Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday Morning's Menu: North to Zombieville by Meg Bawden


Summary:
The year is 2028, and Dallas and Raleigh Jenson are torn apart when a worldwide zombie apocalypse ravages their home of Townsville, Australia. After a year of searching, Dallas, a former Australian army rifleman, finally reunites with Raleigh, but it’s not like old times. Not only do they have zombies to contend with, but also other humans, changed by desperation and willing to do anything to survive.

Dallas and Raleigh have changed too. So much so, that Dallas struggles with the idea that Raleigh no longer needs or wants his protection. But they will need to rely on each other and find strength in their love as they are forced to evade zombies and watch their friends die. As they fight for their lives in a brutal landscape where every supply and every step toward a potential cure is a battle to the death, only their trust in each other can keep them from perishing.


June 23, 2028
THE LAST rays of sunlight danced over the small waves in the ocean. The full moon hung halfway in the sky, and darkness crept up onto the beach. Sunset brought that extra bit of beauty to the Strand, and Dallas knew he’d made the right decision to come here with his husband. Dallas entwined his fingers with Raleigh’s as they slowly walked down the cement footpath beside the beach. Between the footpath and the sand was a stretch of very green grass where picnickers could set up a blanket and food, and there were plenty of times when Dallas and Raleigh had done just that. But not tonight. Tonight they were going somewhere else. And as much as he’d like to walk on the beach with Raleigh, with the soft sand between their toes, they were dressed to impress in suits and dress shoes.

“Where are you taking me?” Raleigh leaned into Dallas.

It was early winter, but cold didn’t bite the air. Townsville, North Queensland, didn’t get cold, unless you counted the occasional times when it’d get down to nine degrees Celsius at five in the morning. Dallas grinned, releasing Raleigh’s hand so he could wrap his arm around his husband’s shoulders and pull him in close. Dallas was wider and packed with muscles, but they looked around the same height, and only if someone looked closer would they see that Dallas was slightly taller.

“If I told you, how would that be a surprise?”

Raleigh chuckled. “Can I guess?”

“No.” Dallas laughed as he shook his head. It wasn’t hard to guess where they were going.

“Come on, let me try.” Raleigh pressed a kiss on Dallas’s freshly shaven jaw.

“No.” Dallas guided them toward the busy street beside the footpath. He waited until the number of cars dwindled enough for them to cross the road, straight toward their favorite restaurant. It had been a while since they’d been there, but it hadn’t changed much.

Colorful lights decorated the Strand Delight, bright and happy. It wasn’t unusual to see the restaurant at its full capacity, which was why Dallas had booked months ago.

Raleigh grinned toward the restaurant. “You, Mr. Jenson, are a charmer.”

“I know,” Dallas teased. He had to extract himself from Raleigh so they could dodge the tables and occupied chairs by walking inside single file and maneuvering themselves into the door. He grabbed Raleigh’s hand again when they made it inside.

Even though the dining rooms were at full capacity, it wasn’t as loud as it could have been, and that’s what Dallas loved about the Strand Delight. People in here had learned to respect others, knowing that a lot of people came in for dates.

Dallas guided Raleigh to the hostess and smiled. “Hi. We have a table for Dallas and Raleigh Jenson.”

The hostess smiled in welcome. “Good evening, sirs. Certainly.” She looked down at her large reservation book, scanning it until she reached their names. “Oh, I see you’ve booked a balcony table. Please follow me.”

Raleigh stared at Dallas. “You booked a balcony table, Dal?”

Dallas winked at Raleigh and dragged him toward a set of wide stairs. Couples and families dined on the top floor too, and the hostess led them outside to where two large tables were situated on the balcony with the view of the Strand. It was beautiful… and expensive, with an added fee for the booking of those tables. They’d only ever eaten once at that table, and Raleigh had firmly told Dallas that they were only booking that table again for very special occasions. Dallas thought that this was one of those occasions.

“Please take a seat, sirs.” The hostess waited until Dallas and Raleigh had sat down before she passed them menus. “Our fine dining specials tonight are our roast wild boar with chestnuts and our kangaroo goulash with spiral pasta and sour cream. Please take your time in deciding. Our waiter won’t be long.”

With a wink, she left them alone.

At that moment, they were the only ones on the balcony, but Dallas wasn’t na├»ve enough to think it would stay that way. It was a Friday night in one of the most popular parts of Townsville.

Dallas stared out at the small waves, listening to the laughter and loud voices that floated up to the balcony from the walkway below. As loud as it was on the streets underneath them, he loved hearing it.

“Dal?”

Dallas turned to Raleigh, his lips curling. “Happy Anniversary, Leigh.”

Raleigh cocked his head. “Thank you, love.” He reached over and Dallas grabbed his hand halfway, entwining their fingers. “How was I so lucky to marry such a romantic man?”

“I’m pretty sure I’m the lucky one.”

Raleigh rolled his eyes but smiled anyway. It was a common “argument” they had and it was their little game. They had met at Dallas’s sister’s wedding, where Raleigh had tagged along with the wedding photographer for experience. Raleigh had accidently backed into Dallas while trying to take a photo, which resulted in Dallas’s beer spilling all over Raleigh’s nice gray suit. Being the gentleman he was, Dallas had helped Raleigh clean up. Well, if cleaning up meant hooking up in the bathroom. Sasha, Dallas’s sister, never let them live it down.

Dallas stared into Raleigh’s pretty blue eyes, his chest tightening at the thought of how much he loved this man in front of him. Raleigh was his world. Did that sound corny? “I love you, Leigh.”

Raleigh swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing. “I love you too.”

“Oh my God, do you have vaginas?”

The teasing voice jerked Dallas’s attention away from Raleigh. He turned to the lady who strode toward their table with a wide grin. It took a moment for Dallas to recognize her, but when he did, he laughed and stood, bringing her into a hug.

“Fucking hell! If it isn’t Janey Jones.”

Janey squeezed him tightly. She may have been a woman, but Janey had strength in her that some men could only dream about. She squeezed Dallas tight enough that his back cracked.

“Dallas fucking Jenson.” She pulled away from him but kept her grip on his upper arms. She shook him. “Damn, you’ve put on some muscle, boy.”

Dallas snorted and turned to Raleigh, who stared at them in confusion. “Baby, this is Janey Jones, the woman I used to work with in the Army a couple of years ago. Remember I told you about her?”

Realization dawned on Raleigh, and he stood, grinning at the dark-skinned woman. “Nice to meet you, Janey. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Janey grabbed Raleigh’s hand and shook it. “Well, aren’t you polite! Now tell me, Jenson, who’s this sweet arse?”

Dallas sympathized with Raleigh’s apparent alarm at Janey’s rough nature. It wasn’t that Raleigh was always polite, but more that when he’d just met someone, he certainly wouldn’t call them a sweet arse.

“Janey, this is my husband, Raleigh Jenson.”

Janey took a step back, her eyes roaming over Raleigh’s very fine body. “Husband? Jeez, Jenson, when did you get married?”

“Two years ago. It’s actually our anniversary on Monday.”

“No shit?” Janey grabbed Raleigh again, crushing him into a hug. “Well, congratulations, sweet arse!”

Dallas grimaced at the sound of Raleigh’s bones cracking. When she let him go, Raleigh’s wide eyes turned to Dallas again, causing him to laugh.

“Thank you?” Raleigh smiled at her, seemingly unsure.

“No problem. So what’s with the same last name, then?” She switched her gaze between them, one dark brow raised. “I thought, when you gays got married, you hyphenated it or kept your own surname.”

As insulting as it sounded, it wasn’t meant to be taken that way. Janey was the most accepting person Dallas had met, other than Raleigh, but she took everything with a grain of salt.

Dallas hesitated. He didn’t really think it was his story to tell. Raleigh no doubt took his hesitation as a cue.

“Sometimes we do,” he said with a genuine smile. “Except me. I’m… not exactly a fan of my family. They kicked me out of home when I was fifteen, for being gay. So when I married Dallas, I wanted to take on his surname.”

Janey nodded with narrowed eyes. “Got one of those families, do you? Bastards, the lot of them. I married a bloke about five years ago, and his family didn’t like me one bit. It’s because I’m black and an aboriginal. Bunch of racist arseholes, they were.”

Raleigh frowned. “That’s terrible.”

“I know, right?” She shook her head furiously. “Anyway, we don’t need people like that in our life.” She good-naturedly slapped Raleigh on the arm. “If your family wants to kick you out just because you like some cock up the arse or your cock up an arse, fuck them, I say.”

Raleigh looked like he was trying not to laugh, but at the same time seemed mortified by her brash words. “Yeah, fuck them.”

Dallas wasn’t as successful, and he laughed. Raleigh very rarely swore in public, but it wasn’t exactly surprising that Janey had him cursing. She could have made a priest swear.

“Are you here with Roger?”

Janey growled, throwing her hands to her hips. “The bastard cheated on me. About a year ago. I threw him to the curb, literally. I’ve never seen a grown man cry until that day.”

“Jesus. Are you kidding?”

“Nope. Bloody bastard. He was doing the hanky-panky with the next-door neighbor. Bloody slut, she is. She’d do a tree if she wouldn’t be arrested for it.”

Dallas resisted the urge to growl as well. Janey had done everything for Roger, and the bastard had gone and done that to her. If he ever saw Roger again, he would be giving him a beating as well.

“Nah.” Janey shook her head as she continued, “you’re looking at the new owner of the Strand Delight, Jenson.”

Dallas’s eyes widened. “You’re kidding?”

Janey cackled, loud and boisterous as usual. “Not kidding at all.” She turned to Raleigh. “You see, I got out of the Army to start a family with Roger, my husband at the time. I joined my mum in her bakery. The kid thing never happened. We tried, but it just never came about, you know? I’m glad of that now, though.” She returned her attention to Dallas. “Anyway, after I left Roger, I knew I wanted to do more with my life. Mum passed away two years ago, and me and the bro sold the bakery. I didn’t know jack shit about baking. Neither did Nick. But I knew a fair bit about fine dining. Before I joined the Army, I was a chef down in a Sydney restaurant. All the fancy-pants people used to eat in it. You know the ones, with too much money. So when I saw this place up for sale, I thought why the hell not?”

Dallas chuckled. “Sounds like a bloody good idea to me.”

“Right?” Janey snorted. “Anyway, when I saw your name on our reservation book, I just knew I had to come over and say hello. And you—”

Raleigh swallowed noticeably when Janey turned her attention on him again.

“You weren’t the wedding photographer Dallas got it on with at his sister’s wedding, were you?”

A flush rose up Raleigh’s neck. He cleared his throat. “Yeah, that was me.”

“Oh sweet arse, we heard all about that encounter on Monday at work, from your husband here.”

Dallas choked on his own saliva. “Oi, Janey, don’t tell him that.”

She waved her hand at him impatiently. “That’s before he knew you were going to be more than a one-night stand, though. But anyway, you should have heard what sort of sex stories I used to tell Jenson. I’ve never seen such a big man like him blush before.”

It was true. Back in the day, before Raleigh, Dallas had been all about one-night stands. He was pretty wild in his early twenties, but it was nothing compared to Janey before she met Roger. Back then, she had Dallas blushing worse than a virgin meeting a porn star for the first time.

“Really?” Raleigh grinned teasingly at Dallas, who knew he was never going to hear the end of it. “Did I get good reviews?”

“Oh, honey, I vividly remember the words ‘I’d like to fuck that tight arse for a week straight.’”

“All right, Janey,” Dallas said loudly, very loudly. “Nice seeing you.”

Both Janey and Raleigh laughed, their faces filled with amusement, although Raleigh’s was covered with a blush as well.

“I should be letting you get back to your dinner. I’m sorry I interrupted, Jenson. I just wanted to come and catch up with you. For the interruption, your first set of drinks is on me!”

“No, that’s absolutely fine. We don’t need that at all, Janey.” That was his Raleigh, ever the polite man.

“Oh shush, sweet arse. What can I get you handsome blokes?” Janey winked at Raleigh.

“I’ll have a Tooheys Extra Dry,” Dallas said.

“Of course you will. You never change, Jenson,” Janey teased.

“I’ll have a Corona, please,” Raleigh said.

“See, you should learn manners off your husband, Jenson.”

Dallas snorted. “Go and get our drinks, woman.”

Janey’s jaw dropped. “Sit your arse down and be polite, bastard.” She slapped Dallas on the arse as she strode past him. She waved her arm without turning around. “Drinks coming up, sexy men.”

Raleigh watched her go, his eyes dancing in unadulterated amusement. “She’s… a character?”

Dallas snorted. “That’s Janey. Sit down, baby.”

They took their seats again.

“You didn’t tell me she was so hilarious.”

He shrugged. “That’s her. Funny, brash, and could probably take down any man she wanted. She’s strong. The strongest woman I’ve ever met.”

Raleigh nodded. “I like her. You’ll have to keep in touch with her.”

“Can you imagine Janey in our home?”

“That’s true.” Raleigh nodded with a grin. He gazed pointedly at Dallas. “She’s already accused us of having vaginas.”

“True. I imagine she’d be asking where our cocks were once she saw how… family orientated our home is.”

“At least she’s better than Richo, though. That man is a pig.”

Dallas rested his elbow on the table, pressing his face into his palm, his chest rumbling in amusement. Richo was his best friend, and he was a pig. Or at least by bachelor standards. Richo liked to play around with the girls, a lot, but didn’t care for having a neat apartment. Raleigh was a clean freak, so having Richo over was like starting World War III.

“Richo has his moments.”

“If by moments you mean putting his dirty feet on my clean coffee table, then yes, he has his moments.”

Dallas shook his head in amusement. “Baby, that was only once.”

“Or the time he ate chips on my lounge seat and left pieces on it everywhere.”

“Baby….”

Raleigh paused, realization crossing his beautiful face. He seemed to recognize that he’d once more gone off on a tangent. Dallas knew that as much as Raleigh didn’t like Richo’s uncleanliness, he loved Richo himself. He was the perfect best friend for Dallas, as he always had Dallas’s back. Raleigh clearly liked that about him. Raleigh could trust Richo to take care of his husband. It’d been hard for Raleigh to admit that to Dallas, but Dallas was glad he had.

“Sorry,” Raleigh said, ashamed. He hated arguments as much as Dallas. “He just frustrates me sometimes.”

“I know, Leigh.” Dallas grinned at him, reaching for his hand again. He raised it to his lips, pressing a kiss on Raleigh’s palm. “But you don’t have to worry about him for two weeks.”

“Two weeks?” Raleigh frowned, his eyebrows doing a cute little furrow. Dallas always loved it when Raleigh frowned.

“I’ve booked a holiday for us.”

“What? When? Why? Where, Dallas?”

“Fiji. We leave next week.”

Dallas could almost see Raleigh’s mind ticking as his lips curled in thought, his nose scrunching.

“I already rang your clients and organized other photographers for them. Sean is doing a couple of weddings for you, as is Jessica. And David. I’ve got the leave off work. We leave on Monday.”

“Really? Dallas, please tell me you’re not joking.”

“Would I joke about this?”

“Dallas!” Raleigh shot up and rushed toward Dallas, seating himself in his lap. He pressed his lips against Dallas’s, hard, and kissed the life out of him. Their tongues collided, their hips gravitating toward each other. It may have become R-rated at one point.

A loud crash and screams from downstairs made them pull away. The diners on the top floor were glancing around worriedly, some of the men showing caution as they stood, but making no move to head downstairs and see what was happening.

Raleigh frowned toward the stairs. “What was that?”

Dallas narrowed his eyes and stood, taking Raleigh with him. The screams were filled with pure fear. It wasn’t just downstairs, though. Distant shrieks echoed through the street as well, but when Dallas glanced over the balcony railing, he couldn’t see anything odd. A crowd had formed on the sidewalk and they were peering around the street in confusion. Glass shattered, and then a rush of people scrambled out of the Strand Delight. One lady fell on top of the glass, her legs dragging over the shards, but whatever scared her was more important than the pain she obviously felt from the glass, because she kicked off her high heels and got to her feet to run again.

Car horns and crunching noises similar to pieces of metal colliding with each other filled the air. A car accident, maybe? But there was more than the sound of one accident. It put Dallas on high alert.

“Raleigh, stay here.” Dallas moved toward the stairs.

“Dallas, I’m coming with you.” Raleigh started to follow him.

“No! I said stay here, and I mean it.” It came out as an angry growl. He hadn’t meant to snap, but if something was going on downstairs, he didn’t want Raleigh in the middle of danger. He had defense training; his husband didn’t. “Please, baby, stay here,” he said, softer than before.

Raleigh hesitated and then nodded. He took a step back toward his seat. Dallas felt eyes on his back as he descended the stairs.

The sight he found nearly made him retreat. Tables were upturned, the glassware and utensils scattered over the floor. Bodies lay on top of each other, blood oozing from holes and torn skin. An older lady’s body was askew in the middle of the room, covering a young boy who couldn’t have been older than ten. His body was twitching, but his neck was in pieces, chunks of meat torn from his jugular. The people left standing were screaming or running toward the exit.

The people who had fallen didn’t look right. Their faces had deep gashes, with blood gushing from their cheeks and down their chins. With some, their mouths drooped on one side, their gums dark and bloody. Their eyes were lifeless, as though they were dead on the inside.

People on the streets ran into the restaurant, pausing as they saw the bodies on the floor start to move and shift as though they were puppets on a string, only missing their master. Upon taking in the scene, they’d run out again.

It all seemed absurd, like a B movie that didn’t even make it to the cinemas. Dallas frowned, taking a step up on one of the stairs, farther away from the scene. He stared at one of the women, who rose, her face scratched up badly.

“Ma’am, are you all right?”

She didn’t respond, only groaned in an animalistic way. She started to stumble toward Dallas, her left leg dragging behind her. Her foot was bent backward and she was putting all her weight on her very twisted and broken ankle.

“Ma’am, are you all right?” Dallas repeated, but she ignored him, continuing her walk toward him.

Diners from upstairs came rushing past him, shoving him roughly out of the way.

“No! Don’t go out there!” But it was too late. They weren’t listening to him—fear controlled their every movement.

This had to be a nightmare. It was the night before their anniversary, and he was still in bed, he had to be.

He wasn’t watching the lady, and she managed to catch him off guard and shove him to the ground. She slammed herself on top of him, her teeth bared as she dived toward his neck. He raised his elbow, slamming it into her face. She let out a pained squeal and her head jerked back, making her neck crack loudly. But that still didn’t deter her. This time, she went for his arm.

Over the lady’s shoulder, Dallas saw a man clambering out of a door. The man paused, glancing around the room, obviously searching for something. Survivors. Dallas opened his mouth to ask for help at the same time the woman grabbed a piece of wood from a broken table and slammed it against his forehead. Dallas’s head smashed hard against the floor, and his vision flickered for a moment.

By the time he looked again, the man was gone. Dallas would have to deal with the woman on his own. Using all his strength, he shoved at her twitching body, and she went flying backward into a broken chair. She shrieked as Dallas struggled to stand. His legs felt like jelly beneath him.

He stared at her in confusion. How did she keep getting up? It was impossible. But this entire thing was impossible.

“Dallas!”

Raleigh’s voice. He had to get back to his husband. He spun on his heel, but before he could get anywhere, a hand grabbed his ankle and he fell forward.

“Dallas, where are you?” Raleigh’s voice was on the verge of desperation. “Dal!”

“Raleigh!” Dallas called back, but the sound of a car horn close by drowned it out.

As he opened his mouth to call out again, whatever had grabbed him clawed up his trousers. He twisted and stopped in shock. A man this time, but he looked worse than the lady. He was older, with a receding hairline; his forehead was peeling and blood was cascading down the side of his head. Only part of his teeth remained in his mouth, and even those were halfway out of his gums. To top it off, he only had half a body. From the waist down, there was nothing but his insides dragging behind him.

“No, no, no. I don’t want to go!” Raleigh’s voice sounded distant among the screams from outside. “He’s alive! No. He’s alive!”

“Raleigh!” Dallas shouted again, but as before, his voice was lost in all the other noise.

Anger and anxiousness welled in his chest, and he let the emotions take over. He kicked at the man holding him, slamming his boot into his face. The man squealed as his skull shattered under the force of Dallas’s kick. His body went limp and he released Dallas.

Rising, Dallas quickly retreated back upstairs to Raleigh and made his way toward the balcony. He paused when he found it empty.

Fear curled in his belly, his skin tingling. “Raleigh?”

He was met with silence.

“Raleigh?”

But still he got no answer. He spun around, surveying the dining room.

“Leigh, where are you?” He looked out toward the street. More and more people ran out of the restaurants along the Strand, and very quickly the streets filled with running, screaming people. He had no fucking idea what was happening.

Dallas ran to the railing, looking over the balcony. It was then that he realized there was a ladder leaning toward the railing. Raleigh must have climbed down it.

Dallas took two steps at a time. His feet hit the ground and he desperately scanned his surroundings. He pulled out his phone and rang Raleigh. It went straight to message bank. He angrily pressed the End Call button.

“Raleigh!”

The scared crowd ignored him for the most part, though a couple shoved him hard as they ran past. Some tried to get into their cars, but with too many people in the streets, they couldn’t go far. A couple of drivers tried to nudge people with their vehicles, but it only had negative effects. Some of the people in the streets were just like the woman in the Strand Delight. Their eyes were dead, their faces and any other exposed skin bloody and scratched.

One of the men nudged with a car spun around, eyes flashing a dark red as he slammed his hands on the hood. The hood made a crunching sound, and the man screamed, spit flying from his mouth as he pounced on the crumpled hood. The woman in the car shrieked and jumped out, kicking off her heels and running down the street with the mobs. But the man obviously wasn’t going to allow that. He ran after her. He wasn’t fast, but he was fast enough to catch her. He grabbed her by the hair, jerking her backward. She screamed again, but he threw her on the ground and tore at her neck like a starving cannibal.

Dallas made to move toward them, but the woman’s scream turned into a gurgle and then nothing. It was too late. Dallas could have saved her life, but he hadn’t. He couldn’t. He needed to find Raleigh. He needed to protect his husband.

“Raleigh?” His voice cracked under the strength of his roar. Yet it was barely audible over the cries of fear filling the street.

The woman from the restaurant dragged herself out of the Strand Delight. She stretched out toward Dallas, a stupid grin on her face that caught bloody teeth flashing at him.

Dallas acted on adrenaline. He ducked beneath her arms, spinning until he was standing at her back, then grabbed her head, twisting it hard and quick until her neck snapped and she fell to the ground, lifeless.

He dropped to his knees, his stomach churning in fear and desperation as the need to vomit slammed into him. But he held it in.

“Raleigh…,” he whispered, biting his lip hard. He needed to find his husband.

Something shone in his eyes from under the lamplight and he immediately zeroed in on Raleigh’s phone. He grabbed it, tapping it desperately, but it was dead. “Dammit!” he growled. “Raleigh, where are you?”

He knew the next course of action, though. He needed to go home, except it wasn’t as easy as he thought. By the time he made it to the car, Dallas had seen more chaos than he had seen over in Afghanistan. People and those things were everywhere. Dallas used his stealth to avoid them as much as possible.

It wasn’t just at the Strand, though. Cars were crashed everywhere on the road, and trying to maneuver around them was difficult. He and Raleigh lived on the other side of the city. It took him two hours to reach it, when it should have only taken forty-five minutes at the most.

By the time he turned into their street, it was anarchy. As on the roads, there were cars parked all over the street. Front doors of houses were left open, and furniture was thrown over front yards. People were everywhere—screaming, running, and fighting. One particular car’s roof was packed up with luggage as though the people who owned it were ready to head out of town. The family had two kids, and the parents were herding them out to the Range Rover.

As Dallas drew closer to them, he lowered his window. “Hey, do you know what this is?”

At first the man didn’t answer. He reached into the open backseat window and pulled out a cricket bat, pointing it toward Dallas. “Get lost, mate.”

The reaction surprised Dallas, and he glared. “We’re all in the same boat.”

“The hell we are. You could be one of them for all I know. Now get lost.”

Dallas just shook his head. It was no use arguing. He barely knew the man anyway. He’d seen him, of course, but this wasn’t a small town where they held street dinners.

As Dallas pulled the car into his driveway, his neighbor came flying out of her house, dragging a small suitcase behind her. She was seventy, at least, and was as lovely as they came. When he and Raleigh first moved in, she’d greeted them with open arms.

“Mrs. Lopez?”

She glanced at him, then stumbled forward. Dallas was too far away to help her, but she righted herself before she fell on the ground. He walked toward her anyway, but she shook her head desperately. “Stay away.”

“What?” Dallas paused, shocked.

“My daughter is coming to get me. Stay away, okay? She said not to talk to any of you. You could be one of them. Mr. Roberts was!”

“Mr. Roberts turned into one of them?” Dallas exhaled and carded his hand through his hair. “Shit.”

A tiny two-door Toyota swung into Mrs. Lopez’s driveway, and her daughter hopped out. “Stay away, Dallas!” Rebecca snapped. She quickly grabbed her mother’s luggage and shoved it into the boot.

“Rebecca, running from this won’t help. You’re putting your mother in danger. It’s best to find a safe place to hide, with plenty of food and water, and hole yourself up there.”

Rebecca snorted. “Don’t tell me how to care for my mother. I saw them on the news, and we’re getting out of here.”

She guided her mother into the car and slipped back into the driver’s side. Dallas knew he couldn’t argue, so he watched as they left. Others in the street were following them. To their death, no doubt.

All that mattered was finding Raleigh and protecting him.

He unlocked the door to his and Raleigh’s house and ran in.

“Raleigh?”

There was no answer. He searched the small home desperately, but there was no sign of his husband. He didn’t even realize that he’d left the door open as he collapsed on the couch in exhaustion and stared at their wide-screen TV. He could wait for Raleigh here, he supposed. Raleigh would come home, wouldn’t he?

An animalistic groan sounded behind him, and Dallas jumped to standing, his fists held in front of him protectively. It was another one of those things. What were they? It was taller and wider than the last two he’d encountered and appeared more human too. The only difference about this one was its very visible veins. Instead of the usual blue, they were black—a stark contrast against its pale white skin. The thing took a step forward. Raleigh’s china collectibles shuddered in their cabinet.

Dallas grimaced. If it broke Raleigh’s china, he would slaughter it without a second thought. That china was important to his husband, passed on to him after his grandmother’s death. It was the only thing he had left of her, and Dallas wouldn’t let this creature—whatever it was—break it.

The creature roared and ran at him.

Dallas spun, dancing out of reach of its outstretched hands just in time. Much to his surprise, the creature didn’t stop. It went straight through the wall of their brick home without so much as a cry of pain.

Dallas shook his head. This was all wrong. It didn’t add up. This thing—whatever it was—was a creature from literature, not real life. Yet here it was, shaking off the shattered brick on its clothes and spinning back toward Dallas, as if ready for another round.

Dallas needed more than his fists. He needed something bigger. When he found Raleigh, they would both need it. He could head to the Army base, pick up some guns and ammo. For now, though, he needed something else to take down this creature. Like an axe or a hoe… like his gardening hoe outside.

Dallas smirked at the creature and spun on his heels, heading toward the back door. He swung it open, hearing the creature growling right behind him. He reached his hoe and grabbed it, then turned just in time to slam it into the creature’s forehead.

It froze, eyes wide, as black liquid oozed from the wound. Then it fell forward, barely missing Dallas as it went.

Dallas swallowed and tugged the hoe out of the creature’s head. “Time to go get some real weapons and then find Raleigh.”

Author Bio:
Meg Bawden was born and raised in North Queensland, Australia. She’s loved stories since before she can remember and has always enjoyed creating characters of her own, even if it did begin with drawing faces on toilet rolls and giving them names. Writing has always been a passion of hers and she’s loved the M/M genre since 2004, the first book she read being Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez.

Writing M/M since 2007, Meg has never had the confidence to attempt publishing her own stories, but in 2015, she decided that it was all about to change thanks to the amazing friends she’s made in the M/M genre and their support and encouragement. So watch out, world, Meg Bawden is coming out to have some fun!


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