Authors: Claire C. Riley
Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse
“Claire C. Riley is a name you need to add to your list. She may very well be the best writer you have never heard of...but need to.”
—author of the DEAD series,
That Ghoul Ava
, The Zomblog series and editor for May December Publications.
“Claire and I met prior to the release of her stellar debut
, a tale of overpowering obsession and inescapable consequence. Her personality won me over quickly and then her author’s voice created within me a fan for life.
She consistently takes the most overtired, exhausted, and stale subject matter and warps, molds, and fashions her stories out of them and into something fresh, beautiful, and impossible to resist. Since her debut, Claire has released
both of which capture the essence of old-school horror, recreated and modernized into new-blooded material that seeps warm, wet, crimson entertainment.
is no exception. Within these pages, you’ll find the continuation of a brilliant storyline with elements that will elicit sincere emotion- grief, terror, and sometimes joy. Have a happy ride across these pages, you lucky readers.”
“In a world gone mad, with enemies both alive and dead, Claire C. Riley takes her readers on one hell of a heart-pounding journey alongside a very relatable heroine. Filled with nail-biting twists and turns,
isn't a story you'll soon forget.”
Best Selling Author
The Holy Trinity Series
The Undeniable Series
is a well-balanced horror tale filled with vivid imagery, engaging characters, and heart-racing action. This series quickly made my favorite zombie reads of all time!”
Odium. The Dead Saga.
Odium Origins. A Dead Saga Novella. Part One.
Odium II. The Dead Saga.
Odium Origins. A Dead Saga Novella. Part Two.*
Odium III. The Dead Saga.*
Limerence II: Mia.*
Proud contributor to the ‘Let’s Scare Cancer to Death’ anthology.
Fusion: A Collection of short stories from Breakwater Harbor Books’ authors.
(L.E.A Nina’s Story Part one)
Horror Novel Reviews Presents: One Hellacious Halloween Volume One.
(The owl in the Tree)
Published By Cla
ire C. Riley at Breakwater Harbor Books.
Copyright 2014 © Claire C. Riley
Cover design by Amy Queau at Qdesign
Formatting by Karen Perkins of LionheART Publishing House
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without direct permission from the author.
Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.
This book would not be possible without the help, love, and support of so many great people, and I am eternally grateful to each and every one of you.
A big heartfelt s
hout out goes to the following: Author Amy Queau, my awesome editor Amy Jackson, Author Eli Constant, Author Ken Mooney, Author Mike Lee, Blogger Toni Lesatz, Blogger Melanie Bingle Marsh, my Bad Ass CP ladies—thanks for never making me feel like the odd one out in our group, & San—my wonderfully geeky web guy and biggest cheerleader of all (
minus the pom-poms and skirt of course!
You’ve all been there when I’ve either needed to vent my frustrations,
cry on your shoulder, probe your mind for facts, or help me pimp out this series. Thank you so much for your continued belief in me and my work.
Thanks also goes to my husband
and best friend of all—if there was ever an apocalypse, I’d want you by my side.
Forever & always.
And of course, t
o our three wonderful children, who continue to inspire me every day.
A massive thanks also goes to the fans that filled in my survival questionnaires. As followers of the series will know, some of the characters in my books are loosely based around real people and their answers to a survival questionnaire
I sent them. So a big thanks goes to…
Nova Huff, Michael Robertson, Mathew Dudley, Jessica Sturgill, Becky Stephens, Julie Rainey, Zee Rahman, J.C. Michael, Melanie Bingle Marsh
, Hilary Lauren, Deacon Jastram & Susan Pigott.
As per the usual, I never promised you a long life…
or an easy death
, a large part or a small part. But know that there wasn’t enough room in this book for as much expansion of some of your characters as I would have liked, and as such,some of you have been carried over into part three of the saga, and also Odium Origin
a HUGE thank you of course, goes to you, my
readers. I hope that you continue to enjoy Nina’s story.
Sometimes the best dreams are the ones we have to chase.
!” Mikey’s voice roars from behind me, sounding far away against the rampant beating of my heart.
My feet pound
through the wet soil of someone’s lawn as we run through the front gate and around the side of the house. The overgrown grass sticks to my calves and makes me stumble and trip, but I continue to run nonetheless. I’m not stopping for anything—not with fifty or so deaders closing in and the fucking Forgotten chasing our asses down. Run? Please, I’m fucking sprinting at ninety miles an hour. I’m like a goddamned gazelle on the run from its predator.
Wait, doesn’t the prey always get caught? Shit.
I chance a glance over my right shoulder, checking that Mikey is close behind. My heart skips a beat when my eyes don
’t immediately land on him, and I slow down and start to turn, until he grips my shoulder and drags me forward as he comes up on my left.
“I said run, woman!”
he yells into my face, and continues to drag me along.
shrug him off, but don’t have time to tell him to go fuck himself for screaming in my face like an old fishmonger’s wife. The smell of the dead makes me retch, and the gunshots from the Forgotten make my blood run cold. I’ll write a mental I.O.U. to kick his ass for screaming in my face—if we make it out of this alive, that is.
The fence at
the back of the little yard has collapsed, giving us an easy way out through to the other side into yet another soggy, overgrown field. My breath is ragged and dry in my throat, making me feel like I’ve swallowed some crushed glass. Every time I gulp, another shard digs in and causes me to cough. We stumble and slide down the side of the embankment, both of us gasping as we slip into the freezing shallow river at the bottom. I’m sure at one point this house was Grade A real estate, with its own land and a river running past it, but right now it’s a survivor’s nightmare.
We begin to wade
across, lifting our arms above our heads to keep as much of us out of the ice-cold water as possible, my Doc Martens thankfully giving me firm footing on the rocks. We half-climb, half-drag ourselves up and out the other side, my fingers clinging to the thick, wet mud and roots to get some leverage. I grip on tighter, my fingers blue with the cold, and as I lose my grip and begin to slip, Mikey’s hand shoots down and grabs my wrist, heaving me up the other side.
thanks and then I’m back on my feet and we’re running again, with the sound of zombies falling into the water behind us. The empty field and the houses in the distance spur us both on, and I grab Mikey’s hand as we push harder, willing our legs to run faster and our muscles not to cramp. To cramp up now could mean death for both of us; by deader or by gun, death will be a long, drawn out, painful experience, that’s for certain. Fuck that.
With deaders in the surrounding field getting closer, the scene plays out in slow motion when I trip and fall to my knees, mud splattering up around me. Mikey turns and grips me under the arms, dragging me back up to standing.
My eyes bug out when a gray arm reaches up out of the mud and grabs at his ankle. “Mikey!” I scream.
kicks away from the deader’s reach and swings down with his fist, narrowly missing its rotten mouth, which is snapping at his leg. He hits it hard across its skull with his fist, and its head whips backwards upon impact before the deader quickly rights itself and fixes its cloudy gaze upon me. It stretches a rotten hand across to me as it slowly pulls itself free of the mud and grass, growling and gnashing its broken, blackened teeth. Mikey’s foot stamps down on its arm, cracking the bone in two; however, the ligament hangs by the bloated and stretched skin. The deader pays the broken limb no attention, but continues to drag its decomposing body toward me. Mikey grabs it from behind and drags it backwards, putting some distance between me and it. The deader thrashes around, growling in anger in an attempt to get to me, until Mikey falls on his ass. I grab the nearest thing to me—a heavy rock big enough that I need to use both hands to lift it—and with difficulty, I launch it at the thing’s face.
It crushes i
nto the brittle bones, making an almost concave shape where the deader’s features should be and releasing a toxic stench that I can taste in my mouth. It stops moving instantly and collapses into the gore-soaked earth around it. I look at Mikey as he holds a hand out to me.
“Come on, baby. We need to go.”
My shaky hand takes his, and I climb back to my feet and together we run.
Four months earlier…
“I’m cold, Nina.” Emily huddles into my side, and I drape an arm across her shoulders, snuggling her into me.
“I know, Em.
” I speak through a cut and swollen mouth. My eyes are closed—well, one eye won’t open and the other thinks it would be better not to see right now and so is staying firmly shut in the hopes that I’ll be able to fall asleep and wake up to this nightmare being over.
think you know how you will react in an apocalypse—the whole ‘I’ll never give up and never surrender’—but when you’ve been continually tortured for weeks on end, your strength to never give up wavers. In fact, if it wasn’t for Emily I probably would have tried to end it after what happened yesterday. I squeeze her closer, feeling her body shiver and her teeth chatter.
’m that worn out, that broken down; I’ve even begun to feel pity for the deaders—the hunger they must constantly feel, Jesus. I wonder if they have any consciousness. I hope not, because I haven’t been this hungry for a long time—and I’m used to be hungry, but this type of hunger, this type of desperation…it’s something else. Not even life behind the walls compares. Jesus, those poor people are going to die if I don’t do something. I should be concerned for myself and Emily right now. And I am—for her anyway. I’m in too much pain right now to think about my own needs. I just want it to stop.
, and I have been captured by the Forgotten. There were more of us, but they are all dead now, or reborn into the walking abominations I call the deaders.
, but they’re alive again. I guess ‘zombies’ would be a better term of endearment for them. Insert mock laughter and a sarcastic roll of my swollen eyes. Oh wait, I can’t roll my eyes, can I? Well, deaders don’t rest, they don’t stop, they feel no mercy. They only have one thing in mind: killing. But wait, I was talking about the Forgotten, wasn’t I? The Forgotten are not a bunch of merry men here to help. No, no, no. The Forgotten are a small army of desperate and twisted individuals that were kept out of the walled cities when the apocalypse erupted onto this damned earth. Refused entry into the so-called protection of the walled cities, they and their families were left to fend for themselves. And they failed…miserably. I think they all lost more than just their wives and children that day, and now they are intent on reaping revenge upon all the walled cities and their inhabitants.
’t just want into these cities. They want to kill every last person behind those walls—the lucky ones, as they call them. What they don’t seem to understand, or don’t care about, is that those cities were no safe haven, for anyone. The cities were ruled by self-proclaimed assholes—sorry, leaders. And we did what we had to in order to survive, whether that was sell our bodies or sell our souls. I should know—that’s where I was living prior to escaping with a young girl named Emily-Rose.
I promised to protect her, and I
did—for a while, anyway. Now I’m failing miserably at the job. So send me down to the unemployment line, because I need a new job. Since I suck so bad at this one. I place a kiss upon her head as her breathing grows shallower and she slips into sleep.
you might ask. I honestly don’t know; however, I think he’s dead. I should feel something more for that heartbreaking fact, but I can’t grieve for him now—not yet. Right now I have to focus on Emily, and protecting her.
I must drift off, too, because when I wake, I jump. My eyes immediately open, or try to, and I yelp at the pain in my left eye. I have to force myself not to move my mouth too much for fear of ripping open the gash that runs from the corner of my mouth to my cheekbone. It’s only just started to properly scab over after Fallon sliced me with a knife like I was a prime cut of beef.
opens, a drawn out scraping sound of metal upon concrete, and then the light from the doorway penetrates the room. Fallon’s guards are back. I flinch, a whimper escaping through my cracked lips even though I want to be every part of the fierce, strong woman that Emily believes me to be. Emily stirs, and when I squeeze her closer she wakes up completely and starts to cry, her hands gripping at my clothing, her demeanor that of a small child, not a teenage girl. Actually she’s more of a young woman than I want her to be, because that’s a dangerous age to be around these men.
“Get away from us!” I spit out.
They reach for me, strong arms gripping me tightly, and I force my body to go limp and not fight them as they drag me from the room with the sound of Emily crying ringing in my ears. My knees scrape along the concrete floor, but the pain is nothing compared to what I know is coming next. As we exit the room, a cloth bag is forced over my head, blocking everything out and making it difficult for me to breathe. We turn left, we turn right, and then I lose which way we go because of the nausea rising in my gut. Fear trembles through me, and I can’t hold back my resistance any longer. I struggle and pull at their grip, receiving a punch to the gut for my efforts.
I cry out, my bo
dy trying to curl up on itself. I hear the men snicker, and I swallow the sob that is building in me. I won’t let them see me weak…they won’t have my tears.
A cold draft washes over me
and the room seems suddenly darker as I’m dragged to a chair and forced to sit on it, with the back of it to my front. My hands grip it tightly. Footsteps retreat and I sit frozen in panic, trembles shaking me from my toes to the top of my head. The more I try to contain them, the harder it seems.
tentatively push up to my feet, wanting to move, to run, to do anything but just sit here. A hand grips my shoulder and pushes me back down to my chair. I whimper and comply without question, no matter how much I want to run. I know which battles to pick, and this isn’t one of them.
’t have to be like this, you know.” A male voice. Could be Fallon, but fear has tried to eradicate that voice from my memory, so I can’t be sure. “He’s making it all the more difficult for you, making your pain worse.” A pause, and then: “Why do you think he wants to see you in pain, Nina?”
I flinch at the sound of my name on this
man’s lips. He’s not a good man, and while I’m no Mary Poppins, I’m pretty sure there’s a special place reserved in hell for this guy. He’s the man I’ve come to hate the most, possibly more than Fallon, because this man is the one that has been torturing me every day for weeks.
“Well?” he prompts.
Oh, he actually wants me to reply
. “Who?” is all I ask.
The man laughs. “Who? Who do you think I
’m talking about?”
I swallow hard.
“Fallon?” I ask, confused.
The man laughs again: a
deep, gravelly sound, followed by coughing. “No, not Fallon. Your boy, Mikey.” He pauses again, and I want to scream ‘
enough with the dramatic effects already!’
but instead I keep quiet. “Why do you think Mikey likes to see you in pain?”
’t,” I snap. “And he would do everything he could to stop this.”
Another laugh. I can feel the cool air shift
around me as he walks behind my chair. I want to follow the sound but instead I stay as still as a statue, only flinching a little when his hands come to my shoulders and he slowly massages them.
“Really? You think so, huh?
” I reply quietly.
A shiver works its way up my spine, the urge to peel this creep
’s fingers away from me becoming harder to resist. My ears perk up at another noise: a belt buckle being shifted, moved—or undone. I grit my teeth, trying to swallow the acidic bile in my throat. Fear clenches in my gut, and I open my mouth a fraction to take a deep, steadying breath, readying myself for what is to come.
snap by my ears draws a short, sharp scream from my lips. A belt, his belt—leather, I presume—cracks in the air, and I scream again and flinch away from the sound, nearly falling off my chair in the process. The man laughs again and pulls me back onto my seat.
“Sit on your hands.”
“What?” I whisper with a gulp.
“Sit on your hands,” h
e orders again.
I comply immediately, h
is tone telling me that he’s not fucking around anymore. My teeth chatter painfully, not from the cold that has worked its way into my soul, but from fear. I feel his hands near my head and then slowly he begins to lift the black cloth bag away from my face. My eyes open painfully, and I quickly squeeze them shut and then reopen them as my vision begins to focus. I take in my surroundings: a small shell of a room, barred windows, gray walls, dirty concrete floor. I look straight ahead of me and realize that I’m looking at my own reflection. A large wall is in front of me with a huge dirty mirror on it, reflecting back my own frightened image, and I’m shocked and scared by what I see. I’m pale and visibly shaking, my hair a rat’s nest of black tangles. My one good eye wide and glassy, the other swollen closed. I look behind me to a large beast of a man standing and staring at me—literally a beast of a man. His face is ravaged, the skin sewn over his left eye, and part of his cheek missing: a deep gouge where his flesh once was. His hair hangs lankly around his face. He smiles at me and my breath snags. Horror lurks behind those eyes.