The Grace Series (Book 3): Dark Grace

BOOK: The Grace Series (Book 3): Dark Grace
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DARK GRACE

Book Three of the Grace Series

 

M. Lauryl Lewis

 

 

 

C
OPYRIGHT

June 2013

M. Lauryl Lewis / Larson Falls Publishing

 

Cover image used under license / Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2013
Kiselev Andrey Valerevich

 

All rights reserved by the author/publisher. This work may not be copied in part or in whole without author/publisher permission and is intended for a singular audience.  It is not intended to be shared publicly.

 

This is a work of fiction. Character names, establishments, and scenarios are all a figment of the author’s imagination.  Any correlation to real people, events, and places is purely coincidence.

 

 

OTHER BOOKS BY M. LAURYL LEWIS

 

The Grace Series

 

Grace Lost (#1)

Tainted Grace (#2)

Dark Grace (#3)

 

Due for release early 2014

Fallen From Grace (#4)

 
DEDICATIONS

 

For Astro, who taught me a whole lot about love and trust. 

 

With many thanks to my editor, Donna H, and my two test readers Amanda L. and Timothy G.

 

And always - to my husband and our three amazing superheroes…uh…sons.

CHAPTER 1

 

At low tide, an outcropping of sea rocks facing the west was accessible by walking around tide pools.  It had become one of my favorite places to spend time alone, feeling utterly sorry for myself.  Jane and Abbey had quickly adopted Susan and Nathan and spent most of their time with them.  Boggs had grown distant.  I couldn’t exactly blame him.  He could say the same about me.  Ever since he had hit me out of anger, I had tried to move on and put it behind us, but my feelings for him were too confusing to simply go back to how things used to be.  I spent most of my time alone now, on some corner of our island or another, or out here on the rocks staring at the Sound.   My mind would often wander to Gus and the moments we had spent close to one another.  Those moments had been brief, and so wrong, but were so very precious to me.  Gus.  A man I would trust my life with.  He’d grown distant as well.  He and Emilie seemed happy.  She spent every waking moment at his side.  Life had grown lonely for me.  My body was awkward now.  I was all of three months pregnant, but looked twice that.  My back was almost always aching, it was hard to see my feet, and getting comfortable in general was a chore.  We still had no way of knowing what was going on with the baby.  I tried to not think about what might be wrong with the life growing inside of me. 

We had been on the island for nearly three weeks.  I hadn’t been “allowed” on any scavenging missions due to the pregnancy.  I hadn’t argued, knowing it would only frustrate me more than I already was.  Instead, Susan was left behind with me and the two younger girls while Emilie, Nathan, Gus, and Boggs all ventured out by boat.  I spent those days the same as most  other days:  by myself.  Even Susan had tried a hundred times to cheer me up.  In truth I didn’t want to leave my dark hole of misery.  I felt like I deserved it.

Today was like all the rest.  Susan and the girls and I were alone on the island.  We had let our guard down by now, as none of the living dead had appeared to terrorize us in over two weeks.  There had been the one I had seen on our day of arrival, but we had yet to see any more signs of it.  The rest of our group would return before dusk when they went on runs, and tell stories of how many Runners or Roamers they had encountered.  They had managed to refuel the boat, which was our lifeline to the mainland.  It was only by chance that no one had been hurt, and that they had come across tools for building and a good supply of canned food.  I sat with the others by the fire after dark, but was always the last one to bed.  I listened to their tales half-heartedly.  We had four air mattresses now.  Abbey and Jane shared one, as did Em and Gus and Nathan and Susan shared another.  I always waited for Boggs to fall asleep, and would then make a bed of my own on the ground nearest to Jane.  My dreams were usually filled with images of the dead, of Boggs slapping me, or of Emilie crying.

I leaned back on my hands, enjoying the cold of the wet rocks beneath me.  The cold was a reminder that I was alive, and the discomfort somehow made me feel better.  The wind blew my hair, and stung my face as it whipped by.  I knew I’d have to head back soon.  The sun was close to setting and the tide was coming in quickly.  I was also so very cold.  I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.  I felt the slightest tickle in my belly.  It was enough to make me open my eyes and look down.  Surely it couldn’t have been the baby moving, but deep down I knew it was.  I also knew it was far too early to feel movement.  I set my hand over the swell of my abdomen and waited quietly.  The next time it happened I could feel it both from the inside as well as with my hand.  I didn’t want to get excited, but I knew the baby inside of me was indeed alive.  I kept
a blank face, though, not having the mental energy to smile. I used my hands to push myself up off of the ground, and then placed a hand on the small of my back.  I was wearing a sheer loose ivory skirt that billowed in the wind, and a lime green tank top covered with a gray zip-up sweatshirt, compliments of one of the scavenging trips.  It was one of my only comfortable outfits.  My bra had grown far too small so I had abandoned it days ago, but the tight tank top helped offer support.

I carefully found my way back to the main shore, avoiding slipping or tripping.  I had waited too long to leave and the tide was higher than I expected.  I had to take my shoes off at one point and walk through the cold water of a tidal pool.  It wasn’t far back to our main camp, but I took my time.  I left my feet bare, stepping carefully to avoid twigs and rocks.

“Zoe, darlin’,” I heard Gus say my name quietly.

I looked up, almost in a daze.  It was seldom that Gus spoke to me nowadays.

“Dinner’s almost ready.  I told the others I’d come look for you.  Susan said to look for you in this direction.”

Susan knew about my little hideout at low tide.

“’Kay,” I said, my voice solemn.

“Zoe.”

He walked a couple of steps closer to me.  I looked at him blankly.

“I hate seeing you so miserable, darlin’.  You know I’m not a doctor, but I’ve been reading some of the medical texts we came across.  I’m worried you might have depression from your hormones and the pregnancy.”

“’Kay.”

“I think we should try to get you some medication, darlin’.”

“I don’t need pills.”

“What do you need?”

“Just to be alone.”

“Zoe.  No.  I’m not gonna let you keep on like this.”

I glared at him.  “Go back to Emilie, Gus.  Have dinner.  I’ll be fine.”

He looked utterly hurt.  He took a quick, deep breath and put his hands on his hips.

“That’s a low blow.  We both talked about this, Zoe, and decided it was best.  You need to talk to me, ’cause I can’t bear seeing you like this.”

I matched his huff with my own quick breath.

“We’re headed out again tomorrow.  I’m going to send Susan and the girls with to stay on the boat and fish, and I’ll stay behind with you.  We need to talk.”

“I felt it,” I said quietly.

He looked at me questioningly.

“The baby.  I felt it move.”

“It’s probably just gas.  I know you’re measuring big but it’s way too soon for you to feel it move.”

“No, it wasn't gas.”  As I said the words, I felt it again.  I looked down at my growing belly and placed my hand where I had just felt it.  “I can feel it with my hand.”

Gus had stepped even closer and was within arm’s reach of me.  “Show me where.”  He was busy lifting my sweatshirt and tank top up and out of his way.  The skin over my belly was now riddled with light green lines that had spread from my hip. 

“Where my hand is,” I whispered.

He placed his large, masculine hand over mine and I slipped mine out from under his.  The feel of his palm against me was electric.  It caused my heart to ache.

“There,” I said.  I watched as his hand just barely moved along with my belly.

He sighed, heavily, and hung his head.  “I think we need to try and locate some medical equipment.  Maybe a handheld ultrasound to listen to the baby’s heartbeat.  Without electricity I think that’s the best we can do.”

“You’re worried, aren’t you?” I asked quietly.

“Honestly, yes.  I am.” 

His hand was still resting over my lower abdomen.  I didn’t want him to move it, and closed my eyes.  I sensed him step closer to me, and as badly as I wanted to stay where I was, I took a small step back.  I opened my eyes, and saw his hand coming up to my face.  As he cupped my cheek in his hand, I closed my eyes again and felt him move even closer to me.  I didn’t move away this time. 

“Zoe, I’m so sorry you’re in so much pain.  I promise we’ll talk tomorrow.  Just you and me.”  I nodded against his palm.  He kissed me lightly on my other cheek.  “Let’s go get dinner.  Susan made chili.”  He let his hand and arm fall away, and then slipped his other hand around mine.  We walked together like that back to the fire pit to join our companions.  He let go of my hand before we were in eyeshot of the others.

Nathan was building the fire up while Emilie and Susan were dishing out chili.  Abbey and Jane were sitting by the fire.  Boggs was off to one side of camp, sharpening a knife.  I wrapped my arms around myself when I saw him, and decided I should tell him about the baby moving.  I walked up behind him and cleared my throat before I was in striking range, just to avoid startling him while he was holding a sharp object.  He paused and twisted to look behind him.

“Hey,” was all he said.

“Hey.  Can we talk for a minute?”

“Ok.  What’s up?”

“I felt the baby move today.”  I omitted the fact that Gus had felt it as well.

“Oh?”

“Ya.  I thought you might want to know.”

“Thanks.”

“Boggs,” I said and then paused.  He had started sharpening his knife again.  “Come walk with me?”

He stopped sharpening the knife but didn’t turn to face me.  He spit on the ground.

“When did you pick up chewing?” I asked.

He shrugged, still facing away from me.

“I think we should talk, Boggs.  Please?”

He finally turned to face me.  His eyes had dark circles around them as if he hadn’t been sleeping well.  His hair had grown and was starting to fall close to his eyes.  He sheathed the knife he had been working on and clipped it to his belt. 

“I’m listening,” he said as he spat on the ground again.  He rubbed at his neck, where his skin had scarred from the night I had bit him in my sleep.  The scar was twisted and mangled, and green like my hip.  His wound, though, never branched out in streaks of color as mine had.  It was a firm reminder, though, that whatever had started this plague was still in our midst.  I placed my hand on my belly again, and frowned.

“Can we walk into the woods, sit and talk?”

His chest heaved before he spoke. “Ok.  Sure.”

He picked up his handgun, tucked it into his jeans, and motioned me forward with the sweep of his left hand.  I walked past him and into the trees that surrounded our camp.  I could hear him walking heavily behind me.

“This look good?” he asked, motioning to a small clearing. 

“Fine,” I replied.  I sat on a nearby fallen tree.  Boggs remained standing.  “Please come and sit?” I asked, trying to keep my voice kind.

“What do you want to talk about, Zo?”

“Boggs.  What’s happened to us?  What’s gotten us to this point?  I miss you.  I miss my best friend.”

He looked at me sideways.  “I think life has just beaten us down, Zoe.  Like you said, maybe we weren’t meant to be more than friends.  Those were your words.”

“You’re so cold now, Boggs.  It’s like you don’t even want to be around me.”

“It’s not that.  It’s just hard to be around you.  Even if I tried, I doubt I could make you happy.”

“Gus thinks I might need to take something for depression.  He says it might be the pregnancy causing it.”

Boggs turned so he was facing me more directly.  “Really?” he asking, sounding doubtful.

I nodded.  “He’s worried about that baby’s growth, too.”

“He’s told me.”

“It’s moving right now.  Do you want to feel it?”

“Really?”

I nodded again.  I pulled my sweatshirt up, leaving my tank top down to cover my skin.  “Here.  Put your hand here,” I said while pointing out a likely place to feel movement.

He held a familiar hand out in front of my belly, but seemed hesitant to touch me.  I gently took his hand in mine and guided it to my belly, pulling my tank top up with my other hand at the same time.  I softly set his palm against my skin, and covered the back of his hand with my own.

“Just wait,” I whispered.  After a long moment of waiting, both of our hands bounced lightly.  Boggs jumped slightly in surprise.

“That was the baby?” he asked in amazement.

“Yup.”

“That’s incredible.”  He seemed in awe.  For the first time in many days I saw the hint of a smile on his face.  A glimpse of the Boggs I knew so well.

“Yes, it is,” I answered.  He let his free arm slide around my shoulders, while leaving the other over the baby.  It felt natural, and reminded me of the days when we first fell in love.  I leaned into him, and let him hold me.

“I’m sorry we’ve gotten to this point, Zo.  I really am.”

“Do you think we can ever find our way back, Boggs?”  Being next to him felt good.

“I’m willing to try.” 

He gave me a one-armed squeeze.  I looked up at him in the dying light of the day.  For the first time in weeks I felt a bit of hope.

He leaned down and kissed me softly on the lips.

“Let’s go back and eat.  Maybe we can start by you coming to bed with me tonight?  I don’t mean to fool around, just to sleep,” he added.  “We can just take things from there.”

“Ok,” I agreed.

We stood and walked back to the camp fire, Boggs in the lead.  Everyone was already busy eating and talking about plans for the next day.  We walked to the pot that held the hot chili and each dished out our own.  I kept my serving small, not being very hungry.

“There’s some cornbread that Em made over on the table,” said Susan with her mouth half full.  She swallowed before continuing.  “It’s pretty flat but tastes good.”  One of the scavenging trips had produced a useful folding table, where food preparation now took place.  We still all sat around the fire to eat, unless it was raining.  On those occasions we sat under our tarp where the beds were situated. 

BOOK: The Grace Series (Book 3): Dark Grace
8.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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