Authors: Erica Stevens
The Survivor Chronicles
Copyright 2013 Erica Stevens
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The Captive Series
Captured (Book 1)
Refugee (Book 3)
Salvation (Book 4)
The Kindred Series
Kindred (Book 1)
Ashes (Book 2)
Kindled (Book 3)
Inferno (Book 4)
Phoenix Rising (Book 5)
The Ravening Series
Ravenous (Book 1)
Taken Over (Book 2)
The Survivor Chronicles
Book 1: The Upheaval
Book 2: The Divide
This book is dedicated to Eric and Steve.
Thank you for bringing so much joy and laughter into my life.
You are still loved and missed every day.
Special thanks to my husband for putting up with me,
to my parents for keeping me alive and being an endless source of support,
my siblings, nieces and nephews who make life more interesting and fun.
To my friends for helping to keep me sane.
To Leslie Mitchell for being such a good friend and amazing help,
and to all the fans who make everyday such a wonderful adventure!
Table of Contents
Riley understood the statement shaking like a leaf as she kept her head bowed behind the ATM. She couldn't bring herself to move, she had no idea what had just happened. No idea where Carl and John were and absolutely no idea where the ass with the gun was. She had to look out, but he hadn't known where she was and there was a chance he was still out there, still alive.
But she couldn't hide behind the machine forever.
If he was still alive he would eventually find her. Taking a deep breath, she released it as she steeled her courage and cautiously peeked around the machine. She half expected to get a bullet in her forehead before she could peer out completely but the store remained as hushed as the ocean on a foggy morning.
One eye peeped out around the machine; she realized she had stopped breathing as her lungs began to burn. She released it on a small exhale as she spotted the man on the floor. There was a growing pool of blood around the right leg of his prone figure. Even as the thought of him being dead crossed her mind his head tilted back and his brown eyes met hers.
There was a moment, when their eyes locked, that Riley felt as if the earth screeched to a halt. A moment when the stillness became complete and she saw in his eyes a madness that had nothing to do with the sickness raging outside and everything to do with a sickness inside of him. He'd meant to kill them when they'd entered this store, and she was certain they wouldn't have been his first victims.
Their eyes remained locked before she forced her gaze to the gun lying five feet away from the both of them.
The world lurched back to life as Riley burst out from behind the ATM at the same time the man lurched forward. Even maimed he was surprisingly quick as he scrambled for the gun. Years of softball had honed her ability for the headfirst slide and she used it now as she threw her arms out and launched for the gun.
Her fingers nearly grasped it but they knocked it aside in her fumbling attempt to grab it. It skittered just beyond her grasp as her forward momentum carried her beyond the weapon. She threw out her left hand to block the rack of magazines she was heading for. The rack toppled over with a loud clatter as she crashed into it.
She threw her hands over her head as magazines rained down on top of her. One of the magazines bounced off the bridge of her once broken nose. The break, which had occurred six years ago when she'd lost a baseball in the sun, still brought tears to her eyes every time something hit her nose. It didn't fail to do so now as she blinked back the tears that filled her eyes.
A hand wrapped around her ankle.
Somewhere in Mass.
John held onto the handle above his head, his one leg was braced against the dashboard as the truck bounced over the ruts and holes marking the road. He warily watched the beat up Honda bouncing over the road in front of them. He was amazed the truck was holding up, never mind the dilapidated looking car.
Rochelle was bracing herself against the dashboard as Carl released a harsh breath that whistled between his teeth. The struts and shocks groaned loudly, and John wouldn't have been surprised to see one of their tires break off and go rolling past them. The car made a right turn onto a side road that was in far better condition.
Relief filled him as his teeth stopped chattering against each other. Rochelle slid limply back against her seat. Her brown hair had been pulled into a loose ponytail, but tendrils of it stuck to her neck and flushed face. Her doe brown eyes were wide as they shifted toward him. She was a tough kid, but she was still just a kid and right now she looked even younger than her twelve years.
"I think we just went off the intended track," Carl muttered.
"Yeah, but much more of the intended track and we were going to destroy both vehicles." John released his death grip on the handle and dropped his foot back to the ground.
"I don't like this." Carl's knuckles were white as he leaned forward to peer over the steering wheel. His battered Red Sox hat was pulled low over his watery gray eyes in an attempt to block the sunlight. The tips of his light brown hair curled around the edges of the cap. The lines in his weathered face appeared even deeper as he frowned at the road.
"I don't like any of this either, but what choice do we have? The river cut us off from the highway and the road was barely passable."
John leaned forward as they entered into a small town that he'd never been to before. Buildings had collapsed in on themselves; the sidewalks had cascaded upward in what reminded him of some sort of demented domino game. Trees, uprooted by the upheaval of the sidewalks, were tumbled haphazardly into the street. In front of them Al pulled the car onto the sidewalk as he sought to avoid the toppled trees cluttering the roadway.
John had become so used to the chaos, destruction, and crunching of animal and bird bones beneath the tires of the truck that it took him awhile to notice the complete stillness that surrounded them. His eyes darted over the broken buildings and sidewalks in search of any sign of life. He could see the smoke smoldering on the horizon but at least he didn't see leaping flames or the reddish glow of lava anymore.
He leaned even closer to the windshield. All the towns they'd gone through had been relatively quiet, but nowhere near this quiet. There was
one wandering the streets, no one in passing vehicles. Nothing to mark that there had actually been people living within this town. "Carl…"
"Where is everyone?" Rochelle inquired.
John strained to see into the windows of the buildings that remained standing, but curtains and blinds blocked his view, and the rest were covered in dirt or ash, or some other dark substance that obscured the glass. Most of the buildings appeared to be commercial but a few of them had apartments over them. There were bars and restaurants mixed in with hardware stores, jewelry stores, and a Dunkin' Donuts. Saliva filled his mouth as they drove past the coffee place that had been his main staple of life since junior year in high school.
He almost asked Carl to stop, but didn't have to as Al had parked on the broken sidewalk and the three of them were already climbing out of the car. Riley stretched her back as Lee placed his gun on the roof of the car and surveyed the empty coffee shop. Apparently they were as much of a coffee addict as he was.
Except, he realized, they weren't staring at the coffee shop like he was. He felt like an idiot as he climbed out of the truck and followed their gazes to the small convenience store nestled in between a pharmacy and a liquor store entitled Franklin Liquors. Well, at least he knew what town they were in now, though it did him little good as he had no knowledge of this area of the state.
"It doesn't look like that store has been raided yet, and I don't know about you guys but I'd rather be over-prepared than under." Al nodded toward the small convenience store as he strolled over to join them. "Plus that car is tough on a person's body."
"You can say that again," Lee muttered.
"Are you sure this is where you want to stop?" Rochelle inquired as she glanced nervously around the deserted streets.
"No, but do you want to pass up the opportunity? We may not get another one," Al rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he eyed the store. His blue eyes were sharp behind his glasses and for an older guy he had a surprisingly full head of gray hair. His face was lined, but they were the softer lines that had been acquired by age and not the deeper lines that were etched by a lifetime of hardship. "That pharmacy will have medical supplies that we'll need too. We can check it out after the convenience store."
John eyed the brick fronted building. Rochelle stood close to his side as she shifted uncomfortably and studied the street. "I don't like this one little bit," Riley said.
"Well from the look of things at least Franklin won't be able to beat you in the softball tournament again this year," Lee teased as he elbowed her lightly in the side.
Riley scowled at him. "I'm going to aim for your leg," she told Lee as she stepped off the broken sidewalk and onto the street.
John bit his inner cheek to keep from laughing.
Spunky and cute
, he thought as he watched her creep across the street with Al and Carl close to her side. He wondered if Lee was her boyfriend as he questioningly surveyed the surfer looking guy with sun bleached hair and deep blue eyes.
"Are you going to stay here?" he asked Rochelle.
"Hell no!" she retorted. "I've seen enough scary movies to know the rules. There is no
I'm staying here by myself."
Lee shrugged as he glanced at John over top of Rochelle's head. John's head spun around as the tinkle of shattering glass pierced the hideous silence of the oppressive day. John winced as the glass continued to fall onto the street and Carl knocked the rest of the glass aside with the brick he was clutching.
Riley glanced nervously around before nodding to Carl. He helped lift her up so that she could climb through the broken window. John and the others hurried over to them as she disappeared inside. "Maybe you should stay out here." Carl pulled the cigarette from his mouth as he focused on Rochelle. "At least until we're sure it's safe."
Rochelle's face scrunched up as she readied herself for a fight. "I'll stay with you," Al volunteered a little too quickly.
They'd planned this
, John realized at the same time that Rochelle seemed to come to the same conclusion. Her hands fisted but before she could launch into a full on tirade, the locks on the door began to click and Riley pulled it open.
She seemed a little green around the gills as she absently wiped the sweat beading on her forehead away with the back of her arm. Her cornflower blue eyes were shadowed by dark circles that made them appear even more vivid in the sun. Strands of nearly black hair curled around her cheeks and chin, and the pallor of her skin caused the smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks to stand out.