Friday, July 27, 2018

Great Summer Reads - Day 17 ~ The Guise of A Gentleman - The Rogue Hearts Series: Book Two by Donna Hatch






Donna Hatch is the author of the best-selling “Rogue Hearts Series,” and a winner of writing awards such as The Golden Quill and the International Digital Award. A hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, she discovered her writing passion at the tender age of 8 and has been listening to those voices ever since. She has become a sought-after workshop presenter, and also juggles freelance editing, multiple volunteer positions, and most of all, her six children (seven, counting her husband). A native of Arizona who recently transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.






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The widowed Elise is a perfect English lady living within the confines of society for the sake of her impressionable young son. Her quiet world is shattered when she meets the impulsive and scandalous Jared Amesbury. His roguish charm awakens her yearning for adventure. But his irrepressible grin and sea-green eyes hide a secret.



A gentleman by day, a pirate by night, Jared must complete one last assignment from the Secret Service before he can be truly free. Elise gives him hope that he, too, can find love and belonging. His hopes are crushed when his best laid plans go awry and Elise is dragged into his world of violence and deceit. She may not survive the revelation of Jared's past...or still love him when the truth is revealed.

The Guise of a Gentleman is a clean and wholesome Regency Romance, a.k.a. "clean" that explores finding one's true self, loyalty, honor, and trusting loved ones. With plenty of swashbuckling action, it provides a several good twists that play off of familiar situations and proudly proclaims the redemptive power of love.





Snippet:


Mr. Amesbury moved closer to Elise. Her heart pounded as he neared. His smile turned smug as if he knew her thoughts.
“Despite your earlier refusal, I’m glad to finally learn your name. At least, part of it. What is your Christian name?”
“Missus,” she said through clenched teeth, and turned to leave.
“Wait. Please don’t go.”
The desperation in his softly spoken words arrested her movement. Slowly, she turned back to him. His disconcerting eyes traveled over her face with such intensity it seemed a physical touch. She wondered if he looked at every woman thusly. He probably did. The rake!
“I wanted to thank you again for your assistance in the woods.” A seductive tone rumbled his voice.
“You’re welcome,” she snapped. Her own rudeness shocked her, but this womanizing cad deserved to be brought down a peg or two.
“And to apologize,” he added, unperturbed. “I offended you that day. I do not wish to destroy any chance I might have in the future to become better acquainted.”
“I believe we are too well acquainted already.”
“But I’m in your debt. Please allow me to thank you properly.” His lazy smile and smoldering eyes made her wish she had worn a dress with a higher neckline.
She nervously touched the cameo on the ribbon at her throat. “It’s not necessary to thank me. Besides, I doubt I can trust your definition of ‘properly.’ ”
He laughed softly. “You’re a perceptive woman, Mrs. Berkley. However, I have something less nefarious in mind.” He executed a courtly bow. “I thank you, madam, from the bottom of my heart, for coming to my rescue.”
From an inner coat pocket, he retrieved a velvet drawstring bag, opened it, and inverted it in his hand. A perfect pearl lay in his palm.
He held it out to her. “There is an island in the Pacific where the natives harvest these from the ocean. You can’t see it in this light, but it’s pink. The chief gave this to me to thank me for saving his son. So, to thank you for saving the boy and me, I hope you will accept this token of my gratitude. And, I hope, as an apology.”
She stilled at his unexpected words.
He added, “I offended you with my impulsive behavior, and I humbly beg your forgiveness.” A smile lurked around the corner of his eyes despite the contrition in his tone.
Had a man ever left her so thoroughly confused? He was a muddle of a perfect gentleman and an incorrigible tease. Truly he was a cad. She’d just have to ignore those annoyingly strong elemental stirrings he aroused in her; they would be extremely inconvenient if she, as a mother and widow, followed them.
She indicated the pearl. “Truly, this is not necessary.”
“Please take it.” He grinned with roguish charm. “Otherwise, I’ll be honor-bound to find some other way to thank you.”
Something in his tone dispelled her guard. Laughing softly at his audacity, she picked up the pearl and admired it. “Very well, I accept, lest you become even more outrageous in your expression of gratitude.”
A place in her heart was touched that he’d be so thoughtful as to have brought her a gift that possessed sentimental value, rather than merely one of monetary worth—not that she should be accepting either one from a stranger, but somehow, she could not refuse.
Archly, she said, “And as you were clearly not in your right mind after such a terrible ordeal, I forgive you for your misconduct.” She wrapped the pearl in a lace handkerchief and put it in her reticule.
His smile appeared both wicked and relieved. “I cannot express how much that means to me. I have thought of you often since that day.”
“You, sir, continually breach the boundaries of propriety.” If only she could slow down her traitorous heart and force it to accept her decision to dismiss him as beneath her notice. But she couldn’t simply dismiss someone whose very presence filled the entire garden, and whose thoughtfulness touched her more than she cared to admit.
She almost uttered a sound of disgust. When had she become so easily ensnared by the charms of a libertine? She took another step backward and lost her balance. With a cry, she teetered at the edge of the pond.
His hand shot out to catch her by the arms. Laughter leaped into his eyes while he slowly pulled her closer to his broad chest. His clean and earthy and so very masculine scent crept into her senses. For one brief moment of insanity, she enjoyed his nearness, his arms around her making her feel safe, protected, desirable.
Where had she left her wits?
“Thank you,” she whispered, dropping her eyes and shrugging off his touch.
He dropped his hands to his sides. “Do you really fear me so? Or is it that this isn’t proper, either?”


“Of course this isn’t proper. And I’m wise to mistrust a man whose conduct and intentions are questionable, at best. Unless I have my gun, of course.”









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Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 Days 24 - 26 - Writing Through The Sludge! Giving Up on My Story?!?



Updating my word count. Some days I couldn't write due to chronic pain and illness but other days I did write and some were great some were like waddling through thick mud. Did I give up on my story? Did I throw it away? Click the video to see what happened! #campnanowrimo #nanowrimo #amwriting #writingcraft #howtowriteanovel #novelwriting #authortubers

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Cover Reveal ~ Christmas With You - A Contemporary Romance by Heidi McLaughlin, LP Dover, Cindi Madsen, RJ Prescott & Amy Briggs



Title: Christmas With You 
Authors: Heidi McLaughlin, LP Dover, Cindi Madsen, RJ Prescott & Amy Briggs 
Genre: Holiday Contemporary Romance 
Release Date: This holiday season 



Bestselling authors Heidi McLaughlin, L.P. Dover, Cindi Madsen, R.J. Prescott, and Amy Briggs invite you to celebrate Christmas in Friendship, Massachusetts, where small-town values mean that everyone gets into the holiday spirit and lends a helping hand. When an unlikely newcomer decides to join in and play matchmaker, five couples—each a complete love story by each of our five authors—get their happily ever afters during the happiest time of the year. And these authors share what the season truly means to them.

Meet the Authors by Visting them at one of their online sites

Heidi McLauglin

L.P. Dover

Cindi Madsen

R.J. Prescott

Amy Briggs

           




The Unexpected Wife - Historical Romance by Caroline Warfield



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Historical Romance
Date Published: July 25, 2018

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When the Duke of Murnane accepts an unofficial fact finding mission to Canton on behalf of the queen in 1838 he expects work to heal him. He certainly doesn’t expect to confront his wreck of a marriage in such an exotic locale, or to find the love of his life. Zambak Hayden follows her brother to China to escape pressure to make a suitable marriage. When she finds the brother drawn into the world of greed, smuggling, opium, and corruption she resolves to both sort out the truth and to protect her brother from becoming prey to all of it—if only she could stop yearning for the one man she can’t have.  Can love survive when troubles and war explode around them?



Excerpt


“Don’t go honorable and protective on me, Charles. I know what I want,” she sputtered, grabbing his lapels and snuggling her nose into his shoulder.

“That fills me with more joy than I can explain, Zambak,” he said. He stood, pulling her with him, and turned her outward to face the shore while he put his arms around her waist to hold her loosely from behind. “You aren’t so na├»ve that you can’t tell how badly I want you,” he whispered in her ear.

Smug and filled with triumph, she spoke without thinking. “I know. I fear I’ve tumbled entirely in love with you, Charles. It is new and precious and—” She sank her head back against him. She felt safe in his arms, yet frustrated. When she wriggled free to face him, he held her at arms length, one hand on each arm.

“You don’t understand what you’re suggesting,” he said.

“Perhaps not entirely, but I’m eager to find out. We can manage this thing between us. I know we can. For now—”

“For now, nothing. Listen to me, dear one.”

Dear one. She felt her smile fill her down to her toes. She sank back on her heels and studied his face, grave in the moonlight.

“You’ve told me over and over again you do not wish to marry,” he reminded her.

“Maybe I was wrong. I don’t wish marriage as dictated by rank and land and the rest. Or maybe I don’t need marriage. There’s Julia in any case and—and I’m jumping ahead.”

He smiled then and loosed his grip, taking a step away. “You certainly are, and I’m making a mull of it.” He reached out a hand to cup her cheek. “Lady Zambak Hayden, I find that I have also tumbled into this maelstrom. I love your brilliant mind and unbounded courage. Your lovely body drives me mad, as you will have noticed. But—”

She growled deep in her throat. Always a “but.” She put a finger to his lips, but he shook his head, and removed his hand from her face.

“Listen to me. You may not believe in marriage, but you deserve no less than my total commitment. I am a married man, who can’t make his addresses with any honor.”

“I thought you and Julia had an agreement,” she reminded him.

“We do. But Julia’s word is always questionable, making any agreement equally questionable. Divorce is tedious and difficult at best, ugly and scandal-ridden at worst. When it’s done, she will have shredded my good name.”

“I know you. I know better. I don’t care.” She didn’t. She couldn’t believe he’d think otherwise.

His smile held infinite sadness. “Your father will care, and your mother wants more for you than a man eleven years your senior with an ugly past.”

“Piffle. Even if that is true—and I doubt it, because they know you. They know what you’re made of—I am of age. They will have to accept it, because I will defy whatever they might do to stop me.”

“Yes, you would,” he replied with a sigh. “You defy them in many things, and it seems to fall to me to keep you out of trouble.”

He reached over and took her right hand between both of his. “Very well, Lady Zambak Hayden, will you—”

She tried to throw herself into his arms, but he held her back. “Wait. Listen to what I’m asking. Will you wait for me to be free? Will you wait as long as it takes to extricate myself from my joke of a marriage so I can come to you honorably and make my offer?”

She sank back, subdued. “I don’t want to wait.” Stony features looked implacably back for a long moment until she gave in. “But I will if you give me no choice, because I promise you this, Charles: there is no other man but you and never will be. I love you.”

His eyes bore into hers. “I won’t hold you to it, Zambak, but I love you for saying it.” He kissed her then—a fierce caress that battered her soul with the enormity of his feelings—stepped away and bowed. “Now I will join the crew on the quarterdeck for both our sakes, since you will not go below.”

He left her in the moonlight, cold and alone, but with hope firmly set in her heart.


About the Author

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Award-winning author Caroline Warfield has been many things: traveler, librarian, poet, raiser of children, bird watcher, Internet and Web services manager, conference speaker, indexer, tech writer, genealogist—even a nun. She reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.



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Monday, July 23, 2018

Solomon the Accountant - A Historical Romance by Edward M. Krauss


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Historical Romantic Fiction
Date Published: January 2018
Publisher: EABooks Publishing

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Solomon the Accountant is the story of a young man who falls in love with Molly. He first meets her at the funeral of her husband, killed in an accident after less than a year of marriage. She is heartbroken and devastated, with a new love the last thing on her mind. Solomon’s effort gently, carefully to win Molly’s heart is the core of the novel.

The story is set in a middle-class Jewish community in Toledo, Ohio, in 1950. References to television shows, automobiles, the price of clothing, popular music, and other items have been carefully researched. The thread of Judaism, and Jewish home life, is woven throughout.

A side story involves Solomon’s best friend, Herman, and his girlfriend Deborah. She is ready to marry, he is almost but not quite, and Solomon is caught between them as they seek his advice and support.

The novel celebrates respect for family and elders, true love and long marriages, young love with an unusual situation to overcome, all with a sprinkling of Yiddish.




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Excerpt


    Services started at seven-thirty. Solomon had promised he would pick her up at seven, and he pulled up in front of her apartment building at six-fifty. Actually he had left his apartment so early that he had driven slowly the entire way, cars passing him, and still had to sit a half block away for five minutes.

    Solomon felt a strange combination of giddy excitement and absolute calm. He went to her door, knocked twice, not too hard, and soon she opened the door. This time she had on a dark blue suit with a silk blue blouse in a lighter, complimentary shade, and a thin gold necklace. Her only other jewelry were her engagement and wedding rings. They greeted, then he walked behind her to the car. He wanted to be a gentleman, to take her elbow, but didn’t want to be too bold, maybe she wouldn’t want his touch. So he walked close, opened the car door. They drove the short distance to the synagogue in silence, each with their heads so full of thoughts they couldn’t decided what thing to say first, so they said nothing, the silence growing until it became impossible to break. Molly noticed how clean the car was, as she had noticed the cleaned office and the new cushion. When they arrived he parked then got out and walked around to her side of the car. When he opened the door he offered his hand to help her and she took it, her gloved hand light in his.

    People were arriving, single people, couples, families, older people helped by their adult children.  Molly was known to many of them, Solomon to some, since his family belonged to B’nai Israel, and that’s where he usually attended, but easily half of those attending knew Molly or Solomon or his parents or her deceased husband’s parents, and those people looked and noticed and tried not to stare, although a few did, and a few of those already seated even pointed discretely behind their prayer books and made short, whispered comments. Molly noticed but had expected, anticipated the looks and whispers, so she said hello to some, introduced Solomon to others, and he took her lead, relaxed a bit and greeted friends and acquaintances. Soon the service started, and they both got into the rituals, the familiar songs, the comfort of the prayers in Hebrew and English, the worship based on beliefs from so long ago, the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. L’dor Va’dor, from generation to generation. During the sermon, their prayer books closed, Solomon’s brain screamed at him to take her hand, but he resisted the urge, the desire.

    The Oneg Shabbat was, as always, a calm, pleasant way to finish the week, first the service and then some time to chat with friends, sip tea or coffee, punch for the children, and eat from a display of twenty or more styles of cookies. Solomon favored the almond cookies, a swirled design with a drop of chewy cherry candy in the center. Molly loved the tiny squares of lemon cake, only a bite or two each, a single piece of walnut on the top of each square. As they walked into the large room that was used for wedding receptions, bar and bat mitzvah receptions and Purim festivals and lessons in Israeli folk dancing and other occasions of Jewish sharing, people worked at not noticing, not staring. Solomon asked her if she would like coffee or tea and she said tea, so he poured a cup for her and one for him. They walked towards the trays of cookies and as they chose he was approached by one of his clients. Talking a bit of shop after services was not unknown. At that moment Molly saw one of her friends, a woman who had attended her wedding, now very pregnant with her first child. Molly walked to her.

    "Hello, Susan. Looks like you’re serious about this pregnant thing.”

    “Oy, Molly, I can’t sit long, he presses on my bladder, I can stand only minutes until my swollen feet kvetch, forget about sleeping, all night long he’s doing pushups and running track like his father did. He should wait until high school to do his sprints, it would be fine with me, but no, three in the morning his little legs are churning.”

    “I hear a lot of ‘he,’ Susan. You sure?”

    “I think so, my mother thinks so, the doctor thinks so. So of course it will be a little girl.”

    “Of course.”

     “How soon?”

    “Three weeks, twenty-one days exactly, that’s the prediction. A little early is fine by me. Meanwhile Harvey has the room all ready, we don’t know a boy a girl, so we found some light blue wallpaper with pink flowers, that should work for either sex for a few years. Did I just say sex? Nine minutes for the man, nine months for the woman. Such a deal! And for the first six months Harvey was still finishing his residency, so I never saw him. Which was good for him, he was spared three months of listening to me throw up. Oh, sorry, terrible thing to say as you try to eat lemon cake.”

    Molly laughed. “That won’t stop me. Watch” she said, finishing off the small yellow square. “So how is the doctor?”

    “He’s fine, knock wood. Look at him over there with his head together with Toplosky and Miller. Three doctors. Wonder if it’s medicine or golf they’re talking about? Not that he got to golf much the last year, but next summer he’ll be out there.”

    “Best place to get sick is a hospital, next best is a shul.”

    “Yeah, and Miller’s OB - GYN. I go into early labor he can deliver the baby right here.”

    Molly laughed again.

    “So Molly, are we good enough friends for me to ask about the man you were sitting with?”

    “Is there some way I could say no to that question?” As Susan looked a bit stricken Molly hurried to assure her. “I’m teasing, Susan, yes we are certainly good enough friends, and I’m glad to tell you. His name is Solomon Wohlman, he’s an accountant, has his own shop. He came to the house when we were sitting Shiva, knew someone in Darren’s family, I think. Anyway, we didn’t… I don’t have an accountant, never needed one, but Darren, may he rest in peace, had an insurance policy and I didn’t know what the best thing was to do with it. Not that it’s a fortune, it isn’t… who buys that kind of insurance? But it was enough that I wanted some good advice, so I asked him and he gave it, really good, clear advice.”

    “So then… wait, the feet just quit on me. Please, come sit a minute.” They walked over to where padded folding chairs were lined up against one wall and sat, one chair between them so they could turn toward each other. “OK, so if this is not a good question, now you really could tell me to get lost.”

    “You want to know what giving me investment advice has to do with Friday night services.”

    “Yes, I should be so bold.”

    “He asked to take me, I said yes. There’s really nothing else to say.”

    “I’m sorry, that was a tacky thing for me to ask.”

    “No it wasn’t. Lots of other people here wondering, I see their eyes turning then turning away. Think it looks like a date to them? Looks like one to me.”

    “You know, we, some of the girls and me, we thought you’d move back home, Chicago, right?”

    “Yes, I thought about it, but I don’t want to go through packing and moving and looking for another job, and my mother would mother me to death, it just wouldn’t work. I like being a school secretary, and I’m thinking maybe I’ll go back to college, get a teaching degree. At least I’m going to go talk to them, see what it would take, how long.”

    “Good for you. You know if you ever need anything….”

    “Thank you. Everyone has been so kind. It’s really amazing.”

    “We look after our own.”

    “Yes we do, but the warmth, the love, its not just yiddishkayt … it’s also been others, Darren’s co-workers, even though he was there such a short time, and my people from school. Lots of love from everyone.”

    Susan reached over, patted her hand. “Good…good.” She paused. “Well, time to take the doctor home, I can spend a few minutes with him. You know what’s good about being married to an orthopedist? They give great massages, know all those muscles and connecting parts.”

    “Those muscles and connecting parts can lead to more children, I’ve been told.”

    “Five, no more. Oy, listen to me, four more times I’m committing to!”

    They hugged briefly then separated. As Molly walked toward Solomon he saw her coming and seemed to conclude his conversation, shaking hands with the man he was talking to and starting to walk towards her.

    “You didn’t have to stop for me, I’m in no hurry.”

    “No, thanks for rescuing me…. I’m happy he’s a success already, enough with the celebration. I’ve heard the story twice before. Are you ready to leave?”

    “Yes.”

    On the way home they talked briefly, mostly Molly talking about Susan and the impending birth, Solomon listening, driving oh so carefully. He walked her to her door, his brain screaming at him again, this time to take her in his arms and kiss her sweet mouth, but reason prevailed, and when she offered her hand for a shake and said “Thank you” he shook it and said “You’re welcome” and then she was in her apartment and he was heading back to his car, happy and a little dizzy from how much he wanted to speak to her of love.


About the Author

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Edward M. Krauss is a writer and mediator living in Columbus, Ohio. He is author of three novels: Solomon the Accountant, a gentle love story set in a middle-class Jewish community in 1950; Here on Moon, a story of deceit, divorce, and recovery; and A Story of Bad, two stories wound together, a murder mystery and a love story. He is also co-author of On Being the Boss, a book about effective crises management and the U.S. Constitution’s application in the workplace.

Before his retirement from the State of Ohio, Mr. Krauss served as a program director, mediator, and mediation trainer. He now is a private mediator, specializing in personnel issues (EEO, grievance, promotion, peer disputes, promotion, termination) and economic issues (land use, development, historical preservation, environmental concerns, investments). He has been approved as a mediator by county courts, the United States Postal Service, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and other entities.

Mr. Krauss is a graduate of the University of Toledo and the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma.



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The Loudest Silence - A Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Novel by Kate L. Mary


Title: The Loudest Silence
Author: Kate L Mary
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic/Zombie
Publisher: Twisted Press
Editor: Lori Whitwam
Publication Date: July 23rd, 2018
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

Blurb:
When Regan was a young girl living in the small town of Altus, OK, Kellan was just her brother’s best friend. Then the virus came, turning the world’s population into zombies, and he became so much more. They were only kids, but he saved her. Watched over her. Kept her alive. And he’s been doing the same thing every day since.

After living the apocalypse for nine years, Regan thought they’d experienced every kind of loss and terror imaginable. But when a new group starts wreaking havoc in the Oklahoma wastelands where they live, Regan and Kellan are faced with a new set of horrors.

When they cross paths with a teenage girl, offering to help seems like the right thing to do. But Regan and Kellan soon discover that lending aid to the girl very well could lead to their undoing.



Kate L. Mary is an award-winning author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, ranging from Post-apocalyptic tales of the undead, to Speculative Fiction and Contemporary Romance. Her YA book, When We Were Human, was the 2015 Children's Moonbeam Book Awards Silver Medal Winner for Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fiction, and the 2016 Readers' Favorite Gold Medal Winner for Young Adult Science Fiction.


Author Links:
Newsletter: http://bit.ly/1utg3pW

Buy Links:
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MZmSxa


Outside, the sun was making its final descent toward the horizon, painting what was left of the blue sky orange and pink and purple. It was beautiful. Almost heartbreakingly so. Living where we did, I got to see so few sunsets, and no matter how lucky and how safe we were, I couldn’t help missing some of the simple things everyone else got to experience on a daily basis. Sunsets, rainbows after a storm, the flicker of lightning bugs on a dark summer night.
Kellan had his bag and was already headed toward the door when I grabbed mine. I slung it over my shoulder and followed, feeling groggy and slightly unsteady on my feet. In front of me, he opened the door, but paused to look around. Before he had even uttered a word, I knew what was coming.
“Heads up,” he called as he stepped out.
Even half asleep, pulling my gun was an automatic response, and it was in my hand before I’d taken another step, the safety flicked off and the barrel pointed at the ground just like I’d been taught. I couldn’t see much of the yard thanks to Kellan’s broad frame, but his tone told me there wouldn’t be more than three of the dead. He was too calm. Too laid back.
When I made it out, I had to squint against the swiftly setting sun. Kellan was already moving across the yard, and through the bright rays I could make out two figures. They were slow, which was normal these days, and after my eyes had adjusted, I could see that they were old. Early days of the apocalypse, I’d guess. Their clothes were little more than rags, torn and weathered, and the zombie on the right dragged his foot behind him as he lurched toward Kellan. Of course, I couldn’t say for sure if the thing had at one time been a he, because at this point there was no way to tell. The creature’s scalp was ripped down to the bone, and not a single tendril of hair had survived, and its face hadn’t fared much better. The skin on its cheeks had been ripped—or eaten—away, and its gums, black and rotten, were visible, along with the few teeth left. There weren’t many, and they were brown, gnarled things that probably hadn’t been in good shape when it was still a person. Not that the lack of teeth stopped the creature from chomping at Kellan and me right now.
I kept my gun out, but transferred it to my left hand so I could pull my knife with my right. Bullets weren’t the issue—we had plenty of those—it was the noise a gunshot would make. Not only would firing a gun risk drawing more zombies our way, but it could also attract the attention of people, and that was the last thing we needed right now. Or ever, for that matter. Especially not the type of people who would come running at a gunshot.
Kellan pulled his own knife when the first zombie was still six feet away. The one in front of him wasn’t the one with the bad foot. No, this one was faster, and his facial features were intact enough to tell me that he had in fact been a man when he was alive. A pair of beat up cowboy boots still adorned his feet, and the tatters of a plaid button up shirt clung to his torso. When he opened his mouth to growl at Kellan, revealing a full set of brown teeth, a shudder moved down my spine. Nine years, and I still wasn’t used to these things.
“Stay back,” Kellan called as he charged forward and grabbed the zombie by the little bit of fabric still clinging to his body.
I didn’t listen, of course, but instead hurried after him so I’d be there in case he needed backup. Odds were good he’d be okay. Kellan knew how to handle himself, but you never knew what was going to happen these days, and it was better to be safe than sorry.
He wrapped his fist in the creature’s shirt, working to keep the struggling zombie at arm’s length. In his other hand he held the knife, which he expertly flipped over so he was holding it blade down. When Kellan lifted his hand, the zombie in his grasp growled and chomped, but he held his ground, not flinching even a little bit when the creature’s teeth snapped inches from his skin. I moved closer, my fingers tightening on the knife in my own hand, but just like I’d thought, he didn’t need me. The blade was stuck deep in the zombie’s eye socket only seconds later, and the thing went down, its body thumping against the dry Oklahoma ground.
Kellan’s eyes were focused on the second zombie when he leaned down to retrieve his knife, but I was already moving before he’d managed to pull it from the skull.
“Regan,” he said, reaching out for me, “stop.”
I was too far away, though, and too focused on the dead man in front of me. Copying what Kellan had done only a few seconds ago, I flipped my knife around so I was gripping it with the blade pointed toward the ground. My heart thumped out a beat that echoed in my ears and nearly drowned out the sound of the moans. Meanwhile, a bead of sweat had begun a slow descent down my body, starting on my chest and moving between my breasts. I swallowed an irrational bubble of fear that was desperately trying to rise up from deep inside me, and kept my gaze focused on the zombie. He was old and slow, but I was young and had the reflexes of someone living. There was nothing to worry about.
I lifted my arm and prepared to bring it down, aiming for the eye socket just like Kellan had, but before I could do anything, he grabbed my elbow and pulled me back. I stumbled over my own feet and tried to regain my footing, but my balance was off and my hands full. I went down hard, my ass slamming into the dusty earth, and the impact vibrated through me until I felt it in my teeth. A hiss of pain and annoyance forced its way between my teeth, followed only a moment later by another thump as the second zombie hit the ground.
Kellan yanked his knife from the thing’s eye socket and turned to face me. “You okay?”
“No thanks to you.” I twisted my body, pushing myself half off the ground so I could rub my sore ass. I’d landed on the bruise that had already started developing from my fall the night before, and I now knew my entire butt cheek was going to be black and blue. “What the hell was that?”
“I told you to stay back.” He shoved his knife into its sheath and replaced his gun in its holster. Then he held his hand out to me. “Come on.”
I slapped it away and pushed myself up, pausing long enough to swipe my own weapons up off the ground. His gaze was on me, I could feel it burning into my back, but I couldn’t look at him. My blood felt like it had been baking in the damn sun for hours, and more than anything right now, I wanted to hit him.
“What’s your problem?” he asked.
“Like you really don’t know.” I stared down at the crisscross pattern the sole of his boots had left behind in the dirt, too angry to look at him.
“I don’t.” He paused like he was waiting for me to respond, but when I didn’t, he said, “You think I should have let that thing take a bite out of you?”
I spun around to face him. “Why do you automatically assume it would have gotten the better of me?”
“Because you’re not experienced enough.” He shoved his hand through his dark hair, pushing it back off his forehead. “You’ve only been out a handful of times.”
“And exactly how am I going to get any experience if you won’t even let me take down a slow zombie like that? What will I do if I’m by myself and I come up against a new one, one that’s faster, and I have no experience? How do you think I’ll survive?”
Kellan blinked like my words made no sense to him. “Why would you be alone?”
“Because things can happen, Kellan.” I rolled my eyes and shoved my knife into its sheath. “Seriously, I can’t even believe I have to tell you that.”
“I’d die before I let anything happen to you.”
His words made my insides clench and tingle. Made me feel like I was soaring into the sky. Still, I was obligated to point out the implications behind them.
“That’s my point,” I said slowly. “What if you died and I was left alone? Shouldn’t I have some experience so I can make a stand?”
Kellan’s mouth dropped open, but he said nothing. We stood there staring at each other while the scorching Oklahoma sun pounded down on us. I couldn’t read his expression, which was strange. Usually, I could tell what Kellan was thinking. But at the moment, he was too guarded. It was like a wall had gone up.