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.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Redemption, Teaser 4!


   "Enough!" A booming voice reverberated through the room with enough force and authority to freeze everyone in place, including Calvin. Hannah glanced around rapidly as she sought the source of the voice, but it wasn't until she spotted movement at the top of the stairs that her gaze was drawn to the man striding down the steps. Despite the awfulness of this whole situation, she couldn't stop her mouth from dropping as the vampire William had been with last night stepped off the last step and purposefully strode toward them.

   There had been an aura of power about him last night, but now it seemed to radiate from him like moonbeams on a cloudless night. Even shirtless and barefoot she suspected that he could take down almost every vampire in this room, possibly even Calvin himself. The rays of the sun spilling through the door played over his hard chest and sculpted abs as his steel gray eyes pinned Calvin to the spot. In the light of day she was able to see the flecks of blue speckled throughout his gray eyes.

   His hair, still tussled from sleep, stood out in spikes about his face. It was a look that may have made other men appear boyish, but the expression on his face was anything but boyish as his gaze fell on Calvin's bruising grip upon her arm. His upper lip curled into a sneer as a ring of fire encircled his eyes.

   It was the red gleam in his eyes that finally forced her mouth closed as a dull heat suffused her face. It was silly of her, especially right now, but she couldn't shake the pleased feeling that trickled through her at the realization that he didn't like Calvin touching her. Her gaze darted away from his bare chest, but despite her best attempts not to look, her eyes were inexorably drawn back to him.

   She'd grown up in this tavern, she was used to how wild and riotous men could be. She wasn't used to seeing such well-built ones, half naked, with their loose fitting pants hanging low on their slender waists, but then she'd been entirely captivated by him even when he'd been fully clothed.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Redemption Pre-order!

Redemption, book 5 in The Captive Series, is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Apple, and Smashwords! Pre-order price guarantee of $2.99!

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JS9WHFU

Apple https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/redemption-captive-series/id865674984?mt=11&uo=4

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/429955

The Survivor Chronicles: Book 3 (Chapter 28, Carl)

The Survivor Chronicles: Book 3 Description.

   New friendships will be forged, answers will be found, and lives will be lost as the survivors journey deeper into unfamiliar and treacherous areas. With new dangers arising every day, they find themselves faced with only one conclusion; sometimes the end of everything they know is only just the beginning of something more.


 
Carl,

 

   Carl had just stepped out the front door of the house when the second shot pierced the air. His gaze went rapidly back and forth between the two houses that the others had entered in order to search. He couldn’t pinpoint the source of the gunfire until Mary Ellen and the others emerged from the house on the other side of the one in the middle. 

   “Get in the truck!” Carl barked at Rochelle.

   “But…”

   “No buts; get in the truck!”

   Panic drove him as he ran across the porch, bypassing the steps he leapt over them to the sidewalk. John grabbed hold of the rail on the side of the porch and launched himself over top of it. Carl had expected him to break his ankle, but John barely missed a step as he raced across the yard. John was ahead of Carl when they got to the porch of the middle house and lunged up the stairs toward the door. From the corner of his eye, he spotted Mary Ellen running at them but he waved her back.

   “Stay with Rochelle!” he yelled at her as John grabbed hold of the knob and thrust the door open.

   The third shot was much louder as it reverberated through the home. He glanced toward the room on his right but he couldn’t see anyone amongst the shelves of books. John was already moving to the left when two more shots rent the air. Carl tried to catch John before he could enter the other room but his youth made him faster and more impetuous.

   “John!” he shouted as his friend disappeared. “Let them know you’re coming!”

   John didn’t glance back at him as Carl entered the dining room but he eased in his rush toward the room at the end. “I’m here!” John yelled. “I’m coming from the dining room!”

   Carl glanced at the study to his right, but again he saw nothing moving within. He finally caught up to John before he plunged into what Carl assumed was the kitchen. “Don’t shoot at us!” Carl called. He kept his gun raised before him as he tried to see into the other room without exposing too much of himself.

   He wasn’t sure if the others had heard them as another shot echoed through the house and loud grunts came from the room. The potent scent of blood and gunpowder filled the house and burned his nostrils. Adrenaline coursed through his body as concern for his friends made him yearn to plunge recklessly into the room. Common sense made him stay where he was until he had a better idea of what was going on though.

   He could still hear noises coming from the room, but he didn’t hear any words from the others. A pain filled cry filled the air as something clattered and bounced across the floor. John was pressed against the other side of the door when Carl gestured for John to follow him. He stayed low as he swept into the kitchen with his gun raised and ready. The blood splattering the canary colored walls seemed completely out of place in the hideously vibrant room. Cookbooks and a garbage bag were tossed amongst the mess littering the white tiled floor.

   Two bodies were sprawled face down on the floor; a growing puddle of blood seeped out around them. For a second his heart leapt into his throat at the thought that one of those bodies was one of his friends. The tattered clothing on the bodies, and their dirt streaked, purplish red skin made him realize that neither of them were his friends.

   His attention moved from the bodies to the doorway on the other side of the room. Riley was watching him from the other side of the archway, beyond her seemed to be a room full of tables. Her lips were compressed into a thin line as she met his gaze. “There’s still two of them,” she whispered. “I have to stay here to make sure they don’t try and circle around behind us.”

   “Stay with her,” Carl instructed John as they stepped over the debris on the floor.

   John nodded as he walked over to the door and positioned himself across from Riley. Carl didn’t look back at them as he cautiously approached Xander and Bobby. They were standing by a door that went into what appeared to be a greenhouse. Carl stopped beside Al standing against a wall in the middle of the room. Al’s hair was spiked up and Carl could already see murky bruises forming on his upper arms but he appeared otherwise unharmed.

   “We don’t know where they went,” Xander said in a low voice.

   Carl glanced over the tables lined with pots and pans and then at the doorway beyond. “The noise might have frightened them off,” Carl suggested.

   “We should retreat. We can’t stay here, not anymore. There’s no reason to go after them and risk getting injured,” Al said.

   “He’s right,” Carl said. “And we should get out of here before more come. They might not like loud noises but they know that we’re the ones making them.”

   Bobby and Xander stepped away from the doorway and edged cautiously toward him and Al. Even as they began to retreat though a sound from the greenhouse froze all of them in place. It took Carl only a second to recognize the increasingly familiar sound of breaking glass. It was followed by what sounded like the scrambling sounds of one of those things trying to flee the building.

   “Let’s go,” Carl said.

   A sense of growing urgency was beginning to fill him as he took another step toward the kitchen. Those things had just been a little too loud for his liking. He knew how stealthy they could be, how covert. He couldn’t shake the feeling that the creatures were simply toying with them. Holding his hand up, he gestured for the others to stop as he strained to hear anything more. Riley and John moved closer but he waved them back.

   Raising the gun, he spun back toward the pots and pans room as one of the sick humans burst into the room from the greenhouse. Carl tried to follow it with his gun but even as he tracked it, it was scooting underneath one of the tables and into the shadows. Fear caused the hair on the nape of his neck to stand up as a strange hiss issued from beneath the table.

   He wasn’t so much worried about that one, at least he knew where it was, but the other sneakier one was of far more concern to him. Carl gestured to the rest of the group to fall back. He wasn’t going to get caught in a bottleneck if they all tried to get through the doors at the same time.

   Grabbing hold of the handle on the door, he pulled it closed behind them. Riley snagged the garbage bag from the floor and kept hold of it as she backed toward the dining room. Donald was already in the dining room when they entered it. His gaze darted between them and the front door as they edged toward him.

   “We have to get out of here,” John informed him briskly.

   Donald nodded and moved toward the door. Carl couldn’t tear his gaze away from what he could still see of the kitchen as he walked backward through the room. He was almost past the dining room table when a head poked around the corner of the doorframe. Cracked and bloody lips skimmed back to reveal gaps between the teeth that remained. Carl didn’t even have a chance to squeeze the trigger before the head pulled away from the doorway and feet pounded over the tile floor of the kitchen.

   His heart raced like a runaway locomotive in his chest as his mouth went completely dry. All of this just seemed so wrong, like they were the mice being batted around by a cat. These things were taunting them, or perhaps even getting ready to bat them around in order to tenderize their meat. His gaze went past the kitchen to the windows in the backdoor, he saw nothing out there but he knew they were coming.

   “Run,” he breathed.

   “What?” John asked in a choked voice.

   “Run!” Carl shouted as he turned toward them.

   They were already rushing through the dining room door when he broke into a run after them. He glanced behind him and almost fired a warning shot but there was nothing pursuing them and he couldn’t waste the bullet. The echoing slapping of their feet resonating through the front hall caused Carl to wince. The noise they were making would cover the sound of any possible pursuit, but there was no help for it.

   Riley slipped through the front door first but Donald and Bobby got caught up on each other. John was unable to stop his forward momentum in time to stop himself from plowing into them. The force of John’s body knocked the other two through the doorway and onto the porch. Bobby was able to catch himself before falling over, but Donald wasn’t as lucky as he sprawled on the porch in an inelegant heap. Bobby grabbed hold of his arm and helped to pull him back to his feet. Xander and Al were still ahead of him, but Xander held back in order to let Al through the door without incident.

   Rochelle, Mary Ellen, Josh, and Peter stood in the front yard near the Cadillac. Carl’s anger spiked when he spotted the teacher. The man loved to run his mouth, and argue about everything, but he was never anywhere to be found when help was needed.

   “Get in the vehicles!” he called.

   “Is everyone ok?” Mary Ellen demanded.

   Carl didn’t answer her as he glanced back at the house. Even as his attention was turning toward the building, his eyes were settling on the yards behind the homes. There were plenty of times when he’d been afraid, most of them had occurred within the past couple of weeks, but they all paled in comparison to right now. His heart seemed to stop beating as he caught sight of what was coming toward them from behind the houses.

   A low curse escaped him; he hadn’t realized his legs could move as fast as they did now as at least two dozen of those things honed in on them. Those things were still a good hundred feet away, but it was far too close for Carl’s liking as the vehicles were almost a hundred feet away from them.

   “Get in the vehicles!” he shouted at the other four again.

   Rochelle pulled away from Mary Ellen and ran toward the truck. Mary Ellen followed behind her though, staying close on her heels until Rochelle was in the truck. Slamming the door closed behind her daughter, she turned to go back to the car but Carl waved her back. Mary Ellen did a strange little stutter step before opening the door again and jumping into the truck beside her daughter.

   “You’ll have to get in the back,” Carl panted to John. He labored to catch his breath as they ran and he swore that he would quit smoking after this, but even as he thought it, he knew he lied.

   “On it,” John assured him.

   Something streaked across the yard with more speed than any of them could have exhibited. For a disconcerting second, Carl had no idea what it was and thought some monstrous new threat had been unleashed upon them. Then he recognized the cat as it bounded into the still open backseat of the car. The loud blaring of a horn sounded from the truck as Mary Ellen leaned across the front seat to press relentlessly on it. Some of the creatures let out a squeal and stumbled back with their hands over their ears, but it didn’t deter the others.

   Carl wanted to yell at her to stop, the noise would only bring more, but he didn’t think they had enough time for all of them to make it to the vehicles without those things catching up to them. They could fight off some of them, but they wouldn’t be able to fight off all of them.

   Carl lifted his gun and shot at the one closest to him. The shot hit into the ground two feet before the approaching… man? But it didn’t deter him. Taking the time to turn and steady himself, Carl fired again, this time it hit the man in the shoulder and knocked him back a few feet. More gunshots exploded around him but most of the bullets missed their intended targets than actually hit the mark.

   Another one of the sick people went down. Carl grabbed hold of Al’s arm when the older man faltered and nearly fell beside him. He kept hold of Al’s arm as he rushed him toward the vehicles. Carl didn’t think Al had enough left in him to make it all the way to the car in front of the truck.

   “Open the back doors!” he shouted at John.

   John skid to a halt behind the truck, his hands fumbled over the lock on the doors before he flung them open and lifted himself into the bed. A startled cry from behind him caused Carl to turn before they made it to the truck.

   “Bobby!” Riley screamed as she spun away from the car that she was only feet away from.

   Carl released a low curse as he spotted the young man sprawled across the lawn. Donald grabbed hold of Bobby’s arm and tried to help propel him to his feet. Even as Bobby was rising, one of those things was descending upon him. “Bobby!” Riley shrieked again.

   Xander turned back and ran toward his friend but Carl didn’t think he was going to be able to get to him in time. Carl heard Riley’s footsteps behind him; releasing Al, he swung to grab her before she could throw herself back into the fray. “Get in the car!” he commanded.

   Riley struggled within his grasp but he pushed her backward. Al grabbed hold of her arms and pulled her away from Carl. “Easy,” Al said soothingly. “The best way for you to help them is to get the car started. It’s the only way we’ll all get out of here.”

   Riley’s eyes were turbulent, her nostrils flared but Al’s reasoning seemed to reach her as she gave a brief nod and spun away. Carl raised his gun as Donald was knocked aside by the force of the thing on Bobby and another one of them honed in on Xander. The thing tore at the back of Bobby’s shirt as it sought to get at the tender flesh below. Xander spun and shot at the sick person bearing down at him, he was close enough that he was able to hit it in the forehead. The thing’s head snapped back as it was knocked onto its back beside the car.

   Carl took up a stance and carefully aimed at the person still tearing at Bobby’s back. An awful howl escaped Bobby as the thing bent down and sank its teeth into Bobby’s shoulder. Bobby slapped at it over his back, but it grabbed hold of Bobby’s head and bounced it off the sidewalk. Carl found he much preferred the howling to the silence that followed the violent blow.

   Carl had a clear view of the thing attacking Bobby as it sat up again, it was a shot he never would have taken even with the training he’d received at the academy, but Bobby’s blood was already staining the ground. Carl took a steadying breath before squeezing the trigger.

   Though he knew the world around him was filled with far more noise and chaos than he’d experienced since the start of the quakes, the only sound he heard was the bullet that erupted from his gun. A silent prayer ran through his mind that he didn’t kill a man he’d come to consider an ally and friend.

   The bullet struck the thing in the chest. It released an inhuman squeal, as it was lifted up and flung from Bobby’s back by the force of the impact. Donald grabbed hold of Bobby’s arm and attempted to lift him to his feet but the boy was a deadweight that pulled Donald down with him. Carl put his gun back in his waistband but even though he had managed to dislodge the creature from Bobby, he didn’t see how they were going to get him to safety before the entire mass was surging over them.

   He’d been so absorbed on firing the gun, and trying to defend Bobby, that he hadn’t heard the truck start up until it went flying past him across the lawn. He caught a brief glimpse of Al in the back of the truck before he was driven out of view. The doors smashed against the metal sides of the truck with a loud clang as John came to an abrupt halt.

   “Get in!” Mary Ellen screamed from the passenger side as John continued to blare the horn from the driver’s side.

   Carl burst into motion as he spotted the car coming across the lawn toward them. Xander and Donald were scrambling to get Bobby to the truck when he got to them. Grass and dirt skidded up around the car as Riley screeched to a halt beside them.

   Peter leaned out the passenger side window of the Cadillac and fired at the creatures relentlessly stalking them. At least he was finally doing something, Carl thought.

   “Get in the car,” he told Xander as he took Bobby’s arm from around Xander’s shoulders.

   “Bobby…”

   “Someone has to ride with Riley; the map book is in there and we have to have some idea of where we’re going. We’ll take care of him,” Carl promised.

   Xander hesitated before he released Bobby’s hand and helped Donald and Carl to maneuver Bobby into the back of the truck. Casting one last glance at Bobby, Xander turned away from them. He released a few shots to scare back a few of their enemies as he ran around the car to the passenger side. Riley threw the car into reverse as soon as Xander was settled, and hit the thing that had been closing in on them.

   Donald scrambled into the back of the truck as the car shot past them again. Carl hefted himself into the back of the truck, he was rolling away from the doors when a hand seized hold of his ankle and jerked him back. His fingers scrabbled over the truck bed, splinters bit into his skin as wood dug beneath his nails. He kicked ferociously backward at the hand holding him as he scrambled for purchase on the bed. No matter what he did though, he continued his slide out of the truck as another hand seized his calf.

    With the sinking realization of a man that was coming to the end of his life, he realized that he wasn’t going to be able to maintain his hold, and that the others couldn’t stay. Not if they were going to escape the things pursuing them.

   John and Mary Ellen wouldn’t be able to see him, not with the doors open. “Go, we’re good! Drive!” Carl bellowed.

   His legs slid out the back of the truck as John hit the gas.

 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Redemption Release Date!

I wanted to let everyone know that I've set a release date for Redemption. It will be available June 10, 2014!

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Survivor Chronicles: Book 3 (Chapter 27, Riley)

Riley,

 

   Riley found her feet planted in place as she gazed in awe at the books lining the shelves. Some of them were so old that she wouldn’t dare touch them, even if she’d had gloves on. “I think that’s a first edition Grapes of Wrath,” she whispered. “And look at how old that Merchant of Venice appears to be. I don’t even want to breathe on one of them.”

   “Well we can be concerned about breathing on them after we check the house,” Xander said.

   She couldn’t turn her head to look at him as her gaze remained riveted upon the books before her. “I wonder if those Harry Potter books are signed,” she pondered as her fingers twitched to take one of them down from the shelf. She’d spent hours with Carol reading through that series, discussing what was going to happen. They’d both spilled more than a few tears over those pages.

   “We’ll find out later,” Xander assured her.

   Al lingered beside her, his gaze traveled longingly over the spines as Bobby and Xander left the library and walked to the French doors on the other side of the cavernous front hall. Riley threw one last glance over her shoulder before hurrying to join the others.

   Xander and Bobby got ready to open the other set of doors. Riley and Al lifted their guns and prepared to take on anything that might leap out at them. Bobby and Xander simultaneously pulled the doors open and stepped to the side. Nothing moved in the room beyond but they proceeded cautiously as they crept closer to the doors.

   Riley poked her head in to find ten chairs set around a rectangular dining room table. Three white candles still sat in their silver candlesticks. Without thinking, she ran her hand over the oak table. It was grainy beneath her fingertips; she could feel the dips and swirls within the wood as she walked down the length of it.

   “Beautiful home,” she murmured as she glanced over the paintings hanging on the dark wood paneled walls. “Outdated, but beautiful.”

   A massive stone fireplace took up most of the right hand wall. She’d never seen one so big before and she could almost picture a woman standing over it, cooking dinner for her family.   Riley tore her attention away from the beautiful room as they approached another room in the back. They stepped into a small den with a computer and papers scattered across the top of the desk. A telescope was set up in front of the bay window. Curiosity caused her to bend down and place her eyes against the eyepiece; she was greeted with a view of the reddened sky.

   “At least they weren’t spying on their neighbors,” she said as she took a step back.

   She followed the others back into the dining room and through another set of open doors. They stepped into a yellow kitchen that was so cheerful she was certain Big Bird would blend in with the background. “It looks like a daisy threw up in here,” Bobby muttered and Riley couldn’t help but agree.

   Riley studied the ceiling but there was nowhere someone could be lurking above them. She leaned over the black marble countertop and opened one of the white cabinets. She’d been hoping for some food, instead she was greeted with shelves full of cookbooks. She closed the cabinet and moved on to the next one. There were even more cookbooks in that one. 

   “What is going on?” she muttered but as she focused on the spines, she realized they were all written by a Darla Bates. Riley had never heard of the author before but judging by the sheer number of books, she’d been popular.

   “Apparently she only wrote the recipes but didn’t practice cooking them,” Xander said.

   Most of the cookbooks were for baking and as Riley closed the cabinet doors, she understood what was going on. “She most likely had her own bakery somewhere else where she tested the recipes and sold them. Is there a pantry?”

   “I don’t see one,” Bobby answered from the other side of the kitchen. “But we do have some boxes of spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, canned veggies, and potato chips.”

   She turned to find Bobby standing in front of a floor to ceiling cabinet with Lazy Susan-like shelves inside. “We also have some flour, sugar, vanilla, and anything else you need to bake with,” Xander said as he shut a cabinet like Bobby’s but on the opposite side of the fridge.

   “We’ll grab the spaghetti and stuff later,” Al said as he moved on toward a room off of the kitchen.

   Riley followed behind him and wasn’t at all surprised to find a few tables pushed against the walls and covered with assorted pots and pans. The small rectangle room ran across the back of the library but there was no doorway to get into the library from here. It’s an addition, she realized as Xander walked to the glass door at the end of the room. He peered through the door before pulling it open.

   She stepped into the greenhouse behind him. It had once been a thriving world of plants, and judging by the scent that was causing her stomach to rumble, herbs. Her nose twitched at the scent of chives as she was drawn to one of the brown plants dangling over the sides of their pots. She lifted the wilted chive and let it drop down before turning to inspect the rest of the ruined plants. A few cactuses were still alive but for the most part everything within the room had died.

   Beyond the glass was a garden with even more flowers and plants wilting along the white seashell pathways. For one brief second she was back on her porch as her mother sang while deadheading her roses and weeding her perennials. Her mother had possessed an amazing green thumb; she probably could have even saved these plants if she’d been given enough time. The memory was so intense that she could almost feel the mug of coffee in her hands and smell the heady scent of the roses. Her mother may have had a way with plants but her singing could scare away even the bravest of people, it had never scared Riley or her father away though. It had been their joke that her mother was tone deaf but they were going to go deaf after years of listening to her.

   Riley hadn’t realized her fingers were pressed against the glass of the building until the memory full of color and love faded away and she was left with the brownness of the plants surrounding her. She dropped her hand away before the tears burning her eyes could fall. Turning away from the garden, she stepped out of the greenhouse and back into the room with all the pots and pans.

   Leaning against one of the tables, she tapped her foot as she waited for the others to join her. Xander stepped beside her and wrapped his arm around her waist; she went willingly into his arms and rested her head against his chest. Inhaling deeply, she took in the scent of sweat, dirt, and earth that clung to him. Just a short time ago it wouldn’t have been a pleasant scent, but right now she thought it was the best one in the world.

   “I love you,” she whispered.

   His hands tightened on her arms, his breath tickled her ear as his lips brushed against her skin. “I love you too.”

   Her fingers curled into his back before she took a step away from him and examined the room again. Xander’s hand slid into hers as he walked with her through the kitchen, dining room, and into the main hallway once more. She released his hand as he approached the door tucked against the side of the staircase. He opened the door and peered inside the closet before closing it again.

   Riley adjusted her hold on her gun and kept her back against the railing as they made their way cautiously up the stairs to the second floor. Xander stayed in front of her while Al and Bobby brought up the rear.

  The sun was sinking lower in the sky when they stepped off the stairs and into the hallway that ran the length of the second floor. Three of the seven doors were open and across the way she could see a bubblegum colored bathroom that made her nose wrinkle. The woman may have been a successful baker but she’d had no taste in colors.

   Xander nudged the door open with the toe of his shoe; it didn’t get any better when the nearly neon pink shower curtain, and cotton candy toilet seat cover, were exposed. “Dear Lord,” Bobby muttered and shook his head. “I don’t want to know what this woman’s bedroom looks like.”

   Neither did Riley as she turned away from the room and looked up and down the hall. She moved onto the next room and pushed the door open. The walls of the room beyond were lined with mirrors that reflected the exercise bike, elliptical machine, yoga mat, and weights lined against the back wall.

   “Wow,” Al said in a low whisper.

   That about summed it up, Riley decided as she closed the door. Bobby stopped in front of the next room; it was the first closed door that they had come across. He took hold of the knob and pushed the door open. At first Riley thought the room had been painted robin’s egg blue and then splashed with red and black paint, and then the smell hit her. She took a step back as her gag reflex kicked in.

   Her brain was still trying to process what it was that she was seeing, when something burst from the room with a shrieking sound that could have shattered glass. Riley already had her gun raised but she didn’t have time to pull the trigger before the screeching thing slammed into her and knocked her into the railing. Shouts filled the hall but Riley barely heard them as she battled to keep the woman that had erupted from the room off of her. Fetid breath washed over her as hands slapped and tore at her. Fingers curled into her hair, her scalp screamed in protest as strands of her hair were torn free.

   The banister pressed against her back, she was nearly bent over it as the woman continued to beat at her. Riley caught a glimpse of the floor of the main hall beneath her, panic slammed into her at the thought of plummeting to the hardwood floor below. The woman’s screaming abruptly cut off as her fingers curled into the flesh of Riley’s upper arms. The noises coming from the woman made Riley think of apes in the zoo and she suddenly understood the theory of evolution in a whole new way.

   The woman’s face was covered in blood but Riley didn’t think any of it was actually the woman’s as her teeth snapped with a loud clacking that caused Riley to wince. She was certain the woman’s teeth were going to shatter from the force of her biting. Terror caused her to fight the woman with more strength than she’d thought she could possess, but even still, the muscles in her arms were beginning to protest having to hold the weight of the woman off.

   It had probably only been seconds since the woman had burst from the room but it seemed an eternity had passed before a sickening thud resonated within the hall. The woman released a loud grunt, her eyes rolled back in her head before her weight eased from Riley and she slumped to the floor. Riley’s eyes met Xander’s, he was holding his gun by the barrel, the butt of it was covered in the woman’s blood as he twisted it within his hand and slid it into the waistband of his jeans. 

   “Are you ok?” he demanded as he stepped over the woman and took hold of her brutalized arms.  

   “I’m fine,” she murmured as she strived to catch her breath. His hazel eyes burned into hers as he leaned closer and examined her from under his curling, dark blonde lashes. “She didn’t hurt me.”

   The muscles in his forearms and biceps flexed as he turned her hands over before him and examined the scratches and gashes on her arms. His thumb stroked briefly over her skin before he released her and took a step back. “Is she dead?” she asked as Xander knelt by the woman’s side and pressed his fingers against her throat.

   “Yes,” he said flatly.

   Kill or be killed, she reminded herself as she looked down at the scratches marring her arms. Blood trickled down them and dripped from her fingertips onto the floor. It wouldn’t be the last time any of them would kill; she knew that. She would be more upset if she stopped feeling any regret over it, she wouldn’t be able to recognize the person she would be if that ever happened.

   Xander rose and gently took hold of her hand. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

   “We should finish checking the rest of the house first. Where there’s one…” Her voice trailed off, there was no reason to finish the sentence, they already knew.

   Xander nodded but he took hold of her wrist as he turned back to the bedroom the woman had emerged from. She took a cautious step inside but didn’t make it far as the blood and bones littering the room were overwhelming. Her foot brushed against something that she assumed was a femur judging by the size of it. She was beginning to feel like she’d just ridden on the spinning teacups for two hours straight.

  “She must have been bringing people back here,” Bobby said as he took a couple of steps to the side.

   Riley spotted three skulls in the corner, one of which was far too small for her liking. “I’ve seen enough,” she said as she took a step out of the room.

   She didn’t look at the woman lying in the hall as she made her way onto the next room. They went through the rest of the rooms quickly but no one commented on the neon green bathroom or black bedroom. Riley had ceased to find any humor in the woman’s color choices. Xander led her into the green bathroom and sat her on the toilet cover while Al and Bobby remained outside the door.

   Xander opened and closed the medicine cabinet before bending down to look under the sink. He pulled out a bottle of peroxide and some bandages. “How does your leg feel?” she inquired.

   He glanced up at her as he placed the peroxide on the sink. “Fine.” Her gaze slid to the scratches on her arms as she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “How are you?”

   “Good. I’m good.”

   He dropped a couple of towels next to her and turned her arms over to pour some peroxide on the scratches. The bubbles fizzed as the liquid ran over her skin. He wet a towel before wiping the blood and peroxide away.

   “Xander.” At first he didn’t look at her but when she said his name again his attention turned to her. “Thank you.”

   He clasped her cheeks in his hands as he rose up and pressed a kiss against her forehead. She thought he was going to pull away from her but instead his mouth brushed over her cheek before settling over hers. A small sigh escaped Riley as she wrapped her hands around his forearms and melted into the heat his mouth created against hers.

   There was a minute when the rest of the world slid away and she was filled with him and only him. A minute when everything was right and she had found where she belonged. A groan of regret escaped her when Xander pulled away and rested his forehead against hers.

   “There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you,” he whispered against her mouth.

   A smile tugged at her lips as she kissed him again. “I could say the same to you.”

   He sat back on his heels again and took hold of her wrists. “Good.”

   He finished wiping the scratches off but when he reached for the bandages she seized hold of his hand. “I don’t think those are necessary.”

   “Are you sure?”

   She nodded and released his arm. “The scratches aren’t that deep and I’m ready to get out of this freak show of a bathroom.”

   “Green not your color?”

   “I don’t even think the Muppets would like this color.”

   “Probably not,” Xander agreed and helped pull her to her feet.

   Al and Bobby turned to look at them when they exited the room. “We’ll get the food and find the others,” Al said.

   Riley didn’t look at the woman again as she stepped over the body and made her way downstairs. She glanced at the library but she didn’t return to it, the room had lost all the luster it had held for her upon first entering the house. Stepping back into the kitchen, she searched through the cabinets under the sink for some garbage bags.

   She heard a door open and turned as Bobby looked into the basement. “Found them,” he said and pulled a box of trash bags from the top step.

   Al took a bag from him and opened it up for Xander to drop the spaghetti, sauce, canned food and chips into it. Riley stepped next to Bobby and peered down the stairs to the basement. “Should we go down there?” she asked.

   “I don’t think there’s anything down there we have to see,” Bobby answered.

   “There could be supplies down there,” Xander said.

   She knew that was doubtful but if there was even a small chance that there was something useful in the basement then they couldn’t leave here without looking first. She pulled her flashlight free and clicked it on as she took the first step down.

   Shining the beam around the room, she searched for any hint of danger but all it revealed were stacks of boxes against the wall. Riley crept down the rest of the stairs and turned to search underneath them. Bobby remained close by her side as they moved through the shadows hugging the walls and boxes. She didn’t bother to open the boxes as they were all labeled, most of them with the words pots and pans, Christmas, or photos. A jumble of stuffed animals in the corner caught and held her attention; she’d had the same exact pink Care Bear sitting in her closet at home.

   It was a disconcerting realization but she didn’t feel a pang of homesickness with it. There was no home to return to, she’d accepted that fact now. She would grieve her losses for the rest of her days, but she had to move on. She simply didn’t have any other choice if she was going to keep on living.

   “Riley.” She turned to find Xander standing at the bottom of the stairs.

   “It’s all clear down here,” she told him.

   “We’re ready to go.”

   She and Bobby followed him up the stairs and into the kitchen. Stepping out of the stairwell, Riley froze as she spotted Al standing by the kitchen sink. The color had vanished from Al’s lined face; he appeared to have aged ten years as he turned to look at them. The feeling of a trap door opening beneath her feet descended over her as all the blood seemed to drain from her head. She had the disconcerting feeling that she was falling as the world around her focused on one central thing…

   The four hideous faces within the doorway that led to the room with all the pots and pans.

   It was impossible to tell what sex the people were as their blisters and sores had caused their skin to peel off of their distorted features. She didn’t know how they had managed to get in here, but she wasn’t about to investigate it either. Her gaze slid to Al, only four feet away from where the intruders stood in the doorway. 

   “Run,” Xander said as he grabbed hold of her arm and pushed her toward the dining room.

   “No,” she refused as she pulled her arm free of his grasp.

   Lifting her gun, she aimed at the one closest to Al as it lurched toward the older man. The other three creatures rushed at them. Al tried to scramble out of the way but he wasn’t fast enough to escape the creature lunging at him. Though she knew she was supposed to avoid firing the gun, she had no other choice as the first creature seized hold of Al’s arms and opened its mouth wide. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Giveaway Winners!

The winners for the giveaway have been chosen! The grand prize winner is Tyleigha Collins! Tina, Rory Lampley, Cindy Williams, and Tia Rouse have all won gift cards! Thank you all for participating and don't forget there's another locket for Redemption so there will be another giveaway soon! Congratulations!