When the virus was released it changed everything about the world. Jules lost her mom and her home, forcing her to live with the father she barely knows. Now, even as society works to rebuild, Jules still feels like she doesn't quite fit in.
Then she meets Roman.
Even before the zombies, he only had himself to depend on. Brooding and rebellious, Roman isn't anyone Jules would have pictured herself with before the zombies came. But now she finds herself willing to give up everything to be with him.
The attraction is too strong for either one of them to ignore, but Roman and Jules soon discover that the uncertainty of their new world extends much farther than just the zombies. When disaster strikes, Roman must race against the most terrifying clock imaginable to save Jules, or once again end up alone.
Release date: March 29, 2016
Publisher: Twisted Press, LLC
Print pages: 293
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Behind the book
This book is a young adult novel that takes place in the same zombie apocalypse as the Broken World series. It can be read independently or as part of the series.Check out the recommended reading order:
The Broken World Series:
Alone: A Zombie Novel
The Twisted World Series:
The Oklahoma Wastelands Series:
The Loudest Silence
The Brightest Darkness
The Sweetest Torment
The Far Series:
Far from Home
Far from Safe
Far from Lost
Zombie Apocalypse Love Story Novellas
Alone: A Zombie Novel
Kate L. Mary
Before the world ended, I was a normal girl who lived a normal life, just like most people in this country. I went to school, trying as hard as I could to blend in while simultaneously dreaming about the day I would stand out. I had hopes and dreams that seemed reachable, and a future that hadn’t been written yet. The world was my oyster.
At least that’s what I thought.
Now when I look back on it all, the memories from before are hazy. Like a dream I can only remember bits and pieces of after waking up to reality. The faces of the people I knew have slowly started to fade away, and the blurrier they get, the grayer my future becomes. Lately, it’s felt like I’m living under a storm cloud, just waiting for it to open up and rain down on me. My only hope is that this move doesn’t cause the cloud that’s been hanging over me to finally open up, because I’m not sure I would survive the storm.
The car that has been my prison for the last nine hours slows, jolting me from my thoughts, and I look up just as the father I barely knew two years ago stops in front of a gated community. Our new home.
“Here. We. Are!” He punctuates each syllable like it’s the announcement of the century, and I have to fight to keep my eyes from rolling.
This move may not have been up to him, but that doesn’t mean I have to be excited about it. The way I see it, moving to the middle of nowhere when we’ve been safe in D.C. for the last two years is not a reason to celebrate.
When I don’t answer, my father’s eyes flit my way. He shoots me a half-smile that makes him look like he’s in pain, but I work hard to keep my face as expressionless as possible. His smile tightens, causing the skin at the corners of his eyes to crinkle. I’m not sure if he doesn’t buy my indifference or he’s annoyed by it. Either way, I’m not playing along. Even though I’m slightly curious to see our new home, I’m not happy about the change.
My father lets out a sigh.
I start to twist in my seat, but before I’ve had a chance to venture a glance his way, something slams against the car at my side. A shriek rips its way out of me, and my entire body jerks. A second bang quickly follows, and my heart mimics the rhythm, pounding against the inside of my chest like it’s trying to break out of me and make its getaway.
I face the window just as a zombie throws itself against my door for the third time, and this time I don’t try to hold in my scream.
“Stay calm.” It’s amazing how level my father’s voice is.
He reaches for the glove compartment just as the gate in front of us swings open, and two heavily armed men run out. Next to me, the zombie presses its decaying face against the window, smearing black goo all over the glass. It’s a woman—or it was, anyway—and her blue irises are barely visible in her milky eyes. She has her palms pressed firmly against the glass as she chomps her decaying teeth at me. When her eyes narrow, a shiver runs down my spine.
Is she studying me?
Her whole body jerks, and her eyes double in size. A split second later, the light goes out of them and she slides to the ground, leaving a streak of black blood on my window.
“Looks like they’re on top of things,” Dad says as one of the guards waves us through the gate.
My head bobs when I find myself too shaken to respond. Even when my dad pulls inside and the gate is closed behind us, I can’t seem to calm my pounding heart.
It’s been a long time since I was this close to one of the dead.
Dad puts the car in park and rolls his window down as a guard approaches. The guy is decked out in riot gear, making it tough to tell exactly how old he is, but he can’t be much older than me. Eighteen, maybe nineteen. He’s big, though. Intimidating. The zombies in this area need to watch out.
The guy is smiling when he lifts his face shield, but it’s so tense it looks more like a grimace. His blue eyes are as cold as ice. “Welcome to Coastal Manor. What can we do for you?”
My father clears his throat and sits up straighter, squaring his shoulders as his lips pull together in a tight line. His typical authoritative look. It takes everything in me to stop my eyes from rolling. That look and I have become intimate friends over the last two years.
“I’m Jonathon Carmichael. The new Judicial Officer.” His voice is even stiffer than his body.
When the guard relaxes, the smile on his face finally reaches his eyes. “We weren’t expecting you until tomorrow! Sorry for being a little rude. We’ve had some trouble lately with undocumented people. We’re pretty much at full capacity, and they’re having a hard time getting the point.”
They’ve turned people away from the town.
The thought makes my stomach lurch uncomfortably. It seems harsh, but maybe that’s just the way the world is now. Harsh and unforgiving.
At least in my experience.
“You can head on over to city hall,” the guard says to my father. “Turn right at the first road and you can’t miss it.” He jerks his thumb over his shoulder as he talks, and I try to look past him. The only things visible are trees. Lots of them.
My father nods once but doesn’t thank the guy or really even acknowledge him before rolling his window up. He probably thinks talking to a lowly guard is beneath him. He just works the gate, after all. He isn’t an important government official like Jonathon Carmichael.
I try to force the bitterness away—there’s enough sadness in the world without having to live with all this negativity inside me—but bitterness is as much my companion as my father is these days.
“That is one of the many reasons they sent me here,” he says as he accelerates, sounding like he’s talking mostly to himself. “They need to get with the times. Despite being told numerous times that he needs to expand, the Regulator has resisted the idea. He’s turning people away instead of trying to figure out how to add houses. He doesn’t want to grow, and with our current situation that is totally unacceptable. If he doesn’t get it together, Atlanta may decide to replace him.”
When my father talks at me like this, it makes me feel like I’m back in school.
“You alright?” he asks when I don’t respond. He doesn’t look at me.
He never looks at me.
“I’m fine.” My voice shakes, though, giving me away. It’s been a long time since I’ve been fine and my father knows it. I’m not sure it’s something I can be anymore. How can anyone?
“It’s going to be different here, Jules. Not like it was in D.C.”
Different good, or different bad? I haven’t decided yet. It’s not like I’m leaving anything behind in D.C. other than memories, but here we’re so far from everything. The seclusion is terrifying.
“It will be fine.” My voice comes out sounding like someone is shaking me. Not exactly convincing.
Dad turns the corner and the town hall comes into view. The man at the gate was right, we couldn’t have missed it if we’d tried. The house they’re using for the city headquarters is the first one on the street. It’s big and white. Two stories. The kind of house that would have had kids running around in the backyard and bikes lying on their sides in the driveway before all this. Now there’s a huge hand-painted sign mounted in the front yard that says Town Hall.
My dad pulls to a stop in front of the building, and my stomach does a series of acrobatics that probably would have won a gold medal at the last Olympics. I force myself to get out, trying my best to ignore how jittery my legs are. It’s been years since I felt this unsure. My life hasn’t been relaxed since this whole zombie thing started, but at least it had become routine. Here, though, I’m not sure what to expect.
Things in D.C. were different. More…uniform. Regimented. From everything my dad has heard about Coastal Manor, there isn’t a lot of order to the place. The Regulator is playing too loose with the rules.
My father heads toward the house, and I trudge after him, keeping a couple paces behind so we don’t have to talk. Not that talking is a normal thing for us. He was never exactly there for me as a child, and his newfound role of single parent hasn’t been an easy one for him to adjust to. He was a workaholic before the infection, and there are some things that even a zombie apocalypse can’t change.
We cross the lawn and I take the opportunity to get a good look at the rest of the street. Every house has been converted into a business of some kind. There are signs that say clinic, school and library, as well as a few others I can’t make out from this far away. It looks like the street has been transformed into a town square. People walk up and down the sidewalk, moving between booths that are piled high with random goods, as well as in and out of houses. Occasionally, someone will stop to talk to a neighbor, making this place feel more like an actual community than anything I’ve seen in D.C. It’s a lot more normal than I expected, and it helps ease the twisting in my gut.
It’s nice. Almost peaceful.
“You coming, Jules?”
My father’s voice breaks through my thoughts, making me jump. I turn to find him holding the door open. He actually smiles—a rare sight—but it doesn’t help me thaw toward him.
I duck under his arm so I can step inside. Not returning his peace offering.
He sighs as he follows me inside.
We step into a large foyer. A staircase to our left leads to the second floor, and to our right sits a reception desk. On either side the doors are open, revealing what used to be the living and dining rooms but have now been set up as offices. Every personal item that used to adorn the walls has been stripped away, leaving the house feeling almost empty. They’ve done a good job of converting the space, but it still seems…wrong. Disrespectful to the people who used to live here.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get used to a world that has been stripped so bare.
The girl sitting at the reception desk looks up as we approach, peering at us over a pair of dark-framed glasses. Her hair is dyed jet black and cut short, and has streaks of purple in it. Bracelets made of leather and brightly colored string cover her wrists, and she has more piercings than I can count. Both ears glint with little silver balls that go all the way up, and she has two small bars in her left eyebrow and a silver ball in her right nostril. In normal times, she would have looked out of place working in a government building. But normal times are long gone.
Despite the excessive piercings, she’s cute, in a funky kind of way. Her features are delicate and feminine, and her skin is as smooth as a porcelain doll. She reminds me of someone who, in days gone by, would have spent her free time protesting animal cruelty or hanging out in hip coffee shops on the weekends. Maybe she even performed spoken word on open mike night in some dark, little-known café somewhere.
“Can I help you?” Her tone comes out flat and bored, and she doesn’t even attempt a smile.
My father flashes her his most charming smile—his politician’s grin—and extends his hand. “Jon Carmichael. I’m the new Judicial Officer from Washington, here to see the Regulator.”
“Roz.” She takes his hand, pumping it twice before letting go. Her arm flops against her leg like she has no control over the limb, and her expression is just as lifeless.
Roz scoots her chair away from the desk and stands. She’s wearing a shabby plaid shirt, dark jeans riddled with holes, and a pair of bright, red Converse. Clothes covered with holes are a common sight these days, but I have a sneaking suspicion hers are more the result of a fashion statement than a lack of clothing options.
“I’ll tell Mr. Smith you’re here.” Roz’s mouth stretches into a wide yawn as she stalks off. She must be the life of the party.
My father doesn’t even glance my way once we’re alone. Not that I expected him to. I’m pretty sure he forgets about me sometimes, and these days the silence between us is the only constant in my life.
My eyes focus on my own shoes while we wait for Roz to return. I wiggle my toes in my pink Converse, savoring the familiarity of something as simple as shoes. They’re a lot nicer than most people get these days. A benefit of having a father in an important position.
Roz reappears a few minutes later, saving my father and me from being swallowed by the stillness. A man wearing a polo shirt and khaki pants trails behind her. His clothes are clean, but they’ve seen better days. Haven’t we all, though? Sometimes I feel exactly like the shirt he’s wearing: worn and faded and ready for a break. Pathetic at the age of seventeen.
“Mr. Carmichael!” the man calls in an overly enthusiastic tone.
“Mr. Smith, how nice to meet you.”
“Call me Rick, please.” The skin at the corners of his eyes crinkles when he smiles.
“Rick, of course.” My father returns the Regulator’s smile, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. He doesn’t have a sense of humor, and he takes work way too seriously. Mr. Smith will not be finding a new poker buddy in my father. “This is my daughter, Juliana, by the way.”
I’m an afterthought, like always.
The Regulator gives me a quick nod before turning back to my father.
Oh joy, another person to look through me. As if I haven’t gotten enough of that since my mom died.
With the exception of their indifference to me, my father and Mr. Smith don’t seem to have much common ground. In fact, going just by looks, I’d say they are polar opposites. My father is impeccably groomed, as usual. So much so that a person may not notice how worn his suit is or how scuffed his shoes are. It would be clear to anyone the minute they saw his perfectly in-place dark hair and immaculately trimmed beard that he was once an important and wealthy man. I guess he still is, as much as people can be these days.
Mr. Smith, on the other hand, is completely forgettable. He’s of average height and build, and is neither good-looking nor unattractive. His brown hair is cut short, but not too short, and his eyes are an unspectacular color of brown. Dull like mud. He resembles a Chemistry teacher more than a politician during zombie times. When there were Chemistry teachers, that is.
“Welcome to Coastal Manor! I’ll give you a quick tour of the place on the way to your new house, but before that why don’t I give you a little tour of the building?” The Regulator’s voice is enthusiastic, but there’s something about his tone that catches my attention. It sounds fake. Guarded.
I study him while my father asks a few questions, but there’s nothing about Mr. Smith’s answers that seem off. He’s perfectly relaxed and friendly. Professional, even. Whatever it was I thought I saw, it must have been my imagination running away with itself.
“Alright then, follow me,” he says, waving for us to follow him.
My legs move on their own, trailing after the two men who don’t even seem to notice that I exist. On the way out of the room, I sneak a peek at Roz. She doesn’t even look up. The silent boredom must be part of her persona.
We go through the former living room and toward the back of the house, with Mr. Smith talking every step of the way. The things he points out don’t seem that important, which tells me he just likes to hear himself talk, and he doesn’t stop until we’ve almost reached the kitchen.
He finally stops walking just outside a closed door, and when he turns to face us his expression hard. Like a statue etched out of marble. The Chemistry teacher that greeted us in the foyer has somehow vanished, and in his place is a man whose eyes swim with darkness. Is this a glimpse of who he really is? It’s impossible to tell. He’s so guarded that his face appears almost emotionless. Everything is smooth but his eyes. They crackle with fire.
His gaze meets mine, and his lips pucker as his eyebrows pull together, almost like he isn’t sure if I should be here. That makes two of us.
“I’m obligated to show this to everyone who decides to live in our town,” he says in a cold voice. “As a warning. We have a zero tolerance policy.”
He pushes the door open, and there’s so much production to the whole thing that I find my heart pounding in anticipation. My father and I lean forward at the exact same time, trying to get a better view of the room. When I do, I blink. It’s a bathroom, or at least that’s what it was. Now, a metal cot has been shoved into the small space.
What the hell is this?
I turn back to face the Regulator, and his dark gaze holds mine, sending a shiver shooting through me. Why does this once-upon-a-time bathroom make me so nervous?
“This is the room,” the Mr. Smith says.
That clears it up. My eyes twitch with the desire to roll.
I wait for my father to ask questions but he doesn’t, and my own voice is muffled by the questions bouncing around inside my head. The seconds tick by, and the shiver that had moved through me settles in my stomach.
“If you choose to leave the safety of our fence,” the Regulator finally says, “you go out at your own risk. We can’t stop you. Just know that if you get bitten and choose to return to Coastal Manor, this is where you will be placed until we can determine how the virus will affect you. We abide by the guidelines Atlanta has put in place, but I will not take risks.” His eyes grow harder and his eyebrows pull down, making him look even more sinister than before.
My stomach buzzes uncomfortably, but even under the intensity of the Regulator’s cold stare, I find myself trying to figure him out. His appearance might be bland, but I have an odd sense that he has darkness inside him that is desperate to get out.
My father nods, and Mr. Smith’s brown eyes burrow their way into my soul while he waits for me to do the same. I shrug, which must satisfy him, because he relaxes. The darkness fades and the mask returns, the Chemistry teacher coming with it.
His lips turn up into an unimpressive smile. “Okay! Now that we have that out of the way, we can check out the rest of the building.”
The men head toward the kitchen, but I back away. I’ve lost interest in the tour after seeing the Regulator’s little room of torture. Or whatever it is.
I head back the way we came, not bothering to tell my dad where I’m going. He probably needs as much of a break from me as I do from him. We’ve been stuck in the car together—just the two of us—for more than nine hours. Long for anyone, but torturous for two people who don’t know how to communicate without fighting.
I arrive back in the lobby to find Roz still sitting at the desk but no longer alone. A teenage boy, not much older than me, leans against the wall at her side. He has his arms crossed while Roz smiles up at him, making her even cuter than before. The bored girl who was sitting at the desk just a few minutes earlier has totally disappeared, and she actually lets out a giggle. The sound is lighter than air, which is such a stark contrast from her dark clothes that I feel like I’m watching a very bad play.
Neither one looks my way, obviously too focused on each other to notice that they’re no longer alone. Cloaked in relative anonymity, I allow my gaze to rake over the guy. He’s wearing dark jeans—also ripped—and a black, short-sleeve shirt boasting the name of some band that was long ago turned into flesh-eating monsters. A couple tattoos peek out from under his sleeves, and thick, silver hoops hang from both ears. His medium brown hair is just a bit too long, constantly dropping across his eyes. As I watch, he flicks his head to the side to move it out of the way. Normally I’m not a fan of long hair, but the messy, unkempt look suits him. When he smiles, only the right corner of his mouth pulls up—which is totally adorable—and his brown eyes sparkle with so much mischief that it’s visible from all the way across the room.
I can sum him up in two words: juvenile delinquent. It isn’t the dark clothes or the tattoos that give him away, but the expression in his eyes. I’ve known guys like this before. I’d be willing to bet money—or, more accurately, my government credits—that this guy had multiple problems with the law before all this. Maybe he even had a record. Not that it matters anymore. All that stuff has been vaporized, along with everything else that was once stored on computers.
When I shuffle my feet, they scrape against the floor, causing both Roz and her boyfriend to look up. Warmth moves up my neck to my cheeks, but I square my shoulders and walk forward, keeping my face as expressionless as I can.
“It’s you,” Roz says flatly.
The flirty, laid-back girl disappears, and she shoots me what can only be described as a look of disgust. Her top lip curls up, and her nose wrinkles like she smells something bad.
I guess we aren’t going to be friends.
“Sorry. Wasn’t interested in the tour.” I keep my eyes on Roz and off the guy at her side. She already seems to dislike me, and I don’t want her to think I’m encroaching on her territory. “I’m Jules, by the way.”
Roz shrugs, and her eyes flick to her boyfriend. Her mouth softens a bit when she says, “Judicial Officer’s daughter.”
My gaze shifts back to the guy to find his eyes raking over me from head to toe. Under his gaze, the hair on my scalp prickles and my feet seem to shuffle on their own as my heart thumps violently in my chest. It’s beating so loudly that I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy could hear it already, and the longer he stares at me the harder it pumps until it feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest.
“Roman,” he says when his eyes finally make their way to mine. “The illustrious Regulator’s son.” His voice oozes with sarcasm.
He doesn’t offer his hand or give me the half-smile I’d admired a few seconds earlier, but instead reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. Real cigarettes. Not the bootlegged ones most people smoke these days. Marlboros. He sticks one in his mouth and then whips out a lighter. His eyes hold mine as he puts the flame to the end of the cigarette, and once again the hair on my scalp prickles. When the cigarette is finally lit, Roman takes a long drag before leaning back against the wall casually.
Roz laughs a little too loudly, making it sound forced and fake. “Your dad is going to love that.”
The corner of Roman’s mouth turns up again as he blows out a mouthful of smoke, finally tearing his eyes away from mine. “Like I care.”
Daddy issues. I should have guessed. Not that I can judge, I have a fair share of those myself.
Roz laughs again, and Roman’s eyes don’t leave her face. She has to be a couple years older than he is, but it’s clear something is going on between them. She leans forward and bats her eyelashes behind her funky glasses, and my eyes roll so far back in my head that all I can see is black. Please.
When they go back to ignoring me, I flop onto the couch and cross my arms over my chest. Even though I try really hard not to stare, I can’t tear my eyes away from the couple in front of me. I’ve always found people-watching fascinating, and these two are more entertaining than anything I’ve seen in months. The way she fawns over him, like some fan girl at a boy band concert, and the casual way he does everything, from taking a puff of his cigarette to flicking his head to the side.
Roman ignores me completely, but Roz catches me staring, and her face hardens. Not that I care. It’s obvious that she is going to hate me no matter how I act, so I might as well go all in.
Male voices float down from the second floor, and a second later, my father and Mr. Smith appear at the top of the stairs.
I sit up straighter. Roman is still smoking. This should be good.
Roman doesn’t even bat an eye, and he doesn’t glance his father’s way. The fact that he starts taking longer drags off his cigarette is the only indication that he heard his father coming. He blows smoke into the air lazily as if smoking in a public building is totally normal.
My mouth twitches when a smile tries to break its way to the surface, and I’m forced to press my lips together to keep it in. Roman’s eyes meet mine, and the corner of his mouth pulls up a little. He winks, and a shiver runs through my body.
“Roman.” Mr. Smith’s stern voice fills the foyer. The Chemistry teacher is a distant memory when this man looks at his son. His eyes burn brighter than before, and there’s an evil glint in them as he hurries down the stairs and rips the cigarette out of Roman’s mouth. “I know we’ve discussed you smoking in the town hall.”
Roman smirks, and his eyebrows shoot up, getting lost under his shaggy hair. His expression is the definition of smart-ass. “This isn’t a real town hall, and you are not as powerful as you think you are.”
Every muscle in the Regulator’s body tightens. He clenches his fists, crushing the lit cigarette in the palm of his hand. His right eye twitches. “You should be in school,” he says through clenched teeth.
Roman pushes himself away from the wall. “I’ll see you later, Roz.” He walks through the lobby without another look at his father, glancing briefly at me as he goes by. “Nice meeting you, Jules.”
He winks and my heart stops briefly. When it starts up again, it’s beating so fast I’m sure it’s going to explode.
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