do it. Peter has been slipping for a long time now, I think he’s just been waiting for an excuse to try and kill us.”

   “I would say you’re right.” Xander jumped a little at the sound of the voice in the doorway to the living room. “I didn’t mean to interrupt you,” Al apologized. “But I told Claire I would find out about Jim.”

   “He didn’t make it,” Riley whispered.

   Al nodded and ran his hand through his disheveled gray hair. “I didn’t think he would,” he said before focusing on Riley again. “I truly believe that Peter has been planning for a long time to kill us off. I also think he planned to keep the kids with him after he did, he was stronger than them and they would have to rely on him. If he could keep it hidden that he killed the rest of us, or somehow managed to twist the story to his benefit, he could have made it so they depended on him. Over time, he could have bent their minds to his will and he was manipulative enough to do so. We were always more competition and more mouths to feed than he liked.”

   Riley nodded her agreement but Xander could feel the tremor in her hand. “That’s why he went for Jim first,” Riley said. “Because he was the biggest.”

   “And the biggest threat. It was his son that Peter wanted to take with him after all. You don’t come in between a parent and their child,” Al said. “I think Peter thought he had us at a disadvantage in that room. You’re just lucky he didn’t start shooting before we got there, but then I don’t think he expected tonight to be the moment that he was waiting for. It just spiraled out of control, and when he had the strongest of us all together, he decided to take his chance.”

   Xander released Riley’s hand and pulled her against his side. “He’s right,” he whispered and kissed her temple.

   Riley hugged him back before pulling away and taking a deep breath. “Carl’s been shot, we need to get supplies, and Mary Ellen and Donald need to get cleaned up.”

   “Carl was shot?” Al demanded.

   “He’ll be fine if we stop the bleeding. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to stitch the wound but he definitely needs some bandages and peroxide. Plus water and clean clothes.”

   “You two gather those and I’ll talk with Claire and Freddie,” Al said and stepped back.

   The others looked up from the dining room table when they entered the room. Xander had to look away from the hopeful look in Claire’s tear filled eyes as she lifted her forehead from her hands to gaze at them. Freddie sat silently beside her, with Nancy and Josh. Rochelle was standing in the doorway of the kitchen with her arms wrapped around her middle.

   “Jim?” Claire inquired.

   “I’m sorry,” Al said.

   “Come with me,” Xander said quietly to Rochelle, looking to get her away from the sorrow engulfing the room. He nudged her away from the doorway as Claire began to weep loudly and Freddie wrapped his arms around his mother.   

   “I’m going to get some pots, I’ll be in here or the living room,” Riley said and broke away to search the cabinets.

   Rochelle continued to hug herself as she followed him outside. “What happened in there?” she asked when they stepped outside.

   “Nothing good.”

   Her eyes glimmered in the beam of his flashlight as she followed him over to the car. “Al said my mom is ok.”

   “She is,” he assured her as he popped the trunk of the Caddy and hurried to the back of it. “Peter and Jim are dead.”

   Rochelle inhaled sharply, her lower lip quivered but she resolutely held back the tears in her eyes. “Who are the bandages for?”

   “Carl was shot, but he’s fine,” he rushed to get the words out when Rochelle gasped and her hand flew to her mouth.

   “Thank God,” she breathed.

   “Do you think God has anything to do with this?” The sound of John’s voice caused them both to jump in surprise. Xander leaned out from around the rear end of the Caddy to look at him. John was half hidden in shadow by the backdoor of the car.

   “Maybe,” Rochelle answered. “Maybe not. But Carl is alive and that is something to be thankful for, no matter who saw fit to keep him that way. I’d like to think it might have been God.”

   John frowned thoughtfully at her before glancing at the sky. “Maybe you have it right, but I think the only one looking out for us now, is us.”

   “I’m ok with it only being you guys looking out for me too,” Rochelle said. “We’ve gotten each other pretty freaking far through all of this and we’ll get each other the rest of the way through. I thank you all for that, and I will thank God just in case he or she is still listening.”

   Xander lifted an eyebrow as he studied the young girl beside him. There was so much maturity in her for someone so young, so much belief in them. But then maybe she had so much faith in them because she was so young. Whatever it was, she seemed to be piercing through John’s odd demeanor as a smile tugged at his lips.

   “After all of this, I’m leaning toward God being a she. Only a woman could be this temperamental,” John said.

   “Ha ha,” Rochelle retorted.

   “And are we really that happy Carl is still alive?” John’s voice didn’t hold the same note of teasing that it normally did when he unleashed his sarcasm, but Xander found himself immensely relieved by John’s words and the fact that he walked around the back of the car to join them.

   “We know you’re doing cartwheels, even if you don’t want to admit it,” Rochelle told him.

   “I don’t do cartwheels kid.” John told her as he took a bag of medical supplies from Xander and turned back to the house. “I only do handstands.”