Authors: Kelliea Ashley
|Safe In Your Arms|
|Breathless Press (2013)|
Mina's mission is to reach her family's summer home, but when zombies attack she finds an unexpected savior in Gabriel Landing.
When the worst happens and zombies take over, Gabriel Landing finds himself in an impossible situation. Rescuing a girl, who wouldn't give him the time of day when things were right, is more than his already full plate can handle. He finds himself walking a fine line between wanting to keep her and knowing that the thing he hides could destroy them both.
Mina Brady never expected to run into her summer crush while trying to outrun zombies. She finds herself depending on Gabriel Landing to keep her safe from the Z's who have taken over the world. Surviving the undead is a piece of cake, compared to fighting her attraction to Gabe. Yet when she goes against his orders to stay put in a cave, she discovers he's been keeping a dangerous secret that could eat them both.
Safe In Your Arms
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Safe In Your Arms
Copyright © 2013 Kelliea Ashley
Cover Artist: Victoria Miller
Editor: Sally Mander
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in reviews.
Special thanks to the man who raised the man of my dreams. I never had a real father until he took me in as one of his own. This book is dedicated to my father-in-law, John Ashley, who gave me a much needed education on Zombies. He also gave me some wicked ideas for a future novel that I can’t wait to explore!
Gabriel Landing sank down on his haunches behind one of the many boulders marking the river’s shoreline. It was night, but his eyes had adjusted enough to let him see the group of idiots who had invaded his quiet area. He’d counted himself lucky to go undetected by the Z’s so far, but his luck had just run out. Thanks to a bunch of brainless refugees.
There were five of them: three men, around his age of twenty-five, if not older by a few years, and two young women. One woman, a blonde with messy clothes and hair, was sprawled out on the sand with her head on one of the men’s legs. As he watched, she rose up slowly to place her face in his crotch. Gabe had no doubt what she was doing when he saw the male’s head drop back and his mouth open in pleasure.
Damn. When did the idea of getting a room, or finding a bit of privacy, fall by the wayside?
Of course, with the threat of getting attacked by flesh-eating Z’s, he couldn’t really blame them for wanting to stay with the group. There was safety in numbers, not a hell of a lot, and definitely not much if you were stuck in a group of idiots. Gabe quickly looked away, feeling little more than a voyeur in a peep show. The other two men weren’t as inclined to give the couple their privacy. The one male was so aroused that he rose to approach the other female. She was a brunette with her hair neatly braided back away from her face. He couldn’t see her well enough to determine if she was pretty, but her body was slim and curvy in a pair of tight jeans, torn at the knee. An army green shirt hung open to reveal a tank top of the same color. A knife, strapped to her thigh, flashed in the flickering light of the roaring bonfire the imbeciles had constructed on the beach. He shook his head at their stupidity. Nothing drew the Z’s more than a brightly moving flame. It screamed,
Come and get it, boys!
The girl sat on a boulder that was smaller than the one he was hiding behind. Her back
was turned to him and she seemed to be constructing a trap of some sort. The guy stopped in front of her, his hand out in invitation as he spoke. “Don’t you think it is past time to give in to me, baby?” His charming smile was met with silence. “Come on, give me a chance. I can keep you safe and satisfied. How can you go wrong?”
She moved fast, grasped his hand in both of hers as she stood, and twisted him over her hip in one fluid move before landing a punishing kick to his balls. Gabe’s own teeth clenched in reaction as the big guy howled like a wounded animal caught in a trap. He rolled around the beach clutching his privates and swearing viciously at her as she glared down at him. She didn’t, however, see the other man get up to move behind her. He grabbed her by the arm, flung her around, and backhanded her hard. Gabe moved as if he was going to intervene, but stopped himself just in the nick of time as the man’s angry words traveled to him.
“Damn it, girl. This is the zombie apocalypse, not a garden party on your parents’ yacht, little cousin. In case you haven’t noticed there aren’t a lot of people left. The fate of the human race rests on us survivors, so you better just reconcile yourself to the fate of choosing Brent or Garcia. Unless you want to go it on your own, which you’d last seconds against the zombies out there.”
“Get your hands off me, Daren. I’m not a brood mare for your homeboys. I choose my path.” Her voice was husky and deep. It seemed to touch something inside Gabe. A memory tugged at the edges of his brain as his hand moved to his machete. The bastard shook her hard, his hands digging into her slight arms.
“Get real, Mina! Daddy isn’t around to keep you safe anymore. He’s dead or else he’s one of them. There isn’t any money that matters, girl. Your only hope of staying alive is by staying with us. And if that means spreading those iron legs of yours, then you better damn well be doing it.”
Shit! Mina Brady.
It was no wonder that alto voice had rubbed him wrong. She was the daughter of Benjamin Brady, the state’s current senator. She’d gone to the same high school until Brady moved up from a lawyer to a senator. Her nose had lifted just as high as his political career. Gabe made to move back, stopping only when she cried out.
She must have tried to hit her cousin because she was now facing in his direction with his arm firmly wrapped around her neck. Gabe growled deep in his throat, the need to protect strong, though this particular female didn’t deserve it after the way she’d rejected him at the summer formal. The one girl he’d worked the nerve up to ask for a dance and she’d looked down that pert little nose and shook her head to deny him.
Mina wasn’t so high and mighty now. Her cheek was cut and bleeding, her clothes the furthest thing from society’s finest. My, how the mighty do fall. All it took was a zombie outbreak to get her on the same level playing field as him. His jaw clenched as he narrowed his eyes and tried to pick up the quiet words of her cousin.
“Don’t push me too far, Mina. These guys only follow me because I know what I’m doing. All it will take for them to try and overthrow me is a willful woman refusing to fuck one of them. Now, make the choice between them, or I’ll be forced to give you to them both.” He pushed her hard and she caught herself on the boulder. She sat there for a moment, her shoulders hunched in apparent defeat. Then she lifted her head and stood up to head right in his direction with her shoulders back. She sent a glare at the man who was still holding his balls and crying on the sand.
“Touch me, again. I’ll cut that thing off so you won’t threaten another woman.”
Gabe sank back into the underbrush surrounding the boulder as she walked up to it, turned, and sank down in the sand. He held his breath, as he didn’t dare move for fear of alerting her to his presence. He needn’t have worried, as he heard the soft sniff as she brushed angrily at her face. Her arms hugged her waist as her shoulders sagged and shuddered with silent sobs. Gabe dropped his head. He wasn’t any good with weepy females.
Go back to the fire, Mina. I don’t need you here.
His head snapped up so fast he fleetingly wondered if she heard him move, but she was still gently rocking herself back and forth on the boulder. He sniffed deeper as the hair rising on the back of his neck sent his system into fight-or-flight mode. Rotting flesh turned his stomach. Oh, yeah. He was definitely down with the flight option. Mina froze, her head lifting as she turned her head slowly to the side. He saw her eyes scanning the darkened tree line surrounding the sandy beach. Did she sense them the same as he did?
She jumped to her feet just as the mass of Z’s moved out of the trees to swarm the beach. Gabe moved then. It wasn’t to hit the water, as was usually his first instinct. Instead, he found himself wrapping his arms around her, his hand covering her mouth to prevent her scream. He moved his lips next to her ear, feeling her struggle in pure panic.
“I’m not a Z. Don’t make a sound. Your friends are dead, but I can save you, as long as you don’t scream. Do you understand me?” He felt her nails dig into his wrist as her body relaxed back against his marginally. Hell broke loose on the beach just down from them. The men were shooting the Z’s one after another. “They can’t be saved. If you wish to live, then you have to do what I say, when I tell you to do it. Do you understand me?” He felt her head jerk up and down as she trembled against him.
Down on the beach the mob of Z’s had the men surrounded. The blonde girl wouldn’t stop screaming, which only helped to get the rotted undead more excited as they climbed over their fallen towards the small group. Gabe waited until the Z’s grabbed and bit into a guy’s neck. Blood from his carotid artery sprayed out of his throat as his mouth opened in a horrified scream that ended in a chilling gurgle as the Z took him down. He felt Mina instantly struggle to get free and realized he was making her watch the murder of her last family member. Gabe held her tight, shaking his head as he decided it was now or never to flee.
“Run toward the water. Follow me and keep up. If you don’t, you die. Don’t scream. It only makes them attack you faster. Understand?” This time her head bobbed faster as her hands released his arm. “Now, run.” He grabbed her hand and yanked her after him into the chilly water. They didn’t dive in to swim until they were waist deep. He let her go and struck out for the small island deep in the middle of the lake. Turning his head, he kept an eye on the beach and the wet head of the woman beside him. She kept up, strong until they were almost to the island. He saw her stop swimming to bob up and down, her arms barely keeping her above the water.
On the shore, the Z’s were finishing up their meal. He swore under his breath as she sank below the water. He moved quickly, making a survival decision. One person wasn’t worth jeopardizing his life. His arms burned as he struck out at the water toward the island.
Mina woke up choking back a terrified scream. It wasn’t anything new for her since Z-Day, when the zombie outbreak turned her world on its ear. For a confused moment she stayed still, afraid to move, to even breathe, for fear they were near. She listened hard, but all she could hear were waves gently moving against the shore. The lack of sound should have eased her tension, but she was too used to living in fear to drop her guard.
She opened her eyes one at a time, surprised to see she was lying on a soft cot. Turning her head to the side, she focused her eyes on a small table with a lit lantern and a pyramid of cans stacked on the top. Below it were several jugs full of water. Her mouth watered as she stared at the cans clearly labeled as vegetables. Sitting up, she pushed a musty-smelling army blanket off her arms. The fabric was a bit scratchy, but warm. Sitting still, as much to ease the nausea in her head from too little food in the last few days as to look for any sign of danger, Mina surveyed her surroundings carefully. She was clearly alone in what appeared to be a cave. A very clean and tidy cave, she noticed as her eyes searched for, but didn’t find, any bats or even cobwebs.
What she did see was a small fire pit located near the entrance, which was smoldering. Beyond it she could see an opening where it was obvious that it was still nighttime. She turned her head back toward the table with the cans on it. Her mouth watered as she considered the cans of food and then the jugs of water. She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten anything more than small bits of dried beef jerky they’d confiscated from a deserted gas station. Shoving the blanket back, she scooted toward the jugs, uncapped the nearest one, and took several gulps of the best-tasting water.