Skin Page 63

He was quiet for a moment. “That wasn’t what I was going to say.”

“Then what?” she snapped.

With a grim face he took in the gun. “Calm down. Concentrate on what you’re doing. Are they both loaded?”

“Yes.”

He nodded and cupped her face in his hands. His poor, beautiful head had taken such a beating. She hated the scar she’d put on him. Not that he hadn’t deserved it at the time. The second one these people had added, however, made her furious.

“Alright,” he said after a moment. “We get out of here nice and quietly. You stay behind me, okay?”

“Okay.” She’d see how it went. Maybe for the moment he’d forgotten this was a partnership, but she hadn’t. Till death do them part and all that stuff.

“I’m serious.”

So was she. “Yes, okay. I heard you. Let’s get moving.”

His eyes narrowed but he let it go. “Sean, are there any shoes here for Ros?”

“Lila dropped off her boots earlier.” Sean grabbed her footwear from a bag in the corner.

“Thanks.” Putting boots on one-handed was harder than it looked. Nick knelt and wrestled them onto her bare feet. At least she wouldn’t be adding to the cuts and bruises from the gravel back at the cabin.

“She’s going to get cold,” he said. “Is there a jacket or something?”

“I’m fine.”

“Here.” Sean stripped out of his own smart leather jacket and handed it to Nick. Her man seemed less than impressed at the thought of her wearing it. He rolled the righthand sleeve up just the same and proceeded to put it on her. The thing was size huge, falling off her left shoulder without her arm in the sleeve to keep it in place. He did up a couple of buttons and stuffed her pills into a pocket. She added her spare pistol to another.

“You’re all sorted,” he said.

“We need to move,” Sean said. He grabbed an extra pistol and relocked the cabinet. “Come on.”

Out front the night seemed still, at first. Shouting could be heard from Main Street, the rumbling hum of lots of voices. Though there didn’t seem to be much light coming from any direction. Windows were sealed and the streets were dark. Without the aid of the moon she’d have been stumbling in the dark. However hyped up the people of Blackstone were, they weren’t inviting infected to the party if they could help it.

No, they just wanted to hang an unarmed man. Nick would have been a sitting duck, stuck in that jail cell.

She shivered inside Sean’s coat. The air was crisp to the point of brutal, everyone’s breaths steaming in front of them. She felt chilled, inside and out.

Several more people waited outside. Sean didn’t stop to introduce anyone, but Nick nodded to the two other men. They all seemed to know one another, though the looks ranged from frosty to friendly. Frosty wore an army jacket, while Friendly dripped with guns. So at least the right people were on their side. Friendly looked like a walking paramilitary team rolled into one thoroughly oversized fellow. But when you were that big, you could probably pull it off. He didn’t quite reach Sean the Viking’s height, but he was built.

“This way,” said Sean, heading away from Main Street at a brisk trot. “Erin and Finn are trying to calm down the crowd.”

Frosty snorted. “Good luck with that. Tom’s been stirring shit for the last two days, since you arrived.”

“Who?” she asked.

“Never mind.” Nick kept an arm wrapped around her, helping her along. The meds were slowly sinking in, making her mind turn to mush. Things dwindled, the anger and fear fading, seeming not as sharp as they had been just moments before. Not good—she had to keep her focus. Had to stay with it.

They moved quietly down the darkened street. A door slammed shut as they jogged past and light seeped out from the sides of curtains as strangers snuck a peek. People were obviously expecting something and had taken cover accordingly. The ones who hadn’t had joined the mob on Main Street. Civilization had obviously fallen by the wayside while she’d been stuck in that school. Shit like this shouldn’t have continued to surprise her, but it did. Humanity had fallen fast and far.

“I won’t let anything happen to you,” said Nick.

He barely breathed hard and she puffed away beside him. Past houses and across the remnants of a park they went. Like everywhere else, this area had been turned into farming land. Mulch and wood smoke scented the air. A children’s swing set sat in the middle of a crop of zucchini. An old slippery slide was surrounded by neat rows of beans. A cow gave a low, plaintive cry not too far away. These people were so lucky, so fortunate, and yet they wanted to kill. There’d been so much death. How they couldn’t have already have had their fill of it, she did not know.

Ahead of them a refrigerated van minus its tires sat on an angle. It was surrounded by rubble from destroyed houses. She could just make out the crushed forms of cars embedded further along. The people of Blackstone had used everything at their disposal to build the wall. Had she been in a better frame of mind she’d have respected them for their ingenuity.

“Come on,” Sean said, calling them closer.

One of the other men fiddled with a chunk of metal and Frosty joined in, slowly pushing it aside. The thing had to weigh a ton. A lot of grunting and heaving was involved in the sloth-paced process. The interior of the van must act as a tunnel through the wall. This was how they’d get out.

“Guess you don’t trust these people as much as you’d like them to think,” said Nick.

“Always have an exit strategy,” said Sean. “You know that. Directly across the train tracks there’s a warehouse. Inside are some vehicles kitted out and ready to go. Take one and do not come back here, ever.”

“Aye, aye, Cap’n,” said Nick. “Don’t worry, we won’t be back. I don’t think Blackstone suits us after all.”

Her and Nick against the world. Fine. If this was what remained of humanity then they were better off alone. Sure as hell they were safer.

The chunk of metal seemed to be taking forever to move. No one spoke.

The sound of footsteps drew close and Nick suddenly shoved Roslyn behind him, between him and the wreckage. She clung onto the back of his shirt to keep upright.

“Lila. Damn it, I could have shot you.” Sean swore profusely beneath his breath. “What are you doing here?”

“Take these for Roslyn,” Lila said, pushing a backpack at Nick, her pretty face tight with concern. “There’s some food and medicine in there. Keep the wound as clean as you can. Good luck.”

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