Pages

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sneak Peek of Chosen - Book 3


The Crush Saga Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/4eMF8KXEUc4




CHOSEN

Book 3 in

The Crush Saga

by

Chrissy Peebles

Copyright © 2013 by Chrissy Peebles
Editor: Autumn J. Conley
Cover Artist: CoraGraphics

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

Visit the Author’s Blog at: http://chrissypeebles.blogspot.com/


To: My brilliant editor, Autumn Conley.




Chapter 1
Jesse took my hands in his and, for a moment, regarded me in silence. His gaze connected with mine, and he took a deep breath. “Taylor, you’re so—wow—just so beautiful.” His finger trailed down my cheek, stopping on my upper lip. “How’d I manage to get so lucky to have somebody as wonderful as you in my life?” he asked.
My heart soared when the words left his lips, because I’d been feeling the exact same way. I stared at his angelic face. I wanted, needed that amazing guy in my life, because I simply couldn’t breathe without him. “No, I’m the lucky one,” I said, staring deeply back at him.
Jesse held my gaze and wrapped his arms around my waist, drawing me closer. Shivers ran up my spine, and goosebumps pimpled my skin; his touch always affected me that way. With a grin, he lowered his face to mine. When his lips softly touched mine, passion ignited. His mouth opened, engulfing mine in a slow, tender kiss, his lips hungrily exploring my mouth. My heart skipped a few beats; the soft caress of his lips and the gentle touch of his tongue, dancing with mine in perfect harmony, was pure heaven. Emotion poured in from his mouth to mine and vice versa.
When a knock came at the door, Jesse suddenly broke our kiss.
“Hey, guys,” Julie said. “How’s the packing going?”
I smiled. “Um…we got a little, uh…distracted.”
“Ya know, if we’re gonna get anything done around here, I’m gonna have to split you two up like a couple of misbehaving kindergartners,” she scolded.
“Kindergartners don’t misbehave the way we do,” Jesse said, then winked at me, poised with confidence.
I couldn’t do anything but blush and laugh, because he was definitely right. I envied his calm demeanor, because I was anything but.
“I’m gonna load some of this stuff in the car,” he said. “We’ve gotta hit the road soon.”  
“Okay, baby,” I said, smiling.
Julie turned to face me. “I’d be floating to the moon after a kiss like that.”
“I am. He’s the best kisser, and…hey! You’re just trying to distract me from leaving Big Bear Lake, aren’t you?”
She blinked and shrugged. “That depends. Is it working?”
“Kind of…but not really.”
“Maybe I should try to endear you with one of my lame jokes,” she said.
I eyed her up and down, taking notice of her sequined tank-top and shorts with glitter sewn into the denim. “Why are you so dressed up anyway? Is there some special occasion I don’t know about?”
“I’m alive. Isn’t that special enough?”
“Right. I guess I never realized until now how easily someone can be…swept off the planet,” I said. “Life is so uncertain. Not even our next breath is guaranteed.”
“Yeah, but getting outta here, as far away as we can from Big Bear Lake, might help us keep breathing for a while. I mean, we might have to face other immortals and witches out there, but at least we’ll put some distance between ourselves and that nutcase, Drake.”
I gave her a fist-bump. “True dat!”
“I’ve got a new motto, and I intend to stick to it.”
“What’s that?”
“Simple. Just live.”
“That’s mine too, especially since so many people seem to want to stop me.”
“Nobody’s gonna stop us from living, as long as we stay hidden as vampires in the eyes of the witches, vampires, and werewolves. Going vamp, even if we’re just fakin’ it, is our ticket out of this dreadful curse.”
At that point, Julie started to tell me about everything she’d packed, most of it entirely unnecessary, but my mind was elsewhere. I was too much of a ball of nervous energy to explain to her why no one needed that many pairs of earrings when they were on the run from supernatural enemies.
“Hey,” she said.
I glanced at her. “What?”
“You’re pacing back and forth, like a caged tiger. You’re not even listening to me.”
I waved my hands in the air. “I heard you. You’re packing a dress suit for—”
“A business suit? I said bathing suit.”
“Oh. Sorry. I’ve just got so much on my mind.” I felt like my life literally flashing before my eyes, like a DVD on fast-forward. I reached for my last few belongings, stuffed them in my bag, and zipped it, which was no easy feat.  
“Gosh. And you’re telling me there’s a big difference in what I want to bring and what we need,” she said. “You’re hauling your entire wardrobe.”
I laughed. “I guess you’re right. I oughtta practice what I preach, huh?”
She sat down on top of my suitcase. “Hey, I’m just trying to be the voice of reason.”
“It’s too hard to choose between all my favorite things.”
“Even a celebrity can wear the same outfit more than once. You realize that, right?”
“I know, but what if I run out of clean underwear in the middle of the Amazon rainforest?”
She chuckled. “I don’t think Jesse is taking us there.”
“Why not? It’d be a great place to hide.”
Julie looked at me strangely. “I know what this is all about. You’re afraid you might never make it back here, aren’t you?”
I froze as I contemplated her words. “Maybe, at least a little.”
“We’ll come back to Big Bear Lake, Taylor,” she said. “Just think of this as…an extended vacation.”
“Well, this little road trip’s gonna totally mess up my senior year,” I said solemnly.
“It’s gonna save your life,” she retorted. “If I have to choose, I know I like breathing a whole lot better than being some prom queen in a fluffy dress.”
I blew a stray strand of hair from my face. “I know. You’re right.”
“Besides, we’ll be back before prom anyway. Unfortunately, coming back in February won’t give me enough time to campaign for the crown. What a bummer. I bet I’d look hot in a tiara.”
“You’d look…perfect,” I said. With one last tug, I managed to get the zipper all the way around. “I’m gonna break my back carrying this suitcase.”
“Nah,” Julie said. “That’s why you have a big, strong boyfriend.” She walked to the door and called for Jesse.
He plodded up the stairs, walked into the room, and smiled at me. “You rang?”
“No, I rang,” Julie said. “Her Highness’s royal belongings are all packed,” she said, pointing at the suitcase.
He walked over and picked it up with a groan. “Wow. Sure you didn’t forget anything?” he joked. “This thing weighs as much as…Texas.”
“Thanks for your help, Jesse,” Julie said, since he grabbed her huge bag too. “I don’t have a big, strong man in my life, so I’m glad my BFF does.”
I laughed. “See what you’re gonna have to put up with, Jesse? Are we sure we wanna bring her along?”
“Well, if I move the bags around, we might be able to fit her in the trunk,” he joked.
Julie just grinned at him, as if she dared him to say another word.
“Of course I don’t mind,” he finally said with a coy smile of his own. “We’re gonna need some comic relief.”
I kissed his lips. “You’re the perfect boyfriend.”
Julie pushed the curtains aside and peered out the window. “It’s almost dark out.”
“I guess that’s our cue to get ready to go,” Jesse said.
I swallowed past the knot in my throat. Walking out that door would be one of the hardest things I’d ever done, and the thought of leaving Big Bear Lake about killed me. I was just beginning to feel at home there, and leaving would destroy the happy lives we’d built. Part of me desperately wanted to stay, but I knew I’d eventually be discovered. I couldn’t possibly pretend to be a vampire in a place where there were so many immortals watching me suspiciously, just waiting for me to slip up. If I stayed, it would only be a matter of time before I’d make a mistake that would prove fatal. Once word got out, I’d be back on the chopping block. Leaving was the only way to ensure that no one would ever find out the truth, that I wasn’t really a vampire and that it was all just a ruse, a glorified act for me to escape my grim heritage. The witches and werewolves didn’t want me, since they considered me tainted; the second I’d sported a pair of fangs, I’d let them know my blood was no longer pure. Of course it was all an elaborate hoax, that Jesse, Julie, and I had pulled off perfectly, and no one was the wiser.  
Still, it felt like my whole world was collapsing before me. The idea of all my dreams being crushed was unbearable. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach as my nerves took their toll on such a high-pressure situation. I was overcome with anxiety, all jittery and not knowing what would happen next, crippled by fear of the unknown. What if Drake saw through our guise and chases us? What will he do to me? I couldn’t even let my mind go there. I’d lost all control of my life, and I was about to go far from everything familiar to me. The only thing that kept me grounded at that point was having Jesse was in my life. I knew he wouldn’t let anything happen to me, that he would fight with me until the end.
I took ten slow, deep breaths to calm myself. I peered through the curtains at the last few rays of light. In the woods, not too far away, a deer was grazing peacefully. Overhead, on a branch, two large great horned owls began hooting to one another. I smiled, staring with intensity. It was an awesome sight, glorious, serene, and breathtaking. The world is beautiful, I thought, watching the woodland creatures. Life is such a gift, and I’ll never let it go to waste.
I pondered everything. My life hung in the balance of every action we took. I couldn’t believe how philosophical I’d become in the face of death. I’d also never valued life so much before, not until I was faced with a very real death sentence. I’m not done yet though, I thought. There’s still so much more I want to do, and to do that, I have to get out of here. I wanted to do every single thing on the bucket list I’d created in my head, and to do that, I’d have to fight for my life. No matter what, I couldn’t succumb to the witches’ and werewolves’ wishes; they just wanted me to die an honorable death, but I still had an honorable life to live.
I refused to let that undeserved death sentence ruin or destroy my life. Obstacles are meant to be overcome, I thought, and I intended to jump over those hurdles like a marathon runner, to live my life the way I wanted to live it—even if that meant pretending to be a bloodsucker. Life is meant to be lived, like Jules said, not just plodded through. I didn’t know what the future held, but I knew I’d face it head on, bravely and strongly. Above all else, I would never, ever give up hope, no matter how scared and nervous I was. I was born a fighter, and I would die as one, even if I put a big dent in the universe. I knew I’d been put on Earth for a reason, and that reason wasn’t to just be sacrificed.

Chapter 2
A knock on the front door startled me. I had no idea who it would be at that time of night, when I was in the middle of making my escape. My heart fluttered, and I hurried down the stairs to answer the door. “Who is it?” I asked nervously.
“It’s Kira. Can I come in?”
I opened the door and quickly motioned her inside.
She pushed her long black hair back. “I just wanted to say goodbye to my brother and to wish him and all of you good luck. I already gave him my long-winded speech about why I’m so against this, but he’s too stubborn to listen.”
“I’m so sorry about all of this,” I said. “I didn’t mean to sweep Jesse up in my mess.”
Jesse walked up behind me and shook his head. “No, this is my decision. I want to go, to keep you safe,” he said, staring at me with love in his eyes.
Kira looked at him and shook her head. “You haven’t changed one bit, Jesse. You’ve been stubborn since the day you were born.”  
“Thanks for not telling Mom and Sam.”
“You know they’d stop you,” she said.
He nodded. “I know.”
“I just hope you don’t hurt Julie or Taylor,” she said.
“I won’t. I could never—”
She gripped his hands. “If an episode rears its ugly head, just…remember everything I taught you.”
He nodded. “I know what to do. Don’t worry, sis.”
“That’s good, because their lives depend on it.”
“I’ve got it all under control.”
She nodded. “I scouted out the area around the house,” Kira said. “It’s werewolf free. Julie and Taylor have lost their immortal guardians, so they must have fallen for the story, hook, line, and sinker. They truly believe the girls have transformed into creatures of the night.”
Julie gave her a fist-bump. “Fantastic!”
“I did see a few of Drake’s spies, but I took most of them down pretty easily.”
“You did?” Julie asked.
“Yep. We can’t have them following you now, can we?”
“Thanks,” Julie said.
Kira handed me a blue bottle.  
“What’s this?” I asked.
“A vampire serum I obtained, but not as potent as the one you took before. It won’t make your eyes glow, and your fangs will be very temporary and will only show up when you’re angered. For the most part, you won’t be stuck with the effects like last time, but it will give you the scent of the vampire. It’s good for a couple weeks.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“I went through a lot to get it,” she said as she latched her purse shut.
“We can’t thank you enough,” Julie said.
“Take it now,” Kira said. “I can’t let you go out there unless you smell like vampires, especially if more of Drake’s spies are lurking.”
“How much do I take?” I asked, eyeing the nasty-smelling potion.
“Just a swig.”
I gulped down a bit. It tasted like prescription cough syrup, only a hundred times worse, without any cherry flavoring to help it go down easier.
Julie frowned after she took her drink. “That’s nasty!” she said. “How long does it take to work?”
“It works immediately,” Kira answered. She then pulled me into a hug. “Be careful out there…and take good care of my brother. I know he thinks he doesn’t need a bodyguard, but please don’t let anything happen to him.”
“I won’t,” I said.
Julie wrapped her arms around Kira. “Thanks for everything,” she said. “You’re a real lifesaver.”
“I hope so,” Kira said, looking lovingly at her little brother. She turned and embraced him tightly. “You take care of these two. I don’t agree with what you’re doing, but I understand wholeheartedly. As long as you stay off the radar, everything will be okay. Don’t come out of hiding until February. Tabby will keep you safe, so do whatever she tells you to.”
“Everything will be fine, sis,” he said.
“There are dangerous immortals out there who will have no problem hurting you, Jesse. Please don’t take this lightly. No matter what, you can’t let them find out that Julie and Taylor aren’t really vampires.”
“We’ll make the world believe they are,” Jesse said.
“Good. Sam and Mom don’t even know. They fell for the story like everyone else.”
“Keep it that way. The fewer people who know, the better,” he said.
Kira nodded. “My lips are sealed.”
Jesse hugged her one last time.
Tears welled up in her eyes, and she turned to leave. Kira opened the door, then looked over her shoulder and blew a kiss to each of us. In a blur, she was gone.
Julie glanced out the window, into the woods. “Sure is dark out there,” she said.
My stomach clenched; I hated the thought of going out there at night. “Yeah, we shoulda left before all the vampires woke up,” I said.
“Why?” Julie asked. “They don’t want to kill us anymore. They think we’re like them. They’re probably celebrating. As far as they’re concerned, the fewer petals there are, the better. As for the witches and werewolves, they think we were turned when we got attacked, so they’re not after us. Right now, we don’t have any enemies after us.”
“Unless they discover our secret…or there are any of Drake’s people out there. Then all bets are off.”
“And that’s exactly why I wanted to leave at night,” Jesse said. “We have to do this right. We’ve worked too hard, given up too much, to screw up now. If one immortal had seen you out in the daylight, it would have ruined our entire plan.”
“We coulda hid in the back seat, under a blanket,” Julie said.
He shook his head. “If you would’ve taken one step outside to get into the car, Drake’s spies would have alerted every one of their findings.”
“You’re right. I guess I’m forgetting my role. If we’re gonna escape in one piece, we’ve gotta play by the rules.”
I let out a long breath.
“You’re shaking,” Jesse noticed.   
“It’s just so hard to leave,” I said quietly, my lower lip trembling.
He squeezed my hand tightly. “Everything’s gonna be okay, Taylor.”
I gazed in his eyes, desperately hoping he was right. I so wanted to believe his reassurances, but my heart was beating a million miles a minute. I knew we had to leave, because my parents would be back any minute. I sighed deeply. I hated leaving them, but I really had no choice; it was for their good as much as mine. With a trembling hand, I placed a note on the kitchen table. I had no problem with my parents, and they’d given me no reason to become a runaway. I loved them with all my heart, and I truly hoped they’d forgive me, because I had to do what was best for me. If I wanted to keep breathing for the next eighty years or so, I had to leave them for a few months, even if it hurt. Still, as I imagined the tears my mother would shed over that note, a couple of my own fell onto it.
Jesse packed the last of the bags in the trunk of his car as I cautiously stepped off my porch. The moon was shining extra bright, illuminating everything in a silver-white glow. It was a hot, humid night, and the crickets seemed to chirp more loudly in protest; those nighttime symphonies were another part of Big Bear Lake that I would truly miss. Once again, I couldn’t believe I was actually leaving, without even knowing the final destination, since Jesse had thought it safer not to disclose that to me. From what Kira had said, we’d be meeting someone named Tabby. Regardless of how badly I wanted to stay, I knew we had to hurry and leave; if my parents pulled up, I wouldn’t know what to say to them to explain what I was doing and why.

Then, in a blur, hands wrapped around my waist. Before I could even yell, I was being whisked away, against my will, deep into the forest, with the wind slapping mercilessly against my face. Trees zoomed past me, twigs whipping against me with stinging pain. In horror, I realized I’d been captured by a supernatural being. My first thought was that Drake had found out I was leaving and intended to punish me for it. He’d almost killed me the last time, so I was pretty sure he was there to finish the job. My heart lurched at the thought, but there was nothing I could do but hold on tight. 


Keeper by Tiffany Evans is FREE! (A young adult, paranormal read)

FREE on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Keeper-Part-1-Hidden-Bloodlines-ebook/dp/B00F3FMU64/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1397820001&sr=1-1&keywords=keeper+tiffany+evans

As a Drea, Taylee Pierce, is a walking energy bong—or that’s how the gift stealing Rygons see her. Her ability to control minds in their hands could mean the destruction of the Kember and Drea race. Laced with speed, strength, and a physical ability, each Kember holds the key to not only defeat the Rygons, but to protect one Drea until death.

But what happens when one who’s born to protect, hunts instead?

During a heated battle with a rogue Kember, Taylee’s forced to run and let her own Kember—the man who raised her—face him alone. With the announcement of her protector’s death, Taylee’s anger and obsession regarding the mysterious murderer take over. She’s hell-bent on bringing her guardian justice, even if it means walking into the enemy’s trap.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Suspending Reality by Chrissy Peebles is free on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes!



Suspending Reality by Chrissy Peebles is free on Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Kobo, iTunes and more! It's 99 cents on Amazon.

Read 5 different books from 5 different series. Click on the inside feature to view covers, read blurbs, and see book trailers. 

1. (YA horror) The Zombie Chronicles 
2. (Adult Paranormal Romance) Eternal Vows 
3. (YA Vampire series) Crush 
4. (YA Paranormal) Enchanted Castle 
5. (YA Fantasy & Sci fi) Castaway

Here's the link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/suspending-reality-chrissy-peebles/1118739329?ean=2940045715751

iTunes link: here's the iTunes link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id767535656

Kobo link: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/suspending-reality-five-fantasy-books

Google Play:
https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Chrissy_Peebles_Suspending_Reality_Five_Fantasy_Bo?id=tPAcAwAAQBAJ

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Crush Paperback


Cora Graphics just did the paperback for Crush. I'm so thrilled. I love what she did! I especially love the wolf on the back flap! 

Crush is free on all e-book outlets. :) 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Val - Sneek Peek!



Readers have been asking me for a glimpse into the prequel of The Zombie Chronicles. Here is a little bit in rough draft. You'll also get to meet a new character named Sammy. She's a troubled teenager with a big heart. Here's how I envision her:

I'm also working on a book trailer. Here is the script for it:

Click here to see book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mp43Ml4hvE

A deadly virus has decimated the world
leaving swarms of brain-eating zombies in its wake.
Val has lost everything
Her fiancée
Her family
Her friends
Her dogs
All ripped to shreds
The zombie hordes are getting worse
And so are the vicious gangs fighting for turf
If Val doesn’t leave Philadelphia
Then death will surely follow.
She brings along Sammy
A troubled teenager with a good heart
And together, they will journey to a safe haven
To a Lake Erie island in Ohio
Where family awaits
With danger and death all around them,
Will they survive the road trip from Hell?  



VAL

Prequel to the Zombie Chronicles
Apocalypse Infection Unleashed Series

By Chrissy Peebles

Copyright © 2014 by Chrissy Peebles


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.


Chapter 1
I sped down the streets as thunder boomed and lightning flashed. The windshield wipers were swishing back and forth a million miles an hour as rain dumped down from the dark sky. When I punched the gas, I felt the tires slip on the slick pavement. The truck shuddered, but I quickly gained control.
“What are you doing? We almost crashed!”
“Not even close,” I argued.
Jack swallowed hard. “Looked pretty close to me.”
“Don’t be such a wuss, Jack.”
“Val,” he barked, “we need to turn around…now!”
“No,” I snapped. “We’ve come too far.”
He muttered something under his breath, then said, “As if you have any say. Have you forgotten that this is my truck?”
“We’re not going back,” I said firmly.
“It’s crazy to be out here in this mess—not to mention that you’re wasting my precious gas.”
“Quit whining.”
“Maybe I would if you’d let me drive.”
“You’re too slow, and every second counts. Time is of the essence, as they say, and you drive like a ninety-year-old woman.”
“Maybe, but at least I don’t have a lead foot! There is something to be said for safety, Val. You drive like…a maniac.”
I shot him a side look, and he about freaked.
“Hey! At least keep your eyes on the freaking road, Val! And, for goodness sake, slow down!”  
I whipped around the corner as the tires squealed out in terror all their own. “For all we know, Sammy’s already dead, yet you’re whining about gas and speed limits!” I ignored my petrified passenger and kept the pedal to the floor.
Jack went on and on, ranting about why we should turn around and go home. He was wearing on my nerves, and I was just about to throw him out on his butt when I noticed the roadblock up ahead: Multiple cars had crashed. I eased on the brakes and stopped the old pickup.
“No way we’re getting through there,” he said. “Ya ask me, I think it’s some kind of omen. I told you we should go back!”
“Omen? I think it was enough of an omen when our cozy little civilization crashed and burned and zombie hordes began sweeping across Earth and—”
Jack rolled his eyes and cut me off. “Now who’s whining? Do you always have to be so…melodramatic, Val? But anyway, back to the point at hand. We’re not gettin’ through, and you’re not taking my truck on a demolition derby.”
I blew out a long breath. “Then we try another way.”
His frown turned into an expression of alarm. “No. This is where I draw the line,” he said. “I’m not going into the city…and don’t even ask me why, because you already know.”
Worry flooded through me. “Jack, can’t you see that something’s wrong. Sammy shoulda been at my house hours ago. We have to go!”
He sighed. “She’s probably out buying green hair dye for her next new look.”
I shook my head. “You’re really something, you know that? A girl’s life is at stake, and—”
“Okay, seriously. We’re talking about Sammy here,” he cut in. “She’s a moody teenager with blue hair and—”
“Turquoise,” I corrected.
“Blue, turquoise…who cares? She has freaky hair, pierced lips, and even a pierced nose. You know how flaky she can be. She’s a rebel without a cause.”
“She has a perfectly relevant cause. There are zombies out there, or have you forgotten that? Besides, she’s done so much to help you on supply runs.”
“Maybe, but the girl is lippy and nothing but trouble. She was trouble before the zombie apocalypse, and she’s worse now. Did you forget that she crashed your car only two days ago?”
“Only because she was running from a zombie pack,” I reminded him. “I can just get another car. They’re a dime a dozen these days.”
“Why do you always stick up for that juvenile delinquent?”
I gripped the steering wheel tightly. “You don’t know her like I do. I’ve babysat her since she was five years old. Sammy’s like family.”
“Is it fun to arrest your family?”
“That only happened twice, and she learned her lesson.”
“Then why’d she keep running away from home, living on the streets?”
“Cut her a break, would ya? Sammy’s had a rough life.”
“So what? She’s misunderstood?”
“Something like that,” I said, backing the truck up.
Jack peered ahead and pointed to the lumbering figures walking clumsily around. “It’s worse every time we come out here.”
“I know. Their numbers are increasing every day,” I said.
He gripped my arm. “Val, that’s exactly why I’m not going into the city. It’s way too dangerous. There’re hardly any survivors left. The ones who haven’t been shredded to bits have already flown the coop. You need to face the fact that the heart of Philadelphia is dead. It’s time to move on.”
“How can you say that, Jack?” I retorted. “This is our home.”
“Not anymore,” he whispered. “It hasn’t been for a year, since Z Day.”
“So you’re just gonna give up?” I said.
“Give up? Heck, Val, you, me, and Sammy—we’ve already lost our entire family. The zombie population has tripled in the last few months. You know it’s a death sentence to stay here. Plus, like you said, we don’t even know if Sammy is…” Overcome with emotion, he trailed off for a moment, then continued, “They’re gonna take us out one by one, until we’re all dead. We’re their only food source, and humans are getting quite scarce.”
“I’ve gotta get Sammy out of the inner city. She’ll be safe with me.”
“Just because you live on the outskirts of Philly, that doesn’t make it any safer.”
I looked away, knowing he was right. “I know. It’s getting harder and harder to survive out here.”
“A big group of us have been…well, we’re talking about leaving next week. I think you should come with us. You’ll never make it out here alone.”
I looked at him like he’d gone as mad as the mindless undead who were devouring people. “No. I’m not leaving my home.”
“Then you’ll be dead before the end of the year, just like all your loved ones.”
His words pissed me off, and I threw the truck into park, opened the door, got out, and stood there in the rain. “You obviously don’t know me as well as you thought, Jack. I don’t run away from my problems.”
“Val, what the heck are you doing? Get back in here. They’re out there!”
“I know, and if one comes anywhere near me, I’ll shoot its rotting head off!”
“They’ll gang up on you. You won’t have a chance.”
I slung my rifle over my shoulder. “I’m going to go find Sammy—with or without you.”
His eyes widened in fear. “It’s way too dangerous. Let’s give her some more time. If she doesn’t show by tonight, we’ll take a team and go look for her in the morning.”
I shook my head. “Uh-uh. She could be dead by then.”
“She’s been late plenty of times before.”
“It’s her seventeenth birthday. She wouldn’t have missed the little party I planned for her, and she had to know I’d hunt her little butt down for being a no-show. Something’s wrong, and I’m gonna find out what it is.”
“Get in the truck!” was his only reply.
“So…is this goodbye or what, Jack?”
His face hardened. “It very well could be if you take one step into that city.”
“I really could use somebody to watch my back.”
“Val, it’s just…look, you know Suzy is nine months pregnant. I can’t take a foolish risk like that. I’m gonna be a father, and I need to behave like one.”
“I get it. I do. You’d better go though. They’re coming.”
“Val, what’s with you? Do you enjoy flirting with death? Have some kind of death wish?”
I shrugged. “I do what I have to do to survive…and to protect the ones I love.”
“So do I, and that’s exactly why I can’t go.”
I gave him a halfhearted smile to make him realize I understood, and then I walked off. I couldn’t force him to drive me into the city, as he had a lot to lose. But I wouldn’t desert Sammy out there either. My only choice was to go solo. As I walked away around the tangle of cars blocking the main street, I heard Jack screaming, pleading for me to come back, trying to talk me out of going. Still, I wasn’t about to turn back.
Several zombies stumbled around, but I quickly ducked behind an abandoned armored truck. I was dressed perfectly for the occasion, with all the right accessories: a tactical black vest, with a cross-draw holster secured by a side-release buckle for quick access, in case I needed my handgun. I had four pistol magazine pouches and three double-stack pouches that held a lot of ammo. A knife was strapped to my leg, and my trusty rifle was within reach right over my shoulder.
I peeked out from my hiding place and took a deep breath, scanning the area for potential threats. The corpses were heading toward Jack, who was still screaming, but when he saw them, he had no choice but to speed away, peeling out on the pavement. I hated that he wouldn’t go with me, but he had his reasons. The one good thing for me was that his yelling had distracted several of the zombies, allowing me to get by rather easily.
I pointed my gun in front of me and walked briskly, darting my gaze around to keep a close eye on my surroundings. I turned left, walked down the street, then made a right. I was thankful that the rain had let up, but after that mini-monsoon, water was still dripping from my hair.
Four zombies shuffled toward me, and I briefly wished again that Jack had come with me for backup, but I knew I could handle that quarrelsome quartet on my own. I calculated my options. The key was not to be too loud or make too much of a commotion, as I didn’t want to invite more undead guests to the party. I knew gunshots would be like a dinner bell. While the zombies were clumsy and weren’t capable of rational thought, their ears seemed to work just fine. The last thing I wanted to do was send out a dinner invite where I’d be the main course. I quickly debated whether or not to use firepower, and I decided guns were my best option. Even if more did show up, I was on the move, and my legs and brain worked a whole lot better than theirs.  

Chapter 2
I raised my gun and took careful aim, hoping for precision shots every time. I fired off my first shot, and the bullet lodged deep in the first zombie’s cranium. The thing fell into a huge mud puddle with a splash. Water dripped down my face as I carefully trained my weapon on the next zombie, who was walking with an unsteady gait. Just as I let off that shot, its creepy companion ambushed me from the left. When I turned in that direction, I met its grotesque gaze; it immediately went into a frenzy, lunging at my face in bloodlust and unquenchable hunger. I felt like some kind of zombie-age Terminator with my rifle as I pulled the trigger. The gun packed an enormous blow, embedding pellets all throughout the creature’s deteriorating face from point-blank range.
I took the fourth one down quickly, only to discover that a fifth had joined the throng. My power-charged bullet sliced through the air with a whoosh and landed in the zombie’s left cheek. It moaned as raindrops poured down its slimy black hair and oozing face. Much to my surprise, it kept walking, locked on me like my flesh was some kind of homing beacon. I fired again and shot it straight between the eyes. This time, it fell backward with a hiss. I silently and quickly moved through the streets, hiding behind anything I could use for cover.
About ten zombies blocked my path, but every other exit would take me too far out of the way. I didn’t want to be in that city any longer than I had to. The most efficient strategy would be to take them down, to clear myself a path. So, I knelt down behind a black vehicle and aimed, then fired off a round that sent them straight back to Hell. The second they were down, I leapt up, my heart pounding. I nudged them in the side, just to make sure they were dead before I walked over them. When they didn’t move, I nudged them again. Once I was sure they were permanently out of commission, I stepped over them carefully and headed down the street.
When I spied three more walking freaks, more shots cut through the air. I quickly slung my rifle back over my shoulder, ran down two more streets, turned left and then right. The rain began to pelt me again as I took another left turn at full speed and squatted behind a red car. My breath froze in my throat. Moans, hisses, and growls echoed through the rain as it finally began to let up again, coming from a huge group of thirty or more. Peeking out, I watched them shamble around like they were in a daze. I slowly crept back, not making a sound, ready to look for an alternative route to Sammy’s apartment building.
As soon as I rose to my feet, bony, black fingers gripped my shoulder. My stomach clenched, but I found the strength to spin around and kick it in the chest. As it stumbled back, I quickly aimed my rifle at its chest, but I knew I couldn’t make that much noise with that huge horde lurking around the corner. I kicked it again, much harder this time. It flew back into telephone pole, then slumped down. I rushed over and slammed my boots into its skull. Another one came from behind, and I smashed its head in with the butt of my gun. As soon as it hit the ground in a bloody heap, I took off down the street. I glanced around and sighed in relief; the coast seemed to be clear.  
Just as I was about to walk a little farther, I noticed several red dots of light bouncing around. “Laser tag? Great,” I tried to joke, glancing upward at the snipers on the rooftop, survivors who had their laser-sighted weapons trained on me. I was sorely outnumbered and a stranger to them, so I didn’t want to agitate them or end up in a standoff. I waved my arms in the air to let them know that I was human and meant them no harm. “Don’t shoot!” I screamed.
The man with a baseball cap and beard stared at me for a long, hard moment, then waved.
When I saw the group lower their weapons, I shrugged in relief, then ran away as fast as I could. I turned down Cypress Street and made my way, cautiously, to a small apartment building.
The door was propped open with boxes, and Sammy’s neighbor was carrying a large one down the stairs.
“Mrs. Jaleno, have you seen Sammy?” I frantically asked.
“What!? You’ve gotta go!” she said in a panicked voice.
“Why? What’s going on?”
Fear flashed across her face. “That gang! They’ll be back any minute.”
Another neighbor, carrying a blue crate, rushed past me with a terrified look on his face. Others were frantically loading their cars with their belongings in a hurry. I looked around in complete disbelief; everyone was terrified, running for their lives.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“They’re taking over,” she said. “They gave us one hour to get our stuff, and they said if we’re not out by the time they get back, we’re as good as dead. We’re lucky they’re giving us that. Other gangs would’ve killed us right on the spot and stole the clothes off our backs.”
I cocked a brow, not believing what I was hearing. “Are you sure they weren’t just—” I started to ask.
“They already killed four people,” she said.
“Is Sammy okay?” I asked as she hastily walked off.
She didn’t answer.
“Mrs. Jaleno, where’s Sammy?” I asked louder.
When she didn’t answer, panic set in. I ran down the corridor and stopped at Sammy’s apartment. The door was ajar and slightly cracked, which I didn’t take for a good sign. With my gun drawn, I eased inside. Murmurs echoed from the bedroom, and I swallowed hard as a droplet of sweat rolled down my face. Is it a zombie? Was Sammy one of the four who were killed? Oh my gosh! Is she a zombie now? I couldn’t handle losing Sammy. My heart pounded as I took small footsteps toward the closed bedroom door.
Listening intently, I suspected what the outcome might be. If Sammy was a zombie, I would have to shoot her. The thought made me shudder. I had promised to protect her, told her I’d always have her back, and she was all I had. Her family had been murdered a year earlier, and I’d become somewhat of a big sister to her. If she’s dead, that’s it, I thought. I’ll pack up my dogs and go with Jack and the others, leave Philadelphia behind forever. If Sammy was gone, there was nothing left for me there but death and despair.
As my fingers curled around the doorknob, I held my gun steady. I took a deep breath and pushed the door open.
Instantly, someone knocked the gun out of my hands, catching me by surprise. A jarring impact hit me in the gut, knocking the breath out of my lungs.
Pain exploded across my stomach and I could hardly breathe. Trying to catch my breath, I looked up.
Sammy was tied to a chair, with a gag in her mouth, and all she could do was shoot me a terrified look.
“Sammy?” I whispered as I tried to stand up after the harsh kick to the midsection.
The taller man was dressed in black, and his blond, greasy hair was tied back in a ponytail. The other had acne scars, and his hair was short and black, with a matching, scruffy beard. I recognized them right away as gang members, and I was sure I’d arrested the blond before on deadly assault charges.
The blond pointed a gun at me and smiled. “Well, well, well. What do we have here?” He turned to his friend. “I think I recognize that pretty policewoman.”
“Pretty? Ya ask me, she looks more like a drowned rat,” the other man said.  
“Hey, Officer,” the blond said, licking his nasty lips, “maybe you oughtta frisk me. I can see you don’t got your nightstick, but I might have one you can borrow.”
Disgusted, I asked between gasps, “What do you want? What is she doing here, tied up like that?”
He looked at me with a cold glare. “What do we want? Well, sweet thing, we want this apartment, and we’ll have it. We already gave everybody their eviction notices.”
“You said you’d give them an hour,” I said.
“Yeah, and we did, but since this one insisted on givin’ me some lip, I figured I’d better hold her till Runo gets back. He’s gonna feed her to one of them slimy freaks to show the rest of the tenants what happens if they defy Runo.”
“You can have the apartment, if that’s what you want,” I said. “Just let us leave, and we’ll never come back.”
The man looked at his buddy and laughed. “Seems she don’t get the gist of what I’m sayin’, huh?”
“Nope,” his friend said, then spat a nasty, black, sticky ooze of tobacco remnant on the floor.
“Well, Smurfette, here’s, gotta pay for her smart mouth,” the blond said. “If ya run your mouth, you die. Them’s the rules, honey,” he said.
The black-haired one looked at me and shook his head. “Can you believe she walked through all them zombies to rescue this mouthy little—”
“Hey!” I said, sickened by their total disregard for me and for Sammy.
Ignoring me, the blond continued, “Apparently, she don’t know the number one rule.”
“I do,” I said. “Always have an exit strategy.”
He laughed, looked me up and down, then licked his lips again. “Nope.”
“Well, please enlighten me. I’m dying to know what I’ve been doing wrong all this time.”
His gaze narrowed. “Rule number one is pretty simple, darlin’. Don’t have one ounce of sympathy.”
“And why not?” I asked. “It’s the only thing that makes us different from those zombies out there.”
He laughed. “Heroes don’t simply survive, Copper—not in real life anyway. That only happens in those Hollywood flicks. You wanna live, you might have to step on some people along the way…and you sure as heck can’t let people go around mouthing off to you,” he said, glaring at Sammy, who just rolled her eyes at him.
The guy with the acne chuckled. “I’m thinkin’ the zombies might like to munch on a little pork. I say we feed the officer to ‘em too.”
“Hmm. I wonder how long she’ll last,” the blond said, scratching his chin.
“Longer than the last one, I’m sure.”
“Sounds like a plan. We’ll charge admission.”
Sizing up my opponent, I looked him in the eyes and showed him no fear.
“Don’t stare at me like that, Miss Piggy. You’re about to die,” the blond said.
I knew his threat wasn’t empty. He knew who I was, and the fact that I carried a badge put me on the opposite side of the law than that gang. They would torture me fiercely, then kill me. All anarchy had broken loose, so the thugs had the upper hand. They could do whatever they wanted—to me or anybody else.
It’s now or never, I thought. With driving speed and power, I delivered a heel-of-the-palm strike to the blond’s chin. His head jerked backward as I painfully slammed his lower teeth into his uppers. When he fell back, his head slammed into an oak dresser, and blood began gushing out of his head.
Horrified, his friend pointed the rifle at me.
In a blur, I grabbed hold of the barrel and quickly pulled it to the side with force. I held it downward, then punched him in the face and kicked his knee until it bent backward in a very unnatural, painful contortion. I placed my other hand under the gun and began twisting it, forcing him to let go of the trigger long enough for me to wrestle the weapon from his hands. I then backed up and pointed the rifle at him. “Untie her…now!” I demanded.
“All right, lady! Just don’t shoot me,” he said.
“Then don’t tempt me or try my patience. Do it!”
He rushed over and untied the ropes and removed the gag.
Sammy stood and rubbed her rope-burned wrists.  
The man looked at me, inching ever closer. “I did what you told me to, Officer.”
“Come any closer,” I said, “and you’ll be roasting S’mores in Hell!”
Without saying a word, Sammy grabbed a bronze statue and hit the man over the head, dropping him to the ground like a bag of cement.
The men were hurt, but I was thankful I hadn’t had to resort to murdering them, especially in front of Sammy.
“So…Lucifer’s been shopping or what? Chocolate and marshmallows in Hell?” Sammy asked, smirking.  
“Graham crackers too.”  
“Right,” she said. She then opened her closet and nervously reached for her Glock, a holster, and a knife.
“Hurry up, Sammy!” I said, nervously looking around.
“I am.”
I walked into the living room and peeked out the door. There were at least a dozen gang members flooding into the lobby, a major flaw in my escape plan. I’d hoped we’d get out before they came back, but we’d had no such luck.  
“What’s up, Runo?” someone asked.
“Runo?” Sammy said, walking up behind me. “If their leader’s back, he’ll be looking for Dumb and Dumber any minute,” she said, nodding to the bedroom where the guys lay on the floor.
I softly closed the door and deadlocked it. “You’re right. We definitely can’t go out that way,” I whispered. “There are far too many of them.”
“Can’t you just karate chop ‘em all? I mean, you were doing some killer moves a minute ago, like some kind of ninja superhero.”
“Sammy, it’s about the same as standing on the tracks while a huge freight train barrels straight for us. We can’t possibly take on a freight train, no matter how many martial arts or self-defense tactics we know.”
“Then what do we do?”
“Simple. We get off the tracks.”
“Open up,” a guy said, following an unexpected knock on the door. “It’s Runo.”
Startled, Sammy and I exchanged horrified looks.

Chapter 3
“We need a distraction,” I whispered.
“Please don’t hurt me,” Sammy yelled. “Why are you doing this? Get off me!” she said, then let out a few more loud screams for dramatic effect.
“Heh. Sounds like our boys are havin’ a little fun,” Runo said.
Without saying a single word, I motioned Sammy to one of the bedroom windows. I climbed up the dresser and peered out. It looked clear, so I opened the window, then quietly popped out the screen.
“Hurry!” she whispered.
As I climbed out the window, a zombie moan sliced through the air. A corpse in a checkered shirt and ripped jeans climbed out of the overgrown vegetation. The smell of rotting decay hit me full force. Another one, with a green, bald head, came from the other direction.  
“C’mon!” I said, then started to help Sammy out through the window.
Suddenly, she looked at me strangely. “Wait! I have to go back,” she said.
“No!” I whispered. “Not a chance!”
The zombie reached out for me, and I let go of Sammy. As soon as I did, she darted back into the apartment. A chill shot down my spine as the gang beat on the door. Using the rifle as a bat, I smashed the zombie’s face, until it dropped to the ground, motionless. A naked corpse with exposed skin and muscle snapped its jaws within an inch of my face. I jumped back and clobbered it, and the thing hit the grass with a loud growl. Next was a zombie in a red sweater. I swung, delivering a forceful blow to its neck.
A face-eater with blood dripping from several parts of its face met my gaze. It was dressed in a blood-soaked, white dress, with one matching heel barely strapped on its foot, and it took uncoordinated steps toward me, letting out a feral snarl. Its buddy’s chest was torn open, its muscles and ribcage on display like some kind of cadaver in a university dissection test. The nasty, bloodthirsty pair charged forward, gnashing their teeth and pawing wildly at me, the main target of their murderous rampage. I rammed my gun through the first one’s left eye socket, instantly dropping it, but the ribcage man just kept coming. I whacked its head, then kicked it. A sickening crunch sliced through the air as I stomped its skull.

“Behind you!” Sammy shouted.