ZA

“There’s no right and wrong any more. Just living and dying.”
What do you do when your worst nightmares become reality? Dreams shattered in a heartbeat. Lifelong plans torn from your grasp. Is surviving the most you can wish for?
Get supplies. Stay hidden. If they come, run. Fast.
Zane Carlisle is thrust into a world of terror and extinction, but all he can think about is protecting the girl he loves and those she cares for. Without her, the world would be a grey, empty space where only the dead walk the streets.
But what if it’s not possible? What if you can’t escape? Do you keep fighting?
Or do you give in…?
* ©Molly Looby ©Molten Publishing *
OUT NOW! http://bit.ly/ZApaperback

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3. TWO

After dinner, I curled up on the sofa with Callie, eyes drooping from the warm or the food or the pure bliss of being next to her. She was already asleep, making tiny snoring noises. Did she snore in the night? Was it loud? I wondered when I’d be able to sleep next to her.

I gave an awkward grin to Michael as he entered the room and grabbed the TV remote, like he could read my mind or something. “All right?” I said, unable to think of anything else.

“Great.” His smile was wide and true, and I relaxed as he sat himself on the other sofa. He flicked through the channels and tutted, stopping on the news. “Terrible isn’t it?”

“—health of the clinical trial participants is declining at an alarming rate.” The news anchor went to speak to the correspondent.

“Is this that meningitis thing?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“—appears to be attacking the immune system in a way researchers hadn’t anticipated.

He changed the channel again to some old comedy. “Never any good news stories any more.”

Michael and I watched TV until the lights from a car appeared on the driveway. I tried to move Callie off me to answer the door, but Lisa beat me to it.

“Gem! Come in, come in.”

“Why do you sound so surprised to see me? Didn’t Callie say I was coming?”

Callie stirred and rubbed her eyes.

“Cal? Did you not—” Gemma stopped as she entered the living room. She was taller than Callie and stronger looking. Her dark-coffee hair was tied up in a ponytail. “Is that why your mum seems so surprised? You’ve been asleep all evening?”

Callie sat up. “How long have I been asleep?”

“Ages,” Michael answered, throwing a smirk my way. “Right, Zane?”

“Hours. Dribbling and everything.”

Callie narrowed her eyes at me and tried not to smile. If Michael wasn’t part of the conversation, I would have kissed her then.

Gemma dropped her huge bag to the floor and threw herself on the sofa next to Callie, giving her a pressed lip look before turning to Lisa again. “Is it all right if I stay tonight? I’m guessing she didn’t ask you that either?”

“It’s all fine. You’ve got that zombie thing tomorrow, haven’t you?”

“Yeah.” Gemma looked at Callie. “What is even going on with that?”

She shrugged. “Ask Jay. It’s his thing. You did bring a costume, right? He’ll kill me if you didn’t.”

“Of course I did.”

Callie yawned and stood up. “I’ll go ask him what we’re even doing tomorrow.”

There was silence in the living room for what must have been two whole minutes after Callie left.

Michael spoke first. “How’s it going, Gem?”

“Pretty good.”

“Are you falling asleep over your work every night?”

“Nope.” She looked at her hands for a moment as though she had something under her nail. “Of course not. Why? Is Little Miss Perfect?”

He chuckled. “Do you expect anything less?”

Gemma shook her head. “Grades come at a terrible price.”

Lisa called Michael from the kitchen, and he threw the remote our way before leaving the room. Neither of us went for it.

“So?” Gemma clicked her tongue. “Broken any world records yet?”

“Not yet.”

She let her hair down from its ponytail only to put it back up again in the exact same spot.

“Looking forward to this thing tomorrow?” I asked after another minute.

“I think so.” She dropped her hand from her hair. “I mean, I’m not totally sure what we’re doing. It starts at the pier, right?”

“Think so.”

“There are worse ways to spend a Saturday. Though this’ll be my first one surrounded by the undead.”

“Hope it doesn’t rain.”

Her eyes met mine. I had never noticed the colour before. They were a stormy grey. “Really, Zane? We’re talking about the weather now?”

I only looked at her, unsure how she wanted me to respond.

She played with her ponytail. “You’re in love with my best friend. Have been for a year. And look at us. Why is it so hard?”

I wasn’t going to admit that Callie’s love for her best friend intimidated me. Or was it Gemma in general? I had never met anyone like her before and was yet to work her out.

“I do want to be friends with you, Zane.”

I rubbed my hand on the back of my neck and looked away from her.

“Talk to me. Do you have a problem with me? Have I done something wrong? What?”

“No, no. You’ve never done anything wrong.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“I dunno.”

“Callie keeps asking me if I even like you. It’s hard for her. Us not talking.”

I nodded. “I wanna be your friend too, Gemma. But we’re so…”

“Different.” She wet her lips before shooting me a grin. “We can sort this out, right? For Callie.”

“Of course.”

“Right. Let’s start off easy. Call me Gem.” She winked.

My eyes widened, and I didn’t know what to do with my hands. Gemma was cackling when Callie joined us.

The smile that lit up Callie’s face almost made her mouth open with joy. “What’s this?” She sat between us, taking my hand.

“Nothing. Just chatting with my buddy Zane.”

“Oh yeah?” Callie glanced my way, and I was lost in her beautiful eyes, feeling at home again.

“Yeah. Right, Zane?” Gemma winked again, but this time I managed to regain control of myself and wink back.

“Apparently I’m funny,” I said.

“Shocked us both.”

Callie shut her eyes as she leant back on the sofa cushions. “Jay’s being an arse.”

“What else is new? Did he say what the plan was for tomorrow?”

“He doesn’t have a plan, obviously. He told me to look it up. So I guess that’s another thing I have to do. I’m not even bothered. He’s the one who wants to go.”

“Don’t worry your pretty little head. I’ll sort it.” Gemma whipped out her phone.

“I don’t even really want to go.”

“It’s fine. We’ll sort it out. It’ll be fun. Surreal, but fun,” Gemma said.

“A crowd full of Jays.” I shook my head. “It’s gonna be weird isn’t it?”

“It will be okay though, right?” Callie bit her lip. “People won’t be too scary, will they?”

“I don’t think it’s scary,” Gemma said. “Oh wait. Says something here about scaring the locals.”

Callie’s eyes crinkled, and I squeezed her hand.

“We won’t let them scare you. I’ll protect you. I promise.”

“And if Zane can’t manage it, I’ll be there, Cal.” Gemma pulled out her ponytail again, but this time she left her hair down so she could rest her head against the back of the sofa. It tumbled in thick waves down her back, unlike Callie’s fine straight hair. “Looks like a lot of fun actually.”

“It’s so crazy,” Callie said. “Who thinks of these things? It’s not my idea of a good time.”

“You don’t know. It’ll be fun.”

“Yeah, a load of weirdos like Jay all congregating in one place. Sounds fantastic.”

“Come on.” Gemma put her phone down and nudged Callie. “We’ll make it fun. Won’t we, Zane?”

I nodded. “And anyway, what’s the worst that could happen?”

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