Read When Night Falls Online

Authors: Airicka Phoenix

When Night Falls (9 page)

BOOK: When Night Falls
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Chapter
Nine

 

Time dragged after Scarlett was unhooked from her IV and told she needed to vacate the hover platform by a sour faced novice nurse. She wasn’t given any change of clothes and her old things, she was told, were tossed into the incinerator. Thankfully, she wasn’t the only one there wearing a hospital gown.

“How much longer do you think they’re going to keep us here?” she asked Hunter, cradling her throbbing arm; she should have accepted the drugs when she’d had the chance, she thought.

Sitting at a table with his head down on his folded arms, Hunter grumbled, “Dunno. Until they catch all the infected, I guess.”

“I thought they already got them all.”

He sat up, eyes half closed. “Maybe they’re checking for any they missed. I don’t know, Red!” he dropped his head back down. “I just want to go to bed.”

“Attention please!” Cindy stood at the head of the room, arms waving over her head. She lowered them once all eyes were on her. “Our search has been successful. All the infected have been isolated. You are free to return to your quarters.”

“Thank God!” Hunter lunged to his feet, sending his chair sliding across the linoleum. Luckily, his enthusiasm was drowned by all the other sounds of clutter, raised voices, and scuffling feet.

Scarlett wasn’t nearly as excited to get back, not to that place, not with the memory of her grandmother still so fresh in her mind. But where else was there to go? She couldn’t stay with anyone else and leave Hunter there alone.

“Red?”

She forced a twisted smile on her face. “Coming.”

They didn’t speak another word all the way up to deck thirteen. They walked into the apartment and Hunter went straight for her grandmother’s bedroom. He quickly shut the door, blocking the sight of the rumpled, bloodstained bed. But he couldn’t hide the trail of blood that paved the way across the sitting area to the door.

“Don’t look,” he said, motioning her over to him. “She’ll be okay,” he promised, pulling her into the folds of his arms.

She fell asleep wanting to believe him, but then the alarms sounded.

It was well after midnight when Scarlett was plucked out of visions of yellow eyes and bloodstained teeth and pitched into a whole other set of nightmares. Her eyes shot open, her heart a pasty mess in her throat. She bolted upright
and reached for Hunter’s bare arm across the expense of her bed.

“Hunter!”

He was awake immediately. He bolted out of bed and grabbed his shirt blindly in the dark. He pulled it on while Scarlett remained paralyzed in place. Terror and confusion had turned her limbs to wood.

“Scarlett!” Hunter called over the ear-piercing din. “Get up!”

She started to slip out of bed. The sheets caught around her ankles and she stumbled, hitting the wall in an attempt to save herself from face planting. Her knees nearly buckled as rippling waves of pain shot down her injured shoulder. Her eyes rolled into the back of her skull and she had to bite her lip to keep from crying out.

Awkwardly, she kicked off the sheet and hurried to her shoes, cradling her now throbbing arm.

Hunter was dressed and at her side by the time she had both feet stuffed into her flats. His hand closed around hers and they were sprinting out of their apartment into a flood of running and screaming people.

“What’s going on?” Hunter shouted, but if anyone
heard him, no one slowed to answer. “Don’t let go!” he told Scarlett, crushing her fingers. “Whatever happens. Got it?”

He didn’t wait for a nod. He pulled her into the chaos and followed the others downstream.

Several times, Scarlett tried to look over her shoulder, hoping to see what had them running like a herd of sheep, but all she saw were faces contorted in terror, eyes, glassy and wild with panic. All around her people were shrieking louder than the emergency alarms. They pushed and plowed their way through, throwing down anyone that got in their way. They were like spooked animal, all rearing for their own survival. She wondered if half of them even knew what they were running from or if, like her and Hunter, they were running for the sake of running. And why weren’t they running towards the transporters?

“Hunter, we need to get downstairs!” she shouted over the noise.

“Everyone is going this way for a reason.”

Scarlett looked towards the way they were going and a frown drew her brows. “But this way doesn’t lead to anything! It’s a dead—”

Something like a giant, metal sledgehammer slammed into her shoulder. The already aggravated wound burst into a full on pounding that stole the very breath from her lungs and crippled all desire to live. She might have screamed, but everything flickered to dark. When she opened her eyes again, she was on the ground, alone. Everyone was gone. Even Hunter.

No! Hunter wouldn’t leave her! He’d promised.

Carefully, so carefully, she pushed onto her side, and then sat up, cradling her arm to her chest.

The alarms were off. Did that mean the threat was over? It was hard to tell when all she could see was darkness, pierced in strategic places by the emergency lights. It was so quiet. She was almost too afraid to call out. But she gave a feeble, “Hunter?”

In the folded cloak of shadows, something scuttled. Her heart crashed into her chest. She bit her lip to keep from calling out again. Gingerly, she scuffled back with one arm. She didn’t stop until she was pressed into a wall, in a corner. Using the cool, flat surface, she climbed to her feet.

Maybe she should run.
Even in the dark, she might be able to find her way back to her room. She could lock herself inside and wait. Someone was bound to come for her.

Then the darkness seemed to rustle. It was faint, but as she listened
, it grew, getting louder, getting closer. She held her breath. Maybe whatever it was couldn’t see her either, if she was really quiet.

Seconds passed. The rustling became more pronounced. It was the shuffle of feet on carpet. It was the
rustle of clothes as if the person was running. Then, it was voices, low, hushed, urgent murmurs. She couldn’t make out what they were saying, but one sounded like someone was pleading. The other sounded angry.

Scarlett swallowed hard. “H
… hello?” she whispered, low enough that they might not hear her or mistake her as nothing.

The noise stopped. Scarlett froze. Whoever these people were, she had surprised them as much as they had surprised her.

“Who’s there?” The gruff, male tone was so familiar.

A light flared to life. Scarlett winced as it shattered her shroud of security and cut into her eyes. She raised a hand, shielding her face while trying to squint between her fingers at the owner of the torch.

“Scarlett!” Relief, so much relief she could nearly taste it rushed out from that single word before she found herself engulfed.

Strong, sturdy arms hooped around her, crushing her into a broad chest. Her face was squished into
a wide shoulder by the hand pressing into the back of her skull. The musky scent of sweat and fear pulsed into her senses. Hot, sticky pants washed into the curve of her neck as the person trembled around her.


God, baby, I thought I lost you. Never been so scared in my life!” he rasped into her ear, his voice thick with relief. His arms tightened until she was sure she’d pass out again. When she squeaked, he immediately loosened his grip and drew back. “Are you hurt?”

“Just my shoulder.” She whispered, peering up into the shadow-kissed face of her companion. She
squinted. “Rolf?”

His exhale ruffled her bangs, caressed her face and smel
led of mint. His hands framed her face, still unsteady.

“What happened?”

She opened her mouth to tell him, but the light still burning into her face from over his shoulder was beginning to make her eyes water. "Could you…?”

Rolf twisted his torso, never fully relinquishing his hold on her. “Turn it off!” he
commanded of someone nearby.

The torch flickered and died. The sudden change left little starbursts popping in front of her eyes. She squished her knuckles into her eyelids and rubbed.

“Scarlett?” His hands glided lightly down to her shoulders, careful not to touch the gauze. “Where’s Hunter?”

Scarlett stiffened. Her hands fell away
from her face. “He’s not with you?”

Of course he wasn’t
. He would have made his presence known. He wouldn’t…

“Where is he?” she demanded as if
Rolf would know.

“Shh!” Rolf whispered, squeezing her good arm. “First, we have to get out of here. We’re too much in the open.” He took her hand, threading his long fingers through hers. “Jack!”

Behind him, something moved. There was a clicking sound, followed by the flash of a green light. It took Scarlett a moment to recognize the device as a data port.

“Where did you get that?” she asked.
“Only the mentors are allowed those.”

“Swiped it from one in the
mess hall,” Rolf told her, tugging her forward when Jack began to follow the projected map hovering inches off the screen.

He led them through
deck ten, keeping away from the spotlights splashing pale halos across the carpets. Every so often, he would stop and the caravan behind him would stumble into him, into each other. She still had no idea how many were actually there.

“There!” she heard him hiss
, after what felt like hours.

She couldn’t see what he was pointing to, assuming he was pointing, but Rolf seemed to know what he was talking about. “Go!”

“Where are we going?”

He squeezed her fingers to be quiet.

They began moving again. She heard the soft beep of a data scanner, then the
swoosh
of a door sliding open, followed by a deep, echoing silencing.

“Stay close
.” Rolf whispered into her ear. Away from her, he said, “Lance, take Kiera.”

“I don’t want him to—”
The rest of Kiera’s protest was muffled, like someone had clamped a hand over her mouth. There was scraping, a few grunts and then silence again.

A moment passed where everyone seemed to be holding their breaths, except Scarlett
. She still had no idea what was happening. When it became clear that nothing was going to happen, the torch snapped to life several feet ahead. White light spilled over stone walls, iron railings and stairs. Scarlett recognized the emergency stairway.

They started down and no amount of careful and slow stopped the clang of feet from filling the cylinder column. If anything, the qui
eter they tried to be, the louder the reverberations were along the walls. Jack kept the light at their feet, shining a slim beam over each step. Every so often, he would stop and flash the light at the number over the doors they passed. Scarlett watched as each level passed, wondering how much further they had to go.

On
deck nine, they stopped on the landing.

“I’ll go first
.” Rolf broke the silence. He dragged Scarlett to his side, then forward still. “Jack.”

There was some juggling on Jack’s part as he took the data port and torch in one hand and
shifted around Rolf to take the door handle with one hand. He seemed to wait a full heartbeat before letting his hand hover over the scanner.

“Wait!” Scarlett grabbed Rolf before he could slip past her through the door. “What’s out there? Is it more of the infected? Did the
marshals not get them all?”

“Where have you been?”
Kiera sneered from somewhere on her right. “They escaped quarantine! They’ve taken over the ship. Everyone is dead!”


Kiera!” But it was too late.

Shards of ice splintered up her body, freezing her to the core. “Hunter…”
Her fingers trembled as she fumbled with her wrist unit.

“All coms are down,” Rolf told her when static issued from her device. “We’re on emergency lockdown. It’s up to us to find somewhere safe to hide until someone regains control of the ship.”

“What about Hunter?” She was breathing hard. “Hunter is out there! We have to find—” She hadn’t realized her voice was rising until Jack’s sticky palm slapped over her mouth. Her head was forced back onto his shoulder. His other arm snaked around her middle, restraining her.

“Quiet!” he hissed into the side of her face.

“Let her go!” Rolf snapped, pulling her out of Jack’s hold. “Scarlett, listen to me, we need to get to somewhere safe, regroup, and come up with a plan. If Hunter’s out there, we’ll find him.”

If.
He said if. No. There couldn’t be any ifs.

“We have to find him! I won’t leave him—”

“Rolf, damn it!” someone hissed from behind her. “Shut her up or we’re all going to get killed!”

Rolf’s fingers tightened around her good arm. “Scarlett, I will find him. But you need to stay focused, all right? We have to get somewhere safe!”

She swallowed to moisten the dust in her throat, slicked her lips and whispered, “Promise!”

BOOK: When Night Falls
5.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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