Vivian and Hadley find themselves in a situation that is even more threatening than the dead walking the earth. Kidnapped by armed men and taken deep into Las Vegas, they're cut off from anyone who cares about them and thrust into a world so sick and twisted that it can only be described as madness. With little hope of being found, Vivian and Hadley must team up with one of the very men who abducted them if they have any hope of escaping their new nightmare.
Watching Vivian get thrown into the back of a van almost tears Axl apart, and he's determined to find her no matter what it takes. With the tension growing between him and Angus, Axl finds himself wondering if the price will be his relationship with his brother. Putting both old and new wounds aside, Axl and Angus must infiltrate the group holding Vivian and Hadley and make their escape through a zombie-ridden Vegas.
Release date: January 3, 2015
Publisher: Twisted Press, LLC
Print pages: 255
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Kate L. Mary
My heart beats against my ribs as Hadley and I run through the hospital parking lot toward the Nissan. I’m gasping and my legs tremble, but I force them to keep moving. Axl. I need to get to Axl. The van behind us is closer than the Nissan. Whoever it is, they’re coming for us. Only, I don’t have a clue why.
The Nissan is still at least fifty feet away when the van squeals to a stop at our backs. I hear the door slide open behind us, and my heart nearly explodes. The banging of the footsteps on the pavement matches the pounding in my chest, and I let out a scream of frustration. He’s right behind me. So close I can hear every breath he takes.
I can’t outrun him!
I grip my knife tighter as I spin around to face my attacker, swinging the blade through the air. He’s a blur of black as he ducks and shoves me to the ground. My head snaps back. My body slams against the pavement. All the air rushes from my lungs, and my knife skids across the parking lot. Hadley screams. I can’t figure out where she is, because I’m too busy gasping for air. The man in black grabs a handful of my hair and jerks me up. I scream as pain shoots across my scalp and down my neck. He hoists me up so my feet aren’t touching the ground and takes off running. I kick and fight, but he just holds on tighter.
I can’t get free.
My head bobs and the world around me blurs. I can barely make out the Nissan when it screeches to a stop.
It’s so close.
The doors fly open. Axl and Angus start shooting, but the men in the van return fire. A window shatters right next to my head, and the man carrying me swears. He ducks, swears again, then tosses me inside the van. I land on the floor next to Hadley. Axl screams my name, but it’s cut short when the door slams shut.
The van lurches forward, and my heart rips in two. I slam against Hadley. She’s crying, and my own vision is blurred by tears. My hands shake so hard I poke myself in the eye when I try to wipe the tears away. More replace them, though. I clench my fists and dig my nails into my palms. Right into the little half-moons that haven’t completely healed yet. I can’t lose it. Not now. Now is the time to be strong.
Hadley grabs my arm and puts her face right up against mine. Her tears fall on my cheek. “Where are they taking us? What are they doing?” Her voice is so shaky the words come out distorted.
I wrap my arm around her and pull her against me. But I don’t answer. There’s really nothing I can say. There are only a few reasons men would abduct women, and none of them will make Hadley feel better right now.
The van bumps down the road, and we’re tossed back and forth. The men move around in the front. Four of them. So far, though, they aren’t paying attention to us. The broken window has their focus. They’re busy covering it up with tape and what looks like a jacket. Yeah, that will keep the zombies out.
I can’t get a good look at them. It’s too dark in the back, and the sun shining through the front window makes it hard for me to see. The man who grabbed me has his back to me, but I know it’s him. He’s dressed completely in black. Like he’s death, here to claim more victims. Maybe he is.
When they’re done fooling with the window, the men finally turn their attention to us. The light in the back flicks on, and I squint, covering my eyes. It’s a lot brighter than I would have thought.
“Holy shit!” someone yells. I open my eyes wider just as a guy crawls across the floor and grabs Hadley’s chin, jerking her face toward his. It’s the guy in black. “This is fucking Hadley Lucas!”
Everyone turns our way, and my body stiffens.
Shit. This isn’t going to be good.
My eyes finally adjust, and I’m able to get a really good look at the guy in black, except now I wish I could go back to being ignorant. He’s rough-looking. The kind of face you see in a mug shot or some reality crime show like Cops or America’s Most Wanted. He looks to be in his mid-twenties and has dark, greasy hair that goes just past his jawline. His face is hard, and he has a scar going from the corner of his right eye all the way down to his chin. It jerks every time he talks, making him look lethal. Almost evil. There are two rings in his eyebrow and a few in each ear. He has a pierced tongue and more tattoos than I can count. They cover his arms like sleeves and creep out from the top of his shirt, curling around his neck like a serpent trying to choke him. The art consists mainly of demons and snakes and half-naked women.
You know, scary shit.
“No it ain’t,” another man with a twangy accent says. It reminds me of my years in Kentucky.
I tear my eyes away from Tat so I can check out the other guy. He’s younger, probably only twenty. Overweight. His clothes are stained and made to fit a much smaller man. His filthy shirt stretches across his chest, emphasizing his man-boobs. A beer belly—or McDonald’s belly is probably more accurate—sticks out from the bottom of his shirt. His face is round and sweaty and his hair is buzzed. He crawls across the van toward Hadley, probably hoping to get a closer look, and the stale smell of body odor follows him.
Something thumps against the outside of the van, and the driver swerves. Chubby grunts and topples over, right onto my leg. My kneecap turns under the weight of his huge ass, and I let out of yelp of pain. I shove him off me, but he doesn’t even look my way. He’s drooling over Hadley like she’s the last cupcake on Earth.
“Damn! That is her,” Chubby says.
The driver yells back, “What about the other chick? She a celebrity too?” He barely turns, so I can’t get a good look at him, but he has a very faint accent. Hispanic, maybe?
“Not sure,” Tat says.
He and Chubby both turn to face me.
Chubby’s face is all lit up like he’s five years old and it’s Christmas morning. He’s probably never been this close to an attractive girl before, and here he is with two. I’m surprised he doesn’t blow his load right here.
“Naw. But she’s hot, too. Look at them tits!”
When he moves toward me, my heart almost stops. I try to move away, but there’s nowhere for me to go. My back is already pressed up against the side of the van. Chubby grabs at my chest with his meaty hands, squeezing my breasts like they’re stress balls and he’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The bastard doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. I slap at his hands and try to shove him away, but he doesn’t stop. He grins and squeezes. Gropes. The blood in my veins heats up so fast that if I were a volcano, we’d all be drenched in lava right now. I clench my hand into a tight fist, and it barely registers when my knuckles connect with Chubby’s nose. He reels back and grabs his face, letting out an annoying, twangy howl of pain.
“Bitch.” Tat lurches forward and slaps me across the face.
The imprint of his hand stings on my cheek and my eye twitches, but I barely move. I’m used to being hit. I guess my asshole dad was preparing me for the future when he beat the shit out of me. If he were still alive, I’d send him a thank you note.
I sit up straighter, and Tat’s lips curl into a wicked smile. His eyes move down, stroking every curve on my body. Ice coats my veins when his dark gaze meets mine once again. He enjoys hitting women, I can see it in his eyes.
Chubby wipes away the blood that’s trickled from his left nostril. He glares at me, but I meet his gaze unflinchingly and scoot closer to Hadley. She presses her body so close to mine she might as well be sitting on my lap. She’s trembling. Or maybe that’s me.
“Bitch,” Chubby mutters, then turns to face the driver.
Tat gives me one more sadistic look before following his flabby friend.
The men go back to ignoring us. Like we’re nothing.
Hadley laces her fingers through mine, and I squeeze her hand. But we don’t speak. My mind is focused on what the men are saying, but it doesn’t make any sense. None of this does. There are zombies walking the Earth, and these assholes are out grabbing women. What the hell for?
“We got to stop,” Tat says. “It’d be dumb as shit not to.”
The driver shakes his head. “No way, man.”
“Come on!” Chubby says in his whiny twang. It’s getting on my nerves. “It’s Hadley Lucas! She’ll be a three for sure. There ain’t no way I’ll ever be able to get a three. I can hardly get me a two, and a three...forget it!”
“If the boss finds out he’ll give you the boot. You want to take your chances on the Strip with the zombies?” The driver’s accent is faint and he sounds more educated than the other two, but I still can’t get a good look at him from where we are.
“What are they going to do with us?” Hadley whispers.
I shake my head and bite my lower lip. Only a little bit makes sense. It’s obvious Chubby and Tat want to pull over so they can rape Hadley, but the driver won’t let them. He seems scared of “the boss.” I don’t know what’s stopping him, who “the boss” is, or where these guys would get thrown out of. Plus, they keep talking about twos and threes, which is total nonsense. But whatever’s going on, it’s all building up to one thing: Hadley and I are screwed.
“What about you, new guy? Whose side are you on? Don’t you wanna pull over and get a piece of celebrity ass before we head back?” Tat says, suddenly addressing the guy in the passenger seat.
The guy turns around for the first time and looks Hadley and me over. He’s attractive—unlike Tat and Chubby—and older than the other two. Probably close to thirty. He has dark hair and a chiseled jaw. Very Abercrombie and Fitch-looking. But his green eyes are cold and emotionless.
“I’m not going to risk pissing off the boss. I came close to being zombie chow too many times. There’s no way in hell I’m going back.” His voice is as detached as his eyes. His gaze meets mine, and my blood turns to ice. He may be sticking up for us, but he is not on our side.
Chubby whines but doesn’t really argue. Tat spits and glares in my direction. He cracks his knuckles like he’d just love to lay into New Guy. Or me.
“Anybody follow us?” New Guy asks the driver.
The driver shakes his head, and I catch a glimpse of him as he looks over his shoulder. Just like I thought, he’s Hispanic. He’s smaller than the other guys. Average-looking. Nobody I would’ve given a second look in the world that used to exist. None of these men look very scary—except Tat—but things are different now. Zombies aren’t our only enemy anymore. We’re living in a lawless country, and apparently someone has decided to start a new world where women are at the bottom of the pecking order. Again.
“That car at the hospital didn’t come after us?” Tat asks.
My heart pounds, and I squeeze Hadley’s hand tighter. Axl.
“The one guy shot at us for a while, but they never even tried to follow us.” The driver glances back at Hadley and me. There’s a wicked smile on his face I’d love to slap off. “Guess he was too much of a pussy to come after us.”
Tears sting at the back of my eyes, and I have to look away. I can’t imagine what Axl is going through right now. We were so close. If the van had shown up just a few seconds later, we would have made it. Hadley and I would be in the Nissan right now, on the way back to the shelter. Instead, Axl’s left to wonder what happened to us and who took us and if he’ll ever see us again. He has to be freaking out.
The van slows, and the driver looks over his shoulder again. “Get ready to make a run for it.”
Hadley’s eyes get even bigger. I didn’t think it was possible. She doesn’t look too hot at the moment, but Chubby can’t stop drooling over her anyway. Her face is smeared with tears and snot and dirt, and her eyes are bright red from crying. But I can tell she’s trying to put on a brave face. She’s not going to take this lying down.
Neither am I.
The van screeches to a halt, and the driver and passenger climb back.
“Bobby and me will cover you guys,” the driver says.
He slides the door open, and the bright Vegas sun shines in, blinding me. The air is sweltering and reeks of death. The moaning is so loud I know we’re on the Strip without even having to look. It’s the only place that could be this overrun.
I have my hand over my eyes to block out the sun, so I’m taken completely off guard when someone grabs me and jerks me out of the van. He tosses me over his shoulder and takes off running. His bony shoulder digs into my stomach with each step he takes. Between that, the stench of death, and the ball of dread in my gut, the urge to hurl is so strong I have a tough time swallowing it down.
But no way in hell am I going to just lay still and let this asshole carry me away. I squirm against his arm, ignoring the intense way his shoulder twists against my belly. At the same time, I kick my legs, trying to loosen his grasp on my thighs.
His arm tightens around me. “Stop fighting.” I recognize the voice. It’s New Guy. “There are zombies everywhere.”
I can’t see her, but I know Hadley’s somewhere in front me. Probably over Tat’s shoulder. No way could Chubby carry her, he’d be out of breath in seconds. She’s screaming and fighting to get free. Her voice sounds panicked, and it makes my already pounding heart beat faster. All I can think about is the gleam in Chubby’s eyes when he got a glimpse of Hadley.
No. We can’t let these assholes get any further. We have to get away. Now.
I wiggle harder against New Guy’s grasp and kick my legs like a swimmer trying to outswim a shark. Somehow my foot makes contact with New Guy’s crotch. He grunts, and his hands are suddenly no longer holding me. He leans forward, probably to grab his damaged goods, and I can feel myself falling. The ground lurches up to greet me, and I instinctively put my hands out, bracing myself for the impact of the hard cement.
I land hard on my right side. Pain shoots up my arm, but I ignore it and roll onto my back so I can get a good look at my surroundings. The Monte Carlo looms in front of me, bringing to mind what my mom, Darla, said about seeing movement outside the casino. Tat is almost at the front door. He has Hadley slung over his shoulder and she’s still kicking and screaming her head off. There’s some kind of barrier set up they have to run through before they can actually get into the casino, though. Armed men stand behind it, and as I watch, they open a gate so Tat can pass through.
Hadley is out of sight within seconds. Shit.
The man I kicked in the groin is doubled over in pain only two feet away from me. The driver and Chubby head toward us with a group of zombies not too far behind. The two men are out of breath and covered in sweat. Chubby is having a hard time keeping up. He acts like he’s about to suffocate. Probably hasn’t exerted himself this much his entire life.
I tear my eyes away from the men and look around, desperate to get away. But there’s nowhere to go. I try to get to my feet, but New Guy grabs my ankle to stop me from moving. His face is twisted in agony, and his fingers dig into my skin.
“I have to get you inside,” he says, grimacing.
“You can’t handle carrying a chick in?” the driver says when he reaches us. He shakes his head at New Guy.
The driver reaches down to grab me, but New Guy suddenly finds his strength and pushes the driver aside. “I got her.” He grunts when he lifts me up, then slings me over his shoulder again.
He takes off toward the hotel, but this time I don’t fight. There’s no point. Three men against just me are impossible odds. Plus, there’s no way I could leave Hadley. I’d never be able to live with myself.
When we make it inside, I’m tossed onto a couch next to Hadley. New Guy glares at me and grimaces again. He grabs his crotch and bends over, and I’m torn between the desire to smile at his discomfort and the desire to burst into tears at the situation.
I inhale slowly, trying to calm my breathing and quiet my pounding heart. Then it hits me. The air doesn’t stink and I’m not sweating anymore. The air conditioner is on. Electricity.
The hotel lobby is brightly lit, and there’s even music playing from the speakers overhead. The place is clean and clear of bodies, and the people walking by—only men—aren’t filthy. Even the four men who brought us here. They’re sweating from the heat, but now that I get a closer look at them, they aren’t dirty. Chubby’s clothes are stained and gross, but they don’t look like someone who’s been fighting off the living dead. Which tells me he’s just a slob. A slob who’s been holed up in a hotel.
The driver glares at New Guy and shakes his head again, then jerks his thumb toward Hadley and me. “Watch them.”
Hadley grabs my hand, and I squeeze it. We watch as the Hispanic man walks toward the front desk like he’s checking into a room. He stops and talks to a man. A man dressed in a suit, which seems crazy and out-of-place, considering what’s outside this hotel. Suit man is short, stocky, and balding, but he stands tall when he talks. Like he has a lot of power and he knows it. The driver points toward Hadley and me, and Suit Man grins like he was just told he won the lottery. My stomach turns inside out.
I have a very bad feeling about what comes next.
Men come out of the woodwork to gawk at us. Like we’re freaks in a sideshow. Hadley scoots closer and squeezes my hand so tight my knuckles crunch together. I can’t really focus on the pain, though. I’m too busy checking everything out. There are so many men here. I scan the room, counting. Ten. Fifteen. More than twenty. Where did they all come from?
A group of men stands in a cluster on the other side of the room, staring at the wall. I lean forward to get a better view, and when I catch sight of what they’re looking at, I inhale sharply and grab Hadley’s leg with my free hand. There are dozens of pictures of naked women lined up on the wall. Not pages taken from a magazine. Actual pictures. And they’re divided into three numbered categories. I guess that explains the crazy code the men were using in the van.
Hadley’s body trembles next to mine. She must see it too. She squeezes my hand again, and I scoot closer. We have to find a way out of here.
It isn’t going to be easy, though. Not with the armed men at the doors. Plus, I really doubt we’re going to be free to roam the hotel. New Guy, Tat, and Chubby haven’t walked away or taken their eyes off us for even a second. They stand right in front of Hadley and me like guards, glaring down at us.
“What’s going to happen?” Hadley whispers.
I swallow and work on controlling my voice. “Try to stay calm.” The words shake.
She turns her green eyes toward me, and her lips tremble. She didn’t miss the fact that I didn’t answer her question, but I have no intention to. Thinking about what these men have planned for us is only going to make us panic, and right now we need to stay calm. Focused. Strong.
The driver heads back, followed by three other men. Suit Man and two big guys with broad shoulders. They look like they should be playing professional football or something. They stop in front of Hadley and me. Suit Man looks us over, nodding in approval. He obviously has some position of authority.
“Nice work.” He steps forward and grabs me by the arm, then jerks me to my feet. “Hadley Lucas will be a three for sure. Looks like this one will be, too. We’ll have to check them over, but this is definitely worth a two. I’ll get you guys a receipt.”
“Ain’t it worth a three?” Chubby whines. “She’s a movie star! We brought ‘er in, we should get a go at ‘er.”
Suit Man’s fingers dig into my arm, and his eyes narrow on Chubby. “It took four of you almost the entire day to bring in two women. You’re lucky it’s a two. If you have complaints about your compensation, you can take it up with the boss. I have to warn you though, he isn’t the understanding kind.”
Chubby clamps his mouth shut and stares down at his feet. He looks like a giant kid with his hands shoved in his pockets, kicking at an imaginary ball on the floor. It makes me sick to my stomach.
Suit Man nods, and the corners of his mouth turn up, making him look sinister. He jerks my arm roughly and shoves me toward the linebackers. “Take them upstairs to be processed,” he says as he turns away. “I’ll be up after I get their receipts.”
Linebacker One takes over where Suit Man left off. He grabs my arm and pulls me forward. Hadley squeaks behind me as she’s yanked off the couch by the other linebacker. They drag us toward the elevator, and men leer at us every step of the way. Fear twists inside me, but I focus on controlling my breathing. On staying calm.
The elevator door shuts, and Hadley sniffs. “Why are we here?”
The linebackers don’t respond. They won’t even look at us.
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